May 26

Walker, DeGrom Key Rout Of Pirates

It was a sweet homecoming for Neil Walker, who returned to his Pittsburgh hometown Thursday night to get caught up in the euphoria of his beloved Penguins going to the Stanley Cup Finals, and tonight hitting a pair of homers in the Mets’ 8-1 rout of the Pirates.

WALKER: Goes home with two homers. (AP)

WALKER: Goes home with two homers. (AP)

“I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now,” Walker said. “It’s always special coming back here and nice for people to cheer for you.”

Walker, who is coming off back surgery, accepted a $17.2 million qualifying to return to the Mets rather than test the free agent market. Walker can become a free agent this winter but said he wants to remain with the Mets.

There is reciprocal interest by the Mets in Walker, but there won’t be talks until this winter.

DeGROM BENEFICIARY: The primary beneficiary of Walker’s flexing was Jacob deGrom, who took advantage of the support to be given the opportunity to start the ninth.

DeGrom gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, but Collins left him in to strike out David Freese for his tenth strikeout. DeGrom gave up one run on six hits in 8.1 innings in the longest outing of a Mets’ starter this season.

“He did exactly what we needed,” manager Terry Collins said. “He gave the bullpen the night off.”

ANSWER TO TODAY’S QUESTION: As expected, the Mets optioned Rafael Montero to Triple-A Las Vegas and promoted reliever Tyler Pill.

Pill was 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA for Vegas. The Mets haven’t named a starter for Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee and Pill could get the ball.

CESPEDES UPDATE: Yoenis Cespedes went 0-for-2 with a walk in a rehab start for Class A St. Lucie. The expectations are Cespedes should be activated from the disabled list (left hamstring) next week.

UP NEXT: Zack Wheeler (3-2, 3.74) is coming off a win, May 20, against the Angels. In that game, he gave up two runs on four hits with five strikeouts and five walks.

May 26

Today’s Question: What Move Will They Make With Montero?

Rafael Montero threw 87 pitches in three innings in a spot start for Jacob deGrom last night. Montero can throw hard, but has no idea as to how to command his pitches.

MONTERO: Can't find it. (AP)

MONTERO: Can’t find it. (AP)

Considering his workload, Montero will be lost to the Mets for at least four days, and there’s no way they’ll go into Pittsburgh playing short in their already beleaguered bullpen.

With Seth Lugo and Steven Matz not ready to be activated from the disabled list, and Tommy Milone placed their May 24, the most likely pitcher to be brought up is Sean Gilmartin.

Either way, the Mets have some serious thinking to do about Montero’s future. He simply has no command, so it doesn’t matter that he throws 95.

Montero has gotten more than a few opportunities, both out of the bullpen and as a starter. He’s on the 25-man roster because the Mets are desperate and don’t have any other options.

Nothing has changed.

May 25

Collins Prohibited From Talking About Injuries

The Mets’ juvenile attempt to prohibit manager Terry Collins from talking about injuries won’t accomplish anything other than reinforcing the belief than any misinterpretation begins with GM Sandy Alderson.

Collins drives me crazy when he waffles when discussing injuries, but it must be realized he’s spouting the information given him by management.

COLLINS: Gag order on injuries. (AP)

COLLINS: Gag order on injuries. (AP)

First of all, it won’t stop the questions from being asked. Whereas Collins was the one peppered with questions, now it will be Alderson who gets the grilling.

And, it won’t stop the reporters from digging, which won’t make anybody very happy.

All this does is to make nothing the Mets say about injuries to be taken at face value.

The Mets have long been hammered for how they have handled injuries, and to be certain that includes decisions from the front office.

The innings fiasco with Matt Harvey was Alderson’s responsibility, as was his decision for Noah Syndergaard to bypass an MRI, only to start and partially tear a lat muscle.

Those are on Alderson. Actually, this should take pressure off of Collins, who can say, “go ask Sandy.’’

Ever since Collins has managed the Mets, he’s had to explain and defend Alderson’s policies and decisions, even if he didn’t agree with them.

