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He Shall Be Livan

Mike SteffanosWednesday, March 18, 2009
By Mike Steffanos

I watched a couple of innings of Livan Hernandez' start today, and DVR'ed the rest to watch later. I came away from it convinced of two things: one, that Hernandez has a huge lead in the fifth starter derby, and two, on a good day I can still bring my "fastball" a couple of mph faster than El Duque's kid brother.

Still, Hernandez keeps pitching well, and none of the other candidates really can say the same.

As for Garcia, after another rough outing there is speculation that the Mets might cut him loose soon. I don't know about that, since he's on a minor league contract with incentives, but whether Garcia stays with the team will probably depend on his willingness to start the season in the minors. He just doesn't look like he has the arm strength to get by right now.

From the Mets point of view, I imagine keeping Garcia would depend on how much money is guaranteed. My understanding is that the bonuses don't kick in unless they add him to the 40-man roster, which they would have no reason to do unless he won a major league job.

If the Mets don't see Garcia taking a minor league assignment, then perhaps there would be a feeling that those spring training innings would be better used by someone they need a better look at. We'll see how it plays out.

Back to Livan, as previously mentioned he's not popping the glove with his fastball, either. I've come to the conclusion that the SNY Radar Gun reads a little low, but even given that he's pitching in the low to mid 80s with the fastball. He's spotting it well, and using all of his pitches, but I'm skeptical of long-term success.

I remember a while back that someone -- it might have been Ron Darling -- pointed out that Hernandez' speed is out of the comfort zone of major league hitters who are used to seeing faster pitches. On the other hand, once they do adjust a pitcher really needs to be precise to get by with that kind of fastball. Think Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel later in their careers.

When teams are willing to be patient against a guy like this and force him to throw strikes, or if he gets an umpire that's not giving him much leeway, it's tough for a pitcher like Hernandez to pitch effectively. If he's not effective, he's not going to eat innings.

On the other hand, since all the other Mets pitchers sit in the 90s with their fastballs you could argue that Hernandez gives them another look. That could work. If Hernandez struggles in the early going you could hope that Redding would be ready sometime in April, too.

Jon Niese is promising, but I think he needs to go to the minors and work on his command. Niese had one great game with the Mets last year when his curveball was working and he was spotting his other pitches well, but struggled in a couple of others where he wasn't getting the curveball over and locating the fastball. I think he still has something to learn before he is serious contender for a big league rotation spot.

In other words, it's really looking like Hernandez, and no one else is pushing him all that hard. Of course, there are still 2 1/2 weeks until opening day, but it's hard to see where that push might come from. If Livan continues to pitch solid he's likely to win that job.

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 (4)

I know that a few teams have had success by keeping a soft-tosser around while the rest of their pitching staff regularly threw in the 90's. The Tigers had Kenny Rogers, Indians had Paul Byrd, Phillies (still) have Jamie Moyer, and if you really want, add in the Red Sox Tim Wakefield, as well.

I agree that Livan could get hit hard, but he's really a stopgap until Redding, Garcia, or Niese gets their act together. Eventually, one of them will, and Livan's job will have sufficed. Hell, that's what he was last year, a stopgap until Liriano was ready to return to the Majors for the Twinkies. I think the Mets could get a good 10-15 starts out of him before any teams can really start making adjustments, and by that time, Redding should be fine.

Mike - Your headline was the first lyrics that crossed my mind while reading the news on mlb.com about the Mets' #5 slot.

When anything from the album "Madman Across the Water" plays in your head while discussing the Mets, you're showing your age.

One of the keys to the Mets' pitching success in the late 80's was the different speeds they could show from one day to the next. Gooden/Ojeda/Fernandez in a three game series killed a whole lot of hitters' rhythms. I'm not comparing Livan to Bobby O, but Pelfrey/Hernandez/Santana shows the same kind of contrast that could throw batters off their stride - at least, as Jason notes, for a month or two.

Nostra, that speed differential also comes in handy during the playoffs. Why do you think the Yanks hate playing against Wakefield after they have to handle Beckett and Dice K?

best case scenario for livan is 10-12 starts, hopefully he can last 6 innings in 2/3's of them and than niese will be ready for a callup.usually 6.05 era's and almost 13 hits per nine innings signal the end of the line.it's probably the same thing thing we could expect from pedro at a much lower price.pedro would probably beat livan to the disabled list also.look how fast manny pulled a hammy after coming to camp late.same thing would happen to pedro.lord knows what pedro and manny have ingested or put into their bodies the last 10 years.in retrospect. i'm glad we didn't sign manny and i never wanted pedro back.btw, did any of u met fans get a little nervous watching the video of wright getting tackled at the wbc the other day after his game winning hit and land face down in the dirt with 10 guys on top of him.PHEW!!memo to dave, i love this country but save the dogpile celebrations for the playoffs and the world series.one other stat, going into last year he was a career .393 hitter with the bases loaded.he also is paying all expenses for an injured iraq war vet to attend the world baseball finals.he is a great player and a better person.i can never knock this guy.

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