Pleading the fifth

Assuming neither Matt Harvey nor Jeurys Familia is quite ready for prime time — which seems safe to assume given their results to date at Triple-A Buffalo — none of the Mets’ internal options to man the fifth spot in their starting rotation appears likely to thrill many fans. But with Chris Schwinden getting roughed up in his first two outings in Mike Pelfrey’s stead and Terry Collins neglecting to commit to a third start for the righty, now seems a good time to look at the pitchers the Mets could use in his next turn on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Since the team can free up a 40-man roster spot by transferring Pelfrey to the 60-day DL, roster status isn’t a huge consideration. First, the incumbent.

Schwinden: Thanks to a breakout 2011 campaign in Triple-A, Schwinden earned the first call for the Mets and with it the tough task of starting games in Colorado and Houston in his first two outings. In eight total innings, he allowed four home runs and struck out only one batter, so it’s an understatement to say there’s not much to like about the way he pitched. But no matter how damning, eight innings’ worth of evidence is not a hell of a lot upon which to judge a guy’s Major League credentials. And looking at 2011 Minor League returns alone, Schwinden still seems like the best option of all the guys listed here. He’s suffering from a devil-you-know scenario, but if you believe an inexperienced pitcher like Schwinden might need some time to adjust to big-league hitters, you have to at least consider that calling on someone to replace him could mean returning to Square 1 in that regard.

Miguel Batista: The 41-year-old pitcher, poet and Kenny G fan has not started his season well and typically posts woeful peripheral stats, walking about as many hitters as he strikes out. But against the odds, Batista’s brand of magic has worked for most of his career: He has posted an average or above-average ERA+ in 10 of his last 11 seasons. He has been mostly used in relief the last three years, though, and adequate returns in short outings certainly don’t necessarily forebode them in starts. Plus, moving him into the rotation would mean finding another option to eat up innings in relief.

Jeremy Hefner: Hefner pitched three scoreless innings in relief after Batista’s short spot start on April 23 and is off to a nice start in Triple-A, yielding a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings over four outings. He hasn’t struck out a ton of batters above A-ball but he doesn’t walk many either, and though he got hit hard in the Pacific Coast League last year, so does pretty much everybody. Already on the 40-man, Hefner seems the most likely option to replace Schwinden if the Mets decide to do so. It’s no safe bet he’ll be any better, but he’ll be someone different if they want one.

Garrett Olson: Olson, you’ll recall, showed up at Spring Training with a sweet beard and an outside chance of making the Mets as the second lefty in the bullpen. He’s been working as a starter in Buffalo (with one relief appearance thrown in), sporting a 3.29 ERA in 27 1/3 innings. But he has walked 15 batters in that small sample and free passes have been an issue for him in the past. Neither that nor his 6.78 ERA in 44 Major League starts seem to bode well for his chances of helping the Mets in the rotation this season.

Dylan Owen: Owen started the season in Wally Backman’s bullpen in Buffalo, but has made a couple of strong starts in place of Hefner and Schwinden while they’ve been up with the big club. His most recent was a gem: He struck out seven and walked none in seven innings, allowing one run. Owen, a 5-11, 25-year-old righty, enjoyed early success in the Minors but has been plagued by the gopherball in recent years. In 183 1/3 Triple-A innings across parts of three seasons, he’s allowed 26 homers. It’s worth noting that Dillon Gee yielded longballs at about the same rate in Triple-A, but Gee boasted more strikeouts and fewer walks.

Collin McHugh: Dave suggested this on Twitter last night. The Mets have four starts with sub-3.00 ERA in Binghamton, but none has better peripherals than the right-handed McHugh. McHugh doesn’t throw overwhelmingly hard by Major League standards, but he throws a broad enough variety of pitches to get some strikeouts: More than a batter an inning in his 120 1/3 innings in Double-A without a ton of walks and with very few home runs. The Mets did not protect McHugh from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, for whatever that’s worth, and bringing him up would mean skipping Triple-A, where – at least by reputation – pitchers learn what happens when they throw mistakes to professional hitters. McHugh keeps a blog and a funny Twitter account, though neither of those things is necessarily predictive of Major League success (Exhibit A: me).

And a little down the road:

Chris Young: Toby Hyde did a nice job dispelling the hope around Young on the podcast today. In short: Young is an injury-prone pitcher recovering from shoulder surgery. It’d be great for the Mets if he can return and make some starts, but it’s not something to bank on.

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