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.