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.
Most scouts believe Mejia has the stuff to be a starter, but needs time in the minor leagues – maybe two more years – to refine his secondary pitches. The worst thing the Mets could do is to push the envelope with him, but that’s the fear, that they will rush him as they did Mike Pelfrey.
Sickels also believes Martinez is being regarded too harshly considering his age, but is concerned about his durability. The acquisition of Jason Bay makes it clear the Mets don’t believe Martinez is ready this year. Perhaps by the end of the year he may have put himself in position to help.
As far as Niese goes, if his hamstring is sound he could help the Mets this season, but Sickels doesn’t see much of a ceiling for him, calling him a “classic number three guy.’’
If you’re highest minor league level pitching prospect is a No. 3, that’s not encouraging.
Jon Niese, at 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA for Triple-A Buffalo, starts tonight for the Mets against Pittsburgh. When Niese considered his record, he admits the promotion came as a surprise.
“It was a shock, but I was real excited,” said Niese. “I had a rough start. You can’t go around that. But I figured things out working on my bullpens, trying to pound the ball in the zone, and I tried to incorporate into my last outing and was successful.”
Barring an exceptional performance that just screams for an encore, this might be Niese’s only start with the Mets for awhile because Tim Redding (shoulder injury) is close to returning.
Redding pitched six strong innings in a rehab start Wednesday for Buffalo.
“I think we’re in a situation where we can now evaluate that spot on a turn-by-turn basis,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “It will depend on how we look the next time around, basically for Niese. This will be a good opportunity for him, but if he’s not quite ready, Redding or another starter down there could take that place.”
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.