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The Fifth Starter

Mike SteffanosMonday, March 20, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Kudos to Brian Bannister for making Willie Randoph and Rick Peterson's decision regarding the fifth starter job a lot harder than anyone anticipated. While I am thrilled that a Mets farmhand is receiving serious consideration for a job with the major league club, I have to keep in mind that the lineups that Bannister is facing are not the lineups he would be seeing in a couple of weeks. I like this kid, and I'm very impressed with his poise and his stuff, but more than three and a half decades of following this sport have made me a little cautious.

I'm really curious to see what happens when Bannister faces veteran lineups as we get closer to the season. I certainly don't think that he'll be overwhelmed by the experience. The human quote machine, Cliff Floyd, offers the following on Bannister in a Marty Noble story on Mets.com:

He puts his pitches where he wants to and he puts them all over the place. He ain't no fun to face, I'm sure. With a young guy like he is, you usually get mistakes. But he doesn't make many. You wait to see if he does. When he doesn't, then you give him credit.

Catchers like Ramon Castro have raved about Bannister's poise and stuff after catching him in spring action. Still, I'm not quite ready to put Heilman back in the bullpen and annoint Bannister as the fifth starter. Bannister himself, as quoted by Adam Rubin in the Daily News, is realistic about what he has accomplished and what his chances are:

I was slated to be a minor-league guy this year, and I think I've come in and shown them who I am, which is my goal. Aaron has pitched just as well as me. It's not my decision to make. Hopefully I've made the decision hard for them.

This is a decision that doesn't need to be rushed, neither now or in April. I'd personally still like to see Heilman get his shot at the rotation even if Bannister has the start the year in AAA Norfolk. He's only pitched a handful of games at the Triple-A level, so some more experience there couldn't kill him. If the bullpen really falters and you have to move Heilman back there, or one of the Mets starters goes down, the kid will be ready. Keep in mind that the fifth starter often doesn't do much over the first month with all the off-days and rain outs, anyway.

Newsday: Pedro Update
Bob Herzog reports on Pedro Martinez' simulated game against Tom Glavine yesterday, quoting Pedro on his performance:

I was more comfortable today. ... My pitches are still a little off. The fastball is OK; the breaking ball is not there yet. I think my stamina feels right now like I could probably pitch five innings on Opening Day [April 3]. But why risk everything? It's just one game.

I doubt there are many serious Mets fans who care about Pedro starting opening day -- except for those that have tickets. We'd like it very much if, once he started pitching, he could make it to the end of the season in one piece.

New York Times: Jorge Julio
Ben Shpigel offers up an excellent story on Jorge Julio. Of particular interest is the work Rick Peterson is doing to restore Julio's confidence:

It is a familiar process for Peterson, but not one for Julio, his latest reclamation project. They are making up for lost time. Julio missed nearly the first two weeks of spring training while sorting out visa problems, then joined the Venezuelan team for the World Baseball Classic. Since Julio's return, Peterson has helped him tweak a slight mechanical flaw in his delivery, but has otherwise focused on strengthening his mind.

"It's all about overpreparation," Peterson said. "You think a Navy Seal is confident about going into battle? They drop you off in the middle of the ocean and you don't sleep for seven days. Anything's easy after that."

Peterson reminds Julio of his most successful times, implores him to remember how he felt during his dynamic 2002 season, when as a 23-year-old he had 25 saves in 31 opportunities and a 1.99 earned run average with the Orioles, and not last season, when he went 3-5 with a 5.90 E.R.A. and blew his only two save opportunities. He offers a hug here, a thumbs-up there.

Peterson is great at that kind of crap. Meanwhile, Mets fans in Florida are training Julio for the booing he will receive in New York...

New York Post: Delgado's Elbow
Mark Hale updates us on Carlos Delgado's tendonitis.

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