By Mike Steffanos
I wasn't surprised by the news that the Mets were going to skip Orlando Hernandez' scheduled start for tonight. I wrote back on August 16 that I found it to be of concern that El Duque was approaching his innings total for 2005, which he surpassed in his last start against the Rockies. As a fan, I'd like to see the Mets go with their absolute best in their last shot at the Phillies this year, but I'd rather see them be as prepared as possible for the playoffs.
It's a good thing that Brian Bannister gets a chance to reestablish himself into the club's thinking. I'm hoping that the club elects to go with Oliver Perez tomorrow to get some sort of idea as to whether he might have something to offer the club this season. Those left-handed power arms are always intriguing, which is why I can only laugh when some in the media continue to call the trade that brought Roberto Hernandez and Perez here a "panic move". Sure, young Oliver is indeed a project, but a year ago you wouldn't have been able to pry Perez away from the Pirates if you offered much more than Xavier Nady in return. It's a reasonable gamble, people. I learned my lesson from the Kris Benson trade that you have to keep an eye on the guys who are labeled "throw-ins" on the deals. And, by the way, Roberto Hernandez looked pretty good last night, didn't he?
So, at the risk of watching the Phillies romp in our house this weekend -- and I won't lie, that will not make me happy if it comes to be -- we get a chance to give a couple of young pitchers an audition against a team that needs to win these games. There will be juice in the ballpark that may not be there against the floundering Rockies and Astros on the next road trip. The Phillies are still a tough test for a pitcher. Meanwhile, you're giving a 40+ pitcher who is important to your playoff chances a chance to recharge that valuable right arm.
I'm not sure what role Bannister and Oliver Perez might play for the rest of this season, but I think they both are important for the future of this club. If we've been reminded of anything this season, we understand how vulnerable an older pitching staff can be. Of course, it's possible that one or both of these young pitchers may be used as chips this winter, but I believe they both could be important building blocks in a changing of the guard on this staff. The Mets may not have a ton of prospects in their system, but do seem to have some depth at starting pitching. Perhaps next year we will be able to avoid the Jose Lima-type debacles.
I'm already reading some of the conspiracy theories that El Duque is more banged up than the Mets are letting on, much like I've been reading stuff in a similar vein for much of the summer. It bothers me less and less as the season wears on and this team shows its resiliency. At least it gets the vultures off of Paul Lo Duca for a while.
Newsday: Billy Wagner
David Lennon profiles the Mets closer. After blowing 3 of his first 10 save opportunities, Wagner has bounced back to save 25 of 27 chances.
Wagner has been an interesting story this year. He struggled so badly early in the year that he lost the confidence of Mets fans. Despite the fact that he has bounced back to pitch very well, he's managed to have just enough difficulty in saving games to leave that doubt in our heads when he comes into a game. Lately I've been asking myself, who that the Mets have ever had closing games would I feel safer with? Tug was a long time ago. Orosco and McDowell were solid, but far from infallible. Randy Meyers? John Franco? Benitez?
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin: Mulvey's First Start
Brian Moritz reports on Kevin Mulvey's Binghamton debut. On a pitch count of 55, Mulvey pitched 3 innings, gave up 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4. Moritz quotes Mulvey on his performance:
It felt good to get my feet wet on the mound again. To get thrown into the fire like this was very exciting. I hung that slider 0-2 to that guy, and it still hasn't landed yet. But still, it was good to be able to get out of those innings.
Getting Paid to Watch: Lastings
Bob contrasts the Mets businesslike treatment of Lastings Milledge this year with the stubborn coddling of Gregg Jefferies in 1989.