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With spring training games going into their third week in Port St. Lucie, home of the New York Mets’ Tradition Field, Manager Terry Collins and General Manager Sandy Alderson have some decisions to make regarding the starting rotation for the 2014 Mets. After Zack Wheeler dominated in his June 18th call-up in Atlanta last year striking out seven, walking five, and allowing four hits over six scoreless innings, it looked as though he and Matt Harvey could be the base for another Miracle Mets starting rotation. However, this plan went askew after Harvey was shut down in late August with a tear in his right elbow. While the ace has undergone Tommy John surgery since then and is pitching at 60 foot lengths, it looks as though he will be out until 2015 with late 2014 as the best case scenario.

With Harvey out, the Mets acquired Bartolo Colon in a two year deal, introducing a reshaped possible starting rotation for the upcoming season with contenders Jonathon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Jenrry Mejia, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and the man himself, Bartolo Colon.

Debuting with the Mets in September of 2008, Jonathon Niese went 1-1 over three games and 14.0 innings only to see 25.2 innings in five games with the same record in 2009. In 2010 they bumped him up to full time, where he went 9-10 in 30 starts posting a 4.20 ERA over 173.2 innings. He kept in line with those numbers going 11-11 in 26 starts with a 4.40 ERA in 2011 and started to grow in 2012 with a 13-9 record and 3.40 ERA across 30 starts, marking his first season without setbacks in September. Last season, Niese dipped down to an 8-8 record after opening off the season on the mound, delivering a 3.71 ERA and 143.0 innings in 24 starts. While he is a favorite for the opening day slot this year, his best season so far has been 2012, where he earned a WAR of 3.4 compared to his 0.5 mark in 2011 and 0.7 in 2013. Now considered a veteran member of the team, Niese is a shoe-in for one of the five starting rotation slots.

Going 7-5 over 17 starts in a short 2013 debut season, Zack Wheeler made a name for himself throughout the entire Mets organization with 38 earned runs and 84 strikeouts while allowing 90 hits in 100.0 innings. So far in Spring Training, he has seen two starts with 3.0 innings in each, where he has gone 1-0, allowing zero runs on five hits while striking out six and walking one. In 2012, his first full year with the Mets organization, Wheeler went 12-8 in 25 starts while playing with their Double-A and then Triple-A affiliates. In those games he pitched 149.0 innings and allowed only 59 runs on 115 hits while striking out 148, almost one punch-out per inning. He accompanied these numbers with a 3.26 ERA. Before his call-up from AAA in June of 2013, Wheeler managed 13 starts where he won four and lost two with a 3.93 ERA. He showed improvement in his numbers getting 73 strikeouts in 68.2 innings, while allowing only 30 earned runs on 61 hits. As mentioned before, Zack helped form what looked to be a promising starting rotation for 2014 and beyond and along with Niese will most definitely have a starting spot at the end of the month.

Dillon Gee has been with the Mets since 2010 when he debuted on September 7th. He ended the season with a 2-2 record and 2.18 ERA after five starts. In 2011 he saw 27 starts and went 13-6, pitching 160.2 innings. He struck out 114, yet allowed 150 hits and 79 earned runs giving him an ERA of 4.43. His 2012 season fell short of expectations when he only managed 17 starts and a 6-7 record, totaling 109.2 innings. While he struck out 97, 50 runs came in on his watch with 108 hits knocking them in, but his ERA did drop to 4.10. Last season, Gee worked his way back up with 32 starts and a 3.62 ERA ending the season at 12-11. He saw 199.0 innings, where 142 were struck out and only 47 walked. 208 hits also went by as he limited opponents to 80 earned runs. This year in spring training, Gee has pitched only 2.1 innings in his one start, where he struck out one and walked zero while allowing just one run on four hits. His spring training record stands at 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA but at this point, who’s counting, especially with his status. While not as much of a veteran as Niese, Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson seem to have no plans to remove Gee from his role in the starting rotation, leaving two open spots for our final three contenders.

Yet to make his regular season debut with the Mets, Bartolo Colon will start on the mound as the Mets face off against the Marlins on March 10th. The true veteran will be entering his 17th season in the majors this year, but only his second in the National League, playing with the Expos for a part of 2002. He has posted solid numbers throughout his career, most recently going 18-6 in 30 starts for the A’s last season with a 2.65 ERA. He also managed to post 190.1 innings with 117 strikeouts and 56 earned runs off of 193 hits during the year. Although he has no standing status with the team, the trade would turn into a waste if Colon doesn’t take a spot in the starting rotation in 2014.

