Mar 16

Lost Velocity Could Be Best Thing For Harvey

The issue of Matt Harvey’s lost velocity could be the best thing to happen to him in his effort to rejuvenate his career.  The headlines after Wednesday’s loss asked if Harvey would ever be the same.

HARVEY: He shouldn't hold his head. (AP)

HARVEY: He shouldn’t hold his head. (AP)

What exactly is “the same?” Outside of four spectacular months in 2013 and several scintillating starts in 2015 – which culminated in a hissy fit in Game 5 of the World Series – we must remember for all the hype, he is 29-28 lifetime, which, unlike his string of model girlfriends, is nothing to get excited about.

That 2013 All-Star start and career 2.94 ERA and 1.08 WHIP give us reasons to be hopeful, but for all his sparkling moments there has considerable diva tarnish.

Harvey’s scouting report in 2013 showed a fastball in the high 90s, impeccable control and a bulldog, don’t-give-in mentality that culminated in him pitching through the pain of a strained forearm leading to Tommy John surgery.

Back then, Harvey’s high profile personality was outlined by his high 90s heater. Pitching coach Dan Warthen said we might not know until May whether his velocity will return. If two surgeries aren’t enough of a wake-up call, perhaps the velocity issue could be. It’s important Harvey stay in Florida at the start of the season to find his confidence more than his fastball.

Nolan Ryan was a freak who threw triple digits into his 40s. A chemically-induced Roger Clemens threw high heat late into his career. However, they, like Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Tom Seaver, eventually lost what made them great. Age and injury reaffirmed their pitching mortality.

Harvey is lucky in comparison. He’s only 27 and hopefully will take advantage of his lost fastball to learn how to pitch. Let’s hope he’ll learn how to pitch like Mike Mussina, Jack Morris, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine – don’t snicker on the last one, because after all, he won over 300 games and is in the Hall of Fame – which could extend the career of the pitcher many have given up on.

I wrote yesterday how the Mets should leave him off the Opening Day roster and send him for an extended spring training. I didn’t say Harvey’s career was over and the column didn’t bash him. To the contrary, I still think he can become a solid major league starter.

I have previously been hard on Harvey for his attitude and I’m not backing off. I don’t expect Harvey to consistently throw 98, but I do hope he’ll be smart enough to capitalize on being given the great gift of being young enough in his career to reinvent himself.

Hopefully, he was taking notes the past two years from watching Bartolo Colon. Harvey’s career is not over unless he mentally gives up.

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 15

Do Mets Have Guts To Leave Harvey Off Opening Day Roster?

The question must be posed: Does the Mets’ top brass have the stones to leave Matt Harvey off the Opening Day roster?  While it is clear Jacob deGrom is ready for the start of the season, it is also painfully obvious Harvey is not.

HARVEY: Not ready. (AP)

HARVEY: Not ready. (AP)

While exhibition numbers aren’t important, after Harvey was pasted once again today by the Marlins, it is hard to ignore his 0-3 record and 7.88 ERA. That high an ERA is hard to dismiss any time of the year.

Harvey broke into our consciousness in 2012 with near pinpoint control, supreme confidence and a fastball that regularly clocked in the high 90s. Today, an elbow and shoulder surgery later, his confidence as battered as his body, and a fastball in the low 90s, Harvey isn’t close to being the stud pitcher and cartoon superhero character Mets’ fans yearn to see again.

Earlier this spring Harvey said he had no doubt his velocity would return. He was far less optimistic today; he appeared to concede to a new chapter in his career.

“I’m not looking to throw 100 mph., again or 97 even,” Harvey told reporters. “My job is to get people out no matter what I’m throwing, and I’m looking forward to it. [The velocity] is going to be there.”

But, what will it be?

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the Mets won’t know about Harvey’s physical abilities for several months, claiming he’s guessing May.

“History says with [thorasic surgery] it’s 10 months out,” Warthen said. “That’s when you really start to feel strong. Generally, when you open a season you gain two miles per hour. If he’s playing at 94, 95, it’s a completely different story.”

But, Harvey’s throwing 92 these days at best, which means he basically must reinvent himself, which will be hard to do with another three exhibition starts remaining.

That brings us back to the original question as to whether the Mets if Harvey doesn’t immediately turn it around, would leave him back to get stronger and work on his mechanics. Considering their potential depth with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman – and possibly Zack Wheeler – that would be the prudent option.

The Mets are blessed to have the depth most teams don’t possess, so why not take advantage of it? Assuming Harvey isn’t ready in three three weeks – and that’s what Warthen is saying – it would be better to utilize that depth in April to get him ready rather that use it later if he breaks down.

Harvey won’t like it, but that’s not important. Getting him ready is.

Mar 14

DeGrom Ready; Mets Should Rest Ill Syndergaard

If spring training is all about getting ready for the season, it would be safe to conclude of all the Mets’ high-profile starters Jacob deGrom is the closest to being ready.

