The starting rotation is clearly Johan, Pelf, Ollie, and Maine, and after that should be Takahashi. Nieve has not grabbed the spot, and with his age and inexperience, Niese should be sent down to develop along with Davis, Mejia, FMart, Thole, and the rest of the Junior Core.
The pen probably will be KRod, Igarashi, Parnell, Feliciano, Calero, Nieve, and Misch, which covers all bases and allows lots of flexibility.
If Takahashi cannot hack it, then he and Nieve switch spots. After this, we can look at Misch then Niese, and then, if we absolutely have to, the awful Figueroa, who hopefully will not see another chance; if everyone above him pitches well, this would be the best outcome. Figueroa could be a decent starter if every start was in spring training or the last day of the year against a team which has quit, but he could never be counted on out of the pen, and hopefully will be sent down where he will remain, to tutor the Buffalo staff all summer long.
This leaves the bench, which will clearly have Gary Matthews Jr, Fernando Tatis, and Henry Blanco, leaving two spots.
The need for a backup middle infielder who can play shortstop will have a large role in dictating the pre-Reyes-return outcome here. Russ Adams has experience, all of it mediocre in every way. His last stint as a major league shortstop, in Toronto in 2006, produced 10 errors in 36 games. Next. Tejada showed strides ranging from good to great in every aspect of his game in the move from A ball in 2008 to AA ball in 2009. Does this show that he is definitely ready for prime time? Absolutely not. But in the spot the Mets are in, it clearly shows enough promise to let him be a backup or a platoon shortstop for the hopefully short time that Reyes will remain inactive. As soon as Reyes returns, let Tejada continue his impressive march through the system in Buffalo.
Frank Catalanotto can play RF, LF, 1B and 2B, and can hit and get on base. It seems that he clearly fits a lot of role-player roles, and should be the last man.
Matthews Jr., Tatis, Blanco, Tejada, and Catalanotto. The return of Reyes sends Tejada to AAA, and the return of Beltran probably means the release of Catalanotto or the trading of Matthews Jr. or Pagan.
Why have Jacobs on the team? He cannot play another position, is useless as a defensive replacement or pinch runner, and can he be expected to be a serious power threat as a late-inning pinch hitter, facing one of the opponent’s best relievers, with half his games in Citi? At least Catalanotto can possibly draw a walk or get a single.
As we seemingly all agree on, much, if not nearly everything, depends on the 2-3-4 spots in the rotation. If Pelf, Ollie, and Maine can somehow all win in double figures and give 6 or 7 innings most of their starts, the rest of the debates become much less momentous. However, if one or more of them fail significantly, the 5th starter, last bullpen spots, and bench could become of paramount importance; especially when one recalls the margin of missing the playoffs in 2007 and 2008.
It says here that us fans may suddenly have realized that despite the often unfair vilification Omar receives, that we may indeed have a fantastic crop of youngsters ready to make the spring of 2011 potentially exhilirating. But they should all start off the year in Buffalo, with the exception of Tejada, and even in his case, only as a temporary fix. Omar’s comments seem to recognize this, and his amassing of these players, as well as his wisdom in not rushing them ahead of their time, should be appreciated by the serious fan.
This writer is ready for opening day to erase the 2009 nightmare once and for all, and to see if maybe this year’s team can surprise us in ways dramatically different from the surprises we were presented with in 2009.