Thursday, April 1, 2010
Mejia "60/40" safe, roster nearly set
By Adam Rubin
The New York Mets broke camp in Port St. Lucie on Thursday afternoon after a 9-3 loss to the Washington Nationals without making final cuts, but team sources indicate the roster is becoming clearer despite lingering debate about the composition of the bullpen.
When the official roster is submitted before Sunday’s 3 p.m. deadline, 20-year-old Jenrry Mejia has a good chance to be in Queens, preparing for a role in the Mets’ bullpen. One team insider labeled it "60/40" that Mejia makes the team. Also expected to make the final cut among position players: Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto.
The decisions still to be made involve the final spots in the bullpen to potentially join Francisco Rodriguez, Pedro Feliciano, Ryota Igarashi, Hisanori Takahashi, Fernando Nieve and presumably Mejia, team sources tell ESPNNewYork, while cautioning that beyond K-Rod and Feliciano, nothing is set in stone.
Going into this week, the final two relief spots appeared headed to Nieve and Nelson Figueroa, and that still may be the case. However, that was before 32-year-old left-hander Raul Valdes, who is on loan from Tabasco in the Mexican League, emerged as a potential lefty-on-lefty specialist that would free up Feliciano for more of an eighth-inning role. Manager Jerry Manuel said Valdes has “really put himself in a good position,” although a team insider said it would be too much to ask to put Valdes on with a limited spring-training workload as the only work sample.
Sean Green struck out the side against the Nationals on 11 pitches Thursday in his second straight strong appearance since raising his arm angle and moving to the right side of the rubber. He is guaranteed $975,000 whether he’s pitching at Triple-A Buffalo or the majors, and he was gaining momentum with recent performances. Conceivably, though, Green could join Bobby Parnell and Kiko Calero as odd-men out. Calero, who is on a minor-league deal, could be asked to remain in Port St. Lucie in order to build up more arm strength, essentially deferring a decision on his future. He signed March 4 after posting a 1.95 ERA with the Florida Marlins last season.
The Mets have yet to place Figueroa (or Nieve) on waivers, according to a major-league source. Such a move would be required if either is not making the team. Figueroa has indicated that if he cleared waivers, he would likely go to Japan and not accept an assignment with Triple-A Buffalo.
Jacobs, who appeared headed for a roster spot anyway, solidified his position when Daniel Murphy landed on the disabled list with a Grade 1 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Murphy’s injury left one spot for Chris Carter or Catalanotto. Carter, acquired from the Red Sox in the Billy Wagner deal, merits making the team based on his spring batting totals: .393, four homers and nine RBI in 28 at-bats. But because of Catalanotto’s versatility and Carter having an option remaining, the expectation is Carter will be sent to Buffalo.
Meanwhile, Manuel insisted he needs a bona fide backup shortstop while Jose Reyes is on the disabled list, even though it may be for only four games. Because it's not definite that Reyes will be back next weekend, a team insider said clubhouse speculation that Russ Adams would make the team as a backup to Alex Cora is not valid. The person noted that the team twice missed the playoffs by one game, and prospect Ruben Tejada is the best available shortstop. While Alex Cora is expected to start Opening Day at shortstop against Florida Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson, Tejada could get more starts than Cora if added to the roster until Reyes is activated. A team official said he was unconcerned about using Tejada's option and placing him on the 40-man roster now since he was likely to be up at some point this season anyway. Adams hit .247 with 17 homers and 113 RBI in 884 at-bats with the Toronto Blue Jays from 2004-09.
Regardless, time remains for a final decision. And Manuel stressed the bullpen decision particularly hasn’t been firmly resolved internally. The Mets play the Tampa Rays at 6:05 p.m. on Friday at Tropicana Field, then the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. in Sarasota, Fla., before flying to New York. They also have a workout at Citi Field on Sunday at 11 a.m. before rosters officially must be submitted.