In three spring starts, he has given up one run in ten innings with 13 strikeouts, including six in four innings in today’s 2-1 victory over Houston. Now, who wouldn’t take that?

DeGROM: Ready. (AP)

DeGROM: Ready. (AP)

The best thing about deGrom today was his ability to pitch out of trouble. He walked and gave up a single to start the game, but pulled it together to strike out the side, including the last two in the high 90s.

DeGrom didn’t have his best changeup and got it done with his fastball and breaking pitches.

“You’ll have those days in spring and throughout the season,” deGrom told reporters. “So, you have to find other ways to get outs. My slider was good today and I mixed in a few curveballs.

“I’m happy with how things are going. The main thing is to stay healthy. I’m just happy that I feel good and I’m looking forward to starting the season.”

Health does not only include elbows and shoulders. It includes illness, which brings us to Noah Syndergaard, who has been struggling with bronchitis the past month and a half. Six weeks is a long time to fighting illness and this isn’t just a cold or the sniffles.

“He’s like many people, including myself, that when it gets in their lungs and they get bronchitis, it can affect you for a while,” manager Terry Collins said. “He’s fighting that. He’s been on medication. He is getting better, but he just ran out of gas.”

Syndergaard threw in the high 90s Monday, but later said he felt tired and his delivery was out of whack. He admitted it could have been because of being ill.

So, Syndergaard said being ill could have sapped his strength and Collins admitted the same. So, why don’t Collins and GM Sandy Alderson do the smart thing and sit Syndergaard for his next start if he’s still feeling lousy?

Now, Syndergaard, like any other Mets’ pitcher will fight Collins if he wants to rest him. Matt Harvey already has … several times.

But, Collins and Alderson are supposed to be the adults in the room and should be smart enough to tell their kids not to go outside and play when they are sick. And, enforce it.

If spring training is all about getting ready for the season, then shouldn’t that include not letting Syndergaard getting run down?

Mar 12

Reed Off To Slow Start

The Mets are two weeks into their spring training schedule, and, of course, statistics don’t count. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally sneak a peak at the numbers – and think red flag.

REED: Slow start. (AP)

REED: Slow start. (AP)

I’m not surprised about David Wright, because in the back of my mind I anticipated something happening. Wilmer Flores is having a miserable spring, but he’s not a centerpiece player.

Pennants aren’t won in April, but they can be lost if a team falls into a gulley. With many teams the rickety bridge is a bullpen and that’s the potential trap for the Mets.

Of all the Mets’ numbers, potentially the most alarming to me belong to Addison Reed, the closer who’ll replace the soon-to-be suspended Jeurys Familia.

Statistics are a measure – a reflection – of performance, and currently, Reed isn’t what the Mets have in mind. In five innings over five games, Reed has a 16.20 ERA, but the number we should be paying attention to is a 2.40 WHIP.

That’s a lot of base runners, and they usually translate into runs.

We have to look at Reed like any other player, that the numbers don’t matter now. There’s nothing to get excited about now, only something worth noting.

Mar 11

First Base Prospect Dom Smith Optioned; Matz Sharp

Dominic Smith was sent to the minor league camp this morning, primarily to get more at-bats prior to the start of the season. Smith hasn’t had a good spring at the plate, hitting .185 with ten strikeouts in 27 at-bats, but he wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster, anyway.

Smith hit .302 last season for Double-A Binghamton and will likely be assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas

“He just needs to keep on doing what he’s been doing,” said Keith Hernandez, former Mets Gold Glove first baseman and current SNY analyst. “He’s a future Gold Glover if he plays every day. He’s so smooth.”

Offensively, according to Hernandez, Smith needs to concentrate on hitting line drives and not worry about hitting for power, as that will come.

Assuming a full, and productive, season in Triple-A, Smith could be a September call-up and could make the 25-man roster next spring as the Mets don’t figure to bring back Lucas Duda, who is scheduled to become a free agent.

GOOD START FOR MATZ: Steven Matz made a strong start in Saturday’s 6-0 loss to the Nationals, giving up one unearned run (set up by Yoenis Cespedes’ error in left) on three hits with two strikeouts in three innings.

“The big thing is fastball command, trying to establish the fastball on both sides of the plate,” Matz said as to what he was trying to work on in his second start. “Comparing myself to last year, I think I’m ahead of where I was last year.”

As of now, Matz is third or fourth in the Mets’ rotation.

EXTRA INNINGS: Erik Goeddel, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, gave up three runs in one inning. … Curtis Granderson had two hits. … Re-assigned to the minor league camp in addition to Smith were pitchers P.J. Conlon, Kevin McGowan, David Roseboom, Corey Taylor and Logan Taylor; infielders Phillip Evans and Luis Guillorme ; and outfielder Champ Stuart.