The long march to respectability begins in Queens today. It may take a little longer than the 162 games this season to come to fruition though.

 

For the fifth straight season the Mets missed the playoffs last year. And three times in a row now they have finished under .500. But the cloud of the Bernie Madoff case lifted this spring and while the team cut payroll, they do now have financial solvency.

 

Maybe more importantly, general manager Sandy Alderson appears to have a plan for the future, even if it may take awhile. The trade of Carlos Beltran last July netted top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler and first-round pick Matt Harvey could be in the major league rotation in the latter half of 2012.

For now, the Mets are counting on the rebirth of a list of players to get them through. Johan Santana will start today and the Mets hope he can give them 150 innings. Ike Davis is also returning from a freak foot injury that kept him out the last four months of the season.

 

And then of course there is the duo of Jason Bay and David Wright, who both played more than 100 games in 2011 and failed to live up to expectations. The Mets hope their long march back to elite-level players starts with shorter walls in the outfield.

 

Closing time?




There are few areas of the Mets more convoluted than their closer situation. They overhauled the whole pen in the offseason, so Metro takes a look at some of the new crew and an old favorite that could close:



RHP Frank Francisco


(2011: 17 saves, 3.55 ERA)

Francisco is the presumed closer for the Mets, though he is battling a knee injury.



RHP?Jon Rauch

(2011: 11 saves,

4.85 ERA)

Rauch shared closers duty in Toronto with Francisco last year and may do it again in New York. He's big (6-foot-11), but doesn't throw hard.



RHP Ramon Ramirez

(2011: 2.62 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)

The last of the three additions to the bulllpen. Ramirez has a track record of excellent seasons in the set-up role, including for the

Giants last year.



RHP?Bobby Parnell

(2011: 3.64 ERA, 1.47 WHIP)

Parnell has been a sore subject for Mets fans. He has tremendous ability, but he's been inconsistent. He had 27 walks in 59 1/3 IP last year. He could be a closer candidate though.