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Friday, April 4, 2014
Why not promote Montero, deGrom now?

By Adam Rubin

NEW YORK -- Rafael Montero tossed six scoreless innings in Triple-A Las Vegas’ season opener, allowing four hits and walking none. So shouldn’t Montero be helping the big-league club now, even if that means relief work?

That’s especially worth asking giving the underwhelming performance of the existing relief corps through one series.

“You’re asking the wrong guy,” Terry Collins said.

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Still, Collins acknowledged, Montero and Jacob deGrom should be exposed to bullpen work in Triple-A within a month. And then if the bullpen is struggling, those pitchers could be promoted to the majors for a relief role -- even if they return to starting longer term.

“You’re going to ask a kid to come to the big leagues and all of a sudden pitch out of the bullpen when he hasn’t done it. That’s why one of the things that’s going to take place in Triple-A is those guys are going to pitch out of the pen at some time -- deGrom, Montero,” Collins said. “But when you bring this guy up and now you slam him in a role he’s extremely uncomfortable with, if he doesn’t throw a strike, what’s your next option?”

Of course, Mets fans will recall on-the-ropes Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel forcing starter Jenrry Mejia into the bullpen to open the 2010 season, which arguably contributed to injury.

That’s perhaps one reason why the Mets will first expose Montero and deGrom to relief work in relatively pressure-free Triple-A.

“A lot of people in this organization thought he was going to be a relief pitcher,” Collins said about Mejia. “That’s how he made the club. At that time, being a young kid, he just said, ‘OK, I’ll do whatever you want me to do.’ As things got into it, he wanted to be a starting pitcher.

“So, right now, with those two young guys [Montero and deGrom], because we’re looking down the road that perhaps they’re going to have to come up here and pitch out of the bullpen, the first thing you want to do is get them out there and get them comfortable. Get them a couple of starts. And that includes Montero. That includes all of those young guys. And then at some time they’re going to pitch out of the bullpen in Triple-A, so when they get here they’re accustomed to it. They know how to warm up. They get themselves ready.

“Can they pitch back-to-back days? We don’t know that yet. We don’t know that from any of those kids. Now you’re talking about subjecting them to injury. Jenrry Mejia, he’s had some injury issues. Is it because he had to pitch out of the bullpen early in his career? I don’t know. Certainly we know one thing: to keep pitchers healthy, starting might be easier sometimes than relieving because you don’t have to get up as many times.

“So there’s no perfect answer to your question. I just think when those guys are ready, and if we need help, Sandy [Alderson] has said, ‘Hey, look, if they’re ready to pitch out of the bullpen, we’ll bring them up.’”