Jun 02

Here’s A Temporary Solution While Wright Is Out

Speaking to the media today in San Diego, Mets captain and third baseman David Wright said he would return this season, but couldn’t say when.

Actually, nobody can predict Wright’s return date, but what to do until then? Remember, four months remain in this season.

WRIGHT: Frustrating time for Wright. (AP)

WRIGHT: Frustrating time for Wright. (AP)

GM Sandy Alderson has not ruled out seeking outside help, but knowing his track record it is probably safe to assume it won’t be an impact player. If they did make a trade, it would have to be for a versatile player – such as Ben Zobrist, who has come off the DL – because they wouldn’t want to move him off third when Wright is available.

My thinking is the Mets will first look within.

I am not for moving Wilmer Flores off shortstop, because I don’t think the Mets would spend big time on a shortstop replacement. However, in this case I would move Flores to third base and switch Ruben Tejada to shortstop – his natural position – because third base is a more pressing need. This switch would add offense to third base and defense to shortstop.

Because he’s hitting and has been moved a lot, I would leave Daniel Murphy alone at second base. As for Dilson Herrera, I would worry about him when he’s eligible to come off the DL. Herrera was effective last year in spots coming off the bench. However, to me it is more important to keep Murphy content than Herrera.

I can live with Flores’ flawed defense at shortstop because of the upside of his offense. Because the Mets stuck with him, this move wouldn’t be an indictment of his defense. Also, Tejada has played well, but he’s more effective at shortstop.

Wright said he’s dealt with lower back pain since he sustained a stress fracture in 2011. The condition was diagnosed as spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal cavity. Wright didn’t address this today, and it is speculation on my part, but it could be the result of all the crouching done at third base not to mention the scar tissue from the fracture.

He said the hamstring that initially placed him on the DL could have caused him to overcompensate and resulted in the back problem. Whatever the cause, Wright said he’s not ready.

“There’s physical tests that I have to be run through that I have to pass and do well with, and I’m not there right now,’’ Wright told reporters. “They run me through the physical tests and I just flat out can’t do it.’’

But, the Mets have to do something, and switching Flores and Tejada seems the most plausible solution.

Jun 01

Mets Issues Heading Into June

Honestly, had to you told me heading into the season the Mets would be five games over .500 and a half-game out of first place on June 1, I would have signed up for it in a heartbeat.

So would you.

However, after an 11-game winning streak in April, one would think they would be better than they are at the start of their first West Coast trip of the season. The Mets face a myriad of questions following a sluggish 13-15 May:

1. Can they win on the road?

A: They are 7-15 this year away from Citi Field and have 15 games on the road in June.

2. Can they win outside the division?

A: To date the Mets are 4-10 outside the NL East with only six games – all against the Braves – within the division during June.

3. Will the six-man rotation work?

A: Manager Terry Collins said he’s committed to it until August. With only two off days this month, they’ll need to make this work, especially with an innings watch on Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. This move was made primarily to protect Harvey, but no starter is really on board with this. This move was also necessary because the Mets had no definitive plan for Harvey entering the season.

4. What’s wrong with Harvey?

A: He hasn’t won in five starts, but pitched well enough to win three of them. And, the bullpen twice coughed up to 1-0 leads in the late innings. He’s been throwing consistently in the mid-90s and the belief is something is amiss with his mechanics. He will next pitch Thursday in Arizona.

5. Is this the beginning of the end for Jon Niese?

A: Niese says he’s healthy, but he’s been hammered and has lost five of his last six decisions. He hasn’t made it past the sixth inning in his last four starts.

6. Can Bartolo Colon keep this run going?

A: Take away Colon and the Mets are in third place in the NL East and possibly not even a .500 team. But, he’s 41 and this can’t last forever. The six-man rotation is as important to Colon as it is Harvey.

7. What can Dillon Gee give the Mets?

A: The Mets are hell bent on trading Gee, and their best chance to get something back is for him to pitch well and create interest heading into July.

8. Can they get something from their catchers?

A: Travis d’Arnaud, on the disabled list with a fractured finger, had a setback. His replacement, Kevin Plawecki, hasn’t shown enough to stay up here when d’Arnaud returns.

9. When will David Wright return?

A: Your guess is as good as anybody’s. He’s had several setbacks since going on the disabled list. His replacement Eric Campbell didn’t pan out and now Ruben Tejada is getting the chance to win the third base job.

10. Will Juan Lagares hit?

A: Lagares hit in April, but not May. He got the contract because of his glove and the promise he would eventually hit. There’s nobody else who can play center for the Mets, so they’ll have to stick with Lagares.

11. Will Curtis Granderson supply any power?

A: Granderson is on pace for 19 homers and 50 RBI, which might be decent numbers for a leadoff hitter. Of course, at the start of spring training he was supposed to supply middle-of-the-order power.

12. Will they ever get off Wilmer Flores’ back?

A: Probably not. Flores has ten errors, but leads the team with eight homers. Of course, there will always be Troy Tulowitzki rumors, but as you can see the Mets have more pressing issues.

