Dwight Gooden began 2013 like most Mets fans -- "low expectations," he said -- but there are some things about the team he likes, including some of his successors in the rotation.
"I like the starting pitching," Gooden said Monday before an appearance on ESPN's "First Take," after which he planned to attend the opener at Citi Field. "They're young, still inexperienced, but they have a lot of talent and they have guys in Triple A who are close.
"I'm not sold on the bullpen yet, but I like the starting pitching and the offense, I think, can be average. It's going to be a long shot this year, obviously. A lot of things need to go their way. They have to be healthy, some guys have to play better than expectations. And you have to hope for injuries from the other teams in the division, unfortunately."
The favorites in the division are the Nationals, whose Stephen Strasburg brings to mind a young Gooden. But that was a different era, and Gooden was allowed to pitch a career-high 2762/3 innings as a 20-year-old in 1985. The Nats shut down Strasburg, who was coming off major surgery, short of 160 innings last season.
"I thought last year, him being healthy, they should have let him pitch; that's just my opinion," Gooden said. "If they were going to have an innings limit they probably should have done it earlier in the year, even though you can't guarantee you'll be in the playoffs."
Gooden, 48, said his current relationship with the Mets organization is good. He participated in the team's fantasy camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., over the winter and Monday night planned to attend the team's Welcome Home dinner. He also makes charity and corporate appearances for the team.
"I always stayed in contact with the Wilpons," he said. "They've always been nice to me and my family."
Once he got to the "First Take" set, Gooden was asked on the air about another of his former teams. He predicted the Yankees will win the AL East.