Starting Rotation Has Its Share of Ups and Downs

March 7, 2009

Along with every Mets fan’s morning coffee is the daily task of checking on the status of their left-handed ace, Johan Santana. With so much emphasis being placed on the notion of whether he is or isn’t in line to make this season’s opening day start, fans and media alike have distanced themselves from other burning questions concerning the Mets starting rotation. As disturbing as it is to imagine shaving off a piece of bone from the shoulder of right-hander John Maine during the off-season, it is just as gruesome to hear what he thinks of his progress thus far.

“I just don’t feel good out there, I don’t feel comfortable,” Maine said. “I’m trying to do something different mechanically every pitch and nothing’s working. I just feel terrible out there.”

Would somebody cheer this guy up? I think John may need a hug.

“I just didn’t think it would take this long,” Maine said. “I thought that after a few bullpens down here, a few games, stuff like that, I’d start feeling more comfortable. But that hasn’t been the case yet.”

Oh, boy. Can we get a tissue over here? I think Maine’s situation sounds serious.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel has repeatedly insisted that Santana’s elbow will be just fine. And the hubbub surrounding the two-time Cy Young award winner is just fluff for the back pages of NY newspapers. Okay Jerry, we get it, it’s time to move on and worry about other issues, like Jonathon Niese, the Mets young left-hander, who is among several other pitchers competing for the fifth spot in the Mets starting rotation.

Throughout Jonathon’s short baseball career, he has been reminded constantly of the significance in the date of which he was born, October 27, 1986. Ring a bell? It’s Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. The last time the Mets won a championship. Recently, WFAN’s Steve Somers asked him if anybody ever mentioned that to him, he shot back with, “way too many.” Niese seems to go about his business with more straightforwardness unlike his teammate, Mike Pelfrey. “Be consistent with all my pitches, stay healthy, get outs,” he said. Coincidentally, Niese is in the same position as Pelfrey was last year. He is fighting for a roster spot.

Somers attempted to squeeze an ounce of progress from the young left-hander’s abbreviated stay in the big leagues last year. He overstated that Niese showed much poise after serving up a beach ball to an opposing hitter. Niese responded with something perhaps his pitching coach might have told him, “Poise didn’t get me outs.” Somers was also heard cracking himself up by stating that Livan Hernandez, who is also competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, is old enough to be Niese’s grandfather. Hernandez is currently at the ripe old age of thirty-four. Don’t think so, Steve. Just because he pitched for the Montreal Expos doesn’t make him old enough to look back on his days of sharing a shower stall with such baseball greats as Musial, Williams, and DiMaggio.

Hernandez does have 381 starts for his career which gives the Cuban-born right-hander a lot of face time. Maybe that’s why he could be mistaken for an old-timer. If you read the NY Times, they’ll tell you the job belongs to right-hander Tim Redding. Why? The Mets spent $2.25 million on him. Case closed. And Freddy Garcia? The last time I checked the veteran pitcher’s line, it read, “Freddy Garcia was battered again. Unable to keep his fastball down, he allowed four runs — he allowed two home runs –in two innings.”

What does all this mean? It means the Mets organization has more confidence in Johan Santana’s side bullpen sessions than it does in its fourth and fifth starters’ chances of making an immediate impact.

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