Last year, the Mets' bullpen was handed the responsibility of carrying the team through what should have been an uneventful September.
With 17 games to go, the Mets had a seven-game lead over the Phillies in the NL East. By Oct. 1, they were in second place by a game and out of the playoffs.
The bullpen was burned out and beat up by late season and was not up to the task. Needless to say, some everyday players chose the wrong time to slump as well. This meltdown has left the Mets and their fans in a dire funk.
Well, now it is a new season. Johan Santana is aboard and the Mets seem to have an overage of starting pitching. Santana is joined in the rotation by Pedro Martinez, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and either Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez or former first round pick Mike Pelfrey.
If Pelfrey wins the job, Duque will be shifted to the bullpen. If Duque is chosen as the fifth starter, Pelfrey will most likely spend April in New Orleans.
GM Omar Minaya has also been reworking the bullpen.
Back for another season are closer Billy Wagner; set-up man Aaron Heilman; and lefty middle relievers Pedro Feliciano, Scott Schoenweis, and Jorge Sosa. If Pelfrey gets the fifth spot in the rotation, Duque will be here as well. That leaves only one spot for the bevy of new and old faces to vie for.
Let's look at the old faces first.
Joe Smith will certainly be back with a vengeance. So will Juan Padilla and Duaner Sanchez—both who are coming off arm injuries.
Then there are the new faces: Matt Wise, Brian Stokes, Ruddy Lugo, and Tony Armas, Jr. Minaya likes all four of these guys.
The depth of the bullpen, which was a problem last season, should not be a problem this year. The mindset is to rotate players between New Orleans and New York to provide relief (no pun intended) so the group does not get overtaxed again.
Then, of course, the addition of Santana should give the pen a break as well. With him pitching deeper into games, the innings lost by the subtraction of Tom Glavine should be recovered and then some. Also, Maine and Perez will most likely be given more chances to finish games.
So there you have it. Not much suspense...until the season starts, anyway.
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