Mar 27

Wheeler Rocked, Lugo Rolls

The competition for the Mets’ fifth starter role took a turn Monday with a strong outing from Zack Wheeler and a poor one from Seth Lugo. Each should make one more limited appearance this spring before the Mets’ brass makes a decision as to the fifth starter.

Wheeler, who spent the better part of the past two years recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw five shutout innings and had his fastball top out at 96 in a split-squad win over Miami. Lugo, who helped save the Mets’ playoff run last spring and had pitched well in the WBC, gave up four runs in 4.1 innings in a loss to Washington.

Despite the contrasting performances, the Mets did not make an announcement as to who will be the fifth starter because it is not a clear-cut decision based on numbers.

The decision could come down to whom the Mets feel is best to handle the up-and-down rigors of working out of the pen, which is most likely Lugo. Wheeler does not have bullpen experience, while Lugo does and was brought to camp in part to pitch in relief.

Another factor with Wheeler is his proposed innings limits, initially set at 110 innings and is now up to 120 to 125. Manager Terry Collins said the other day the innings could be determined on the fly this summer. Should that really be the case, then there’s probably nothing decided, which is a reminder of the Matt Harvey innings flap in 2015.

If there really is an innings limit, the optimal decision would be to wait until May or June, when he could join the rotation and pitch on a regular routine. With a strong chance of inclement weather in April, there’s a strong chance of rainouts, delays and cold temperatures that hurt even healthy arms let alone one coming off elbow surgery.

EXTRA INNINGS: Steven Matz, who was bumped from his last start with elbow irritation, threw 55 long tosses today on flat ground. The Mets still haven’t said whether he’ll undergo a MRI. … Closer Jeurys Familia was in New York today to meet with the Commissioner’s Office regarding a suspension for his domestic violence case last October. The expectations are he’ll at least 30 games. … Outfielder Brandon Nimmo‘s chances of making the Opening Day roster have greatly reduced because he’s not making progress on his strained right hamstring. … Outfielder Juan Lagares said his strained right oblique muscle feels better.

 

 

 

Mar 27

Mets’ Remaining Issues

OK, Matt Harvey had a good start Sunday, and for now, isn’t an issue for the 2017 Mets. However, that’s not to say they don’t have questions as they enter the final week of spring training. Manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson have a lot of thinking to do in this final week of spring training:

MATZ: What's the plan? (AP)

MATZ: What’s the plan? (AP)

ROTATION: Steven Matz was shut down Monday, but will throw on flat ground. The Mets say there is no structural damage or ligament damage, yet they have no plans for a MRI. I’ll never understand that logic.

Robert Gsellman will be the fifth starter, but the Mets have the resources in Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler and Rafael Montero to fill in as Matz’s replacement. It seems the prudent option would be to put Matz on the disabled list or in an extended spring training to let him strengthen his elbow and get rid of the irritation. Rushing him back – as they have done with pitchers in the past – will only backfire.

Don’t do it.

Wheeler and Lugo will work Monday in split squad games, but the Mets remain undecided as to how to use Wheeler. Starter or reliever? Does anybody remember how they juggled Jenrry Mejia?

It was first 110 innings, now it is 120-125, and recently told reporters “we’ll worry about those innings limits in the middle of the summer.’’ You have to love a man with a plan.

BULLPEN: The names and roles have to be determined, but the Mets have the numbers. Either Lugo or Montero could be placed in the pen if they don’t go into the rotation.

Because of the up-and-down, inconsistent nature of relievers, using Wheeler in that role could be a mistake.

Hansel Robles, Josh Edgin and Sean Gilmartin figure to have worked their way into Collins’ pen. Paul Sewald has pitched well and could have won a spot.

Fernando Salas is back with the Mets following a visa issue. He pitched in the WBC, but there’s concern if got enough work.

THE OUTFIELD: Juan Lagares has a strained left oblique, but said he’s feeling better. That’s an injury that tends to linger, so the likely option is for him to open the season on the disabled list and use Michael Conforto as the center field back up.

If Conforto makes the Opening Day roster, I would hate to see him linger on the bench. He needs to get consistent at-bats and it won’t be coming off the bench, but will the Mets devise a playing rotation in the outfield with Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes? I’m not seeing it.

 

 

Mar 26

Harvey Finishing Up Strong

Matt Harvey vowed his sputtering fastball would be amped up by the end of March. Well, he cranked it up to 97 mph., Sunday in easily his best start of spring training. And, coming on the heels of the news Steven Matz would miss his next start with irritation in his left elbow, the Mets were due for some positive pitching news.

Harvey also threw his slider in the upper 80s and went six innings.

