Life Without Johan Santana: The 2011 New York Mets Pitching Rotation

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIIMarch 13, 2011

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  R.A. Dickey #43 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

With the rumors slowly gaining more and more credibility, the Mets organization and fans alike are being forced to think about their rotation being without top pitcher Johan Santana at the top of their rotation.

There have been numerous reports leaking out of the Mets clubhouse that Santana's rehabilitation from shoulder surgery hasn't gone exactly as planned and there have been talks about shutting him down for the 2011 season already. According to an unnamed source within the team, there has been no progression seen out of the 2004 AL Cy Young award winner since beginning light throwing sessions.

Assuming that these reports are true and that Santana eventually gets put on the shelf for the season, the Mets are going to need exceptional play from their pitching staff to make up for his absence. Journeyman R.A. Dickey is the most seasoned veteran on the 2011 staff, and was the most productive pitcher on last seasons staff not named Johan Santana.

Dickey posted an 11-9 record in his first season in orange and blue, his most wins in a season throughout his decade-long career. The one-time Texas Ranger also earned a career-best 2.84 ERA in the process. In just one season with the ball club, Dickey has put together a resume that might earn him first in the rotation in Santana's absence.

Mike Pelfrey is the longest tenured Met on the staff entering the new baseball season, spending all five of his season in the MLB with New York. "Big Pelf" also had a productive 2010 season, recording a career high 15 wins with a decent 3.66 ERA over the 33 games in which he started.

That being said, Pelfrey has proven to be an inconsistent hurler over his career with last season being a perfect example. The 6'7" right-hander started the season, winning seven of his first 11 starts and was playing well until July rolled around.

Once the Summer began to heat up, Pelfrey cooled down. He posted an inexcusable 10.04 ERA during the month of July and struggled to regain his early season form through out the remainder of the season.

Jonathon Niese is one of the younger members of the Mets rotation, playing his first full season in the Majors just last season after having his 2009 campaign cut short by a hamstring tear suffered in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Ohio native has impressed many Met fans and organization high ups alike during this year's Spring training, posting a microscopic 1.59 ERA over his first three games started.

Niese has yet to truly hit his stride during his MLB career, and many are wondering if this year will prove to be the breakout season for the young lefty, and with the Mets missing Johan Santana for at least half the season, it couldn't come at a better time.

Rounding out the starting four will be longtime San Diego Padre, Chris Young. Plagued by injuries over the past few seasons, Young hasn't played a full Major League season since 2007. He is ultimately a question mark and a gamble the Mets took on this offseason, with no real way of telling if he'll be able to regain the form that once made him a respectable pitcher at the back end of the Padres' rotation.

With just a few short weeks until Opening Day, the Mets will enter the season with more questions than answers when it comes to their pitching rotation. Santana will not be walking through that clubhouse in full uniform anytime soon, but the New York club and its fans have hope that one of their four starters will have the breakout year needed to replace someone the caliber of their true ace.