Archive: March 9th, 2008

Say Goodbye to the Kids

The first wave of cuts has occurred in Mets camp. The following players have been optioned to minor league camp for “reassignment”:

LHP Adam Bostick
RHP Robert Parnell
RHP Eddie Kunz
RHP Juan Padilla
RHP Andy Cavazos
RHP Brant Rustich
RHP Ivan Maldonado
LHP Jonathan Niese
LHP Ryan Cullen
C Salomon Manriquez
C Mike Nickeas
INF Anderson Machado
OF Ben Johnson

No big surprises here, though I thought they might have kept Niese and Kunz around a bit longer — Niese especially because the fifth starter spot is up in the air and he looked great in his start last Saturday vs. the Dodgers. Kunz will be back, eventually; he’s simply caught in a numbers game. There are too many relief arms as it is, and the Mets need to get as many reps as possible to the older guys, who don’t have options.

Juan Padilla’s velocity is only in the low to mid-80s, from my estimate, and wasn’t expected to be fully ready until at least May. Same with Ben Johnson, who only started jogging in February after tearing ligaments in, and breaking his ankle last August. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it can take up to a year, or more, to recover from such an injury (depending on the severity). Tough break (pardon the pun) for Johnson, who would have had a golden opportunity to win a spot this spring.

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Totally Stoked

Brian Stokes pitching for the Mets in Port St. LucieWhen the Mets announced the purchase of Brian Stokes from Tampa Bay at the end of November, it was hard to get excited. After all, there were whispers then that Johan Santana was available, plus the Mets were showing no interest at all in any of the big-name free agents on the market. Heck, the biggest news back then was that Yorvit Torrealba would be the Mets catcher in 2008 (ouch), then wouldn’t be, and Johnny Estrada would be instead (how things change).

It didn’t help that the 28-year-old Stokes was hardly a candidate for the Mets bullpen. In his first full season in the big leagues, he sported a 7.07 ERA in 59 games, with a 1.84 WHIP. Through 62 innings, he struck out only 35 and gave up 90 hits, including 11 homeruns. While a switch to the NL can help a pitcher, it doesn’t have THAT much of an effect on an ERA above 7; shave an unrealistic two runs off and it’s still far from acceptable. In fact, if you looked strictly at the numbers, it was hard to understand why the Mets would bother with Brian Stokes.

However, Stokes is having a nice spring thus far. In four innings over four appearances, he’s given up one hit, no walks, no runs, and struck out two. Yes, it’s early, and yes, it’s a small sample. But it’s encouraging. In contrast, this time last year the Mets were considering Jon Adkins for the bullpen, and it was clear from the outset that Adkins would struggle mightily in retiring big leaguers. Stokes, so far, looks OK — he’s throwing lots of strikes, working quickly, and showing both a sharp overhand curve and a splitfinger changeup with a nice downward break. His velocity is nothing to write home about, but he picks his spots to rear back and surprise a hitter with an occasional 92-MPH offering.

Will he make the squad? Who knows, but at least he’s forcing the other bullpen candidates to compete — and competition is a good thing.

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