Browsing Archive March, 2007

Milledge, Burgos Make the Team

Huh … my hunch was right.

The Mets will start the season with Ambiorix Burgos in the ‘pen, Lastings Milledge on the bench, and both Jon Adkins and Chan Ho Park in New Orleans.

Remarkably, Park has accepted the demotion. Not so remarkably, Adkins has cleared waivers. One must wonder whether Park will be in the New Orleans Zephyrs’ rotation — kept around as insurance for when El Duque goes down — or if they will begin using him in a setup role. My feeling is the former, as he didn’t seem to keen on the relief thing. Further, he’ll have more trade value as a minor league starter with MLB experience than as a setup reliever who may or may not be able to to handle such a role.

More than anything, it’s apparent that Rick Peterson will have at least another two weeks to develop Burgos into the lights-out reliever we all know he can be. And, we’ll have another two weeks of every fan, blogger, and pundit on the planet screaming for Milledge to play in front of Shawn Green.

Let the games begin !


The 25th Man

According to John Delcos, the Mets will be deciding on the final roster at some point today.

With a slew of cuts yesterday — a group that included Ben Johnson and Lino Urdaneta — combined by the Aaron Sele and Joe Smith both being told they’ve made the team, there isn’t much fat left to cut. The heads on the block are Ambiorix Burgos, Chan Ho Park, Jon Adkins, and Lastings Milledge.

Why Milledge is part of the conversation is mind boggling. Yes, he had a fine spring training, but it’s clear that the decision has been made to keep Shawn Green in right field — at least to start the season. All along, Omar Minaya has insisted that Milledge will play every day — if not in the bigs, then in AAA. So putting him on the Opening Day roster goes against that, as he’ll be sitting in the Mets dugout watching Moises Alou and Shawn Green flank Carlos Beltran in the outfield. With veterans Damion Easley and Julio Franco entrenched on the bench, Milledge is the third righthanded bat available as a pinch hitter. And as far as outfield reserves go, it’s hard to imagine Milledge being put into a game for defensive purposes — particularly with the much more capable Endy Chavez and David Newhan available. What would be his purpose in the first two weeks of the season? To pinch run in the unlikely event Julio Franco strokes a pinch base hit?

The most burning question of the last week remains unanswered: who will pick up the slack in the bullpen with Duaner Sanchez out for the season. Burgos, Park, and Adkins are the candidates, and none of the three has risen to the occasion and definitively earned a roster spot. In fact, after Smith, the only reliever who really took the bull by the horns was Urdaneta — but he was sent down yesterday. These three enigmas remain on the roster not because they did so well, but because they haven’t met expectations — and the Mets are giving each every opportunity to reach them.

After throwing 100-MPH bullets in the first week of camp, Burgos has kept everyone waiting. Willie Randolph, Omar Minaya, Mets fans, sportswriters, bloggers — all of us are waiting for Burgos to start blowing away hitters and step right into the setup role left by Sanchez. However, his electric stuff must be unplugged when he gets into game situations, as his battery-powered fastballs have been launched over Florida fences at an alarming rate.

On the other hand, Jon Adkins came into came as a nondescript piece of the deal that brought Ben Johnson and summoned Royce Ring and Heath Bell to San Diego. Adkins was an integral part of a very strong Padre bullpen last year, appearing in 55 games and performing admirably — 3.98 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Not overwhelming numbers, for sure, but serviceable. At the time of the trade, it looked like a smart deal for the Mets, as he appeared to be a quality Major League arm who could step in and provide depth. Unfortunately, this spring he instead proved to be a quality Major League batting practice pitcher. Every Mets fan who criticized Heath Bell for having a fastball that was too straight, might reconsider their assessment after witnessing Adkins for five weeks of spring training games.

Chan Ho Park arrived in spring training expecting to earn the fifth starter’s spot. He didn’t count on having to actually perform, and as a result, Mike Pelfrey stole the job. To make matters worse, when told his best chance to make the team would be in relief, Park responded selfishly at first — a big no-no on Willie Randolph’s squad. Granted, he quickly did an about-face, but the damage was done. He made it clear he was not happy, and the Mets already have one reliever who wants to be a starter (Aaron Heilman), and don’t need the nuisance of another one — especially one who at this stage in his career is only of borderline ability and should be kissing the ground Omar Minaya walks on for giving him what could be his last legitimate opportunity to latch on to a Major League club.

