By Mike Steffanos
An important series against Philadelphia kicks off a challenging 2 week stretch for the first-place Mets. The surging Phillies have ridden an 8 game winning streak to second place in the Eastern Division, only 4 games behind the Mets. You suspect from reading the papers today that there's a good chance Billy Wagner might be on the receiving end of some non-love from those good-natured charmers that populate the seats in Citizens Bank Park. Personally, I'm not really all that into the story line. Wagner's history with the Phillie fans is his own deal.
Pedro will face Brett Myers, Philadelphia's top starter tonight, with Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel following the next two days. This is good news for an important divisional series, but unfortunately, it means that Jose Lima and journeyman Jeremi Gonzales will open the first two games of the Brewers series this weekend in Milwaukee. The Brewers are a pretty good team, and that won't be an easy series for the Mets. After another off day next Monday, the Mets roll into St. Louis against the tough Cardinals for 3 games, and then back home for 3 against the Yankees and 3 more with the Phillies. It's a tough run in the schedule, especially for a team with serious questions about the pitching staff.
There is all kinds of speculation regarding starting pitchers for whom the Mets might be able to swing a deal. Most of the names being bandied about are huge question marks that are hardly more attractive than Lima and Gonzalez. I can't see giving up a bag of balls for the bunch. Of course, there are bigger names out there, but they are likely to remain out there until close to the trade deadline at the end of July. With so many teams in the market for so few quality starters, you're not going to pry anything loose this early unless you force someone's hand by severely overpaying. If you're a team that has something that everyone else wants, there's just no incentive to do anything in a hurry.
So we sit back and speculate about in-house options, which consist of talented youngsters whom the Mets hope not to rush, and mediocre journeyman who fail to inspire confidence. We do hear that Brian Bannister will be throwing off a mound again soon, as his rehab progresses, and hope for a return later this month. We can certainly hope that Steve Trachsel has finally gotten the memo that it's time to put up or silently acquiesce to bottom of the rotation status. What's clear, however, is that with a trade for anything worthwhile not all that close, someone is going to have to step up and look like a viable fifth starter sometime soon. Both Lima and Gonzalez will have the first auditions.
Daily News: No Panic
Adam Rubin quotes a team source that the Mets are not willing at this point to trade any of the team's top prospects for pitching:
We're going to be fine. Nobody's panicking. None of the top prospects are going to be dealt.
Top prospect Mike Pelfrey will pitch tonight in Binghamton, and Rubin reports that the team will monitor his start. Although the team doesn't want to rush Pelfrey, they are keeping him as an option. Rubin also reports that Henry Owens, the young closer at Binghamton who are the Mets are high on, has been sidelined with forearm soreness since April 30.
MetsBlog: Ken Davidoff Interview
Matthew Cerrone interviews Newsday baseball columnist Ken Davidoff on the pitching situation.
Metsblog is also reporting that the Mets have promoted Heath Bell while demoting Pedro Feliciano. Good move with Bell, but I find it hard to believe that Fortunato is more valuable than Feliciano. Interesting.
New York Times: Pedro's Pretty Flowers
Juliet Macur profiles the Mets ace in the tranquility of his garden.