Ahhhh yes, Spring Training, where hope springs eternal.
First off, let me say that the likely Mets opening day roster already looks much better than last year's version.
Just to jog your memory, here is the 2008 opening day roster:
Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Carlos Delgado, 1B
Angel Pagan, LF
Carlos Beltran, CF
Ryan Church, RF
Brian Schneider, C
Johan Santana, LHP
Pedro Martinez, RHP
John Maine, RHP
Oliver Perez, LHP
Mike Pelfrey, RHP
Billy Wagner, LHP
Aaron Heilman, RHP
Pedro Feliciano, LHP
Scott Schoeneweis, LHP
Jorge Sosa, RHP
Matt Wise, RHP
Joe Smith, RHP
Raul Casanova, C
Marlon Anderson, UTIL
Damion Easley, UTIL
Brady Clark, OF
Endy Chavez, OF
- 1 new starter (Pagan might make the team, but will not start in LF)
- 1 new starting pitcher (Freddy or Redding with Pedro gone)
- 6, yes 6, new relievers (Wags on the DL, Heilman, Schoeney, Smith, Sosa, Wise)
- 3 or 4 new bench players (Easley, Clark, Chavez and, I hope Marlon, gone)
With those changes the key is still the comebacks of some key guys that had injuries.
John Maine had surgery to remove a bone spur, ending what looked like a promising season on his journey to become a solid #2 starter. He was clearly struggling with the injury his last 6-8 starts, and his pitching suffered.
Fernando Tatis went down with a separated shoulder midway through September, and the Mets had another swoon. Most folks think a separated shoulder is only devastating to a pitcher, but it can throw a hitter off for months and months depending on the severity.
Ryan Church came back in September after multiple concussions and had a miserable month in which he batted .209 with a .299 OBP and .302 Slg %.
Luis Castillo had what can only be described as a "lost season". His 77 OPS+ on the year was made worse by the .111 batting average and .139 Slg % he put up in 46 horrible September plate appearances. It was, for lack of a better term, pure crap.
Now by all accounts Castillo looks like a new man--17 pounds lighter, pain free, and eager to prove he can still play this game at a level high enough to contribute to a championship (which he has done twice).
Church looks good, is swinging it well, and seems to be over everything...he reported that he finally felt all the way back in November.
Tatis is the guy we've heard the least about this spring, but he's excited to be back and performing all the drills.
John Maine threw 40 pitches yesterday. His control was off (naturally), but he said he was pain-free and Dan Warthen "liked what I saw".
These four are your comeback kids...these are the real questions marks...these are the difference-makers.
If 3 of the 4 play a full season and produce to their abilities, the Mets will have a monster 2009.