With one spot left, the Mets have two viable options; Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia. After starting seven games and going 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in 2013 with the Mets, Daisuke left a strange taste in the mouths of many Mets fans, many of which were questioning his place in the MLB. After his dominant 2007 and 2008 with the Boston Red Sox, Daisuke has become a lesser-known and rather irrelevant figure in the game, winning just 20 games since his 18-3 record in 2008 and losing 28. Although the Mets appear to have acquired him as an innings eater, it hardly makes sense for them to start him in 2014, especially with Mejia as a wide open option.

With one start and a 2.25 ERA in spring training so far, the scouts and coaches are liking what they are seeing out of the young Jenrry Mejia. After losing four games in three starts in 2010, Mejia spent time with New York’s Triple-A affiliate, where he saw similar results. The organization continued to keep him in Triple-A for 2011 where not much improvement was made, but he finally made it to the top again in 2012 only to see three starts in five games. In 2013, the Mets called him up and gave him another shot where he went 1-2 over five starts with a 2.30 ERA. He pitched 27.1 innings and allowed 28 hits with seven earned runs and 27 strikeouts while walking only four. Dipping as far down as Low-A and Rookie ball in 2012 and 2013, Mejia definitely has some kinks to work out, but he is getting time in Spring Training, pitching 2.0 innings in one game where he had zero earned runs and struck out three while allowing one hit. If the Mets do give him the fifth spot in the rotation, they will be forced to watch his innings count and possibly take him out towards the end of the season. This could make room for Daisuke, although everyone is waiting to see when Thor, Noah Syndegaard, will be ready for his call-up.

All in all, if the Mets play their cards right they should have a manageable rotation for 2014 and a rock solid one for 2015, especially with Harvey planning to come back full time, and the chance for Syndegaard to finally make his debut. As March 31st draws closer, all of us here at MLB On Deck will be keeping our eyes out for which pitchers Collins and Alderson name to the starting rotation and will keep everyone updated with our MLB rumors from around the league.

Posting a 3.51 ERA, 7.3 K/9, and 13.0 WAR, the Atlanta Braves starting rotation ranked among the best in all of baseball last season. It was a deep rotation that received starts from 10 different pitchers, and even featured some of the bright, young arms in the Braves’ minor league system. Now as we enter spring training of a brand new 2014 season with the loss of veteran pitchers, Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm, it will be up to those young pitchers such as Alex Wood and David Hale to fill open spots in the rotation, and play a key role in bringing the Braves back to October for the third year in a row.

Mike Minor

After two unspectacular seasons in 2011 and 2012, Mike Minor pitched to a 3.21 ERA and 7.96 K/9 over a career-high 204.2 innings of work last season, and was irrevocably the ace of the Braves starting rotation. The 26-year-old, southpaw also managed to display a well above average fastball (9.6 wFB) and change up (5.4 wCH) as the pitches ranked as the 17th and 13th best among starters. There will be some worry surrounding Minor’s health as he will be coming off what is being described as a minor procedure on his urinary tract this offseason. The procedure kept Minor from working out for an extended period of time, which consequently, has lead to recent shoulder soreness. Minor is expected to be back before opening day, but will likely miss most of spring training because of the injury. The Braves will hope Minor can overcome this setback, and repeat his spectacular performance this upcoming season. ZIPS projects Minor to regress slightly, posting a 3.41 ERA and 7.90 K/9 across 191 innings of work.

Kris Medlen

2012 was a breakout year for Kris Medlen as he finally found his way back into the rotation in the latter part of the season. After that, Medlen was extraordinary, pitching to a 0.97 ERA and 9.04 K/9 over 83.2 innings, and allowing no more than three runs in a game. The 28-year-old, right-hander managed to build on this success last season, pitching to a 3.11 ERA and 7.17 K/9 over 197 innings, while also flashing an exceptional change up (12.4 wCH) and curveball (4.3 wCB) that ranked as the 6th and 12th best in the league. More of the same should be expected for the upcoming season as ZIPS projects Medlen to post a 3.31 ERA and 7.09 K/9 over 191 innings of work while continuing to be a key contributor to the Braves starting rotation.

