Pitching Preview: Well-armed minus Harvey

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
8:30
AM ET

Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsMatt Harvey is likely to miss the entire 2014 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Zack Wheeler does not minimize the impact of the absence of Matt Harvey for the 2014 season while the ace rehabs from Oct. 22 Tommy John surgery.

“That’s definitely a huge hit,” Wheeler said Monday. “He was a big part of our rotation, obviously. There’s nothing you can really do. Everybody has just got to step up a little bit and pitch a little bit better and just go out there and perform and try to give our team the best chance to win.”

Can Wheeler do this season what Harvey did last year, when he produced a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts?

“I’m going to go out there and do the best that I can,” Wheeler said. “That was him last year, and this is me this year.”

Here are five questions about the pitching as ESPNNewYork.com takes a three-part look at the organization entering the 2014 season:

1. Is the rotation still formidable without Harvey?

In a word: Yes.

The Mets signed Bartolo Colon to a two-year, $20 million deal during the winter meetings, which definitely should soften the blow of Harvey’s loss.

Colon’s 2.65 ERA trailed only Anibal Sanchez (2.57) among American League qualifiers last season -- although the hefty Colon does turn 41 on May 24, so he must hit a wall at some point, no?

The Mets now get a full season from Wheeler, although asking him to produce at Harvey’s level is a lot. Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee are formidable rotation pieces. And there are plenty of choices among fifth-starter candidates for one to be successful.

“It’s a very strong rotation, I think, especially with Bartolo coming over,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “He’s such a good pitcher and a dominant pitcher. And along with Jon, Dillon and Zack and whoever gets the fifth spot, we’re looking good this year. And I think we’re going to do some amazing things.”

2. Who wins the fifth starter’s spot?

Typically, the veteran gets the nod early on, with the prospects with options (or not even yet on the 40-man roster) heading to Triple-A. If that is the case, Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan should slug it out in spring training for the fifth spot, with Jenrry Mejia also a candidate.

That means Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero much more likely start in Triple-A.

Both Dice-K and Lannan are in camp on minor-league deals. They have June “outs” in their contracts if not promoted to the majors by then.

Matsuzaka had a 10.95 ERA in his first three starts with the Mets, then a 1.37 ERA over his final four starts. Lannan, originally from Long Beach on Long Island, dealt with a knee issue last season while making 14 starts for the Philadelphia Phillies and producing a 5.33 ERA.

3. Is Parnell OK?

Bobby Parnell underwent surgery Sept. 10 to repair a herniated disk in his neck. He plans to get on a mound for the first time to throw a bullpen session in two weeks.

So far, so good as far as his rehab, but let’s wait until he airs out fastballs to pronounce him fully recovered.

The issue: Right now, the Mets do not have much of a safety net at closer if Parnell is not OK.

Vic Black, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the John Buck/Marlon Byrd trade, would appear the alternative closer right now. The Mets also signed Kyle Farnsworth to a minor-league deal.

They Mets remain in the market for one more late-inning reliever, and watched Joel Hanrahan throw Friday. There is uncertainty within the organization whether another arm ultimately will be signed, though. And the desire would be to bring in that veteran reliever on a minor-league deal if it materializes.

4. How will the bullpen fare?

Unless the Mets hit the jackpot and get similar production and value from Farnsworth as they did from LaTroy Hawkins last season, this could be an issue. Behind Parnell, there is Black, Farnsworth, Jeurys Familia, Gonzalez Germen, Ryan Reid, Scott Rice and Josh Edgin, plus a smattering of other signings on minor-league deals.

Mets officials do not discount bringing a rookie north in the bullpen. That could be Double-A closer Jeff Walters or lefty reliever Jack Leathersich, provided Leathersich keeps his walks in check. Don't even count out Montero.

5. When is Syndergaard getting promoted?

This is a business, and delaying Noah Syndergaard’s arbitration eligibility by a season is in all likelihood a priority. That means no earlier than a mid-June promotion for Syndergaard. Wheeler, fueled by the same motivation, debuted in Atlanta on June 18 last year. (There is no set promotion date to prevent a prospect from becoming a Super 2; a team instead needs to avoid having its call-up be in the top 22 percent in MLB service time.)

Syndergaard probably could use some final polish at Triple-A Las Vegas anyway. He split last season nearly evenly between Class A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, posting a combined 9-4 record and 3.06 ERA in 23 starts while logging 117 2/3 innings.
Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Carlos Torres
WINS ERA SO IP
2 2.08 11 8
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Lagares .314
HRL. Duda 3
RBIL. Duda 8
RE. Young Jr. 12
OPSJ. Lagares .816
ERAJ. Mejia 2.81
SOJ. Mejia 18

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