As usual, one of the biggest position battles in Mets spring training is for the fifth starter. Although the fifth starter can be a conglomeration of garbage, I really like the options that the Mets have for this season. Last year, the battle was between Livan Hernandez and Freddy Garcia. What a mess that was! By the way, have you seen the video of drunk Freddy Garcia at this year’s SoxFest getting fans excited for the season? A sloppy, drunken, expletive-filled, aging fifth starter is sure to get the Chicago fans pumped about the season.
Original Post: There are rumors this morning that the Mets have released starting pitcher Freddy Garcia. I’ll try to confirm that during the day.
Garcia got rocked at Triple-A Buffalo last night and said that he was thinking about quitting the game but would sleep on the decision. He went 5 innings and gave up 8 runs raising his season ERA to 8.18. The word is that his fastball was barely hitting the mid-80’s during the game.
Garcia has been attempting to recover from shoulder problems for a few years now. He just doesn’t look like he’ll be able to re-gain his form.
Update: Confirmed. Multiple media sources are reporting that the Mets have indeed released Garcia after two minor league starts. Garcia also says that he won’t retire. His agent tells the media that the Mets made a mistake releasing him and that they shouldn’t have sent him to cold weather locations to pitch.
Freddy Garcia has accepted an assignment to the Mets minor league camp today. Apparently, they decided not to waste anymore time at the major league level on Garcia. His 16.71 ERA in 7 innings of work failed to impress.
Livan Hernandez is now locked in at the #5 sport in the rotation to start the season. That decision became inevitable when Jon Niese was assigned to the minor league spring training last week.
The Mets are hoping that Garcia will report to Triple-A Buffalo to continue his work, or possibly remain in Port St. Lucie for an extended spring training according to the Daily News. I can’t see Garcia asking for his release at this point. There’s no way he’ll catch on with another team at the major league level based on his performance with the Mets this spring. The best he could hope for is another minor league contract with a team that may be closer than the Mets to needing a fifth starter. We’ll have to see how this plays out.
While most of the Mets are enjoying a relaxing day off in Florida, several of the starting pitchers are working hard today. Livan Hernandez and Freddy Garcia are going up against each other in a minor league game. And John Maine canceled a golf game to work on his mechanics.
It seems like Hernandez has all but locked up the fifth spot in the rotation. The Mets even insist that they’ll use five starting pitchers to begin the season. I’m not sure why they would do that when they really don’t need a fifth starter for several weeks. Hernandez has proved himself able to work as well as possible with well below average stuff. He’s got a 3.07 ERA in 14.2 spring innings. You certainly can’t ask for more than that from a fifth starter.
Contrast that with Freddy Garcia, who looks like he’s got a long way to go before he’s ready to face major league hitters. He’s got a 16.71 ERA in 7 innings of work so far. The only way you could describe his work this spring is “ugly”. He’ll have a big decision coming up soon. That’s whether he wants to pitch at Triple-A Buffalo and hope for an opening with the Mets at some point this season or if he wants to be released. If he’s released he could get a shot at a job at the major league level somewhere else. Honestly, I don’t even think that the Dodgers would take him now. And they’re really hurting for starting pitchers.
John Maine is working on an ERA over 10 so far this spring and just really looks out of sorts. I don’t take too much from that because I’ve seen what he can do when he’s healthy. But there is reason for concern that he just hasn’t been able to recover from the offseason shoulder surgery that he had. He’s locked into the #4 spot in the rotation no matter what right now. But if he has a couple of bad starts at the beginning of the season we’ll all need to be concerned.
Tim Redding’s spring training hasn’t started very well. He’s been shelled pretty much every time out so far. And now we have word from Mets GM Omar Minaya that Redding is suffering from “weakness” in his right shoulder. Now some would say that his right arm has always been pretty weak but this time its an actual injury.
Redding will be on the disabled list when opening day rolls around on April 6 and he won’t pitch anymore this spring. Normally, this wouldn’t be very significant for the Mets. But the fifth starter situation has become so dubious over the past three weeks that this does now impact the team.
Remember that the Mets won’t need a fifth starter for the first two or three weeks of the season anyway. So there isn’t an immediate need to sort out the situation. And we also have to remember that we are talking about the fifth starter. We’ve seen some awful pitching from Redding, Freddy Garcia, and decent work from Livan Hernandez this spring.
There are still some alternate options like Brian Stokes and Nelson Figueroa when he gets back from the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic. So I’m not that worried about this issue now, and I’m certainly not advocating signing Pedro Martinez. I saw enough of him the last three years to know that he just doesn’t have it anymore.
I have to admit that I thought Freddy Garcia would be able to come in and lock up the fifth spot in the rotation quickly this spring. Just the opposite has happened. Here’s Garcia’s line from this spring so far:
W L S ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER 0 2 0 20.22 2 1 0 0 2.2 5 8 6 Source: ESPN 2009 Spring Training Stats
I don’t think that Garcia is in danger of being cut immediately. But he is eating up useful innings this spring that could be used by a pitcher that has a shot at the major league roster. Since Garcia is with the Mets on a minor league contract he could be sent to Triple-A Buffalo. But he has indicated that he would want to be released rather than play in the minors.
If he keeps pitching to an ERA over 20, he may be in danger of being cut in the near future. He’ll face the University of Michigan team today which could be his last appearance in a Mets uniform if he doesn’t show that he still has some skills.
SI’s Tom Verducci addressed the Mets in his “Spring Training Post Cards” series today. I really like Verducci and he nailed the Mets first couple of weeks of spring training perfectly. Here’s a quick summary of the issues he addressed:
- Jerry Manuel has brought a looser feel to the team this season than Willie Randolph had in the past.
- Jose Reyes batting third is an interesting experiment and meant to push Luis Castillo, not Reyes. He suggests that Castillo may be best served batting ninth in the order.
- The Mets outfielders don’t have a lot of high-ceiling guys. And they don’t know what to expect out of Ryan Church after he couldn’t get it together after his second concussion.
- Livan Hernandez could really help the Mets if he can get about 15 starts in this season.
- The daily roller coaster of Johan Santana’s health is hanging over the team like a cloud right now.
I’m surprised that he didn’t mention Carlos Beltran in his discussion of the Mets outfielders. Beltran gives the Mets a lot of flexibility to play guys that don’t have outfield experience. He covers a ton of ground in the outfield and leads the other players positioning.
I’m also surprised that he didn’t mention what a bust that Freddy Garcia is turning out to be. Livan Hernandez is fine, but the Mets need to find someone that solidify the number five spot in the rotation.