Mets Have More Questions Than Days Left Until Opening Day

terry_collins--300x300With four days until Opening Day, most teams have their rosters, rotation and batting order set. The Mets are not most teams.

Their three remaining exhibition games will do little to answer questions for manager Terry Collins, who undoubtedly won’t be satisfied with what he sees Monday and will be mixing and matching for weeks.

The Mets think David Wright and Daniel Murphy will be ready, this after serious doubts just days ago. How things can change so quickly is puzzling.

Also, head scratching is the decision today to play Murphy at second against Washington in his first major league game of the spring. If something happens, it will be at least two weeks on the disabled list. If they play him in a minor league game, like they are with Wright, if he were re-injured they could backdate his time on the disabled list.

If this is about facing major league pitching, why against left-hander Gio Gonzalez?

This is asking for trouble.

The original plan was to replace Wright with Justin Turner, but he has a strained left calf – could it be residual from his sprained ankle? – and seems headed for the disabled list.

With their infield concerns, conventional thinking had Omar Quintanilla making the 25-man roster as a reserve, including backup to shortstop Ruben Tejada. This idea was heightened when Brandon Hicks was optioned.

The Mets also have concern with their defense in center field. Matt den Dekker is out with a broken wrist, so they are again considering Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who entered spring training penciled in as the leadoff hitter playing center field. However, he missed most of spring training with a bruised left knee. When Nieuwenhuis wasn’t taking treatment, he was mostly striking out (11 times) in his 26 at-bats (with only two hits). Those numbers will preclude Nieuwenhuis leading off should he make the team.

What is apparent is Jordany Valdespin, who leads the Mets with 21 hits, will make the team. But, where will he play if Nieuwenhuis and Murphy are both on the Opening Day roster? It should be center, but do they really want to put Nieuwenhuis on the bench for late-inning defense when he’s hit so poorly and should be getting at-bats on the minor league level?

The batting order is also unsettled.

Valdespin, by virtue of his hot spring, should bat leadoff, and if he’s ready, Murphy would likely hit second. With the way Tejada is hitting – .080 with just four hits – there’s no way he should be at the top of the order. Put him eighth.

If Wright is ready he will bat third, followed by Ike Davis, perhaps catcher John Buck or right fielder Marlon Byrd and then left fielder Lucas Duda, who has 16 strikeouts. Assuming Wright does not play, Byrd could bat third.

Collins wants to separate lefty strikeout machines Davis and Duda. Collins could sandwich both Byrd and Buck ahead of Duda, but that would leave him at the bottom of the order with Tejada and the pitcher.

Neither scenario is appealing.

The rotation would open with Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee. Jeremy Hefner would get the fourth start and if Shaun Marcum’s neck injury isn’t better, they would bring back Niese. If Marcum goes on the disabled list as expected, it would enable Collins to carry an extra reliever, presumably Jeurys Familia.

The Mets will open with Johan Santana, Jenrry Mejia and Frank Francisco on the disabled list. Marcum could be another, and regardless of their optimism, Wright and Murphy remain possibilities.

Four days, but a lot more questions.

Thoughts from Joe D.

As to Justin Turner’s latest calf strain injury, the Mets infielder admitted this much: “You know, I think it was a little tight from maybe compensating a little bit for my ankle. I don’t know 100 percent. I would bet that has a little bit to do with it.” That begs the question, why was he rushed back if he wasn’t 100% healthy?

Letting Wright and Murphy play in Grapefruit League games without any assurance that they are healthy and ready might be the most baffling question of all. If something happens, not only will they now lose each of them for a minimum of two weeks, but the risk for further injury is heightened. Why put the team and the players at such risk when you don’t have to?

If Kirk does make the team at the expense of playing time for one their hottest hitters in camp, Jordany Valdespin, they deserve the likely awful results that will come from such a bad judgement call.

This 40 man roster crunch had been a huge topic on MMO with every minor league deal they handed out this winter. To see them now scurrying around trying to attack it head-on at the last minute is almost amusing as it is pathetic.

They are searching for trade partners four days before Opening day because of their ill-preparedness and a strategy of bringing in two dozen journeymen, injury rehabs and Quad-A players to build the 2013 team with. Now they’ll pay the price.

All these initial bad decisions are just leading to a chain reaction of even more bad decisions. We have players being kept on the 40-man undeservingly so, other productive players who will lose playing time because of it, young players at risk of being lost to make room for mid-to-late thirty somethings whose best days are long behind them. It’s kind of a mess.

I guess we’ll just sit back, watch the dominoes fall, and hope for the best. But this feels far worse than punting, and more like getting sacked in the end zone. Poor Terry… He’ll pay the price for this too – with his job.

About John Delcos 577 Articles
I am an active member of the BBWAA and have covered Major League Baseball in several capacities for over 30 years, including 18 in New York working the Mets' and Yankees' beat. I also covered the Baltimore Orioles and the Cleveland Indians before that. Today I am a freelance writer and social director for several media outlets and a Senior Editor for Metsmerized Online.