Traditionally, winning teams are built for strength up the middle: catcher, pitching, second base and shortstop, and center field.
That’s not looking good so far for the Mets, especially with center fielder Andres Torres sidelined with a strained calf muscle.
With minor league prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis suffering with a strained oblique, manager Terry Collins will experiment with infielder Jordany Valdespin and Jason Bay in center. I can see Bay, but Valdespin is total desperation and an indictment on the Mets’ lack of depth and foresight to bolster the position.
Second base is a concern because of Daniel Murphy’s lack of experience at the position. He’s awkward around the bag and doesn’t have consistent footwork. Meanwhile, there’s no doubt about Ruben Tejada’s defensive prowess at shortstop, but there is the matter of playing a full season.
As for the pitching, both the rotation and bullpen are deep with questions and concerns. This isn’t a strikeout staff and still walks more hitters than it should. As for the bullpen, it is patchwork with no proven lefty.
Josh Thole came up with a lot of potential, especially at the plate. He’s still relatively new at the plate and it shows with his ability to call a game and block pitches. He is still far away from being proven.
Mike Pelfrey said he felt he was better today against the Cardinals than in his last start. Can you imagine what would have happened if he felt worse?
Pelfrey gave up four runs on six hits – including two homers – in 4 1/3 innings this afternoon. Once again, Pelfrey’s problem was a flat sinker. One of his problems last season was a lack of movement on his pitches, and movement is far more important than velocity.
Another down note was Ruben Tejada scratched with a groin injury. He’ll miss tomorrow’s game, also.
Terry Collins got testy after learning of Tejada’s injury. I brought this up yesterday and it is worthy of another mention … the Mets need to re-evaluate their off-season and pre-game conditioning and warm-up programs.
MLB.com reported 14 of 55 Mets have been on an injury report this spring, which is roughly 25 percent, an unusually high number.
Obviously, the most important thing that happened this weekend was Johan Santana’s continued progress.
SANTANA: So far, so good. (AP)
Santana threw 42 pitches Sunday against Miami, but once again reiterated how he responds will tell most of the story.
Santana isn’t concerned with his velocity, and said he threw his change-up and slider more than in his first start. Barring a setback this week, his next start will be Friday against Detroit.
Terry Collins insists on saying Santana will be ready by Opening Day, but for that to happen he’ll need to build himself up to 90 pitches. There’s a long way to go.
Also this weekend:
* Jason Bay got his first hit of the spring after a 0-for-8 slide out of the gate. You’ll get no projections from me on Bay. There are no expectations.
* David Wright (rib cage) and lefty reliever Tim Byrdak (left knee) will go to New York today to be examined at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Both are expected to get cortisone injections. Two things: 1) why wasn’t this more in-dept exam be done earlier, and 2) there’s no doctors in Miami they could go to?
* If Byrdak isn’t ready by Opening Day, Garrett Olson could be a candidate for the lefty slot out of the bullpen.
* Adam Loewen and Mike Baxter are competing for a lefty-hitting reserve outfield role. Both have the ability to play center.
ON DECK: Mets’ conditioning methods must be re-evaluated in wake of upper-body injuries.
This much I know about rib cage and oblique injuries: They tend to linger, and often until past when you think you’re healed.
WRIGHT: Playing it safe with their biggest chip.
First it was a couple of games. Now it is until next week. And, even that’s a little vague for when David Wright will return. If Wright is shut down for another week, so be it. The biggest deterrent for him not being ready by Opening Day is for the injury to be aggravated.
The last thing the Mets need is for this to drag on into the season and sap his production in the first half. Not only will it hurt the Mets on the field, but also reduces Wright’s value in the trade market. Don’t think for a moment that hasn’t crossed Sandy Alderson’s mind.
As they should, the Mets are taking the cautious approach with Ike Davis. He doesn’t have Valley Fever, but they are treating him as though he does.
DAVIS: Playing today.
Valley Fever produces pneumonia-like symptoms that make it difficult to breathe. This condition can be even more acute in Florida at this time of the year with the humidity and pollen.
At its absolute worse, Valley Fever can become fatal if the disease spreads from the lungs to the bloodstream. Davis has a cyst on his lung, but all tests have been negative.
Davis is in today’s lineup against the Cardinals, but Terry Collins said the first baseman would receive plenty of rest this spring.
Davis, who missed nearly five months last season with an ankle injury, reports no problem in that area.