Aug 27

Matz Should Be Lefty Bullpen Solution

I’m throwing this out there, but perhaps the Mets’ lefty bullpen void could be filled by Steven Matz. I know GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins rejected that notion in spring training, but that was a long time ago and now we’re looking at the Mets as serious playoff contenders with one severe weakness – lack of a lefty reliever.

Instead of diving into the six-man rotation when Matz returns, why not give that spot start to Logan Verrett or somebody else and use Matz as a situational lefty – one batter only – coming out of the pen? I wouldn’t mind seeing him come into face Bryce Harper or Mark Teixeira or Jason Heyward or any other lefty masher.

It is outside-the-box thinking, but that’s what the Mets need right now.

MATZ: Would be interesting pen option. (Getty)

MATZ: Would be interesting pen option. (Getty)

With the way Bartolo Colon pitched last night, and Verrett in Colorado, there’s not a sense of urgency to insert Matz into the rotation. Once the rosters are expanded Sept. 1, Matz will be included, but so should another minor league pitcher in case they want to sit Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard. Who knows? Maybe they could even bring back Dillon Gee for an encore start.

Meanwhile, there’s a gaping hole in the bullpen, especially from the left side.

I get it, you don’t want to screw with Matz, but there’s nothing wrong with his arm. And, if the intent is to limit him to one key batter it shouldn’t be a problem. Say the Mets are playing the Nationals and it is the fifth inning. Collins can look up at that multi-million dollar scoreboard in Citi Field, or have one of his coaches tell him Harper is two innings away.

That’s when you get Matz to warm up so he’s not rushing. It could be like a normal between-starts bullpen session. And, if he doesn’t need to face Harper, then he sits back down. All he did was get a little exercise.

I know the Mets don’t want to do that, but it is something they should consider. Matz isn’t made of china or paper mache. This won’t kill him. A lot of major league starters have gone into the bullpen and done well. I know this is force feeding him into a new role, but damn it, the Mets are fighting for the playoffs and have a glaring need. It is a need they are unlikely to fill with a trade in the next four days.

If you look at the Mets’ rotation, should they make the playoffs they’ll carry four starters, and Matz won’t be one of them. The playoff rotation would include Harvey, Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Jon Niese. Colon will undoubtedly be bumped. And, I don’t figure them using Matz out of the bullpen for the playoffs if they haven’t used him there in September.

So, what’s he going to get, one or two starts at the most in September? Maybe three? What good would that do?

He has the potential to help the Mets more out of the pen and that’s where he should go.

Aug 26

Mets Still Have Concerns Despite Winning Streak

As good as the Mets have been, and they’ve been terrific lately, there remain issues surfacing as they head into October. Several were exposed the past week in Baltimore and Denver, and now in Philadelphia. Fortunately, they were able to outslug their mistakes, and we haven’t seen that in a long time with the Mets.

Some of these flaws surfaced again Wednesday, but scoring nine runs is a great buffer. Even so, here’s what they must address:

COLLINS:  Needs to make adjustments. (AP)

COLLINS: Needs to make adjustments. (AP)

TERRY COLLINS:  Being in a pennant race is new to these guys and that includes the manager. When Jacob deGrom is cruising as he was last week in Baltimore, can’t you just leave him in the game after he gives up a two-out single in the eighth when his pitch-count is still reasonable? If you get into the playoffs, you need to see your ace work out of trouble just as the Giants did last year with Madison Bumgarner.

Collins has a tendency to micromanage. And, speaking of which, with most of the pieces in place – and hitting, by the way – how hard is it to finally pick a lineup?

THE BULLPEN:  When they scored 14 runs in back-to-back games in Denver, and went wild Monday in Philly, they needed every one of those runs because of their leaky bullpen. Championships aren’t won with porous bullpens. Look at the Giants last season. If the Mets don’t fix their pen they will be in trouble. The concern isn’t Jeurys Familia, but getting to him. Speaking of which, they will need Tyler Clippard, who was clearly angry after being pulled with two outs in the eighth on Tuesday.

The Mets acquired Clippard for a reason, which was to be the eighth-inning set-up man. Let him do his job. They’ll need him. The bullpen faltered again Wednesday, but Clippard responded and even got to pitch the ninth. This was giving Clippard a needed positive nod.

HANSEL ROBLES:  Ron Darling nailed it when he ripped Hansel Robles for trying to quick-pitch in Philly. When the hitter’s head is down you don’t quick-pitch. It is bush league and could have resulted in getting one of his teammates hurt. Philadelphia pitchers can throw hard also, and Daniel Murphy was buzzed.

Robles has outstanding potential to fill the seventh-inning slot. What they don’t need is a hot head who could cost them a game – or a player. While we’re on the subject of not being a hot dog, we don’t need bat flips or styling – see: Murphy – after home runs. Act like you’ve been there before. Ticking off the opposition only puts a target on your back. It’s up to Collins first, then the veterans to make this message.

THE OFFENSE:  They are mashing, but in the playoffs runs are at a premium. Teams must manufacture runs in the postseason. We need to see them run, hit behind the runner and string hits together as they did Wednesday.

Yeah, I’m being picky, but you only see the best pitching in the playoffs and not like the staffs or the Rockies and Phillies. What they did in the first inning Wednesday was classic situational hitting, which I loved. Like that more than the homers. And, the ninth was also terrific as they tacked on runs without the homer. Responding to the Phillies’ four-spot in the eighth was something we haven’t always seen and it was a great sign.

It’s a different game in October, which must be realized. They are 14 games over .500 and hold a 6.5 lead over the Nationals. But, nothing is won yet and they have three games coming up with Washington.

