Mets round out roster for Opening Day
Anderson takes spot on bench; Parnell, O'Day make bullpen
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets have completed the bullpen makeover they believed was essential, making personnel moves Tuesday they said they wouldn't make until the weekend. They finalized their Opening Day roster, creating a 'pen that includes a rookie, a Rule 5 Draftee and a pitcher who isn't Elmer Dessens, and a predominantly left-handed-hitting bench that includes Marlon Anderson, but not Bobby Kielty.
Once the club removed Dessens and Kielty from the pile of possibilities, the roster was established, nearly five days before it had to be. The bullpen includes three holdovers from the set of relievers in place in September when the season slipped away -- Pedro Feliciano, rookie Bobby Parnell and Brian Stokes -- plus sub-sidearm right-hander Darren O'Day and three pitchers who will do the heavy lifting: Sean Green, J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez.
Manager Jerry Manuel had spoken highly of Dessens last week. But now, Stokes will fill the long-relief role that Manuel said was well-suited for Dessens. More veteran than Stokes, Dessens was assigned to the Minor Leagues. Stokes, a member of the Rays' Opening Day roster in 2007, had no more options. The Mets probably would have lost him had they tried to outright him to the Minor Leagues.
Parnell, who impressed Manuel in September, has added a split-finger fastball to his repertoire; that and his fastball make him the only swing-and-miss pitcher among the setup relievers. The Mets hope he can evolve into a crossover pitcher because of the split-finger.
Parnell's role on the club seemed secured weeks ago, but even when it was actually secure, he said, "I still don't believe it." He had kidded last week when told he was headed to New York, noting that the Mets' respective Double-A and Triple-A affiliates are in Binghamton and Buffalo -- "New York," he said.
Kielty was reassigned as well, ending the competition for a spot on the bench. Although the Mets' understudies are decidedly left-handed, and the switch-hitting Kielty could have provided more balance, the club opted to retain Anderson, a more experienced, albeit left-handed, pinch-hitter. Neither is defensively gifted, but Kielty's role would have been limited to facing left-handed pitching and playing in left field sparingly.
Anderson, still owed $1.15 million under the terms of the two-year contract he signed before last season, will face left-handed and right-handed pitching, and will perhaps play infield and outfield positions.
"Marlon, when he's right," Manuel said, "can be very, very good for us."
The 35-year-old Anderson, in conspicuously better condition than he was a year ago, had been a most productive pinch-hitter for the Mets in 2005, and again in 2007 after he returned to them. But leg injuries undermined him last season, and his place on the roster appeared to be in jeopardy about two weeks ago, even though Manuel's February decision to play Daniel Murphy regularly, thereby limiting the at-bats of Fernando Tatis, had reduced the need for Kielty's right-handed bat.
Manuel said he intends to use -- read: experiment with -- O'Day against right-handed and left-handed hitters, though sub-sidearm right-handed pitchers typically are ineffective against left-handed hitting.
"I hope I can get away from matchup type situations," Manuel said of O'Day. "We'll see whether he comes up and in to left-handed hitters."
By the end of last season, most of Manuel's pitching changes were dictated by the handedness of the batters. That practice -- though necessary -- burned the bullpen on an almost nightly basis.
Speaking more generally, Manuel said he know he will learn about his players once the season begins -- Monday in Cincinnati.
"The Major Leagues will tell you," Manuel said. "Spring Training just won't."
Notes: The club also told Fernando Nieve he wouldn't make the team, an indication that the Mets intend to release him.
The Mets released three players earlier in the day. The three already had been assigned to Minor League camp -- Jose Valentin, Tony Armas Jr. and Junior Spivey.
The club had hoped Valentin would accept assignment to its Triple-A Buffalo affiliate and serve as infield depth for the big league team and an unofficial coach. But Valentin had exceeded his own expectations in his exhibition-game appearances, and he believes he still can contribute to a big league team. When the Mets assigned him to the Minor League camp, he said he would have his agent look for a job with another club.
The club had no plans for Armas, the veteran pitcher who made three appearances, with one start, for the Mets last season, and Spivey, who signed in mid-March.
Rotation: Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, John Maine, Livan Hernandez (Hernandez will be added to the roster for the Mets' fifth game, in Miami on April 11)
Bullpen: Rodriguez, Putz, Green, Feliciano, Parnell, Stokes, O'Day
Catchers: Brian Schneider, Ramon Castro
Infielders: Carlos Delgado, Luis Castillo, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Anderson, Alex Cora, Nick Evans (Evans will begin the season on the big league roster. The plan is to return him to the Minor Leagues when Hernandez is added to the roster)
Outfielders: Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church, Murphy, Jeremy Reed, Tatis.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.