The acquisition of Johan Santana supposedly pushed Mike Pelfrey back out of the starting rotation, either to a bullpen role or back to AAA. However, it looks like the Mets may have to make a decision on their fifth starter for the start of this season.
In two Spring Training appearances now, Mike Pelfrey has looked great, pitching 5 shutout innings and allowing just three hits. It was easy to turn against Pelfrey last season, after his 0-7 start. I never gave up on him though, and I kept watching him with hope that he would start to turn it around. He then went on to win 3 of his 4 starts in September.
Orlando Hernandez had much more success during last season than Pelfrey. However, he was rather injury prone, and that is already carrying over into this season. He has been very limited in camp so far due to his injuries, and has yet to pitch in a game. I wouldn't be surprised if he was still not ready by the time the regular season rolled around, meaning Pelfrey would probably be the fifth starter by default.
But what about if, or when, El Duque is healthy again? Obviously, it's too early to tell for certain. If he can get in some work in Spring Training games and shows success, they could go with the more experienced Hernandez, especially if the Mets are unwilling to put him in the bullpen. But if Pelfrey continues his success through Spring Training, and maybe even through the beginning of the regular season, it's going to be hard to pull him from the rotation. I think he may have turned a corner last September, he seems to have grown a bit and learned from his disastrous start last year, and he may be ready to take on the big leagues now. And I would really like to see what he can do, instead of just waiting for El Duque to get hurt again.
Of course, if we have the rotation of Johan, Pedro, Maine, Perez, Pelfrey, then that begs the question of what to do with El Duque. They say he won't go into the bullpen, but that may be what is best. Remember him pitching out of the bullpen in the White Sox's World Series run? He'll be just fine out there. It's Pelfrey's time to shine.