Pelfrey putting the 'yips' in the past

Pelfrey putting the 'yips' in the past

BOSTON -- How grateful Mike Pelfrey is that his turn in the rotation has arrived once again.

It's not that he had been harping on his last start, in which he balked three times and admitted to a case of "the yips." After speaking with a sports psychologist, he swears he's gotten over the mental problems that plagued him last Saturday.

Instead, his distress these past few days has come from an entirely difference source.

"You think these guys in here would let anything go?" Pelfrey said, scanning the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park.

It was a rhetorical question. Knowing Pelfrey's improved state of mind, and conscious of his sense of humor regarding one of the most embarrassing moments of his career, the Mets spent the past five days endlessly ribbing him.

But they also know how important he will be.

"To his credit, he kind of admits it, and that's the way you try to solve things," manager Jerry Manuel said. "If he said, 'I don't have an issue' and continued to do that, then we've got a problem."

As Pelfrey noted after his start last weekend, the mental block that gripped him in San Francisco is nothing new. He battled the same problem during a game in Miami last season -- though he was better able to handle it that day. And he jokes about setting the school record for balks at Wichita State -- he balked seven times as a freshman in 2003, and 11 times in total over a three-year college career.

But for Pelfrey to defeat the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon, he'll need to prove that he's overcome the mental block that prevented him from coming to the set position every time a runner reached base last weekend. Boasting a far more potent offense than the Giants, the Red Sox are therefore far more likely to make him pay for any mistakes.

Knowing that, he spoke on the phone this week with a sports psychologist he had used in the past. The lesson?

"The mind is pretty powerful, and it controls all your muscles and all those things," Pelfrey said, explaining his balks. "So if it happens, then I'll be able to -- in my own little way -- I'll be able to tell my mind what I want to do, and hopefully, all the muscles and everything follow that."

Complicating matters is the fact that Pelfrey's counterpart on Saturday, Josh Beckett, ranks among the best pitchers in the game. Despite Beckett's struggles so far this season, he has proven to be a menace to the Mets throughout his career -- David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are a combined 4-for-40 lifetime against him.

Reyes, unlikely to play because of tendinitis in his right calf, is one of multiple injured Mets at the moment. Beltran was forced to start at designated hitter on Friday after feeling soreness in his right knee, Carlos Delgado is recovering from hip surgery, Brian Schneider remains on the disabled list with a strained back and Ryan Church left Friday's game in the fourth inning with a sore right hamstring.

Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP Mike Pelfrey (4-1, 4.61 ERA)
Pelfrey certainly pitched well his last time out, against the Giants, but he endured some problems when he wasn't actually pitching. Three balks directly led to two runs, and though Pelfrey allowed nothing more, he received no offensive support and lost his first game of the year. He threw only 78 pitches in the outing and therefore may feel stronger than usual -- not necessarily a good thing for a sinkerball pitcher -- in his first career start against the Red Sox.

BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (4-2, 5.85 ERA)
The ace is finally getting into a rhythm, turning in quality starts his past three times out. In his last start, last Saturday, he went seven innings for the first time since Opening Day, giving up four hits and two earned runs in a win over the Mariners. At Fenway this season, he is 2-0 with a 5.63 ERA in four starts. He has fared well against the Mets throughout his career, going 6-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 13 starts. Opponents are hitting .289 against him this season.

Oliver Perez, rehabbing from tendinitis in his right knee, will likely begin a Minor League rehab assignment next Tuesday. ... Schneider is scheduled to catch three consecutive extended spring games as the next step in his rehab from a strained back. ... Reliever J.J. Putz was still battling a stiff neck on Friday and was not available to pitch. ... With a single in the fourth inning on Friday, Wright extended his hitting streak to 13 games.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WFAN 660, WADO 1280 (Español)

Up next
• Sunday: Mets (Tim Redding, 0-0, 3.00) at Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 5-2, 3.59), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Mets (John Maine, 3-3, 4.53) vs. Nationals (TBD), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Mets (Livan Hernandez, 3-1, 4.93) vs. Nationals (TBD), 7:10 p.m. ET

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.