With Opening Day hours away, the Mets began the 2012 season on a positive note by agreeing to a contract with left-hander Jon Niese.
NIESE: Locked up for five years.
In agreeing to the five-year, $25.5 million deal – pending a physical – the Mets will avoid the arbitration and free-agent processes and locked up one of their most important young players.
With the Mets resolving their most stressing financial problem is reaching a settlement in the Madoff scandal, their next most important step is to achieve as much economic certainty as possible. That would be in reaching long-term obligations with their young talent.
They did it with David Wright and Jose Reyes several years ago. The next wave would be Niese, Ike Davis, and possibly Wright again.
Niese won a career-high 11game last year before it was cut short with a side injury. There’s no guarantee Niese will become the next Jerry Koosman, but his career is off to a good start and he’s caught the attention of others. Several teams have inquired into Niese and for good reason; he’s immensely talented and poised. And, hard throwing left-handers are a premium.
The Mets have taken deserved heat for their questionable decisions. They should also get credit for their good moves, and this is one.
The Mets finally received good news on the injury front as relievers Frank Francisco and Tim Byrdak, and center fielder Andres Torres are all expected to be at Citi Field instead of the disabled list on Opening Day.
Francisco took a cortisone injection to his sore left knee Sunday, and after throwing off the mound this morning pronounced himself ready.
Byrdak underwent left knee surgery March 13 and is scheduled to pitch today against the Yankees.
Andres Torres sustained a strained left calf March 20 and was in the starting lineup today.
Relievers Pedro Beato (shoulder) and D.J. Carrasco (ankle) will be on the disabled list to start the season.
Today’s lineup, with the exception of pitcher Mike Pelfrey, is the projected starting lineup for Opening Day.
Andres Torres, cf
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Ike Davis, 1b
Jason Bay, lf
Lucas Duda, rf
Josh Thole, c
Ruben Tejada, ss
The Mets are off tomorrow, which is a good thing, and gives us some time to look at what is going on for the Mets so far this spring.
Most encouraging has been Johan Santana’s progress through three starts. He’s been healthy and his velocity is gradually increasing.
Jon Niese has been solid and showing all signs he’s on the mend. If Santana isn’t ready for spring training, then Niese is the No. 1 as Mike Pelfrey hasn’t shown he’s capable in that role.
Pelfrey is still an enigma and has shown nothing to prove he’ll go into the season on a role. There’s still something missing in the Mets’ biggest question.
Health questions Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy seem as if they sound, but the latter still has his shaky moments at second base.
Andres Torres had a fast start in center field, but there’s not a reliable backup.
David Wright remains a health question, as does lefty reliever Tim Byrdak. With a hole in the bullpen, the Mets have four candidates vying for the role, with Garrett Olson seemingly having the inside track.
Ruben Tejada has a hamstring problem which was a temporary setback, but those types of injuries have a long recovery period.
We’re a week into the games and already the Mets have had injury issues with David Wright, Ike Davis, and, of course, the day-to-day watching of Johan Santana. Add Lucas Duda to the list. He was scratched from today’s against the Braves with a stiff back. He’ll likely be out until next week.
Here is today’s lineup for the Mets:
Ruben Tejada, SS
Josh Thole, C
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Valentino Pascucci, 1B
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF
Adam Loewen, LF
Juan Lagares, RF
Mike Baxter, DH
Ronny Cedeno, 3B
Dillon Gee, RP
As they should, the Mets are taking the cautious approach with Ike Davis. He doesn’t have Valley Fever, but they are treating him as though he does.
DAVIS: Playing today.
Valley Fever produces pneumonia-like symptoms that make it difficult to breathe. This condition can be even more acute in Florida at this time of the year with the humidity and pollen.
At its absolute worse, Valley Fever can become fatal if the disease spreads from the lungs to the bloodstream. Davis has a cyst on his lung, but all tests have been negative.
Davis is in today’s lineup against the Cardinals, but Terry Collins said the first baseman would receive plenty of rest this spring.
Davis, who missed nearly five months last season with an ankle injury, reports no problem in that area.