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Mets hoping rotation can thrive after R.A.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) - Now that R.A. Dickey's gone, the New York Mets have to replace his wins - and innings.

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Coming off their fourth straight losing season, the Mets enter spring training with a projected rotation of Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Shaun Marcum, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee, a quintet that combined to go 35-34 with a 3.26 ERA last season.

``We'll find the 20 wins, but we have to find someone who can give us the 245 innings,'' manager Terry Collins said. ``R.A. Dickey went into the seventh inning a lot. We've got to find a guy that does that this year. ... If we are a staff that's a six-inning pitching staff, we are going to wear our bullpen out by the end of May. That can't happen.''

New York's bullpen had a 4.63 ERA last year - 29th in the majors, ahead of only Milwaukee's 4.66. General manager Sandy Alderson rebuilt it, adding Brandon Lyon, Pedro Feliciano, Scott Atchison and LaTroy Hawkins.

``Losing R.A. is a big deal. He was a Cy Young winner and had a phenomenal season, but what Sandy did this offseason is best for the Mets in the long run,'' Gee said Thursday. ``I think the rotation has a ton of potential, but it's not something we have to wait for. If everyone comes out and pitches hard each and every day, I think we can be an exciting group to watch.''

Dickey was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, then was dealt to Toronto in December when the Mets couldn't sign him to a deal beyond 2013 at a price they liked.

Santana went 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA and 111 strikeouts over 117 innings and 21 starts last year before an ankle injury and lower back inflammation ended his season in August. He had missed a year following shoulder surgery in September 2010, and the Mets must decide after the season whether to exercise a $25 million option for 2014 that carries a $5.5 million buyout.

``To me, what's important right now is to stay healthy, being able to go out every five games,'' Santana said. ``I'm hoping to do that the whole season. As far as numbers and all that, if I'm healthy and I'm there, I have a good chance to put up those numbers.''

Gee ``is a guy who on certain nights can do it,'' according to Collins, but Gee is coming off an injury-shortened season. The right-hander had shoulder surgery in July to patch an artery in his pitching shoulder, a procedure designed to prevent another blood clot from forming.

The 31-year-old Marcum, brought in on a $4 million, one-year contract, went 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA last year with Milwaukee but missed two months with elbow tightness and pitched just 124 innings.

He called the opportunity to join the Mets a fresh start but doesn't feel any individual pressure to be Dickey's replacement.

``If we can all shoot for that 200-inning mark, go out there and hit that, that's going to take a lot of pressure off the bullpen,'' he said. ``And to hit 200 innings you've got to be pitching deep into the game.''

The 26-year-old Niese will be trying to improve on what was his best season thus far, when he went 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA in 190 1-3 innings and 30 starts.

``I think Jon Niese is ready to turn the corner,'' Collins said.

Niese hopes to pass 200 innings.

``I feel the numbers will take care of themselves,'' he said.

Harvey struck out 11 over 5 1-3 inning in his big league debut at Arizona last July. The 23-year-old went 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts during his first big league season, with the Mets ending his year early in mid-September when he reached 170 total innings in the majors and minors. He struck out 70 and walked 26 in 59 1-3 innings for New York.

``The way that they handled me the last couple years, at times it was tough,'' Harvey said. ``Now it's time to perform and prove that I belong here.''

Notes: The Mets worked out indoors as heavy rain fell on Tradition Field throughout the morning. ... All but three position players have arrived at camp, though official voluntary reporting date for them isn't until Saturday. The club's first full-squad workout is set for Monday.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
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