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The Mets Spring Training Report: Volume 5

March 31, 2010

The light at the end of the tunnel

Any Met fan knows how tough it has been to be 100% supportive of the organization over the last four to five years. Nothing but perennial heartbreak and embarrassment after lofty expectations each year, combined with despicable starting pitching and lack of clutch hitting.  Nevertheless, this spring we saw the emergence of two young studs in Ike Davis and Jenrry Mejia to go along with the continued progression of Fernando Martinez.  Jason Bay is also here, Wright is hitting home runs, and Santana is healthy, and with a bona-fide ace there is hope that the pitching staff and this entire Mets team can be competitive.  Likewise, the re-emergence of Jose Reyes has been a weight off the shoulder for many.

“It’s great to see him back, smiling and just doing Jose,” said David Wright.  “I think everyone was concerned when he had the health issue but now I think spirits are back up.” 

Reyes said he had a virus which caused the elevation in his thyroid levels, but now that the virus has passed it shouldn’t be a problem moving forward.  However, Reyes also noted that he must follow a strict diet, which includes no seafood amongst other things.  

On the field, Reyes has looked sharp and “quicker than ever” and still holds out hope he will be ready for opening day.  

“I feel better than expected, you know after sitting on my couch for 20 days.  I feel great man.  This was different from any injury I had so I was confused and disappointed but now I’m back.  

The coaching staff and management have met with Reyes each morning to determine the course of action for the day.  They are taking things slow, gauging Reyes’ progress on a day by day basis.  Jose took live batting practice for the first time on Monday and took part in a minor league game on Tuesday.  Reyes hit in every inning, but did not play the field and only ran to first.  The final stage would hopefully be participating in Grapefruit League action as early as Thursday. 

“We haven’t ruled it out yet, no,” Minaya said in reference to Reyes’ status for opening day.  “He looks good.  He wants to bring it to the next level.” 

I’m sure sitting out was difficult for Jose, as his love for the game is something you can’t deny about the 26 year-old.  I hope the Mets don’t baby him, but at the same time you do have to be cautious with his running and agility exercises because like Jose said, he did nothing for three weeks.   What his return does ensure, however, is that we can end the debate between Alex Cora and Ruben Tejada at short stop.  

I’ll hold out hope that Reyes is OK by opening day, but even if he has to wait a week or so there is no point in playing Tejada.  Let him go to Triple-A, as the Mets can survive with Cora at short for the time being.  

One position “battle” that still has me perplexed is over at first base.  I don’t understand the love the Mets have for Daniel Murphy, because the Irish Hammer has done nothing this spring.  They sent Ike Davis down to minor-league camp, and I understand that to a point, but what has Murphy done to win the opening day job?  Professional sports are a results oriented profession just like 95% of jobs across the world so how does a spring average of .196 earn a starting position?  

If this was based off results, Chris Carter with his .385 average and three home runs would be a serious candidate for the job, but I would ultimately go with Mike Jacobs.  Jacobs hasn’t tore it up in March, but he is a proven power-hitter who is no worse defensively than Murphy.  Remember, just two seasons ago Jacobs hit 32 HR’s and drove in 93 runs.  

Nevertheless, in regards to Murphy playing first base, Jerry Manuel said over the weekend, “We feel very, very, very comfortable and confident that he can get the job done at the Major League level and play well.” 

I’m still unsure what is brewing this excitement and confidence towards Daniel Murphy.  I hope Murph proves me wrong, but he could ultimately lead to Omar and Jerry’s firing.   On Tuesday, Murphy suffered a sprained knee and is listed as day-to-day.  There are rumors that Ike Davis could return to the big club, but the injury to Daniel seems minor. 

Carlos Beltran nor the Mets have given a date when they expect the center fielder to return, but Beltran has been hard at work this spring.  His normal routine has been playing catch while sitting down in a chair in addition to light weight exercises.  On Tuesday, he took batting practice in the cage for the first time since surgery.  He even promised the fans that “when I come back, I will be stronger than ever because of the way I work every single day.  When I start to do baseball activity on the field, I’m not going to be far behind.”    

It is believed, however, that Beltran will need 3-4 weeks to get ready after he receives clearance to begin baseball activities again.  May 1st-10th is a realistic projection for Carlos’ return.  

