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 29

March 29.10: Wrapping up the Day.

Jose Reyes took batting practice today, but didn’t do anything distinguishing against minor leaguers Mike Antonini and Dillon Gee.

Reyes hadn’t faced a pitch since last May, and the Mets are debating whether to force-feed him six at-bats a day in minor league games for several days before giving him a couple of exhibition games.

“I feel good. I don’t play since last May, so I can’t wait to get on the field,’’ Reyes said this afternoon. “Right now, I’ll take it one day at a time and see what happens next.’’

Reyes said he’s been running 100 percent for the past week without any problems to his hamstring. Even so, there’s a difference between running sprints in the outfield and the type of running – stopping and starting and changing of directions – done in a game.

NIESE NOT SHARP: Projected fifth starter Jon Niese had a rough day, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings against the Marlins.

Even so, Niese was given credit for the victory today over the Marlins by the official scorer.

NOTEBOOK: Today was supposed to be Johan Santana’s turn to pitch, but the Mets didn’t want to start him against the Marlins, the team he’ll face next Monday on Opening Day at Citi Field. Santana will get his work in minor league games this week. … Jenrry Mejia gave up a run in 1 1/3 innings today. … After a sluggish spring, Jeff Francoeur is starting to come around with three hits, including two doubles. … Infielder Ruben Tejada, who could stick with club if Reyes opens the season on the disabled list had two hits to raise his average to .339. … The Washington Nationals claimed reserve catcher Chris Coste on waivers.

Mar 29

March 29.10: Reyes still an Opening Day possibility.

They are playing the “maybe’’ game again with Jose Reyes, with GM Omar Minaya not discounting him for Opening Day.

“We haven’t ruled it out yet, no,’’ Minaya said. “He looks good. He wants to bring it to the next level.’’

Reyes took live BP this morning for the first time.

The Mets could put him in a minor league game, where he’d lead off each inning and get six or seven at-bats. But, isn’t that rushing him, something they said they wouldn’t do?

Reyes hasn’t faced a major league pitch since last May, and even with a full workload this week that might not be enough.

Reyes is too valuable to this team to fool around with him. Better be certain than risk a setback. By Minaya leaving it open, Reyes might push himself to where he shouldn’t go. Better for Minaya to say
something now and take temptation away from him.

MEJIA STILL POSSIBLE: Jenrry Mejia to the Mets bullpen still remains a possibility, and if it happens he would presumably take the spot of Kiko Calero, leaving him behind for an extended spring training.

ONE GAME BAGGED: The split squad game in Viera, Fla., against the Nationals was rained out. Jon Niese was scheduled to start, but instead will pitch today in Port St. Lucie, against the Marlins.
Oliver Perez was to start that game, but will start tomorrow instead.

Here’s today’s lineup against the Marlins:

Angel Pagan, LF
Alex Cora, SS
David Wright, 3B
Daniel Murphy, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Gary Matthews, CF
Henry Blanco, C
Ruben Tejada, 2B
Jon Niese, LP

Mar 27

March 27.10: Takahashi starts today; looking at the pen.

When the Mets signed Hisanori Takahashi after his ten years with the Yomiuri Giants, there was little doubt he’d be on their staff, most likely as a starter.

After a strong start Jerry Manuel said there would be a spot for him, but with prospect Jon Niese recovered from a hamstring injury and performing well, the Mets are looking are at using him out of the bullpen, giving them a second lefty to Pedro Feliciano.

Pencil Takahashi into the bullpen, even though he’ll start today.

“Takahashi is fun,” pitching coach Dan Warthen said earlier this spring. “He very seldom hits the middle of the plate. He changes speeds. He recognizes swings, works both sides of the plate extremely well.’’

Takahashi’s ball cuts and sinks, giving the Mets an option to come in and get the double play, something they’ve lacked since Chad Bradford in 2006.

The dynamics of the make-up of a pitching staff are interesting. Niese puts Takahashi in the pen, and Kelvim Escobar’s injury led to several scenarios. Escobar was to be the eighth inning set-up reliever, but that could go to Takahashi now. It could go to Fernando Nieve or to somebody else. It won’t got to Pedro Feliciano.

The Mets will carry seven relievers with only closer Francisco Rodriguez and situational lefty Feliciano givens with defined roles.

Ryota Igarashi and Kiko Calero have been impressive, and that leaves one spot unaccounted for.

For much of the spring we heard it could be Jenrry Mejia, but it seems he’s ticketed to the minor leagues.

Who gets the final spot?

Do they relent with Mejia, or give it to Bobby Parnell, Sean Green or Nelson Figueroa?

The path of least resistance would be Figueroa for the following reasons: 1) if Mejia won’t be the eighth-inning guy he’s better off getting consistent work in the minors, 2) Mejia, Green and Parnell all have options remaining, and 3) with the Mets’ rotation suspect there would appear to be opportunities for an innings-eating long-man.

That’s Figueroa.

“We know that he’s capable of throwing three innings a day and then come back if somebody’s losing it and throwing again,’’ Manuel said. “He has shown us that he can handle the big leagues. Whatever role we decide for him, he throws strikes. He’ll be fine.’’

Prior to yesterday’s disastrous start Figueroa had pitched well, and his demeanor and talents are better suited for the mop-up role. The irony of it is that Figueroa isn’t good enough to make the rotation, but the questions in the rotation might give him a chance to stick.

Mar 25

March 25.10: Niese fifth starter favorite.

It is by no means a given, but Jon Niese has emerged as the frontrunner to be the team’s fifth starter. Jerry Manuel said yesterday Niese has the inside track over Fernando Nieve, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi.

At one point this spring, I thought Takahashi was the favorite, but moved off that because he didn’t have enough innings to be sufficiently stretched out. The path of least resistance would have been to option Niese because he has options remaining, but he has pitched well enough to warrant a chance and there are other variables.

Most specifically, the sad state of the Mets’ bullpen. Niese couldn’t help out in the pen, but both Nieve as a long man and Takahashi as a left-hander fill two roles. Odd man out, as expected, is Figueroa.

Figueroa will pass through waivers then re-sign with the Mets and be pitching around June. Personally, I hope somebody claims him and he gets a chance to pitch.