Livan Good, Freddy Not So Good

After their most recent performances, it’s nearly a given that Livan Hernandez will go north as the Mets #5 starter, while Freddy Garcia’s future will depend on whether he’s willing to begin the season in AAA.

Hernandez was sharp in his Wednesday start, and looks to be in mid-season form. His fastball is underwhelming (low 80s), but he throws strikes, gets outs, and does everything else a pitcher needs to do to win (hit, bunt, field). The Mets don’t need Livan to be an ace, they need him to take the ball every fifth day and keep the team in the game through 6-7 innings.

You have to love Livan’s attitude, as demonstrated in an SNY interview during the sixth inning of that game. He was cool as a cucumber, completely relaxed, sounding like he just came in from a day of rum drinks on the beach rather than a five-inning stint on the mound. Of course, that same personality will drive people mad if his ERA is over 7.00 and his record is 0-6 by mid-May. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

In contrast, Freddy Garcia is not progressing quickly enough — though there were a few positive signs in his outing against the Braves. Though Garcia was again battered — 7 hits and 5 runs in two innings — his velocity was improved and his curveball continues to have good bite. The fastball was riding around 85-86, and he touched 88 several times — a significant increase from the 83-84 range of a week ago. But it remains clear that he’s going to need more time to get ready for prime time. If the Mets don’t release him, and if he accepts a minor league assignment, I believe he can work his way back to the bigs after another month to six weeks in the minors. The guy is a battler, and it appears he’ll be able to get the velocity back around the 89-90 range. If he can get it there, he can win a few games in MLB, because his curveball is already a plus pitch, his changeup is solid, and his slider can be devastating. His problem now is that all of those pitches are around the same speed, and his fastball location is too high. Another few MPH difference between the fastball and his other pitches are key to his future success.

After his dismal performances this spring, Garcia may not have a choice — it’s not like other teams will be banging down his door.

In other news, Jonathan Niese has been sent to minor-league camp. That move plus Tim Redding’s shoulder injury and Tony Armas, Jr.’s demotion would suggest that the fifth starter competition has become a two-man race — with Livan Hernandez several strides ahead.

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. Timo March 20, 2009 at 10:36 am
    I like Livan over Freddy. Livan may not have the velocity he used to have but he’s a smart pitcher. He’s also an inning hound, which would help the Mets bullpen. Livan’s a perfect #5 starter.
    I’m not confident if Freddy starts in the majors but would welcome him to triple A. Hopefully he excepts a minor league contract and the Mets triple A pitching coach tells him to use his legs and his head when he throws. He would be a much better pitcher.
  2. kerelcooper March 20, 2009 at 10:48 am
    I’m still holding out hope for Pedro but if not then I’d go with Livan. At least he has a history of eating up innings. I think it was good Niese was sent down. Let him get his work in.
  3. isuzudude March 20, 2009 at 11:14 am
    I also agree on the Garcia synopsis. Everything depends on his willingness to play at AAA for the Mets. I would assume he’d take the offer, because, as you mention, it doesn’t appear as if anyone would be willing to give Freddy a ML deal after his spring performance thus far. And seeing how Livan may be a bad month away from being released, and Redding is on the shelf, and Niese isn’t close enough to being ML ready yet, Garcia should know he’s next in line for a shot. Add the minor league hotbed known as Buffalo to the mix, where a high fan turnout and a competitive team reside, and Garcia should have an easy choice. But stranger things have happened. And if Freddy decides to take his ball elsewhere, know that the Mets’ postseason chances won’t take too much of a hit.
  4. joe March 20, 2009 at 11:21 am
    ‘dude, now that you’ve reminded us that the AAA team is in Buffalo, I’m now thinking that the Mets would ask Garcia to stay in PSL for “extended spring training”, and perhaps have him start out at the high-A level. The warm weather, the Port St. Lucie complex, and the Florida coaching staff may be more conducive to helping Garcia get into shape.

