Havens has played in 18 games for Binghamton this year and 14 for St. Lucie on a rehab assignment. Since he signed, the 23-year old has played in just 47% of his team's games (132/278). This is the Fernando Martinez problem: developing into a major league baseball player takes longer and becomes much harder when the player isn't actually playing baseball.
I like Havens as a player. I like his swing. I like his strength which has produced power this year. I like that he takes walks. I think he has the physical skills for second with more than adequate range, good hands and a stronger than necessary arm for the position. None of it matters if he's not on the field.
In reading B-Mets manager Tim Teufel's comments after the game, I thought I detected some frustration:
“Reese had some soreness,’’ said Binghamton manager Tim Teufel. “I took him out as a precaution. Let the trainers deal with him.How could Teufel not be frustrated?
“It’s something that he’s dealt with before. That’s how I’ll leave it.’’
The Mets redid their strength program this season, reducing the amount of weight that players lift in-season, to focus on flexibility and baseball skills and movements. Around the system, most of the affiliates seemed to have enjoyed relatively healthy seasons, but without a rigorous examination of the data, it's hard to know whether there's been a measurable improvement. (The injury prone guys, Havens, Fernando Martinez and Brant Rustich, for example have all missed time.)
And that's my point. Sometimes it's not about systems and training programs. It's on the individual players to do what they need to do - in the winter, in April, in June, at night, in the gym in the morning, at lunch, at the ballpark - to get ready to play everyday. It's on Martinez. It's on Havens. Is there bad luck in straining an oblique or a hamstring? Absolutely. But when does a pattern of behavior pass the luck level and enter into something that a player can control?
In the fall, Havens told me that he didn't consider himself injury prone. He considered his injuries in pro ball, an unrelated series of bad luck. Can he honestly say the same now?
Obviously, the happy ending for Havens is that he returns healthy at some point this year, keeps hitting, attacks AAA at the beginning of the 2011 season, and makes his debut to begin a long and productive big league career. If he continues to play in under half of his team's games, none of that will happen. The first step is getting back on the field and staying there.