How Do you Spell Relief? H-U-M-B-E-R.
The road to the bigs for pitchers in the past had gone through the bullpen. Then things changed a bit and now more players are groomed in the closers role and even a set-up role before they reach pro baseball. Once they reach pro-baseball, they continue down that path. The best pitchers in the Minor Leagues all used to start to get them more work and more experience. When they made it to the Major Leagues, then started in the bullpen if they were not studs and either migrated into the rotation or stayed in the bullpen. Of course there were exceptions, but that was pretty much how a lot of pitchers were introduced to the big leagues.
Starting pitching prospects' road to the bigs then shifted to being through the rotation in most cases and they generally were not used in the bullpen. Lately however, there seems to be a renaissance of sorts of having prospects, top prospects included, getting time in the bullpen with the big club prior to starting. Francisco Liriano, Jon Papelbon, and Adam Wainwright are a few this year who are tabbed as starters for the rest of their career. Even Aaron Heilman could be lumped into that crew since he should get a shot to start at some point. Middle relievers are no longer failed starting pitchers or guys who were never good enough to start and just not good enough to close. They are also comprised of some of the best arms in the league these days with Joel Zumaya going from one of the best starting pitching prospects to bullpen and maybe for good.
Enter Phil Humber. Why he comes to mind more than say someone like Mike Pelfrey is partly because of Adam Wainwright. Do you remember that nasty hook he was leveling batters in the playoff with? Humber's curveball is close to it. While Mike Pelfrey would benefit from as much work as possible to work on this secondary stuff, Humber's is up to snuff and should be able to get guys out with his stuff for one inning without many problems. With Mota out for fifty games and possibly not brought back coupled with the seemingly high probability of Aaron Heilman being used to bolster this team via trade, Phil Humber might just play a large part in the Mets 2007 bullpen. Humber is a bulldog who is not afraid to challenge hitters and has downright nasty stuff.
That's not to say he is the the answer to the possibility of not having Mota or Heilman at all in 2007, but with the existing cast of characters in Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Pedro Feliciano, and Roberto Hernandez and two key moves by Omar this off-season, he could certainly play a huge role in being part of a dominant set up crew that could continue to end games in the sixth inning as the bullpen did so many times in 2006. First, Chad Bradford needs to be brought back. He was absolutely huge. Second, Omar needs to reel in Speier or Riske.
Justin Speier posted his second sparkling year of relief in a row and has really seemed to find his groove. His batting average against in the last five seasons was .216, .257, .239, .198, and .235. The dude is good and he has solid command to boot which we all love out of our relievers. David Riske, while not as good as an option as Speier, is certainly a solid reliever. He has posted ERAs of 2.29, 3.72, 3.10, and 3.89 in the last four years. Either would represent a solid arm in the pen should the Mets move Heilman and with the Mets needs this year and how the market is looking for Heilman, I do not see how Omar does not dish him off. Ultimately, relievers are replaceable and Aaron is certainly expendable given Omar's options.
"He fit into the jersey pretty good, so we told him we had some spots we needed to fill, and maybe he could fill in for us," Wright said. He continued that conversation by pushing for Matsuzaka, who declared his wish to play in the majors in Wednesday's news conference.
"I asked if he could make a couple phone calls for us and maybe persuade him," Wright said. "We could use another quality starting pitcher next year. He said he'd look into it for me."
Wright called the visit with Abe "one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities."
That was a lot of sugary goodness.
Sometimes the solution to a seemingly complex problem is so simple, so obvious, you can't believe someone hasn't thought of it already. And you figure there must be some logical reason why it can't be done.
In this case, the problem is the Mets' lineup holes in leftfield and at second base. The solution is Alfonso Soriano. It's so simple, so obvious, it can't be real
What? Huh? I wouldn't go that far man.
While it is impossible to predict how many teams will make bids, it's assumed five or six teams will enter the market. Expected to be in the hunt, in addition to the Yankees, are the Mets, Cubs and possibly Red Sox.
Not everyone in the Yankees universe is completely sold on Matsuzaka. There are members of the organizations who believe free agent Jason Schmidt is a better investment.
With the Mariners out of it, the Red Sox not going balls deep into the bidding, and the Yankees not 100% sold on Daisuke, you have to wonder if someone just might end up bidding against themselves.
In the not so swell portion of things, there could be some shady dealings here.
But there may be loopholes. It can be in the Japanese team's best interest for the winning bid to come from a team with which the player wants to sign, since that is the only way the Japanese team gets money. So a Japanese team could make an under-the-table deal with a U.S. team in which only a portion of the winning bid would have to be paid.
When the Seattle Mariners won the rights to sign Ichiro Suzuki in 2000, there were rumors they paid just $4 million of the $13 million winning bid to the Orix Blue Wave.