HARVEY: Finishing strong. (AP)

HARVEY: Finishing strong. (AP)

“That was a big step, probably the biggest so far of the spring, and moving forward into the season,” Harvey told reporters.

Several weeks ago, I suggested the Mets consider leaving Harvey behind, but he’s improved in his last two starts, both in velocity and length. And, four strikeouts and one walk in the 8-2 victory over the Braves, was also a strong positive, so an extended spring training is a moot point.Harvey’s next start will come Friday at Citi Field against the United States Military Academy, and from there it’s back into the rotation.

Harvey’s next start will be Friday at Citi Field against the United States Military Academy, and from there it’s back into the rotation.

“I couldn’t be happier where I am now and moving forward,” Harvey said. “I feel I’m ready for a good season.”

That sound you hear isn’t the howling wind, but Mets’ fans sighing in relief.

Mar 24

Gsellman Frontrunner For No. 5 Starter

While there’s nothing official, it’s probably safe to assume the Mets will name Robert Gsellman their fifth starter.

There’s not much to debate after Gsellman gave up one unearned run in Thursday’s shutout loss to Washington. Gsellman reported to spring training to compete with Seth Lugo and Zack Wheeler for the No. 5, and he’s lived up to expectations with a 1.56 ERA, but in only 17.1 innings.

As for Wheeler, he hasn’t helped himself with an 8.59 ERA in three games. He certainly hasn’t worked enough to be stretched out for a rotation spot, and considering his lack of experience in the role, the Mets are reluctant to work him out of the bullpen despite their need.

However, Lugo, who pitched well for Puerto Rico in the WBC – save the championship game against the United States – does have a bullpen background and the Mets envision working in as a reliever in the middle innings.

The need for Lugo in the bullpen coupled with Wheeler’s problems forces Gsellman to the front of the line.

“I have no idea until they tell me,” Gsellman told reporters Thursday about a possible rotation spot. “So we’ll wait and see. I don’t really think about that. I just try to go out and get the job done.”

Gsellman will get one more start to cement his spot in the rotation, and it’s possible – but a likely long shot if the Mets hold to form – both he and Lugo could go in the rotation – if Matt Harvey continues to spit the bit in his final spring start.

 

Mar 23

Mets Boast Formidable Lineup

The Mets’ batting order will vary depending on the opposing pitcher and who are the hot hitters. However, the lineup manager Terry Collins started Wednesday against the Miami Marlins is the one he’ll likely write in most days.

And, when clicking it can be very formidable.

REYES: The catalyst. (AP)

REYES: The catalyst. (AP)

Jose Reyes, 3B: With David Wright to open the season on the disabled list and Reyes playing every day, there’s no need to search for another leadoff hitter and we won’t see him in the outfield. Backup: Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: He produced in this slot last year and there’s no reason to change. He has the power to be a run- producer high in the order and bat control to advance runners. Backup: Reyes with Flores playing third that day.

Yoenis Cespedes, LF: Traditionally, your best hitter bats third. That’s Cespedes, no question. Backup: It will depend whether Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo are on the roster.

Curtis Granderson, CF: He homered twice Wednesday and if he’s hitting that’s sufficient protection for Cespedes. A potential issue is stacking two high-strikeout hitters back-to-back. Backup: The only true center fielder is Juan Lagares.

Neil Walker, 2B: I like putting a switch-hitter between Granderson and Jay Bruce. Let’s hope he shows the power he did last season. Backup: Rivera and/or Flores.

Bruce, RF: Let’s face it, there will be no immediate trade involving Bruce. And, with the $13 million they are paying him, he will play which could leave Conforto on the outs. He could open the season in the minor leagues to get consistent at-bats. Backup: If he stays, Conforto could be a factor. If not, Granderson would return to his natural position.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He’s healthy – knock on wood – for now. With the hitters immediately ahead of him, Duda should have plenty of RBI opportunities. Duda has had a good spring and has been driving the ball to the opposite field. Backup: Flores is the first option. Potential backup Bruce hasn’t gotten enough playing time at the position.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Somebody has to hit eighth. He’s had a good spring at the plate, but his throwing needs work. Backup: Rene Rivera, but we’ll see Kevin Plawecki this summer.

Collins consistently said last year’s offense was built to hit the long ball, and this season should be no different as he has four sluggers who have hit 30 homers in a season, with three of them – Granderson, Bruce and Duda – left-handed added to Cespedes. Even so, it was encouraging to hear Collins say he wanted to push the envelope offensively and manufacture runs. The flip side is those four are also capable to strike out over 100 times.

For that to happen, the Mets must strike out less and walk more and emphasize the need for making productive outs and improve their hitting with runners in scoring position.