As the Mets, winners of 19 of their last 25 games, continue to get solid outings from Japanese import Hisanori Takahashi, the future of John Maine becomes more of a question mark with the team. Friday night as Takahashi held the Yankees scoreless over 6 innings of work, John Maine was busy making his second rehab start in Buffalo, lasting 4.1 innings. Maine walked 3 and struck out 4 while throwing 88 pitches and allowing an unearned run, according to the Daily News. The high pitch count suggests more of the same from Maine upon his return.
John Maine’s case has been extremely frustrating recently as he has been forced to combat his surgically repaired right shoulder. We’ve seen his fastball dip from the mid 90’s to the mid to upper 80’s. Maine’s loss of velocity has seemingly gone hand in hand with his poor attitude on the mound and his stubbornness with manager Jerry Manuel and pitching coach Dan Wharthen.
I miss the John Maine of 2007, the pitcher who won 15 games and averaged 8.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. I miss seeing him run that rising fastball up the ladder. Jerry Manuel has already said that Maine will reclaim his role as a starter when he returns to the club.
On the other side of the spectrum, Japanese southpaw Takahashi has filled in admirably in the Mets current makeshift rotation. Four of Takahashi’s six starts have been quality starts, as he has kept hitters off balanced with a change-up he throws in any count. Takahashi is defined by his resourcefulness. He has plus control and works both halves of the plate with superb command. As mentioned previously, when Takahashi has his breaking stuff working favorably, he is awfully tough to figure out for opposing hitters.
Friday night in the Mets 4-0 shutout of the Yankees, Takahashi really impressed me. He seemed to be working unfavorable counts most of the night, but was daring the feared Yankees hitters to do something with his fastball, and they just couldn’t put good wood on it. Big hitters like Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez were stepping up to the plate licking their chops, and Takahashi was teasing them and getting them to take bad swings. I felt like a bomb could have gone off behind the mound and Takahashi would have continued to go about his business.
Its going to be tough to see Takahashi back in the pen, however, you have to recognize the value he has there. He is ideal for long relief and can be effectively utilized against lefty or righty batters. Pitching is really a craft for Tak’. He is methodical in his execution, as he attacks the strike zone with pinpoint accuracy and finesse.
Like most other Met fans who have been following Maine closely, I am pessimistic when it comes to his return. His loss of velocity mixed with his erratic control leads me to believe that he will not attain his ’07 form now, or anytime in the future, and ultimately will not help this team win.