Feb 27

Fifth starter update: Livan sharp; Garcia not so

GARCIA: Rough day.

GARCIA: Rough day.

Watching Feddy Garcia labor big time against the Cardinals. It’s early, but it has to be frustrating for Garcia, who has given up four runs on a pile of pitches. Garcia is trying to make the team as the fifth starter.

He’s competing with Livan Hernandez, who threw two perfect innings today, Tim Redding and Jon Niese.

If I were betting, I would say Hernandez wins the job, Redding will get slotted as the long man, Niese and Garcia would open in the minors.

Feb 14

Mets sign Livan Hernandez ….

HERNANDEZ: Adds depth to rotation.

HERNANDEZ: Adds depth to rotation.

The Mets’ never-ending search to add pitching depth continued today with the signing of Livan Hernandez, El Duque’s half-brother. Hernandez, 34 next Friday, will compete with Jon Niese, Freddy Garcia and Tim Redding for the fifth starter role. He was signed to a minor league deal, but could earn $1 million if he makes the big league roster.

Bet on it.

“I just feel we need to have numbers,” said GM Omar Minaya. The Mets have 29 pitchers in camp.

Hernandez is an innings eater. He threw 180 last season for Minnesota and Colorado, but logged at least 200 the previous eight years. He has won at least 11 games the past nine seasons.

I like the signing. Minaya is right; a team can’t have too much pitching, and Hernandez has a history of durability.

This signing also leaves Pedro Martinez out in the cold.

Jan 29

Mets interested in Pedro

MARTINEZ: One more year?

MARTINEZ: One more year?

I remember talking with Pedro Martinez the last day of the season and him telling me he never felt ready between rehabbing injuries and taking time off to visit his ailing father.

“I don’t want to leave this way,” Martinez told me then. “I didn’t feel right this year. I know I can still pitch.”

Martinez had his moments last season, both good and bad, but a guy with his heart shouldn’t be easily dismissed. If his pride lets him be a fourth or fifth starter, then he’s worth it. Let’s face it, could he be any worse than Freddy Garcia or Tim Redding?

There’s a report out of the Dominican Republic that has Omar Minaya meeting with  Martinez about bringing the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer back for an encore to his four-year, $53 million contract.

Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t set with their rotation. With no assurances they’ll re-sign Oliver Perez, bringing back Martinez in a stop gap role makes sense. He’s not the young stud we’d all like, but there aren’t any guarantees Jon Niese is that guy, either.

Jan 13

Braves get Lowe. What’s next?

Sixty million over four years got it done for Derek Lowe with the Braves. The Mets were a year and $24 million short. Oliver Perez, who should feel unwanted right about now, wants four years and the Mets are at three.

Ben Sheets is still out there, injured arm and all. So are Pedro Martinez and Randy Wolf. Whatever the signing, it has been a disappointing winter for the Mets regarding their starting pitching.

The Mets entered the offseason wanting to address their bullpen, but that includes getting starters capable of eating innings. It is not unfair to attach questions to four of the five starters after Johan Santana.

Mike Pelfrey: Will he continue to progress or hit a wall, which often happens in a pitcher’s development.

John Maine: Coming off surgery.

Tim Redding: A .500 pitcher last year with a lifetime losing record. OK, for a fifth starter, but the expectations could rise.

Fifth starter: To be determined. Jon Niese will compete. Bringing back Martinez might have to be the plan.

Jan 12

Mets reach agreement with Redding ….

REDDING: Deal in place for fifth starter.

REDDING: Deal in place for fifth starter.

The Mets have a deal in principle (one year, $2.25 million) with Tim Redding. The signing will be announced pending a physical, perhaps today or tomorrow. Redding, 30, was 10-11 with a 4.95 ERA last season with Washington.

He’ll be slotted in as the fifth starter, but would move up to fourth if the Mets aren’t able to sign either Derek Lowe or Oliver Perez. He didn’t have a great record, but the Mets figure it should improve with their offense.

The signing gives the Mets depth in the rotation and allows another year of development for Jon Niese and Robert Parnell.

The Mets aren’t done as they figure to come away with either Lowe or Perez to round out their rotation.

They are also talking with infielder Alex Cora.