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New York Mets: What Have Been the Top Storylines From Eventful Spring Training?

Spring training is always too long and most of the time, too boring. Especially when it’s for a team that doesn’t have Phillies-type expectations for their upcoming season.

The good thing is, it’s coming to an end pretty soon as Opening Day is about a week away.

The Mets have had quite the eventful exhibition season so far. Under a new regime, there have been big time moves made and a lot of roster spots taken by experienced veterans.

With spring training about to end and the Mets about to set their 2011 roster, let’s take a look at the top story lines from March.

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New York Mets: Will Closer Francisco Rodriguez Finish 55 Games?

Everyone knows by now that New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez has a huge team option for 2012. It’s worth $17.5 million and only becomes guaranteed if Rodriguez finishes 55 games this season and is declared healthy by doctors in the offseason.

Now, that may have not sounded like a big deal prior to last season and was most likely a given when he first signed on, but times have changed.

Since Rodriguez has been with the Mets in two seasons, he’s performed well on the field—although he’s never a given trying to close out games—but he hasn’t controlled his temper on or off the field.

Even before last season’s postgame incident in the Citi Field family room, Rodriguez has shown that he can lose it at any moment. He’s gotten into fights with opposing players and even got into it with former bullpen coach Randy Niemann.

On the field, Rodriguez was having a pretty good 2010 season before shutting it down in August.

His final numbers were solid as he allowed only 45 hits in 57.1 innings pitched and his ERA was a stellar 2.20. He ended up saving 25 games but also had his usual moments of inconsistency.

While the Mets were on the brink of completely falling out of the playoff race in mid-August, Rodriguez punched his girlfriend’s father after a game at Citi Field and only had one more appearance.

He tore a ligament in his thumb during the fight and got into a whole legal situation.

Now, Rodriguez still can’t appear in a Mets spring training game because whenever he’s scheduled to pitch, he has another court hearing in New York. That happened on Wednesday morning, so the Mets are still waiting to see what he can do on the mound returning from disgrace. 

This whole saga brings up the big question: Will Rodriguez finish 55 games for the Mets this season?

It’s up for debate and can’t be answered with certainty yet. There will be a few factors in deciding whether or not the 2012 option will kick in.

First of all, will the Mets still be in the race come the trading deadline?

If not and if Rodriguez is pitching well along with being healthy, can the Mets get anything for him? They could probably look to get some kind of fourth-starter or bat but that would probably be it.

If they are in the race in late July, that would be the trickiest situation.

Obviously, with the Mets winning games, Rodriguez would be on his way to appearing in at least 55 games. No team, you’d think, would trade their closer straight-up for Rodriguez, so maybe trading him in the race would be a bad thing.

No current Mets reliever could be relied on to close games other than Rodriguez.

The one that has the stuff to do it but hasn’t been able to when given the opportunity is Bobby Parnell. The Mets right-handed setup man has an electric fastball and some nasty breaking stuff but has blown the majority of games he’s been asked to save in his young career.

The Mets wouldn’t sacrifice a good season in the position they’re in by trading away their closer without a replacement.

Of course there’s always the other possibility—that no matter how the Mets are doing, they’d find an injury to shut him down before the 55-game plateau is reached.

It’s very hard these days to “find” an injury and it wouldn’t go over with the players union too well, but if the Mets really want no part of Rodriguez in 2012, that would be a direction they could go in.

With all of Rodriguez’s troubles concerning a bad temper and whatnot, none of this would’ve been an issue if he hadn’t decked his girlfriend’s father. Now it’s up to the Mets to handle the situation the right way.

Perhaps he’ll pitch so well that they’ll forgive what he did and bring him back. There’s no way to tell right now what will happen.

The first step is to have Rodriguez make a spring training appearance. Then starting in April, we’ll see what happens to Rodriguez and his future with the Mets.

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MLB: A Complete Breakdown with Predictions for the NL Central

Moving along in our breakdown of every Major League team and division, it’s time to look at the NL Central. This is baseball’s largest division with six teams and last season, the Cincinnati Reds were the winners, making the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

It’s a division that has two teams looking for some kind of success after years of frustration in the Cubs and Pirates. Two of the teams will be fighting it out all summer, and the other two should be around .500.

Is this going to be Albert Pujols’ final season with the Cardinals, and can he lead them back to the playoffs? Can the Reds win consecutive division titles? What will the Brewers do with Zack Greinke?

Here’s the answers to those questions and a whole lot more in a complete breakdown of the NL Central with predictions.