The question is, which of two of these three arms should go north on Sunday? And you have to bring two, because the audition is not complete. The Mets need to see more meaningful innings from the candidates, and if those innings have to happen in the first two weeks of the regular season then so be it. The only reason Adkins has made it this far is because he is out of options, and would have to pass through waivers before being sent down. It also would hurt Mets’ brass a bit to see Heath Bell make the Padre roster, while both Johnson and Adkins are in AAA. Similarly, Park would have to be released, and there is belief among Mets officials that he has value — both as a spot starter when someone goes down, and as trade bait. Finally, there is the excitement around Burgos’ arm, and the dreaming of his fastballs going by Major League hitters right next to a dancing sugar plum fairy.

If the Mets believe that Rick Peterson can develop Ambiorix Burgos at the big league level as quickly as he built up Jorge Julio last year, then there’s no question about one of the spots. Then the question is Park or Adkins? With Adkins performing so miserably this spring, my guess is that he’d pass through waivers fairly easily and the Mets would be able to retain him in New Orleans. He’s 29 years old, and other than last year, had never shown to be much more than ordinary at the big league level. If Jim Duquette wants to pick him, so be it. That means Park stays with the club to continue his tryout for the next two weeks, at least. The only problem with that scenario is Park’s contract, which stipulates that he make $600,000 if he makes the Opening Day roster. That’s a pretty expensive audition, especially if he continues to allow the long ball when the season starts, and the Mets end up releasing him outright when Pelfrey comes up.

Tough call, from all angles. My gut tells me that Burgos and Milledge will be added to the roster, Adkins will be waived, and Park released. And two months from now, when Guillermo Mota, Juan Padilla and Dave Williams are about to return, Burgos is throwing bullets, and both Lino Urdaneta and Marcos Carvajal are knocking on the door, the attention paid to this decision will seem silly.


Again the Story is Heilman in the Pen

Aaron Heilman pitching for the MetsWith Duaner Sanchez out for the year, the spotlight is on Aaron Heilman to be the setup man.

Interestingly, this time last year, the story was about the same: Sanchez had not yet proven himself, and the focus was on Heilman to fill the setup role at the beginning of the season. The only difference, of course, was that Heilman had been competing for (and had seemingly won) a spot in the starting rotation.

But don’t trust my memory … instead, check out a cool new feature in the sidebar to the right, titled “This time last year” (it’s right below the Archives). Every day, that section will link to the blog post from the same day a year ago.

Of course, you can always sift through the Archives manually, but this new little link provides instant access to the hot topic this time last year. Hope you find it interesting.


Last-Minute Pickups

With just three days before Opening Day, all teams are making tough decisions in regard to their rosters and starting lineups. The Mets, obviously, are trolling the waiver wire for an arm to put into the bullpen, but there are other players to consider as well. Here are three players that are currently on the “bubble” and could be helpful to the Mets.

1. Joel Pineiro, Boston Red Sox
Pineiro was brought in to convert from starter to closer, and allow Jonathan Papelbon to enter the rotation. However, Pineiro didn’t quite work out in that role, and Papelbon has officially returned to his job as closer. With Brendan Donnelly, JC Romero in the setup role, the possibility of Julian Taveras returning to the ‘pen when Jon Lester or Matt Clement is ready, and the eventual returns of Mike Timlin, Manny Delcarmen, and Craig Hansen, it would seem that Pineiro is a man without a significant role. While he didn’t impress as a potential AL East closer, he’d likely be a better option for NL setup than Chan Ho Park. In fact, I’d rather have Pineiro over Park — or Aaron Sele — as a spot starter. He’s only 28 and has electric stuff; you can say he’s a righthanded Oliver Perez. The Red Sox might be willing to take in return a righthanded hitting outfielder who can provide insurance at AAA (Ben Johnson?).