MONTERO SHOWS NOTHING: An argument can be made that the worst thing to come out of tonight’s 4-3 loss outside of the obvious, is that Rafael Montero’s shabby three-inning performance forced Collins to use Paul Sewald for three innings of relief.

Montero gave up three runs on three walks and five hits. He threw 87 pitches, 45 of them coming in the first inning.

As far as Sewald goes, his scoreless three innings – with four strikeouts – has him making serious strides towards becoming a reliable arm in the Mets’ faulty bullpen.

EXTRA INNINGS: Jacob deGrom was pushed back to avoid the possibility of starting and then losing him in a long rain delay. He’ll start Friday in Pittsburgh. … Michael Conforto went 1-for-5, with four strikeouts. … Lucas Duda and Jose Reyes had two hits each. … Mets hitters struck out 11 times. … The Mets went 1-for-10 with RISP and left nine runners overall, so they had their chances.

May 25

DeGrom Scratched Because Of Wet Conditions

The Mets pushed back Jacob deGrom‘s start tonight to Friday because of concerns of the wet and possibly rainy conditions at Citi Field. They don’t want deGrom taking the chance of slipping and pulling a groin or hamstring.

They apparently don’t have similar concerns with Rafael Montero, who will start instead.

DeGrom will start the series opener Friday in Pittsburgh.

The Mets also activated shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (strained thumb) from the disabled list. To make room for Cabrera, Kevin Plawecki, who optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Cabrera will be available off the bench, with Jose Reyes playing shortstop. Here’s tonight’s lineup:

May 25

Last Night’s Meltdown Was On Collins

This one was on Terry Collins. For all the talk about the Mets’ faulty bullpen – and to be sure there aren’t enough quality arms – occasionally the manager has to step up and say, “this was on me.”

Such was the case in last night’s 6-5 loss to the San Diego Padres, a game in which the Mets held a four-run lead.

COLLINS: Bad game. (AP)

COLLINS: Bad game. (AP)

The box score will reveal the Mets used five pitchers from the seventh inning; not quite the formula it wants to use in getting to the closer.

Robert Gsellman had given the Mets a quality outing – three runs in six innings – but Collins wouldn’t let him come out for the seventh, instead, giving the ball to Fernando Salas.

Why? Gsellman was still strong after throwing 84 pitches. Sure, he had been struggling lately, but he appeared to have righted himself. At least it looked that way during his six innings.

“I knew that was going to get brought up,” was Collins’ reply to Gsellman’s pitch count. “This kid has really been struggling. At times, you want him to leave with a good feeling and he gave us six good innings and we just say, ‘Hey, look, he did exactly what we were hoping he’d do tonight to get us to that point.’ ”

Part of me likes Collins’ rationale, but the other part makes me scream: “Enough with the good feelings. Let the precious snowflake try to win the !@#$% game. What’s next, a participation trophy for playing?

At least let him pitch until a runner got on. That should have also been the plan with Salas, who got the first two hitters then unraveled.

A pinch-single, wild pitch and two walks loaded the bases Collins pulled Salas for Neil Ramirez. Why would you keeps s struggling reliever like Salas in long enough to load the bases, with two of the runners by walks?

The Mets had been getting decent production from Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald, but neither was available having pitched the night before in a 9-3 win. A note: The bullpen was taxed that night before because Matt Harvey couldn’t give the Mets more than five. Incidentally, both Sewald and Blevins pitched with at least a five-run lead.

If you’re going to tinker with your bullpen, why not see what Ramirez can do with a six-run lead instead of with the game on the line?

It was almost a foregone conclusion Wil Myers would tie the game with a two-run single, just missing a grand slam by inches, and Hunter Renfroe would put the Padres ahead with a mammoth homer in the eighth against lefty Josh Smoker.

Why pull Gsellman when he’s throwing well? Why let a lefty pitch to Renfroe? Why save Addison Reed for the ninth when the Mets were losing? All those were questions Collins needed to address. We can point fingers, and rightly so, at GM Sandy Alderson for not providing quality arms in the bullpen, but this was in-game decision making by Collins, and it was bad.