The leftover left-handers in Mets camp
Monday’s news that Tim Byrdak will undergo meniscus surgery on his left knee has left the Opening Day bullpen without an obvious left-handed option. Manager Terry Collins could choose to proceed with no lefty at all, not an entirely unorthodox strategy given Ramon Ramirez’s reasonably strong splits against left-handers. Doing so would also make room for all three of Bobby Parnell, D.J. Carrasco and Miguel Batista in the Opening Day bullpen.
But Collins tends to manage by the book, and the book says every bullpen should have at least one lefty. That leaves these candidates in much better standing than they were a few hours ago:
LHP Garrett Olson
Collins recently mentioned Olson’s name first when asked who among the lefty candidates behind Byrdak has looked most impressive in camp. Olson certainly has the pedigree, as a former sandwich-round Draft pick of the Orioles who only recently converted to relief. Olson is a classic fastball-curveball reliever, relying heavily on the latter pitch and generally faring well with it.
LHP Chuck James
The Mets brought James, another former starting pitcher, into camp in the hopes that his strong Minor League relief work in 2010 and 2011 could translate to the Majors. Though James offers little in the way of velocity, he creates enough separation with his changeup to rack up strikeouts with regularity.
LHP Daniel Herrera
If Herrera has an advantage over his competitors, it’s that the Mets have seen him before. But that may also work as a disadvantage, with some team officials skeptical that the undersized Herrera can succeed once hitters begin seeing him for the second and third time. His fastball is well below average.
LHP Robert Carson
It may be a pipe dream to think that Carson, who struggled in the Minors last year and has never pitched above Double-A, could be a productive Major League reliever at this point in his career. But the Mets love Carson’s stuff and potential, even if he may need some more seasoning in the Minors.
LHP Josh Edgin
Though not technically in Major League camp, Edgin is coming off a standout Minor League season and has commanded Collins’ attention on more than one occasion this spring. A jump to the Majors is not out of the question if Edgin continues to perform.
LHP C.J. Nitkowski
Mets officials were impressed with Nitkowski’s tryout last week and may be more inclined to sign him now that Byrdak is hurt. But Nitkowski is also 38 years old, experimenting with a new sidearm delivery and has not pitched in the Major Leagues in seven years. He is far from a sure thing.
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