2. Jorge Cantu, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
The Rays are bulldozing B.J. Upton into the starting lineup, and have soured so much on Cantu that they’re considering sending him down to AAA to start the season. Granted, he had a weak spring training, was disappointing last year, and is not the greatest of glove men, but the guy is only 25 and can rake. He’s very similar to Jeff Kent at the same age — and we all remember the Mets giving up on Kent perhaps a year too soon. Though Jose Valentin has had a great spring, and it appears Damion Easley will be his backup, the Mets would have to jump on an opportunity to grab a 25-year-old second baseman with Cantu’s talent. The problem, of course, is that the Rays won’t make a deal unless it is obscenely in their favor — so they’d probably demand a package including Philip Humber and Lastings Milledge.

3. Scott Strickland, San Diego Padres
Strickland has been released by the Padres, so it would cost the Mets nothing to obtain him. It seemed so long ago that the Mets’ closer role was between him and Armando Benitez, until injuries sidetracked his career. He hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2005, when he appeared in only five games. His last full season, in fact, was 2002 with the Mets.

While he hasn’t pitched much in the bigs in a long time, and has had several injuries, Strickland had a strong spring and is a fierce competitor — the ideal bulldog personality you like to see in a closer or setup guy. I’d personally rather take a flyer on him — a guy who wants the ball out of the pen — than have to beg Chan Ho Park.

Strickland would appear to be the most likely of the group to acquire, as the cost would be nothing. The Mets have an opening on their 40-man roster, so could slide him in very easily. Additionally, more spots could open up when Pedro Martinez and Duaner Sanchez are placed on the 60-day disabled list (though Joe Smith would likely eat one of those spots).

As we get closer to Opening Day, more possibilities will turn up. I’m betting that Omar makes some kind of move by Sunday.


Ambiorix Burgos – To the Rescue?

Rick Peterson lends a helping hand to Ambiorix Burgos Certainly the Mets cannot be really counting on Chan Ho Park to be an 8th-inning bridge alongside Aaron Heilman. A guy who gives up gopher balls is the last person you want trying to put out fires and holding slim leads.

Rather, they’re retrofitting Park into the setup role because he lost the fifth starter spot to Mike Pelfrey, and it makes more sense to hold on to a possibly coveted, veteran arm, than release him outright.

As much as Mets fans would like to see Lastings Milledge start two or three games in the first two weeks of the season, it would seem that the Mets will need the 25th roster spot to continue auditions for the bullpen. Pelfrey will remain in Florida for extended spring training until mid-April, and my bet is that the Mets keep Ambiorix Burgos and/or Jon Adkins on the roster to continue competing for a bullpen spot. Chances are, Adkins will stay because he’s out of options, and showed some competence with San Diego last year. However, the Mets may instead keep Burgos around, seeing him as the man most likely to duplicate the 2006 performance of Duaner Sanchez.

Last year at this time, the Mets made the decision to keep Jorge Julio around for no other reason than the fact that he made Billy Wagner’s fastball look slow. On the mound, Julio was an emotional disaster waiting to happen, often talking to himself and visibily shaking with fright. Under the watchful eye of Rick Peterson, and the coddling of Guy Conti, the Mets slowly nursed Julio into a big league pitcher. At first, he appeared in non-pressure blowouts to build his confidence. Though his first four appearances were downright frightening for everyone involved, he eventually built up his confidence, spoke more quietly to his alter personalities while on the mound, and threw a boatload of filthy strikes. By mid May Julio had progressed to the point where he was used in extra-inning games and occasionally to finish — he picked up a win and a save in back-to-back games against the Braves just a few weeks before being shipped to Arizona for Orlando Hernandez. By the end of the season, Julio established himself as the Diamondbacks’ closer, finishing 32 games for them and saving 15. After witnessing how far Julio came from spring training through early May, it’s reasonable to consider the possibility of Ambiorix Burgos taking the same course — under the tutelage of The Jacket and Conti.

The question the Mets must answer is this: will Burgos have a better chance to be a key 2007 contributor by pitching in AAA or by the “Jorge Julio Method” ?

