Mets Have More Questions Than Days Left Before Opening Day

With four days until Opening Day, most teams have their rosters, rotation and batting order set. The Mets are not most teams.

Their three remaining exhibition games will do little to answer questions for manager Terry Collins, who undoubtedly won’t be satisfied with what he sees Monday and will be mixing and matching for weeks.

The Mets think David Wright and Daniel Murphy will be ready, this after serious doubts just days ago. How things can change so quickly is puzzling.

Also, head scratching is the decision today to play Murphy at second against Washington in his first major league game of the spring. If something happens, it will be at least two weeks on the disabled list. If they play him in a minor league game, like they are with Wright, if he were re-injured they could backdate his time on the disabled list.

If this is about facing major league pitching, why against left-hander Gio Gonzalez?

This is asking for trouble.

The original plan was to replace Wright with Justin Turner, but he has a strained left calf – could it be residual from his sprained ankle? – and seems headed for the disabled list.

With their infield concerns, conventional thinking had Omar Quintanilla making the 25-man roster as a reserve, including backup to shortstop Ruben Tejada. This idea was heightened when Brandon Hicks was optioned.

The Mets also have concern with their defense in center field. Matt den Dekker is out with a broken wrist, so they are again considering Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who entered spring training penciled in as the leadoff hitter playing center field. However, he missed most of spring training with a bruised left knee. When Nieuwenhuis wasn’t taking treatment, he was mostly striking out (11 times) in his 26 at-bats (with only two hits). Those numbers will preclude Nieuwenhuis leading off should he make the team.

What is apparent is Jordany Valdespin, who leads the Mets with 21 hits, will make the team. But, where will he play if Nieuwenhuis and Murphy are both on the Opening Day roster? It should be center, but do they really want to put Nieuwenhuis on the bench for late-inning defense when he’s hit so poorly and should be getting at-bats on the minor league level?

The batting order is also unsettled.

Valdespin, by virtue of his hot spring, should bat leadoff, and if he’s ready, Murphy would likely hit second. With the way Tejada is hitting – .080 with just four hits – there’s no way he should be at the top of the order. Put him eighth.

If Wright is ready he will bat third, followed by Ike Davis, perhaps catcher John Buck or right fielder Marlon Byrd and then left fielder Lucas Duda, who has 16 strikeouts. Assuming Wright does not play, Byrd could bat third.

Collins wants to separate lefty strikeout machines Davis and Duda. Collins could sandwich both Byrd and Buck ahead of Duda, but that would leave him at the bottom of the order with Tejada and the pitcher.

Neither scenario is appealing.

The rotation would open with Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee. Jeremy Hefner would get the fourth start and if Shaun Marcum’s neck injury isn’t better, they would bring back Niese. If Marcum goes on the disabled list as expected, it would enable Collins to carry an extra reliever, presumably Jeurys Familia.

The Mets will open with Johan Santana, Jenrry Mejia and Frank Francisco on the disabled list. Marcum could be another, and regardless of their optimism, Wright and Murphy remain possibilities.

Four days, but a lot more questions.

2 thoughts on “Mets Have More Questions Than Days Left Before Opening Day

  1. The Mets won’t be able to hit and their rotation is weak and the pen is a big question mark.

    I caught Parnell pitching yesterday and he looked pretty good.

    Oh and their defense will be fun to watch if you root for the other team.

  2. They been saying they expected Wright to be there opening day all along since they first got his diagnosis. So things haven’t changed much in that regard.

    As for Murph…the doubt about him was more do to the lack of game action than anything. And he’s managed to get into games these past few days. TC said last week Murph needed to be in games by the weekend to be considered for OD…and he did get into games then. So not a drastic change of course there. As for the major league games and not the minor league ones…they could play it safe and keep him at the minor league side…but as you said yourself yesterday – minor league speed doesn’t equate to major league game speed . The only way to really know he is ready is to put him out there. And if he does have some major health-related setback and re-injures himself it would probably mean he is going to be out for more than 5 days of the season anyway…so there probably isn’t much of a risk there in terms of not being able to back date him. The only risk at this point is if they do decide he’s not up to game speed…then what do they do? But they might still feel testing it out now is the best way to go and avoid the risk of thinking he’s ready based on minor league games and then finding out he isn’t ready once he starts playing in regular season games.