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Erickson makes bid for rotation
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04/01/2004 10:14 PM ET
Erickson makes bid for rotation
Scott Erickson's latest outing has given him a shot at starting for the Mets. (Richard Drew)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The muddied waters swirling around the back end of New York's rotation only cleared slightly Thursday as Scott Erickson made a solid case for his inclusion on the Major League roster.

Erickson threw three scoreless innings in an intra-squad game and looked sharp though his velocity was down slightly from his last outing Saturday against the Braves. Thursday's outing was slightly skewed because he faced the same group of batters every inning in Kazuo Matsui, Vance Wilson and Eric Valent.

Matsui attempted to bunt in each of his three at-bats. Valent picked up a single but Wilson struck out twice, saying Erickson's stuff was "filthy". Whether it was filthy enough to sway management is anyone's guess at this point.

Prior to Wednesday night's action in Vero Beach, the Mets were inclined to give the fourth spot in the rotation to Tyler Yates and the fifth spot to Grant Roberts. But Roberts had a rough outing against the Dodgers, opening up a whole new series of questions. The club has until midnight Saturday to set its Major League roster.

New York did pare down its list of potential starters, sending James Baldwin and Aaron Heilman to Triple-A Norfolk. Baldwin has a clause in his contract that stipulated he can be sent to the minor leagues with an out date of April 30.

Neither Baldwin nor Erickson would speculate about his future but Erickson did give the impression that if he was asked to go to Norfolk he probably wouldn't go. Ten teams were interested in signing Erickson this winter with the Giants continuing to monitor his situation through the middle of this week.

"I have the possibility of making another team," said Erickson, who is also scheduled to pitch two innings Sunday against Montreal. "If they were to sign and trade me I'd have no say. It's not my job to negotiate where I play. I just take the ball when they give it to me.

"I've seen the last day of camp make or break. You want to leave with the best 25 guys and if it takes till the last out, that's what it takes. I don't know the rules [about setting the roster]. I just roll with the punches."

General manager Jim Duquette said he was pleased with Erickson's outing. He did admit he still had "some things in the works" and that a trade before Opening Day was possible though he didn't specifically mention Erickson.

Like Erickson, Jae Weong Seo is trying to roll with the punches as well but after his rough outing Tuesday against the Indians in Winter Haven, manager Art Howe and Duquette let it be known that his spot in the rotation wasn't all that secure. There is a growing sentiment within the organization to send Seo to Norfolk to work on the command problems that have plagued him this spring.

"I wouldn't be concerned about Jae either way," Duquette said. "He's handled adversity well throughout his career."

Seo, who is 0-2 with a 7.48 ERA in 21 2/3 spring innings, was confused and upset by the thought of such a scenario earlier in the week but on Thursday he seemed to be more at peace with whatever decision management makes. He said no one on the coaching staff or front office has addressed the issue with him and that he wasn't going to approach anyone about it.

"I have a very clear state of mind right now whether I start the season in the Major Leagues or the minors," Seo said. I don't think it [a conversation] is necessary at this time. I just want to get ready for the season. The manager and the general manager make the decisions.

"Whether I pitch well or not, I still have to look at myself. This is still something I have to overcome. I'm a little disappointed but that disappointment is within me. There's no one cause for it. I just have to correct it. I'm a little disappointed but at the same time I'll be fine in the end."

Roberts, meanwhile, still appears to have an inside track at either of the two spots despite allowing four runs in the first inning against the Dodgers. Duquette expressed concerns about how deep into a game Roberts can go and there is some question about his speed to the plate with runners on base.

The hard-throwing right-hander, who was battling a mild case of the flu as well as a blister problem, allowed seven runs on nine hits in five innings against Los Angeles. He is out of options and would be in the bullpen if he didn't make the starting rotation.

"I felt Grant wasn't hit as hard in the first inning as the scoreboard indicated," Duquette said. "I would have felt better if he gave up four runs and then threw up zeroes after that, though."

As for Baldwin, he was generally pleased with how his spring progressed. He was 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in three official games but got scuffed around a bit on Wednesday in a game against Florida's Double-A team.

"I proved myself healthy but they [the Mets] have some tough decisions to make," Baldwin said. "I had a minor-league out and that buys a little time for them. That [the out] probably cost me. The only thing that beat me out was that month clause I had in my contract."

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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