6-9 Mets weighing options

According to Adam Rubin in the Daily News, big changes might be afoot in Queens:

    Now, a more significant shakeup may be looming, with coaches on the firing line and Mike Pelfrey's, Oliver Perez's or John Maine's rotation spot perhaps in jeopardy, the Daily News has learned.

    After the Mets were swept out of Busch Stadium with a 12-8 loss to the Cardinals, Manuel suggested changes to the rotation could be in the offing after each pitcher is given one more opportunity.

    A team insider later elaborated that no one, aside from Johan Santana, has immunity. Translation: Perez or Pelfrey, who can be optioned to the minors without passing through waivers, could be ticketed for the minors, while Livan Hernandez's standing as fifth starter could be on shaky ground. Perez would have to consent to a minor-league assignment, like Steve Trachsel did in 2001, since he has more than five years of major-league service time. Maine, who is 0-2 with a 7.47 ERA, is out of minor-league options and needs to stay on the roster, but -- like Perez and Pelfrey -- could be sent to the pen.

    With the National League's highest payroll and tickets to sell at six-game-old Citi Field, the disappointing 6-9 start takes on an added sense of urgency. While nothing is imminent, dialogue about coaching changes already has begun, a source told The News. Aside from Santana, who has allowed one earned run in 19-2/3 innings, Mets starting pitchers have a 7.32 ERA, including Hernandez's flop Thursday. Still, it's other members of the staff besides pitching coach Dan Warthen who might feel the early wrath.


    To clear room for an extra reliever, Jeremy Reed might be optioned to the minors - although that wouldn't make sense since the defensive specialist is a late-game replacement in the outfield when the Mets have leads. The more interesting question would be whether to pull the plug on Gary Sheffield, who went 0-for-5 Thursday as part of Manuel's rejiggered lineup, dropping his average to .111.

In retrospect -- and yes, I know this is the worst kind of analysis -- we might wonder how a general manager could spend $37 million on a relief pitcher while, at exactly the same time, offering a meaningful role to Livan Hernandez. If anyone's rotation spot should be in jeopardy, it's his.
The Mets' top pitching prospect, Jonathon Niese, currently sports an 8.76 ERA with Triple-A Buffalo. It's hard to sell an 8.76 ERA to the fans and the media. Buffalo's best starter has been Casey Fossum, who's spent most of the last six seasons demonstrating that he's not really good enough to pitch against the big boys. Young Bobby Parnell, currently coming out of the big club's bullpen and throwing peas, was a starter in the minors but wasn't all that good at it.

What should the Mets do? First, DON'T PANIC. Pelfrey and Perez and Maine were all good enough to start for a contender three weeks ago, and they're still good enough today. Hernandez should be summarily ejected, with Fossum or perhaps Niese -- who really hasn't pitched nearly as poorly with Buffalo as his ERA suggests -- taking that slot.

Look, Omar Minaya has made some mistakes. Signing Hernandez and Sheffield were low-cost mistakes, and can be easily and painlessly addressed. Investing $36 million in Oliver Perez was a high-cost mistake, and the Mets will just have to somehow live with that one, perhaps by simply considering him an expensive No. 4 starter.

All is not lost, yet. If somone panics, though ...