With pitchers and catchers reporting to Port St. Lucie on Feb. 14, anticipation and questions loom for the New York Mets.
It's pretty safe to say that the downfall of the '08 Mets were the glaring deficiencies of the bullpen. This was addressed with a strong assault in the off-season by General Manager Omar Minaya. Francisco Rodriguez as the closer and J.J. Putz as the hinge to the 9th inning definitely solidify the back end of the bullpen.
With the left-handed dominant Philadelphia Phillies lineup slated for 18 games this season against the Mets, an issue that might need to be addressed is the lack of left-handed pitchers in the bullpen. Pedro Feliciano is the only healthy southpaw in the pen. The ideal option is for Omar to look into LHP Joe Beimel of the Dodgers. The 31 year old Beimel posted a 2.20 ERA last season in 71 appearances and sporting a 5-1 record. Middle relief is an often overlooked aspect when ranking pitching staffs. The extra left-hander looming past the outfield fence just gives Jerry Manuel another bullet in his holster.
With the departure of Willie Randolph and the interim tag lifted from Jerry Manuel's title, the Mets clubhouse cohesiveness hopes to improve this season. From an outsiders perspective, it seemed as if there was a locker room divided for the Mets. Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes didn't do well in hiding their displeasure for ex-coach Willie Randolph. Subsequently, Delgado turned around his horrendous 1st half of the season into a MVP-candidate season and Reyes seemed much more comfortable at the plate and on the base paths.
With the predominately Latin team, Manuel might be the perfect man for the job to keep the team at ease while tightening the screws and being firm when necessary.
With Oliver Perez signing a 3-year $36 million deal, and John Maine avoiding arbitration and accepting a one-year $2.65 million contract, the Mets have four starters locked in for the beginning of the season (Santana, Pelfrey, Perez and Maine).
Ben Sheets and Randy Wolf are two paths that the Mets may entertain the thought of bringing into Queens for the '09 season. If both of these options don't pan out, there will be a spring training battle for that 5th spot. The young lefty, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Tim Redding, and a possible return of Pedro Martinez could all be trying to impress Jerry Manuel in the Spring for that 5th spot and a possible call up during the season.
The Mets hope to return to the top of the NL East this season. The core is intact from last year with Wright, Reyes, Beltran and Santana leading the push for the Mets to return to post-season play. The Mets come into the 2009 campaign with big aspirations and visions of playing in October for a World Series and Commissioner's Trophy.