The Mets open the second half of what has been a surprising season tonight in San Francisco a team with confidence and resiliency – just four games behind Atlanta despite several questions.
Many of those questions were only partially addressed and remain to the point where they are issues.
Here’s the top five questions for the Mets entering the second half:
1. QUESTION: How healthy is this team?
ASSESSMENT: The Mets will get Carlos Beltran back tonight, but don’t know how he’ll respond to a heavy workload. For now the plan is to juggle playing time between Beltran, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur, with the latter’s time reduced the most. Beltran returns to center and the clean-up, but don’t expect him to immediately be in All-Star form.
Another pressing issue, or at least it’s turning out that way, is Jose Reyes, who strained his right oblique muscle, June 30. Reyes sat out a handful of games before the Mets foolishly let him return only to bat right-handed, even against righty pitchers. Had Reyes been placed on the disabled list originally, or continued to sit until he was 100 percent, he might be fine today.
Instead, Reyes is still ailing and considered day-to-day. The Mets are still toying with him batting right-handed exclusively and not waiting until he’s 100 percent. Reyes aggravated the injury and the Mets are pushing their luck.
Also, Mike Pelfrey, after a string of non-descript to poor starts, says he might have a dead arm, although not an injury it is physical related.
2. QUESTION: Will the Mets make a trade for a starting pitcher?
ASSESSMENT: They are trying. They wanted Cliff Lee, but weren’t in the mix. The asking price is high for Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren, both in the currency of players and salary.
More likely is Ted Lilly, or somebody such as him.
The Mets’ second-half rotation is RA Dickey tonight, followed by Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana and Hisanori Takahashi.
Oliver Perez is currently on a rehab assignment, and if a trade is not made he could be slotted into the bullpen in Takahashi’s spot.
3. QUESTION: Who is the real Mike Pelfrey?
ASSESSMENT: After a 9-1 start and talk of an All-Star berth, Pelfrey has been spotty in has last five starts and gone 1-2.
He has unraveled in spots to allow the big inning and recently said he was bothered by a dead arm period. There’s also speculation he could have a slight mechanical flaw.
Maybe it is a combination of all three, but the only clear thing is he’s nothing pitching the way he was earlier.
I don’t think this is a regression as much as it is hitting a wall. This is one more thing he’ll have to overcome in the maturation process.
4. QUESTION: Will Jason Bay show up?
ASSESSMENT: I don’t know anymore. He’s traditionally a streaky hitter, but that home run tear never happened in the first half. Bay is on pace to hit 11 homers, which could be a hot month for him in Fenway.
Bay is also on pace for 82 RBI, which is decent, but way below what was expected of him when the Mets pried him from Boston with big bucks.
One thing is clear, with what the Mets are paying him Bay will not fit into the outfield rotation. They’ll keep trotting him out there.
If Bay does show up, it would be like the Mets making a trade.
5. QUESTION: How will the bullpen shake out?
ASSESSMENT: One stat says is all: 10 walk-off loses in the first half.
Nobody stepped forward in the first half to take over the eighth-inning role, but Bobby Parnell looks to be first in line in the second half. Parnell washed out as a starter last season, but has pitched well since being promoted from Triple-A Buffalo.
Pedro Feliciano remains reliable, but more so as the lefty specialist. Takahashi also seems better suited for the bullpen, so the sooner the Mets acquire a starter, the sooner they’ll add depth to the pen.