Jon Rauch was part of Sandy Alderson’s big initiative to revamp the bullpen this offseason. Today, Rauch confirmed in a conference call that the knee he had surgery on back in September is now fully healed.
“So right now, I’m 100 percent, right where I need to be in my workouts and getting prepared for spring training and getting ready for the season.”
The Mets signed Rauch to a $3.5 million contract during the winter meetings and he could be competing with Ramon Ramirez for the setup job this Spring. Ramirez, was one of the two players acquired from San Francisco in the Angel Pagan trade.
Reliever Frank Francisco, who the Mets signed to a two-year, $12 million deal (also during the Winter Meetings), is expected to be the closer.
Andy McCollough of the Star-Ledger transcribed some of what Francisco and Rauch had to say during the call today:
You guys played together last season. Can you each describe what makes the other effective?
Rauch: “Just watching Frankie as the year went on, he just kept getting stronger and stronger and stronger. Felt more comfortable in the role that he was in. And he’s got an unbelievable arm. A fastball that’s got tremendous life on it. Pretty good offspeed stuff to complement it. And he’s fearless. He goes right after guys. He attacks hitters. He’s not afraid to be put in any situation, in any spot.”
Francisco: “I think he was a great pitcher, to me. He was a guy who throws the ball hard, with his best fastball. But he’s got great command. He attacks the strike zone. He’s not afraid. He will do his thing.”
What appealed to you guys about the Mets?
Francisco: “I believe it’s a great city to play in. I think they’ve got great fan support. I think they’ve got a great group of guys. I see a great group of young guys. I believe we’ve got a great chance to have a good year.”
Rauch: “For me, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Nationals years ago and always come to New York and see how the fans reacted to the team and see the kind of organization it was and how they did things. I’ve had several opportunities to talk to David Wright. He was always very pleased about how he was treated. It just seemed to me to be a good place to play.”
Do you guys expect to compete for the closer’s role?
Rauch: “For me, I just want to pitch. I don’t care in what capacity, what role. I just want to be given the ball and given an opportunity to pitch and to contribute and to help the team win ballgames.”
Francisco: “I think for me, the same thing. I like to have a role. I just love to be an important part of the bullpen, and be somebody special in the bullpen. Somebody that they can trust in any situation. I don’t care if it’s eighth inning, ninth inning, any situation. In the hardest situations, I want them to think about me. I think that I can be the guy. That’s it.”
I believe the bullpen will be a strength for the Mets this season, but I’m worried about the numerous questions surrounding the rotation. Chief among them of course is the status of Johan Santana.