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Daniel Murphy is clutch

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

You ever the get the feeling when you’re watching a Mets game that the batter will hit a home run on the next pitch?

Well, I can’t say this is completely true about last night, but I was pretty close.

After the debacle of a call by Marvin Hudson that erased Jose Reyes’ one-out triple, the Mets could have easily folded, just like they’ve been accustomed to doing over the last few years.

That’s the type of call that forces some players to say, “Not tonight boys, we’ll get them tomorrow.”

Daniel Murphy stepped in with two outs and no one on base against a pitcher in Tyler Clippard who has been dominant in the late innings, especially against the Mets.

For some reason, I knew Murphy was going to get a big hit. He kept fouling pitches off, waiting for one he can drive.

On the pitch before he went deep, I said to myself this one is it. And sure enough, another foul.

Then Clippard left a change-up straight down the middle and up in the zone, and Murphy clobbered it.

That is easily the biggest hit of the Mets season so far, and hopefully we can expect many more of those out of Murphy.

Though he was a little late covering second base in the next inning, these are the types of growing pains we will have to deal with as he continues to learn the position. However, if he keeps driving in big runs with clutch hits, I’m sure we can forgive him for some minor defensive lapses.

The great thing about Murphy is that he doesn’t settle for just one come-from-behind win. You can tell that he wants to win every single game he plays.

As we approach the end of April, this winning attitude can hopefully further resonate with the players. The Mets have a big road series in Philadelphia this weekend, so gutting out these gritty wins will be crucial.

This may be a tad premature, but get those pens out and start writing “Daniel Murphy” on the bottom of your All-Star ballot. Current Colorado Rockie, Brad Emaus, represents the Mets at second base on the ballot, so Murphy will have to be a write-in.

In other news, congratulations to Brooklyn-boy, Pedro Beato, for picking up his first Major League win. Also, the Jason Bay winning streak extends to six. Let’s not forget that he started off the ninth inning rally with a single up the middle.

Keep up the exciting play, Mets, and Citi Field will be packed for the next homestand.

Follow me on Twitter @JMMancari.

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Can the Mets please throw some strikes?

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

On the whole, baseball is a simple game. The pitcher takes the ball and throws it over the plate, while the batter either watches it go by, puts the ball in play or swings and misses.

Pretty simple, right?

Well, our beloved Mets have of course found a way to skew the most basic facet of the game: throwing strikes.

Both the Mets’ starters and relievers have struggled with walks in the early going, which has definitely played a factor in the early season losses. The Mets were in most of their games until they were burned by the walk.

On Opening Day right before John Buck hit that morale-crushing grand slam, Mike Pelfrey walked two hitters.

After the Mets overcame a seven-run deficit in Philadelphia last week, Blaine Boyer had a huge walk in the bottom of the fifth which allowed the Phillies to tack on an insurance run.

Last night, Jon Niese walked Seth Smith with one out that later set up early NL-MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki’s three-run homer.

Let me start this off by saying that walks are undoubtedly going to happen. Though pitchers are paid to throw strikes, they sometimes try to get too fancy in spotting their pitches and miss the strikezone.

I can live with a starting pitcher doing this, since he is likely to see each hitter at least 2-3 times per start.

However, we need our relievers to throw strikes. In tight games, walks kill a team, especially walks that lead off an inning. The opposing team can then sacrifice the runner over and then has two chances to drive in the run.

The Mets have a putrid 4.83 bullpen ERA (25th in the league). Even worse, they are second only to the LA Angels with 21 bullpen walks.

The Mets have only played 11 games, so that’s almost two bullpen walks per game, which is unacceptable.

Granted, the Mets bullpen ERA has been ballooned by Boyer’s eight earned runs in just 6.2 innings of work. Luckily, Jason Isringhausen replaced Boyer, and may be able to provide some stability in the pen.

Tim Byrdak and Taylor Buchholz have also struggled with walks. Byrdak has two walks in 4.0 innings, which has played a role in his 9.00 ERA. Buchholz takes the cake, however, with five walks in just 6.2 innings.

Bobby Parnell hasn’t been great throwing strikes either, with three walks in 4.1 innings.

Let’s all just take a deep breath.

One thing the Mets have shown this year is a little bit of fight. They’ve shown they can come back in games (at least to some degree).

However, the team’s efforts are squandered when the bullpen cannot hold the lead. We need guys in the pen that can come in, throw strikes and give the Mets’ bats a chance to either continue their comeback or tack of some insurance runs.

