By John Delcos
Spring training is finally here, and with it comes more than a few issues the New York Mets must address. A lot of things must break right if they are to be a wild-card contender, but manager Terry Collins has five key issues to address if they are to have a winning season, something they haven’t had since 2008:
Q: Who is the fifth starter?
A: Ideally, it should be Jenrry Mejia, but if the Mets are thinking this could be a winning season, Collins could go with veterans John Lannan or Daisuke Matsuzaka. ``I’ve always said those veterans can really get you out of the blocks,’’ Collins told reporters in Port St. Lucie Friday. ``Then, when those kids are ready, they’re the ones a lot of times that bring you that extra energy, especially late in the summer.’’ Perhaps one of those kids could be the 24-year-old Mejia, but the Mets have their eyes on Noah Syndergaard.
Q: Will Bobby Parnell be ready for Opening Day?
A: We might not know this answer until they break camp. Parnell underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck and wasn’t supposed to throw off the mound for another two weeks. However, he threw 10 pitches Friday and reported no discomfort. Of course, with a pitcher recovering from surgery, it is always the next few days to see how he responds. If healthy, Parnell is the closer. If not, Vic Black will get the first opportunity. Parnell’s status will determine the make-up of the rest of the pen.
Q: Will the Ike Davis saga ever end?
A: It sure would be nice. The Mets tried to trade Davis since October, but reportedly their asking price was too high. Davis kept tabs on the rumors and acknowledged he is surprised to be in Port St. Lucie. ``The articles would say I wasn’t going to be here, so [it’s] a little bit of a shock I didn’t get traded,’’ Davis told reporters. Davis goes into spring training as the projected starter and Collins said he’ll get at least 90 at-bats in hope of avoiding another slow start. The Mets haven’t said whether they’ll keep both Davis and Lucas Duda on the Opening Day roster.
Q: Can Ruben Tejada be the player expected of him?
A: Your guess is as good as mine. The Mets soured on Tejada last year, but after his dedication in attending a fitness camp in Michigan they are prepared to let him keep his job. Collins hedged on making a formal announcement and mentioned Anthony Seratelli as a back-up infielder. The Mets also plan on giving Wilmer Flores time at shortstop, where he played in 2011. Flores is potentially a better offensive threat, so if he takes to the position it could be interesting.
Q: Who will be the leadoff hitter?
A: The answer could also finalize the outfield alignment. Collins stated a preference for Eric Young, who stole 38 bases last year, but must improve his .318 on-base percentage. Tejada, Chris Young and Daniel Murphy have been mentioned, but Eric Young gives the Mets a base running threat they’ve missed since losing Jose Reyes. If Eric Young gets the job he’ll play left field. There have been whispers of moving him to second and Murphy to first. However, that would entail breakdowns by both Davis and Duda. As far as second base goes, Eric Young has played only 56 games at the position, so thinking he’ll take to one of the most difficult positions with a few games in spring training is wishful thinking. Assuming Eric Young in left, the rest of the starting outfield would be Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, meaning Juan Lagares would probably be optioned.
***John Delcos has covered Major League Baseball for over 20 years, including the Mets and Yankees since 1998. He is a Hall of Fame voter and owns and operates a Mets website, New York Mets Report.com
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