At least El Duque is healthy now. The Mets rotation is one of the battles to watch this spring. Here's the sure thing - Tom Glavine begins the year as the Mets' number one guy. El Duque will be behind him (the Mets re-signed Hernandez to a 2-year deal, despite his 42 years of age, over the off-season). The Mets actually had El Duque under contract before Glavine - finally re-signing Glavine after originally declining his option. So the top of the rotation is the bottom of the age chart. Then it's likely that Maine and Perez take the 3-4 spots. That leaves quite a battle for the number 5 spot.
The candidates are Philip Humber, Mike Pelfrey (my two favorites, or at least who I'm rooting the hardest for), Jorge Sosa, Aaron Sele, and Chan Ho Park. Among others. (Jason Vargas's name comes up every now and again, and there's also Dave Williams, but he's having an injury right now.)
There are positive and negative ways to look at this pitching situation. The negative is that the Mets' two best pitchers are on the wrong side of 40, and no one is really great. But as far as I can see, that's the only negative.
The positives include:
- The Mets have depth at pitcher, something that served them well last year when they came within a pitch of the World Series. Last year the Mets started 13 different pitchers - that's a rare thing when you consider teams on the other end of the rare spectrum, suffering no injuries, would just start 5. This year, look for something in the middle - there will be injuries, but the Mets have the manpower to get through them.
- There's no Steve Trachsel. I've been down on Trachsel for years - he's had flashes of good pitching, but never showed he could do it on the big stage. When he finally got the big stage last year, he couldn't perform. So now he's in Baltimore. And the Mets have a guy like Oliver Perez in his place, who could pitch just as well (or perhaps as poorly) as Trachsel, maybe even better, and rely less on run support, and turn his career around. (Or recapture some of his early flashes of success.)
- As much as Glavine and Hernandez represent the "old", there's the potential for plenty of "new" for the Mets in the rotation as well. John Maine and Oliver Perez are 26. Philip Humber is 25. Mike Pelfrey is just 23. So there are some kids on the staff who could be the core of the Mets' rotation for years, to go along with the great left side of the infield. As a matter of fact, I think that's the biggest positive - Pelfrey and Humber could be the Mets' future 1-2. Before he hurt his elbow, the Mets considered Humber to be a future star. And Pelfery has shown what he can do at the major league level. It's exciting to watch these guys grow, and give the Mets a nice home-grown core, without the hype that can damage some youngsters.
- My final point is that come late July or August, the Mets will get a brand-spanking new Pedro Martinez*. It'll work like a trading deadline deal, and Pedro* will re-join the staff, and rejuvenate the team. At least that's the way I like to think of it. He will have had plenty of time to rehab, unlike last year, when he came back and was ineffective. It will have been a year and a couple of months since teams saw the real Pedro*. He will give the Mets a big boost heading into the playoffs, and then to look forward to '08, he will be fresher in what might be the final year of his career.
As negative as I was in my last posting, I do feel like the Mets can succeed this year. And the points about the rotation that I've laid out above are a big reason why. Another big part is the offense, which I touched on in that last posting. But for the regular season, at least, the Mets' pitching should be good enough to get by. The Mets will again win many games with their bats this year.