Terry Collins was asked last night whether or not Jeremy Hefner earned his next start in the rotation on Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Mets skipper was hesitant to give an answer; he said he will most likely wait until the weekend before that decision is made. The reason for his hesitation is that Collins wanted to hear how Miguel Batista fared in his first rehab start at Triple-A Buffalo. After seeing the line he put together in his outing, Hefner should be the one getting the start on Monday.
Batista threw seven innings and 83 pitches in the loss to the Reading Phillies, but the four hits (one home run) and four walks that he gave up show me that he needs at least one more start. I think it’s important for Batista to have a positive start in the minors before he
gets promoted to face Major League caliber hitters. We’ve seen during this week against the Phillies how much of an impact surrendering walks can be in the outcome of a game. Just ask Jonathon Niese if you don’t believe me.
With a struggling bullpen and the worst ‘pen in Major League Baseball (statistically speaking), Collins desperately needs a starter on the mound that can put the ball over the play and allow the defense to make plays behind him. Batista did show he can perform in the rotation against the Brewers at the beginning of the month, but now that he had to be put on the shelf, he should have to work in his rehab to prove that he can return to form before he goes back to the Big Leagues.
Collins has been great about rewarding the hot hand and minimizing the damage when someone is struggling (outside of Manny Acosta); Mike Baxter, Scott Hairston, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Ike Davis are all good examples of that. The fact of the matter is that Jeremy Hefner is hot right now; he spun a quality start against a division rival, and has walked only one batter in his first 17.2 innings pitched in the Majors. Hefner has the reputation of being a strike-thrower, and he has proved himself worthy outside of his start against the Padres that was interrupted by the rain.
I hope that Terry makes the right call here and stays with the hot hand for Monday’s game. This is a very important stretch for the Mets that hasn’t gotten off to the best start by losing two of three to Philly, and this four-game set against the Cardinals is a big one. Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey will look to set the expectation tomorrow and Saturday, and hopefully Niese will follow suit. Hefner may not be the answer for the rest of the year, but for right now, he is the answer.