Mar 10

Mets Get Positive Showings From Harvey And Wheeler

Optimistic was the word of the day for the Mets regarding pitchers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Despite losing both of their split-squad games Friday, the Mets had to be encouraged from what they got from Harvey and Wheeler, both of whom are recovering from surgery.

HARVEY: Another positive step. (Getty)

HARVEY: Another positive step. (Getty)

Hit in his first start, Harvey gave up only one run in their 7-6 loss to Houston. In their other game, Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two years, gave up a run in two innings in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Braves.

Harvey topped out at 92 mph., but insisted he’ll reach the upper 90s before the end of spring training.

“Definitely an improvement from the first one,” Harvey, who pitched with a stiff neck, told reporters. “I think it’s just a matter of time before things click and mechanics click, timing clicks. But I think overall it was definitely a plus. … It’s nice to go up there and throw 97 to 100 mph. or whatnot, but you need to figure out how to pitch. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a competition like that, so for me, I think it’s a matter of time.”

Velocity isn’t the issue for Harvey. It is command and movement on his pitches. It is also working in his slider and change-up, which he did today.

Harvey is approaching his recovery with the right mindset. Eventually, he’ll throw harder, but he’s right in saying there’s time and the most important thing is to get back to pitching.

Harvey is currently slotted third or fourth in the rotation, but Wheeler will likely open the season in an extended spring training. That is the presumption considering he’s on an innings limit of 110.

Wheeler, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, had a simple objective.

“As long as I came out of this healthy today, that was my No. 1 goal,” Wheeler told reporters. “I’ve been going through this for two years now, so whatever happened, happened. I got a strikeout and gave up a home run. All of that really doesn’t matter right now. I’m just glad I’m healthy right now.”

Mar 09

DeGrom Continues To Be Sharp

The early returns have been good for Jacob deGrom, who threw four shutout innings in today’s 5-5 tie with Detroit.

Coming off surgery on his elbow, deGrom has thrown six scoreless and walk-free innings in his two spring training starts. He’s clocked in the mid-90s and struck out seven.

DEGROM: Has reason to smile. (AP)

DEGROM: Has reason to smile. (AP)

Results aren’t important, at least not yet, this early in spring training. What’s most important at this stage, especially after surgery, is fastball command and deGrom has been sharp.

“I was really pleased with being able to locate all four pitches today,” deGrom told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “I think today I was able to throw that changeup where I wanted, pretty much when I wanted to.”

Of the Mets’ rotation, deGrom has been the sharpest, followed by Noah Syndergaard – but his pitch count has been high – and Steven Matz. Matt Harvey has been roughed up and Zack Wheeler starts for the first time Friday.

While deGrom has been solid in his six innings, the early returns have been mixed overall. It’s premature to say the rotation is completely healthy and ready to go, but there’s reason to be optimistic.

 

Mar 08

Syndergaard’s Command Off; Bruce Homers In Win

They might have tuned in to see Tim Tebow, but the Mets most worth watching were Noah Syndergaard and Jay Bruce.

Making his second start of the spring, the Mets’ Opening Day starter again had command issues despite throwing 2.1 innings. Throwing mostly fastballs and change-ups, Syndergaard threw 47 pitches to get those seven outs – six pitches per out – which isn’t going to get it done on most days in the regular season.

BRUCE: Has big day. (AP)

BRUCE: Has big day. (AP)

Meanwhile, Bruce, the player Sandy Alderson most wants to trade, had a big day with a two-run homer, RBI double and run-saving diving catch in right field in Wednesday’s 8-7 victory over Boston.

Syndergaard didn’t give up any runs, but that wasn’t the story.

“I threw about 85 percent,” Syndergaard said. “I pulled it back a bit to work on my mechanics. I wanted to close my shoulder on my way to the plate.”

In the regular season, Syndergaard’s pitch count put him on pace to throw 4.2 innings, which is not what he has in mind.

Syndergaard said he gained 17 pounds of muscle in the offseason – disputed by manager Terry Collins – for the purpose of being strong enough to work longer in games. However, what Syndergaard doesn’t realize is what kept him from going deeper into games isn’t a matter of losing strength, but losing command and running up his pitch count.

Syndergaard touched 100 mph. several times and threw mostly in the high 90s – frankly, I don’t see where he dialed it back – but pitching isn’t about velocity. A pitcher relies on location, movement of his pitches and velocity, with velocity the least important.

METS NOVELTY: With the Mets sending a large contingent to the World Baseball Classic and playing a split-squad game, they were in need of bodies and that opened the way for Tebow’s chance to play – as a designated hitter.

Tebow struck out in his first at-bat on four pitches, grounded into a double play in his second to drive in a run and produce a standing ovation, and was hit by a pitch in his third.

Mar 08

Why Will You Watch Tebow?

Of course, I’ll watch Tim Tebow today. So will a lot of people, which will make the Mets and SNY very happy. Not to mention the stadium vendors hawking Tebow jerseys at $120 a pop.

So, what’s your reason for watching?

TEBOW: Very curious. (AP)

TEBOW: Very curious. (AP)

Are you curious to see if there’s really something there and he could actually help the Mets?  Will you watch like a rubbernecker watching an accident on the Interstate?

Tebow hasn’t played competitive baseball for over a decade, so I don’t think he’ll go deep against a Cy Young Award winner.  He might not even go short. But, that’s not why I’ll be watching.

Tebow is with the Mets, so that’s the main reason. For whatever reason Tebow wants to play, he’s trying something he wants to do and isn’t good at. He’s trying something different – and hard to do – and for that reason alone he should be applauded. That’s why I’ll watch.

And, if he happens to hit a couple of homers, then I guess I’ll have another reason to watch again.

Mar 07

D’Arnaud’s Start Good Sign

One of the Mets’ spring training concerns is off to a good start. You wouldn’t be wrong saying Travis d’Arnaud is facing a make-or-break season.

The combination of not performing – at the plate or behind it – and not being able to stay on the field has kept d’Arnaud from being the impact player they envision when they acquired him from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade. Believe it or not, there were some who rated d’Arnaud higher than Noah Syndergaard in that deal.

D'ARNAUD: Good start. (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Good start. (AP)

It’s been only 20 at-bats, but d’Arnaud is hitting .450 (9-for-20) with two homers and four RBI. His discipline is better, evidenced by a .450 on-base percentage.

It’s rather simple, d’Arnaud explained to reporters: After working with hitting coach Kevin Long this winter, d’Arnaud ditched his former stance in which he wrapped his bat around his head, he’s seeing the ball better.

Translation: Seeing the ball enables him to hit it.

“My results are more swinging at strikes and hitting the ball on the barrel,” d’Arnaud said. “For me, me it’s being able to see the ball longer and not have to cheat to get to some pitches and just keeping everything slow and not try to do too much.

“We made the swing so it’s more direct and I don’t have to overcommit.”

Even a fraction of a second would give d’Arnaud enough time to recognize and turn on a pitch. It’s the difference between driving a pitch and popping it up or missing it entirely.

For d’Arnaud, it could be the difference between a productive year in the major leagues, or not being there at all.