Regis Courtemanche of Metsblog answered some questions about the Mets:

Who deserves to shoulder the blame for the disappointing finish to the Mets’ season in 2007? How do you expect last year’s finish will impact the early part of the upcoming season?

Well, where do we begin? As much as I try to look ahead to 2008, last season’s finish still lingers in my mind. It’s hard to point fingers in such a team sport, but that being said, it is up to the coaching staff to do what they need to do to keep the team focused and fresh. Many players admittedly got a little bit too relaxed and over-confident and it came back to haunt them. As for this season, I don’t know how any player couldn’t use such a frustrating finish as motivation for the future. Apparently Jimmy Rollins’ comments weren’t enough to make them fight until the end, but hopefully for us Mets fans, losing the division by one game is.

Given the injury risk with Alou and the struggles that Church has had hitting left-handing pitching so far in his career, it seems that the Mets’ depth in the outfield is questionable. Is that a misconception? How often do you think we’ll see Church playing against lefties and who else do you expect will be getting time at the corner outfield positions for the Mets?

Church will be the regular right fielder regardless of who is pitching. Sure, Endy Chavez will get some starts, but other than that, Church will have to prove his worth, as I fully expect him to do. He has a .340 batting average at Shea, which is a much friendlier park than RFK was, especially now that Citi Field is theoretically blocking the funky Shea winds.

Moises Alou invented the disabled list, but he is extremely tough and can play through most anything. Carlos Beltran has spent time on the DL as well but usually powers through. Sometimes this is to his detriment, but for the most part he is a solid, gold-glove center fielder.

As far as depth is concerned, I agree with you that there are few options right now in terms of backups, but Fernando Martinez is waiting in the wings and may see some action later in the year if the need presents itself. I hope it doesn’t and he can continue to develop in the minors, but I am excited for his imminent arrival.

After miserable seasons in 2005 and 2006, Oliver Perez was fantastic last year, winning 15 games with a 3.56 ERA. What do you expect from him this year and how do you think the Mets would respond if Perez or Orlando Hernandez struggled at the back end of the rotation?

Two words…contract year. With Scott Boras as his agent, Perez will be looking to improve on last year’s performance to maximize his free agency return. I feel that Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson was instrumental in his success and I wonder about Perez’s progression if he leaves the Mets, but as for this year, yes, I think he can win 15+ games for sure. He is one of the best #4 pitchers in the entire league, and would surely place higher if not for Pedro and Santana.

If El Duque does win the 5th spot and struggles, you will see Mike Pelfrey take over his role and El Duque will probably be placed in the bullpen.

What’s left for the Mets to decide during spring training?

Pitching. All of the position players are set. Infield backups still need to be determined but that’s not the big issue here. A few middle relief spots are up for grabs and I expect to see a lot of shuffling throughout the spring which will more than likely trickle into the season. After trading a slew of talent to the Twins, there are still several young players such as Eddie Kunz, and Brian Rustich who will vie for a spot. The team and the fans are also placing a lot of faith in Duaner Sanchez’s return, which will hopefully bolster that middle relief core as well.

Like I said earlier, the five hole in the rotation has become a competition between El Duque and Mike Pelfrey. I feel that we will see El Duque win out at first, but Pelfrey will surely get into the mix at some point, especially if Duque’s health breaks down.

How do you see the NL East shaping up this season?

What, no “rivalry” questions? Many see this as a three horse race between the Phillies, Mets, and Braves. I’m going to stray from this a bit and say that only the Phillies and Mets will be in it come September. The Braves’ rotation is older than Abner Doubleday, and the Phils staff should be rather good IF they can stay healthy. The addition of Johan Santana gives the Mets the clear advantage pitching-wise in the division.

Offensively, the Mets and Phillies both sport very good lineups. Do I think the Mets’ lineup is better? Yes, particularly off the bench with Ramon Castro, Endy, and Marlon Anderson. I don’t put a lot of stock into predictions, but my objective opinion (if that’s possible) is that the Mets will win the division, with the Phillies falling just short, and the Braves, Nationals, and Marlins finishing up the pack in that order. But hey, as last year dictates, it ain’t over til it’s over.

Thanks, Regis. If you’ve never visited Metsblog I wouldn’t wait one minute more.

This mailbag from the Phillies’ web site suggests there’s not much chance Kyle Lohse is coming to the Phils. It also says that Werth and Taguchi are the primary backups in center field. That’s good news if true, I would think it would be primarily Taguchi and Bruntlett. As I’ve mentioned multiple times in the past I’m hoping that Werth sees a lot of time in center this season. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Article about the Phillies’ Australian prospects here.

Davey Lopes will have surgery for prostate cancer.

The Phils beat the Mets yesterday, beating Pittsburgh 3-1 to improve to 3-2 in spring training.

After being hit hard their first times out, Savery and Outman both had nice outings. Savery went two scoreless innings, Outman three. Segovia followed with two shutout frames of his own. Romero allowed a run on three singles in the eighth. Bisenius tossed another scoreless inning, allowing back-to-back singles with one out but getting the next two hitters to keep the Pirates off the board.

Pittsburgh didn’t have an extra-base hit in the game.

Bruntlett was 3-for-4 with three singles and two RBI for the Phils. Victorino drove in the other run with a ground out in the fifth.

The Phillies play the Braves today.