The Mets’ starting rotation of Martinez, Glavine, Zambrano, Trachsel and (when healthy) Benson, while not quite the ’71 Orioles, is still solid enough to offer hope of contention. But not if New York’s relief corps remain unchanged, writes Newsday’s Jon Heyman.

Without naming names, the bullpen’s a mess, an unconvincing conglomeration of has-beens and never-weres that will never work long-term. Martinez is so nervous about it he miraculously turned himself into a nine-inning pitcher (maybe there are other reasons, but he’s already matched his 2004 complete-game total).

Willie Randolph characterized the bullpen situation this way: “We’re just trying to find our way, to see how they fit … or if they do.”

On Monday, Astros manager Phil Garner used Russ Springer and John Franco. Springer retired a few years back, and Franco should have. Bullpen woes are widespread. But if Minaya doesn’t do something, Franco may start to look good to Mets fans.

It’s curious as to why Omar Minaya didn’t make a bigger attempt to reinforce a bullpen that’s begging for reinforcements. Minaya said there weren’t a lot of star relievers to be had, and that’s true. But there’s no evidence they chased the ones who were available, including Troy Percival.

They’ve looked into Ugueth Urbina but decided the Tigers were asking for way too much. They’ve looked into Danys Baez (above) but said the Devil Rays were asking for too much. One American League executive said the Mets balked when Tampa Bay requested pitcher Yusmeiro Petit.

If the Mets won’t part with Petit for Baez, that shows how gun-shy they are. The trade that sent Scott Kazmir to the same Devil Rays brought them nothing but grief and Victor Zambano’s medical bills. However, they need to take chances.

They’ve already risked $182 million. That’s a big gamble. Trading Petit is smaller than that.

Although Petit has shiny numbers (10-3, 138 strikeouts in 95 innings in the minors in 2004), he’s no Baez, who’s saved 55 games the last two years.

“Petit’s a good-looking prospect. He can pitch. But I’d be surprised the Devil Rays would trade Baez unless they got [more than that],” another AL executive said. “He’s a first-division reliever.”

If the Mets won’t do that, they need to do something. If they do nothing, they’ll watch their bullpen sabotage a promising thing.

Actually, I don’t think Minaya’s inaction is all that curious. He’d rather risk overpaying for a position player, if not a starter, than a middle reliever. Given what the Mets paid David Weathers, Mike Stanton and Scott Strickland the last few years, perhaps there was sentiment that better results could be achieved at a fraction of the price. Though the very fact that John Franco is being paid $700,000 by Houston this year shows the premium placed on middle relief, even the ineffective variety.