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The Rotation Shuffle -- Who Is Odd Man Out?

Mike SteffanosWednesday, August 2, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

In my recap of last night's game, I mentioned that I thought Mike Pelfrey should go back down to the minors. It's not that I haven't been impressed with Pelfrey, but I think he would benefit from pitching on turn in the minors and honing those off-speed pitches. Although the last couple of games he has effectively mixed in his changeup and slider early, he seems to lose control of those pitches as the game goes on. I think he can most definitely pitch at this level, and even if sent down will return.

As far as the rotation, Pedro is still your obvious number one and Glavine number two, despite his struggles the past 2 months. I disagree with those that feel Steve Trachsel is the number three pitcher in this rotation -- I think Orlando Hernandez has been much better than Trachsel, even despite 2 awful starts. Unlike Trachsel, he still has enough fastball left to keep hitters off his off-speed pitches. He's gone deeper into games, thrown more strikes, and has that intangible big game aura. I would feel much more comfortable with El Duque in the third game of a playoff series rather than the fading Trachsel.

One of the reasons I want the rotation question decided is because I think the Mets need to see John Maine over a few starts, giving him the chance to prove that he is the fourth starter. Now it seems that I'm just piling on Steve Trachsel, but that's not the case. The simple truth is that John Maine's stuff is so much better than Trachsel's right now that I think the Mets have a better chance of winning with Maine pitching. Of course, we need to see enough starts from Maine to see if he has the mental maturity to handle this role. If he does, he moves ahead of Trachsel, which basically leaves Steve in the bullpen in the playoffs.

I guess some will think this thinking is somewhat harsh, but those of us who have watched just about every start by Steve Trachsel in 2006 see him as this year's Kaz Ishii. I always have a sinking feeling watching Trachsel pitch. Similar to Ishii last season, I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even in an inning where there are 2 outs and nobody on -- not that Trachsel has had many like that this year -- I can't relax. Give Trachsel a nice lead and he'll still be nibbling at the corners and issuing those free passes. The simple truth is that he no longer has the stuff to be more aggressive -- when his pitches get a lot of plate they are hit very hard. I never relax in a Trachsel start, no matter what the score, until the bullpen takes over.

I would use August as an audition between Trachsel and Maine for the fourth starter job. If Trachsel continues to pitch poorly, I would consider replacing him completely with Pelfrey or possibly Brian Bannister. Having a veteran pitch a playoff game is a nice luxury, but if that veteran can't do the job any more it really makes no sense. I've liked Trachsel in the past, and respect what he has done for the Mets, but Xavier Nady can tell you that there is no room for sentiment on a playoff team. Trachsel is not the kind of guy who can help you in the bullpen, which both Bannister and Pelfrey could, so if he can't get it done as a starter the Mets should be thinking hasta la vista, baby.

Mets.com: Humber promoted to AA
Phil Humber's successful return from Tommy John surgery continues with the word that the Mets have promoted him to Binghamton, where his 2005 season ended. Kevin Czerwinski quotes Humber on his progress so far:

It's good to get back here. I guess everything is in place and my arm feels good. I just have to go out there and worry about locating pitches and competing. I can throw the ball without my arm hurting and it's a lot more fun this year.

My goal was always to get back, but I have goals that will take me a lot further than this. In rehab, I had to focus on each day and not worry about the long-term outcome. And when they told me last night that I was coming up, I was as surprised as anyone. I heard some talk about it but that wasn't my main priority. My priority was just getting better every day.

Baseball America: More Humber
In BA's Prospect Hot Sheet for last week, Humber was number 5 on the list:

Humber has made it look easy since returning from Tommy John surgery. He is 3-1, 2.37 overall and in his last four outings he has allowed only one earned run over 23 innings while fanning 22 and walking six.

There was some sentiment towards leaving Humber in A ball and not rushing his recovery, but he was dominating at that level and I suspect the Mets would like to challenge him a little. If he continues to pitch well in Binghamton, he may force his way into the mix for 2007.

Surfing the Mets: Oliver Perez
Adam Rubin quotes Roberto Hernandez, who pitched with Perez on the Pirates staff this year, on Oliver Perez. Bert feels that the coaching Perez was receiving was pertly responsible for his struggles:

They were trying to make him a Tommy Glavine. He's a guy that lives with 94-96, but they were trying to make him a finesse pitcher. When you're trying to be a finesse pitcher and you're not used to it, you start doubting yourself.

Rubin reports that Perez will throw a bullpen session in front of Rick Peterson, and then report to Norfolk with some things to work on.

Mets.com: Valentin
Hal Bock has a nice feature on the comeback kid.

ESPN: Pat Gillick, Genius?
I'm a Mets blogger who refuses to obsess over the Yankees in this space, but Jayson Stark rightfully takes Phillies GM Pat Gillick to task for this awful deal. Stark had three different teams tell him they offered a better package of prospects for Corey Lidle than Gillick brought back for Lidle and Abreu. I understand that Gillick wanted to clear Abreu's salary, but if he had dealt Lidle at the deadline and dealt Abreu this winter he could have done better. This is a head shaker, and makes me wonder if Gillick is as smart as I used to think he was.

LoneStar Mets: Sanchez
Dan voices an opinion on the loss of Sanchez that I agree with completely:

... the worst thing about Sanchez's injury is that if Wagner gets hurt/goes into a funk then I always felt Sanchez could step in and close. Now if disaster struck, who would fill the closer's role? Heilman? Bradford? Hernandez? Those are all classic set up men. The only guy that I could see as a future closer, with Flithy Sanchez out, would be Owens. Anyone want a rookie closer in the playoffs?

That was my thinking, too, on hearing Duaner was done for the season. Maybe if Heilman can accept the responsibility and return to last season's form he might fill the bill, but Sanchez was definitely a nice security blanket to have.

Take the "7" Train: Milledge
I don't think the exchange between Willie and Lastings Milledge was a big deal last night. Shari saw it differently, and makes a good case for her opinion.

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets
Pro Sports Daily Mets
Continuous Mets Coverage:
Hot Foot

Comments (4)

I'll agree that Pelfrey should go down for a month; we deserve to see what Maine's made of - if he can't be an effective 4/5 in August, you can bring Pelf back up in September anyway.

I'd add that we shouldn't view Perez as a future option/project. If his problems can be identified as mechanical/philosophical/change-of-scenery, imagine how huge it would be if he could regain some of his former self in time for October?

Milledge... I don't want to pile it on yet, because I feel - scratch that - HOPE this stint won't be all about him, but I'm worried. You shouldn't chalk this up to youthful ignorance.

Like you mentioned earlier, most of us are no angels at that age. I was just over 23 when I realized my attitude had to go. And what did it take? The "girl of my dreams" (at the time) telling me how much I pissed her off, usually on a daily basis. I knew how miserable I was making myself and the people around me, and it was like someone flipped a switch.

This kid's practically got the world at his feet - what's it going to take for him to realize when he's being a jerk?

Joe -- I suspect it will take Perez longer than that to straighten out. I would think spring training next year, anyway, but I guess you can't completely discount it.

Mostly it takes getting a little older. You did better than me, i was probably about 27 when I started to grow up. (Then again, 2 decades later I still haven't finished.)

Well, it's been about 3 years since that switch was flipped and sometimes, sometimes I return to old form. :)

Pelfrey down, Ring up.

You never get too old to be immature, Joe. Trust me.

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