Can Johan Santana stay healthy in 2013?
Pitchers and catchers have reported to the New York Mets' spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, FL, and position players are scheduled to report by Saturday. Several position players, including David Wright and Ruben Tejada, have reported already in hopes of getting a jump-start to their 2013 campaign.
It's a rite of spring to be optimistic during spring training. How confident can Mets fans be following the Met's second-half collapse and dismal 74-88 fourth-place finish in the National League East last season? That depends on the answers to several questions.
- Is Johan Santana healthy heading into the final year of his contract?
- Will Matt Harvey sustain the success he had in 2012?
- Can Frank Francisco rebound from injury and a disappointing performance to be an effective shut-down closer in the bullpen?
- When will top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud make his big-league debut?
- Can Lucas Duda bounce back from a poor 2012 season?
These are just a few of the many questions that need to be answered.
That's been very typical of the Mets in recent spring training camps. With that being said, let's take a look at the latest news and hot topics emanating from the Sunshine State.
The biggest news in the Mets' camp is that Bobby Parnell is the favorite to be New York's closer until Frank Francisco is ready to reclaim his role. Francisco underwent surgery last December to remove a bone spur in his right elbow.
Francisco currently has inflammation in the elbow and will not be cleared to pitch until the inflammation subsides. According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, manager Terry Collins said yesterday afternoon that Francisco will not pick up a baseball for two weeks. Francisco did, however, participate in pitcher fielding drills yesterday.
Francisco had a disappointing 2012 campaign as the Mets closer, posting a 5.53 ERA and a brutal 1.61 WHIP. He had 23 saves but quite often was lit up like a Christmas tree and had to be pulled in save situations.
The 28-year-old Parnell has had several auditions for the closer role during his career, and the results have been mixed.
He garnered seven saves last season in 12 opportunities and owned a 2.49 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. His WHIP was a solid 1.24. He finished last season on a very strong note, compiling a 3-1 record with a a 0.51 ERA over his final 17 games.
Newly-signed free agent Brandon Lyon is the other candidate to close games, but Parnell is the clear favorite at this point if Francisco needs to begin the season on the disabled list.
Santana only did some long tossing yesterday instead of throwing from the mound, according to Michael Baron of metsblog.com. He is not expected to take the mound until sometime this weekend. It will be the first time the Mets ace southpaw will take the hill since being sidelined last August with lower-back inflammation.
Santana was 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA in 21 starts for New York last year. It is looking doubtful that he'll be pitching for his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic next month. The Mets have veto power over whether he can participate.
Santana is in the final year of his contract and is owed $25.5 million in 2013.
Zack Wheeler, who is slated to open the season at AAA Las Vegas, threw about 40 pitches in a formal bullpen session yesterday and looked impressive, according to Baron.
If he pitches well in AAA, Wheeler should be on the fast track to the majors. He was 12-8 with a 3.26 ERA split between AA Binghamton and AAA Buffalo last year.
Righthander Jenrry Mejia is still not in camp due to visa issues relating to a review of his age and identity. It's not known what day he'll report. When he does report to Port St. Lucie, he'll work as a starting pitcher.
Daniel Murphy was seen working hard (as usual) at second base yesterday, according to Baron.
Murphy will never remind anyone of Roberto Alomar, but he played better defensively than a lot of people expected last season. Despite committing 15 errors, Murphy showed decent range and made some fine plays from time to time. No one works harder, and Mets management does not seem as concerned about his defense as they were last spring.
Murphy will most likely bat second in New York's batting order at this point and is coming off a 6/65/.291 campaign. A line-drive hitter, the Mets would like to see him improve his power numbers a little bit.
As reported yesterday (via Jorge Castilo of The Star-Ledger), Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon dropped by the camp and told the media that the Wilpon family is clear of past financial issues. Moreover, general manager Sandy Alderson has the financial flexibility to pursue major free agents in the future.
That's music to Mets fans' ears.
New York will be rid of Santana's and the now-departed Jason Bay's ridiculous contracts later this year, and hopefully, they can invest some cash in improving their dismal outfield.
Let's face it—the Mets probably have the worst outfield in baseball right now. However, the building blocks for future success appear to be there: Wheeler, Harvey, Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee are talented young hurlers. David Wright is the iconic cornerstone of the franchise, and Ike Davis has the potential to hit 35-40 home runs this season.
There is still a long way to go, but it appears the Mets are headed in the right direction.
Progress can be slow and frustrating, but the best way to compete for a World Series title is with good pitching. And that is the blueprint that Alderson is using to hopefully bring the Mets back to prominence before too long.