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Friday, March 28, 2014
Re-asked: Did Mets answer spring Q's?

By Adam Rubin


Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesWhen will Noah Syndergaard make his big-league debut? Probably no sooner than mid-June.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- At the beginning of camp, ESPNNewYork.com listed nine questions the Mets would answer during camp. Let’s check back now and see how they have been resolved -- or, in some cases, have not been resolved.

Are the Mets better?

Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins keep mentioning a 90-win goal, but that seems like fantasy talk. Odd-makers put the Mets at about 74 wins. The rotation is the strength, but the starting staff may be at best a push from a 74-win season in 2013, with Bartolo Colon subbing for Matt Harvey and Jonathon Niese already opening the season on the disabled list. The outfield should be stronger. After all, it’s being compared to the outfield Alderson labeled “What outfield?” a year earlier. But the bullpen and bench are suspect.

Are Ike and Tejada really starting?

Officially, Collins has not named a starting first baseman. But the presumption is Ike Davis will platoon with Josh Satin early on, and either Davis sinks or swims. Barring an end-of-spring-training trade that sends out one, which the Mets said was not foreseeable, Lucas Duda is on the team, too. The Mets need the DH from April 11-13 in Anaheim. So that will give Collins the chance to get an extra bat in the lineup -- potentially Davis and Duda together, provided the Mets are not facing a southpaw. As for Ruben Tejada, barring an external addition, he is the shortstop, with a Wilmer Flores experiment at the position continuing in Las Vegas.

What to expect from d’Arnaud?

Travis d’Arnaud, who hit .202 in 99 big-league at-bats last season, has not had the type of Grapefruit League performance at the plate that would allay concerns. Bottom line: the R.A. Dickey trade ultimately may be called the Noah Syndergaard trade, not the d’Arnaud trade, years from now. Still, d’Arnaud is 25 and should be in the big leagues for a long time.

Who leads off?

Collins has not answered that yet, but he has whittled the choices to two: Chris Young or Eric Young Jr. The determination will be made based on whether EY Jr. or Juan Lagares is starting in the outfield. In reality, figure you see both lineup configurations.

Is the rotation still formidable without Harvey?

It’s the best thing the Mets have going for them. Colon subs for Harvey and the Mets get a full year of Zack Wheeler, with Syndergaard waiting in the wings for a summer promotion. Dillon Gee is the Opening Day starter after posting a 1.08 Grapefruit League ERA. One scary proposition: Niese had an injury-plagued spring, requiring separate MRIs of his shoulder and elbow. He will open the season on the DL with an eye toward being activated for an April 6 start.


David Goldman/Associated PressJohn Lannan is moving to the bullpen.


Who wins the fifth starter’s spot?

Another unanswered question on the eve of the season is the fifth starter. Basically, it’s Daisuke Matsuzaka and/or Jenrry Mejia, depending on if Niese is able to come off the DL April 6. Do not be surprised if Mejia makes an April 4 start against the Cincinnati Reds, Niese comes off the DL two days later, and then the Mets send down Mejia and add Matsuzaka at that point. It’s one possibility on the Mets’ drawing board. Regardless, Mejia will be a starting pitcher somewhere, with relief off the table. John Lannan, another one-time member of the fifth-starter competition, instead will complement Scott Rice as a second left-hander in the bullpen.

Is Parnell OK?

Bobby Parnell underwent Sept. 10 surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. In the sense that he has not missed spring-training time because of that issue, he’s OK. But his velocity is nowhere near the flame-throwing levels of the past. In his Grapefruit League appearance Tuesday against the Washington Nationals, he sat at only 88-92 mph.

How will the bullpen fare?

That’s a potentially scary proposition. The Mets had penciled in Vic Black as a primary set-up man based on his September showing, but he had an abysmal spring training and was demoted. So Jose Valverde will be counted on as Parnell’s setup man. But Valverde was released last summer by the Detroit Tigers from Triple-A. Jeurys Familia has looked sharp, a walk-filled appearance Tuesday aside. One concern: How heavily will Collins lean on the lefty Rice? Rice made 73 appearances last season … and that was only through Sept. 3, when he needed to shut things down for sports hernia surgery. At some point, the heavy workload is bound to catch up with him.

When is Syndergaard getting promoted?

Wheeler made his major-league debut on June 18 last season. The Mets deemed that was comfortably enough after the Super 2 deadline to delay his arbitration eligibility by a year. That would be the earliest timeframe for Syndergaard to debut, but it very well may be later. After all, Syndergaard will make his first career Triple-A start next week. Wheeler already had six Triple-A starts on his résumé the season before he debuted in the majors.

This much is clear: Syndergaard is going to be a star. His fastball comfortably sits at 97 mph. And Collins has labeled his curveball “the hook from hell.”