Mets Roster Just As Set As When Camp Began

Most teams come in to spring training with several questions with regards to the composition of their roster. There are teams with many questions and others have only some. Seldom does a team know exactly how their entire roster should look before spring training starts. You can make a case that Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins and the New York Mets had a set 25 players for their team before players gathered here in Port St. Lucie.

Prior to this season, I had gone to spring training earlier, usually within the first two weeks of live games. This year, I arrived March 20th and will be leaving as soon as I am done with this post. I got to see a lot more regular players as the Mets made their first round of cuts on 3/20, just as I made my way into my hotel. The major question I had, as well as every other fan, was “what is the health of LHP Johan Santana?”.  So far, its been good news on Santana, who is recovering from shoulder surgery on a torn capsule muscle. He has responded to pitching every fifth day and is on track for opening day. In the two starts I saw him pitch, he even showed glimpses of the old Johan Santana, who was one of the best pitchers in the game when the Mets acquired him from the Twins before the 2008 season.

Had things not gone well with Santana, the Mets were not prepared. Miguel Batista would have been their 5th starter, with very little to back him up. The Mets signed Chris Young, who is recovering quickly from having the same surgery as Santana, as an insurance policy and he provides the most major league experience not named Batista. Batista will make the team, but not without help from DJ Carrasco, who was slated to make the team before an injury likely puts him on the disabled list to start the season. LHP Tim Byrdak, who may be back as soon as the second series of the season, freed up a spot for a left handed specialist, likely to be Daniel Herrera. As expected, the Mets rotation will be Santana, RA Dickey, Jonathon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee. The bullpen will be Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Acosta, Bobby Parnell, Herrera (until Byrdak returns) and Batista (until Carrasco returns).

The Mets starting lineup is as set as it was before camp began. The only question that remains involves center fielder Andres Torres, who remains a possibility to be ready to play by opening day. Daniel Murphy has played a decent second base and will lead a middle of the order that includes third baseman David Wright, first baseman Ike Davis, Jason Bay in left, and Lucas Duda in right. Catcher Josh Thole and shortstop Ruben Tejada round out the batting order. The projected place for there to be competition was to be the Mets bench, but that was almost as set in stone as the batting order.

Infielder Justin Turner will be a holdover from last season. The Mets signed shortstop Ronny Cedeno to backup Tejada. Scott Hairston, who missed a good amount of camp with an oblique injury, was re-signed to be a forth outfielder and right handed bat off the bench. The next two spots, where I thought would more competitive, turned out not to be. Mike Nickeas, with little major league experience, was given a clear track to the spot as Mets backup catcher. Former minor leaguers Rob Johnson and Lucas May were strictly brought in to provide depth at AAA, though both showed they can hit. Vinny Rottino, who can catch if needed, has had a great spring and may be the one player to earn an unexpected spot on this team, as he is likely to go north if Torres is not ready to play. Jordany Valdespin, who played very well and intrigued a lot of fans, may be the only player crunched by the numbers game. The Mets felt they have enough infield depth with Turner and Cedeno and felt Valdespin was not a viable option as a backup outfielder. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been injured and Matt den Dekker is simply not ready to hit major league pitching at this point.

That leaves only one spot on the Mets bench. Camp opened with a competition between outfielders Mike Baxter and Adam Loewen, both in on minor league contracts. Baxter had little major league experience last season and Loewen was the converted pitcher who had a good season in 2011 with the Toronto Blue Jays AAA team. Loewen came in with the bigger power bat. Baxter has had a good spring and won the job outright, with Loewen striking out too much to turn any heads. I, as well as many others, felt the Mets could be interested in making an addition at the end of spring training. This will not happen as the Mets will go with what they had going in. For better or for worse, this is the 2012 New York Mets.

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