Interestingly, Burgos compares not only to Julio but also to another former Baltimore Oriole who came to the Mets: Armando Benitez. Burgos, in fact, is at a similar point now that Armando Benitez was as a 23-year-old: raw, electric, and completely inconsistent. Compare the numbers:

Benitez – age 22 (1995): 48 IP | 56 K | 37 BB | 37 H | 8 HR | 5.66 ERA | 1.55 WHIP

Burgos – age 22 (2006): 73 IP | 72 K | 37 BB | 83 H | 16 HR | 5.52 ERA | 1.63 WHIP

Scary, isn’t it, how similarly the two match up? The biggest difference is that Burgos was more hittable, but Benitez put nearly as many people on base via walk.

It would be nice if we could look at the 23rd year of Benitez’s life to give us an idea of where Burgos might be this year. Unfortunately, Armando had injury issues in 1996 and missed the majority of the season, pitching only 14 innings in MLB. He did make it back in time for postseason meltdowns against the Yankees, highlighted by the theft of a fly ball from Tony Tarasco’s glove.

If we’re really lucky, Burgos can blossom at 23 the same way Benitez did at 24 — not entirely out of the realm of possibility, considering that Burgos has more MLB experience already than Benitez did at that age.

Benitez – age 24 (1998): 73 IP | 106 K | 43 BB | 49 H | 7 HR | 2.45 ERA | 1.25 WHIP

Wouldn’t those be fabulous numbers to get from Burgos this year?

Of course, we can’t expect Burgos to cut his ERA by more than one half in one year. But his exploding fastball and sometimes filthy forkball do suggest great potential. He does have the following on his side:

1. A winning environment – the 2007 Mets organization is a stark contrast from the chaos of the Kansas City Royals.

2. Two excellent pitching coaches in Peterson and Conti.

3. A role with less pressure than being the closer.

4. National League batters, rather than the monsters and DHs of the AL.

If Burgos makes no improvement over last year whatsoever, the four points above alone will bring improvement on his 2006 numbers. His biggest issue last year was the long ball — and hitability in general. Part of that issue could be relieved by not having to face the Cleveland Indians anymore — they mashed him for 18 hits and 4 homeruns in just 11 innings. The Cleveland hitters clearly had his number, and it was the team he faced most often in 2006. Comparably, he faced the Minnesota Twins 9 times and had a 2.16 ERA and sparkling .96 WHIP against them … though those numbers do include two taters.

If you remove the Indians from the equation, Burgos’ 2006 season looks like this:
62 IP | 61 K | 31 BB | 65 H | 12 HR | 5.15 ERA | 1.55 WHIP

Still not great, but a little more encouraging. The hits per inning drops considerably, the homeruns drop by a third, and his ERA reduced by a half run.

Since I didn’t see many Kansas City Royals games last year, it’s hard to say why Burgos gave up so many hits and homers. However, from the few KC games I did see, it appeared that their pitching — both starting and relief — was godawful. Their games against the Yankees were downright painful, similar to watching a bad college baseball mismatch — the kind where you wonder if an inning is ever going to end, or if some kind of mercy rule can take effect. That said, how much of Burgos’ bad numbers were due to staying in a game too long — because there was no one else to save him from misery? Clearly, he was forced into the closer role before he was ready, and handed the ball in situations that we was not mature enough to handle. With the Mets this year, he won’t be counted on to be a closer, and can probably be slowly eased from a middle relief guy into a setup role, much in the way Jorge Julio was developed last year. And if he does make that kind of progress, he still wouldn’t have to be “the man” — instead, he’d be sharing duties with Aaron Heilman and, eventually, Guillermo Mota.

Granted, setting forth with a slow development plan for Ambiorix Burgos does not help the Mets’ immediate concern. However, nursing Burgos along at the MLB level for the first two months of the season may very well result in adding a signficant weapon to the bullpen before the All-Star Break — and insurance against a roidless Guillermo Mota. Based on their success with the mess that was Jorge Julio, the odds are in the Mets’ favor with Burgos.


