The race for the No. 5 spot

Posted: March 15, 2010 in Mets

The Mets have an interesting battle going on for the No. 5 spot in their rotation. Four guys – Jon Niese, Hisanori Takahashi, Fernando Nieve and Nelson Figueroa have claims on the spot, with only Takahashi and Figueroa really establishing themselves with good springs.
I saw Takahashi up close in a spring game last week and the guy provides the very definition to the phrase “crafty lefty.” He’s got five pitches, all which he can throw consistently for strikes, along with a funky delivery which seems to fool the hitters. His fastball clocks in at a rather ordinary 89 miles per hour, so who knows if the hitters will eventually catch up to him once they figure out his delivery. Niese is the top prospect of the bunch, and I honestly believe he’s got the inside track on the job. He’s looked good at times this spring, but hasn’t had a dominating performance yet. Nieve is out of options, so the Mets have to keep him on the roster or risk losing him to waivers. Not sure if this is such a big deal or not. Nieve’s got a decent fastball, but he’s never really shown much, save for a handful of starts for the Mets last season. Figueroa is the sentimental favorite to some fans, as the 35-year-old journeyman from New York grew up a Mets fan and has literally pitched everywhere to try and keep his major-league dreams alive. I’m hoping Figgy sticks around as a long reliever, as his rubber arm is suited for this role. If I was running the show, I’d give Takahashi the No. 5 spot (as long as he keeps putting up quality innings that is), send Niese back to AAA, cut Nieve and keep Figgy as the longman. If Takahashi fails, bring Niese up. Of course, they may swing a deal before spring training is out, as Omar Minaya’s failure to address the starting rotation in the offseason could really bite this team in the ass. The Mets lack a clear No. 2 starter behind Johan Santana and really need one (if not all) of Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and Oliver Perez to step up if they hope to knock off the Phillies and Braves, who clearly look like the class of the division.
For some reason, I’m upbeat. Maybe it’s just the time of year, but with how many things have gone horribly wrong for this franchise the last three years, Mets fans deserve a pleasant surprise or two in 2010.

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