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New York Mets: Breaking Down the Coaching Staff and Bench Players

In the final part of the series in which we break down every part of the 2011 New York Mets team, we’ll look at the new manager, coaching staff and the bench players.

For the first time since 2008, the Mets have a new manager and that always means a change in philosophy. They made some changes to the coaching staff and the bench will look a little different as well.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the coaches and bench players that’ll be on the team this season.

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MLB: A Complete Breakdown With Predictions for the NL East

Now that the previews for the American League is complete, it’s time to start breaking down the National League. We’ll start off with the NL East, which on paper, looks over before it even begins.

It may be a silly statement to make, as there are other teams that can play well in the division, but who really thinks the team with four aces won’t run away with things?

It’ll be an interesting season for this division as it appears the team that’s always been on the bottom is making some nice improvements.

The biggest question has to be, will any team step up and surprise us by taking down the Phillies?

Philadelphia has won the last four NL East titles and if any of the four can do it, which team has the best shot? With all the moves made by every team, how will everything shape up?

Here’s the answers to those questions and more in a complete NL East preview with some predictions.

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MLB: A Complete Breakdown with Predictions for the AL West

As we continue previewing each Major League Baseball team and division, it’s time to take a look at the AL West.

The league’s smallest division with only four teams had been dominated for the most part by the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels since their 2002 championship season. Last season, the Texas Rangers won the division and made the playoffs for the first time since 1999. It was a surprising run for them, as they made their first ever World Series appearance.

In the offseason, a lot of moves were made by three of the teams, making it hard to predict which club will come out on top.

Will the Rangers win a consecutive division title? Can the Angels make a return to the postseason? What’s in store for the Athletics and Mariners?

Continue reading for a breakdown of each team, including some American League playoffs and awards predictions for the upcoming season.

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New York Mets: Breaking Down the New-Look Bullpen

The Mets didn’t do too much to their roster this off-season, bringing back the same team mostly, but they did change the look of their bullpen.

They didn’t necessarily make the moves to improve the bullpen, instead letting go of a major piece and a surprisingly efficient reliever.

Pedro Feliciano was not re-signed, as he went to the crosstown Yankees after spending the last five seasons in the Mets bullpen. The surprising Hisanori Takahashi was not re-signed either, heading to the Los Angeles Angels.

Those are two big pieces that are no longer with the team, and by losing Takahashi, the Mets lose out on a lot of flexibility. Takahashi was the type of pitcher who could pitch in any role. He would start games and relieve in all situations, including as a closer.

So with these two pitchers not returning, how does the 2011 Mets bullpen look? Here’s a breakdown of the role each reliever will be taking.

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MLB: A Complete Breakdown With Predictions for the AL Central

Continuing the previews of Major League Baseball teams and divisions, next up is a breakdown of the AL Central.

Really, this division has been dominated by three teams over the last couple of years, with the Tigers, Twins, and White Sox taking control.

It’s the home to arguably the best hitter in the American League, Tigers’ first baseman Miguel Cabrera.

The Twins have won this division six of the last nine seasons, and the Indians and Royals have had little to no success.

Will the Twins once again take the division and at least play in the first round of the playoffs? Will the Indians or Royals be one of the surprise teams in the league this season?

Those questions and more are answered here in a complete breakdown of each team with predictions.

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MLB: A Complete Breakdown With Predictions For The AL East

It’s almost the start of spring training, as another baseball season will begin. It’s time to start breaking down how things may look this season.

Looking at the AL East, things might be totally different from years past with some big turnover on a few rosters. Unlike the last decade, where this division has been called the toughest in baseball, it may not be too tough in 2011.

The Red Sox made some huge moves, bringing in two star hitters, while the Yankees are searching desperately for starting pitching.

The Rays have taken what you’d think will be a step back with a loss of a bunch of key players. The Blue Jays will try to improve off their 85-win season and the Orioles will be playing under their first full season with Buck Showalter as manager.

Here’s a complete breakdown of the AL East, with predictions for each team.

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New York Mets: Breaking Down the Potential 2011 Starting Rotation

The New York Mets starting rotation is not going to be what anyone had hoped for when last season ended.

With a lot of controversy already going on in the Mets front office, the team’s ace starting pitcher (Johan Santana) will not be ready to pitch for a while. That opens up a huge spot in the starting rotation, and any number of guys could make the cut come April 1.

We know who three of the Mets starters will be, but which other two will fill out the rotation, and what other guys could we see starting games for the Mets this season?

Here’s a list of 10 pitchers who will or could be starting games for the Mets in 2011.

Note: The first five pitchers are projected to make up the starting rotation on Opening Day. The next five are potential 2011 starters.

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