Throughout the 2014 season, Mets 101 will be sure to keep our readers up to date on the progress of some of the top prospects for the New York Mets. On Mondays, our Minor League Mondays column will spotlight a key prospect or affiliate and catch you up on what is going on with them. We kick off our coverage today with a look at the pitching prospect closest to a major league call up, starting pitcher Rafael Montero.
After spending the majority of his spring with the big league club in spring training, Montero was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to begin the season. Montero finished 2013 with the 51's, and is projected to spend the first half of his season there before making his major league debut. Montero made his first start of the season last Thursday, and it was a dandy.
Montero started Las Vegas' home opener against the Fresno Grizzlies and dominated. Montero threw six innings of shutout ball, allowing only four hits and striking out five Grizzlies' batters. Montero picked up his first win of the season thanks to some timely offense from the 51's, getting his season off to a winning start.
While the Mets are in no hurry to promote Montero, it is interesting to note that GM Sandy Alderson brought up the possibility of starting Montero in relief in the major leagues. The Mets currently have a full rotation at the major league level, and Daisuke Matsuzaka figures to get the first call up if one of the current starter suffers an injury. Montero could get his first crack at the majors in relief if the Mets' beleaguered bullpen doesn't improve.
This strategy, which has been employed by the St. Louis Cardinals for years, could offer some benefits to Montero and the Mets. Montero could get an opportunity to get his feet wet at the major league level without the pressure of being a starting pitcher. The Mets could also use relief outings to help limit Montero's innings for the year. Montero pitched 155.1 innings between Binghamton and Las Vegas last season, so the Mets would like to avoid having Montero exceed 190 innings this season. By using him in relief when he is first called up, Montero could conceivably last an entire season without being shut down.
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