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Who Will Pitch In?

Mike SteffanosWednesday, February 20, 2008
By Mike Steffanos

Today Moises Alou seems to be getting the lion's share of attention at Mets camp. According to multiple sources, including John Delcos' blog, the 41-year-old LF hopes to get 500 ABs this season. You have to love his attitude, but personally I believe about 400 - 450 would be about right. In any case, I suspect that physiology will have more to say about Alou's AB total than Moises, Willie Randolph or me. That will be only be revealed as the season unfolds.

As we now stand a week away from opening up the Grapefruit League schedule, what holds some interest for me in the near term is the question of starting pitching depth with the departure of Phillip Humber and Kevin Mulvey -- two guys who seemed likely to be the first call-ups should a need arise.

With Johan Santana, Pedro, John Maine and Oliver Perez virtual locks in spots 1-4 in the rotation, there isn't the same wide-open competition that we saw last spring, when there were jobs to be won and lost. Perhaps a terrific spring by Mike Pelfrey could convince the club to move El Duque to the bullpen, but it seems more likely Pelfrey will be taking the ball every fifth day in New Orleans when camp breaks. Pelfrey is also the obvious choice as number one insurance policy.

It gets a lot murkier after that, however, and history shows quite starkly how important it is to have starting pitching depth beyond 6 guys.

Assuming Jorge Sosa wins a bullpen spot, he could very well be included in that starting pitching depth. Sosa seems more like a short-term solution for a start or two, however. A 2-pitch pitcher, he seemed to get exposed last year after starting too many games in a row, and seems better suited for the bullpen.

I had some hopes for Jason Vargas coming into last spring. After all, he was only a year removed from a terrific rookie campaign. When we saw him, however, his velocity was sitting in the mid-80s and he looked like he was pitching batting practice. If you're looking for a bright side, perhaps the junk cleaned out of his elbow after the season was responsible for that. If he could return to the low 90s with command of his pitches he still potential as a solid back of the rotation guy.

Adam Bostick, the other young pitcher to come over from the Marlins in the trade with Vargas, has intriguing talent and trouble throwing strikes. He's more likely to wind up as one of those wild lefties that never fulfill their promise rather than putting it together and becoming a solid major leaguer. Still, the Mets seem to have some regard for him, and he's certain to be a starter in New Orleans. A good start could work him into the mix.

Perhaps a non-roster invitee like Tony Armas, Jr. can step up and give them something either in the bullpen or as starting pitching depth. Armas' career has been heading in the wrong direction for a while, but sometimes a team gets lucky with a guy like that.

It will be interesting to see which young pitchers get an extended look during spring training. Although there doesn't seem to be many open jobs, there is the chance to put yourself on the map. Maybe Joe Smith can put himself back on the map after his disappointing second half. Maybe a Brant Rustich, Eddie Kunz or Bobby Parnell pitch well enough to hang around for a while in the major league camp. It all starts to unroll a week from today vs. the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (3)

I have concerns too about reserve/AAA starting pitching. Pelfrey should be first in line, then as you said it gets a little shaky. Sosa should be in the pen, Vargas is a question mark, Bostick an enigma. Maybe they sign Freddy Garcia, and another vet, to rehab and hide out on the farm should the big club need an arm. I like the staff though, I think it will slow down a lot of teams. Santana, Martinez, Maine, Perez, & Hernandez. Different looks 1-5 should be interesting. Still wondering why the Mets did not take a flyer on Livan for the 5th spot if he could have been had for only 5mil, or was that just for the Twins?

I don't think the Mets could have signed Liv Hernandez unless they agreed to use him in the rotation from the outset, and he wouldn't win a spot in the Mets rotation at the moment.

I agree. Mike, that the Mets will be relying on at lease six starters this year, and probably seven or eight. There's just too much age and injury history on the staff to believe otherwise.

I tend to agree with dd that Livan wouldn't have signed anywhere where the would be a question about him starting, and there certainly wouldn't be any guarantees with the Mets.

I'd like to see what Vargas looks like this spring. If he could just get some of that velocity back...

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