Dirty Goes Down

As you’ve likely heard by now, Duaner Sanchez has a hairline fracture that will require immediate surgery. He’ll be out for, in all probability, the entire year. Best case scenario, he is able to start throwing by mid-August. Obviously, this is a tremendous blow to the Mets’ plan for winning.

With Sanchez gone, the Mets have an immediate need for a solid setup man to tandem with Aaron Heilman. Previously, it was assumed they’d be able to hold the fort with an array of arms while waiting for Dirty to return. Some mixture of Scott Schoeneweis, Chan Ho Park, Joe Smith, etc., would fill the gap until late April, when Duaner would come riding in on his white horse and solidify the bridge to Billy Wagner. Now, however, the Mets must think long-term for a replacement.

Interesting … at the opening of spring training, the starting rotation looked like a disaster and the bullpen a glowing strength. At the close of spring training, the situation is almost exactly opposite.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Jon Adkins was supposed to add valuable arm to the middle relief corps. Juan Padilla was supposed to come back from Tommy John surgery early. Ambiorix Burgos was supposed to challenge for a setup spot. Joe Smith was supposed to impress, but start the season in AAA. Pedro Feliciano was supposed to fight for the last spot on the staff. There was supposed to be so much depth in the bullpen that the Mets brass might consider putting Aaron Heilman back in the rotation, to shore up the weakest link on the team.

Instead, we’re about to hit the panic button, as gopher ball artist Chan Ho Park is asked to convert from starter to setup man in seven days. Scary.

What are the possibilities of life without Duaner? Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Park, Schoeneweis, etc., band together as a makeshift unit and do a mediocre to acceptable job until Guillermo Mota comes off his 50-game suspension. In this situation, Mota must come back and pitch the same way he did in September of last year, sans steroids. That may be too much to ask.

2. Park immediately takes to his new role as setup man, and forgets how to give up homerun balls at an alarming rate.

3. Schoeneweis establishes himself as more than just a LOOGY, and proves to be a viable option as setup man.

4. Joe Smith continues pushing forward, and not only makes people forget Chad Bradford, but Sanchez becomes a memory as well.

5. Aaron Heilman takes two cortisone shots a week for his balky elbow, and breaks Mike Marshall’s record of 104 appearances in a season.

6. Philip Humber shakes the nervousness that plagued him in March, and forces Mike Pelfrey to the bullpen. Pelfrey becomes a force similar to Heilman in the late innings, and no longer needs to worry about secondary pitches.

7. Juan Padilla is fully recovered by early May, and picks up right where he left off in 2005.

8. Ambiorix Burgos miraculously locates the strike zone, and becomes useful as both a setup man and occasional closer when Wagner needs rest.

9. Jorge Sosa calls Leo Mazzone and rediscovers the magic that made him 13-3 in 2005.

10. The Joe Hietpas Experiment produces results more quickly than anyone imagined, and he’s inserted into Dirty’s role in late April.

The above scenarios are most unlikely, though some are not too far from reality. In truth, the key candidates for the setup role are Park, Burgos, and Padilla. Schoeneweis might be a consideration, but only for the short term, as his real value is as a matchup guy. His less than mediocre success against righthanded batters will become glaring over an extended period in 8th inning situations. On the other hand, Joe Smith might have enough stuff to get out batters on both sides of the plate, but Willie Randolph will likely be more comfortable using him in 6th inning spots for at least the first half of the year — similar to the way he handled ChadBrad in 2006.

The recent turn of events could have been a boon for Jon Adkins or Jorge Sosa, but both have been so awful they can’t be considered. Adkins has been so hittable and unimpressive, the only thing keeping him in camp has been Sanchez’s absence and his lack of options. Sosa has finally been assigned to AAA. Good thing, as the Mets were losing too many baseballs over the far fences.

If Padilla can avoid any more setbacks, and pitch the way he did two years ago, then Sanchez will hardly be missed. Unfortunately, those are two huge ifs. Not out of the question, but difficult to count on. The “ifs” surrounding Guillermo Mota are just as questionable, and he won’t be available for the first third of the season. Clearly, it comes down to rolling the dice on Chan Ho Park or Burgos.

