Apr 21

Plawecki Era Begins As Mets Roll

We all knew the New York Mets would bring up catcher Kevin Plawecki this season. Unfortunately for Travis d’Arnaud, we didn’t think it would be before May.

Opportunities come in the strangest places, and Plawecki got his Tuesday night with d’Arnaud’s fractured right hand. He not only was in the line-up, but will also have the fulltime job until … whenever.

PLAWECKI: Good start in debut. (AP)

PLAWECKI: Good start in debut. (AP)

Reportedly, d’Arnaud will be out for at least three weeks. A lot can happen between now and then, but it is hard to believe Plawecki – two hits notwithstanding and his flawless handling of Jon Niese – will light it up in that span to where the Mets will decide he is the answer and d’Arnaud will be thought of in the past tense.

“I think I’ve taken some good strides in the right direction,’’ said Plawecki, who ripped a single to left in the Mets’ four-run fifth for his first major league hit. “Obviously, everything is still a work in progress, but I think I’ve come a long way.’’

It’s great he has confidence, but can we tone down the hysteria just a bit? If Plawecki, who was hitting just .216 with six RBI at Triple-A Las Vegas, is already better than d’Arnaud, he would have been brought up before now.

Manager Terry Collins said the Mets have had a good feeling about Plawecki, and that was before tonight’s 7-1 rout of Atlanta for their ninth straight victory.

“We all felt in spring training that if we lost Travis we would have something coming,” Collins said. “He’s going to be a big league player for a long time.”

However, can we stop with the Wally Pipp analogies? As with Matt Harvey, can we let him do something before putting him into the Hall of Fame? However, if Plawecki plays well, it could lead to some interesting scenarios. For example, would the Mets carry both and send out Anthony Recker?

Would they feel good enough about the impression Plawecki makes to prompt them to trade d’Arnaud? Probably not enough during this season, but perhaps to where it could help shape their off-season strategy.

However, as a catcher, there’s more than at the plate where the Mets are curious about Plawecki’s development. There’s also the matter of his ability to handle pitchers, play defense and throw out potential base stealers.

“I’m happy to get the first one out of the way and that we came out of it with a win,” said Plawecki, who plans to give the ball from his first hit to his parents, who were at the game. “I was happy to be able to contribute, and Niese made it easy for me.”

Plawecki, the Mets’ 2012 first-round pick, also said what most rookies say when they first come up, and that is he’s playing the same game he has been playing his entire life.

Well, not exactly, although tonight was pretty damn close.

Apr 20

Harvey Again Calling The Shots

It dawns on me how the New York Mets can prevent Matt Harvey from leaving for another team when he becomes a free agent. I should have thought of this earlier. They should fire Terry Collins and make Harvey a pitcher-manager.

Why not?

HARVEY: Good to  be king. (ESPN).

HARVEY: Good to be king. (ESPN).

After after hearing the details from Sunday’s start, and Harvey’s previous track record, it seems obvious he’s calling the shots.

All spring we heard how the Mets were going to protect Harvey this summer, yet there was no definitive plan orchestrated by GM Sandy Alderson and Collins. We were told they were going to play it by ear and limit his innings.

There was no plan because the Mets didn’t want to rock the boat out of fear of upsetting the dear boy.

So, what happens the first time there was a chance to push him back a start for health reasons? Why of course, they did nothing. They let Harvey pitch when he was sick, thereby blowing a chance to preserve his workload.

As Harvey told the story Sunday: “I woke up. I can’t swallow. At that point, not sleeping and coming to the park. I texted one of the trainers and told him I’m coming in and not feeling great. … The last two days not feeling great and today was the worse. Took some antibiotics. Can’t swallow. Felt weak, rundown.”

Harvey continued: “The last thing I want to do is give up the start.”

Of course, Harvey’s competitive nature is to be admired, but once again his judgment must be questioned, especially since he believes he might has strep throat (according to The Daily News).

If this had been lingering as Harvey said, then it leads to several questions:

* Why wasn’t he sent home Friday or Saturday when it was first coming on?

* If Harvey does have strep throat, why expose him to his teammates, so they might not catch it?

