Mets Spring Training: Dark-Horse Candidates May Round Out Roster

Dan SiegelSenior Analyst IMarch 17, 2008

The I’s have it.

That is injuries and ineffectiveness, the two I’s that have been plaguing the Mets during Spring Training.

The first injured man that needs a replacement on the roster is Moises Alou.  Angel Pagan has been hot at the plate, so a guy who was signed to play and wait in AAA will now be a part of the major league roster.

Ruben Gotay seemingly had a job as a backup middle infielder and pinch hitter, but he came up lame early on this spring.  Jose Valentin was poised to take that job after making an early comeback from offseason surgery, but a pinched nerve has him “behind the eight ball,” according to Manager Willie Randolph (as reported on

Who will take that spot?  Some may look to young Argenis Reyes who is hitting .448 this spring, but has never played above AA and doesn’t have experience at shortstop on his resume—something Randolph would be looking for to give Jose Reyes a day off now and again.

True, Damion Easley is back and could fill in at short, but Willie may not trust the range of the 38-year-old.

As it stands now, Anderson Hernandez could fill that role.  He has not hit well at the major league level, but he does have six RBI this spring.  Hernandez has the best defensive skills of any of the aforementioned reserves, and could at least pinch run if Randolph does not have confidence in his bat.

Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, John Maine, and Oliver Perez are all moving in the right direction and are poised to take spots one to four in the pitching rotation.  With the Mets not needing a fifth starter until mid-April, Orlando Hernandez still bothered by a bunion, and Mike Pelfrey having been inconsistent in his starts, look for New York to carry an extra position player until they can figure out the fifth starter issue.

This writer’s vote goes to…Robinson Cancel.


The 6’0”, 195 (yeah, right) pound catcher is hitting .280 this spring. He has shown homerun power, and is a right-handed bat—something the Mets could use off the bench.  Willie has also been giving him some playing time at first base and left field.  Cancel’s minor league resume shows experience behind the plate and at all four corners.

Why Cancel?

Both Brian Schneider and Ramon Castro are bothered by leg injuries.  Carlos Delgado has had a bum hip and nearly got impaled with a bat this past weekend.  Damion Easley may have to help out at second depending on Luis Castillo’s health or in the outfield depending on Ryan Church’s ability to hit left-handed pitching.

Yes, veteran Raul Casanova is hitting .300 this spring and has more major league experience, but he acks Cancel’s versatility.

The other spot that is up for grabs would be Duaner Sanchez’s bullpen slot. Yes, Sanchez is recovered from his 2006 taxi cab injuries, but has been ineffective this spring, putting up a 6.75 ERA this spring, and more alarmingly has needed long stretched between outings. These are not characteristics of a late-inning setup guy.

So, the logical thing is to find another righty who can work out of the pen frequently.  Joe Smith’s name comes to mind, but he is also struggling this spring, sporting a 9.00 ERA. 

Non-roster invitee Nelson Figueroa has had periods of brilliance, but the Mets may be better off starting him in AAA and waiting to see if he can handle that level.

The guy that could take this spot is Rule V pick Steven Register.  Register led the Texas League in Saves with 37, which is what got the Mets’ attention in the first place. Register has had an up-and-down spring, but has good stuff and is worth the Mets giving him a look before letting rival Colorado take him back.