Friday, January 27, 2012

Maine's In Massachusetts: Red Sox Sign John Maine

On May 20, 2010, John Maine took the mound against the Washington Nationals trying to rebound from his first poor start in a month.  Maine had given up six runs in five innings against the Florida Marlins in his previous start, after a four-start stretch in which his ERA was 2.49.

However, something didn't look right to manager Jerry Manuel after Maine walked leadoff batter Nyjer Morgan on five pitches.  Despite Maine's claims that he felt fine, Manuel took him out of the game.  John Maine never pitched again for the Mets, spending the rest of the season on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue.  When the Mets chose not to re-sign Maine during the offseason, he became a free agent and agreed to a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies, going 1-3 with a 7.43 ERA in 11 starts for their Triple-A affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, in 2011.

Now comes word that John Maine will be changing his Sox, as the former Met hurler has agreed to a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox and has been invited to their spring training camp to compete for a spot on their roster.  Should Maine break camp with the Red Sox, he will be used as a relief pitcher, a role in which he has been rarely used.

Maine pitched for the Mets from 2006 to 2010, going 39-32 with a 4.17 ERA.  He ranks 23rd all-time in wins as a Met.  He also ranks in the top 20 in winning percentage (.549, 14th), fewest hits per nine innings (7.85, 8th) and most strikeouts per nine innings (7.76, 6th).  In addition, Maine was 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in three postseason starts for the Mets.  And of course, Maine almost pitched the team's first no-hitter in the penultimate game of the 2007 season, helping the Mets temporarily stave off elimination with his 14-strikeout performance against the Florida Marlins.

If John Maine makes the Red Sox out of spring training, he will play for another former Met, as Bobby Valentine is the new skipper in Beantown.  As Mets' manager from 1996 to 2002, Valentine was known for going to his bullpen early and often.  None of Valentine's pitching staffs in his six-plus years as Mets' skipper recorded 10 complete games (the 1998 and 2002 squads had nine complete games apiece).  Prior to Valentine's arrival in New York, the Mets had never had a full, non-strike shortened season in which the starting staff didn't reach double digits in complete games.

Given that Maine's role on the Red Sox would be out of the bullpen, he'd probably get his fair share of opportunities to pitch for Bobby Valentine.  Of course, he has to make the team first.  Considering his lack of success (and health) since 2010, that might be easier said than done.

As a Mets fan who was also a John Maine fan, I'd like to wish him all the luck in the world as he tries to return to the major leagues as a member of the Boston Red Sox.  More than likely, he's going to need it.

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