    Of course, once the season gets into late April / early May, Garcia would likely be sent to AAA to get a better gauge on his abilities.

  5. Micalpalyn March 21, 2009 at 7:15 pm
    We have had this discussion going for a while now. But there is a wrinkle to it and its one we have visited.

    Last year John Maine had his bone spur and we can clearly see that the problem is deeper than that. Is there other elbow, shoulder or tenderness issues? Either way he looks like DL stuff to me. Is that we here an offer was tendered to Pedro.

    That aside Johan…we trust, Pel is looking fine, Livian looks reborn and Ollie is done throwing BP for Mexico. I still think we could see a trade for a starter. If not now by June 1st.

  6. isuzudude March 22, 2009 at 9:14 am
    Sorry, Mic, but I disagree with you in two areas. One, I don’t believe Maine is “DL stuff.” He’s scuffling right now, no doubt about it. But we’ve yet to hear anything regarding Maine continuing to have pain in his shoulder, or any other body region for that matter. What’s more likely the case with him is that he’s struggling to get his pre-surgery velocity back, and he’s still having problems with his control. Add lossed velocity with poor control and you get a recipe for disaster. Yet, you can’t just stash someone on the DL because he’s struggling. If there is something indeed still wrong with Maine physically, I’ll bow to your theory and say he needs to be put on the shelf. But as of right now we’re going to have to pencil in Maine as the #4 and hope he turns things around sooner than later.

    And two, I don’t see a trade for a starter happening. I wonder how much you had to restrain yourself from mentioning a Putz-to-Detroit deal. Redding will be back eventually, and Omar gave him his $2.25 million contract to be a starter, not a long reliever. Additionally, as you mention, Livan has looked very solid and there’s nothing right now that suggests he can’t handle being this team’s #5. Also, don’t forget about Jon Niese, who many say (despite his rough ST) is pretty close to ML ready. There’s 3 in-house options right there to fill out the rotation, so I just don’t see a trade for a #5 being all that necessary. Obviously, Pedro would be an ideal choice, but the Mets have made it clear that they are letting that ship sail, so it’s time to live with what we have.

  7. joe March 22, 2009 at 10:48 pm
    Maine’s problem is the same as last spring, and last summer: mechanical. What used to be a once in a while issue evolved into a most of the time issue.

    God forbid anything happens to Johan …

  8. Micalpalyn March 23, 2009 at 10:11 am
    1. Maine- Post surgery issues. I think we are less than 2 weeks away from the verdict but i think Maine starts on the DL. The report per METSBLOG is ‘he is pushing the ball’ ….does not that sound like a ‘pain issue’.

    2. Mets have apparently offered Pedro a contract in the 1-2M range. Considering he pitched 1 good yr of his 4 yr contract , i’d consider that a cash back award.

    2b. -Redding: At the time Redding was signed he was (to me insurance). Ollie was a FA, there was lust after Lowe, there were (and are) issues about Maine no Freddy and No Livian. Pel and Santana were the only two healthy starters. Redding right now is akin to a mid season pick up.

    3. Livian. I did not see this but Livian could well be a “Tatis-type’ pick up, benefitting from the NL and good infield defense. I’ll even stretch it and annoint him a poor man’s Vazquez.

    4. PS. Metsblog has Omar considering Shawn Hill.

    5. In the BP. Fernando Nieve is not looking too shabby.

  9. joe March 23, 2009 at 10:52 am
    1. we addressed John Maine after ST game 5. I’ve been saying since last May that Maine’s mechanics are a mess. I don’t know that the “pushing” of the ball is due to pain rather than the issues I’ve been pointing out for almost a year.

    2. The Mets might just DL Maine for extended spring training and sign Pedro to a one-year deal.

    3. Redding stinks, healthy or not.

    4. Livan may emerge as this team’s #3 starter before all is said and done.

    5. MetsToday was considering Shawn Hill last week

    6. I’d like to see more of Nieve before making a judgment. I wish they’d show more games on SNY