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K-Mets ready to hit the ground running

Kevin Mays • Jun 18, 2019 at 12:37 AM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Mets open the Appalachian League season on the road Tuesday and they’re ready.

“I’m ready to get out there and start grinding,” pitcher Nate Peden said Monday during the team’s media day.

Peden, a graduate of University High School in Orange City, Florida, joins the Kingsport club for his second year.

View the photo gallery from Monday’s fan meet-and-greet

During the 2018 Appy League season, Peden finished with a 2-5 record and 6.48 ERA in 11 games. This year he’s looking for bigger and better things.

He’s already feeing better about this season because of the coaching he’s received in extended spring training in Florida from the K-Mets’ new pitching coach, former major leaguer Jerome Williams.

“I’m happy I’m here because of the pitching coach,” Peden said. “By the end of extended spring training, I had some controlling days.”

“IT’S A GREAT PLACE TO BE”

Peden has been through the summer of Appalachian League play and can offer some advice to his teammates.

“It’s a grind and you just can’t quit,” he said. “It’s tough at first, but you just have to stick with it and gets better and then you really start to enjoy it. It’s a great place to be.”

Also ready to roll is Gregory Guerrero, nephew of former major leaguer Vladimir Guerrero.

Gregory Guerrero has steadily moved up the ranks in the New York Mets organization, having played in the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast Development League. A 20-year-old infielder, Guerrero takes a .236 career batting average into his first year in the Appy League.

Like many Latino players who haven’t traveled much in the United States outside Florida, Guerrero is making adjustments on and off the field.

“He’s settling in,” said the K-Mets’ batting coach and translator Mariano Duncan. “It’s different for the Latino players. But they are lucky to have a translator on the team.”

MAKING ADJUSTMENTS

Jayden Palmer, an 18-year-old who calls Brooklyn, New York, home, is also making adjustments to his first time to living in Kingsport.

Palmer, an infielder, signed with the Mets in 2018 out of high school. He spent last summer in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .310 with one home run and 11 RBIs in 25 games and 87 plate appearances.

After taking part in extended spring training with the Mets, he’s ready for some action against opponents wearing different jerseys this summer.

“Playing the same teams all the time on the same field can get pretty tough,” Palmer said. “To actually be playing in a stadium under the lights will be exciting.

“This is the first time for me playing under the lights and I’m looking forward to it.”

COACHING STAFF GOOD TO GO

The players are not the only ones in Kingsport uniforms who are ready to see some different competition.

Manager Rich Donnelly, Williams, Duncan and development coach Stephen Gaylor all said they’re ready to hit the ground running in Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. season opener at the Greeneville Reds.

“We’ve had enough of Florida for a while,” Donnelly said. “Every day is about 95 degrees and there’s a total attendance of about three people at the game.”

“I’ve been working on getting pitchers to go out under the lights and experience games as pro ballplayers,” Williams said. “For a lot of them, it will be the first time playing under the lights and they’re excited.”

“It’s going to be a big challenge for the kids,” Duncan said. “But at least they will get to sleep a later. They’ve had to get up at 5 in the morning in Florida and play in the morning. Now they will be able to sleep a little later and be a little fresher.”

Donnelly said his players will have to be ready to play and ready to go every day.

“There are no holidays. Every day is like every other and that’s going to be an adjustment for a lot of these guys,” said the 72-year-old Donnelly, who spent 29 years as a coach in the major leagues. “I haven’t been to a summer barbecue in 51 years.”

LET’S GET STARTED

After the two-game season-opening series in Greeneville, the K-Mets host the same Reds on Thursday at Hunter Wright.

Kingsport then hosts Elizabethton in a three-game series scheduled for Friday through Sunday.

Friday and Saturday games are slated for 6:30 p.m. starts. Sunday’s contests are slated to begin at 4 p.m.

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