Mar 18

Clock clicking down on Met issues

With a little less than three weeks before Opening Day, some issues the Mets opened camp with are starting to take focus. Others remain blurred.

Johan Santana, it seems, is on track. My philosophy on injuries is to assume the worst until the player proves otherwise. After a strong 56-pitch outing in a minor league game yesterday, the reports on Santana and his slider are good.

The fifth starter was another issue, and candidates Freddy Garcia (14.40 ERA this spring) and Livan Hernandez (3.72) will work today against the Braves. Garcia, obviously needs a complete turnaround to stay in contention, but coming off injuries, he’s likely to open the season with an extended spring training.

Hernandez has been mostly good, but still hasn’t blown Jerry Manuel away as to where the job is his. And, until he does, there will always be those Pedro Martinez whispers that won’t go away.

Mar 17

Niese goes today ….

Jon NIese takes his 9.00 ERA to the mound today against the Braves. Niese is still in the hunt for the fifth spot in the rotation, but hasn’t overly impressed in his opportunity.

I’m still putting what’s left of my money on Livan Hernandez to win the role. That is, of course, if the Mets don’t pick somebody else up, such as re-signing Pedro Martinez.

Nobody has blown away the field. Tim Redding is hurting and could open the season on the DL. Freddy Garcia? That ended quickly.

I like what I saw of Niese last season, but he also had those moments that said he wasn’t ready. I’d hate for him to come up and get rocked the way Mike Pelfrey did. If there is a viable major league option to Niese, the Mets will take it.

Mar 16

Not worried about Pelfrey

When a pitcher reaches a career high in innings pitched, there’s a tendency to sometimes hit a wall in the subsequent season. That’s the concern about Mike Pelfrey.

I had it heading into spring training. Not so much anymore. Another good outing the other day. There seems to be something about him that’s encouraging. In retrospect, it might have been a good thing he was hammered early in his career. It seems to have toughened him. It appears to have given him a backbone that’s essential for the core of a strong career.

Pelfrey should continue to improve as he learns the hitters better, gets stronger and refines his pitches. He’s got a great fastball; let it work for him. He doesn’t need to get fancy.

Pelfrey making another positive step might be one of the most important keys for the Mets this season.

Mar 11

Mets release Sanchez ….

I wrote at the beginning of spring training Duaner Sanchez’s health was a key, that if he rebounded from shoulder surgery he could become a viable set-up reliever. He was hit hard in his first appearance and has done little to change the feeling impending doom.

Sanchez was released by the Mets after failure to reach 90 on the speed gun in Monday’s game against Baltimore. Sanchez gave up two runs on three hits and a walk. He’s walked six in five innings, an indication not only his speed is gone, but he velocity as well.

Said Minaya: “We looked at his overall performance based on last year to what we see now and we didn’t see the improvement we felt was needed to be effective in the major leagues.”

The beneficiary of Sanchez’s demise is Bobby Parnell.

Mar 05

On Santana: Are they really sure?

SANTANA: Are they sure?

SANTANA: Are they sure?

He’s easily the most important Met. How far they go this season is dependant on Johan Santana’s elbow, his shoulder, and his knee – every part of him.

October will be yet another empty month if Santana is injured and misses a substantial part of the season.

The appearance is the Mets aren’t on the same page on a timetable when a day after pitching coach Dan Warthen’s itinerary had Santana missing Opening Day the two-time Cy Young winner said he thought differently.

Santana threw 46 pain-free bullpen pitches Wednesday and the tenor has changed. Santana, manager Jerry Manuel said, isn’t a like everybody else, telling reporters in Port St. Lucie: “You have templates that you like to follow, and everybody don’t fit those templates. That’s why he is who he is.’’

I don’t think anybody doubts Santana’s competitiveness. All you have to do is think back to his last start of the season on a bum knee that required surgery.

This guy throws with his guts as much as he does his arm, and part of me can’t help but wonder if the Mets are doing with Santana what they did with Pedro Martinez, which is let him call the shots.

If they thought he needed a MRI a week ago, then why not go through with it and be sure?