I wonder how patient the Mets will be if the bullpen keeps up these walks. I’m sure there are relievers in the Mets’ system that can throw strikes.

If necessary, bring up the “Boof.”

Follow me on Twitter @JMMancari.

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Mets playing with renewed energy and passion

April 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Energy and passion.

While these two attributes have been lacking from New York Mets baseball for the past few years, the team has shown a year’s worth in just four games.

After the ugly Opening Day loss, the team has responded in a big way. That first game was the type of loss that can bury a team right out of the gate, but the Mets found a way to win the next three, albeit in peculiar fashion on Saturday.

What’s more special is that they started on the road in two stadiums where they are known to struggle: Sun Life Stadium in Miami and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

The Mets didn’t win their first road series last year until mid June when the swept the Baltimore Orioles.

If the Mets can win just one of the next two games (preferably both but they have a better shot tonight against Joe Blanton than tomorrow against Roy Halladay), this first road trip would be everything a Mets fan could ask for.

The team has been stealing bases, taking the extra base on hits and hitting well with runners in scoring position. For example, during last night’s six-run rally in the top of the third inning, the Mets didn’t even have an extra base hit. They instead put together six singles (two by starting pitcher Chris Young which set a news Mets record) and two walks.

The Mets have had success against Cole Hamels, and it was great to see them knock him out early. The hype in Philadelphia may be all about the “four aces” this season, but until they each pitch like an ace, they’re just a regular staff.

Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan and David Wright all seem rejuvenated so far. They must continue to lead by example and create things for the middle of the order.

Though Carlos Beltran is off to a slow start, the players around him are picking up the slack. You have to remember, he played just three games in spring training, so he’s still getting a feel for right field and at the plate.

Terry Collins could possibly consider moving Beltran down in the order to take some of the pressure off him. Ike Davis is off to a hot start and can hit fourth, so Beltran can slide into the fifth or sixth hole (when Jason Bay returns).

While the Mets have only played four games, all of a sudden some of the doubters this season have begun opening their eyes. They may still believe the Mets are destined for a fourth or even fifth-place finish, but they must agree that this energetic play has surprised them.

The diehards, myself included, knew this team could play like this all along. In fact, since the Mets roster may not rival that of the Phillies or Braves, this is the way the Mets will have to play each night to put up wins.

The team seems to be buying into Terry Collins’ philosophy as well.

“One game at a time.”

The New Jersey Devils used this phrase as their motto the last two months as they made a playoff push after a terrible start to their NHL season. While the Devils will come up short of the playoffs, they went on a streak unmatched by any team this year and have now set the bar high for next year.

The Mets can learn something from the Devils: A late season streak is useless if your team is already too far out of contention.

The goal for the Mets will be to take “one game at a time,” and see where it takes them.

Win or lose, all I know is Mets baseball is exciting once again.

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Should Mets start Willie Harris in left field on Opening Day?

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, Terry Collins prefers to use Willie Harris as the Mets’ Opening Day left fielder.

Jason Bay will begin the year on the disabled list and won’t return until April 9 at the earliest.

The Mets will carry young slugger Lucas Duda in Bay’s spot and will expect Duda to start most of the games in left field.

If so, why does it seem that Harris will get the Opening Day nod?

Harris has had a productive spring and rightfully earned a spot on the roster. He showed some pop over the last few weeks and should be a versatile member of the Mets’ bench.

Even so, you might still be asking why the Mets will start Harris when they want Duda to play every day.

The answer is simple: The Mets will be facing Florida Marlins’ ace Josh Johnson—one of the top pitchers in the game—on Opening Day.

Rather than have Duda start the season with a tough outing against Johnson that could crush his confidence, Collins can save Duda for Game 2 against Ricky Nolasco. Though Nolasco is no slouch, Johnson can be unhittable at times.

If the Mets do go with Harris on Opening Day like it seems, the lineup may look similar to this: Reyes, Thole, Wright, Beltran, Davis, Pagan, Harris, Emaus.

As Rubin reported, Collins may want to use Pagan as more of a run producer rather than a table-setter in Bay’s absence. This lineup could do some damage and has a nice combination of speed and power.

While Harris has done everything to earn the spot in the starting lineup, why is Scott Hairston not being considered?

Hairston had a monstrous spring training for the Mets. He hit .345 with four HR and 12 RBI in just 58 at-bats.

