The bullpen was a major part of the Mets’ success last year. However, of the seven projected spots, there are only four givens. I take a look at the bullpen in The Journal News today.
By JOHN DELCOS
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: March 6, 2007)
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – It was a major factor in the Mets’ rise last season and again is regarded a team strength.
Still, when one looks at the Mets’ bullpen, there are no more than four spots locked up, with three to be decided.
Closer Billy Wagner, set-up man Aaron Heilman and left-hander Scott Schoeneweis are the givens.
Lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano would be the fourth.
A debate could be made with everybody else.
“We put a premium on our bullpen,” bullpen coach Guy Conti said. “What we lost will be difficult to replace.
“Darren Oliver ate up a lot of innings for us. He gave us multiple innings in games when the starter went out early, and that let us save the bullpen for the next two or three games.
“We lost a ground-ball guy in Chad Bradford, who got us a lot of double plays. And we lost a power arm in the late innings with Roberto Hernandez.”
Also, the Mets are without Guillermo Mota, who will miss the first 50 games while serving a suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s substance abuse policy, and likely will be without eighth-inning set-up man Duaner Sanchez, whose recovery from shoulder surgery isn’t coming along as quickly as hoped.
“I thought our bullpen was really good last year,” said Bradford, now with the Baltimore Orioles.
“I thought they would try to keep us intact. It didn’t work out that way. But how often are you really able to do that?”
General manager Omar Minaya said the team has in mind its possible replacement options.
Sanchez is still on a long-toss throwing program, now up to 160 feet, and playing catch on flat ground.
However, what about throwing off the mound?
“I don’t know,” Sanchez said in quiet tones. “I do want to be there (for Opening Day), but I am still taking my time.”
Minaya said if Sanchez isn’t throwing in a game from between March 15-20, then he likely won’t be ready for the start of the season.
Assuming that’s the case, Heilman would get Sanchez’s role and Joe Smith could have a chance to take his spot on the roster.
Minaya said the Oliver role “would be one of the guys going for the fifth starter job.”
Jorge Sosa said he’s here to be a starter, but he has experience at both. So does lefthander Jason Vargas.
Minaya said rookie prospects Mike Pelfrey and Phil Humber would not be considered in this capacity because it is more important for them to get regular innings on the Triple-A level.
Sosa’s relief experience makes it more probable for him to work out of the bullpen and that Chan Ho Park would get the fifth starter job.
The power arm figures to be Ambiorix Burgos, and the pitcher to get the double play could be Schoeneweis, Feliciano and possibly Smith.
Manager Willie Randolph likes Schoeneweis because of his versatility.
“He’s got good stuff,” Randolph said. “He’s not just a lefty specialist. He can get righties out, too.”
Smith’s motion makes him intriguing, in that it comes from the side like Bradford, but not as pronounced.
“I’m doing everything I can to stay up here,” said Smith, who walked one in two innings in yesterday’s 2-1 loss to Cleveland.
The Mets figure to carry seven relievers. Wagner, Heilman and Schoeneweis will be there, and most likely Feliciano.
That leaves three spots to be filled from the pool of Sosa, Vargas, Burgos, Smith, Jon Adkins and Juan Padilla, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Randolph said it is premature to label guys, but in act