If you, like me, were waiting in line to buy a ticket for Dreamland instead of watching the San Diego Padres visit Victory Lane by way of the Mets bullpen last night, you likely missed a fairly-forgettable performance by Rule 5 reliever Pedro Beato.
The keyword there, of course, is "reliever." Beato's performance against the Padres -- one inning, three hits, two earned runs, and a game that went from a manageable 3-1 deficit to a seemingly-insurmountable 5-1 hole -- probably earned him the sarcastic kind of quotation marks around his current role with the club.
In light of recent comments by Mets manager Terry Collins, those quotation marks may also hint at the Queens' native's temporary status as a reliever and potentially permanent role as a future starter. Should he start? Should he stay as a reliever?
And with the Mets being 12 1/2 games back in the NL Wild Card race, why can't we just find out?Did you know that upon being drafted as a Rule 5 player from the Houston Astros in 2000, five of Johan Santana's 30 appearances with the Minnesota Twins came by way of a starting nod? It went badly, as you'd expect for a 21-year-old kid who never hurled a pitch above A ball. Santana posted an 0-3 record as a starter with a 9.82 ERA across 22 IP.
I'm not here to compare Santana to Beato. It's a night-and-day comparison -- Santana's a southpaw that featured a nasty fastball and cruel changeup that bumped up his ability to strikeout opposing batters with great zeal, whereas Beato's a 24-year-old righty with an assortment of pitches that doesn't boast plus changeup and came about from a mixed bag of successes and failures at the minor league level.
Like I said, apples and oranges.
But Minnesota finished last in the AL Central that year with a 69-93 record considered so bad that it fueled talks of the club's contraction along with the Montreal Expos. Point is, they didn't have anything left to lose. Twins skipper Tom Kelly was stuck with Santana due to the pitcher's Rule 5 status -- so Kelly figured, "Why not see what he's got?"
If Collins believes that Beato has a real chance at becoming a Major League starter, why not work towards stretching him out to log a few September starts? Oh, Beato might not have a desirable K/9 ratio that you'd like to see from a starter and being morphed into a reliever at Double A probably isn't a good predictor of future success, but when was the last time that a non-Santana Mets starter could be honestly described as a strikeout artist and why does success needed to be judged as ace or bust? In the end, could he really be any worse than the low barrier for entry set by Mike Pelfrey?
The motives may be different, but this is the mindset that let Jerry Manuel lock Jenrry Mejia into a reliever role last season, or that never let Jonathan Papelbon escape the Boston Red Sox bullpen. "He can help us right now in the bullpen, so that's where he works best."
That might very well end up being the case with Beato, but the potential good he could do as a starter would far outweigh the potential benefits he offers as a reliever unless Beato intends to take up Mariano Rivera's moniker as the most effective reliever in baseball history. Especially with Sandy Alderson and his brain trust making the decisions, relievers are relatively easy to find. Starters are and always will be hard.
I'd rather have a taste of Beato starting down the stretch than enduring constant speculation somewhere down the line about the opportunity to let him start being wasted. They can't send him to Buffalo or Binghamton to find out and they're spinning their wheels with him now in the bullpen.
The Mets have little to play for these days. Why not give the kid a shot?