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Talking More Heilman

Mike SteffanosMonday, March 27, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

It's been an eventful day. Thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts via comments and e-mail regarding the news that Aaron Heilman might be headed to the bullpen. If nothing else, Omar and company have shown a willingness to make a controversial decision if they feel the team will be better for it. I do respect this, even if I don't agree with what they are doing.

After thinking this over for most of the day, I still can't agree with it. While I concede the point that it might work out in the best interests of the team for Heilman to go back to the bullpen, I don't feel like other alternatives have been fully explored yet. For a team that stayed with an ineffective Kaz Ishii for so long last season, there seems to be a headlong rush to make decisions this year.

I understand the basic thinking behind this. The Mets rotation is not full of horses that are going to go deep into games. The bullpen will be crucial to the success of the team this year, and Omar has already been willing to gamble and go against standard baseball logic by trading established major-league starters for setup men. There is no doubt that moving Heilman back to the bullpen makes it even stronger. I'm just wondering if a little more attention shouldn't be paid to the rotation at this point.

I understand the argument of some of you that Heilman was not particularly consistent as a starter last season. I would argue, however, that seven games was an awful small sample of starts to go by. It took him a while to be consistent as a reliever, too. There is also a question as to whether Heilman's breaking pitch is good enough to compliment the fastball/changeup he throws. He'll need that third pitch to ultimately succeed as a starter. I think if you give this a month or two you can find that out.

The rotation has a lot of questions. I respect Steve Trachsel, but his performance today is what you can expect from him when he lacks his good stuff. As a Mets fan, I have real questions about Trachsel. He's 35. He's coming off a bad injury. He had one good start when he came back against the Giants, but he was awful after that. He hasn't looked good this spring. I'm pleased with what Zambrano has accomplished this spring, but I'm not ready to anoint him as an effective starter after a pair of good outings. Glavine is 40. Pedro has the toe. Brian Bannister is a young pitcher with all of 8 starts in Triple-A under his belt. I like the kid, but I don't think it would be a bad thing for him to get a few more starts in Norfolk. Plus, I feel more secure with him as the rotation's insurance policy rather than Jose Lima, Yusaku Iriki or any of the other nondescript candidates for the position. Is there a Mets fan out there who believes only 5 men will start games for this team in 2006?

I know there are strong opinions both ways on this issue, and I respect them. I just feel like other options for the bullpen should be explored before Heilman is removed as an option for this questionable starting rotation.

Mets.com: Mailbag
Marty Noble has the regular Monday Mailbag feature up there on the Mets web site with some interesting answers. Noble was asked why Bartolome Fortunato was sent down to the minor league camp when some lesser arms weren't, and answered:

Don't read too much into the timing of Fortunato's assignment. He missed all of last year and he has to rebuild arm strength. And there are more available innings to pitch in the Minor League camp than there are in the big-league camp.

Fortunato is an intriguing guy if he could stay healthy. What works against him is that he's 31 years old and has only pitched a few games in the majors for the Mets and Devil Rays.

In answer to how far he thought the Mets could go in the playoffs:

Why don't we wait for at least the last week of September before making predictions for October, as so much changes in the course of six months. The one development that I think may give you some insight into the postseason, come August, is whether 2005 first-round pick Mike Pelfrey has been promoted to the big leagues. If he develops as quickly as some envision, he could change a lot about the Mets. But then again, he might not be promoted at all. Take your time and enjoy the summer.

Pelfrey would be a wild card in the rotation this season if he came fast enough. I find myself torn on this, whether I want to see him in the majors that fast. Part of what happened to Doc Gooden was the large amounts of innings he pitched while still very young. He never seemed to have the same "pop" on his fastball after 1985, when he through 276 innings as a 20-year-old.

ESPN Insider (subscription): Remembering
Buster Olney has a really moving tribute to his mom, who passed away last Thursday. As described by Olney, she reminded me very much of my late grandmother, to whom I owe a great deal -- including the fact that I am a Mets fan.

Mets DVDsI'm psyched

Just got word that the New York Mets 1986 Collector's Edition DVD Set that I had on pre-order from Amazon.com has shipped today.

I will have a preliminary review of this set up ASAP.

New York Mets: 1986 World Series
A&E Home Video
9 DVD Set

DVD Set Page on New Video's web site

1986 World Series DVD Set on Amazon.com

Comments (2)


We must learn from past happenstance, and that is that the regular season isn't the ideal time to experiment and see how things go. A game lost in April could mean going home in October. A team must do what appears to be best for the team from the start. In this case, Bannister into the rotation and Heilman to the pen. Bannister has the command, focus, heart, and pitch versatility that makes him the better starting option. Heilman elevates the pen to perhaps elite status. Though I too believe Heilman deserves to start, the greater good of the team must come first, and start from the first day of the season. And if substitute starter is needed midstream, there's no reason Heilman can't step into that role as needed.

I hear you, but I'm not talking about experimenting. The Mets have more reasonable options for the bullpen than they do for the rotation right now. I don't want to see the Mets have to call up Jose Lima in June and watch him gove up 6 home runs to the Phillies.

I'm not talking about this for Heilman's sake. Just for the Mets. I like Bannister, too. I'm worried about a starter going down with an injury, and I'm worried about Steve Trachsel. I know it's only spring, but I don't like what I see from him so far, especially since he was so bad after that one good game when he came back.

If Heilman is in the pen for 3 months and they try to make a starter back out of him, it's much tougher. Hey, they're going to do what they do -- it's a fun point to debate, and that's the purpose of this web site. Thanks for your thoughts.

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