By Mike Steffanos
Wow. The Mets filled the last two roster spots for opening day, and both turned out to be somewhat of a surprise.
We all thought Joe Smith was almost certain to be demoted since he still had minor league options. He hadn't been pitching all that well, either, with a 6.43 ERA and allowing 16 hits and 8 walks in 14 spring innings. Essentially he'll be keeping a spot warm for Duaner Sanchez' return, but the Mets seem to have given Smith a vote of confidence despite his inconsistency.
It also seemed all but certain that Fernando Tatis would grab the last bench spot, but that wasn't the case. Brady Clark had some good moments this spring, but only had one extra base hit -- a double -- in 63 at bats. In comparison, Tatis managed 3 doubles and a triple in 34 spring AB. Again, this is probably only keeping a spot warm for Alou's return, but given Alou's history I'm somewhat concerned. If Alou starts having setbacks that delay his return similar to last season, the Mets would probably do well to try to dredge up someone with a little pop.
Frankly, I think a lot of the ado made over Ruben Gotay was way overblown, but I find it hard to see how Clark is an upgrade offensively over Gotay. Clark hits lefties better than Gotay, but with very little power. He's obviously a solid defensive outfielder, but this still seems a strange decision.
Pelfrey over El Duque was somewhat expected. Hernandez will stay in Florida and build up some arm strength. Meanwhile, Pelfrey will try to throw some strikes and not deplete the bullpen every fifth day. It's hard to guess how Pelfrey will do, but he obviously lacks confidence and that's tough to overcome against major league hitters. I'm curious to hear how well El Duque bounced back from pitching 5 innings with a high leg kick yesterday. You'd like to think he could be ready in a couple more weeks if he experiences no setbacks with the foot, but that's a big "if".