With our injured ace Matt Harvey on the sidelines for imaginably all of 2014 (although Harvey eyes a September return), there is still an argument to be made as to who should be the Mets Opening Day starter.
The hurlers that have a shot at standing on the mound on March 31st, 2014 (Mets Opening Day) are Jonathon Niese, Bartolo Colon, and Dillon Gee. With an honorable mention for sophomore Zack Wheeler, who needs to get some more MLB experience in him and also work on his control issues. If all goes well this season for Wheeler, he might be in the Opening Day starter debate come 2015.
So here we go…
Jonathon Niese: The Mets southpaw was the Opening Day pitcher for the Mets in 2013. Niese had a mediocre season last year, as he struggled a bit at the beginning of the season, posting a 4.32 ERA during the first half. He was injured for about a month of the season, when he partially tore his left rotator cuff in late June. But after his return from the DL Niese definitely settled in, as his second half ERA was at a much palatable 3.00. Niese has proven that he is a competitive pitcher who can battle on a mound and help the Mets win some games. He definitely has the credentials to be the first pitcher to touch the rubber at Citi Field this year. If the Mets hadn’t signed Colon, Niese probably would have been the odds on favorite.
Dillon Gee: Dillon Gee needs a strong case to win over Collins, but he has also shown that he has talent. You may remember at the beginning of last season, Gee had his struggles. It was to the point where Terry Collins, the Mets manager, said during a post-game that it was either Dillon Gee or Jeremy Hefner that was going to be sent to the minors. You may also remember that after this statement by Collins, both Gee and Hefner showed vast improvement. Dillon’s ERA through the first two months of the season was a staggering (not in a good way) 6.34. The game against the Yankees was the start of his turnaround. Against the Yankees, Gee went 7.1 innings, allowing just one run on four hits. Dillon’s ERA in the last 4 months of the season was around 2.75. Like Niese, Gee has shown he can be a big time competitor when he’s on the mound. He is without a doubt the underdog in the competition, but he sure has a valid argument for the nod.
Bartolo Colon: The newest addition to the rotation, Bartolo Colon, is likely the favorite to start for the Mets on Opening. Colon has has roughly twice as many years of service than Jon Niese and Dillon Gee combined and is Sandy Alderson’s top pitching acquisition this Winter. Colon has had an extremely successful career with with an outstanding 189-128 won-loss and finished in the top 10 in the Cy Young Award voting four times, while winning once. The only thing stopping Colon from being the Opening Day starter would be a complete meltdown in Spring Training or an overpowering performance by one Niese or Gee. Colon is getting a bit long in the tooth, but last year at the age of 40, he went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA, and finished 6th in the Cy Young voting. He is hands down the number one candidate for the job right now, but anything can happen between now and March 31st, so stay tuned.
“Spring training is what makes or breaks a team.” ~ Rickey Henderson