When Air Metropolitan departs from Palm Beach International in a couple of weeks (assuming this perpetual Spring Training ever ends), I think we all know who's going to be sitting in the fifth row of the starting pitchers' section and who will be deplaning to meet his connecting flight, ETA April 11 or 12 against the Marlins, maybe sooner given the way rotations have of never, ever spinning as planned.
Meet the new Met, same as the old Met in that Liván Hernandez is classic fifth starter Met-erial. Is anybody here really surprised this veteran's veteran whose shiningest moment in baseball came in the previous decade wound up a Met? Isn't everybody more surprised that he hasn't already been a Met? Doesn't he seem just that familiar?
Tim Redding was injured before he ever had a chance to pitch well. Freddy Garcia was injured long before we signed him. Jonathon Niese was born not 22½ years ago, which makes him kind of young to be keeping this kind of company just yet. That leaves Liván, and not just by process of elimination. The old man has pitched well (embellishing his credentials with five very solid innings Wednesday), though it certainly helps that Redding, Garcia and Niese have a combined ERA of way more than Hernandez's age…whatever number that might be today.
Niese should have a future, Garcia has shown nothing more discernible than a past, Redding has a bad shoulder and Liván Hernandez — named World Series MVP right around Kid Jonathon's eleventh birthday — is undeniably the fifth starter of the present. Liván Hernandez is officially 34. And I'm the King of Sweden. But whaddaya want from a fifth starter: an accurate birth certificate or lots of innings, many of them dependable? That's Liván's stock-in-trade. He's big, he's durable plus he hits. I saw him hit a home run at RFK, and that's no mean poke. Let the “bat Liván eighth and Castillo ninth” talk commence in earnest (hell, let the “play Liván at second the days he's not pitching” talk commence, too). I'm not convinced Liván will endure into May or June let alone September or (deep breath) October, but let's get to the first week of the season with five starters on board and take it from there.
Santana had to shut it down at one point this spring. Pelfrey was seen wearing a boot. Maine ain't all the way back even if he's out there firing. Perez mentioned something about being tired from Playing For His Country. Hopefully they'll all be tip-top when everything counts again. Until then, I'm not going to look askance at someone with Liván Hernandez's track record, long-term or extremely recent. The King of Sweden would never be so shortsighted.
As for the man ultimately on the other end of the rotation's deliberations, Brian Schneider — not my favorite catcher by any means but surely a guy we need given the present roster composition — is experiencing “pain and stiffness behind his right knee“. I would assume all catchers experience loads of pain and stiffness, but Schneider hasn't played since Sunday and he required an examination that revealed “inflammation of the capsule in the knee”. Omar Minaya said he was not particularly concerned. I'm pretty sure that means Schneider will be out six to eight weeks.
Also, an X-Ray showed David Wright's left big toe is all right after he fouled a ball off it in WBC play. Excuse me while I go hyperventilate into a paper bag For My Country.
Thanks to the Eddie Kranepool Society for a glowing appraisal of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers — and at many fine bookstores near you, including Barnes & Noble and B. Dalton locations from Connecticut to Washington, D.C. All are welcome to join the FAFIF: AIPOTNYM discussion on Facebook here.