Mets Eschew DL, Play Roster Roulette
It has come to this for the Mets: pitchers Livan Hernandez and Mike Pelfrey on Monday night had "to have spikes on the whole game," as manager Jerry Manuel put it, meaning they were available to pinch hit or pinch run.
It's not just that the Mets are banged up, it's that so many of their injuries are of the good-old "day-to-day" variety.
And so the Mets are handcuffed. Or have handcuffed themselves by indecision.
Star shortstop Jose Reyes (above) has missed four straight games with a sore right calf and right fielder Ryan Church can't play because of a sore right hamstring suffered last Friday. So Monday night was the Mets' third straight game with essentially a 23-man roster.
Why not put Church on the DL -- even if he isn't expected to be out two weeks -- just to get another shortstop on the roster?
"At some point in time you have to" use the DL to replenish the roster, general manager Omar Minaya said. "But you look at it on a daily basis and you make evaluations on a daily basis."
Now, GMs and managers will tell you that choosing whether or not to DL players is one of the tougher decisions they face over the course of the season. Most players don't want to sit out, and medical personnel can be reluctant to make a definitive statement on how much time someone will miss.
So then it comes down to going without the player for 15 days or playing short-handed for a few days and getting him back as soon as he's ready.
"At some point it depends on what you're [replacing the player] with," Manuel said, "whether or not that is enough to put a guy on the DL that might be a much better player ... just because we need this particular game. There are a lot of things that we have to weigh."
Good point. No one at Triple-A Buffalo is making a strong case for a callup other than 20-year-old outfield prospect Fernando Martinez, who is hitting .291 with eight homers, and the Mets don't want to bring him up unless he's going to play regularly.
But this is the National League, where the bench is used every day. And the news late Monday that center fielder Carlos Beltran on Tuesday will have an MRI on his sore right leg might force the Mets to make a move.
But they should have learned their lesson earlier this month with first baseman Carlos Delgado.
After missing four games with a sore hip, Delgado returned to start seven in a row. Then he had to sit out again on May 11. And May 12. And the Mets kept hoping he would recover quickly and avoid the DL.
They finally got the diagnosis of a torn hip labrum and put him on the DL on May 16, after going short-handed for five games.
Now they're in the same boat with Reyes. He missed almost all of five games, May 14-18, with a sore right calf (pinch-hitting May 15). The he had to leave his second game back after just three innings.
Now he has sat out four more games, and there's no telling when he'll be back.
"I don't want [to wait] to get to 100 percent to play," he said. "If I feel like 80-85 percent, I'm going to be on the field. ... A lot of people say, 'Eighty percent of you is 100 percent of other people.' So let's see what happens."
Complicating the problem is that utility infielder Alex Cora suffered a torn ligament in his left thumb on May 17 while filling in for Reyes.
So 36-year-old journeyman Ramon Martinez is playing shortstop for the Mets, and not well: .077 average, four errors in seven games. And when Martinez left Sunday's game with a sore back, Fernando Tatis -- really a corner infielder -- had to finish up at shortstop.
To their credit, the Mets are a half-game out after Monday's defeat of the Nationals and the Phillies' loss to the Marlins.
Manuel hinted that if Reyes can't play by Friday, the Mets will put him on the DL. But in the meantime, Manuel can't do much managing with a thin bench.
"It definitely becomes a difficult challenge," he said, "because you need those pinch hits, you need that versatility. ... In the National League, when you lost a position player, or you're down a couple of position players, it definitely hinders your strategy going forward."
• The Opening Day shortstop is unavailable;
• The Opening Day left fielder (Daniel Murphy) is now a part-time first baseman;
• The Opening Day first baseman is on the DL;
• The Opening Day center fielder (Beltran) had to DH last weekend because of his sore right leg and wasn't sure he was playing Monday until he tested the leg during batting practice;
• The Opening Day right fielder is unavailable;
• And the Opening Day catcher is on the DL.
Oh, and closer Francisco Rodriguez suffered severe back spasms Saturday (but got the save Monday).
"Our pitchers are going to have to carry us at this point," Manuel said, "until we get our feet back."
Some of those pitchers may have to carry a bat.