Mets add Hawkins, Rice, Byrd and Atchison – Opening Day roster clearer

Michael Baron, Contributor

The Mets announced they have selected the contracts of LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Rice, Marlon Byrd and Scott Atchison to be added to the 40-man roster, and at Citi Field on Opening Day.

Scott Rice 1 polaroidAnthony Recker has also made the team as the backup catcher — he was already on the 40-man roster.

To make room for these players on the roster, the Mets optioned Robert Carson to Triple-A Las Vegas, and outrighted both Darin Gorski and Reese Havens to the minor leagues.

The Mets also re-assigned Landon Powell and Omar Quintanilla to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Pedro Feliciano will remain in Port St. Lucie to build arm strength, and both Matt den Dekker and Tim Byrdak will also stay behind to continue rehabbing from their injuries.

The Mets are putting a lot of stock in Jordany Valdespin and Justin Turner and their ability to backup at shortstop by sending Quintanilla to Las Vegas. Neither of them played there at all this spring, and they lack substantial experience at the position in general. The Mets have questionable defense at a lot of positions already, and it’s difficult to navigate inconsistent defense up the middle.

It’s still not clear whether or not Turner will be placed on the disabled list — Terry Collins told reporters they will make a final decision tomorrow. If he is shelved, it’s likely Zach Lutz will take his spot; Lutz is already on the 40-man roster, so a roster move won’t be necessary once Turner is ready to return.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis 1 polaroidIt looks as though Kirk Nieuwenhuis survived the roster purge as well. The Mets were reportedly concerned about the defense in the outfield without Nieuwenhuis, and for good reason. For all the problems Nieuwenhuis has had at the plate since last year and during camp this year, he is a quality outfielder and can help makeup for what could be an adventure in the corners. He could serve in a platoon with Collin Cowgill, or fill in wherever needed late in games, but I don’t think Nieuwenhuis has a firm grip on his roster spot — he’ll need to hit and make some adjustments in short order.

As for the bullpen, I’m surprised Carson didn’t make the team. With the demotion of Feliciano, I thought Carson was a sure bet to make the team. Carson did get roughed up in his last outing and allowed five home runs in 12 1/3 innings this spring, but his stuff looked much more refined than it did last season. But Terry Collins has been impressed with Rice all spring long. He has a sinking fastball and he induced a lot of ground balls over the course of camp. Rice is also a nice story — this is the first team he’s made out of camp, and he will finally be making his big league debut after spending 14 years in the minor leagues.

No matter what, it’s clear Marcum will start the season on the disabled list, now that eight relievers are on the active roster. Both he and Dan Warthen are confident he will start on April 7 against the Marlins, but a lot will be determined after he pitches in a simulated game early next week. If Marcum is ready to return when they need him, look for one of the arms in the bullpen to be dispatched to Las Vegas. Rice, cracking the major leagues for the first time, might be the first guy to go if he does not impress, as he obviously has all his options remaining.