Jack McKeon had already lifted Randy Choate once before when the lefty relief specialist went to 2-0 on a batter. That time it didn't surprise Choate because the batter was a right-hander. But when the manager took him out in the ninth inning on Monday when the count went to 2-0 on Lucas Duda, a left-handed hitter for the Mets, Choate said he was "surprised."
Actually, it appeared he was more than a little surprised, reacting angrily in the dugout after being removed with one out in the ninth.
"I was personally surprised this time, not so much last time," Choate said, who bit his tongue when reporters asked him about it following the Marlins' 4-1 victory over the Mets. "When he did it to me the first time, I wasn't as surprised, right-handed hitter. I was a little bit surprised tonight with the lefty. I guess I'll try to start getting them out."
Choate is one of the best in the business at retiring lefties and takes pride in his specialty. Entering Monday, left-handers had gone 5 for 54 with a walk and 23 strikeouts against Choate. But Choate gave up a single to Willie Harris to start the ninth. One out later, he walked Nick Evans before going to 2-0 on Duda.
Asked if he was angry, Choate replied: "He's the manager. I'm the player."
Choate isn't the first pitcher McKeon has removed in mid-count this season. McKeon has made it a habit in his previous years as a manager, too. He once removed Billy Koch from a game in Philadelphia when, with the bases loaded, the the count went to 3-0.
"I didn't think he was sharp," McKeon said of Choate. "Choate did a good job. He's been doing outstanding. But I thought it was time for a change. Done it before. Probably do it again. The name of the game is winning. We're not worried about hurting anybody's feeling. I would think everyone on this club would be interested in winning, and that's the way it's going to be. If someone doesn't like it, it's just too bad. I'm hoping everybody is on the same page as being unselfish and being happy with the W."