Though the games don’t matter, Hairston hit some clutch home runs this spring.

The one drawback from Hairston this spring has been his strikeouts. While he showed good power, he struck out 14 times.

Against a power pitcher in Josh Johnson, the Mets must focus on putting the ball in play and force the Marlins to make plays. The fish have been known to play shoddy defense, so the Mets must capitalize on their mistakes.

Harris is more of a contact threat than Hairston. He can use his speed to manufacture runs, which will be key against Johnson.

Additionally, having the power threat in Hairston available to pinch-hit late in the game can work to the Mets’ advantage. The Mets may need an extra base-hit to start a rally, and Hairston can provide that punch.

Though I’d like to see as much of Lucas Duda as possible the next week and a half, I agree with Collins’ logic here. Allowing Duda to not be overmatched in his first game of the season can go a long way in his development.

Another question you may be thinking about is the following: What happens if Duda absolutely rakes in Bay’s absence?

He would really have to show some good power and drive in a ton of runs early for the Mets to even consider keeping him with the big club. Still, no matter where he is, Duda needs to play every day, especially defensively, to continue improving.

Burying Duda on the Mets’ bench would do him no good. While Carlos Beltran won’t be expected to play every single game, Duda would still have to battle Harris and Hairston for playing time.

These questions and more should be answered as the season progresses.

I’m sure as you’re excited as I am for Opening Day tomorrow. Here’s to a lot of fun in 2011. Win or lose, it’s great to finally have baseball back.

Follow me on Twitter @JMMancari.

Categories: MLB

Zack Greinke and 10 potential pitching busts in 2011

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Pitching is an art form that only few have perfected in baseball history.

Last year, we saw a return to the dominance of pitching, highlighted by Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, Felix Hernandez and Tim Lincecum.

Heading into 2011, expectations are once again high for pitchers.

However, a handful of pitchers that have been hyped up this offseason appear to be prime candidates to flop this year.

Whether it’s new surroundings, injury issues or lack of confidence, these 10 pitchers have the potential to be busts this season.

10. Erik Bedard, Seattle Mariners

Erik Bedard missed all of last season with a torn labrum, but he finally appears healthy this year.

However, that doesn’t mean Bedard will instantly regain his Baltimore Orioles’ form.

Though the Seattle Mariners inked him to a lucrative deal prior to the 2008 season, he has only started 30 games the last three seasons. He signed a one-year non-guaranteed deal with Seattle this offseason.

On a team that isn’t expected to do much this season, Bedard may be considered more of a flop than he’s already been for Seattle.

At least the bright spot for Mariners’ fans is that if Bedard struggles, stud prospect Michael Pineda will receive more attention. Pineda will start the season in the No. 5 slot in Seattle’s rotation.

9. Pedro Feliciano, New York Yankees

Pedro Felicano shifted boroughs from Queens to the Bronx as he will become the lefty specialist for the New York Yankees.

Feliciano signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Bronx Bombers.

However, Feliciano was severely overworked the last three seasons by the New York Mets. He led the National League in appearances with 86, 88 and 92, respectively, the past three years.

Already this spring, Feliciano has experienced triceps soreness and will begin the season on the disabled list.

In a division that includes powerful lefty hitters including David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Luke Scott, Nick Markakis and Adam Lind, a shutdown lefty reliever will be huge for the Yankees.

Feliciano’s overuse may come back to haunt him this season.

8. Mat Latos, San Diego Padres

Mat Latos is coming off a year that saw him go 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA in 32 starts, which established him as the ace of the San Diego Padres’ staff—one of the most underrated in baseball.

He is expected to have another big season this year. After the Adrian Gonzalez trade, the Padres will have to pitch well to make up for their lack of offense.

Latos was recently diagnosed with bursitis in his right shoulder, and will therefore begin the season on the disabled list.

When he does return, there may be added pressure on the young righty to duplicate last season’s performance.

The first step for Latos will be to get healthy so he can avoid being a bust this season.

7. Brad Penny, Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers added veteran starter Brad Penny to provide quality innings in the rotation.

Penny is only four years removed from a 16-4 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007.

However, Penny started just nine game for the St. Louis Cardinals last season after suffering from back issues.

The Tigers signed him to a $3 million deal, despite a string of poor seasons.

Now back in the American League, Penny may be in for a rude awakening, especially against good offensive teams like the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins within the division.

He will start the Tigers’ second game of the season.

6. Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants

It’s quite difficult for Barry Zito to be considered anything but a bust since joining the San Francisco Giants.

Zito signed a seven-year, $126 million contract after 2006, which made him the highest paid pitcher in the game at the time.

He’s had a losing record in each of his four seasons with the Giants. However, San Francisco gave him a vote of confidence this offseason.

He has looked good during spring training, but it will take more than a few spring starts to get Zito back on track.

Luckily for the Giants, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner will be able to pick up Zito’s slack.

5. Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox

Following his Cy Young season in 2007 for the San Diego Padres, the sky appeared to be the limit for the young Jake Peavy.

However, back issues limited him to an unimpressive 7-6 record in 17 starts during 2010.

ESPN’s Baseball Tonight crew expected Peavy to be fully healthy for the start of the season and ready to regain his form.

Though he will start the season on the disabled list, Peavy has been given lofty expectations for 2011. It seems unfair to Peavy, who should be more concerned with returning healthy than dealing with the hype.

He may be considered a bust if he doesn’t live up to those expectations.

4. Baltimore Orioles Starting Staff

The Baltimore Orioles made a huge splash this offseason by adding four significant pieces to their starting lineup.

Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy should provide some punch to Baltimore’s order.

However, the Orioles will rely on an inexperienced group of starting pitchers.

Jeremy Guthrie has been solid the past few seasons, but he will be viewed as the ace of this young staff.

The O’s signed the injury-prone Justin Duchscherer to fill a rotation spot, but he has already been placed on the disabled list.

Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta will all be expected to contribute, and Chris Tillman and star-prospect Zach Britton will be waiting in the wings.

The Orioles may get lucky with these young starters, but they may also waste some strong offensive performances.

3. Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs

Carlos Zambrano rebounded from a tough start in 2010 to finish 11-6 with a 3.33 ERA.

Though he claims his attitude problems are behind him, let’s see if he lives up to that statement.

He has been known for calling out coaches and teammates, which in turn has affected his performance on the mound.

The Chicago Cubs will be relying heavily on Zambrano in their rotation. The Cubs traded for Matt Garza and still have Ryan Dempster, so they have the makings of a strong rotation.

If Zambrano’s emotions get the best of him, he may be a bust this season. If the Cubs struggle, Zambrano would be a likely trade target, though many teams may not want to take on the headache associated with his talent.

2. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

One of the biggest stories this spring training has been the season-ending injury to St. Louis Cardinals’ star pitcher Adam Wainwright.

Wainwright and Chris Carpenter formed arguably the best one-two punch in any starting rotation in the league prior to the injury.

However, with Wainwright on the shelf, the pressure shifts solely to Carpenter to lead the rotation.

Carpenter will turn 36 in April, so he could be a candidate for a decline, especially if he’s overworked in the absence of Wainwright.

Sadly for Carpenter, anything short of a dominant season will be viewed as a bust since he will have high expectations all year.

1. Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers

The trade involving Zack Greinke was one of the most notable of the offseason.

Greinke is coming off a forgetful 2010, but a fresh start with the Milwaukee Brewers seemed like a good remedy.

However, he broke a rib while playing pick-up basketball this spring, forcing him to miss his first few starts.

A rib injury can be nagging for pitchers, since they use their core to create torque in their delivery.

The Kansas City Royals received some good young talent for Greinke, so this deal, as well as Greinke’s season, may be considered a bust.

Categories: MLB

New York Mets: 10 Bold Predictions for April

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

After an offseason filled with financial grumblings, injury troubles and a lack of major offseason acquisitions, the Mets’ expectations heading into 2011 are quite low.

However, if a few things fall into place and the team gets off to a hot start in April, the Mets may have what it takes to be the surprise story of the National League.

The Amazin’s will need to set the tone during their first month to remind the rest of the N.L. East that competitive baseball will be played this year in Flushing.

Here are 10 bold predictions for the month of April that would send a message to league.

10. Mets will beat Josh Johnson Opening Day

A great way to come out of the gates strong would be to win on Opening Day.

The Mets play the Florida Marlins in Miami in their first game. Marlins’ ace Josh Johnson will be on the hill Friday night against Mike Pelfrey for the Mets.

New York defeated Johnson last year on Opening Day, and they will attempt to do it again.

They will need some timely hitting and a clutch first start by Pelfrey to get the job done.