* Since Harvey reportedly called at 7:30 Sunday morning, why wasn’t he told to just stay home?

* Collins reportedly said he didn’t have a contingency plan. How can this be if Harvey had been ailing? Why wasn’t somebody on call from Class AA Binghamton, which isn’t that far away?

* Carlos Torres has been used in a pinch before. Why not this time?

* OK, Harvey wants to pitch, I understand that, but isn’t there anybody in authority with the stones to just say NO to the guy?

* Yes, Harvey got to pitch, but why let him work past the fifth inning, especially since he had a 7-1 lead?

Collins said: “When he called at 7:30 [Sunday], there was a chance he wasn’t going to start. When he got here he said, `Listen, I don’t feel very good, I’m going to pitch and go as far as I can.’ ”

That’s Collins quoting Harvey. One final question, why didn’t Collins act like a manager and tell him to go home?

 

Apr 19

Mets’ Mettle To Be Tested Again

Playoff-caliber teams must overcome adversity and the New York Mets will be tested again.

It was a bad day all around for the Mets despite winning their eighth straight game today, 7-6 over Miami. They not only had bad luck with injuries to Travis d’Arnaud and Jerry Blevins, but also a dose of bad managing.

Let’s start with the bad luck.

D'ARNAUD: Fractured arm. (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Fractured arm. (AP)

It began in the seventh inning when the lefty reliever, Blevins, took a line drive off the bat of Dee Gordon and sustained a fractured left arm. He will be out indefinitely. In the bottom of the inning, Travis d’Arnaud – who was off to a sizzling start – fractured his right hand when he was struck by a fastball from A.J. Ramos. He is also out indefinitely.

As for the bad managing, Matt Harvey was sick, but Terry Collins started him anyway. With his innings carefully monitored this season, here was a perfect opportunity to preserve some of those innings. They gave away a freebie that doesn’t come around often.

If nothing else, Harvey had a 7-1 lead after the fifth. So, why pitch him into the seventh? That made no sense. Collins rested the hot Michael Cuddyer citing the big picture. Why didn’t he apply the same logic with Harvey?

So, where do the Mets go from here?

They have two other lefty relievers in Sean Gilmartin and Alex Torres, but lefty hitters were 0-for-14 against Blevins (who recovered to get Gordon with a glove-hand flip). Hansel Robles will be brought up to replace Blevins. As for d’Arnaud, who is hitting .317 and had two hits before leaving the game, he will be replaced by prospect Kevin Plawecki, who is off to a slow start at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Injuries have already hit the Mets hard, with Zack Wheeler and Josh Edgin lost for the season after Tommy John surgery, and David Wright, Vic Black and Bobby Parnell on the disabled list. Wright is resuming activity, but Black had a setback in a rehab assignment.

The injuries tarnished the Mets’ 10-3 sterling silver start – Detroit is the only other team with double-digit victories – but what is important now is how they respond.

Sometimes, season-defining tests come early.

 

 

Apr 18

Circumstances Point To Gee Departure

The math adds up to the conclusion the New York Mets – two weeks into the season – are ready to move on from Dillon Gee.

Gee gave the Mets the required innings in two unimpressive starts, but recent circumstances conspired to making it impossible for them to allow him time to work out his problems and fall into a groove.

GEE: On thin ice. (Getty)

GEE: On thin ice. (Getty)

GM Sandy Alderson finally realized the Mets can’t exist with a four-man bench so they promoted utility infielder Danny Muno.

Well, to bring him up, somebody had to go down, but whom?

The Mets like Rafael Montero’s upside as a starter more than out of the bullpen, where he has a 4.15 ERA in four appearances, and with Vic Black and Bobby Parnell about to come off the disabled list, he was the logical one.

In conjunction with Montero’s demotion, the Mets say he will be stretched out so he can be used as a starter April 28 against Miami. The Mets also said Montero could get more than one start, and since they will not go to a six-man rotation more than one time, and a trade not imminent, where does that leave Gee?

