Joel Carreno, who the Mets signed to a minor league deal last November, hasn’t been talked about much as a legitimate option to open the season in the big league pen. However, when you combine Carreno’s potential with how he’s pitched thus far and add in the fact that both Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde have been underwhelming, Carreno’s chances tick upwards.
At present, it appears that there are four locks for the opening day bullpen: Bobby Parnell, Vic Black, Scott Rice, and Carlos Torres. If he continues to pitch around the strike zone, Jeurys Familia also has a strong chance to make it. That leaves two spots.
One thing Carreno has against him is the fact that he isn’t on the 40-man roster. Still, this isn’t an also-ran or past his prime reliever we’re talking about. It’s someone who will turn 27 tomorrow, and who possesses a decent amount of upside.
After the Mets signed Carreno in November, Baseball America had the following to say:
The Mets quickly snapped up righthander Joel Carreno, who could be one of the steals (a relative term, of course) of the minor league free agent class. Carreno, who turns 27 in March, throws in the low 90s with a curveball that can help him miss bats, something he did more of in 2013 than ever before, perhaps in part because the Blue Jays made him a full-time reliever for the first time in his career. After striking out 25 percent of batters in his minor league career, Carreno’s strikeout rate jumped to 34 percent last year between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo with a 2.43 composite ERA. Now he’s pitching well for Escogido in the Dominican League. The Red Sox just paid $4 million for 27-year-old Cuban righthander Dalier Hinojosa, who might not even be as good as Carreno.
As is noted above, Carreno, who had cups of coffee with the Blue Jays in both 2011 and 2012, was moved to the bullpen full time just last season.
In Double-A in 2013, Carreno put up a 1.65 ERA and 0.73 WHIP while striking out 10.49 batters per 9. After advancing to Triple-A, he posted an ERA of 2.97 with a 1.09 WHIP, and struck out 10.53 batters per 9.
In a tiny sample size this spring, Carreno has tossed 2.1 innings, allowed 1 hit, walked none, and struck out 5.
During an appearance yesterday against the Marlins in Port St. Lucie, Carreno struck out the side while doing what he did best last year – working off his fastball and missing bats and/or freezing hitters with his curve.
The Mets should be bent on taking the seven best relievers north, not rewarding those who have a track record but are no longer able to consistently get outs in the majors. If the Mets reward potential upside and recent performance, it may be hard to keep Carreno off the roster.