It would only count as one win, but an Opening Day victory would breathe a sigh of relief into the Mets’ clubhouse, especially for new Mets’ manager Terry Collins.

9. Mets take 2-of-3 against Phillies in first series

After three games against the Marlins in Miami, the Mets head north to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies.

This will be the Mets’ first test against the “four aces.” Philadelphia will likely have Cole Hamels start the first game, followed by Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

The Mets can send a quick message to their division rivals by taking two out of three on the road against three superb pitchers.

New York will have to utilize its speed at the top of the order—Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan—to manufacture runs in what should be three tight ballgames.

8. Mets play with renewed sense of energy

One thing we can expect from the Mets this April is a renewed sense of energy.

New manager Terry Collins brings passion and intensity to the dugout and expects nothing less from his players.

Jose Reyes appears revitalized and ready to be a leader of the team.

The Mets have speed at the top of the order, which can create havoc for opposing pitchers. Reyes and Angel Pagan can bunt, hit-and-run and steal bases as well as anyone in the league.

Now that Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez are gone, the team can focus on its job—winning baseball games—rather than dealing with the headaches those two players created.

This new energy should lead to wins.

7. Young and Capuano combine for 5 wins

The Mets signed injury-prone starting pitchers, Chris Young and Chris Capuano, to anchor the back end of the rotation.

These two have been pleasant surprises this spring and will look to continue their success into the regular season.

If Young and Capuano combine to win five games in April, the Mets will be heading in the right direction.

With ace Johan Santana scheduled to miss the entire first half of the season, New York will need steady contributions from Young and Capuano to keep the team in contention.

6. Brad Emaus solidifies second base job

Over the last week of spring training, Brad Emaus began to separate himself from the pack in the second base competition—enough so to win the starting job.

While the Mets wished he would have broke away from the pack much earlier, it’s better late than never.

Daniel Murphy may see some time at second, but the job looks like it’s Emaus’ to lose.

If he continues his strong offensive and defensive play from the past week, Emaus will cement himself as the team’s second baseman.

He can be a force at the bottom of the order, which would help create a balanced lineup.

5. Carlos Beltran will play in almost all of April’s games

After two spring starts in right field, Carlos Beltran will get the Opening Day nod.

He had been dealing with knee tendinitis in his non-surgically repaired knee, which caused him to miss significant time this spring.

However, he seems to be healthy and ready to contribute.

Not only will Beltran play in most of the April games, he will be a productive force—maybe not like his 2006 performance but still a formidable presence in the Mets’ lineup.

Beltran will be a free agent following this season, so he is out to prove that he can still play at a high level.

4. Jason Bay gets hot after returning from DL

Though Jason Bay will start the season on the disabled list with bruised ribs, he is poised for a rebound once he returns.

He will hopefully be activated for the Mets’ first home series at Citi Field. He is scheduled to come off the disabled list April 9.

Bay is itching to get back on the field after a lost season in 2010. He signed a four-year deal with a fifth-year vesting option last winter, so Mets fans also want their left fielder to produce.

He was swinging the bat well before his recent injury this spring.

Bay can send a message to the league that last year was an anomaly, and he is now ready to regain his power stroke.

Bay coupled with David Wright, Ike Davis and a healthy Carlos Beltran can form a dangerous heart of the order for the Mets.

3. R.A. Dicket finished April undefeated

R.A. Dickey was arguably the Mets’ MVP last season after finishing 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA.

He baffled hitters all season with his knuckleball and gave the Mets’ rotation a much-needed shot in the arm.

Dickey had an inconsistent spring, but that was more because he was trying to refine his craft rather than worry about results. This was the first spring training of Dickey’s career in which he had a guaranteed roster spot, allowing him to experiment with his pitches.

He will start the third game of the season, and with a little bit of luck, he will start the year undefeated in April.

Dickey is a competitor, which will allow the other pitchers on the staff to feed off his energy.

2. Mets finish over .500

The Mets will play each of their division rivals, as well as the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks, in the first month of the season.

They play 27 games, so a 15-12 start seems realistic.

New York will have to steal a few games from the Phillies and Braves—on the road no less—to accomplish this record.

A strong homestand against the Astros and Diamondbacks will be a great chance to rack up some wins before squaring off against the Nationals and Phillies to close out the month.

1. Mets finish tied for 2nd place

A 15-12 April record should put the Mets close to or tied for second place in the division.

The teams in the N.L. East all play each other early on, so they are bound to remain close in the standings, unless one team pulls away.

