Whether a result of injuries or inexperience, the Mets and Padres both opened the 2013 season with a fair share of questions surrounding their starting rotations.
However, few of those questions revolve around Mets right-hander Matt Harvey or Padres left-hander Clayton Richard as the two prepare to square off in Wednesday night's contest at Citi Field.
For the Padres, Richard presents a consistent option in the rotation after making all 33 of his starts last season and tying a career high with 14 victories. San Diego would gladly take that type of production again this season, but it will need the rest of its rotation to follow Richard's example if it wants to improve on its 76-86 record and fourth-place finish in the National League West a season ago.
"It's how our starting pitching is going to line up. The guys we have are throwing well," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said. "It's a critical part of any team, and always seems to be the story in the National League West."
While the Mets are also looking to better their fourth-place finish in the NL East, their pitching staff took a serious hit last week when it was announced staff ace Johan Santana needs season-ending surgery to repair a torn left shoulder capsule. Jon Niese stepped in to earn an Opening Day victory and manager Terry Collins is confident Harvey can provide another solid option atop the rotation.
The No. 7 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, Harvey turned in an impressive -- albeit brief -- debut season in '12, going 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts. With hitters now having seen Harvey at the Major League level, Collins said the key for Harvey will be to not get complacent and allow hitters to figure him out.
"That's not Matt Harvey, I can assure you of that," Collins said. "Matt Harvey, when the season was over, we said, 'Hey look, your changeup has got to be another pitch you need to use.' And all he did was come to Spring Training and worked hard to use it, and it became a very effective pitch. So he's made adjustments himself already."
At just 24 years old, the first-round pick figures to have a bright career ahead of him. In the short term, the Mets will need Harvey to pick up right where he left off last season to turn into a formidable No. 2 starter.
"I just think that the way he pitched in Spring Training, pounding the strike zone, made people swing the bats, he's going to get easier outs," Collins said. "I've seen him get deeper into games, and with that I think he's going to win a lot of games."
Padres: Black going for length in bullpen
Though Andrew Cashner and Anthony Bass came up short in their respective bids to land the No. 5 spot in the Padres' starting rotation, manager Bud Black elected to keep both pitchers on the roster in long-relief roles to start the season.
The conventional bullpen setup doesn't always include two long relievers, but Black likes the versatility it gives him in handling the 'pen, especially in games like Monday's season-opening 11-2 loss. With starter Edinson Volquez lasting three-plus innings, Black turned to Bass, who allowed just one run while eating up three innings.
Mets: Tejada looks to put rough Spring behind him
Ruben Tejada's first at-bat of the season Monday had to be an encouraging sign for Collins.
After hitting .096 (5-for-52) with just three extra-base hits this spring, Tejada delivered the Mets' first run of the regular season with an RBI double in the second inning Monday. He added a single to finish the day 2-for-4 with the RBI and two runs.
• The Mets' 11 runs on Monday fell one short of the franchise record for Opening Day, set in 1994 with a 12-8 victory over the Cubs.