By Mike Steffanos
I was giving all my attention to some real work stuff today, so I skipped my morning Mets reading and didn't try to follow anything on the first exhibition game.
When I knocked off for a break this afternoon I checked my email. One of the perks of writing a blog is the email from readers updating me on things. Sure enough, among other things I was asked what I thought of the Mets cutting Duaner Sanchez and Sean Green going down to an injury in the game.
The Sanchez question had a link to Joel Sherman's blog entry that postulated a possible release for the reliever:
1. The Mets like that Duaner Sanchez came to camp in good shape, which has not always been the case in his Met days. If Sanchez is right, the Mets will not feel big pressure to put a second lefty reliever in the pen in tandem with Pedro Feliciano. They will believe that Sanchez's changeup is enough of a counter-balance. Plus the addition of J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez means the Mets will not have to match up lefty-righty over the final two innings anyway.
However, Sanchez has something at stake, as well, namely a job with the Mets. He has to make a positive impression or else the Mets will seriously consider releasing him by 2 p.m. on April 1 and owing the righty just one-quarter of his $1,687,500 contract ($421,875).
The other alternative could be to trade him. I continue to believe the Mets are short a righty-hitting outfield bat who can be a counterbalance to Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy. The Mets, to me, are putting too much faith in Fernando Tatis as the lone, meaningful spare righty bat.
I could see the Mets using Sanchez to make a salary flip-flop type deal for someone such as Texas' Marlon Byrd ($3.06 million) or Detroit's Marcus Thames ($2.275 million).
2. The Mets have four of seven bullpen spots set with Rodriguez, Putz, Feliciano and Sean Green. They probably will carry a long reliever, with Tim Redding filling that role if either Livan Hernandez or Freddy Garcia emerges as the No. 5 starter.
Brian Stokes is out of options and the Mets probably do not want to lose him. They also are intrigued in giving prospect Bobby Parnell's power arm strong consideration. Met officials also warn each other not to get carried away with performances early in spring training. But based on the small sample size they are encouraged by what they see in Rule 5 pick Darren O'Day, a righty sidewinder in the Joe Smith vain, and lefty Heriberto Ruelas, whom they signed out of the Mexican League.
So you can see how the bullpen might get crowded enough to make Sanchez expendable unless he does some stuff over the next month to make himself a little more indispensable.
I understand the point Sherman is making, but I read it as pure speculation from a writer who has spent the vast majority of the spring so far covering the Yankees. He does have a point, though.
If Sanchez comes out this spring and the best he can do is throw his fastball in the 86-88 mph range like last season I could see the Mets kissing him goodbye. Sanchez didn't have enough differential between his fastball and changeup to be effective last year. If his best fastball really is what we saw in the summer of '08 he could be gone.
On the other hand, his fastball might get back up over 90, or he might learn to throw his changeup slower, which is how Trevor Hoffman stayed a top closer after losing the big fastball. In any case, it's useless to speculate like this until we see what we have from him.
I'm less convinced of the trade aspect of this. If Sanchez doesn't pitch well enough to warrant the Mets keeping him, why would anyone give up a player of value for him? And if it's simply a salary dump, I'd be leery of taking on the player being dumped.
As for O'Day, the sidearming righty rule 5 pick Sherman mentions, I find it hard to believe the Mets would keep two of that type in the bullpen. I haven't seen Sean Green pitch yet, but from what I hear he is also a sidearmer.
Speaking of Green, the other email I received was prompted by Green's early departure from today's exhibition game. I turns out he has a cracked nail, which can be apparently fixed quite easily by attaching a fake nail on top of the real one. This reinforces the broken nail until the broken part grows out.
Now that we know we can breathe a sigh of relief for Green -- at least for now -- this opens up questions of whether he will have a cute little butterfly or flower painted on that fake nail. The possibilities for accessorizing are endless.
Perhaps a complementary design on the toenails, or adding some of those cool hair beads that someone is always trying to talk you into when you visit a Caribbean Island.
Perhaps Green will start a trend that will sweep through what appears to be a happy clubhouse so far this year.
Luis Castillo can get flames painted on to remind himself that he's now a lean, mean, baseball-playing machine.
David Wright can get mirrored nails, which will allow him to surreptitiously verify that his hair is perfect.
Ollie Perez should have the words "throw strikes" on his nails as a constant reminder.
I'm thinking Pelf should go with hot pink nails and heavy eye makeup, which will either make him even more scary on the mound (think demented rock star) or get the other guys laughing so hard that the K/9 rate goes up.
It seems to me that there are endless possibilities here. Or perhaps I just need a vacation...