Jun 05

Mets Matters: Is Kirk Nieuwenhuis An Upgrade?

I don’t understand all the hating of Rick Ankiel. Sure, he strikes out a lot, but he was brought here to plug a hole in the Mets’ shoddy outfield defense and hit the occasional home run. That, he’s done.

His throw in the ninth inning last night would have nailed Ryan Zimmerman at second had shortstop Omar Quintanilla been in position and stayed with the play. Had the play been made, perhaps the Mets would have won, but the point is no other outfielder’s throw would have made it close.

NIEUWENHUIS: On Mets' radar. (AP)

NIEUWENHUIS: On Mets’ radar. (AP)

I am all for playing the young players in a lost season, but Juan Lagares isn’t the answer. He has been clearly overmatched, but could get a chance against lefty Gio Gonzalez, who’ll replace Stephen Strasburg Thursday.

Terry Collins said Kirk Nieuwenhuis in back in the Mets’ thinking for a promotion, and I say, to do what? Strike out. The Mets already have enough of those hitters, including, Ankiel.

The rap on Triple-A Las Vegas is the climate makes it conducive for the long ball. That’s what Collins told Zack Wheeler, saying there would be less a premium on numbers. Using the same reasoning, why should Nieuwenhuis’ recent power surge of eight homers in 14 games – giving him ten overall – be regarded differently?

For his power, Nieuwenhuis only has 18 RBI, an indication he’s not hitting with runners in scoring position. Nieuwenhuis is still striking out at an alarming rate to prove he still doesn’t get it. He has more strikeouts (34) than hits (32) in 133 at-bats.

I don’t see where that is an upgrade.

PITCHING INJURY UPDATES: Jon Niese, who was scratched from his last start with shoulder tendinitis will throw in the bullpen this afternoon.

Niese hopes to start Saturday against Miami, but that is clearly in doubt. If his shoulder doesn’t respond, Niese could find himself on the disabled list.

Several weeks ago, Collins said back-to-back cold weather starts in Minnesota and Denver caused Niese’s back to tighten. It is possible this is a residual effect.

Also, Jeurys Familia will undergo surgery on his right elbow today to remove a bone spur.

PATRIOTIC OBLIGATION: As they always do when in Washington, the Mets will visit Walter Reed National Military Center this afternoon.

There are no reported exemptions from owner Fred Wilpon’s traditional, and urgent, request of his players.

IN TROUBLE: Cesar Puello isn’t in the major leagues, but the Double-A Binghamton outfielder is facing a suspension in the Biogenesis case now that founder Tony Bosch is willing to list names.

ON DECK: Tonight’s game.

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Jun 04

Mets Wrap: Another Jeremy Hefner Start Wasted

Once again, the Mets wasted a strong Jeremy Hefner, this time when Bobby Parnell blew a save by giving up three hits and a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning. With the 3-2 loss, the Mets have dropped four straight. Not quite the encore they hoped for after winning four straight from the Yankees.

ON THE MOUND: Hefner will be a hard act for Dillon Gee to follow Wednesday. Hefner gave up one run on four hits with one walk and seven strikeouts. … Brandon Lyon pitched a perfect eighth, but Parnell pitched far from a perfect ninth.

AT THE PLATE: Omar Quintanilla had two more hits, including a two-run triple in the fifth. … Jordany Valdespin had the Mets’ two other hits against Jordan Zimmerman.

THEY SAID IT: “Jeremy pitched another very good game. He pitched very well. He got us where we wanted to.’’ – Manager Terry Collins on Jeremy Hefner.

BY THE NUMBERS:  30: Games in which the Mets scored three or fewer runs.

ON DECK: Dillon Gee goes against Dan Haren Wednesday night.

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Jun 04

Jeremy Hefner Pitching For Rotation Spot – Again

In which direction will the streak-prone Mets go? After winning four straight against the Yankees, they turned about face and were swept by the Miami Marlins.

They are in Washington for the start of a three-game series tonight, but these aren’t the same Nationals the national media gave a bye straight into the World Series.

Bryce Harper is on the disabled list and Stephen Strasburg might soon join him, and the struggling Nationals trail Atlanta by seven games. They are vulnerable to be taken and it would have been great to imagine the edge to this series had the Mets swept Miami instead. However, even without the Nationals’ two top players, they remain a formidable opponent in the NL East.

Tonight, Jeremy Hefner (1-5, 4.74) goes against Jordan Zimmerman (8-3, 2.37). Hefner has pitched better recently than his record would indicate, but overall, he’s 1-5 for a reason, and that is he’s vulnerable to the big inning. Hefner does not have the ability to shut down an inning quickly after trouble surfaces. One run quickly becomes two, then three and then it is call in the bullpen.

Hefner is pitching to keep his job in the rotation when Zack Wheeler is promoted in the next few weeks. Hefner is third in the pecking order behind Shaun Marcum (who’s making $4 million) and Dillon Gee (who has a greater window of consistency).

Hefner claims he’s beyond worrying about his spot in the rotation, saying, “I don’t worry about it anymore.’’

