Marlins-Mets Preview

The depth of the New York Mets’ rotation is considered a major
concern, and it was evident in their first loss of 2010. With two
veterans coming off poor seasons, the Mets are turning to young
Jonathon Niese to fill a void.

Niese will try to prove he deserves a regular turn in the
rotation Thursday night when New York concludes a three-game series
with the Florida Marlins at Citi Field.

The Mets (1-1) have relied heavily on ace Johan Santana to
anchor the rotation and he’s delivered by going 30-16 with a 2.76
ERA in 60 starts over two-plus seasons since being acquired from
Minnesota. He got the new season off to a positive start Monday,
allowing one run and four hits in six innings of a 7-1 win over
Florida (1-1).

After Santana, it gets dicey for the Mets, who ranked 12th in
the NL with a 4.77 ERA last year.

John Maine is trying to re-establish himself as a solid No. 2
after winning a career-high 15 games in 2007. However, he was hit
hard in Wednesday’s 7-6, 10-inning defeat, giving up four runs and
eight hits – two homers – in five innings.

New York’s other veteran starters are Mike Pelfrey and Oliver
Perez, who both struggled in 2009 and were moved to the back of the
rotation due to poor efforts in spring training.

That leaves the Mets to hope Niese can emerge as a contributor
in his first full season in the majors.

Niese went 1-1 with a 4.21 ERA in five starts in 2009, but his
season was cut short in August due to a torn hamstring. The
left-hander will get his first start against Florida after going
1-1 with a 6.52 ERA in six games during spring training.

“I think his time has come,” pitching coach Dan Warthen told the
team’s official Web site. “He’s done his growing and his learning.
Now, it’s time to do his pitching.”

While the rotation has questions, manager Jerry Manuel feels
good about the lineup, which overcame a five-run, seventh-inning
deficit Thursday before losing in extra innings.

“You can look at it as a disheartening loss but I look at the
tremendous fight the team put up,” Manuel said.

The rally was helped by the Marlins’ bullpen, which had three
relievers combine to surrender three runs with five walks – two
with the bases loaded – in 2 1-3 innings, while hitting a batter
and committing a balk that scored the tying run.

The Marlins will send Nate Robertson to the mound as he tries to
rebound from an injury-plagued 2009. He went 2-3 with a 5.44 ERA in
28 games – six starts – with Detroit last year while struggling
with groin and elbow injuries.

The Marlins re-acquired Robertson on March 30, sending
left-hander Jay Voss to the Tigers.

Robertson, the only left-hander in the Marlins’ rotation,
appeared in six games as a rookie for Florida in 2002.

He was scheduled to be the Marlins’ fifth starter, but was
flipped with Anibal Sanchez after a strong performance in his only
spring game for them April 1. Robertson allowed one run in seven
innings against St. Louis, and manager Fredi Gonzalez was wary of a
long layoff.

“We didn’t want Nate Robertson to not pitch in 10 days,”
Gonzalez told the team’s official Web site. “Another thing is this
splits those right-handers with a lefty. But the major thing was
for him to not have him go 10 days without pitching.”

Robertson allowed two runs and four hits in 7 2-3 innings of a
3-2 loss at New York on June 18, 2004, in his only start against
the Mets.