Mar 22

March 22.10: Questions down the stretch.

When pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 18, I posted five key questions the Mets faced heading into spring training. With two weeks remaining, there are issues with four of those five concerns.

Question: What is this team’s attitude?
Assessment: By all accounts, it is good and positive. The Mets aren’t rolling through their spring schedule, but there have been no issues of lack of hustle and laziness. David Wright said the Mets need to use last year’s embarrassment as a motivator. Jason Bay is fitting in and Jeff Francoeur has been a positive influence. So far, so good, but they haven’t played any games that count yet.

Question: How healthy is this team?
Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and already two of the team’s core will open the season on the disabled list and likely won’t be ready until May. Carlos Beltran’s knee is responding well to rehab and Jose Reyes’ hamstring feels good. However, Reyes’ issue is his thyroid and one wonders how that will be with the riggers of the season. Reliever Kelvim Escobar, penciled in as a set-up man, has missed the entire spring with shoulder pain. There have been no problems physically with Francoeur, Oliver Perez, Johan Santana and John Maine, all with recent surgery on their resume.

Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?
Assessment: These three guys represent the season’s key. If they do well, then the Mets can contend. The Mets didn’t make any rotation additions this winter because they believe in the upside of these three. It has been an up-and-down spring for all three, but Perez has been refreshingly positive. However, none have performed to where the Mets can say they are in the clear. The concerns remain.

Question: Who is fifth starter?
Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi are in the mix. Takahashi has looked the best, but he hasn’t pitched enough to be stretched out. Niese has options remaining, so they could do the safe thing and send him out and protect someone else. Jerry Manuel said he’ll use a fifth starter from the start, so there will be no hiding him with the off-days in April. This is the biggest decision remaining in camp.

Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?
Assessment: The biggest sub-question is whether Jenrry Mejia goes north in the pen and what role he would have. With his stuff, he’s a closer in waiting, which makes me think eighth-inning set-up. But, will the Mets expose him to that or put him in a low-pressure role. To me, that’s defeatist thinking. If you’re afraid to use him, then why carry him? Losing Escobar went a large part in opening the door for Mejia. So has, the general ineffectiveness of the relievers. If Takahashi doesn’t make it in the rotation, it could be him. Any of the losers for the fifth-starter could also fit as the long man. Bobby Parnell is still around, but he might be a casualty if they keep Takahashi in the pen. Kiko Calero and Ryota Igarashi will make the roster. Pedro Feliciano is still the only lefty of substance.

Jan 02

Jan. 2.10: Your Mets batting order.

Last night was one of those when I couldn’t fall asleep. Tossed and turned. The mind races at 2:30 in the morning, and for awhile last night it stopped at the Mets’ batting order.

What should it be?

Here’s what I came up with for now:

SS Jose Reyes: I’ve heard people say he should bat third, but I don’t see it now as nothing more than a waste of his speed.

2B Luis Castillo: He’s at his best taking pitches and advancing the runners.

3B: David Wright: He’ll hit for an average and hopefully regain his power stroke.

CF Carlos Beltran: He could bat third, too, but I wanted a lefty to separate him and Jason Bay.

LF: Jason Bay: Offers protection for Beltran.

RF Jeff Francoeur: Tempted to drop him down and flip with Murphy to go right-left-right-left, but opted to put two power guys back-to-back. Unfortunately, I have two strikeout guys in a row.

1B Daniel Murphy: With three guys ahead of him who’ll get on base he should have some RBI opportunities.

C: Santos/Blanco platoon: Somebody has to hit eighth and I don’t want it to be Castillo.

P: Pitcher’s slot.

Of course, this changes if they get Bengie Molina or somehow find a taker for Castillo.

Your thoughts?