Prior to a 2008 season that dramatically reduced his trade value and made Aaron Heilman something of a pariah to Mets fans, the notion of returning the Notre Dame product to the starting rotation didn’t seem so far fetched, particularly in light of some desperate stop-gap measures employed during the recent past (Lima Time, Jason Vargas, the late Jeremi Gonzalez). So it should come as no surprise that Heilman’s representative tells the New York Daily News’ Adam Rubin that his client is fed up with the bullpen.
“The object the entire time has never been to get out of New York,” Heilman’s agent Mark Rodgers told the Daily News. “The object is to get out of the bullpen. The most success he’s ever had as a pitcher has been as a starting pitcher. He was drafted by the Mets as a starting pitcher.”
A source with knowledge of the Mets’ internal discussions suggested there’s an organizational split about Heilman – with chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon wanting him to remain and other key front-office personnel favoring a trade.
There isn’t a shortage of teams that want Heilman as a starter, with the Rockies believed to be among at least six teams intrigued.
The Mets have remained adamant that Heilman, who turned 30 last week, will not be considered for a rotation spot. A Met official Wednesday reiterated that the organization is giving no consideration to using Heilman as a starter in ’09. That’s the case even with Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine the only established starters under the team’s control.
The last time the Mets even allowed for the possibility of Heilman moving back to the rotation came during spring training in 2006. Before that, he had spent the offseason participating in winter ball in the Dominican Republic in an attempt to regain a starting role.
He dominated in the Grapefruit League that year, with a 1.29 ERA and 11 strikeouts and no walks in 14 innings. The Mets instead awarded Brian Bannister that fifth starter’s role, albeit after the rookie posted a 0.95 ERA in the spring.
Heilman came to believe that the battle was heavily weighted against him, and that the Mets had let him go to winter ball to prepare for a starting role only to appease him.
Considering Heilman’s already under contract and no one in their right mind could be comfortable with his resuming set up duties next April, what could possibly be the harm in giving him an opportunity to win a spot in the rotation during spring training? Unless the Mets are fairly certain they’ll be signing Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett — and they might not acquire either — what have they got to lose?