By Mike Steffanos
I was surprised to see the Mets cut Duaner Sanchez today. I wasn't totally shocked, but I expected them to wait until closer to the end of spring training. Sure, it would have cost them another $100,000 or so to keep him for another couple of weeks, but for a team with a payroll over $140 million, you wouldn't think that would have made that much of a difference.
On the other hand, I can't say that I'm completely shocked. After working last night until 3 AM I spent an hour winding down watching some highlights of yesterday's game which I had DVRed. Almost everything Sanchez was throwing was in the mid 80s on SNY's gun, and I remember thinking that I could no longer view him as a favorite to break camp with the Mets.
Still, I thought they would give it a little longer and see if he could pick up another few mph. As I pointed out on Friday, however, I don't have all the data the team has for making a decision. Clearly the sum total of his work in spring games and bullpens was lacking, at least in Minaya's eyes.
As I wrote late last night, Sanchez had the support of his pitching coach, and I took that as a good sign. In fairness, though, a coach always believes in his guys.
By getting Sanchez out of the way now, the Mets can concentrate on those pitchers who they see as more likely to help the team this summer, and Sanchez could find another team. That would make sense.
All I could say, though, is that Omar really needs to be right in his evaluation. If Sanchez rebounds with someone else and has a strong season, he will join Heath Bell, Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens as relievers Minaya has essentially given away for nothing.
On the other hand, if Sanchez is nothing more than what we saw last season, it makes sense to turn the page and go with another guy. Only time will tell here.
I know some writers are positing that the Mets will go with 6 relievers and a 6 man bench, but I still think they're more likely to go 7 and 5 in favor of relievers. My reasoning is that they don't have the starting pitching that will pitch consistently deep enough into games that would allow them to go with 6 bullpen guys.
Given that, and with Sanchez out of the picture, I still see Rodriguez, Putz, Green and Feliciano as the givens. The other three will likely come from a pool of (in no particular order) Brian Stokes, Darren O'Day, Carlos Muniz, Rocky Cherry, Connor Robertson, Valerio De Los Santos, Kyle Snyder, Jon Switzer, Heriberto Ruelas, Tom Martin, newcomer Ron Villone, and prospect Bobby Parnell. Also, whoever doesn't win the fifth starter job, especially if it is Tim Redding, is definitely in the mix.
If I had to guess today, I think Stokes would really have to pitch himself out of a chance, as he did well last season and has no more minor league options available. If you listen to the talk coming out of camp, Parnell has a real shot -- particularly with Sanchez out of the way.
You also get the idea that they would like Ron Villone to win a job as the second lefty, but I'm not that big on him. He walked 37 in 50 IP for the Cardinals last season, and I am not a fan of relievers who issue free passes. What's the point of bringing in a guy to face a tough lefty and he walks him? That's why Royce Ring has bounced around so much. (Admittedly the BB problem might keep Parnell from landing a bullpen job, too.)
Carlos Muniz hasn't shown much in his 3 appearances so far, but he has some experience and the flexibility to pitch as a short man or go multiple innings. I've read that he has also developed a splitter, and an extra swing and miss pitch might take him over the top from being a Quadruple-A type of guy to solid middle reliever. He would bear some watching.
As I also pointed out on Friday, the guys who are pitching well early in the spring are often not the ones pitching well by the end, so it would be premature to attempt to pick what I believe will be a 7-man bullpen. I do believe that Stokes and Parnell have a real good chance to come north, especially if Parnell demonstrates that he can be counted on to throw strikes. Other than that, I just think everything is wide open right now, and if I was any of those guys (and maybe some of the other non roster invitees) I would have to think that Sanchez' departure opens the door at least a little wider for me.
This is going to be an interesting spring, even if most of the best Mets are in the WBC.
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