With all the talk about #2 through #4 of the rotation for the Amazins, the 5th spot is as up in the air as an Ike Davis homerun. There are arguably about three or four pitchers contending for the spot. After a tenuous 2009, a clear message is being sent to everyone not named Santana or Rodriguez on the pitching staff: The best pitchers get the spots. Pure and simple. Let’s take a look at the prospective back-enders. We need solidification in the rotation and the #5 spot is no exception. here are the top three contenders along with their updated spring stats.
Jon Niese – 7.71 ERA, 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 4 ER, 5 K
Considered by many including Jerry Manuel to be the #5 starter and will have to pitch himself out of the job to lose it to anyone else on this list. It may take a big collapse to push him out of this spot. His big league experience is slim, but he did pitch admirably for the big league team when called up. He pitched 6 games in 2 years. He’s healthy and has shown no ill effects from the leg injury that derailed his season. All he needs to do now is pitch his tail off. The consensus pick.
Fernando Nieve – 6.00 ERA, 6 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 4 ER, 2 K
The dark horse in the race for the 5th spot. He sported a 3-3 record in 7 games (2.95 ERA) last year at a time when the team really needed him desperately due to pitching woes. Now that he’s over the leg injury that put him down last year, he could very well upend Niese for the final spot. The only true difference between them is that one is a lefty and the other is a righty. Sounds trivial? That may make a huge difference as the Mets could use competent lefties in their rotations to offset the lefty heavy lineup in Philly, for one. Plus, Nieve is out of options and Niese is not.
Nelson Figueroa – 0.00 ERA, 8 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 0 ER, 9 K
What’s to say? Figgy has been up and down and all around and rumor has it that the Buffalo to La Guardia Shuttle will be named after him, Figgy helps his cause this spring by pitching eight scoreless innings in his three appearances this spring. Figgy (and the Mets) know that if he is sent down once more, he may have seen his last opportunity in a Mets uniform. He clearly has been verbal about playing in Flushing and wants to remain with the team. He’s pitching, not only like he wants to stay as a Met, but like someone who intends to make it really hard for the powers-that-be to choose anyone else for the 5th spot.
Who do you like for the 5th spot? I’m going to say Figgy should be given the spot, allow Nieve to be the long man, and bring Niese along slowly. This gives the Mets room to move if Niese has to be sent back down since he has options left. Figgy and Nieve can be interchanged at the 5th and the long relief spot but I think Figgy deserves one last chance to make an impact. That’s my perspective. What’s yours?