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Mets rotation set -- but not cemented

Mike Pelfrey delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh

Mike Pelfrey delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citi Field. (Sept. 16, 2010) Credit: Jim McIsaac

For better or worse, the Mets starting rotation for 2011 appears to be complete. At least in contenders. 

The addition of Chris Young — pending a physical — gives the Mets six starters for five spots. And that does not include injured ace Johan Santana.

Mike Pelfrey (15-9, 3.66) gets the opportunity to be the No. 1 starter.  Take away last July (0-5, 10.02) and Pelfrey would have been a legitimate ace. But it does not work that way.

All the pressure is on Pelfrey at the top of the rotation and it may stay that well depending upon the progress of Santana, who will not be available until June in a best-case scenario.

And who knows how many innings Santana will  be able to throw or how effective he will be when he does return. He has all those rehab starts ahead of him before even thinking about a real game.

By what R.A Dickey did last year (11-9, 2.84) he should be No. 2. There will be that "Let’s see him do it again" label hanging over Dickey until he puts together a few quality starts. And that seems fair since he started last season as a Triple-A pitcher and journeyman with little hope of ascending to the big league team in any significant role.

Jon Niese (9-10, 4.20), No. 3 because he is an incumbent, or by default based on those behind him, also has plenty to prove. He finished poorly, as evidenced by a 7.11 ERA in September. If batters caught up to his stuff, he’s already in trouble.

Newcomers Chris Capuano (4-4, 3.95 with Milwaukee) and Young (2-0,  0.90 with San Diego) will spend spring training trying to prove they have healthy arms.  The one that has the best results can claim the No. 4 spot—or maybe even jump past Niese if he does not perform well. Both of the new pitchers come at bargain basement salaries, so do not expect miracles.

To believe that both Capuano and Young will make the rotation might be a stretch. That opens the door for Dillon Gee (2-2, 2.18), who was an interesting September addition last season. Yet, he falls into that "Don't believe what you see in April" or September axiom.

Gee could be rotation insurance if any of the projected starters fail. The idea might be to get him some starts at Triple-A. If he is needed right away, it means someone failed or got injured in spring training.

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