This year’s bullpen is shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory for Mets fans.
On paper, it is a marvel to look at it and though the final pieces have yet to be etched in stone, the possibilities all look so promising.
Here is how the bullpen looks so far:
Closer – Francisco Rodriguez (signed as a free agent)
Setup – J.J. Putz (acquired from Seattle)
Short Reliever – Sean Green (acquired from Seattle)
LH Reliever – Pedro Feliciano
There are three spots remaining to be filled with over a dozen or so candidates to choose from. The release of Duaner Sanchez is a case of addition by subtraction. Whoever takes his roster spot will upgrade the bullpen even more. Here are the relievers that are in the mix.
1. Brian Stokes – Duaner’s release transformed Stokes from a probability to a lock. He has the fastball, the control and the moxie that the Mets were hoping to see in Sanchez. I’m still a bit concerned about his high ERA before joining the Mets last year.
2. Matt DeSalvo – Call me nuts, but with runners on first and second and less than two outs, you’ll be begging for this groundball specialist. Right now, I see him as the second best option out of the herd. Whether that’s enough to get the gig, is another story.
3. Nelson Figueroa – The more you you look for other options, the more you like him. He would fill the long reliever role with ease, and he’s become a crowd favorite. He can also step in and spot start at a moments notice because of his resilient arm.
4. Darren O’Day/Rocky Cherry – I listed both of them together because they joined the Mets together in the Rule 5 Draft. One of them is going to stick… It probably will be O’Day whose sidearm delivery is reminiscent of Joe Smith, plus he’s younger too.
5. Casey Fossum – He’s a southpaw who has shown very little in the last few seasons. His ERA’s since 2006: 5.33, 7.70, 5.66. Despite the cool name, it just ain’t happening for Fossum.
6. Valerio De Los Santos – I’m intrigued by Valerio and I think the Mets are too. He’s a lefty which bodes well for him, but he’s been very shaky in the last few years. I don’t think he’ll make the bullpen, but he will be one of the final cuts of the spring.
7. Ron Villone – I think Villone’s best days are behind him, but the Mets like him a lot. The veteran lefthanded reliever will probably edge out De Los Santos and make the team. He would only be used as a situational lefty if he does.
8. Kyle Snyder, Carlos Muniz, Eddie Kunz, Bobby Parnell, Jon Switzer – All are long shots to make the team and will probably populate the bullpen in Buffalo to start the season. We may see one or two of them again if the Mets bullpen is beset by injuries, fatigue or ineffectiveness.
9. Livan Hernandez, Freddy Garcia, Tim Redding, Jon Niese - One of these guys will be the number five starter and one will most likely end up in the pen. Neither of them have distinguished themselves in spring training as of yet.
The three pitchers the Mets will go with are probably Brian Stokes, Tim Redding/Livan Hernandez and Ron Villone.
If the decision were mine I would go with Brian Stokes, Darren O’Day and Matt DeSalvo.
I don’t believe the Mets need a second lefty because they have shortened the game with the addition of Putz and K-Rod. If it were up to me, I would rather have Matt DeSalvo instead of Villone because he can induce a ground ball against both LH and RH hitters, and it’s difficult for hitters to get around on him.
I also prefer Darren O’Day because late in a game I find it advantageous to have pitchers with different looks and arm angles. It gives the advantage to the pitcher. O’Day was also a very highly regarded prospect before the shoulder injury which he has now fully recovered from. If he don’t make the team he must be offered back to the Angels who never wanted to leave him off the 40 man roster in the first place. They thought the injury would scare other teams off.
No matter how the Mets play it, the bullpen is going to be one of our greatest strengths. I just have a problem with the “loser” of the number five rotation, being the “winner” of the final bullpen spot. And like I said, I don’t think we should bypass a more talented righthanded pitcher just so we can have a second lefty in the pen.