They currently have seven relievers, and with Black, and then, Parnell, to be activated that would require two moves. Buddy Carlyle and Erik Goeddel are the most logical, or one of the three left-handers could also go.

A third reliever would have to go down if the Mets opt to use Gee in long relief, but that hasn’t seriously been discussed. Maybe they’ll send him down, or trade him for next to nothing, or just release him.

Several days ago I wrote why I admired Gee and those reasons still stand. However, it really doesn’t matter because it figures he won’t be around much longer.

 

Apr 17

Looking At The Mets’ Fast Start

No, I can’t do it when it comes to the New York Mets. I can’t look at 7-3 and just say, “hey, that’s great.” I certainly can’t say they’ll keep this pace, because playing .700 ball would be incredible. Nobody plays .700 ball. Now that the Mets are playing at that clip, I am thinking a lot better than .500.

Isn’t everybody?

But, I’m like the man grilling over coals. I can’t resist poking at them. It’s part of my nature, and also why I became a journalist. I am wonder why. That’s what I do.

So here are my thoughts on this terrific start, and yes, I do hope they’ll prove me wrong and keep it up. I want to see them play in October. I’ve covered a lot of playoff and World Series games, but the Mets in 2006 were positively electric. I’d love to see that again.

Here’s to the fast start and some of the reasons why:

* Matt Harvey: He’s had two starts, one great and the other not so much. He’s still throwing too many pitches for six innings, but it is easy to see the Mets have something special when he goes to the mound and the team has an aura when he pitches. That might be the best thing he brings to the table.

* Bartolo Colon: He’s had two outings and proven he still has something to give. When it comes to counting pitches, I hope they’d do with Colon the way they do Harvey. If they can keep him strong for the season it could bear fruit in September.

* Jacob deGrom: One of my favorites. He has great stuff and has also shown an ability to pitch out of trouble. Rookie of the Year last season. What’s his ceiling this year?

* Jon Niese and Dillon Gee: Neither has been stellar, but they did work into the fifth which minimizes the use of the bullpen. That can’t be underestimated.

* The bullpen: Forget Jenrry Mejia and I think the Mets will when his suspension is lifted. But, Jeurys Familia has been terrific as has the lefty relievers we all thought would be a problem. I’ve been critical of GM Sandy Alderson, but kudos for fixing the left bullpen hole at the end of spring training. They won’t get back Josh Edgin, but things could be better when Bobby Parnell and Vic Black return.

* Travis d’Arnaud: Is doing it at both sides of the plate. And, he’s showing some pop. Defensively, the pitchers like him, he’s blocking the plate better and shows a strong arm.

* David Wright: His fast start before hurting his hamstring had a calming influence. They haven’t lost since he’s been out, but that’s coincidence. Another positive is Eric Campbell has played well since replacing Wright.

* Lucas Duda: No, this wasn’t written by order of importance. For some reason I always lead with pitching. However, Duda is having a terrific start and is shows the ability to hit lefties. His stroke is short and compact, and he’s showing plate presence and patience. If he continues like this there’s no telling what he can do.

Wilmer Flores: Yes, Flores. He didn’t have a good start, but he’s not letting it bother him. They don’t win last night without his homer. And, kudos to Terry Collins here. It could have been easy to panic and pull Flores, but he stayed the course. Good job by Collins.

Juan Lagares: He’s not hitting leadoff, and perhaps the early confusion lead to his slow start at the plate. But, it hasn’t affected his defense and he’s starting to improve at the plate. A less tougher player might have let the lineup change bother him. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Lagares.

Curtis Granderson: He’s not hitting, but has a high on-base percentage with all his walks. If Granderson weren’t getting on base there would be a problem.

Michael Cuddyer: Has been a steady and consistent presence in the middle of the order. So far, a good signing. And, a lot of people other than Wright like him.

Other good signs: They are winning close games and won two of three in Washington. Winning in the division is a great indicator and they’ll continue to get those opportunities the rest of the month. … Atlanta has cooled and Washington has sputtered and has significant bullpen problems. April is a great opportunity to make a strong, early statement and that’s what they are doing.

Of course, I could ask for more. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. But, I couldn’t ask for a better start.