I have to say I was a little surprised yesterday when Jerry Manuel raised a red flag about his rotation - before seeing anyone other than Johan Santana throw a pitch for real this season.

After six weeks of talking optimistically about his starters, and setting the rotation order two weeks into spring training, Manuel has pulled a U-turn. First, the manager reshuffled everyone less than a week before Opening Day. And then yesterday, a few hours before John Maine was to take the mound, Manuel expressed "concern" about the rotation as a whole -- then referenced the "setbacks and inconsistencies" of last season.

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Wait a minute. Last season? It's a little late to be talking about the rotation's flaws now. If the Mets truly were concerned about this staff, the time to address was during the offseason, beginning way back in November. But the Mets told us they didn't help - or at least not the kind of help that was available on the market.

Anyway, I get into all of that in a little more detail in today's column, and Maine didn't do much to alleviate those fears during his five-inning stint last night. For all of his other issues, Maine needs to rely on his fastball, and his signatute pitch was all over the map last night. Not only he could not throw it for strikes, his velocity maxed out at 90, which is a little low for him to be effective.