Aug 28

Three Mets’ Storylines: More Injuries, But DL Should Be Avoided

There’s never a good time to be injured, but for the Mets to have three players go down the same day, now is as good a time as any for them to go day-by-day with Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes. With the rosters to be expanded Sept. 1, the Mets have three days for manager Terry Collins to juggle his lineup without having to utilize the disabled list.

GSELLMAN: Gives Mets six solid. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Gives Mets six solid. (AP)

Walker (back) and Cespedes (right quad) woke up sore and did not start Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the Phillies, while Cabrera (left knee) was hurt in a first-inning collision. Each player missed time earlier this season with a similar injury.

Were they rushed back too soon? That’s a possibility, but all have played well – actually they are the Mets’ three hottest hitters – since coming back, so that might be an oversimplification.

“This is something I’ve dealt with before,” Walker said of his back. “Sometimes it takes a couple of days; sometimes it takes a little longer. This one is taking a longer.”

If a player goes on the disabled list now, he still has to sit the full 15 days. That’s part of the Mets’ reasoning for starting Steven Matz Thursday, Sept. 1, rather than the day before.

The Mets can get by with Wilmer Flores, Ty Kelly or Kelly Johnson in place of Cabrera and Walker, and Alejandro De Aza in place of Cespedes for the next three days.

The temptation Collins must resist is thinking they all must play in the upcoming series against the Marlins, especially with the Mets forced to having pitching unknowns Rafael Montero (Monday), Seth Lugo (Tuesday) and a pitcher to be determined (perhaps Sean Gilmartin, who is currently on the 25-man roster) going Wednesday. The Mets could also move up Bartolo Colon and pitch him on short rest.

These injuries coupled with the lack of production from the offense, was today’s primary storyline. The others were sticking with starter Robert Gsellman too long and the wild card race.

PUSH ENVELOPE WITH STARTER: The Mets couldn’t have asked for more from Gsellman than they got for six innings in his first career start, which was one run.

Except they did and ran him out for the seventh. The Phillies’ first three hitters singled, and Collins went to Hansel Robles, who has been dreadful for the past month. By the time Collins replaced Robles, three runs were in and the opportunity for the Mets to sweep was gone.

With every game vital for the Mets, they would be better off using Robles in mop-up situations because it is clear he’s not getting the job done in his present role. In 13 innings this month he has given up 14 runs (all earned) on 15 hits and ten walks for a 0-1 record with a 9.69 ERA. Dreadful is as good a word as any.

The slide can be pinpointed to Aug. 3 when the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira forced Robles’ meltdown by mocking him while on second base. That night Robles gave up three runs on three hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.

THE RACE: The Mets caught a break with St. Louis and the Marlins losing, but Pittsburgh won in Milwaukee.

The Mets trail Miami by one game with the Marlins in Monday to start a four-game series. We’ve heard this before, but this is a very important series.

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Aug 27

Still Like Bruce Trade

Jay Bruce sat out of Saturday’s game by Mets manager Terry Collins for a “mental health” day, which wasn’t a bad idea considering he struck out four times the night before.

“I think it’s human nature (to try to impress your new team),” Collins told reporters. “I don’t know one player who didn’t instantly want to make an impact.”

BRUCE: Still like the deal. (AP)

BRUCE: Still like the deal. (AP)

Never mind the Mets dumped the Phillies for a second straight game, 12-1, and Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera homered, they will need Bruce before this season is done.

In 22 games since coming over to the Mets from Cincinnati, Bruce is 13-for-81 (.160) with two homers and six RBI, but I still like the trade. And, I’ll like it even better when Bruce starts hitting again, and with 27 homers and 86 RBI, he’s too good a hitter not to. While Collins’ motivation is mental, Bruce said his problem is more mechanical.

“It looks like I’ve been moving away from the plate,” said Bruce, whose extra work also entails looking at video. “So many small things like that happen. That’s baseball. I don’t think I forgot how to hit. I do a lot of my damage middle-away, and I’ve gotten away from that.”

