Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Quick, someone wrap Pedro in bubblewrap

Things that happen in Spring Training tend to be pretty meaningless in the long run. Some no-name hitter getting hot for three weeks batting against other teams' minor league relievers isn't cause to run out and buy his jersey. Your team's ace getting knocked around while experimenting with a new pitch shouldn't lead you to sell your season tickets. Still, the first three weeks of baseball have gone pretty poorly for the Mets.

Six of the Mets' presumptive Opening Day starting nine have missed time due to injury and their theoretical second baseman and center fielder haven't set foot on the exhibition grass at all. Most of these injuries have been minor and will likely be forgotten by the time the team heads north. But for a squad as old as it is talented, it hasn't been an encouraging start. And the news has only gotten worse this week.

First there was the news that Orlando Hernandez has had to alter his windup, ditching his trademark high leg kick to alleviate pain in his right big toe. Right now he appears to be more than a few weeks away from being ready to start the season. It's no surprise that El Duque will miss some time this season and Plan B, Mike Pelfrey, has pitched well in his early starts. But this seems like the sort of problem that could linger and potentially derail Hernandez's whole season and beyond the unproven Pelfrey, the Mets don't have much of a backup plan for the fifth starter spot.

Then we learned today that Moises Alou will miss four to six weeks due to hernia surgery. Alou's injury is about as surprising as Duque's, but the Mets might be even more ill-prepared to replace the aged outfielder. His nominal backup is Endy Chavez who hasn't played an inning this spring. If he doesn't return, the task probably falls to Angel Pagan, who, awesome name and 12-for-28 spring aside, has a career .306 OBP. He's got enough speed and defensive ability to be a decent fifth outfielder, but starting him in left field for a few weeks would be less than ideal. Brady Clark would not be a whole lot better.

Then there's Carlos Delgado's bad hip. And Ryan Church's concussion. Maybe now is the time for Omar Minaya to stop putting off looking for some backups for his oldest and most fragile starters. At this point I'm just hoping Olmedo Saenz doesn't get the start at first base on March 31st.

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