May 1, 2008
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun, Used with permission
WASHINGTON, D.C. — John Maine sat by a table in the middle of the New York Mets clubhouse at Nationals Park, resting his chin on his left arm - the arm that does not make him a rich young man - and pondered his next move.
The North Stafford High School graduate was engrossed in a game of chess with Mike Pelfrey, another young pitcher with the Mets. The two play chess several times a week, especially on days they are not slated to start on the mound.
Pelfrey won the first chess match between the two pitchers April 24. And that is fitting for how the month of April went for Maine.
The right-handed starter had an ERA of 3.57 in his four starts but had just one win in three decisions.
“I don’t have much to show for it,” said Maine, standing in the Mets clubhouse before another match against Pelfrey. “I have kept us in there. I don’t know how much more you can ask.”
Maine, in a start against the Nationals, won in New York on April 16 when he allowed just five hits and two earned runs in 6.2 innings. The right-hander from North Stafford walked four and struck out four in a 5-2 victory.
Maine, who turns 27 on May 8, was in Washington, D.C. April 23-24 for a two-game series against the Nationals. He did not pitch against the Nationals since he was slated to start April 26 against the Atlanta Braves. In the game April 26 Maine picked up his second win of the season as he allowed just two earned
runs in five innings as the Mets beat the Braves 4-3. Maine threw 100 pitches and allowed just three hits with seven strikeouts.
Last season here, the Fredericksburg native pitched in front of family and friends when the Mets played at RFK Stadium. So what does he think of the new Nationals Park?
“It is OK,” Maine said. “It seems like they took a lot of things from a lot of the other parks. It is a better upgrade than RFK Stadium.”
The Mets are building a new stadium, Citi Field, that is slated to open in time for the 2009 season. Maine said he hopes to be there although his contract with the Mets ends after the 2008 season.
“You can’t let it bother you. I don’t think about it,” Maine said of his contract situation.
Another thing he and his teammates try not to think about is the end of the 2007 season, when the Mets blew a big lead in the National League east division. The Philadelphia Phillies came back and New York watched playoff baseball at home on television. New York lost 12 of its last 17 games in blowing a seven-game lead.
“You have to be past it. It is over with,” said Maine, who added the only time he thinks about is when the media brings it up.
Maine played baseball and basketball at North Stafford High School and graduated in 1999. He pitched three years in college at Charlotte and was drafted by the Orioles in 2002.
Maine, who grew up in Hartwood, made his Major League debut with Baltimore in 2004. He was traded by the Orioles to the Mets after the 2005 season. He was 6-5 with an ERA of 3.60 for the Mets in 2006 and won Game 6 of the National League Championship Series that season against St. Louis.
Last season, his first full year at the Major League level, Maine was 15-10 with an ERA of 3.91 in 32 starts with one shutout. In 191 innings he allowed just 168 hits and 75 walks with 180 strikeouts. He allowed 23 homers and was tied for eighth in the National League in wins.
Maine works out in the off-season at Mountain View High School under Craig Lopez, his former coach at North Stafford High. Lopez, a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate, pitched in the minor leagues with the Orioles organization.
Maine had lunch with his sister, who lives in Fredericksburg, in the Washington, D.C. area April 24. He hopes to get home to Stafford when the Mets come to town again in August for a three-game series.
His family comes to see him pitch when he takes the mound in Washington. But he is no longer bombarded with ticket requests when the Mets are in D.C.
“The novelty has worn off,” Maine said of pitching close to home.