According to Jerry Manuel, the opening day center field job is still “too close to call.”  Pagan has been the favorite all along, but Gary Matthews Jr. has quietly put up a nice spring.  However, Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently said that the Mets were shopping Matthews, “and the Reds could be a possibility.”  

I would love if the Mets traded Matthews for say Bronson Arroyo.   That being said, the Reds have a plethora of outfielders so I don’t know how accurate the trade rumors are.   

I mentioned a few weeks back how Fernando Martinez was tearing it up this month, and could be an option in center, but on Tuesday F-Mart was sent to the minors.    

Like I’ve been saying for weeks now, F-Mart was the perfect example of why not to rush someone to the big leagues.  There is no question that Fernando has improved his game but the right move for the Mets appears to be Pagan or Matthews in center.  Let Fernando try to play a full season in triple-A, injury free, and go from there. 

I prefer Pagan over Matthews in center, mainly because of his speed and defense, although he is a moron on the base paths.  Angel also had 11 triples last season playing in only about 90 games so he is a perfect fit for Citi Field and the vast dimensions.  

The best problem the club could have is that F-Mart along with Ike Davis are tearing it up in the minors but are stuck there because the Mets are in the thick of a pennant race with the everyday players performing well.  

Jerry Manuel stated on Tuesday that the competition between Mike Jacobs, Catalanato, and Chris Carter for the final bench spot is also “too close to call.”  I personally think it’s going to come down to whether the Mets want that power hitter off the bench, which Jacobs or Carter provides, or a utility guy that will provide defensive depth as in Frank Catalanato.  I would like Jacobs to make the team, as the Mets already have that utility man in Alex Cora.   

Jerry also said over the weekend that Jonathan Niese still has the inside track to be the team’s fifth starter, and a definitive decision would come soon.   

Pelfrey has been struggling with a blister on one of his throwing fingers all spring, and it is now unlikely he will open the season as the Mets number two starter.  According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, Johan Santana will start Opening Day for the Mets, followed by John Maine on Tuesday and Jon Niese on Wednesday against the Marlins, then Mike Pelfrey on Thursday and Oliver Perez on Friday against the Nationals. Not that the order after Santana matters that much, but the rotation does not look ready as a whole for opening day.  You have to believe Santana will be his usual self, and get the team 16-18 wins this season, but other than that it’s a train-wreck.  

The bullpen hasn’t been any stronger, as there are still no defined roles besides K-Rod at closer.  Feliciano has been a phenomenal lefty specialist for the Mets, but last week expressed his desire to be the teams setup-man.  

“I don’t want to be the lefty specialist,” Feliciano said.  “I want to be the eighth-inning guy, and I want to prove to the organization that I can pitch to righties like I pitch to lefties… I just want to leave Spring Training as the setup man.” 

On Monday, Manuel said Raul Valdes could be the team’s left-handed specialist, allowing Feliciano to be the eight-inning set-up man.  Valdes has not allowed a run this spring, but has only pitched in 2 and 2/3 innings.  

You have to love that confidence from Feliciano, but with no other proven lefty out of the pen his role is pretty much set.  I have never heard of this Valdes character, and a lot of times Manuel just likes to run his mouth about players who will never even see Citi Field.  Likewise, Feliciano has shown an inability to be effective against right-handed hitters so I don’t see how he could be the bridge to K-Rod.  Against righties, he walks significantly more batters than against left-handers and the batting average against is pretty high too. 

Last year, Feliciano held left-handed hitters to a .215 batting average, but right-handed batters hit 49 points higher at .264, and over his career, lefties have hit at a .214 clip while righties have hit at .272 against Feliciano. 

Without discussing Mejia in-depth for the 27th time, other options for the 8th inning appear to be Fernando Nieve who could also double as a spot-starter should an injury occur or Niese struggles.  Nieve has great stuff but just needs to be more consistent which is why he has not been a long-term starter during his career.  With a 95+ mph fastball and a wicked slider, it might be easier for him to command his pitches for one inning as opposed to over the course of 6-7 innings.  