Even so, the scenario still exists, and if the Mets are bent on promoting Wheeler soon, somebody will be demoted, or their spot could be altered. For example, Hefner could work in long relief and Collin McHugh could be optioned.

Here’s the lineup the Mets hope will give Hefner a fighting chance:

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Ike Davis, 1B

Jordany Valdespin, RF

Rick Ankiel, CF

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

METS MATTERS: Wright trails San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval by over 120,000 votes at third base in the All-Star balloting. The only other Met listed is Buck, who is third behind Buster Posey and Yadier Molina. … Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will be in a protective walking boot for at least another week. … The prognosis of Dr. James Andrews is Scott Atchison does not need elbow surgery. … Congratulations to Kevin Burkhardt, who’ll call NFL games this year on FOX. … If you want to read an excellent piece on Wheeler, check out ESPN’s Adam Rubin’s story here.

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May 30

Mets Wrap, May 30: Dillon Gee Makes Rotation Statement

Pitching with his spot in the rotation on the line, Dillon Gee was magnificent as he struck out 12 and retired the last 15 hitters to carry the Mets to a 3-1 victory Thursday night over the Yankees. With the win, the Mets won consecutive two-game series and five straight games overall. After being 12 games under .500, the Mets are now 22-29.

GEE: Makes rotation statement.

GEE: Makes rotation statement.

ON THE MOUND: Gee gave up one run on four hits, no walks and 12 strikeouts. Gee limited the Yankees to a Robinson Cano homer in the third. Gee struck out the final five hitters he faced. … Scott Rice recorded two outs in the eighth and Bobby Parnell shut down the Yankees in the ninth for his ninth save.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets managed just four hits, the most important being Marlon Byrd’s two-run homer in the second. John Buck drove in the Mets’ third run with an infield single in the eighth. … The Mets were 1-for-9 with RISP.

THEY SAID IT: “I’m not stupid,’’ – Gee when asked if he recognized the situation in the Mets’ rotation.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20: Consecutive Yankees retired to end the game.

METS MATTERS: Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will have his broken left foot re-examined Friday. The projection for d’Arnaud is now as a September call-up, which would preclude trading Buck to a contender. … Terry Collins said Omar Quintanilla, if he’s playing well, could remain the shortstop when Ruben Tejada comes off the disabled list. … Jon Niese was scratched from Saturday’s start with tendinitis in his left shoulder. He will be replaced by Collin McHugh. … Reliever Scott Atchison, on the disabled list with numbness in his right fingers, could have elbow surgery to remove a bone spur.

ON DECK: The Mets start a three-game series beginning Friday in Miami. Shaun Marcum starts Friday.

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May 30

Dillon Gee Pitching For Rotation Spot; Jon Niese Scratched

At one time, the Mets could count on Dillon Gee giving them five innings. They weren’t always pretty, but at least there was length.

Not so much anymore.

In ten starts this spring, he’s produced one quality start and only three times worked into the sixth or longer.

At 2-6 with a 6.34 ERA, and Jeremy Hefner pitching well and Shaun Marcum too expensive to option, Gee is pitching for his spot in the rotation as Zack Wheeler casts a shadow over the back end of the rotation.

“I’m always pitching for my job,’’ Gee said. “Nothing is guaranteed here. I know I haven’t pitched well. I have to turn things around and give us a chance to win.’’

That’s something he hasn’t done this spring as he has given up at least four runs in six starts and has given up eight homers in 49.2 innings. Gee holds a NL-high 1.73 WHIP, which is staggering when you come to think about it.

Gee will be trying to extend the Mets’ winning streak to four over the Yankees and five overall, before the team heads to Miami for the start of a three-game series beginning Friday night.

While there’s pressure on Gee, he might have caught a temporary break as Jon Niese was scratched this afternoon with tendinitis in his left shoulder. The Mets waited this long, so they won’t bring up Wheeler now, so the option is Collin McHugh to start Saturday at Miami.

The timetable for Niese is at least ten days, which could translate into a retroactive DL assignment.

Here’s the Mets’ batting order tonight against left-hander Vidal Nuno:

Justin Turner, 1B: Ike Davis’ two hits Wednesday evidently didn’t make that great of an impression as he’s sitting tonight. Bottom line: If Davis is going to play on this level, he has to hit lefties. Turner is one of seven hitters the Mets have used to lead off.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Leads team with 18 multi-hit games. He’s hitting .386 on the road.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .378 (17-45) with RISP. Has nine career homers against the Yankees, most ever by a Met.

John Buck, DH: Cooled considerably after hot start. Hit the ball hard on a line twice Wednesday night. Hit nine homers in April but only two since.

Lucas Duda, LF: Had key two-run double Wednesday night. Hitting .167 (6-36) with RISP.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Hitting just .161 (5-31) over his last ten games.

Anthony Recker, C: Hitless in 21 at-bats with RISP in his career.

Juan Lagares, CF: Has good glove, but hasn’t shown anything offensively.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Recalled this afternoon when Ruben Tejada was placed on the disabled list with a strained right quad.

Dillon Gee, RHP: Is 0-1 lifetime against Yankees.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos