Joining the Mets has already been a long, strange trip for Ronny Paulino, the lefty-mashing catcher signed way back in December, and he has yet to join the team. Paulino got to spring training three weeks late because of visa issues he had as a result of the terms of his lingering 50 game suspension for a 2010 violation of baseball's performance-enhancing drugs policy. Shortly after arriving in camp, Paulino was sidelined for medical reasons that turned out to be anemia. When spring training came to its conclusion, Paulino had racked up a whopping nine plate appearances.
At the beginning of the regular season, Paulino had to serve the final eight games of his suspension before the Mets were allowed to place him on the disabled list. That worked out well as Paulino probably would have missed those games regardless of the suspension.
Once he was finally ready to begin a rehab stint with the Buffalo Bisons, the catcher had to leave a game early on Friday with a strained left oblique. Luckily, Paulino was back in the lineup for Buffalo today, and although the Mets say he won't be activated tomorrow in Washington, it's possible that he'll join the team as early as Wednesday.
There's been some buzz about Mike Nickeas, whose home run a few days ago was the first in a series of things that started to break in the Mets' favor as they put together a four-game winning streak. The 28-year-old journeyman catcher made for a good story with that home run, but the addition of Paulino to the team will provide a significant upgrade. Nickeas has done a serviceable job behind the plate, mostly going unnoticed besides the home run, and that's fine. His long track record in the minors is light at best when it comes to hitting.
I've written about Paulino here before, back when he was signed, and basically it comes down to this: the guy destroys left-handed pitching. Against them, he's posted a .382 wOBA over the course of his career. Expectations were sky high after Paulino's solid rookie campaign with the Pirates in 2006, but those expectations weren't met as he dropped off in the years that followed. The one ability he maintained fairly well was hitting lefties.
Since Josh Thole has already been used in a platoon role, making only ten plate appearances against left-handers so far, Paulino will hit a whole more than Nickeas when he's in the lineup over Thole. Paulino's productivity against those pitchers is derived from both on-base ability and power. Jason Bay's return to the lineup was far more important, but on the days the Mets face left-handed starting pitching, Paulino will give the offense a boost, too.