May 23

Mets Wrap: Sitting Never An Option For Harvey

HARVEY: Pitching for redemption. (Getty)

HARVEY: Pitching for redemption. (Getty)

Matt Harvey has a chance to make it all better for him and the Mets Tuesday in Washington. Coming off arguably the worst start of his still short career, he gave up nine runs to the Nationals to generate the “what’s wrong with Harvey,’’ chatter.

The theories were endless, ranging to his heavy workload last year coming off Tommy John surgery and a light spring training to his health. Was he hurt? Was he trying to overcompensate for Game 5? What’s wrong with his velocity and mechanics?

Now, after the Mets ripped the Nationals, 7-1, Monday, Harvey will get the ball with the chance to pitch the Mets back into first place.

It’s only May and with so much of the season left the standings aren’t of paramount importance. However, it is not a stretch to say outside his first game back from Tommy John surgery, this could be the most important regular-season start of his career.

Manager Terry Collins, believing Harvey’s confidence could be rattled, gave him the option of skipping this start. Sometimes to his detriment, Harvey always wants the ball, so there was no chance that would happen.

None.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating being out there right now when you’re not doing well and not helping the team,” Harvey told ESPN.com. “As a teammate, your objective is to do everything you can to win games and help us succeed.

“And I wasn’t doing that. So, obviously, they gave me an option to be skipped or whatnot and really try to figure things out. For me, taking time off isn’t going to do anything. It’s finding it on the mound.

“I’m not a quitter. I’m not going to just quit and put the ball down. It’s a fight. It was good for me to do that.”

Harvey has issues, but nobody can accuse him of being a quitter.

The easy thing would have been for Harvey to decompress on the bench, but he knows that wouldn’t have been the right choice. There would be the inevitable speculation as to whether he is physically sound.

Even worse, his competitive nature would have been questioned. Can you imagine the storm if Harvey sat Tuesday and the Mets went in a tailspin?

Pitching was Harvey’s only choice.

If he puts it together and goes on a productive run, all of this will go down as another blip on the Mets’ radar screen.

METS GAME WRAP

May 23, 2016

Game: #44           Score:  Mets 7, Nationals 1

Record: 26-18     Streak: W 4

Standings: Second, NL East half-game behind Nationals. Playoffs Today: First WC vs. Philadelphia

Runs: 174     Average: 3.95 Times 3 or less: 21

SUMMARY:  Bartolo Colon overcame a rough first inning, and backed by the home-run power of David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker, the Mets won to pull within a half-game of first place.

KEY MOMENT:  Wright’s three-run homer in the Mets’ five-run third.

THUMBS UP: Colon was on the ropes in the first, but with runners on first and second he got Anthony Rendon on a fly to left. Who thought Colon would have gone out for the seventh? … Cespedes hit his 15th homer and Walker his 11th. … Two hits each from Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares, Cespedes, Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. … More solid work from the bullpen.

THUMBS DOWN:  Just a short rain delay. … Lucas Duda went on the disabled list and could be gone for up to six weeks. … In a blowout, it would have been nice to see Ty Kelly.

EXTRA INNINGS: Travis d’Arnaud resumed throwing and could return to Port St. Lucie soon. … It was the 222nd victory of Colon’s career. … Colon turns 43 Tuesday.

QUOTEBOOK:  “There’s no real timetable. It’ll be awhile. I guess there are some exercises he can do, but nothing baseball related for awhile. We’re looking at a fairly long period.’’ – Collins on Duda’s injury.

BY THE NUMBERS:  63: Mets homers to lead the NL. They are third in the majors.

NEXT FOR METS:  Matt Harvey takes the ball – and a myriad of concerns and worries – to the mound against Stephen Strasburg.

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May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

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May 21

No Reason To Skip Harvey

Unless Matt Harvey is going on the disabled list, there’s no reason for the Mets to skip his next start, whether it be to move him up to Monday or keep his scheduled Tuesday start.

HARVEY: Stinks right now (AP)

HARVEY: Stinks right now (AP)

So, on the day after Harvey was shelled by Washington – and Terry Collins initially danced around the issue of whether he’d make his next start – the heads-or-tails Mets’ manager said there would be no changes.

It’s good they dropped this silly idea of skipping him.

Collins actually said Harvey might be moved up. That decision should be made this afternoon.

“We dissected every angle there was,” Collins told reporters. “In the end, knowing this guy like we do, he wants to pitch. He wants to fight through it. He doesn’t want to run and hide. He wants to be out there. We’re going to do that. …`We really think he’s got to get back on the horse as fast as he can.”

There’s nothing to be dissected. Unless you don’t want him in the rotation any longer, then he pitches. It’s not all that hard.

This is what annoys me most about Collins. Less than 24 hours earlier, he said there would be no guarantee when Harvey would get back on the mound. That’s what he should have said from the beginning. If you have the faith in Harvey you claim, then you don’t screw around with guessing games and send him out there.

Unless Harvey is hurt – and don’t forget he hid his original injury, so it wouldn’t be a shock if that’s again the case – he needs to stay on schedule. Deviating shows a lack of confidence in him, and if that’s true, then send him to the minors to work out his problems.