I mentioned last week how both Green and Parnell could start the season at Triple-A, and after this weekend it appears even more likely the duo will begin 2010 in Buffalo. These moves would make it likely that Nelson Figueroa, Ryoto Igarashi and Hisanori Takahashi will make the opening day roster, and will leave one spot open for either Kiko Calero or Jenrry Mejia.  I guess if Mejia makes the roster, Calero could participate in extended spring training since he started late to begin with.  

Pat Misch, despite an impressive spring, was place on waivers on Tuesday.  

It’s been an interesting spring, and as Opening Day approaches I’m torn as to my thoughts on the upcoming Mets season.  On one hand I think if everyone stays healthy they have a great shot to contend for a Wild Card and dare I say a division title.  As a fan, sometimes you have to possess some blind faith and hope for the best.  However, if I’m going to be realistic about the situation, this does not look like a playoff team on paper.  

Not only is the starting pitching a circus behind Johan Santana, the bullpen has a lot of “ifs” and unknowns with only three true relievers.  The others – Takahashi, Nieve, Figueroa, Mejia, Ryoto- are starters who will potentially attempt to become one-inning guys.  That’s a dicey situation and if you rewind back to 2008, you’ll remember how much the lack of a setup man killed the Mets.  Furthermore, who the hell is pitching the 8th inning?  Say Johan gives you seven innings on Monday, and is gassed after throwing 110 pitches- who is Jerry turning to in a one-run game with Hanley leading off the inning? Kiko Calero?  Takahashi?  Ron Darling from the broadcast booth? 

The division should be tough as well, as I think both the Marlins and Braves will finish above .500.  Of course there is the Phillies, who should have no problem winning 90 plus games.  

So where does that leave the Mets?  

Well, the Nationals still should be bad (although improved) so at least 4th place looks like a lock.  The Marlins also have issues in their starting pitching past JJ, as well as their bullpen, so I wouldn’t be shocked if the Mets finished passed them.  The Braves have the potential for a great rotation, and are my wild card pick in the NL, but where is the offense going to come from?  Chipper is almost ready to collect his pension, Heyward is a rookie, Escobar has underachieved, and all that’s left is Brian McCann.  

Even with the question marks in the bullpen, in the starting rotation, and the health issues with Reyes and Beltran, the Mets should be at least contenders for the wild card.  Especially since there is the potential for a block buster trade near the deadline.  Would any Met fan not trade Ike Davis straight up for Adrian Gonzalez?  I sure would, and that is definitely a possibility.  

Just as it is also possible that Ike Davis replaces Murphy at first by Memorial Day.   

I’ll end my Mets spring training report series with a prediction of 84 wins for the Mets, and a third place finish in the division.  You’ll also find my projected division standings below.  

As always, thanks for reading……and

Projected NL East Standings:  

1. Phillies (93-69) 

2. Braves (87-75) 

3. Mets (84-78) 

4. Marlins (82-80) 

5. Nationals (66-96)

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

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4 comments

  1. Are those your projections Willy?
    I don’t blame you if they are, but I figured you’d have a little more faith in the medical-politans. Only 84 wins and no playoffs?
    Realistic expectations, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they’ll win 90 and squeek into the playoffs.
    I just feel like this team has something to prove, hopefully the last 3-5 pathetic years have lit a fire under there asses.


  2. You would think after ’07’s collapse that the mets would have came out in 2008 with something to prove. But what happened? They collapsed…again. 2009 I’ll cough up to injuries but really those injuries just hid the fact that the mets rotation was shit… and now its diahrhia.

    All hope is not lost on my end but I was trying to be objective and third place is where I see the Mets.


  3. Understandable.
    As you know, I’m not a Met fan, so I’m looking at it from an outsiders point of view, but I actually like the line-up possibilities this year (when Beltran and Reyes are healthy). With the addition of a big bat in Canadian looza Jason Bay, plus Francoeur for an entire year and guys like Jacobs and Catalanotto coming off the bench, I think they’ll score some runs.
    The starting rotation (other than Santana) is either going to be horrendous or much better than most expected. I have no idea why, but I’m leaning towards better than expected.
    The relief is going to be horrible. Other than Mr. Pinkeye(probably from farts on his pillow)and that new Asian guy, it’s lookin pretty scary.
    Lets Go Mets in 2010!


  4. Agreed about the rotation…it will be hit or miss. IF 2 out of pelf, maine, and perez win 14 games, the mets will be in it.



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