PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With ace Johan Santana not expected to be ready to roll until at least June, the Mets are going to have to get awfully creative behind Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to hang around in a beastly NL East.
Awfully lucky, too.
It could start with the return to form of a couple of former All-Stars.
Whether that translates into full and productive seasons in the rotation remains to be seen.
But, as first-year general manager Sandy Alderson says, "So far, so good. They've both thrown a number of sides, they’ve thrown live batting practice, they've kept on the same rotation as everyone else."
Young, an All-Star in 2007, missed nearly all of last year following setbacks after he underwent shoulder surgery in August, 2009. After starting a game on April 6, Young did not reappear until mid-September.
So far, he's thrilled with where he's at.
"My arm strength is better and my breaking stuff is sharper," Young said. "My life on the ball has been good.
"I'm very, very happy with my progress. It was great to spend the off-season working on pitching instead of rehabbing."
Capuano, an All-Star in 2006, is nearly 18 months past his second Tommy John ligament transfer surgery. Though he made 24 appearances for Milwaukee last year, he started just nine times.
"Last year was the year I came back from injury," Capuano said. "I pitched a full season with no setbacks. This is not a coming-off-of-injury year for me. That was last year."
Capuano underwent his second Tommy John surgery in May, 2008.
"I'm still primarily a fastball, breaking ball, changeup pitcher," said the former Duke University pitcher. "I try to throw all of my pitches to both sides of the plate, in any count, and not be predictable."
He should fit right in with the Mets, given the utterly unpredictable nature of their rotation. Dickey came out of nowhere last year to go 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA in 174 1/3 innings pitched.
Oliver Perez, meanwhile, is still hanging around the clubhouse, entering the final season of a three-year, $36 million deal, and appears to have as much chance of pitching in the Mets' rotation as Mayor Bloomberg.
While Young and Capuano work on returning to form, there are other candidates floating around for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots: Rookie Dillon Gee, the organization's top prospect who impressed last September, D.J. Carrasco and Pat Misch, to name three.
Young and Capuano have earned the most stripes. Young is 48-34 over seven big-league seasons and Capuano is 46-52 over six years.
"Those are performance guys," Alderson says. "They're not going to light up a [radar] gun, but they've done it [successfully pitched in the majors].
"They're All-Star-caliber players, and if they're healthy, we may be the beneficiaries."
Sunblock Day? Definitely, continuing a perfect streak since mid-February. Sun, 80s ... just like you'd draw it up for spring training. Only change is, there's a lot more wind today.
Likes: Joe Torre as an executive vice-president in the Commissioner's Office in charge of on-field matters. Him, Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella ... these are people who should remain involved in the game. ... Being able to catch the final launch of the space shuttle Discovery from some 150 miles south through my hotel room window. Even from far away, you could clearly see the bright orange fire in the sky launching the rocket into space. Positively breathtaking. ... Late-night Seinfeld reruns while winding down after a long day of work. They're still the perfect tonic. Last night's episode was the one where Elaine was dating a guy obsessed with the Eagles' Desperado. Classic. ... Funny, after seeing Seinfeld for the first time in a long time last night, I rounded a corner today at the Mets' complex and there was Keith Hernandez, sitting on some steps while talking on the cell phone. Wonder if the Hernandez episode is the one that will be on tonight? ... The Oscars this Sunday night. Always look forward to them. I've seen seven of the 10 best-picture nominees. Really liked The King's Speech, The Social Network, Winter's Bone, The Kids Are Alright, True Grit and The Fighter. You can have Inception.
Dislikes: Adam Wainwright is a fabulous pitcher and a class act. I hope his surgery goes smoothly. ... The fried chicken smell dominating the elevator and the hallway in my hotel much of yesterday afternoon and evening. It was like Colonel Sanders had the room down the hall. ...
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
"The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine
"It's hard to tell the night time from the day
"You're losin' all your highs and lows
"Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?"
-- The Eagles, Desperado