Feb 14

Mets sign Livan Hernandez ….

HERNANDEZ: Adds depth to rotation.

HERNANDEZ: Adds depth to rotation.

The Mets’ never-ending search to add pitching depth continued today with the signing of Livan Hernandez, El Duque’s half-brother. Hernandez, 34 next Friday, will compete with Jon Niese, Freddy Garcia and Tim Redding for the fifth starter role. He was signed to a minor league deal, but could earn $1 million if he makes the big league roster.

Bet on it.

“I just feel we need to have numbers,” said GM Omar Minaya. The Mets have 29 pitchers in camp.

Hernandez is an innings eater. He threw 180 last season for Minnesota and Colorado, but logged at least 200 the previous eight years. He has won at least 11 games the past nine seasons.

I like the signing. Minaya is right; a team can’t have too much pitching, and Hernandez has a history of durability.

This signing also leaves Pedro Martinez out in the cold.

Feb 04

Positive or negative?

On one hand, perhaps baseball’s worst bullpen has been improved. The Mets blew 29 save opportunities last season, but the additions of Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz has to close the one-game gap on the Phillies assuming all else is equal.

That’s the strongest positive.

Another positive is the time Daniel Murphy  spent last season in the majors and the addition of Tim Redding improves the fifth spot in the rotation. The overall depth of the bullpen is better.

The rest isn’t so much glaring negatives as they are questions. Yes, if there’s no improvement from Luis Castillo, that becomes a glaring negative.

The following Q and A gives a thumbnail perspective of the other hand.

Q: How’s Johan Santana’s knee?
A: Nothing negative to report, but we’ll know when he he gets on the mound.

Q: How’s John Maine’s shoulder?
A: Reports are surgery went well and he should be ready for spring training. But, we really won’t know until he starts throwing.

Q: Is Mike Pelfrey ready to continue his progress?
A: Sometimes, after a large jump in innings, a pitcher hits a growth wall. We’ll have to see. You can’t just pencil him in for 200 innings and 18 wins. It’s not that simple.

Q: Who is the real Carlos Delgado?
A: Can anyone say for certain it will be the second half Delgado or the first half Delgado?

Q: How healthy is Ryan Church?
A: The Mets say he’s fine, but will be pick up where he left off before the concussion?

Q: How productive will the Murphy-Tatis platoon in left be?
A: The Mets will take what they got last year, but nobody is making any promises.

Add it up, if the Mets produce the same as they did last year, the bullpen improvement should pick up a game on the Phillies. Then again, we don’t know if the Phillies won’t be any better. However, there’s no guarantee the Mets will get the same production, or if it will be better or worse.

Given all this, with the start of spring training less than two weeks out, what’s your confidence level?

Jan 29

Mets interested in Pedro

MARTINEZ: One more year?

MARTINEZ: One more year?

I remember talking with Pedro Martinez the last day of the season and him telling me he never felt ready between rehabbing injuries and taking time off to visit his ailing father.

“I don’t want to leave this way,” Martinez told me then. “I didn’t feel right this year. I know I can still pitch.”

Martinez had his moments last season, both good and bad, but a guy with his heart shouldn’t be easily dismissed. If his pride lets him be a fourth or fifth starter, then he’s worth it. Let’s face it, could he be any worse than Freddy Garcia or Tim Redding?

There’s a report out of the Dominican Republic that has Omar Minaya meeting with¬† Martinez about bringing the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer back for an encore to his four-year, $53 million contract.

Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t set with their rotation. With no assurances they’ll re-sign Oliver Perez, bringing back Martinez in a stop gap role makes sense. He’s not the young stud we’d all like, but there aren’t any guarantees Jon Niese is that guy, either.

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.

Jan 13

Ouch!

If GM Omar Minaya isn’t confident, then there’s no reason for you to be.

Minaya placed the odds at “50-50” the Mets will add a bigger-named pitcher than Tim Redding, saying, “you’re never too confident.”

Here’s why.

With reports of the Braves having a $60 million package on the table for Derek Lowe, and Oliver Perez wanting four years while the Mets prefer three, they could be forced to fall back on Randy Wolf and Pedro Martinez.

I like Redding as a fifth starter, but if all this pans out, he could end up fourth which leaves the Mets vulnerable in the back end of the rotation.

All that work fixing the bullpen could be wasted if twice a week the Mets aren’t going deep into the game with their starter.