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A New Season

Mike SteffanosTuesday, April 1, 2008
By Mike Steffanos

Game 1: Mets 7 - Marlins 2

When Jose Reyes stepped into the batter's box Mark Hendrickson this afternoon in Miami, the Mets finally had the opportunity to leave 2007 behind. Johan Santana was as good as he had to be, the bullpen pitched a couple of scoreless innings, and the offense did enough to win. Best of all, we now can talk about this year rather than last.

Just a few thoughts:

Santana's stuff looked good, not great. He was being squeezed by home plate ump Rick Reed all afternoon. Still, he held the Fish to 2 runs on 3 hits over 7 innings. It's great to have that kind of pitcher again.

The offense was a mixed bag today. 6 of the 7 runs scored in the fourth inning. They worked Hendrickson for 36 pitches that inning, and scored 4 of those runs after 2 were out. But then they allowed Nolasco to blank them over the next 3 innings on only 35 total pitches. Finally, they worked Matt Lindstrom a little in the ninth and scratched out an insurance run. You'd love to see more consistency than that in taking good at bats.

I've heard some questioning over the way Randolph used his bullpen, but I liked it. Matt Wise started the eighth with a 4-run lead. Amezaga had a solid hit leading off, then Wise got Hanley Ramirez to pop out. Uggla had an infield hit on a ball that Reyes should have played more aggressively. Not a great outing, but not as bad as some are making it out to be.

Willie brought in Schoeneweis to face Mike Jacobs. He induced a soft grounder to first for the second out, but both runners advanced. Instead of screwing around and leaving Schoeneweis in there against Josh Willingham, Willie brought in Jorge Sosa, who was able to strike out Willingham on a 3-2 slider. Then rather than bringing in Wagner with a 5-run lead, Willie let Heilman pitch an uneventful ninth. I think we got some previews here of why the bullpen is going to be better this season:

Matt Wise -- This is a guy who was great two years ago, struggled somewhat in 2006, and then was very, very good last season until hitting a batter in late July. Look at his splits month-by-month last season. The league was hitting .213/.252/.346 in the first half. I think he has a chance to bounce back nicely. Keep in mind that he'll be pitching the innings Guillermo Mota was pitching last year, and I think we have quite an upgrade here.

Next, Scott Schoeneweis. Willie used him the right way today -- one LH batter and then out. Good bullpen management is using your pitchers in ways that maximize their effectiveness rather than expose their weaknesses.

Finally, I think Sosa is a major upgrade over Aaron Sele in the long role precisely because you can use him in other spots, like facing Willingham today. Sosa's slider gives them a different look in a short role, and he can pitch long innings, too. They're much more versatile with Sosa.

Box Score

Comments (6)

Agreed with your thoughts on the 2008 bullpen. It's worth remembering that Schoeneweis was hurting for much of last year, and when you're a marginal talent to begin with...

I can certainly see Willie bringing Matt Wise along, easing him into another good year. It's the sort of managing that Randolph does well.

That Nolasco; he goes with the curveball A LOT. I don't know how successful it would be with repeat exposure, but obviously it worked for him yesterday.

Good win!

I thought Willie was smart in using the bullpen yesterday. However, I agree with you about the offense finally getting to Hendrickson, then tailing off against Nolasco. They need to be consistent but patient at the same time. Run the counts longer and wait for their pitch. Otherwise I like that win, Santana was good although getting squeezed as you mentioned. Reyes,Wright, and Beltran did their thing, Castillo stole a base, and Pagan slapped a double. Overall a B+ performance.

Did you notice that Heilman looked happy and relaxed. he was smiling as he walked off the field.I think he likes closing, just adding to his resume.I know its only one game but I feel good with the way they played.There were a couple of outs that were solid off the bat, Beltran and Church with good wood on the ball,Wright also. Lets go Mets.

Scott Schoeneweis was my whipping boy for much of last year. I was wrong.

With a full winter's hindsight, we should be more irked at Willie for continuing to trot Schoeneweis out there last year to get tattooed, in situations in which other bullpen denizens should have been inserted.

LOOGY is a simple word, Coach. Read it. Live it. Let the man succeed with a role in which he can succeed. Like you did Monday afternoon.

dd - I think Peterson does a good job with guys like Wise, too. I really expect a good year. As for Nolasco, the Mets should know what he throws by now.
LJ - That patience is the key to the offense this year for me. They're just not going to mash as many HR, but if they take smarter ABs they coudl still be a good offensive team.

Al - I think maybe he's come to terms with how important he is to this team as a set-up man. I still think he would rather start than even close games if given a choice, though.
Nostra - I think it goes beyond Willie recognizing that Schoeneweis is a LOOGY. I like Willie more than many of my readers, but if he can't learn how to manage an NL bullpen in a way that gives everyone their best chance to succeed, he won't be here much longer (and rightfully so). Yesterday was a step in the right direction. I hope it continues.

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