The Mets sent Jonathon Niese to their minor league camp on Friday morning, a move that effectively ends the competition for the team's fifth starter spot. Livan Hernandez won the battle and will leave Florida with a rotation spot.
It didn't turn out to be much of a competition. Niese needed to be head and shoulders above any other contender to avoid a trip to Buffalo for more seasoning, Tim Redding isn't healthy and Freddy Garcia isn't capable of getting big league hitters out. The fifth man in the struggle was Pedro Martinez, who isn't actually a member of the team. That made the decision very easy for Jerry Manuel.
Some may still think Pedro is a better choice than Hernandez. A look at Hernandez's recent seasons suggests that they might be right, but the Mets aren't going to give Pedro the contract that he wants. Hernandez also fits the team's long-term needs better than Martinez.
Let's say Niese goes down to AAA and pitches well for 6 weeks. Hernandez does his regular bit, which is to say he gobbles innings at a below league average rate, but Niese looks like a clear upgrade. The decision there is pretty easy, you swap in Niese and move Hernandez to a long relief role or thank him for a job well done and designate him for assignment.
Pedro carries a lot more baggage, though. If he's healthy, but isn't pitching well, it won't be quite as easy to just cut the cord and send him packing if and when Niese (or Redding or Bobby Parnell) looks like he's a better choice for the back of the rotation. Hernandez is just a guy but Pedro Martinez is Pedro Martinez, even if he doesn't pitch like it anymore. When you're looking for disposable, it's always better to buy generic.