PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Johan Santana has resumed throwing from a mound and Opening Day remains the target, but for Round 2 of our roster projections, let’s put Santana on the DL, at least for the first six days of the season. Santana would then join Frank Francisco, who in all likelihood will open the season on the DL as he slowly works back from elbow inflammation.
What might the Opening Day roster look like then?
Let’s start with the givens in the rotation:
If Santana were only to miss the first six days of the season, the Mets could get by with simply carrying an extra reliever. But let’s put 5. Jeremy Hefner as the beneficiary of Santana’s issue since he’s a guy who can work in either the rotation or relief (and he's on the 40-man roster, as opposed to Aaron Laffey).
9. LaTroy Hawkins and 10. Scott Atchison are on minor league deals, but both are projected to make the roster, too. Hawkins first appears in a “B” game Tuesday. Atchison has been receiving favorable early marks from scouts.
Pedro Feliciano also is scheduled to pitch in Tuesday’s “B” game in Jupiter, while wearing a heart monitor. There’s no certainty he can display anything close to his 2010 form, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and the No. 11 spot for now.
That leaves one more bullpen hole. And given the Mets’ 40-man roster situation, it likely would be a player already on the roster. So the primary considerations may be Jeurys Familia and Greg Burke (as well as Hefner if Santana ended up being ready). Terry Collins does seem fascinated with the submarine-throwing Burke, so let’s give him a shaky nod for No. 12 to round out the pitching staff.
On the position-player side, the starting infield is easy, even though Daniel Murphy (side) has yet to appear in a game: No. 13 John Buck, No. 14 Ike Davis, No. 15 Murphy, No. 16 Ruben Tejada and No. 17 David Wright.
So who rounds out the outfield?
It was supposed to clearly be Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the complement to Cowgill, but Nieuwenhuis is off to a slow start, and now has a knee injury. So it may not be a leap to project No. 22 Jordany Valdespin on the roster instead.
Valdespin would otherwise have a difficult time getting on the roster without No. 23 Justin Turner getting traded, which is not outside the realm of possibility, especially with the Mets needing to open up 40-man roster spots.
The only viable backup shortstops are Brandon Hicks and Omar Quintanilla (not Valdespin or Turner), so one has to be on the roster. Hicks is the one on the 40, but if early Grapefruit League play has any say, look for Quintanilla to become No. 24 and Hicks to end up on waivers.