By Mike Steffanos
With so little left to play for in the regular season, auditions are fully underway for the honor of playing for the New York Mets in the National League playoffs and (hopefully) beyond. I thought it might be a good idea to start thinking about who gets invited to dance and who remains an unhappy wallflower.
25 men will be on the roster for the opening round of the playoffs in the Divisional Series. Although the Mets have carried 12 pitchers on their roster for most of the regular season, it's a safe bet that they go down to 11 for the playoffs. With plenty of off-days and no fifth starter needed, it doesn't make sense to have a 8-man bullpen.
We've already discussed the pitching a few days ago. Although the fourth starter situation remains murky, the absolute locks (barring injury) for the roster are Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez as starters, and Billy Wagner, Aaron Heilman, Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano in the bullpen. That leaves room for 4 more pitchers. I would think Guillermo Mota and Darren Oliver will be in the bullpen, and that leaves 2 spots open for John Maine, Steve Trachsel and Roberto Hernandez, with Oliver Perez and Dave Williams as the longest of longshots. Of course, if Perez really wows tonight as he did last start, he could improve his chances, particularly if Trachsel and Maine continue to falter.
If you forced me to decide the pitching staff a week ago, I would have taken Maine as my fourth starter, Hernandez for the bullpen, and left Trachsel off. I probably still lean that way, but Maine needs to regain effectiveness with his off-speed stuff. If he can't, Trachsel might be the better gamble. Then I would take Maine for the bullpen in case Trax implodes and leave Bert off the roster. This really could get even more complicated if Oliver Perez does something like pitch another complete game shutout tonight, but I still think his time is next year.
Of the 14 position players, 8 are the regular lineup of Reyes, Lo Duca, Beltran, Delgado, Wright, Green, Floyd and Valentin. That leaves 6 bench players. You need at least one catcher, so if Ramon Castro doesn't make it back it will be Stinnett or DeFelice. Stinnett is the better hitter, DeFelice the better fielder. You pick 'em.
5 bench players to go. Chris Woodward, despite his abysmal hitting this year, would seem a lock. He gives you quality defensive play at short, second and third, and can play first base and outfield. Despite his offensive struggles of late, I doubt the Mets will leave top pinch hitter and team leader Julio Franco off the roster, so that leaves 3 spots open. Endy Chavez will certainly be one, which takes us down to 2 open spots.
The candidates for those final 2 spots on the bench would be a third catcher (unlikely), infielder Anderson Hernandez and outfielders Ricky Ledee, Lastings Milledge and Michael Tucker. Hernandez has no use as a pinch hitter, so I would rule him out. Ledee hasn't hit a lick since joining the club, so I would go with Milledge and Tucker. Milledge can give the bench a second right-handed bat, a decent outfielder (unless they're in Fenway -- extremely unlikely) and pinch run also. Tucker is a pro who can give them a bat off the bench and backup the corner outfield spots.
That's my thinking on it now, but it certainly can change as we get closer to playoff time.
This topic is being discussed in the MetsMerized Mets Talk Forum.
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