Park is an alarming option. Even as a successful starter in his years with the Dodgers, he was susceptible to the gopher ball — while pitching in the vast confines of Chavez Ravine. This spring his numbers were decent, but may have been horrendous had it not been for strong wind gusts that blew a few taters back into the playing field. However, as a one-inning guy he won’t need to throw all four pitches; maybe if he concentrates on using only his best two — like Heilman does with his sinker and changeup — he’ll be more effective and won’t give up as many long balls. Unfortunately, he only has a week to make the transformation.

Looking solely on ceiling, Ambiorix Burgos is the best candidate to fill Duaner’s shoes. However, he has so far been unable to harness his electric stuff, and also been bitten by the long ball — despite those gusty winds. He’s still standing on the kitchen table, jumping up and trying to reach that ceiling. And that kitchen might be in New Orleans in a few days.

The next few days will be telling, to say the least. Maybe Park will be able to take the bull by the horns and flourish in his new role. Darren Oliver made a remarkable transformation last year, though it was in a much less pressurized role. Or perhaps Park, Smith, and Schoeneweis can perform at an acceptable level until Mota arrives in late May / early June. Don’t rule out the possibility of Omar making a move — though it would seem nearly impossible to find a quality bullpen arm when everyone in baseball is looking for the exact same thing. Perhaps the Indians would be interested in Ben Johnson, and be willing to give up Roberto Hernandez … ha ha

Five days till Opening Day …


Pitching Shaping Up

The bulk of the pitching questions have been answered, though things didn’t turn out quite the way everyone planned.

Yesterday, Willie Randolph anointed Mike Pelfrey as “one of my guys”, which is Williespeak for “Pelfrey is the number-five starter”. Pelfrey will follow Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, John Maine, and Oliver Perez in the starting rotation.

Also over the weekend, Chan Ho Park was abruptly told that he’ll be a setup reliever, sharing the eighth-inning duties with Aaron Heilman. Park was visibly upset with the news, and did not immediately embrace the idea. So now we have two guys who don’t want to be in the bullpen, responsible for the second-most-important relief job on the team.

With Pelfrey tagged as the fifth starter, and Jorge Sosa grooving chest-high fastballs, it appears that Aaron Sele will be the long man / this year’s Darren Oliver. Finally, it seems certain that Joe Smith has taken Chad Bradford’s ROOGY role, with Ambiorix Burgos probably starting the year in New Orleans.

Initially, we thought Park or Sele would keep Pelfrey in AAA for at least the first few months, and Duaner Sanchez would be recovered and ready to resume his setup role. And if Sanchez wasn’t 100%, we thought for sure that flamethrower Burgos or Juan Padilla would step up to take the job until Dirty was ready. Burgos, however, isn’t quite ready, and Padilla had a setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

So here is what the pitching staff will most likely look like on April 1:

El Duque
* Pelfrey

Pelfrey probably won’t join the roster until mid-April, as the Mets won’t need a fifth starter until then. There has been a lot of speculation that Lastings Milledge will take the 25th roster spot for the first two weeks, then go down to AAA when Pelfrey comes up. However, that makes little sense, as much as people would like to see Milledge on the club. As has been stated several times by both Omar Minaya and Randolph, Milledge will play every day, wherever he is. With Shawn Green penciled in as the starting rightfielder, Milledge’s starting job is in New Orleans. In the first two weeks of the season, the Mets will need an extra arm more than they’ll need an extra outfielder.

Though the starting pitchers have been stretched out in Florida, that doesn’t mean they’ll be ready to go 6-7 innings in the damp and cold April weather in the Northeast. And with Willie’s strategy of changing pitchers like it’s the seventh game of the World Series, compounded by the absences of Dirty Sanchez and Guillermo Mota, it would seem that the full 12-man staff would be necessary, even if it doesn’t include a fifth starter.

First of all, it’s doubtful the Mets are 100% sold on the idea of Park in a setup role. When he had success in the past, he relied heavily on a mid-90s fastball and a sharp curveball. He now throws in the high 80s/low 90s, his curveball is inconsistent, and his other pitches — changeup and slider — are much less effective as his velocity decreases. Chan Ho’s biggest problem has been keeping the ball in the park, and the strong winds blowing in — rather than his stuff — made his most recent appearance successful. Further, though he’s pitched some relief in the past, it’s never been in a role that required him to be ready every day. So we have no idea whether he’ll be able to pitch on back-to-back days, nor if he has the mental makeup to come in and close the door in the seventh and eighth innings.