Harvey shouldn’t be immune to the treatment other players get. His 28-24 lifetime record says he hasn’t been all that special.

The only way Harvey pulls out of this funk is to keep pitching. If he doesn’t pull out of it, then maybe Harvey isn’t all that good in the first place.

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May 20

No Longer Super, But Is Harvey A Supernova?

UPDATED: Reflecting he’ll make next start.

Prior to Matt Harvey‘s start against Stephen Strasburg at Citi Field Thursday night was the obvious question in the wake of the latter’s $175-million contract extension to bypass free agency.

However, after Harvey was ripped last night, 9-1, by Strasburg and the Nationals, red flags continue to fly.

After speculation he might be skipped in the rotation for his next start, manager Terry Collins said Harvey would make his next appearance.

Considering Harvey gave up nine runs in 2.2 innings Thursday against Washington, it’s easy to understand why the question was raised.

HARVEY: What next? (AP)

HARVEY: What next? (AP)

Harvey had no answers other than to say he’s still searching.

The booing Harvey endured might have been the worst he has ever heard. It even prompted the story Bryce Harper felt pity towards him, which is the last thing Harvey would want.

There was a sharp contrast between Harvey and Strasburg last night, and nobody was thinking about the original question.

Both are young pitchers carrying a huge potential check to be cashed; both had Tommy John surgery; and both have Scott Boras as an agent, one with a hard-boiled reputation of exploring the market and not leaving much – if anything – on the table.

If Strasburg got $175 million, what would Harvey earn after the 2018 season?

In anticipating the future market, it wouldn’t be hard to image a figure north of $200 million, perhaps as high as $225 million. Considering that, wouldn’t the prudent thing be to sign Harvey long-term now?

Whatever Harvey might get, it would pay for lots of clubbing, supermodels and Rangers games. However, to get all that, Harvey needs to win lots of games. I advocated for the Mets to lock up their young arms, beginning with Harvey. After he labored against the Rockies, I wrote it was premature to give up on him.

I advocated the Mets lock up their young arms, beginning with Harvey. After he labored against the Rockies, I wrote that was now premature. But, as long as he’s healthy, and he insists he is, Harvey is too valuable to abandon. However, if you’re the Mets you can’t blame them if they don’t do anything currently with Harvey.

Harvey might be healthy, but he could also turn out to be a supernova that has burned as bright and hot as he’ll ever be.

Nobody wants to believe that, but when you’re dealing with $200-million contracts, you must consider all the possibilities.

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May 19

Collins Must Share Blame For Wright; DL Should Be Considered

In the 20-plus-years I have written about major league baseball, there are a handful of players I admire and respect as much as David Wright.

Even so, I am still objective as to what I see and it currently isn’t good. Wright was scratched Tuesday because of a sore back, and then returned to go 0-for-4 with three more strikeouts Wednesday.

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

Wright is in persistent discomfort and needs up to two hours to get ready to play. He is not suited to pinch-hit, especially in cold weather, as he did Sunday in Colorado. Wright knows not to push it, but when asked he will play. That’s in his DNA.

Translated: Manager Terry Collins did Wright a disservice when he asked him to pinch-hit. Winning one game in mid-May isn’t as important as risking losing him for the long haul.

I know Collins wants to win, but he was wrong, selfish and shortsighted for asking Wright to pinch-hit. It isn’t the first time Collins pushed the envelope with Wright or other players. Don’t forget his panic move of labeling the eighth game of the season “must win,’’ and pushing Wright, Jim Henderson and Jeurys Familia, none of whom should have played that day.

Wright would never finger-point at his manager. The bottom line is Collins should have been smart enough to not put Wright in that position.

“I don’t know,” Wright told Newsday on whether pinch-hitting took him out of Tuesday’s lineup. “Again, it’s probably not the ideal circumstances. But this is the National League, you really don’t have that much leeway especially when you’re playing with a short bench.”

That puts the onus on the manager to pay attention to what he has available.

Wright is batting .221, which is a career-low for this point in the season. He already has 47 strikeouts in 113 at-bats, with four homers and eight RBI. He’s on pace to strike out 195 times, hit 17 homers and drive in 33 runs. His on-base percentage of .362 gives us glimpses of him still being a productive player.

“The back thing is just something that I’m going to have to get used to because it’s not changing,” Wright told reporters. “But I feel like I can play at a much higher level than I’m playing at right now.

“I think that there are certainly some things I’m having to make adjustments with as far as preparation, as far as playing schedule, that I’m going to have to get used to. But when I go take the field I expect to play much better than I am right now.”

Is Wright done?

I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. It’s worth sticking with him to find out, but that means staying with the plan and not deviating. That’s all on the manager.

Can Wright play Thursday night? That’s up in the air. If his availability is day-to-day and Collins doesn’t know what he has on any given night, he should go on the disabled list.

Go back to the beginning. Get re-examined and concentrate on nothing but getting stronger for the next couple of weeks. And, during this time, management should have a sit-down with Collins and tell him to get with the program and stick with it.

A lot of things must happen for this to work, including the manager being smarter than he has been.