Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pitchers and Catchers in Port St. Lucie

More important than any roses or boxes of chocolate, Johan Santana and the other Mets pitchers and catchers reported in Port St. Lucie, Florida, to begin Spring Training!

As happy as I still am about the Giants winning the Super Bowl, I still can't help but to look forward with great excitement towards this 2008 baseball season. And baseball is finally, officially, right around the corner.

As my excitement grows about the addition of Johan, I'm starting to also get excited about a much less talked about addition: the return of Duaner Sanchez to the bullpen.

After being injured for the entire 2007 season, and being pretty much completely off the radar, it's easy to forget how big of an impact he had on this team. He was probably our most reliable pitcher in the bullpen leading up to Billy Wagner in 2006 until the Curse of the Taxis struck again (although we got Oliver Perez as part of a last-minute desperation trade before the deadline because Sanchez got hurt, so it wasn't all bad). I loved watching Duaner pitch, and I always had great confidence in him whenever he came in a game.

Then, obviously, we ran into a bit of bullpen issues at the end of 2007. The Mets' bullpen completely fell apart with guys like Joe Smith and Guillermo Mota having to take innings that Duaner Sanchez would have handled in 2006. I hate to think of the what-ifs, but who knows how things would have been different at the end of last season with that extra anchor in the bullpen helping to take the pressure off not just down the stretch, but for the whole season.

Duaner is looking good and ready to come back strong in 2008. Like Guillermo Mota getting traded for essentially nobody seemed like a new acquisition, so does Duaner Sanchez coming back to this team after over a year on the disabled list. Say what you want about Johan taking pressure off the bullpen by pitching deeper into games; just having Sanchez return will naturally take some pressure off the bullpen and make it better.

First Spring Training game in 13 days.

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