Julio Teheran

After multiple years as the Braves top prospect, Julio Teheran finally was able to live up to the hype last season, pitching to a 3.20 ERA and 8.24 K/9 over 185.2 innings. Teheran was soon rewarded this offseason after his breakout season, getting a six-year, $32.4 million extension that also includes a $12 million club option for 2020. How Teheran will perform in his sophomore campaign will remain to be seen, but chances are regression is very likely with his FIP (3.69) and xFIP (3.76) not being as favorable as his ERA (3.20). Also signs for concern, Teheran was well below average in GB% (37.8%) and HR/FB (10.1%), which tell us that Teheran was perhaps luckier last year than he will be this upcoming season. ZIPS tends to project minimal regression, projecting Teheran to post a 3.39 ERA and 7.72 K/9 over 182.1 innings of work.

Brandon Beachy

The story of the 2012 and 2013 seasons for Brandon Beachy was Tommy John surgery. It was a catastrophic injury without a doubt as Beachy was in midst of his best season yet, pitching to a 2.00 ERA and 7.56 K/9 across 81 innings of work. Coming back from the injury at the end of last season, Beachy managed to make five starts, posting a 4.50 ERA and 6.90 K/9, while seeing a small drop in fastball velocity from 2012. Now as the 27-year-old, right-hander gets ready to take on his first full season since 2011, it appears to be tough to decipher just how good he will be this upcoming season. ZIPS projects Beachy to post a 3.76 ERA and 8.56 K/9 over 97.1 innings, while a rough spring training debut yesterday, pitching 1.2 innings and giving up two earned runs on five hits, might say otherwise.

Alex Wood

Heading into the upcoming season, Alex Wood has already made a very strong case to be a part of the starting rotation this year. Wood, 23, pitched to a 3.54 ERA and 8.68 K/9 across 56 innings of work, while pitching especially well against left-handers, posting a 1.61 FIP and 2.13 xFIP over 23.2 innings. The Braves have not yet made it clear if Wood will be in the rotation or bullpen, but chances are that with a strong spring training performance, Wood will be a clear favorite to claim the final spot in the rotation. ZIPS projects Wood to post a 3.29 ERA and 7.88 K/9 across 112 innings of work next season.

David Hale

David Hale will likely not be in the rotation to start the season, but he should have a chance to compete for a spot. Hale, last season, spent nearly all of the year in Triple-A, pitching to a 3.22 ERA and well below average 6.04 K/9, which likely contributed to his 3.89 FIP over 114.2 innings. The 26-year-old, right-hander did manage to make two starts for the Braves in September, pitching to a 0.82 ERA and 11.45 K/9, while also posting an exceptional 63.3 GB% over 11 innings. ZIPS projects Hale to see an extended amount of time in the rotation this upcoming season, making 20 starts, and pitching to 5.08 ERA and 5.56 K/9 across 114 innings of work.

If everything goes as planned, this rotation could very well turn out to be one of best in the league. Paul Maholm and especially Tim Hudson will missed, but the Braves appear to have made the smart decision to let them walk. There is plenty of depth beyond these six pitchers that extends to those such as Gavin Floyd, Freddy Garcia, J.R. Graham, Cody Martin, etc., and there is also tons of top of the rotation upside with Minor, Medlen, and Teheran.

Sportscenter has reported via twitter that Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, will work out with the Texas Rangers, and be in uniform for their spring training game on March 3rd against the Cleveland Indians. Wilson was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 41st round of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft, but chose to go to college instead.  He was then drafted in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies in the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft, and played two summers as a second baseman with Rockies’ affiliates before deciding to go to the NFL.

Wilson was the third round draft pick for the Seahawks in 2012, and won Rookie of the Year that same year.  He has the most regular season wins by a quarterback in their first two seasons in the NFL, and he tied Peyton Manning’s record for most passing touchdowns by a rookie.  He was also elected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two years, and this past season, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVII.

Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors reports Carl Pavano has ended his comeback bid and will officially retire after a 14 season career that started with Expos in 1998. Pavano, over the course of his career, pitched to a 4.39 ERA and 2.57 K/BB ratio over 1788.2 innings. The 38-year-old, starting pitcher played for five different teams accumulating a career 23.7 WAR, and had his best season come in 2004, when he pitched to a 3.00 ERA over 221.1 innings, good for a 4.0 WAR.