If New York can hang with the Phillies and Braves, the Mets will prove that they should not be treated lightly by the other N.L. East teams.

This is the type of confidence that a team can ride out for the course of a season.

It should be an exciting month, so sit back and enjoy, Mets fans.

Categories: MLB

New York Mets Season Preview

March 28, 2011 1 comment

Citi Field Kids Day

Citi Field Kids Day

After an offseason clouded by financial issues, injuries and the debate over whether to release Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, the New York Mets are finally ready for baseball this season.

Expectations aren’t exactly high, especially since the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves appear ready to duke it out for bragging rights in the N.L. East. However, if a few things fall perfectly into place, the Mets can be a surprise team in the National League this season.

It’s been 25 years since the ball trickled through Bill Buckner’s legs, which eventually led to the Mets’ 1986 World Championship. Though that span may increase at this year’s end, the Mets will be out to prove that they are back on the right track after a few poor seasons.

The Amazin’s brought in Sandy Alderson to be their new general manager. Alderson is a baseball guy, who operates on the “Moneyball” theory. He looks for the intrinsic value of players like their ability to draw walks which leads to higher on-base percentages and, in turn, chances to score runs.

Omar Minaya left this franchise with many holes that Alderson is responsible for filling. Sandy has done a decent job withthe limited resources the Mets had to work with.

Alderson’s first responsibility was filling the void of manager. After two and half seasons, the Mets’ patience ran out with the laid-back Jerry Manuel. Granted, Manuel was forced to deal with a rash of injuries throughout his Mets’ tenure, but the team still underperformed.

The team hired the fiery Terry Collins, who had managed the Anaheim Angels and Houston Astros. He served as a minor league instructor for the Mets last season, so he gained a familiarity with some of the Mets’ talented prospects.

Collins brings experience and attitude to the Mets dugout, where he will not be afraid to light a fire under his players.

After securing Collins, Alderson brought in a few veterans—albeit some injury risks—to sure up the roster. The Mets will have a new look pitching staff heading into the season.

Mets’ ace Johan Santana will be sidelines until at least the All-Star break, so the starting staff will have to perform well to make up Santana’s production. Mike Pelfrey, who pitched well last season except for one brief stretch, will get the nod on Opening Day. He appears ready to take the next step in his career.

R.A. Dickey is out to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. If he gets his knuckleball working, he can have another big season. Young lefty Jon Niese is also geared for a big performance.

Chris Young and Chris Capuano will round out the Mets rotation. Both have been plagued by injuries the last few seasons, but they have rediscovered themselves this spring. These two can provide a shot in the arm for the other pitchers, similar to what Dickey did last year.

In the bullpen, the Mets added D.J. Carrasco, Tim Byrdak, Jason Isringhausen and Taylor Buchholz to provide some consistency late in games. Francisco Rodriguez has thrown the ball very well this spring. Coming off his incident last year, K-Rod appears to have put his demons behind him and will be prepared to be a dominant force for the Mets late in games. The Mets are likely to be involved in many close games this year, so having a shutdown closer will be key.

Once again, injury issues surround Carlos Beltran. While he’s trying hard to be ready for Opening Day, the Mets would ratherhe takes his time to recover so he’s healthy for the long haul.

If the lineup can remain consistent and capitalize on their opportunities, the Mets have the potential to score a good deal of runs. Jose Reyes is in a contract year, so he will be out to prove that he is healthy and worthy of a multi-year deal. Reyes is the most dynamic leadoff hitter in the game when focused on baseball.

Angel Pagan and David Wright are coming off big seasons in 2010 and will look to stabilize the top of the Mets’ order. The real question marks will like with Beltran and Jason Bay in the middle.

Bay signed a four-year deal with a fifth-year vesting option last winter, and he completely flopped in his first season. He had trouble adjusting to Citi Field and saw his power stroke disappear. In late July, he suffered a concussion that shut him down for the rest of the season. Bay has hit well this spring and will need to stay hot heading into the season.

Ike Davis will be another cog in the Mets’ success. He hit 19 home runs as a rookie last year and appears ready for a breakout season.

Josh Thole and Brad Emaus should round out the batting order.

Consistent play from their pitchers and hitters will allow the Mets to play good baseball this season. They’ve been written off early, but the new leadership will show that this team is heading in the right direction.

Projected Finish: 84-78, Third Place N.L. East

Categories: MLB