Niese, Maine, Murphy, and other Mysteries

So much has happened in the past 24 hours, it’s taken me some time to let it all settle in my head. Let’s go over some of the incidents and decisions made by the Mets since yesterday.

First, Jose Reyes will start the season on the DL. I don’t think this is a huge deal, and in fact I find it to be fantastic news, considering his status 10 days ago. Barring any setbacks, he’ll miss at most the first week of the season. No big deal.

Second, Daniel Murphy also will start the year on the disabled list. Murphy sprained his ACL and will be out “2 to 6 weeks”. Gotta love that window — you could drive a Mack truck through it. Reminds me a bit of the time range given to you when you need your cable TV installed.

According to various sources, the injury to Murphy means Mike Jacobs is the starting first baseman — despite the fact that Chris Carter outhit and outnicknamed him this spring. Yes, Ike Davis also had a great spring, but he really needs to spend more time in the minors. We’ll get more into this in a future post.

Third, Jonathon Niese will pitch in the third game of the season — while John Maine will pitch the second, Mike Pelfrey the fourth, and Oliver Perez the fifth.

OK … whaaaa?

In other words, a pitcher who had been fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation, who had less than a 50% chance of making the team when camp opened, is now penciled in as the #3 starter. Huh. If that doesn’t tell you how little confidence Mets management has in their holdover starters, I don’t know what will. Yes, Niese looks like he might be a decent MLBer, but he’s not Stephen Strasburg. And it’s not as though Niese was incredibly dominating for the past 5 weeks; he gave up 18 hits, 7 walks, and 11 runs (9 earned) in 14 innings. Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya have been GUSHING about that performance, and can’t say enough how wonderful Jon Niese looks this spring.

Mind you, I’m not arguing with the plan to put Niese #3. And I do believe he has a chance to pitch better than Oliver Perez this year. What I’m pointing out, however, is how messed up this is. More to the point: if a fifth starter candidate gets bumped to #3 based on a fairly mediocre performance, the team is probably not in the category of “contender”.

With the rotation set, we can assume that Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi are now fighting for the long man role in the bullpen. Considering that starters two through five are unlikely to average more than 5 innings per start, it may make sense to keep them both around … I have a funny feeling the long relief role will be a more important component of the Mets bullpen than the setup role.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. gary s. April 1, 2010 at 7:34 pm
    mike, my question is why are maine and op even penciled in for 4&5?They both stink.I saw maine vs. the nationals today get lit up in 4 2/3’s.same as usual.can’t throw strikes consistently, gets pitches up and gets hammered.How could the mets say no to every free agent pitcher and keep maine and perez?MINDBOGGLING!!how soon will the mets announce that perez’s “knee hurts” and send him to triple a?this is a 75 win team.they should play tejeda at ss and chris carter at first till reyes and murph return.what do we have to lose?jacobs and cora have very limited upside.why not try and develop a prospect with playing time.oops, i sales revenues is the top priority for the wilnots
  2. frankstallone April 1, 2010 at 8:40 pm
    Yeah the rotation order doesn’t concern me that much, but i do feel pretty depressed about the actual rotation. It’s the thing I look forward to least this season. There are no fun prospects on the horizon, no wily journeymen types, nothing….Figgy will have to win the cy young to make this a good story.

    a Maine comeback would nice though too..

  3. CatchDog April 2, 2010 at 8:36 am

    There is a good possibility that next year’s opening day line up will include Ike Davis at first, Ruben Tejada at second, Josh Thole behind the plate and FMart in the outfield. Add Jenrry Mejia to the rotation and perhaps Eric Niesen and Brad Holt to the pen and we may see up to seven homegrown prospects on the roster.

    That sounds pretty exciting to me.

    Now if only we can get thru this season…

  4. Mic April 2, 2010 at 11:41 am
    – uhh: If thats the 2011 line-up, I’d like to be in Afganistan for the season.
  5. Mic April 2, 2010 at 11:44 am
    – I like Tejada at SS to start the season. No pressure. If he and cora succeed I’d endorse a trade of Reyes and his rapidly expiring contract (plus Castillo) to say the BoSox for pitching (Dice-K and a prospect).