Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Day: No bull in Mets' bullpen

On Opening Day, Johan Santana allowed three hits before leaving and the bullpen shut the other team down the rest of the way. That's what happened on Opening Day 2009 - and Opening Day 2008.

Last year, Santana pitched seven innings against the Marlins and left with a 7-2 lead. So the pen was not under the same sort of pressure that they were when they had to protect a 2-1 lead today.

But, in a sign of things to come, it still took four pitchers to pitch the eighth and ninth to finish out that 7-2 game. And don't these names bring back some fond memories: Matt Wise, Scott Schoeneweis, Jorge Sosa and Aaron Heilman. (Actually, Wise doesn't bring back too many memories, since his stay with the Mets was so short.)

It was great to see Sean Green, J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez get their Met debuts off to such a good start. Much better than the last time the Mets opened in Cincy, when Braden Looper blew the game for new Met Pedro Martinez.

The Mets won with starting pitching, relief pitching and also defense. In the second inning, with the score 0-0 and a man on first, Ryan Church made a great sliding catch off of Ramon Hernandez, jumped up and fired the ball to first, doubling up Edwin Encarnacion. Had Church not made the catch, it could have been a run-scoring double and there would have been a man on second with none out. It would have been a very different game.

Imagine if, instead of Church in right field, the Mets were playing a 40-year-old who had been primarily a DH for the last two years. If Gary Sheffield dove for that ball, the only thing he would have come up with would be the disabled list.

The outfield drills Sheffield is working on probably consist of learning how to yell, "Beltran! Get over here!"

I admit that when Marlon Anderson came up to pinch hit, I would have liked to have seen Sheffield up instead. There is always the chance that Sheffield has something left at the plate. Though it's still more likely that he's this year's Trot Nixon signing.

It's just one game, but still a very good beginning to 2009.

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