Jon Niese is scheduled to have his second MRI exam of the spring today, and with Opening Day two weeks away it’s doubtful he’ll make his scheduled start.
Niese got a late start this spring because of shoulder soreness. He pitched two inning in a Grapefruit League game on March 11th and didn’t appear sharp. His fastball topped out at 89 mph, but manager Terry Collins didn’t seem too worried.
Sunday, Niese lasted two innings against the St. Louis Cardinals before leaving with a sore left elbow. In a total of four innings this spring, he has allowed six runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out just one batter.
While both Niese and the Mets have downplayed the severity of the injury, it’s hard not to be concerned. He missed seven weeks last season with a partial tear of his rotator cuff, and Niese has only come close to the 200 inning mark once in his professional career.
This is just another reminder of the fragility of pitchers. This weekend, the Arizona Diamondbacks learned that they’d probably be without ace starter Patrick Corbin this season. The Atlanta Braves should find out today if Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachywill need season-ending Tommy John surgery. And of course the only reason that Niese was in line for the Opening Day assignment this year was that Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery last October.
As excited as we can get about a pitching rotation with Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard in it sometime in 2015, a lot of things can keep it from happening.
The primary challenger to Davis for the first base job is Lucas Duda, and he’s been out of action for most of the past week with a hamstring injury. He managed a double and a home run in seven at-bats before landing on the injury report.
Neither candidate has been able to stay on the field long enough to win the job.
At shortstop, Ruben Tejada looks like a man who’s confidence has been shaken by all his unnamed critics in the Mets’ organization. He certainly hasn’t impressed, and I will be shocked if he isn’t booed loudly during Opening Day introductions at Citi Field.
To data, stopgap veteran Omar Quintanilla has gotten the most playing time at shortstop this spring: 30 innings in five games. Tejada’s played there in 26 innings over four games, and career minor leaguer Anthony Seratelli has 21 innings in five games. Despite all of the early camp discussion of giving Wilmer Flores a chance to play there, he’s only gotten six innings over two games.
That’s not really showing much of a commitment to anyone.
The Seattle Mariners continue to send scouts to Mets games, so there has almost certainly been at least some discussion about a trade involving Mariners infielder Nick Franklin… but the cost in prospects is likely to be high. Will Sandy Alderson be willing to pay it? Should he? My Magic 8-Ball says “Ask again later.”
One area where clarity does seem to be developing is the starting rotation. Daisuke Matsuzaka seems to be the favorite for the fifth spot, though it’s still too early to say with any certainty and I disagree with the choice. His main competition, veteran John Lannan and youngster Jenrry Mejia, seem to be getting consideration for the Mets’ bullpen.
And though Mejia wants to start, it looks more like the Mets are considering him for the bullpen. Consider that Dillon Gee pitched four innings in a “B” game on Monday morning, while Mejia worked two innings in relief of him.
There’s still time for everything to shake out, and Opening Day lineups matter more to fans than they probably should anyway. Just ask Collin Cowgill.
The New York Mets announced that they signed former Washington Nationals pitcher John Lannan to a minor league contract on Saturday.
Lannan, 29, is expected to compete with Jenrry Mejia for the fifth spot in the starting rotation and allow prospects like Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom more time to develop in the minor leagues.
I like Lannan – he pitches fast and gets ground balls, so he’s basically the anti-Daisuke Matsuzka.
However, Lannan had a bad year in 2013. Two separate trips to the disabled list with a knee injury limited him to just 85.1 innings last year, and he did not enjoy a lot of success with the Phillies when he was able to take the mound.
Sandy Alderson seems to have learned a lesson from his experiences with Shaun Marcum and Chris Young – Lannan has a minor league deal and will have to earn his way onto the major league roster. It seems like a nice low risk, moderate reward signing to me.
The Mets also brought back Omar Quintanilla on a minor league deal, which seems like a signal that Ruben Tejada will open the year as the starting shortstop. With Justin Turner non-tendered, the only other player on the Mets’ roster with shortstop experience is Wilfredo Tovar. Quintanilla is likely to either win the backup role outright so Tovar can get regular playing time in Triple-A, or compete with Tovar for that roster spot.
If someone like Stephen Drew was a realistic option to take the starting job away from Tejada, there’d be no need for Quintanilla – which was probably the reason he was non-tendered earlier this off-season. I really would have liked the Mets to spend the money on Drew since they don’t have any legitimate shortstop prospects in the upper minors, but Alderson can only work with the budget he’s given.