Mets Spring Training: Pitching Shows Promise, Position Players Ail

Dan SiegelSenior Analyst IMarch 5, 2008

The Flushing Faithful can stop panicking…sort of.

Johan Santana and John Maine have shown improvement since their first starts of the spring.  Most importantly, they are healthy. 

Pedro Martinez will have taken the mound for the first time when seven o’clock passes on Thursday night. 

Petey still suffers from foot pain but he said in Newsday, "It still hurts. There are landings when I do feel it, but I have to put it away in my mind."

Oliver Perez was shaky in his first start, but he too has his health.

One who doesn’t have his health is Orlando Hernandez.  El Duque has been working on his own to alter his delivery to avoid the pain caused by a bunion on his right foot.

Thankfully, Mike Pelfrey has gotten off to a great start, shutting down the opposition and getting those ground-ball outs Met fans have heard so much about.

The good news for the rotation is that the Mets do not need a fifth starter until mid-April, so as long as a foursome of Santana, Pedro, Maine, Perez, Pelfrey, and El Duque are ready to go, the Mets can buy themselves some time with a straggler or two and carry extra position players or relievers. 

Assuming Pedro is healthy, Santana, Pedro, Maine, and Perez will start out the year as the top four starters, with Pelfrey possibly hanging around Florida for a couple of extra weeks getting more work and waiting to see if El Duque has his podiatric situation resolved.

The bullpen has been strong so far this spring.  Regulars Billy Wagner, Aaron Heilman, and Pedro Feliciano are good to go. 

Scott Schoeneweis has looked good his last couple of outings.  Duaner Sanchez finally got into a game, and although not yet on is early 2006 form, his progress is promising.

If Sanchez is not yet ready to go, Matt Wise, Brian Stokes, Jorge Sosa, Rule V pick Steven Register, and non-roster invitee Nate Field have all been solid. 

Juan Padilla also made an appearance on the mound, but still needs some time.  Joe Smith has given up some runs, but also got a big double play in the latest contest against the Dodgers.

A team can never have too much pitching, which is a good thing for the Mets, because as of now, they don’t have enough hitting.

Moises Alou has already recorded his first MRI of the season, suffering from a sore groin. 

Carlos Delgado and Ruben Gotay have been scanned, poked, and prodded with Delgado suffering from a balky hip and Gotay being bothered by wrist and ankle injuries. 

Delgado has since resumed training, hitting off a tee.

In addition to Gotay, second baseman Luis Castillo and utility men Damion Easley and Jose Valentin continue to be held out of action as they recover from their 2007 injuries. 

This leaves light-hitting Anderson Hernandez at the top of the second base depth chart for now.  Hernandez did record a couple of hits, including the game winner against the Dodgers on Wednesday, but don’t call him Joe Morgan just yet.

At least the left side of the infield is healthy with David Wright and Jose Reyes seeing regular action this spring. 

There was even a slight scare with Reyes as he fouled a Brad Penny pitched off of himself, but Jose has been in the lineup the last couple of days.

And then there is the outfield. 

In addition to Alou, Ryan Church is still sidelined from his collision with Marlon Anderson resulting in a concussion. Anderson is out too with a bruised sternum and jaw. 

Carlos Beltran and Endy Chavez join Castillo, Easley, and Valentin on Willie Randolph’s “not ready for action” list.

Without the aforementioned names, off-season re-acquisition Angel Pagan has seen the bulk of the action in center field. 

His bat has been hot while his glove has been questionable, committing an error against the Marlins and having some issues cutting off balls in the gap. 

Luckily, this behavior seems to be atypical for Pagan who only committed one error in parts of two seasons with the Cubs.

Another Met second-timer, non-roster invitee Brady Clark, has stepped up to the plate in the outfield, hitting a respectable .273 this spring as of Wednesday. 

He has been inconsistent in the field, also having trouble judging the ball, but had a nice diving catch against the Dodgers.

Young Fernando Martinez has also filled in, hitting .300 after going 2-3 against the Dodgers on Wednesday.  He has also been shaky in the field, making spectacular catches one day and dropping routine fly-balls the next. 

Assuming Church and Anderson return soon, Martinez will start the year off in the minors with many of the above names being well-seasoned.

The catching situation has also unexpectedly caused some befuddlement. 

Brian Schneider has come up with a bad hamstring leaving the majority of the work to Ramon Castro and the little yellow bus full of non-roster invitees that are hoping for jobs in New Orleans. 

Castro is only hitting .118 despite a hot start to the spring games.   Prospect Mike Nickeas is hitting .333 in limited action.

Are all of these injuries something to worry about, or is all the buzz simply the result of over-attention by the growing number of media outlets covering these players’ every moves? 

One thing is for certain; if a Met fan finds himself at a minor league game this season, chances are the names on the lineup card will look familiar from March.