Spring training is nearing the halfway point for the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, FL and the news is not all gloom and doom.
Shocking, isn't it?
Ace southpaw Johan Santana continues to make solid progress after missing the entire 2011 season following major shoulder surgery. Ike Davis has presently shown no ill effects since being diagnosed with Valley Fever. Outfielder Adam Loewen has impressed so far.
Remember that these are the Mets, so there have to be a few negatives. David Wright will be out of action until next weekend at the earliest with an injured rib cage. Scott Hairston will likely miss Opening Day as he recovers from a strained oblique muscle. Reliever Tim Byrdak, New York's lone southpaw in the bullpen, was scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee and should start the season on the DL.
Oh, brother. Can the Amazins' make it through just one spring training without a rash of injuries? Is that too much to ask? Sorry, I digress...
Let's take a look some roster battles presently in camp as the Mets limp their way (again) towards Opening Day.....
Byrdak's injury throws a wrench into manager Terry Collins' plans to say the least. The 38-year-old wily veteran enjoyed a fine season in 2011, finishing with a 2-1 mark and 3.82 ERA in 72 games. Even more impressive was his .222 batting average allowed against left-handed hitters and his 36 K's against them.
"Obviously this will impact our left-handed relief,” general manager Sandy Alderson told yahoosports.com. “We’ll just have to evaluate things as we go forward. But I would suspect that Byrdak would not be available to us for some portion of the regular season. We’ll have to accommodate that.”
So who is going to replace the Rice University product while he is on the shelf for four to six weeks? Josh Edgin, Garrett Olsen, Chuck James, Robert Carson and Daniel Herrera are some names that are being mentioned as possible replacements and free agent veteran Mike Gonzalez is still available as well.
Elsewhere, Pedro Beato's MRI came back negative on his right shoulder. However, Beato is suffering from inflammation of the rotator cuff and is not going to throw until the symptoms subside. This can severely affect his ability to make the opening day roster.
Also, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, Miguel Bautista appears to be holding the current advantage for the final bullpen slot over D. J. Carrasco, who is a candidate to be traded if he continues to pitch well this Spring. Righty Bobby Parnell looks like a lock to make the Opening Day roster at this time. Manny Acosta is expected to break camp if healthy.
Who will win the backup OF role?
Jason Bay, Andres Torres and Lucas Duda (who hit his first spring HR on Monday) are your starters, but who will the reserve outfielders be? Scott Hairston is currently on the shelf so Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Matt den Dekker, Mike Baxter and Loewen are vying for spots on the 25-man Opening Day roster.
Nieuwenhuis is day-to-day with a right oblique strain. The Mets like his potential. A third round pick in 2008, the Santa Monica, CA native has hit .280 in four minor league seasons, including a very impressive .298 campaign last season at AAA Buffalo.
den Dekker is 24, like Nieuwenhuis, and was a fifth round pick by New York in 2010. He has a career minor league average of .278, although he hit just .235 at AA Binghamton last year.
Baxter hit .235 in just 34 at-bats for the Mets in 2011 and is 27-years-old. His upside appears to be limited.
Loewen is also 27 and a former southpaw hurler for the Baltimore Orioles. He transitioned to a position player (like Rick Ankiel) and the transition has gone well at the minor league level. Loewen batted a robust .306 with 17 HR and 85 RBI in 134 games at AAA Las Vegas last year while playing all three outfield positions and first base.
Look for Loewen to get the first call from Collins when a reserve outfielder is needed off his bench once the MLB season commences.
Josh Satin, Ronny Cedeno and Justin Turner are expected to backup at second, short and third, respectively. Turner and Daniel Murphy may get more time than expected at the hot corner due to Wright's latest malady, but Collins certainly hopes Wright returns well before the season opener.
Jordany Valdespin and Reese Havens are two youngsters that are hoping to make the parent club in a backup capacity. Havens has had some issues staying healthy, but Valdespin has performed pretty well during the Spring. He went 2-for-4 with a run scored against Detroit yesterday and hit .280 in 107 AB for AAA Buffalo last year.
A former first round pick, Havens batted .289 for AA Binghamton last season. He also owned a solid .372 OBP for the B-Mets.
Neither player is expected to make New York's Opening Day roster. Valdespin has a leg up on his fellow infielder though if a minor league call-up is necessary.