Mets: Predicting Whether Carlos Torres Will Lock Down a Rotation Spot in 2014

Mark GoldbergCorrespondent IJuly 25, 2013

Jul 23, 2013; New York, NY, USA;  New York Mets starting pitcher Carlos Torres (52) pitches during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.  Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

In 12 pitching appearances with the New York Mets in 2013, including most recently, two starts, Carlos Torres has posted a 1-1 record with a very impressive 0.94 ERA. In the 28.2 innings he's pitched this year, he has struck out 26 batters while allowing only three earned runs.

When the Mets signed Torres to a minor league contract in November of last year, numbers like those could not have been expected. It may not be surprising that Torres' stats have improved since moving from the hitter's dream that is Coors Field to the cavernous Citi Field, but he has surely exceeded all expectations.

His consistently solid performances since mid-June have begotten some rumblings that Torres should keep his current spot in the starting rotation. As it stands right now, however, when Opening Day starter Jonathan Niese returns from the DL, Torres will likely return to the bullpen.

Before two disastrous starts since the All-Star break, current fifth starter Jeremy Hefner was actually throwing better than just about everyone in baseball. On the night that Torres made his 2013 MLB debut out of the bullpen, Hefner began a streak that saw him post a win in five straight starts while allowing only six earned runs.

Since then, however, Hefner has posted a loss in three straight games, giving up five home runs and 16 earned runs.

Despite his inconsistencies, the Mets are not likely to send Hefner to the pen. Torres, who has already proven that he can be effective as a reliever will go back, and, barring any injuries to starters, stay there for the remainder of the season.

If Torres continues to pitch well out of the bullpen, however, he should warrant consideration for a spot in the rotation in 2014.

The Mets rotation is the brightest part of the improving franchise. Barring any trades or injuries, you can already pencil in Matt Harvey, Jonathan Niese, Zach Wheeler and Dillon Gee as the first four starters for New York in 2014. That leaves one potential spot for Torres.

Embattled team owner Jeff Wilpon has assured fans that the team will have a higher payroll in 2014 (Newsday, via WFAN), but with glaring needs on offense and the bullpen, new starting pitching should not be a priority in free agency.

During Spring Training, therefore, the Mets will likely conduct an open competition for the fifth spot in the rotation with players that they already have. With Shaun Marcum out of the picture (via ESPN), Hefner will be the favorite to win the job heading in, if only based on his experience in 2013.

Meanwhile, Torres' performances in 2013 have already elevated him above the Mets' other young pitchers trying to break into the majors such as Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. In his last start on Tuesday, he threw 96 pitches while allowing only one earned run, proving that he has the stamina to start in the Majors while the other two young starters remain unproven.

All in all, it may be too early to predict whether Carlos Torres will earn a spot in the starting rotation in 2014, but if he continues to pitch the way he has been, one thing is certainly clear: His future will be bright in New York.