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2015 Mets pitching preview

2/17/2015

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- On Monday, ESPNNewYork.com posted a New York Mets position-player preview. Now, it’s equal time for the pitchers, who officially report to camp on Thursday and clearly are the strength of the 2015 Amazin’s.

lastname Harvey ROTATION: All eyes will be on Matt Harvey in spring training when he faces batters for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 22, 2013.

Although the Mets have suggested Harvey may be held back from the home opener, a team insider told ESPNNewYork.com on Monday that has not been determined. Harvey will not be allowed to reach 200 innings this season, so the Mets will have to strategically skip some of his starts. They also could pull him from some games after five innings when, say, the Mets have a four-run lead.

With Harvey back, the Mets potentially have three aces. Zack Wheeler finally seemed to hit his stride as last season progressed, posting a 2.71 ERA over his final 16 starts. Meanwhile, Jacob deGrom is the reigning NL Rookie of the Year.

Mets officials already are praising Jonathon Niese’s shape. Niese, actually an exceptional athlete despite recent injury issues, participated in the Mike Barwis-led fitness camp this offseason. Niese had elbow woes last year, which dropped his fastball velocity to an average of 88.8 mph -- down 1.7 mph from 2011 and ’12. So whether his zip has returned is something to watch as Grapefruit League play progresses.

Last season, Bartolo Colon logged 200 innings for the first time since 2005, but he turns 42 on May 24. The Mets would entertain trading him, and keeping Dillon Gee, if an opportunity arises this spring training, although there are no active conversations with other teams about either pitcher at this point.

If there’s no spring-training trade, Gee appears headed to the bullpen as a $5.3 million long reliever.

lastname Parnell BULLPEN: Bobby Parnell is expected to open the season on the disabled list, in the final stages of his return from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent last April 8. Manager Terry Collins has suggested it is Parnell’s closer’s job to lose once he returns, but Jenrry Mejia undoubtedly will get the first shot with Parnell idle for at least the opening few weeks. Jeurys Familia and Vic Black also should serve as capable late-inning arms.

Until Parnell returns, the Mets basically have five bullpen locks: Mejia, Familia, Black, Carlos Torres and Josh Edgin.

Gee would be No. 6 if the Mets do not make a spring-training trade.

No. 7 ideally would be a second lefty to complement Edgin, but that’s no slam dunk. Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin served as a starting pitcher last season in Double-A and Triple-A with the Twins, but will get a chance to emerge as that second lefty. He must be offered back to Minnesota if he fails to make the major league roster. Scott Rice, who underwent elbow surgery last July 23 to address a nerve issue and remove a bone spur, is back on a minor league contract to compete for that spot too. Left-handed prospects Dario Alvarez and Jack Leathersich are in camp, although Leathersich probably needs more seasoning in Triple-A. He has walked 36 in 37 1/3 career innings with Las Vegas.

If the Mets do not carry a second left-hander, that potentially opens the door for Rafael Montero, Buddy Carlyle or Erik Goeddel to make the roster in the bullpen as a sixth righty.

MINORS: There’s clearly no room for Noah Syndergaard in the majors at his point, even if he were deemed ready, so he should headline a standout Vegas rotation that also may also include left-hander Steven Matz as well as Montero (if he’s not in the major league pen), Princeton product Matt Bowman and Cory Mazzoni. Vegas manager Wally Backman recently suggested Matz may be a better prospect than Syndergaaard. And that’s high praise.