The Mets have very few positions up for grabs this Spring. The bullpen is one place where jobs were available and the situation only got more confusing with the injury to Tim Byrdak. Since then we have found out that the Mets consider C.J. Nitkowski, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2005, as a candidate to get LHB out in the majors but that Danny Herrera, who has a lifetime .588 OPS against lefties, is not.
Further complicating the issue is that a couple of relievers have contracts that will help them make the team to start the 2012 season. D.J. Carrasco and Jon Rauch – I’m looking at the two of you. To be fair, Carrasco may not be on the Opening Day roster, even with his contract. But there are 1.2 million reasons why he is still in the discussion.
Plus, we have the ghost of Blaine Boyer hanging over everything. Last year the Mets decided to open the year with Boyer on their roster due mainly to his impressive 11 IP in Spring Training. Of course it was the same Boyer who had a 4.63 ERA and 1.438 WHIP in six previous seasons and 227.1 IP in the majors. Playing the part of Boyer this year is Garrett Olson, who in 287.1 IP in the majors has a 6.14 ERA and a 1.653 WHIP. However, the Mets consider him the leading candidate to take over for Byrdak due to his 4.2 scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play.
With that as our backdrop, here are the relievers I think should open the season with the Mets:
Manny Acosta – In two years with the Mets, Acosta has a 3.22 ERA with a 9.1 K/9 mark. Additionally, he has limited LHB to a .218 AVG. He can go for more than an inning at a time, can get strikeouts and does not have to be pulled when a lefty strides to the plate.
Miguel Batista – Last year the Mets did not have a true long man in the bullpen and Batista fills this role. Of course, he may be elevated to starting pitcher if Mike Pelfrey keeps throwing beach balls.
Josh Edgin – He’s never pitched above A-ball. He’s also 25 years old and unlikely to develop into more than what he is now. Last year he had a 10.4 K/9 in the minors. So far this Spring, he’s whiffed 7 batters in 5 innings and has not allowed a run. People will say that he’s doing that against minor leaguers. But they are still guys who played above A-ball, a higher competition level than what he’s seen previously.
Frank Francisco – I know he’s getting punched around here in Grapefruit League play, but Francisco was lights out in the second half of last season and I remain confident that he will be a good acquisition for the Mets.
Danny Herrera – It is very simple and I do not care if he throws a screwball, Herrera is a LOOGY who should not face a RHB. Terry Collins did a great job getting Byrdak to face 65% lefties last year. If he did the same thing with Herrera, he’ll turn in a season with a better ERA and better WHIP than Byrdak did last year.
Bobby Parnell – Just because he is not ready for the closer’s job does not mean Parnell is without his uses. Hopefully he will not enter with the game on the line after the seventh inning. Perhaps lower-pressure situations will lead to better results. Also, a return to 2010’s 2.1 BB/9 rate would do wonders for Parnell, too.
Ramon Ramirez – The same comments that apply to Francisco can also be used here.
We all know that Rauch will be on the Opening Day roster, despite his declining fastball velocity since 2008. Maybe 2011 was an aberration and he will return to the guy he was the previous two seasons. Stranger things have happened but I would not wager on it with your money, much less mine.
Olson has to be considered the frontrunner for the other spot, even if his best role is as this year’s Pat Misch, a rotation depth guy to plug in at Buffalo until an injury happens in the majors. So, substitute Rauch and Olson for Edgin and Herrera and that is who I expect to go north with the Mets this year.