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.

El Duque Starts For St. Lucie Mets

St. Lucie MetsImage from WikipediaOrlando Hernandez went 5 innings tonight against the Vero Beach Rays. You can see the full box score at the St. Lucie Mets website.  He gave up three hits, two earned runs, struck out 6, and walked one in an 8-3 loss. He also hit a batter.

El Duque says that he’ll make two more minor league starts before he’s ready to rejoin the Mets.

The Good News and The Bad News About Pedro’s Injury

At this point, we don’t know how severe Pedro Matinez’ hamstring injury is. He’ll have an MRI and we’ll know soon how much time that he’ll miss. I have to mention some concern that Pedro, Brian Schneider, and Ramon Castro have all had hamstring injuries over the last few weeks. Remember last spring when the Yankees were getting pulled hamstrings and they blamed on the strength and conditioning coach? If not, read here about how the Yankees fired Marty Miller last May after several players had hamstring injuries.I wonder if there’s anything to the strength and conditioning with the Mets this season. Rick Slate is the Mets strength and conditioning coordinator. I would think that he’ll receive some scrutiny over the coming days, especially if Pedro is on the disabled list for an extended period of time.

The good news about Pedro’s injury is that the Mets already have an extra starter on the roster, Mike Pelfrey. He’s currently slotted to be the fifth starter but the Mets don’t need him until April 12th because they have off-days on Thursday and next Monday before the home opener on April 8th. El Duque’s trip to the disabled list was retroactive to March 29th so he could make that start on the 12th.

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The bad news is that the Mets huge crowd for the home opener would be treated to seeing Mike Pelfrey instead of Pedro Martinez. What a let down that is! I wouldn’t be too happy if I had tickets for the home opener right now. Pelfrey is easily shaken as it is, having to pitch in front of a sold out home opening crowd is not a good situation for Pelfrey. That’s certainy not a good situation for the Mets or the Shea opening day fans.

Post Game: Mets 3 Orioles 4

Source: WikipediaEl Duque got the start today and went five innings giving up 4 hits and one earned run. Mike Pelfrey finished the game going 3.2 innings giving up 6 hits and 3 earned runs. I guess Omar Minaya was right… if El Duque is healthy then he should get the fifth spot in the rotation. See the full game recap and box score here.

Omar Minaya on ESPN Radio- Fifth Starter News

Source: Wikipedia“It’s El Duque if he’s ready.”

That’s what Minaya said when asked about the fifth starter. What? Where did that come from?
I guess it’s Orlando Hernandez by default. Maybe Mike Pelfrey will show something tomorrow in Ft. Lauderdale to change his mind.

Listen to the full Andrew Marchand interview here.

El Duque isn’t going to the Bullpen

El Duque told reporters this week that he isn’t willing to pitch in relief. He says that he signed with the Mets to be a starting pitcher. The NY Post has a recap of his comments.

My opinion is that El Duque isn’t in a position to demand anything. He pitched very well when he was healthy last year. But he isn’t healthy enough to make demands on the Mets about his role with the team.

Competition is a good thing for the Mets. El Duque and Mike Pelfrey should be fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation. There are no free rides for El Duque or anyone else.