Short on Consistency, Nelson Figueroa Might Be a Long-Term N.Y. Mets Solution

Joe FiorelloCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2009

CHICAGO - AUGUST 30: Starting pitcher Nelson Figueroa #27 of the New York Mets delivers the ball against the Chicago Cubs on August 30, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Nelson Figueroa’s welcome back to the majors at the beginning of this month was not a success in any way, shape, or form. He lasted 1.2 innings, giving up 10 hits, six earned runs, and three homers.

He was immediately designated to the bullpen and would probably still be there without the injuries that have ravaged the pitching staff.

In his first relief appearance, a mere two days after his horrendous start, Figueroa picked up a win, throwing 4.1 scoreless innings and striking out five without any walks in relief of the injured Jon Niese after he tore his hamstring.

All in all, since his bad start, Figueroa has made six relief appearances, throwing 12.1 innings and giving up five earned runs while walking five and striking out 14. Nothing outstanding, but consistently decent in a relief role.

Figueroa was moved back to the rotation on Aug. 25, where he put in a losing effort against the Florida Marlins. He threw a solid five innings, only giving up one earned run, but the Mets were unable to back him up, only plating one and making two errors that cost the team and Figueroa the game.

He seemed to find whatever he’s been looking for yesterday in what was the best start of his journeyman career.

He threw seven strong innings, only giving up six hits and two walks, while striking out a career-high 10 batters. His stuff looked great throughout the game, working his fastball on both sides of the plate and throwing his off-speed pitches effectively both for strikes and for swings and misses.

Figueroa has been a bit of a mystery in his time with the Mets. He seems to pitch well enough to get a win in most of his starts, but rarely does. He’s 5-6 overall in his two seasons with the Mets in 10 starts and 26 appearances. He’s got a 4.54 ERA with the team since he came back in 2008. An ERA under 5.00 is something most Mets starters can’t brag about this year.

So the question that needs to be asked is, should Figueroa be a part of the plan for starting pitching next season?

The answer is, I’m not sure...

I think he’d be a good sixth starter (i.e. someone there to fill a spot or pitch some long relief), but nothing more. The problem is his inconsistency and the fact that he’s already 35 years old. He hasn’t been able to pull it all together so far, why should we be fooled into thinking he can do it now?

However, if he can string together some starts like the one he put together yesterday to end this season, he might pitch himself onto the 2010 roster.

As usual, I’d love for Nelson to prove me wrong, but looking back on his career, I’m not counting on it. He’ll likely remain in the Mets organization for his remaining years but will get some frequent flier miles traveling back and forth between Flushing and Buffalo.