Mets Oliver Perez Calms Pitching Fears

Oliver PerezOliver Perez was the talk of Mets camp since he put up a major stinker in his return from the World Baseball Classic. The big news is that pitching coach Dan Warthen called him out publicly as not being in proper shape to pitch. The message was misconstrued by some as Perez being overweight, but the message was that Perez didn’t keep his arm working during the three weeks he spent with team Mexico.

Yesterday he put the hammer down against the Orioles for 6.2 innings of one hit (and one walk) ball. Clearly, he got the message that the Mets coaching staff was trying to convey. Even Johan Santana spoke to Perez about improving his concentration and using the last week of spring training to get good results in the games he pitches in.

If Perez had another meltdown yesterday, it would have been time for Mets fans and the front office to have major concerns about the starting rotation. John Maine has been inconsistent this spring in his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery.  And Livan Hernandez is the current fifth starter after being waived last August by the Minnesota Twins. He’s looked solid this spring but the Mets coaches need to keep a very close eye on him as the season progresses.

I don’t think that we’ll ever describe Oliver Perez as consistent. But the Mets need him to be better than he has been this spring if the Mets are going to be serious contenders to knock the Phillies from their throne.

Mets Assign Freddy Garcia To Minors

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.

Mets Off-Day: Maine, Garcia, Hernandez Working

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.

Mets P Tim Redding Injured

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.

Verducci: 2009 Mets Have Several Key Questions

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:

  1. Jerry Manuel has brought a looser feel to the team this season than Willie Randolph had in the past.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Livan Hernandez could really help the Mets if he can get about 15 starts in this season.
  5. 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.

Mets, Livan Hernandez Agree To One Year Contract

Livan HernandezNews is breaking from Christian Red of the Daily News this morning that the Mets have signed another potential starter/long man/minor leaguer in the form of Livan Hernandez. There were rumors last season that Omar Minaya was looking at Hernandez but never pulled the trigger. It comes one season too late for El Duque and Livan to be able to play together.

Hernandez will be 34 years old next week and he’s listed at 6’2″ 220 pounds. But he looks more like 240 pounds to me. He’s got a bad body and really hasn’t pitched very well since the 2005 season with Montreal. He was waived by Arizona last season and picked up by Colorado in August.

His contract is a minor league deal for 1-year/$1 million plus $1 million in incentives. My guess is that he spends most, if not all, of the season at Triple-A Buffalo. He’ll be a third level insurance policy in case there are catastrophic break downs in the bullpen or the fifth starter spot.