By Mike Steffanos
Pedro Martinez doesn't understand why his velocity is even an issue these days, and you can't really blame him for that. As long as he's able to get enough zip on his fastball to effectively change speeds off of, he'll be able to frustrate major-league hitters. As quoted by Don Burke in the Newark Star-Ledger, in Pedro's mind it's his control that's more important:
I feel like I'm improving. Even when I gave up three runs against the Braves (on Monday), I felt like I was improving. Today, I was a lot more in command of my pitches.
... I don't know why velocity has to be an issue nowadays. Don't forget, I just got my 200th (victory) and (pitched) a lot of innings.
Hard to argue with... I can't speak for other Mets fans, but Pedro's start last night, combined with the Tom Glavine we've seen in the early going (who looks a lot like the Glavine we saw at the end of last season), makes me feel a lot better about this team's chances over the long haul of this 2006 baseball season. With an effective Pedro and Glavine at the top of the rotation, we can probably deal with the 3 question marks at the bottom:
- Steve Trachsel: To his credit, Trachsel has looked the best of the 3, offering up one awful start against the Brewers sandwiched by two solid starts. You can certainly shrug off being pounded by Milwaukee, as Trachsel is always going to have those games now and then. What you'd like to see from him is an ability to pitch deep into the game sometimes. In 3 starts, he has yet to register an out in the seventh inning.
- Brian Bannister: After a couple of good starts against the Nationals, the Mets rookie pitcher has proved to us that he's human, and indeed a rookie. His control problems have worsened, to the point that watching him pitch is eerily reminiscent of watching Victor Zambrano in action. Bannister admits the problem is with his approach and not his mechanics -- trying to make "perfect" pitches.
- Victor Zambrano: Victor showed some real progress with a very strong extended stretch of good pitching last year. Supporters like myself point to it as a reason we feel that Zambrano can really help this staff. Detractors point to the fact he wasn't able to sustain that over the full season. We're both right, to a point. What has become without question is that VZ's 10 minutes are almost up. When he manages to throw more strikes he seems more hittable, and when he's pitching with his nasty stuff he can't control it. You get the sense that Victor is going to have to prove fairly quickly that he can help this team and balance out the baggage he carries from one of the most unpopular trades in Mets history.
Victor pitches this afternoon with a chance to help the team win its second straight road series. If the Mets stay on the current rotation, Zambrano will get one of the 3 games in Atlanta next weekend. Another bad effort there, and the fans will not give him a warm welcome when the team returns to New York.
The three veteran starters that the Mets currently have in Norfolk -- Jose Lima, Jeremi Gonzalez and Japanese pitcher Yusaku Iriki -- are all possibilities should one of the above 3 falter. John Maine, the young pitcher that came with Julio in the Benson deal, is another -- although there seems to be consensus that, after losing luster as a prospect due to being rushed by Baltimore, Maine would be served by development time in Triple-A. In early results in Norfolk, Lima has been terrible, Gonzalez okay, and Iriki the best of the veterans; while Maine has had 2 very good starts and one very bad.
We've heard a lot about the possibility of Mike Pelfrey coming all of the way through the system in a hurry and pitching in New York by August. As intriguing as this sounds, there is a big part of me that would like to see him get a full year of development before he makes it onto the big league roster. Prior and Wood in Chicago serve as cautionary tales of pitchers from whom too much was asked of too soon.
Of course, the Mets have a young pitcher currently in their bullpen who might prove to be a viable option as a starter. Right now, though, the tandem of Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez in the setup role is a true strength of this team. Both are effective against righties and lefties, and that's not all that common among relievers. If the resurrection of Jorge Julio can continue, along with the possibility of bringing up Heath Bell and/or Henry Owens for the bullpen, perhaps Heilman can be excused from bullpen duty and given the starting role he covets.
In any case, it's essential that 2 of the 3 question marks from the back of the rotation resolve themselves into dependable starters to go along with Pedro and Glavine. The Mets can probably find an effective remedy should one fall, but having 2 of them disappoint might be extremely hard to overcome. Victor gets his shot this afternoon, while Trachsel and Bannister get theirs Tuesday and Wednesday against the Giants.
Daily News: Adam Rubin's Minor League Report
On his Surfing the Mets blog, Daily News Mets' beat writer Adam Rubin looks at the happenings down on the farm. He has a great look at Lastings Milledge's hot start for the Norfolk Tides. Rubin also provides updates on Mike Pelfrey, Henry Owens, and Cuban pitcher Alay Soler, among others.
The Journal News: Cashing in
John Delcos offers up an interesting story on the marketing of David Wright.