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.

Mar 06

Despite Encouraging Signs Mets Must Be Cautious With Wheeler

Hopefully, the other shoe won’t fall for the Mets’ Zack Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two years because of elbow issues. He’s back to throwing batting practice, and Sunday clocked out at 93 mph. Most importantly, however, is he left the mound feeling no pain.

WHEELER: Take your time. (AP)

WHEELER: Take your time. (AP)

If he can stay setback free for the rest of the week, he’ll start Friday against the Braves. It seems like forever, when Wheeler and Matt Harvey stuffed the Braves in a doubleheader. Then came Tommy John surgery in 2015 and a myriad of setbacks that has Wheeler wondering.

“I kind of feel like I’m waiting for a setback, but everything is going good,” Wheeler told reporters. “I feel good about it. Everything was coming out of my hand nice today. It definitely felt better than last time.”

When the Mets see Wheeler, they envision their Golden Arms Rotation, that when healthy has the potential to be one of baseball’s best. But, they’ve never been healthy together, with Wheeler, Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom all coming off surgery. Noah Syndergaard pitched through a painful bone spur in his elbow, otherwise, there would have been five coming off the knife.

Although Wheeler said he feels good, he added he’s not there, yet.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent letting it go,” Wheeler said. “But I’m 90- to 95-percent effort, breaking off curveballs and sliders. It feels good.”

Even if he’s full strength, don’t bet on Wheeler making the Opening Day roster as the Mets are figuring a limit of 110 innings and currently have eschewed the up-and-down risk of working him out of the bullpen. So, the prudent plan would be to let him build himself up with an extended spring training, then possibly bring him up in late May or early June when the weather is warmer.

In previous seasons the Mets had Bartolo Colon to eat up innings. This year they have Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, so there’s no sense in forcing this.

Mar 05

Two Out Of Three Not Bad For Mets’ Starters

Just as the Mets can’t make a big deal out of the two strong innings from Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom in their spring training debuts, they can’t panic over Matt Harvey getting ripped Sunday by the Cardinals in his first spring outing.

Syndergaard and deGrom were solid Friday and Saturday respectfully, but Harvey gave up four runs in 1.2 innings – with three strikeouts and a homer given up – in his first start since undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

“Obviously, it’s been eight months since I’ve faced another team,” Harvey told reporters. “The biggest thing was going out there and trying to, I guess, get my mechanics back against another team and hitters. You can go out there and do all of that with your own guys and catchers, but you can’t get to where you want to be unless you’re facing hitters. …

“Overall, I’m happy with some of the pitches I made. I’m happy with the way I felt, the way the ball was coming out.”

Both Syndergaard and deGrom threw in the upper 90s in their first starts, but Harvey was in the lower 90s, something that doesn’t overly concern manager Terry Collins.

“I think Matt knows that it’s going to take some time in spring training to get him where he wants to be when he starts the season,” said Collins.

As for deGrom, he’s coming off elbow surgery. He struck out three in two perfect innings Saturday against Houston.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” deGrom told reporters. “It’s one thing to say you feel good in spring training, but then to go out and actually throw, it definitely feels good to get back out there. I feel like the ball is coming out of my hand a lot better. That goes back to mechanics.”