EL notes: Holt hones skills in 'pen

B-Mets right-hander 'excited' about switching to relief role

Binghamton's Brad Holt was 2-6 with a 5.04 ERA as a starter this season. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

By David Driver / Special to MLB.com | July 5, 2011 6:00 AM ET

Brad Holt made just one relief appearance in his first 71 outings as a Minor Leaguer. But now the Binghamton right-hander, a first-round supplemental pick of the Mets in 2008, is trying to revive his career in the bullpen.

The Mets took Holt out of the rotation and moved him to the bullpen late last month. In his first outing back on June 22, he picked up his first win in nearly a month in a 3-2 victory over visiting Akron, combining with two other relievers to shut down the Aeros for the final five innings.

"It's going to take getting used to," said Holt, drafted out of UNC-Wilmington. "I've been a starter my whole life. It's going to take adjustments."

His second relief outing did not go as well, as he allowed two runs on four hits and a walk in a 6-4 loss at Bowie on June 26. In his third bullpen appearance June 28, he bounced back to pitch two hitless innings with four strikeouts at Erie, though he walked three batters.

Holt, a 6-foot-4 North Carolina native who turns 25 in October, did not take the move to the 'pen as a demotion.

"I'm excited about it," said Holt, who has a fastball that tops out around 94 along with a cutter and change-up. "It's a chance for a new start."

Added Binghamton manager Wally Backman, "I like what I see of him coming out of the bullpen."

Holt points out that in many of his starts he struggled in the latter innings. By going to the bullpen, the Mets hope his concentration will take care of that problem.

"Some of my starts were falling apart late in the game," he admitted.

After his second relief outing, he said the Mets placed two restrictions on him for now: he would not pitch more than two innings at a time and he would not pitch in back-to-back contests.

So is this a permanent move?

"That's what we need to find out," Backman said.

Holt began the year as the No. 10 prospect in the Mets system, according to Baseball America, and was listed as No. 5 prior to the 2010 season.

In his 13 starts this year, he was 2-6 with a 5.04 ERA and allowed more than three walks per start while leading the league with 13 wild pitches.

Holt said the biggest challenge is what to do between games, since he had a regular routine as a starter since turning pro.

"That's been the biggest thing. I'm trying to get used to it," he said.

So could the move help him get to New York sooner, where the Mets' bullpen has struggled this year?

"I'm not even worried about that. It's all about how I pitch. I still have to get hitters out," he said.

Holt made his pro debut with Brooklyn in 2008 and was 5-3 with a sparkling 1.87 ERA in 14 starts. He backed that up the following year with a 4-1 record and 3.12 ERA in nine starts for Class A Advanced St. Lucie, but a midseason promotion to Double-A brought a 3-6 record and 6.21 ERA in 11 starts.

Last year, he was 1-5 with a 10.20 ERA in 10 games (nine starts) for Binghamton, allowing 43 hits in 30 innings. He also made 14 starts for St. Lucie but when 2-9 with a 7.48 ERA, giving him a career record of 15-24 with a 5.29 ERA in 58 games, including 57 starts.

Jason Howell, his former pitching coach at UNC-Wilmington, said Holt has the makeup to adjust to the bullpen.

"He'll handle it well. He'll take it all in stride," Howell said.

In brief

Crosby comeback: Erie starter Casey Crosby was activated from the disabled list June 27 and beat Binghamton, 7-1, helping the Seawolves snap a four-game losing streak in front of a season-high crowd of 5,592 at Jerry Uht Park. He did not allow a hit until two outs in the sixth when Josh Satin, who hit for the cycle last month at Bowie, got a single.

All-Stars go deep: Hours after being named Eastern League All-Stars, Portland outfielder Alex Hassan and New Hampshire infielder Mike McDade each homered. Hassan hit his eighth long ball in a 4-3 win over New Britain on June 29, while McDade went deep for the 12th time in a 3-2 loss to Trenton.

Mercer moves up: Pirates shortstop prospect Jordy Mercer was promoted from Altoona to Indianapolis after hitting 13 homers in the first half. "I was excited," he told the Altoona Mirror. "The hard work has paid off a little bit, and now I'll just continue to work hard and keep moving up."

David Driver is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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