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Minors report: Hietpas makes big switch

Minors report: Hietpas makes big switch

Hot topic: A year ago, Henry Owens was hot. Though he was 25, he was considered something of a young arm, even a pitching prospect. He produced a nice spring, enough of one that he Mets summoned him to the big leagues in July. The one-time catcher made enough of an impression that when the Mets made their annual trade with the Marlins, Owens was part of it, and now he has chance to be Florida's closer.

All that is a preamble to this: Joe Hietpas now is a one-time catcher, too. And he, too, is trying his hand -- his right hand, of course -- as a pitcher.

As a catcher, Hietpas was indentifed as a "catch-and-throw" guy, which is a delicate way to say he didn't hit much. A .208 average in 1,300 Minor League at-bats strongly suggests as much. Hietpas, 28 in May, topped out at .256 in 117 at-bats with Class A Brooklyn in 2002.

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That was one year after the Mets selected him in he 16th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.

But the organization clearly has high regard for him. And who knows? In a couple of months, he may be a good-hitting pitcher.

On the move: Shortstop Juan Lagares, who turns 18 next Sunday, already has turned heads in Mets camp. Tim Teufel, who will manage the Mets' Savannah affiliate in the low Class A South Atlantic League, hears a difference when Lagares, a right-handed hitter, makes contact.

"You stop to watch him," said Tom McCraw, the hitting coach with the Gulf Coast Mets.

On the pine: Outfielder Ambiorix Concepcion broke his left leg in winter ball. But he isn't expected to miss much time in the regular season.

Name in the game: McCraw, who served as the Mets' big-league hitting coach from 1992-96, says he is coming full cycle again.

"Back with the Mets is my second cycle," he said. "The first one, when I went back to work with the Nationals ['05 and '06], I had the last hit in RFK in 1971 before they closed it."

They're No. 1: Aside from Aaron Heilman, whose Major League status isn't an issue, Lastings Milledge (2003), Philip Humber ('04) and Mike Pelfrey ('05) are the only players selected in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft who still are in the organization. All have a chance to be on the Opening Day roster. Pelfrey has the best chance.

Class of '06: Dustin Martin, selected in the 26th round, has made so much of an impression he was brought to the Major League clubhouse on Sunday to serve as an extra outfielder. The Mets played two split-squad games. A right-handed hitter who turns 24 next month, Martin batted .315 in 72 games with Class A Brooklyn in 2006.

What they're saying: "[Those will] be tough at-bats against a guy who throws that hard and has no idea where it's going." -- David Wright on the possibility of facing his friend Hieptas

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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