The New York Daily News’ Adam Rubin looks into his crystal ball(s) and emerges with the following projections for which Mets hurers are heading north.
BAN-WAGON: Because lefty relievers have emerged, the temptation to put Heilman in the bullpen should be lessened. In fact, Minaya indicated yesterday that the decision about whether to award Brian Bannister (above), Heilman or even Jose Lima the fifth starter’s job would now be based mostly on who team brass thought could be most effective in the starting role. Bannister is pitching coach Rick Peterson’s dream – an intellectual pitcher and willing pupil.
While Lima looks probable for the Triple-A rotation with Jeremi Gonzalez, the Heilman-Bannister race appears too close to call right now.
NO LEFTOVERS: Four bullpen spots would seem locked in: Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Jorge Julio and Chad Bradford. As for the other two or three, the good news for the Mets is several lefties are having sound springs. Darren Oliver hasn’t surrendered a hit to a lefty batter, while Pedro Feliciano had a solid World Baseball Classic and Royce Ring has looked sharp (including no walks, an issue last season). Juan Perez has the strongest arm and harnessed his wildness in his most recent outing.
Because Oliver indicated he would retire and Feliciano probably would join Bobby Valentine’s team in Japan if they didn’t get major-league jobs, both could be ticketed for Flushing in a seven-man pen, unless Heilman gets pushed to relief. Yusaku Iriki looks promising, too. He had been solid until one subpar outing against the Nationals (five runs, five walks).
Rubin’s reportage comes in the wake of an item from John Delcos in the Journal-News, which tipped Brian Bannister as the Mets’ likely 5th starter, and Aaron Heilmen starting the season in relief.