“Despite my strong desire to compete and hard work in preparing for the upcoming season,” said Pavano. ”I feel that the amount of time lost from my spleen injury, coupled with the recovery from my complications from that injury, preclude me from continuing to compete at my highest level, which is necessary to perform in the major leagues.” He went on to add that ”three months of rigorous training have failed to produce the results that I was looking for to allow me to continue my major league career.”

As Spring Training officially begins, the performance of NCAA Football star Jameis Winston was on display in an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and Florida State Seminoles earlier today. Winston, after entering the game in the fifth inning as a defensive replacement, had a groundout and strikeout in two at-bats on the day. Winston commented after the game saying, ”I’m just 20 years old, man, living my life, and I want to play both [football and baseball] as long as I can. Like I said, it’s just me having fun with those guys in the clubhouse. I love both of them, I got a strong passion for both.” Now here is some more news from around the MLB today:

  •  C.J. Wilson was carted off the field today after being hit on the side of the head by a line drive off the bat of Yorvit Torrealba. While it was a scary moment for Los Angeles Angels fans and players, Wilson did not suffer a concussion on the play and made sure to confirm it himself via twitter. Wilson’s injury, however, was not the only one of the day as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that 32-year-old, outfielder Josh Hamilton also left practice today with a strained calf. Hamilton reportedly will be on crutches for the next few days and re-evaluated later this week.
  • George A. King III of the New York Post reports that seven teams, three of which were the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and Minnesota Twins, watched Johan Santana throw earlier today. Santana, as he continues to recover from a second shoulder surgery, flashed an impressive change-up, but saw his fastball top out at just 81 MPH. The throwing session marks a major milestone for Santana as he moves closer towards his goal of a mid-season return.
  • The Tampa Rays have joined the New York Mets as a potential fit for Nick Franklin reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. After getting confirmation yesterday that the Mets are interested in acquiring Franklin, the Rays are said to be contemplating possible deal structures. Further details of a possible deal are not known at this time, although one may speculate David Price could potentially play a large role in trade talks after the Seattle Mariners expressed a great deal of interest in him earlier this offseason.
  • Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, in a recent article, says Mike Trout and Los Angeles Angels continue to talk with the magic number being $150 million. The first report of a potential deal in the range of six-years, $150 million came up two days ago, but since then, there has been no indication whatsoever of how far the two sides may be apart on a deal.

The MLB and MLB PA announced today that an experimental rule will be in effect for the 2014 season, and will prohibit the most egregious collisions at home plate. The official rules are below:

  • A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out, even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball.
  • Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of a runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe.

The rule will be numbered 7.13, and is reviewable under newly expanded instant replay. To ultimately determine the implementation of the rule for 2015 and possibly beyond, the MLB and MLB PA will be setting up a committee of both players and managers to review the experimental rule over the course of next season. As a result of the rule, teams reportedly will be required to begin training their runners to slide and catchers to provide a clear pathway to the plate.

The New York Yankees made some noise today, agreeing on a four-year, $52 million extension with 30-year-old, outfielder Brett Gardner. The deal also contains a $12.5 million team option for the 2019 season, and will prevent Gardner from reaching free agency after the upcoming season. Here is some more news from around the MLB:
  • CBS Sports’ John Heyman reports that 34-year-old, starting pitcher Johan Santana is throwing bullpens on his own and aiming for June to make his return the MLB. At least three American League teams are reportedly showing interest, and will hope Santana can return to form after undergoing a second shoulder operation last season.
  • Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, in a recent article, explores the possibility all of the remaining three compensation free agents, Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales, signing after the June draft. Rosenthal notes that a holdout by one or more of the compensation free agents until after the draft also could work to the benefit of the players long-term if the union eventually seeks to alter or abolish the system. Also saying, the Royals would not be happy if they lost the pick they expected back for Santana, and the same would go for the Red Sox with Drew and the Mariners with Morales. If select clubs shared the players’ discontent, it could help spark change.
  • Matt Harvey threw for the first time on Saturday since having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow exactly four months ago reports Tim Rohan of the New York Times. Harvey was able to comment on the matter telling reporters “I felt very good, kind of surprised, actually. Going into it, I didn’t really know what to expect.”
  • Mike Carp will try out a new position during Spring Training tweets WEEI.com’s Alex Speier. Details of what position this might be are not know at this time, but third base could be a logical assumption with the lack of depth on the left side of the infield for the Red Sox, and Carp’s small amount of experience at the hot corner in the minor leagues. Carp could potentially be part of a platoon at third base after posting a .904 OPS over 215 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers last season.