A Righthanded Bat
So Damion Easley is down with a grade-three ankle sprain (not to be confused with a third-grade sprain, which is common in kickball during recess), more or less nullifying his existence on the Mets’ roster for the remainder of the regular season. That leaves the Mets with … um … virtually no righthanded bat coming off the bench.
We say “virtually” because there is Sandy Alomar, Jr., Ruben Gotay, and Anderson Hernandez but none of those three can be considered viable options as pinch-hitters. Alomar — or Mike DiFelice — is the only backup catcher and it wouldn’t be smart to leave the team with no catching option. Gotay would be hitting closer to .370 (rather than .340) if not for his .227 average as a righty. AHern makes Luis Castillo look like Barry Bonds … and we’re still trying to figure out the logic of his promotion. I suppose his presence gives Willie Randolph a pinch-running option should the Mets be involved in a 17-inning game.
If by chance Lastings Milledge is not in the starting lineup, then he’s the obvious RH choice off the bench. But it’s looking more and more like LMillz is the starting rightfielder. And if that’s the case, the bench is particularly lefty-heavy: Shawn Green (or Carlos Delgado, depending on Delgado’s knee), Marlon Anderson, and the aforementioned Gotay, AHern, and Alomar. In a few days, AHern will be replaced by another lefty batter — Endy Chavez.
There’s been some chatter that Jeff Conine may be coming the Mets’ way, and he would be an ideal addition: a veteran righthanded bat with postseason experience and versatility (he can play 3B, OF, 1B). Just one problem: with the return of Chavez, how do you fit Conine onto the roster? All of a sudden the timing of Easley’s injury is kind of, well, convenient.
Think about it. Even if Milledge is the starter in right, there’s isn’t much chance of the Mets dumping Shawn Green. Marlon Anderson’s bat has earned him a permanent spot on the roster. You have to carry two catchers. The odd man out would be, unfortunately, Ruben Gotay — he of the .340 batting average. Which makes one wonder — if Easley doesn’t hurt his ankle, would Gotay be the one demoted upon Endy’s return? You’d have to think so, considering Willie’s allegiance to veteran players and Easley’s versatility.
The only other options would be to shave a pitcher from the roster (Aaron Sele?), or to release Green. Even though the emergence of Milledge and the presence of Anderson and Chavez make Green fairly expendable, I don’t see the Mets dumping him. And you’d have to think that Green offers more value to the team than Sele, who pitches only once every 12 days.
That said, if the Mets are truly shopping for a righthanded bat, we’d have to guess that Sele gets dropped from the roster. Surely the Mets can go eleven days without him (the rosters expand on September 1), and he likely wouldn’t be retained on a postseason roster.
Now if only they can find a righthanded bat who can also pitch some middle relief …
In eleven days, the official postseason roster must be set — in other words, the 25 men on the roster on August 31st are the 25 men who will be eligible to play in the playoffs and World Series.
Before we fans go nutty trying to squeeze Joe Smith, Chip Ambres, or Pedro Martinez onto the team before the end of the month, we need to understand the loopholes. First of all, anyone on the DL before the 31st (and therefore not on the 25-man roster) is still eligible to be on the postseason roster. So, let’s say Pedro and Ramon Castro are still disabled — no big deal, they can still play in the playoffs. Further, there is a rule that allows a team to replace any player placed on the 60-day DL with another player who a.) was in the organization before August 31st and b.) plays the same position as the player on the 60-day DL. As of now, the Mets have both Juan Padilla and Duaner Sanchez on the 60-day DL — which means they have carte blanche to add just about any current Mets minor league pitcher (or two) they want to the postseason roster. For example, if the Mets bring up Philip Humber and Ambiorix Burgos during the September callups, and they both pitch lights out, they can be added to the postseason roster in the place of Sanchez and Padilla. It doesn’t make much sense, since neither Sanchez nor Padilla has thrown a big-league pitch this year, but that’s the way it works (at least, that’s how I’ve interpreted the rule — if I’m wrong someone please post with a correction).
This makes the Damion Easley situation all the more interesting. If it looks as though Easley has no chance of returning by, say, mid-October, then it would make sense to place him on the 60-day DL as well. This way, if a minor league callup gets hot at the end of September, there’s the flexibility of sliding him into Easley’s spot on the roster for the playoffs. Since Easley played both the infield and the outfield, the “replacement” could play virtually any position. (Carlos Gomez is also on the 60-day DL, but he plays only the outfield, and therefore would need to be replaced by an OF. In addition, there’s a chance that he returns in mid-September.)