Just because Cespedes is hitting home runs again, you have to remember the context in which the deal was made in the first place. Cespedes was gimpy and Curtis Granderson was – and still is – mired in a terrible slump.

Even with their offense non-existent for much of July, the Mets were in the race for a wild card. Also at the time, Bruce was leading the National League with 80 RBI and hitting well over .300 with RISP. Also part of the Mets’ reasoning was for Bruce to be a safety net if Cespedes opts out. Cespedes indicated he’d like to stay with the Mets but hasn’t made a commitment to doing so.

Conversely, the Mets have a club option on Bruce, so if Cespedes returns they could let the latter leave. The Mets also have to decide where Michael Conforto fits into their plans, and if they want to go one final season with Granderson or buy him out.

But, that’s next year. For now, Bruce has 33 games remaining in this dwindling season to work out of his slump.

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Aug 26

Three Mets’ Storylines: Lovin’ Colon Again

Once again Bartolo Colon gave us another night for us to cherish all he gives us. The 43-year-old Colon backed seven strong innings with his offensive prowess, getting two hits and scoring a couple of runs to help the Mets roll the Phillies Friday night.

COLON: Does it again. (AP)

    COLON: Does it again. (AP)

As he usually does, Colon picked up the Mets when they needed him most. He’s 6-1 starting after a loss. But after Jon Niese left after getting just one out this week in St. Louis, and Steven Matz on the DL and the Mets about to push back or skip Jacob deGrom for his next start Monday, the Mets needed Colon to preserve the bullpen.

“The bullpen needed a blow,”  manager Terry Collins said.

The season started for the Mets with the storyline of those young arms and Colon until Zack Wheeler could come off the disabled list. Then Colon, as he did last year, would enter the bullpen. As it has turned out, Colon is the ace of this staff. With the 9-4 victory, Colon won his team-high 12th game and 230th of his career to lead active pitchers. It was also his 20th win in his four years with the Mets.

Not bad for somebody the Mets signed in the winter of 2013 as a stopgap when Matt Harvey was injured. His next start is Wednesday against Miami.

Colon was the Mets’ top storyline on the night, followed by their mashing and the continued struggles of Jay Bruce.

MORE FLEXING: For the tenth time this season – and the second time in their history to start a game – the Mets went back-to-back. This time Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera connected off Adam Morgan.

The homer was Reyes’ 415th as a Met to tie him for fourth on the franchise list with Mike Piazza.

Wilmer Flores broke the game, 6-1, with a grand slam in the fifth. Cabrera hit his second homer – a two-run drive – that made it 9-1 in the sixth.

With right-handers scheduled to start the next two games for the Phillies, there’s no reason to believe Collins will deviate and start him. Flores has 14 homers and 44 RBI this season.

But, Flores will never learn to get comfortable against right-handed pitching until he faces more of it. The numbers indicate Flores has more at-bats against right-handers, but that stands to reason as there are far more right-handed pitchers.

STILL LIKE BRUCE TRADE: Bruce – dropped to sixth in the order – continued his horrid play, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

In 22 games since coming over to the Mets from Cincinnati, Bruce is 13-for-81 (.160) with two homers and six RBI.

Even so, I still like the trade for several reasons, the first being the Mets are trying to reach the playoffs, and at the time of the deal Yoenis Cespedes was gimpy and Curtis Granderson in a terrible slump (he still is).

Also part of their reasoning was to be a safety net if Cespedes opts out. Cespedes said this week he wants to stay with the Mets but isn’t sure.

Although he’s not hitting now, he has 34 games remaining to catch fire. Nobody knows what will happen next year, but as long as the Mets are in it, Bruce can eventually help them. He’s too good a hitter (27 homers and 86 RBI) not to.

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Aug 26

Why Can’t Collins And Alderson Get Together On A DeGrom Plan?

Why does it take so long for the Mets to make even the simplest decisions? The latest is whether to rest Jacob deGrom after he was roughed up Wednesday night in St. Louis.

