Mets Rotation Facing Huge Hurdles Ahead Of Season Opener
The worst-case scenario seems imminent for the Mets.
They faced a myriad of pitching questions entering spring training, including: Johan Santana’s availability after shoulder surgery; Dillon Gee coming off surgery to repair an injury to his shoulder; and injury-prone Shaun Marcum.
All three have been answered in the negative.
One would think a free agent would report to camp in shape, but Marcum didn’t and insisted a long-tossing program was what it took instead of the normal routine pitchers use in spring training.
Marcum said all he needed was four starts, and he might not even get that as he flew to New York on the off-day to have his shoulder examined. He was diagnosed to have an impingement and received a cortisone injection.
Marcum will not make his start today against St. Louis and Jeremy Hefner will get the ball. Marcum is penciled in as the No. 2 starter, but if he isn’t ready left-hander Aaron Laffey is the likely candidate to replace him.
It will be interesting to see how the relationship develops between manager Terry Collins and Marcum if the pitcher misses several starts. Collins, who doesn’t have a contract after this season, already is dealing from a short deck and doesn’t need another injured pitcher.
While the Mets hope Marcum will miss just today, there’s no doubt they will indefinitely be without Santana, who hasn’t thrown in weeks and has no timetable to return. Forget Opening Day, the Mets might now be thinking May 1.
Think about it, it takes six weeks for a pitcher to get ready for the season with two weeks of long-toss and bullpen work prior to the games where he’ll get six starts to build up to 100 pitches. Santana has had none of that preparation. So, at age 34 he’s going to be ready in a few days? Hardly.
Meanwhile, Gee says he’s fine physically, but his last two starts have been painful to watch. Gee gave up five earned runs in last night’s 7-5 victory over Houston. Gee gave the Mets length last night, just not results. He insisted he’s had no setback and his mechanics are off. He might get two more starts to refine them.
The Mets hoped Jenrry Mejia could be a replacement for Santana and possibly evolve as a fifth starter if Marcum flamed out. However, Mejia has forearm tendinitis and isn’t close to being ready and will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
All this leads to the inevitable question of when Zack Wheeler could be called up. Wheeler is working himself back into shape after straining an oblique muscle, so it isn’t imminent. Alderson is adamant about not rushing Wheeler for two reasons, 1) to not hindering his development, and 2) to not put him on the clock for his service time, thereby delaying the arbitration and free-agent process.
The bullpen hasn’t been immune from injuries, either. Frank Francisco has not progressed following elbow surgery last December to remove a bone spur and inflammation.
Everybody’s injuries are different and there is no set formula to handle them, but you can’t help but wonder why Francisco, who did not finish the season, waited for December to have the surgery. Having it in late September or October would have given him more time for rehabilitation.
As for Santana, he took it easy over the winter after two off-seasons of rehab. Alderson said he didn’t come to camp in shape, prompting Santana to take it upon himself to throw off the mound the first week of March when it was thought he was ten days away from throwing.
The Mets pitching is currently a mess. Thankfully, everything is all right elsewhere. Oh, wait a minute. David Wright and Daniel Murphy will likely open the season on the disabled list and the outfield remains a house of cards.
Mets Cut The Deck Against The Cards
It’s only March and it is already seems a long season for the Mets.
Without David Wright and Daniel Murphy available because of strained intercostal muscles, manager Terry Collins doesn’t have much to work with regarding his everyday line-up, which seems to change every day.
Here’s today’s Mets-Cardinals lineup and how it might translate to the regular season:
- Marlon Byrd, RF: If Jordany Valdespin makes the team as it appears, he’ll lead off. So, what’s Byrd doing here? I don’t know. He’s also hit cleanup this spring. Actually, if he has the skills to hit cleanup and leadoff, then why not give him a shot batting third? I’d much rather have Ike Davis hitting fourth, which is where he’ll be when Wright returns.
- Ruben Tejada, SS: Tejada’s miserable spring has the Mets wondering whether last year was a fluke offensively. Second would seem like a reasonable slot since he’s had success there in the past. Also, having Davis behind him could enable Tejada to see more fastballs in the zone which could snap him out of his slide.
- Ike Davis, 1B: Your No. 3 hitter should be your best hitter in terms of contact and power. That’s Wright when he’s healthy. It looks as if Davis will hit third at the start. Only question is will there be runners on base ahead of him.
- Zach Lutz, 3B: Lutz is expected to open the season in the minors. His presence today at clean-up only indicates Collins will separate strikeout machines Davis and Lucas Duda, who conceivably in a full season could strike out a combined 300 times.
- Lucas Duda, LF: With Wright out, Duda is the only other power to complement Davis, and the leftfielder has not had a good spring. He’s fifth today, but expect him lower in the order when the season comes, and definitely when Wright returns.
- John Buck, C: Buck is a decent hitter, but nothing that makes you roll your eyes. He’s made for lower in the order. However, there are times I can see him moving up and slotted between Davis and Duda.
- Matt den Dekker, CF: This is a major league glove headed to the minor leagues. Den Dekker drove in the game winning run last night and has been hitting better lately. If he’s consistent offensively he should be at Citi Field. Valdespin has had a good spring with the bat, but he’s never put it together for a full season. And, that includes his attitude and hustle.
- Omar Quintanilla, 2B: With all the injuries in the infield and the expectation of Tejada being pulled for a pinch-hitter at times, Quintanilla should make the roster and have a defined role off the bench. He’s not much with the bat, so eighth is perfect for him.
- Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Hefner is the fifth starter in place of Johan Santana, and if he’s effective could remain there for a month or more.
About the Author: John Delcos
I am an active member of the BBWAA and have covered Major League Baseball in several capacities for over 20 years, including ten in New York working the Mets' and Yankees' beat. I covered the Baltimore Orioles for eight years and the Cleveland Indians before that. I currently serve as an editor and senior staff writer for Mets Merized Online. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos.
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