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.

Feb 26

Santana scratched for tomorrow ….

Johan Santana has been scratched from tomorrow’s start because of tenderness in his elbow. Jerry Manuel said he would pitch during the regular season, which is manager speak for saying, “I don’t want to make a big thing about this right now.”

Santana pitched through a tender elbow last year.

Tim Redding, who is trying to build up his arm strength, won’t throw off the mound tomorrow. Redding will continue to long toss and won’t go off the mound until next week. The Mets are thinking March 8 for when he’ll get in a game.

Mike Pelfrey will start tomorrow.

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.