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 07

April 7.10: Maine says he’s fine; gets start tonight.

There was a time when John Maine was considered a throw-in from Baltimore in the Kris/Anna Benson trade, but his strong showing at the end of the 2006 season and 15 wins in 2007 gave hope he could evolve into a dependable No. 2 starter.

“No. 2, that’s just a number,’’ Maine said. “I just need to get out there, stay healthy and I believe I’ll be fine.’’

Maine had shoulder surgery at the end of the 2008 season and admitted this spring that he rushed himself back last year contributing to his arm problems.

“I learned a lesson,’’ he said.

At 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA in spring training, it’s hard to defend Maine’s performance other than saying the numbers don’t count and he was working on things. Pitching with a migraine and stomach virus, Maine gave up four runs on six hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings in his exhibition finale against Washington.

(NOTE: Part of juggling the rotation was to avoid the Nationals getting another look at Maine so quickly).

Maine brushed off his performance, saying: “My arm feels fine. Shoulder feels good. That’s the top priority.’’

The numbers haven’t been there, but Maine insists he’s not worried and he’s throwing the ball better than anytime after the 2007 season. He said the ball is just flowing out of his hand.

“I think the last time it came out easy without trying to really force anything was spring training 2008,” Maine said. “I might have been throwing a little harder then, but it’s coming out good.’’

Mar 31

March 31.10: Juggling the rotation means …. what?

When you rearrange a junk drawer without throwing out anything, it’s still a junk drawer. Right?

That’s pretty much the way I look at the news of the Mets juggling their pitching rotation. It’s the usual suspects, but they come in at a different stage of the movie.

Reportedly, following Johan Santana are John Maine, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez.
Perez was hammered again yesterday by the Cardinals, giving up seven runs on six hits – with three homers in 2 1/3 innings. Of Perez, manager Jerry Manuel said, “he’s a guy we’ve got to watch carefully.’’

Also under a microscope is Pelfrey, who has given up 12 runs in his last two starts.
But, I wonder what juggling the rotation really does. When the rotation is on, managers like to say, “we have five aces.’’ Even the pitchers buy into it saying, “I don’t care where I pitch as long as I pitch.’’

Assuming that’s true, then the worse should also apply. “As long as I pitch,’’ isn’t a comforting thought when we look at the spring ERA’s of Maine, Pelfrey and Perez.

I know, I know, some of you will say spring stats don’t mean anything and you might not be wrong. But, stats are a measure of performance and right now they are screaming the rotation is terrible.

What does juggling the rotation do? As far as I’m concerned it just changes the order of the inevitable.

Mar 28

March 28.10: Pelfrey a concern.

Of all the Mets, for me it is a toss up between Mike Pelfrey and John Maine as to whom I am most concerned about heading into the season. Oliver Perez? Not so much, as I know he’ll be inconsistent and spotty. I’m done scratching my head over Perez.

But Pelfrey and Maine – the former starts today – promise to have an upside and there have been flashes. Pelfrey’s problems have been, 1) a failure to master his secondary pitches, 2) an inability to limit the damage in an inning, and 3) a tendency to lose focus.

It all adds up to not knowing what to expect when he takes the mound.

But, at least he knows it when he speaks of the primary issue surrounding this team.

“I’ve come in from day one saying that the whole season is going to depend on us three,” Pelfrey said of himself, Maine and Perez. “And it’s true. No matter what team it is, pitching wins championships.
“Johan Santana is going to be Johan Santana. The guys vying for the fifth spot are going to be great fifth starters. The rest is on us three.”

It is only spring training, but their performance so far has done little to alleviate concern. The questions and inconsistency remains.

Mar 25

March 25.10: Wrapping up the Day.

Despite giving up two homers, there was questionable progress made by John Maine in today’s loss to St. Louis. The two homers were the only runs he allowed in five innings. Maine also walked two. Not sterling by any stretch, but better by comparison to how we’ve seen him this spring.

The Cardinals had chances, but for the most part Maine pitched out of trouble, which is a positive sign. But, he was lucky the homers – on by Albert Pujols – came with the bases empty. It hasn’t always been that way.

Maine was one inning and run less than what passes for a quality start these days. Three runs in six innings hardly represents quality, but does by today’s watered down standards. Tom Seaver would call in unacceptable.

The Mets need more from Maine, both at this stage in spring training and during his career. I’d take the two runs every time out, but the Mets need more than five innings considering his pitch count of 88. That many pitches must take him through seven innings.

Five innings won’t make it.

CARTER IMPRESSES: Omar Minaya, speaking during today’s telecast, said Chris Carter is making an impression regarding the final position spot on the roster.

“He’s a left-handed hitter with power,’’ Minaya said.

Carter flied out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, but is batting .421 with five extra-base hits.

Also in contention for that spot are Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto, neither of whom are hitting over .200.

REYES WORKS OUT: Jose Reyes worked out again today and said there were no problems.

“Today went much better,’’ Reyes told reporters. “I was a little bit sore, but it was good so far, I’ll continue to do more and hopefully I’ll be on the field as soon as possible.’’

The will take it slow with Reyes. Pushing him at this time would only risk injury to his leg and would be foolish.