On Monday, the Mets optioned LHP Josh Edgin to minor league camp. Later in the day, Terry Collins told reporters LHP John Lannan will still work as a starting pitcher this spring, but he is also being considered as a second left-handed reliever for the bullpen.
LHP Scott Rice is on the 40-man roster and expected to make the Opening Day roster.
Lannan is open to pitching in relief, because his primary goal is to make the Opening Day roster (Rubin, Mar. 11).
"I'll do anything to help the team," he said.
The last couple of years, the Mets have been burned by not carrying a second quality left-handed reliever to start the season. That has often led to overusing Rice and Tim Byrdak. It has also reduced flexibility late in games, and has forced other relievers to pitch in situations that exposed their weaknesses.
Lannan has never made a major league relief appearance. He's held left-handed hitters to a .267 average in his seven-year career, which isn’t great. The Mets have some flexibility with him, since he cannot opt out of his minor league contract until June (Rubin, Jan. 30). That could allow the team extra time to work Lannan in relief at Triple-A to see how he'll transition in to the role. Of course, this wouldn't help the short-term, Opening Day roster situation.
At the same time, if Lannan is a reliever, the race for the last rotation spot will likely come down to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia. Early in the offseason, it sounded as though the preference was to give Mejia the job if he was healthy at the end of camp. However, Terry Collins recently suggested his preference is for a veteran to win the spot, which could result in Mejia starting the year in the rotation at Triple-A. It doesn't sound like the organization views Mejia as a reliever anymore, and that's good news considering how much he's been jerked around over the years.
The Mets should choose the best option for each role and not deliberately handicap themselves because they fear losing somebody on waivers. If players aren't performing, they shouldn’t be on the roster.