NEW YORK -- The Mets' starting pitching, an issue of depth before the Spring Training emergence of Brian Bannister, is an issue again now that injury has eliminated Victor Zambrano from the remainder of the 2006 season. Zambrano needs surgery to repair a tear in the flexor tendon in his right elbow, an injury suffered Saturday. The Mets' needs are different, a tad desperate and not on the immediate horizon.
Bannister and John Maine, the pitcher who replaced him in the rotation, are assigned to the disabled list. So, too, is Zambrano. And when the extent of Zambrano's injury was made public Sunday, general manager Omar Minaya made it clear that top prospect Mike Pelfrey is not a potential solution for the Mets' problem.
With Pelfrey, the 22-year-old pitcher the Mets selected in the First-Year Player Draft last year, not an option, the club moves forward with Jose Lima, the veteran who started Sunday against the Braves, and possibly Jeremi Gonzalez, another veteran who, like Lima, began the season with the Mets' Triple-A Norfolk affiliate.
Minaya said Saturday that Bannister, though eligible for reinstatement Friday, probably won't be ready to take what would have been his next turn in the rotation Friday night in Milwaukee. And Maine's assignment to DL runs through May 17. Minaya and manager Willie Randolph are reluctant to move Darren Oliver from the relief role in which he has been surprisingly effective.