Until the Mets get serious about a No. 2 starter, they will have their troubles. They didn’t spend the money for John Lackey, who pitched six shutout innings in a loss to the Yankees, but somehow they have to find a No. 2 to fall in behind Santana.
Right now, it’s too much to ask Maine to be that pitcher. Based on spring training, the right-hander should be the No. 4 or No. 5. Manuel moved him up to the two spot, dropping Mike Pelfrey to No. 4 and Oliver Perez to five.
It’s almost unfathomable how much ink has been spilled analyzing the order of the Mets’ pitching rotation the first time through. Kernan’s main point — that the Mets could have massively benefited from signing a starting pitcher this offseason — is reasonable. Pointing to the order in which they’ll pitch their starters is not.
Again: It just doesn’t matter. Mike Pelfrey is not the Mets’ No. 4 starter. He is the starter pitching the fourth game of the season. If he stays healthy and effective, he will start 33 games. If he’s the second- or third-best of the guys who finish the season in the Mets’ rotation, people will label him the No. 2 or the No. 3, and that’s fine. But it will have nothing to do with when in the week he pitches.
The Mets, I’m nearly certain, pitched Maine the day after Santana and Perez the day after Pelfrey for a reason, and it had nothing to do with thinking Maine was their second-best starter. Maine and Perez, based on last year’s results, are the starters least likely to go deep in games and so most likely to tax the bullpen. Santana and, for better or worse, Pelfrey, can generally be counted on for innings.
Pitching Maine and Perez on back-to-back nights could have been damning for a bullpen already full of uncertainty.
I don’t imagine Jerry Manuel or anyone else would go on record saying as much, because doing so would be a slight to Perez and Maine. But ordering the rotation like the Mets did is actually, given the way the organization has handled minor decisions lately, a pretty clever one.
As for Lackey, he looked great last night. But I’m going to wait until at least the conclusion of Year 3 of his five-year, $81 million contract before I start saying for sure that the Mets made a mistake in not signing him. And if we’re going off samples this small, the Mets have a pretty solid case for choosing Jason Bay instead: He’s got a 1.413 OPS so far.