9:30 am Aug. 16, 2012
It wasn't all that surprising when the New York Mets fell out of contention in July. The surprising thing was their seeming refusal to acknowledge it by planning for the future.
(Has anyone been able to make sense of the decision to hang on to soon-to-be free agent Scott Hairston, for example?)
But this week, the Sandy Alderson front office started moving. First came the acquisition of Kelly Shoppach, who gets a six-week head start on learning the New York pitchers ahead of what is hopefully a platoon with Josh Thole in 2013. He'll need to be resigned, but shouldn't cost much more than the $1.135 million he signed with the Red Sox for last winter.
And Wednesday, the Mets announced a six-man rotation for the rest of the season, something that is going to be good for the entire rotation.
The six pitchers are Dickey, Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey, Chris Young and Jeremy Hefner.
Dickey pitches every fifth day; Hefner fills in wherever necessary because of that. (The Mets briefly considered pitching Dickey every fourth day.)
The other four pitch every sixth day.
The benefit to Santana and Young, who are both coming off shoulder surgery, is an extra day of recovery. This is particularly vital for Santana, who is owed $31 million next year.
Interestingly, Jonathon Niese has performed better on more than four days rest this year, with a 5.49 E.R.A. on four days of rest, 2.53 E.R.A. on five days, and 1.80 E.R.A. on six days or more. It's an awfully small sample to make definitive judgments, with a split between four days and five days of rest in his career a flatter 4.43 to 3.69 E.R.A. But there's certainly no harm in it, and with Niese having tired the past two seasons down the stretch, it isn't the worst thing to nurse him to 190-200 innings a bit more carefully.
As for Matt Harvey, he's totaled 132 1/3 innings in 2012, so putting him on extra rest should allow him to get through most of the rest of 2012 in the rotation, with an eye on a limit of around 170 innings.
The arrangement treats Jeremy Hefner like a spare part, but even that has its use. After all, the Mets know on a winning team, Hefner isn't a rotation member, but most likely a long man, asked to fill in here, start there, and relieve some other time. It'll be a good thing to find out how flexible he is.
The Mets didn't work any miracles this week. But they've taken a couple of steps toward improving their team and preserving what strength they do have. That's a lot better than standing still.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Another night, another strong Yankee pitching performance, this time from Freddy Garcia. The Yankees have the best record in the American League.
Of course, the National League will have home field in the World Series, thanks to an All-Star Game win brought about by the game's M.V.P., Melky Cabrera ... who tested positive for testosterone and will miss the next 50 games.
Who's the Post reporter calling Kobe Bryant's wife a gold-digger? Oh, it doesn't say.
The conference introduced its new commissioner, Mike Aresco.
The United States beat Mexico in Mexico for the first time ever.