Dan's Dugout: Will Pitching Problems Preclude Pennants in NY? • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Will Pitching Problems Preclude Pennants in NY?

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NEW YORK – Now that the World Baseball Classic hoopla is over, maybe the baseball world can return to serious business.

Like the looming advent of Opening Day a week from Sunday.

With snow still on the ground in the New York Metro Area, fans can’t wait to hear the sounds of bat hitting ball again.

The problem is that opposing teams may be doing most of the damage.

With less than 10 days to spare, both New York clubs have serious concerns about their pitching. Or lack of it.

MetsLogoYes, the Mets have five young starters, all with a world of potential.

But Zack Wheeler, still trying to shake off a two-year struggle with elbow woes that needed Tommy John surgery, suffered command issues this spring and will stay in Florida when the rest of the team heads north.

Erstwhile ace Matt Harvey, who went 4-10 last year, has not pitched well this spring.

Steven Matz, the lone lefty in the rotation, and Jacob DeGrom, officially listed as No. 2, both had their 2016 seasons shortened by surgeries.

There’s even some worry about Opening Day starter Noah Syndergaard, who bulked up so much over the winter that several insiders predict he’s an accident waiting to happen.

With ageless Bartolo Colon now pitching for the Braves, the final rotation spot is a battle between Robert

Bartolo Colon is now with Atlanta. Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Bartolo Colon is now with Atlanta. Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Gsellman, a late-season surprise last year, and Seth Lugo, who missed much of the Mets camp while pitching in the WBC.

The status of the bullpen is even more tenuous. Closer Jeurys Familia, still smarting from losing the 2016 wild-card game to San Francisco in the ninth inning, is about to be suspended for allegedly violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policies. He could be gone for 50 games, the same span slapped on teammate Jose Reyes last year.

Whether Addison Reed can fill the void is debatable – and who then becomes the set-up man?

The Mets already face questions at both infield corners, where key veterans missed chunks of time last year, and in the outfield, which has too many corner men but no quality defender in the middle. In addition, the team needs a catcher – or a major comeback season from holdover Travis d’Arnaud.

Across town, pitching poses even more potential problems for the Yankees.

Masahiro Tanaka has had a phenomenal spring.

Masahiro Tanaka has had a phenomenal spring.

Masahiro Tanaka had a phenomenal spring and the bullpen tandem of Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman should slam the door on the last two innings. In between, however, manager Joe Girardi has a myriad of question marks.

CC Sabathia, his only southpaw, is clearly over the hill and not likely to show any improvement as he ages. He and Michael Pineda combined for 24 losses last year and can’t do that again.

Not even Girardi knows who might fill out the rest of his rotation, sparking rumors that Brian Cashman might pull a Jose Quintana out of his hat or even sign an innings eater like Doug Fister, still a free agent.

At the moment, the leading candidates are Luis Severino and Chad Green, who went 5-12 in 2016, although Bryan Mitchell is finishing the exhibition season with a rush.

On the plus side, the Yankees have shed a lot of age since last year and are encouraged by the power potential of first baseman Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge, young players getting their first real shot at daily duty. Catcher Gary Sanchez was so good last summer (.299 and 20 homers in limited action) that he bumped Brian McCann off the roster.

Losing shortstop Didi Gregorious to a shoulder injury in the WBC didn’t help, however – he’ll miss the

A shoulder injury will cost the Yankees their starting shortstop til May

A shoulder injury will cost the Yankees their starting shortstop til May

first month and maybe more.

The Yankees have to hope veterans Matt Holliday and Jacoby Ellsbury have some life left in their bats, though Chris Carter should help after a 41-homer campaign in Milwaukee.

Without dependable pitching, however, the Yankees could have trouble finishing above .500 in a top-heavy division dominated by Boston and Toronto. USA TODAY Sports Weekly predicts a fourth-place finish, no improvement over their 2016 standing, and another runner-up finish for the Mets in the NL East, behind the pitching-rich Washington Nationals.

Elsewhere in baseball:

The World Baseball Classic still conflicts with spring training. Image Credit: Bill Menzel

The World Baseball Classic still conflicts with spring training.
Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Even with all the excitement over the first Team USA victory in the WBC, most baseball insiders want to move the event to November, normally a dead month for the game . . .

Ex-Met reliever Roger McDowell has followed the path of Leo Mazzone, jumping from Atlanta to Baltimore as pitching coach . . .

John Smoltz is quickly becoming the best baseball analyst on television . . .

Condolences to the family of Dallas Green, one of four men to manage the Mets and Yankees but also the pilot of the first Phillies world championship team.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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