Mets season preview: Team counting on young pitching staff

Jon Niese opens the season as the Mets' No. 1 pitcher. Credit: Getty Images
Jon Niese opens the season as the Mets’ No. 1 pitcher.
Credit: Getty Images

 

The Mets are armed and ready. Well, maybe they’re just armed.

It was mid-February when manager Terry Collins told reporters at the Mets’ training facility that the organization was “optimistic about our pitching staff.”

Whether the Mets starters can carry out their marching orders begins Monday afternoon at Citi Field. The Mets will begin their 51st season with Jon Niese making the Opening Day start against the Padres.

“I thought after last season, especially at the end of last season, Jon Niese stepped forward to be the pitcher everyone expected him to be,” Collins said. “He’s had a very, very good spring. We feel very, very confident that he’s the right guy to start this off.”

He is 1-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 17 2/3 innings this spring.

It will be imperative that the young arms keep a decidedly flawed team at-or-above .500 in the first two month as it appears the Mets will start the season without starters Johan Santana, Shaun Marcum and Jeremy Hefner.

Niese will likely be followed in the rotation by Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee. Harvey electrified in his eight starts after being called up in July, going 3-5 in 10 starts with 70 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings. Gee went 6-7 in 17 starts with a 4.10 ERA in 109 2/3 innings before his 2012 season ended due to a blood clot in a right shoulder artery.

Santana told reporters last weekend he did “not know when I’m going to be pitching again.” Santana’s words echoed those of Collins, who said the lefty was not going to start the season with the major-league club.

The organization shut down Santana last August due to inflammation in his lower back. Santana compiled a 6-9 record with 4.88 ERA last years after missing the 2011 season recuperating from anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder.

At the time Santana was shut down, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said the ace was “prescribed rest, medication and, of course, intermittent exercise,” but “there is no issue with his ankle, no issue with his shoulder. Obviously with a back problem and continuing to pitch, that [in] itself could lead to problems with the shoulder or the ankle or the elbow, and [that’s] another reason why we’re trying to be cautious about this.”

Unlike the winter between the 2011 and 2012 season, where he began throwing in December, Santana did not throw this offseason until February, which was pointed out by Alderson and Collins.

The Mets shut down Santana in February with shoulder weakness after a bullpen session in February. Collins speculated that it may take at least a month for Santana to get into game condition.

Santana is scheduled to make $25.5 million this season. The Mets have a $25 million option for the 2014 season but it is not likely the organization will exercise it. Instead, it is believed they will pay the $5.5 million buyout and Santana will become a free agent.

Marcum, whom the Mets signed the right-hander to a one-year, $4 million contract over the winter, has been idled due to shoulder and neck pain. The organization said on its Twitter feed that Marcum’s “shoulder impingement is improving. His neck discomfort is being treated with anti-inflammatories.”

Collins told reporters Marcum “hasn’t pitched in two weeks” making it unlikely the middle-of-the-rotation starter could pitch in the season-opening homestand.

“I’d be real surprised,” Collins said.

Hefner suffered an “elbow contusion” according to the organization when he was struck by a batted ball in Tuesday’s 11-4 loss to St. Louis. While the injury is not expected to be serious, Hefner could miss his season-opening start.

Even though the injuries would appear to open a spot in the rotation, Zack Wheeler will not get the opportunity to start the season in Queens. The crown jewel of the Mets farm system, Wheeler threw only two innings in spring training due to a strained oblique.

“I’m not happy,” Wheeler told reporters when it was reported that he was going to start the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. “I wanted to sort of get out there and prove myself. Hopefully, I’ll be up there soon.”

This is not the first time the current organizational regime has decided to be patient with its highly touted prospects. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, acquired in the R.A. Dickey trade, was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas on Monday.

Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Pioneers for domestic violence push on

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. Two decades have passed since the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the country. But in the 20 years…

Local

Newest java joint in bastion of hipness is…

Little may represent the change the neighborhood is undergoing right now like the arrival of the first Starbucks. The chain which is ubiquitous in Manhattan, opened a Williamsburg store at…

National

Black and white are the new orange at…

By Brendan O'Brien(Reuters) - Black and white are the new orange in a Michigan county where the sheriff has made a wardrobe change for jail…

National

Traps set after reports of giant snake on…

New Jersey animal control workers have set traps to snare a reported 20-foot-long serpent slithering through the waters of Lake Hopatcong.

Movies

Piano from 'Casablanca' up for sale at auction

An iconic piano featured in Rick's Cafe Americain in the 1942 Hollywood classic "Casablanca" is expected to be the highlight of a sale of film…

Music

Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks more accessible than Animal…

Believe it or not, Avey Tare — the man in the mustachioed mask pictured here in the pool of blood — may have made the poppiest music of his career.

Movies

Interview: Michael Douglas likes playing jerks, like in…

"And So It Goes" star Michael Douglas talks about being shocked that he never does period movies and opens up about Edgar Wright leaving "Ant-Man."

Entertainment

‘The Leftovers’ recap: Season 1, Episode 4, ‘B.J.…

Last week’s episode of “The Leftovers” was apparently a fluke, because this week’s episode returns to focusing on the Garveys and it is so boring.…

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony talks about his charity work in…

As he is used to doing every year, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is going to visit Puerto Rico to do work for his foundation.

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…

Tech

Ulises 1 is the world's first singing satellite

A group of artists and engineers in Mexico have unveiled Ulises 1, the world's first opera-singing satellite.

Home

Wallscape on a budget

Skip the wallpaper and ombre an accent wall instead.