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Mets' Pitching Staff Taking Shape

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The final pieces of the Mets' pitching staff are starting to fall into place. With just a week to go before opening day in St. Louis, some of the questions surround the rotation and the bullpen have apparently been answered. Too, the speculation regarding the final destinations of journeymen Aaron Sele and Chan Ho Park have finally come into focus. Here's what we think we know:

  1. Mike Pelfrey will begin the season as the fifth starter, even though the Mets probably won't need one until the middle of April.
  2. Chan Ho Park, who was pulled from his start on Saturday after firing three perfect innings against the Orioles, will be used out of the bullpen. Willie Randolph will try to get him into half of the six remaining games on the spring training schedule.
  3. Aaron Sele, who recently indicated that he would retire if the Mets didn't bring him north when camp breaks, will also work out of the bullpen, possibly in long relief.
There is no telling how long any of these things will actually last. The plan is apparently to use Park in middle relief. He was used primarily out of the bullpen as a rookie in 1996, but has only made nine relief appearances in the ten seasons since.

The Mets clearly have some concerns about their bullpen, as neither Duaner Sanchez nor Juan Padilla may be close to returning to regular action. Joe Smith has impressed everyone in camp, and in all likelihood he will be the right-handed specialist when the regular season begins. He could turn out to be a younger, cheaper replica of Chad Bradford, who was tremendously successful with this club last season.

Ambiorix Burgos and Jorge Sosa, two guys who seemed like safe bets to make the club a month ago, have been mostly terrible since then and are likely ticketed to New Orleans.

Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano and Billy Wagner will once again be anchoring the relief corps, and it appears that the Mets will try to throw a bunch of crap at the wall to fill in the cracks.

The starting rotation has shaped up thusly:

  1. Tom Glavine
  2. Orlando Hernandez
  3. John Maine
  4. Oliver Perez
  5. Mike Pelfrey
Hernandez is still a question mark, but his terrific six-inning performance on Friday has undoubtedly calmed a lot of nerves on the ballclub and in the front office. Maine had been remarkable in the spring before dropping something of a stinker in split squad action on Saturday. Perez has been lights out since his first couple of starts, and Pelfrey, despite underwhelming strikeout numbers thus far, has been a groundball machine.

Quite frankly I'm not sure what to expect out of this rotation. I think they could surprise a lot of people and be pretty darned effective. There's a lot of youth but a lot of potential. There's also a high degree of volatility -- with Glavine's age, El Duque's injuries, Perez's wildness, Maine's second turn through the league and Pelfrey's inexperience. If things break right, these guys could be very successful. If things break wrong, the patchwork bullpen is going to get a lot of use -- and abuse -- and there's no guarantee that this group will come through the way last year's version did.