OPENING DAY... NOT TOO FAR AWAY
A few weeks ago this reporter interviewed Mets coach John Stearns about the
bullpen and catchers. In this newsletter let's talk to other coaches about
the other Glen Allen players and starting pitching.
Jimmy Key the Mets pitching coach sat down with me after practice on
Thursday. "How does the rotation look for April?"
After a deep sigh, Key began, " We have a lot of injuries to contend
with this year. Scotty Erickson will begin the year on the disabled list
because he not been able to get in the work he needed, so he will stay in
Florida. He hopes to gain his strength and be with the Mets in May. Joey
Hamilton will also begin the year on the DL and an extended stay in Florida.
His shoulder is a concerned he may not make it to Glen Allen until the
weather heats up. Lance Painter has struggled with his control so he will
go to the minors for some work and get his chance this summer."
"Jimmy do you have any good news for Mets' fans?"
He laughs, " Barry Zito has been outstanding! Manager Clark has
already told me to resist the temptation because he will get several months
of work in the minors. We are not ready to bring him up, but I think he
will get a cup of coffee later this summer. Charles Nagy physically looks
strong, but control is not there yet. I expect he will be the #5 April
starter. Steve Trachsel and Eric Milton will head the rotation. Steve, a
veteran came to spring training ready to impress his new teammates and
should give the Mets 34 starts and 200+ innings."
"What about the lefty?"
"Eric ... could throw a one hitter any time he starts or give up three
homeruns. I have been working with his concentration and getting that
killer instinct to finish off the hitters. Sometimes when he looses focus
his curve stays up and then gets hit far.
Our #3  spots will go to Todd Ritchie and Mark Gardner. Mark
another veteran free agent pick up also came to camp in good shape. Todd
put on a couple pounds over the winter so he has had to work a little harder
to get in shape."
"So how do they stack up against the competition?"
" Remember that the Brassball season is a marathon of 162 games. I
think we will need to juggle a little in the #5 spot to make it through with
all the injuries that I mentioned. I would love to have each of our top
four starters win 15-20 games because we would win the NL East and return to
the playoffs. We have a strong bullpen that we can use often so our
starters know that thy can give it all for 6-7 innings and turn it over to
capable arms. Like last year there will not be many CG so Trachsel and
Gardner will learn that quickly or be disappointed. We have a solid
rotation although I d o not realistically see them all going to the All-Star
"Thanks for the insight Jimmy, have a great night and season."
On Friday morning there was the encounter with bench coach Buddy
Harrelson. "Any surprises as we wind down spring training?"
Harrelson folded his arms, "On the bright side, Klesko, Colbrunn and
Bautista have been tearing the cover off the ball all week. Damian Jackson
has looked solid at SS &2B and on the basepaths. On the down side Omar made
an error today 'with a broad smile' his only one this month. He will
average about one each month the rest of the year. Vizquel is so smooth and
does not get the credit because he does not hit the homers like A. Rod or
Nomar. He has also been a great tutor for Jackson. I do have several
concerns; starting with Grissom. Marquis defense has been below average and
batting VS righties has been non-existent. He will start by platooning with
Bautista in LF because the opening day CF will be Melvin Mora. His defense
has been outstanding and hitting adequate to bat 8th or 9th. Matt Lawton
coming off a mediocre year looks strong in RF and at bat. Third base could
be trouble since both Tatis and Ripken are battling injuries, so I'll hold
my breath that Colbrunn is not on the field much. We have some veteran
looking for at bats at 1B and DH, including Karros, Klesko, Colbrunn and
Stanley. The Mets will have a couple of them on the bench every game for
pinch hitting duties and they are all capable of hitting the homer or
getting An RBI when needed."
"O.K. Buddy, how does this team compare to last year's?"
"We have plenty of solid players, some speed, power and solid defense which
we had last year. Injuries have been biting the starting pitching, 3B and
Daryl Hamilton already this spring, so this may be something to worry about
all year. I have not analyzed the rest of our division, but if we win 90
games or so the Mets could be going to the playoffs..."
LET'S GO METS!