“To me, it looks like he’s getting run down,” manager Terry Collins said after deGrom was hammered for the second straight start. In his last two games deGrom has given up a combined 13 runs on 25 hits in 9.2 innings.

DE GROM: Needs rest. (AP)

DE GROM: Needs rest. (AP)

The Cardinals got him for five runs on 12 hits in 4.2 innings. The start before that the Giants hit him for eight runs on 13 hits in five innings.

Collins suggested deGrom could be tired after the Giants’ game, and several times this season attributed the stamina of his starters to their 2015 workload. That was eight days ago, and according to Collins in today’s press briefing, he still hasn’t spoken with GM Sandy Alderson about resting deGrom, which suggests two things.

The first is Collins doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally decide how to use his pitchers. Does he really need Alderson’s permission to push deGrom back a few days or even skip a turn? Do you think Joe Torre needed to talk with Brian Cashman before resting Andy Pettitte?

The second is there’s a lack of communication between Collins and Alderson, which represents a disconnect between the two I’ve suggested several times already this season.

In the two days since deGrom was ripped, couldn’t Collins have picked up the phone to call Alderson to tell him what he was thinking? Or, after reading Collins’ thoughts the next day, couldn’t Alderson have phoned his manager?

Why must there need to be a face-to-face meeting?

If Collins believes deGrom needs to miss a turn, then just do it and stop making this a daily soap opera. How hard can that be?

If Collins tells Alderson “we need to skip deGrom,” then it’s up to the general manager to provide the manager a starter.

The Mets took nearly a month before deciding to put Yoenis Cespedes on the disabled list? They took several weeks before putting Steven Matz on the disabled list? They’ve also dragged their feet on Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto and a handful of other issues.

There are 35 games remaining in a season that his slipping away. Sure, you hate to lose a deGrom start, but it’s preferable to miss one now than risk getting him hurt and missing several.

It’s not all that hard. Just make a decision.

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Aug 25

Mets Should Not Hold Pat Hand At Deadline

Most reports indicate the Mets won’t make a deal by the August 31 deadline. However, after watching Seth Lugo’s first career victory cut short by a cramp in his right calf, they shouldn’t be so sure about that position.

All teams put players on waivers throughout the season to ascertain who might be interested in making a deal later. If nobody claims that player – the term is “clears waivers,” – then he could be available. You’d be surprised who might show up on the list.

LUGO: Solid before injury. (AP)

LUGO: Solid before injury. (AP)

We can assume most contenders are adding this time of season. We can also assume the teams sparring with for the Mets for a wild-card would also be interested in adding a pitcher, but since these things are done in reverse order, as of now that player would slip to the Mets before the Pirates, Marlins, Cardinals or Giants could block the deal.

There’s such fragility with starting pitchers as the Mets learned this season with Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler – neither will pitch again this year – and now Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and possibly Noah Syndergaard are suspect. Matz is on the DL, deGrom’s next start will be pushed back, and everybody is waiting for the other shoe to fall on Syndergaard.

The Mets have been fortunate with Lugo, so far, but what will they get Sunday from Robert Gsellman, who’ll be making his first career start?

Also fragile are playoff opportunities. Prior to last season, 2006 was when the Mets were in the postseason. As we learned this year, injuries and bad luck happen. Will the Mets be in contention next year? Nobody can say.

However, everybody in the wild-card hunt has issues. Everybody.

The Mets are now 3.5 games behind for the second wild-card with 35 games remaining following Thursday’s 10-6 victory in St. Louis. Sometime in that span, the Mets might need somebody to step up and take the ball. Who are they going to give it to? Rafael Montero? Sean Gilmartin? Gabriel Ynoa? Surely, the Logan Verrett boat has sailed.

The Marlins are going after it. Reportedly, they are interested in the Braves’ Julio Teheran after a proposed deal for Arizona’s Shelby Miller fell through.

Meanwhile, the Mets seem they will go with a pat hand. And, it isn’t all that great a hand.

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