Another week, another pitching staff issue for the New York Mets...
Last week, the New York Mets were in discussions about how to best handle the loss of Billy Wagner for at least three weeks after their closer went down with elbow inflammation.
This week, the topic of discussion is how the rotation will hold up after John Maine was placed on the disabled list Monday with a bone spur in his shoulder that may end his season prematurely.
Remember, Maine and fellow Mets starter Mike Pelfrey were considered options to fill in as de facto closer in Wagner's absence. Maine was removed from the discussion because his shoulder stiffness was deemed something not to mess with. Pelfrey was nixed because he was simply pitching too well in the rotation.
But, Maine's removal from the rotation handcuffs the Mets in three ways: They lose one of their most dependable starters, they can't afford to rest Pelfrey down the stretch, and they must find a capable replacement for Maine.
Losing Maine, a guy who's won 31 games with a sub-4.00 ERA in less than three years with the Mets, removes a playoff-proven pitcher during a pennant race that has the Mets leading by just 1/2 game, heading into a two-game series with the second-place Philadelphia Phillies beginning Tuesday.
The injury also allows the Mets less flexibility with Pelfrey's innings totals. He has already surpassed his innings total from last season and the Mets were hoping to have him pitch just once a week down the stretch to keep him from eclipsing last year's total by more than 30. That plan has been scrapped and Pelfrey will take the ball every fifth day. But, with the way Pelfrey has thrown the ball since June, it is not the worst problem in the world to have.
Lastly, who is to replace Maine? The first opportunity will likely go to long man Brian Stokes, who was serviceable in one start earlier this season. If he does not grab hold of the opportunity, guys like Nelson Figueroa, Brandon Knight, Bobby Parnell, and Jon Niese may get a shot when the roster expands in September.
Wagner may come back in a couple weeks. Maine, if he comes back in September or October if the Mets make the playoffs, will most likely be a compromised pitcher until off-season surgery can mend his shoulder.
Two sizable holes in the pitching staff need to be filled. The Mets have found a way to tread water this season until their big guns return. How well they hold the fort down in the absence of Wagner and Maine will most likely determine whether the Mets can put last season's collapse behind them and return to the postseason.