New York City - When John Mincone was released by the Chicago Cubs at the end of 2010, the bell could have been rung for the last time. It happens. A lot.
But as he recovered from ACL surgery and worked his way back to good physical condition, he played independent baseball in the Frontier League and hoped a major league team was looking. Players do that. A lot. And, more frequently these days, big league teams are looking and players do get their shot.
Mincone got his.
The New York Mets signed the lefty reliever as a Free Agent and after spring training, assigned him to the Brooklyn Cyclones, of the Class-A short-season New York Penn League. He wasn't thrilled about that, but he understood and he went to work.
The league's hitters, and the Mets, quickly saw what Mincone had to offer.
In June he pitched in four games, giving up just six hits and one walk in six innings. In July he tacked on fourteen more innings, finishing the month with a 0.00 ERA. He allwed just two walks and struck out 16 batters. He ended the season with 29.2 innings under his belt and a 1.66 ERA.
"I guess I couldn't have had a better comeback year," he said Friday.
The Cyclones were a team all about pitching. The impressive stable of pitchers, both starters and in the bullpen, led the league in many areas all season, leading them to a playoffs berth. They were knocked out of it in the first round, but Mincone remembers that exciting Game One win.
"We were on fire. Then we lost the next two and that was that. Some guys were jittery. Those last two weeks were down to the wire and stressful. But that's baseball."
He owes part of his success to a change in his changeup. Instead of throwing a split-seam changeup, he switched to throwing a straighter change, which he believes contributed to a stronger repertoire.
"When I came back from surgery, my split-change wasn't there."
Mincone already had a focus for this off-season. Diet and excercise, of course, but he wants to lose some weight. Added cardio is on the agenda. He'll be running more. And "running" toward 2013 knowing very well what he's got to prove.
"Next year is huge for me in my career."
Mincone was drafted in 2009 by the Cubs in the 11th round of the MLB Draft.
Mincone was named 2012 Cyclones Reliever of the Year in post-season awards for Gotham Baseball Magazine.
You can follow John on Twitter @Jmincone