What’s up with the Mets rotation?

Update – 2:15 p.m.: Jeremy Hefner was forced to leave Tuesday’s game after being hit in the pitching elbow by a comebacker.

Michael Baron, Contributor

Shaun Marcum experienced neck pain during his bullpen session yesterday, and has been scratched from his final Grapefruit League start on Thursday.

Shaun Marcum 1 polaroidAccording to ESPN New York, the Mets are considering pushing Marcum back from his scheduled start against the Padres next Wednesday (April 3) to the fifth game of the season against the Marlins at Citi Field (April 6).

The Mets could also slot Marcum in on April 7 against the Marlins, assuming Marcum is ready by then. That way, everyone in the rotation can pitch on regular rest, with Marcum as the fifth starter. If that’s the route the team goes, they can then put Marcum on the disabled list and backdate his stint ten days, which would open up a temporary roster spot and allow the Mets to carry an extra reliever north for a few days.

However, if Marcum is not ready by April 7, the Mets will have to consider other options for the rotation, as they will then need a fifth starter.

One of the options could be Aaron Laffey, at least for a short duration. He was re-assigned to minor league camp over the weekend and struggled in his start against the Cardinals on Sunday. But the Mets are trying to stretch him out so he can serve as an insurance for the starting rotation. I expect he will continue to work in minor league camp as a starter this week, and will slot into Triple-A Las Vegas’ rotation next week, to be aligned to replace Marcum if necessary.

The Mets could also turn to Collin McHugh in the short-term, although he struggled this spring and clearly has work to do in order to be an effective Major League pitcher.

Zack Wheeler 1 polaroidNo matter what, I don’t believe Zack Wheeler will be an option right out of camp. Yes, the Mets could potentially have two major holes in their rotation for the foreseeable future, but I still can’t see the Mets losing an extra year of control with Wheeler in this situation. However, if he gets off to a good start in Vegas, Marcum isn’t back and they believe Johan Santana will be out for an extended duration, I bet there will be a lot of buzz about Wheeler joining the big league rotation soon after the 20th day of the regular season (that’s the last day Wheeler would be eligible for a full year of Major League service time, which would delay his free agency an extra year). Yes, they still have to consider the possibility of Wheeler becoming “Super Two” eligible in this case (which would likely expire around mid-June), but if he’s producing in Vegas and a need remains in the big league rotation after April 20, the Mets could consider the possibility of promoting him at that time.

After all, Sandy Alderson said over the weekend if a need arose with their catching, the Mets would immediately promote Travis d’Arnaud and disregarding the possibility of d’Arnaud becoming Super Two eligible. One would think the same may apply in Wheeler’s case…

Click here for rules about MLB service time, Super Two status, and arbitration...

Per MLB rules, a player accrues a full year of Major League service time if he spends 172 of the 182 days on the active roster or on the Major League disabled list. If a player is optioned to the minor leagues for 20 days or less, he is credited with big league service time as well.

A player becomes “Super Two” eligible if he is one of the top 22 percent of rookies called up in a season. If a player becomes eligible, he has four years of arbitration eligibility, the first coming after his second year.