On Deck: April 17, 2008

Washington Nationals (4-11) at New York Mets (7-6)   7:10pm   TV: SNY   Radio: WFAN

John Lannan (0-2) vs. Nelson Figueroa (1-0)

What to watch:  The Nationals are really limping early in the season. So it would be nice to finish them off for a series sweep tonight. This isn’t exactly a marquis pitching match up, but Figueroa does draw interest as a feel-good story.

Mets, Maine Beat Nats 5-2

New York- John Maine (1-1) got his first win of the season pitching 6.2 innings giving up five hits, four walks, and two earned runs to go along with four strikeouts. He wasn’t quite as sharp as we saw in spring training but it was good enough for a win tonight. Joe Smith finished off the seventh and the eighth innings. Billy Wagner closed out the ninth for his second save.

The Mets had an unusual power surge with home runs from Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Ryan Church against his former team. Luis Castillo also had a quiet 3 for 4 night.

The Mets secured the series by taking the first two games of the three game set. They’ll finish the series tomorrow night at Shea Stadium with John Lannan (0-2) up against Nelson Figueroa (1-0).

Box score

ESPN Video Highlights 

MLB.com Video Highlights 

“Desperate” Mets, Figueroa Make Sportsline Front Page

CBS’ Scott Miller writes about the Mets “desperate” search for starting pitching. Read the column at CBS Sportline.

Miller always has a negative slant against the Mets but it’s hard to dispute his take on the Mets rotation right now. Signing Claudio Vargas is really scraping the bottom of the pitching barrel.

Time To Get Real About Nelson Figueroa

Now that we’ve come down from the dream story that Nelson Figueroa was last night it’s time to get real about his roster spot. I’ve read and heard so much from the media and blogs about the “Hometown boy makes good” story. SNY went on ad nauseam about the tale.

If you read this blog regulary, you saw that I wrote that Figueroa pitched a wonderful game last night. I really like his stuff and composure on the mound. He’s obviously got terrific family and friends pulling for him (as were all Mets fans). I loved what I saw from him last night.

That being said, Figueroa’s spot on the roster is going to call for some decisions in the future. Part of his value is that he’s only working on a one-year minor league contract. That gives the Mets flexibility to move him up and down from the minors. There aren’t too many players on the roster with that flexibility.

When, and if, Pedro Martinez, Duaner Sanchez, and Orlando Hernandez come back to the team there will have to be some roster moves to make room. I would guess that Carlos Muniz would be the first player to go down to the minors when Sanchez comes back as early as Tuesday.

Martinez and Hernandez may not be back for quite some time. When they do come back, Figueroa’s roster spot will become much more precarious. The Mets management will be forced to make a decision between keeping Mike Pelfrey and Figueroa on the major league roster. Take a look at the Mets active roster here. Who do you think should leave when Martinez comes back?

It would seem that Figueroa and Pelfrey will be competing for the one open roster spot when Martinez returns. I like that Pelfrey has someone with some talent that’s pushing him to focus and throw strikes. Frankly, I like Figueroa for the swing man role better than Jorge Sosa but that’s not going to happen. Sosa’s got a one-year $2 million major league contract so he’s not going anywhere barring a performance disaster on his part.

The only flexibility outside of the pitchers on the roster is with Brady Clark. He’s also working on a one-year minor league contract but will most likely be sent down when Moises Alou comes back. If Alou has a setback returning from his hernia surgery, that could give the Mets some flexibility to keep Figueroa and Pelfrey when Martinez returns. But I doubt that the Mets would keep 13 pitchers.

The conclusion is that I like what I saw last night and believe that Figueroa can give Pelfrey a serious threat of being sent back to the minors if he doesn’t consistently pitch well.  Even though Pelfrey is one of the Mets top prospects, the Mets need to win games now and Figueroa might be a better option for this season.

Mets Defeat Brew Crew 4-2 Behind Figueroa

New York- Nelson Figueroa made his first start for the Mets this season an impressive one. He went six strong innings giving up two runs, two hits, and two walks with six strikeouts for the win.

The bullpen took over for Figueroa and did a great job for the final three innings. Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman, and Billy Wagner shut the Brewers down without giving up a hit.

The offense, as usual, was powered by Angel Pagan. He continued his hot hitting going 2 for 4 with another RBI raising his season average to .387.

There is some concern that Jose Reyes left the game with a tight hamstring. Marlon Anderson came in to play second, and Damion Easley moved to shortstop replacing Reyes.

Box score

Video Highlights 

Audio: Baseball Links For Listening

There are plenty of baseball and Mets links for listening today. If you enjoy listening to baseball talk as much as I do, enjoy the links. Click the small play icon next to the link to listen.

MVN Radio’s “The Pitch” previews Week 2-The Pitch

Tim McCarver on WFAN’s “Mike and The Mad Dog” from April 7, 2008-Tim McCarver

Nelson Figueroa on WFAN’s “Boomer & Carton” from April 8, 2008- Nelson Figueroa

Jeff Wilpon on WFAN’s “Boomer & Carton” from April 7, 2008- Jeff Wilpon

Brady Clark on WFAN’s “Joe & Evan” from April 8, 2008- Brady Clark

Mike Pelfrey on WFAN’s “Joe & Evan” from April 8, 2008 – Mike Pelfrey

Agent: David Wells Waiting For Mets

Picture I took on 5-10-07 08:11, 14 May 2007 . . Chrisjnelson . . 153×252 (82,109 bytes)Image from WikipediaThe Boston Globe reports that David Wells’ agent, Gregg Clifton, is waiting for a call from the D-Backs or Mets. He believes those are the two teams that he could most likely place Wells.

The terrible news of Doug Davis’ thyroid cancer has created an opening in the D-Backs rotation. Pedro Martinez’ hamstring injury has the Mets searching for an answer as well.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Wells come in if he would do a minor league contract with incentives for major league starts. In my mind, he could certainly compete with Tony Armas, Nelson Figueroa, El Duque, and Mike Pelfrey. I haven’t seen anything from the players currently under contract with the Mets that solidifies their position as a replacement for Pedro.

Sure, Wells will be 45 next month and he doesn’t exactly have the greatest workout regimen. I’m making that statement based on my eyesight, not any knowledge of his workout program (if such a program exists). I’d rather see Wells than some of the recent Mets substitute starters like Jose Lima and Brian Lawrence. Both were hit more than a piñata.

It sounds like the Mets are willing to give Nelson Figueroa a shot this coming Friday against the Brewers and I’m fine with that. But if it doesn’t go well, it may be time to give Gregg Clifton a call.