The Mets: It's Time to Get Real About Nelson Figueroa

Dave DoyleCorrespondent IApril 12, 2008

Now that we’ve come down from the dream story that Nelson Figueroa was last night, it’s time to get real about his roster spot. I’ve read and heard so much from the media and blogs about the “Hometown boy makes good” story. SNY went on ad nauseam about the tale.

If you read my blog regularly, you saw that I wrote that Figueroa pitched a wonderful game last night. I really like his stuff and composure on the mound. He’s obviously got terrific family and friends pulling for him (as were all Mets fans). I loved what I saw from him last night.

That being said, Figueroa’s spot on the roster is going to call for some decisions in the future. Part of his value is that he’s only working on a one-year minor league contract. That gives the Mets flexibility to move him up and down from the minors. There aren’t too many players on the roster with that kind of flexibility.

When Pedro Martinez, Duaner Sanchez, and Orlando Hernandez come back to the team , the Mets will have to make some room. I guess Carlos Muniz would be the first player to go down to the minors when Sanchez comes back as early as Tuesday.

Martinez and Hernandez may not be back for quite some time. When they do come back, Figueroa’s roster spot will become much more precarious. The Mets management will be forced to make a decision between keeping Mike Pelfrey and Figueroa on the major league roster.

Take a look at the Mets active roster here. Who do you think should leave when Martinez comes back?

It would seem that Figueroa and Pelfrey will be competing for the one open roster spot when Martinez returns. I like that Pelfrey has someone with some talent that’s pushing him to focus and throw strikes.

Frankly, I like Figueroa for the swing man role better than Jorge Sosa, but that’s not going to happen. Sosa’s got a one-year, $2 million major league contract so he’s not going anywhere barring a performance disaster on his part.

The only flexibility outside of the pitchers on the roster is with Brady Clark. He’s also working on a one-year minor league contract but will most likely be sent down when Moises Alou comes back.

If Alou has a setback returning from his hernia surgery, that could give the Mets some flexibility to keep Figueroa and Pelfrey when Martinez returns. But I doubt that the Mets would keep 13 pitchers.

The conclusion is that I like what I saw last night. I believe Figueroa can give Pelfrey a serious threat of being sent back to the minors if he doesn’t consistently pitch well. Even though Pelfrey is one of the Mets' top prospects, the Mets need to win games now and Figueroa might be a better option for this season.

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