13. Will the bullpen stabilize?

A: It was good in April, but a lot of things were good in April. Jeurys Familia should be an All-Star, but there’s been little else that’s consistent with the bullpen.

14. Will Lucas Duda go on a power tear?

A: He has stiffness in his knee after getting hit by a pitch over the weekend. Duda homered 30 times last year and is on pace to hit 29 this season. However, he’s on pace to drive in only 79 runs season.

15. Will the Mets add anybody to their dismal offense?

A: They keep saying when Wright returns that will act as a trade, but that’s simply a cliché for a team that’s not likely to do anything. They aren’t going to get Tulowitzki, and I’m not betting on Martin Prado, either. It takes a proactive team that will make a deal in June, and frankly, I don’t see the Mets being such a team.

 

May 31

Mets Who Should Be All-Stars

Some people believe Matt Harvey should be the Mets’ representative on the National League All-Star team. Sure, I can see that, but he’s no higher than fourth on my list. However, there’s no way the Mets will have four players, especially since they won’t have anybody voted in. David Wright is fourth among third baseman.

FAMILIA: Saved 15th game today. (AP)

FAMILIA: Saved 15th game today. (AP)

My first choice is Jeurys Familia, who threw two innings of relief today, which included striking out Giancarlo Stanton with a wicked slider in the eighth. The Mets head to San Diego this week in second place, and it isn’t hard to imagine where they would be without Familia, who has 15 saves. Familia won the and won’t give it up. When he returns Bobby Parnell will have to assume another role. Likewise for Jennry Mejia, if he ever comes back.

My next choice is eight-game winner Bartolo Colon. It’s a funny for some to watch him hit, but he’s total serious on the mound. He has won eight of the Mets’ 28 games. I again wonder where the Mets would be without Colon.

They certainly wouldn’t be in second place.

Finally, there’s Lucas Duda, but Adrian Gonzalez (Dodgers), Anthony Rizzo (Cubs) and Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks)  are the top three vote getters at first base. Duda is emerging into an All-Star. If not this year, but soon enough.

The All-Star voting system is extremely flawed – any election that lets you vote 35 times is a joke – and the idea every team must be represented is also far from perfect. This variable often keeps out deserving players.

Hopefully, it won’t keep out Familia.

 

 

May 30

Niese Future Looking Bleak

Jon Niese went into the season as one of the Mets’ most important questions, and it isn’t being answered in the positive. Niese’s record is 3-5 and over the past three weeks his ERA has more than doubled to 4.42.

He wasn’t tagged with the loss today, but deserved to as he gave up five runs on seven hits in four innings. Yes, that’s pretty bad when you come down to it.

NIESE: In trouble/ (AP)

NIESE: In trouble/ (AP)

About the only certainty when it comes to Niese, is that at this rate there’s no way the Mets will trade lefty Steven Matz. At this rate it is becoming clear Niese’s future with the Mets is dwindling.

What else can you conclude with Niese giving up 22 runs is his past four starts?

Manager Terry Collins said Niese is healthy – he has been on the DL in each of the past two seasons – but his problem has been hitters driving the ball in the air (he gave two homers gave up today) when he’s a natural groundball pitcher.

It wasn’t long ago that Niese was a hot commodity as a hard throwing, healthy left-hander signed to a long-term contract.

That list is getting shorter and shorter, perhaps like his time with the Mets.

May 29

Extra Rest Not A Factor In Harvey Loss

It is now five straight empty starts and counting for the Mets’ Matt Harvey. We can forget about the “dead arm’’ talk, because a pitcher doesn’t have a tired arm when he tops out at 98 mph., and strikes out 11.

Nonetheless, the Mets are taking precautions with Harvey by going to a six-man rotation, and naturally there is a curiosity as to how he will respond with the extra rest, and despite losing 4-3 tonight to Miami, he pitched well enough to win most starts.

HARVEY: Empty again. (AP)

HARVEY: Empty again. (AP)

After missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery, despite winning his first five decisions this season, his issues are maintaining health and refining mechanics.

“I didn’t feel like I was dead,” a clearly dejected Harvey told reporters. “I just kind of got out of my mechanics. … When you have missed a year and you go out there and battle every time, you’re finding out again what your mechanics are doing.

“For me, I think, mechanics-wise it was a lot better this time. We’ve just got to keep that going and really just stay focused on that.”

It’s a positive that he threw eight innings (105 pitches) tonight for the second time in three starts. One walk is also a positive in a bounce-back start from his four-inning, seven-run disaster last weekend in Pittsburgh that followed consecutive no-decisions in which the bullpen coughed up a 1-0 lead in the late innings.

Harvey worked with an extra day of rest and didn’t seem rusty. He was obviously strong and one walk indicated his command was good.

A fourth-inning slider catching too much of the plate that Justin Bour crushed was his biggest mistake, but had nothing to do with the extra rest. It was simply a bad pitch that could have happened anytime. Unfortunately for Harvey, anytime is always bad time when he’s not getting run support.

He responded fine with the extra day. He pitched well enough to win most starts.