Aug 25

Conforto Gives Mets Comfort For Next Year

At one time this season the Mets were desperate for outfielders. Looking ahead to next spring they appear to be in good shape, especially if they bring back Yoenis Cespedes.

Most intriguing is Michael Conforto, who was in college a year ago in June. In an un-Met like move, they brought him up when Michael Cuddyer was injured, and what do you know, he’s producing.

CONFORTO: Made impression.

CONFORTO: Made impression.

More importantly, he’s making adjustments. When pitchers starting working him away, he went to the opposite field. Hopefully, he’ll keep making them, but some hitters never learn. Ike Davis never did, and Lucas Duda is now getting the idea.

Conforto found his opportunity in Cuddyer’s sore knee. And, when it appeared he’d go down when David Wright came off the disabled list, the Mets opted to keep him and send out reliever Dario Alvarez.

“It’s crazy,’’ Conforto told reporters. “The way it’s been happening, you don’t like to see that, you don’t like to see guys going on the DL. But the fact that I’m still here, I’m very excited. It’s where I want to be.’’

It might be difficult for the Mets to keep Cespedes, but he would solve a lot of problems. The Mets will have Curtis Granderson for two more years and Cuddyer for next season.

Conforto has three homers, but has been adept at hitting line drives and playing a solid defense. He’s hitting only .258, but has a .356 on-base percentage and .840 OPS. He runs the bases well, and who knows, perhaps he could be the answer to the Mets’ leadoff question.

It isn’t hard to envision Conforto starting and Cuddyer coming off the bench.

What do you know, the words “next season,’’ in connection with the Mets isn’t a depressing thought.

Aug 24

Mets Return To Amazin’ Status

The Mets are due for a fall and it looked that would happen when their ace, Jacob deGrom, was rocked for seven runs and didn’t get out of the third. He threw 82 pitches in the worst start of his career. So, the Mets didn’t have much of an option other than to would lick their wounds, scarf down the rest of the cookies given to David Wright in his return from over four months on the disabled list, and move on to fight another day.

Well, their suddenly robust offense could set a club record with eight home runs and Sean Gilmartin could come up with a stellar relief outing and the Mets would roll to a 16-7 victory. Nah, that would be highly improbable. That’s not even Hollywood stuff.

WRIGHT: Homers in first at-bat. (Getty)

WRIGHT: Homers in first at-bat. (Getty)

Only it happened that way for the Mets, who not too long ago couldn’t hit, ripped a club record 15 extra-base hits. It was the third time in four games they scored as many as 14 runs. And, those homers. It wasn’t just quantity, but the length. This was Home Run Derby stuff.

If you don’t think something special is going on with this team, you’re not paying attention.

Wright homered in his first at-bat, which would have been storybook enough. It was almost as if he was telling his teammates, “I’m good guys.” The rest of the line-up seemed to relax.

“Unbelievable,” Wright said of his emotions while rounding the bases on his homer. “I almost pulled a Wilmer Flores out there. But, I had to keep my emotions in check.”

Flores hit two, including a three-run drive that put the Mets ahead for good. Wright’s drive went into the second deck, and Travis d’Arnaud almost reached as far. Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares and Daniel Murphy also went deep. Yoenis Cespedes iced it with a two-run blast in the ninth.

Why, Gilmartin even got one of the Mets’ 20 hits. The only thing the game lacked was Gilmartin stealing a base. When deGrom left the game it looked like a long night from the bullpen and all the good done by Logan Verrett Sunday would be lost. So, let’s not forget Gilmartin actually saved the pen and that could be big thing as this series unfolds. The Mets had a list of offensive heroes, but a case could be made for Gilmartin being the star of the game.

Manager Terry Collins called Gilmartin the star of the game for his three-plus innings of scoreless relief to get the win.

One of the concerns in Wright’s return was the speed of the game on defense, which manifested itself with two errors. I guess you could put the errors under the category of “nothing is perfect.” You have to look at it that way because it really was an amazing night.

About that fall, that’s for another night.

Aug 24

Optimal Time For Wright To Return

In some respect, it will be Opening Day II for the Mets with the return of David Wright tonight in Philadelphia. Only this time the Mets are 11 games over .500.

“For me it almost feels like Opening Day, where you have some butterflies, kind of nervous excitement,” Wright told reporters this afternoon.

The last time they had a record this good was Sept. 28, 2008 when they lost to the Marlins – and consequently the pennant – on the last day of the season for the second straight year and finished 89-73.

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

No, this wasn’t the Tom Glavine game, but Johan Santana pitched a 2-0 gem the previous day to give the Mets life. They were in first place as late as Sept. 19 and held a 3.5-game lead on Sept. 10.

This was the last time the Mets were truly relevant in the concept of October baseball.

This is the optimum time for Wright to come back because how well they are playing with a five-game lead on Washington, and their rejuvenated offense has to alleviate the pressure he would normally face when coming off the disabled list.

If the Mets go on and in the words of Bob Murphy, “win the damn thing,’’ it will be because they played over .500 during his absence with four players – Daniel Murphy, Eric Campbell, Ruben Tejada and Juan Uribe – trying to take his place.

For the longest time the Mets weren’t hitting or winning on the road. They are doing both now. And, concurrently the Washington Nationals are floundering. However, five-game leads can quickly evaporate as the Mets learned in 2007 and 2008. Those were completely different teams then, deeper offensively but not with this pitching. That pitching provides optimism they won’t fade this time.

As September approaches, Wright will complement the offense and not be required to carry it on his shoulders. With less pressure, and manager Terry Collins knowing he can plug in Juan Uribe any time if he needs to rest him, the situation is such once Wright catches up to the speed of the major league game as opposed to the minors, he can resume raking.

And, the Mets can build on this lead.