Apr 09

April 9.10: About Last Night; Niese shows up; offense doesn’t.

Losing two of three to the Florida Marlins, including 3-1 last night, isn’t the fast start manager Jerry Manuel envisioned. The upsetting thing is they could have swept this series with several more hits.

There was one positive to take out of the game, and that’s Jonathan Niese, who gave up three runs in six innings. Niese pitched with composure and efficiency for the most part, something they didn’t get the night before from John Maine. Something to look out for is the Marlins did some first-ball hitting because Niese often started out with fastballs.

Offensively, the Mets picked up where they left off the previous night, not to mention 2009. They left two runners on in the second and fourth innings when they could have made a dent into the game. Just three extra-base hits in their past two games.

When you’re not going to pitch consistently, you need to score. And, you can’t afford to waste good outings when you get them. The Mets were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring positions and left seven, and over the past two games have gone 0-for-10 while leaving 16. Not the ingredients of a fast start.

Tonight against Washington, it will be Mike Pelfrey vs. Garrett Mock.

Apr 08

April 8.10: Chat Room, Game #3, vs. Marlins, Niese gets the ball.

Undeniably the Mets’ pitching is suspect, which Jerry Manuel has finally admitted. He didn’t say the team should have been more aggressive this winter, but reading between the lines you can bet he’d like some help.

After John Maine last night, and the fact he moved around Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez, there’s little doubt to anyone that their pitching is in trouble.

“I think an honest assessment is that we have to be somewhat concerned,” Manuel said. “We had some setbacks and some inconsistencies there last year, so we can’t just assume that that’s going to be lights out. We have some questions there, and hopefully tonight we’ll see where we are at least in part to that particular issue.”

Jonathan Niese gets the nod tonight against the Marlins. Interesting, but Manuel said if Niese gets into trouble he’ll get the chance to work out of it if his pitch count is around 50 or 60.

That’s good to see. Without the chance we’ll never know how good Niese could be.

By the way, I won’t be around for the start of the chat room. I’ve started taking classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I should be back around 9 for the last few innings.

Apr 07

April 7.10: Chat Room, Game #2, vs. Marlins, Maine gets the test.

Obviously, the most pressing and important issue surrounding the Mets this season is their rotation beyond Johan Santana, and the first test goes to John Maine, tonight’s starter against the Florida Marlins.

Maine (7-6, 4.43 ERA last season) missed most of last season with a sore right shoulder coming off surgery.

Maine is 3-1 with a 1.05 ERA in four starts against the Marlins in New York, and 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 career starts.

Maine did not have a good spring with a 7.88 ERA, and manager Jerry Manuel said during his pre-game he’s inclined to have a short leash with him.

After the opener, Manuel said he’d stay with the hot hand.

Line-up vs. Ricky Nolasco (13-9, 5.06 last year):

Alex Cora, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Gary Matthews, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
John Maine, RP

NOTEBOOK: Manuel said Oliver Perez is able to work out of the pen tonight. … As long as Gary Matthews stays hot, he’ll be playing ahead of Angel Pagan. … Manuel said he’d like to use Jenrry Mejia during this home stand.

Apr 02

April 2.10: Toying with Mejia.

All that talking about Jenrry Mejia needing minor league experience is probably going to wind up as lip service because the reports are he’s more than even money to go north.

In what role, the Mets won’t say, but Jerry Manuel said the eighth-inning role “will be by committee,’’ a situation that always works.

What the decision to bring Mejia up now is really one made out of desperation by men, who in order to survive in their jobs, have to be shortsighted. If the Mets don’t win out of the gate, Manuel will be gone and he’s banking on Mejia’s rocket arm to suddenly find command and maturity.

But, at the same time, Manuel is saying he doesn’t have faith in Mejia in certain circumstances.

If Mejia needs to be saved from pressure situations such as the eighth inning, then what would he be doing on the roster in the first place? We all know the outcome of a game could be decided in the sixth or seventh innings. (And, with the Mets starters it could happen anywhere in the first five.)

I’m not sure whether Mejia should be a starter or reliever, but whatever it is, they should make a decision and stick with it.

Apparently, the Mets are currently thinking bullpen, which is fine. If that is the case, then he should be here the entire season learning from Francisco Rodriguez. Give him one relief role and stick with it.

I don’t want to see him here in the pen, then sent back down to the minors to start, then come back at the end of the year and go back in the pen. If Mejia is as good as they say, he’ll adjust. But, waffling between roles can only deter his progress.

That the Mets are even considering Mejia for the pen right now is a clear sign they have little faith in who they have right now. Their priority in this case is to compete now and worry about the future later.

That’s because the decision makers might not have a future.

Mar 26

March 26.10: Figueroa’s story won’t change.

As compelling as the underdog story is, there’s a reason for why he is. Just as Cornell lost last night to Kentucky because of depth of talent, that is also the limitation of Nelson Figueroa’s feel-good story.

There’s a reason why Figueroa has bounced around all these years: His talent it that of the sixth man in a five-man rotation. Every once in awhile he shows a glimmer, but overall the more he pitches the more his flaws are exposed.

Figueroa pitches today not so much as an effort to get Jerry Manuel to change his mind about the fifth spot in the rotation but as he does to audition for somebody else.

Figueroa, 35, who refers as himself as an “insurance policy,’’ has been around long enough to know the score.

“I’m in a position where I’m going out there and throwing for 29 other teams right now,’’ Figueroa said. “Being the insurance policy has its benefits. But at the same time, it’s a frustrating situation. I feel like if I’m given the opportunity to be more than that, I can be.’’

But, it won’t happen with the Mets because there’s always a faster gun, somebody who is younger, who throws harder, who is more a natural.

Actually, Figueroa got an extended look last year because of the Mets’ decimated rotation and went 3-8 with a 4.09 ERA. That included losing five consecutive decisions in September,

Figueroa’s heart, grit and determination is the essence of what sport should be, but it isn’t the reality in today’s game, which is driven by the need to win immediately. Maybe in a town with less pressure, Figueroa might get a chance.

But it would be the same story with the Mets, him passing through waivers, going back to Triple-A Buffalo, and waiting for the call generated by the inevitable injury or calamity in the rotation.

Still, pitching minor league baseball for what Figueroa would make is a better job than most of us will have, earning him $119,500 if he spends the full season in the minors.

It just isn’t the job he wants.