It is safe to say that most of the fan base is losing/has lost patience with Mike Pelfrey. Me, I made my peace with Pelfrey last year, accepting him as a durable pitcher whose final numbers will depend upon how lucky he is in a given season. Instead, my frustration is with Dillon Gee. Wait, that’s not exactly right. My frustration is with those who think that Gee is the guy who began last year 8-1 instead of the pitcher who finished with a 5.51 ERA over his final 94.2 IP.
Here early in Grapefruit League action those two pitchers have combined for an 8.22 ERA, having surrendered 13 hits in 7.2 IP with just 3 Ks. Contrast that with how well top prospect Matt Harvey has done in his two outings, where he has not allowed an earned run or hit in 4 IP.
Harvey was wild in his first game but settled down and was very effective in his second outing. Meanwhile, Gee was unimpressive in his second outing and Pelfrey was lit up in his only start this Spring. There is still plenty of time for the veteran pitchers to turn things around and for the rookie to implode.
But we are one more solid outing by Harvey away from having a mini controversy on our hands, one that will only be exacerbated if Pelfrey and Gee don’t pitch better ASAP.
The Mets’ brass has made it clear to Harvey and everyone else that they expect the pitcher to open this season in the minors. But how will they react if Harvey again throws up a scoreless outing in his next appearance while Pelfrey and Gee scuffle? The fans are hungry to see the pitching prospects they’ve heard so much about perform in the majors and that sentiment will only grow louder if Harvey keeps up his strong pitching.
It will be easy for Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins to keep with the original plan if Pelfrey and Gee stop giving up home runs and start getting some more outs. It will take considerably more backbone to stay the course if Pelfrey and Gee continue to serve up meatballs while Harvey pounds strikes with his mid-90s heater.
My opinion was that the Mets needed to upgrade from Gee in the offseason. However, my strong preference would be for Harvey to get more innings under his belt in the minors this season. After all, Harvey has just 59.2 IP above A-ball in his career. There’s not any magic number of innings that a prospect has to pitch in the high minors to be ready for the majors. Yet 12 starts in Double-A seems insufficient to me for Harvey. That seems right out of the Tony Bernazard playbook and not a move I am willing to endorse.
Clearly, the highlight of Spring Training has been Johan Santana and how it appears right now that he is on target to take the ball on Opening Day. But in a camp otherwise marred by non-stop oblique injuries, the performance of Harvey has been a welcome breath of fresh air. Still, I am hoping he continues his strong pitching this Spring but finds himself in Buffalo to open the year.
Everyone likes to point to Dwight Gooden and how he was able to come up early and make a big contribution before people felt he was ready. But for every success story like Gooden, we can find a Tim Leary or Jose Rijo – guys who came up early and who were not ready. And the only reason Gooden got a shot was because he had such a strong advocate in Davey Johnson. Harvey does not have a similar ally (at least not yet) in Collins.
Not that such a thing matters to the fans.