May 24

Time For Matt Harvey To Man Up

It has come to this for the Mets’ Matt Harvey: Like a minor league call-up, his manager said he’s pitching to raise his confidence. The key isn’t to beat the Nationals – which would put the Mets back in first place – but to look good. Get some style points.

What is this, figure skating?

“I’m hoping, more than anything that he goes and gives us quality innings just to raise his confidence,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “Because once that confidence starts to come up, he’s going to be fine.”

HARVEY: Head up or head down tonight? (AP)

HARVEY: Head up or head down tonight? (AP)

“More than anything,” huh? “Just to raise his confidence,” huh? I’d rather have Harvey get chased in the second inning and the Mets rally to win than have this pitcher puzzle leave with a good feeling about himself and they lose. What’s next, giving him a participation trophy?

“Once that confidence starts to come up,” is another way of saying he doesn’t have any right now. And, offering him the out of not pitching is another way of Collins saying he doesn’t have much confidence in his “ace.” That might be true, but you don’t broadcast it. That’s a fine pat-on-the-back. What must the Nationals be thinking? After Harvey was booed off the mound last week, even Bryce Harper said he felt empathy for him.

Sweet.

As with most things surrounding Harvey, the Mets turned it into a drama.

Collins initially said he wasn’t sure if Harvey would start. Then, they floated the idea of moving him up to Monday, which would have bumped Bartolo Colon. In hindsight, that would have been a huge mistake.

Harvey threw a simulated game Saturday, was given the choice of skipping tonight if he wanted, then was given the start.

If you’re Collins, after Harvey was torched for nine runs in 2.2 innings, unless he’s hurt you say, “we have no intention of taking him out of the rotation.”

Collins said he was encouraged Harvey didn’t back down and wanted to pitch, but what else was he going to say? What other choice does Harvey have?

There’s a list of at least a dozen deep as to what is wrong with Harvey. Reasons or excuses? Take your pick.

Screw the issue of looking good, confidence and style points. If he’s the star both he and the Mets believe he is, then just pitch.

And if gets ripped again, Collins should send him out again. But, if there are any doubts, any thoughts of needing to do something, then send him to the minor leagues to get his head on straight.

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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 23

May 23, Mets Lineup At Washington

Bartolo Colon gets another shot at the Nationals tonight in DC. He was hammered by Washington in his last start, giving up three runs on five hits and five walks in 4.2 innings. The five walks Colon (3-3, 3.75) were the most he’s given up in a game since 2005.

As you know by now, Lucas Duda was placed on the disabled list this afternoon.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup against Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 1.86):

Curtis Granderson – RF: Career vs. Nats: .254 (44-173). Has 39 game-opening homers, including four this season.

Juan Lagares – CF: Career vs. Nats: .297 (49-165). With Michael Conforto getting the night off against the left-hander, Lagares gets a start. Has been showing his Gold Glove form lately.

David Wright – 3B: Career vs. Nats: .297 (207-697). Said he’d move to first if team asked. No surprise there. Has 239 career homers to trail franchise leader Darryl Strawberry who has 252.

Yoenis Cespedes – LF: Career vs. Nats: .309 (15-49). His 14 homers are tied for the major league lead.

Neil Walker – 2B: Career vs. Nats: .288 (38-132). Is batting .180 (11-61) in 19 games this month after a torrid April.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: Career vs. Nats: .222 (6-27). Is hitting .333 with 12 RBI with RISP, including a two-run single Sunday.

Eric Campbell – 1B: Career vs. Nats: .150 (6-40). It has been 79 at-bats since his last homer. Is hitting .278 (5-18) on the road this year.

Kevin Plawecki – C: Career vs. Nats: .206 (7-34). Went 1-13 (.077) during Mets’ recent homestand.

Bartolo Colon – RHP: Career vs. Nats: Is 3-6 with a 3.38 ERA lifetime against the Nationals in 10 games, including nine starts. Has 14 wins vs. NL East since the start of the 2015 season.

COMMENTS: Conforto is getting hot again, so I’d hate to sit him. Five of his eight homers have either tied the game or given the Mets the lead. … Mets pitchers have 10 no-walk games to lead the majors. … Jeurys Familia has converted 31 consecutive save opportunities to tie him with Billy Wagner for the club record. … The Mets’ bullpen has thrown 14.1 scoreless innings over the last four games. … The Mets were 6-3 against the Nationals last year in Washington.

May 23

Mets Place Duda On DL; Ty Kelly Promoted

As speculated here yesterday, the Mets placed first baseman Lucas Duda on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 21, with a stress fractured to his lower back. Taking Duda’s spot on the roster is Ty Kelly from Triple-A Las Vegas. 

Kelly can play both the infield and outfield and is available for tonight’s game in Washington. To make room on the 40-man roster lefty reliever Dario Alvarez was designated for assignment.

Kelly, 27, was signed as a minor league free agent, last November. He is leading minor league baseball with a .391 average and an on-base percentage of .478. He was previously in the Baltimore, Toronto and St. Louis organizations. He was originally drafted by the Orioles in the 13th round in 2009.

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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