Initially, Willie may go with Scott Schoeneweis as the setup man on Heilman’s “off” days, while Park gets physically accustomed to pitching every day. (Personally, I’d be just as comfortable with Joe Smith in the 8th, rather than Park — but it’s pretty clear that his job will be the handling 6th and 7th inning situations.) With Park getting conditioned for one-inning spurts, and Schoeneweis penciled in for a setup role, that leaves Sele as the lone long man. This wouldn’t appear to be a problem, until you remember that both El Duque and Oliver Perez could easily be out of ballgames by the fourth inning. We’d like to think optimistically, but the fact is that both of those guys are a crapshoot every time they go on the mound — a 3-hit shutout is just as likely as a third-inning exit. If they both implode in the same week, the bullpen will be severely taxed — though in that case the Mets would certainly summon an arm from AAA.

Even if Park does slide right into the setup role, and the Mets aren’t in need of excessive long relief, I still see Willie bringing seven relievers north, for two reasons. First, Aaron Heilman’s elbow tendinitis has to be a concern — we’d assume that Willie will be hesitant to use him on back-to-back days right away. Secondly, there are three pitchers still on the bubble: Jorge Sosa, Ambiorix Burgos, and Jon Adkins. Their fates may well be sealed within the next few days, but if not, the Mets may want to bring one of them north. Adkins has no options, and will have to be released outright. However, he did have a solid 2006 as a middle reliever in San Diego, so the Mets may want to hold on to him as trade bait. With several teams desperate for bullpen help (read: every MLB team), it may be worthwhile to trade Adkins for a low-level minor leaguer, rather than let him go for nothing. If that trade doesn’t happen before camp breaks, it may be possible in the first week of the season. Similarly, Jorge Sosa might have trade value, and may not accept a minor league demotion. Again, if a trade can’t be worked out earlier, it might be worth keeping him around and then dealing him before Pelfrey returns.

The most intriguing arm in camp is Burgos, and the Mets may want to handle him similarly to Jorge Julio last year. In other words, keep him with the big club, which offers him the opportunity to be educated by Rick Peterson and Guy Conti. With an open roster spot, it may be more beneficial, in the long run, for Burgos to get an extra two weeks under the Jacket’s guidance, mixed in with a few confidence-building appearances, rather than send him immediately to New Orleans.

What ends up happening will be clear in the next few days — possibly highlighted by a last-minute trade. Until then, a few questions remain unanswered. All in all, the Mets’ pitching staff looks — on paper — to be strong enough to get through late May, at which point Duaner Sanchez, Guillermo Mota, and possibly Dave Williams could be ready to contribute.


Anna Benson Sets Mets Straight

Sorry, I couldn’t resist …

There’s at least one legitimate reason for a Mets fan to pickup the latest copy of Penthouse magazine — to read Anna Benson’s opinion of the Mets.

No, I haven’t read the article, but did find excessive enjoyment from this excerpt as published in the Daily News:

“They got a —- bag of balls for Kris. They didn’t get —-. Julio Jorge (sic) and John Maine. They traded a number-one stud pitcher who was 30 at the time, and they blame the red dress….If I were a Mets fan, I’d be beside myself.”

Wow. Talk about open mouth, insert foot. Great timing, Anna !

In Anna’s defense, the article was likely written months before that number-one stud blew out his shoulder. But I don’t think any Mets fan is unhappy with the final result of the Kris Benson deal — John Maine and Orlando Hernandez (by way of Jorge Julio).

The brilliant Anna went so far as to say “You look at all the injuries they had with Pedro (Martinez) and beyond, and you know Kris would have taken them to the top last season.”

Um … yeah … riiiiiiiiiiiiiight …….

Well I guess the Mets can always sign Kris this winter — at a bargain rate — if he really is that much of a stud.