COMMENTARY | Shaun Marcum was the first player the New York Mets signed to a major league contract this past winter, with the right-hander inking a one-year/$4 million pact to pitch for the Amazins in 2013. He was brought on not to replace the wins and innings produced by Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey last season, but to solidify what was thought to be a solid, but mostly young starting rotation. Now that Johan Santana is lost for the year, his veteran presence is needed more than ever, but the hurler has been on the disabled list since March 22 with bicep tendonitis.
A pair of tweets from Adam Rubin of ESPN New York early on April 14 suggested Marcum could possibly be ready to make his Mets debut this weekend at Citi Field against the Washington Nationals. Rubin first mentioned the righty is scheduled to throw five innings in Port St. Lucie tomorrow; he then recevied confirmation from a source there is a chance he could start the series finale, but he must get through tomorrow's assignment, and prepare for his start as if he's on regular rest.
The chances of him coming off the DL are unknown at this point, but I really hope he's able to start contributing and being a productive member of the rotation. I'm saying that necessarily for his performance on the field (although he would be a major upgrade to Aaron Laffey, if you ask me), but his influence on young starting pitchers in the clubhouse and the dugout during the days he's not pitching will be just as important. If this team wants to continue building on their 7-4 start, there needs to be more continuity throughout the rotation on a daily basis.
Jonathon Niese and Matt Harvey have been rock solid, contributing to five of New York's seven wins this season, but Laffey, Jeremy Hefner, and Dillon Gee are all winless, while sporting ERAs north of 5.00. When they struggle, they have plenty of people to turn to, whether it's pitching coach Dan Warthen, a fellow rotation-mate, or a reliever, but there is no veteran starter hanging around that can talk them down after a rough start, or give small words of wisdom while they sit in the dugout and watch a teammate pitch. Those are the things that don't show up in the box scores, and that influence can go a long way in a pitcher's development, whether they're on a hot or cold streak.
John Buck has had a calming influence on the pitching staff so far in this young season, and I've touched upon it here a couple of times. However, when they struggle, they aren't able to bounce ideas off their catcher during games in which they're not starting because Buck is usually playing. It's fellow pitchers who have that luxury, and having Marcum around to act as the Sherpa is important. Harvey, Gee, Hefner, and even Niese could use guidance from someone who has been up the mountain more times than they have, and that's what Marcum can provide. Without Johan around, he's the best option available.
Performance-wise, I wish we didn't have to watch Laffey get another start this week; he had no problem putting the ball in the strike zone in his first start, but his stuff is not overpowering enough. The 10 hits he surrendered to the Miami Marlins in 4.1 ineffective innings on April 7 were way too many, but also not surprising. Despite having a solid spring (1-0, 3.00 ERA in 12 IP), Laffey allowed 13 hits and walked six batters, compiling an unimpressive 1.58 WHIP in Grapefruit League play.
So, I'm hoping these rumors about Marcum's possible season debut on Sunday are accurate, and he doesn't experience any setbacks this week while he prepares for the Nationals. When healthy, Marcum has always been a productive member of a rotation. Manager Terry Collins not only needs his right-hander on the mound every fifth day, but he needs him in the clubhouse and the dugout, spending time with his younger, and more inexperienced rotation mates.
Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Rising Apple. He also provides his analysis and opinion on the rest of Major League Baseball at his personal blog, On The Way Home.
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