By Mike Steffanos
Marty Noble has a story on Mets.com laying out the fact that when Alay Soler starts for the Mets Wednesday or Thursday, he will be the ninth starting pitcher used by the club this season. Noble has a chart going back to 1986 showing the date that the club used its ninth starter. Last year we used eight all season, some years as few as seven. The previous earliest use of a ninth starter was 1987, when Gooden started the year in his first rehab. The date was June 2. Bad luck in a year the GM was gambling that the starters would stay healthy.
Noble offers a little heads up on Soler:
They are reaching down to the Double-A level for Soler, who had five years' experience pitching in Cuba before he defected in 2004. The Mets believed Soler would compete in Spring Training for a place in the rotation, or at least status as a primary understudy for the big-league rotation. They said he threw well in winter ball.
But his velocity was lacking in March, so much so that he rarely pitched in exhibition games. He had a 21.56 ERA in 3 1/3 innings. "I didn't see much of him," Randolph said Sunday. "But the reports are he's throwing harder now." On Saturday, Minaya said Soler had "touched" 94 mph in a Double-A start and is "pitching at 90-91 now." Soler was hitting 85 consistently in Spring Training.
Soler had a 1-0 record and 2.75 ERA in three starts with the Binghamton Mets, allowing 16 hits and three walks in 19 2/3 innings while striking out 22. He won his only two decisions with the Class A St. Lucie Mets, producing an 0.64 ERA in five starts with the Class A St. Lucie Mets. In 28 innings, he yielded 12 hits and eight walks with 32 strikeouts.
I know little of Soler, and did not see him pitch this spring. I have heard that he throws mostly fastballs and a very good slider, and that some feel he is better suited for the bullpen. As with many Cuban defectors, the rumors are that he is older than the 26 years he claims.
In Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet for the week just ended, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers note that Soler would have been a strong candidate for the list had he not been called up:
The Mets have waited a year and a half for a return on their $1.4 million investment in Cuban-defector Soler. He began the season at high Class A St. Lucie and went 1-0, 2.75 with a 22-3 strikeout-walk ratio in 20 innings. When Soler, 26, landed at Double-A Binghamton, he was even better, going 2-0, 0.64 in 28 innings. Soler will start Wednesday against Philadelphia.
Noble also mentions that reliever Anderson Garcia, who was up with the club this weekend but never used, was optioned back to Norfolk to make room for Soler. Anderson Hernandez, fresh off the DL, was also optioned to Norfolk. Not a good day for guys with the first name "Anderson".
Surfing the Mets: Updates on Maine and Bannister
Adam Rubin reports that John Maine will test that finger for 5 innings in an extended spring training game, and that Jose Lima has accepted his demotion and will report back to Norfolk. (There was some speculation that Lima would just retire.) Rubin also offers the following update on Brian Bannister:
Brian Bannister is expected to remain sidelined for several weeks. Scuttlebutt is Bannister worsened the tear in his right hamstring when he removed himself from a minor-league rehab start, but Mets brass insisted the injury hadn't worsened since the original injury. Still, Bannister is not scheduled for any strenuous activity for a couple of weeks.
Inside Pitch Magazine Online (Subscription): Henry Owens to Start Throwing Again Soon
Robert Bonaparte reports that the good-looking reliever prospect Henry Owens will soon start throwing again. Owens has been shut down since the end of April with "a small tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm." Bonaparte quotes Binghamton pitching coach Mark Brewer:
A conservative number of days as far as him being ready to pitch would be 10-15 days. We're reluctant to speed the process up because of the history of these kinds of situations; we just want to make sure we're doing the right thing for Henry Owens.
Mets Guy in Michigan: Do it right
Dave has a funny piece on the responsibilities of being a fan.
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