The battle for the fifth spot in the Mets' rotation could be one of the most heated battles of spring training. Along with Jenrry Mejia, veteran free agent acquisitions John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka are gunning for a spot on New York's Opening Day roster.
A long shot for the position is 23-year-old Rafael Montero. Since being acquired by the Mets in 2011, he has zoomed through the farm system, locking in a sub-3.00 ERA at the Low-A and High-A levels in 2012 before advancing all the way to Triple-A Las Vegas in 2013. Once there, Montero threw for a 3.05 ERA over 88.2 innings in one of the minor league's toughest pitching environments. He struck out 78 batters and walked just 25.
Jorge Castillo spoke to Montero about the right-handed pitcher's chances to make New York's roster.
"The goal is to go and make the team," said Montero, who expects to travel to Port St. Lucie, Fla. for spring training February 15. "But I don't control that. (General manager) Sandy Alderson and (manager) Terry Collins control that. I'll go wherever they send me, to Triple-A or the majors, without a problem."
You could argue that Montero has the highest upside of all the fifth starter candidates. Despite his smallish 6'0", 170-pound frame, the prospect has been praised for his above average command and 94 miles-per-hour fastball. Still, the Mets' front office isn't fond of promoting young pitchers to the majors before it has to. Maybe the reported change in the organization's financial fortunes changes that, but Montero is just going to let his play do the talking for now.
Mets pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Port St. Lucie for spring training on February 15.