Feb 25

Too Early To Name Opening Day Starter

Mike Puma of The New York Post recently wrote the Mets are strongly considering going with Zack Wheeler as their Opening Day starter. While I like Puma and don’t dispute his sources, naming Wheeler, or anybody else for that matter, as the Opening Day starter now is premature and a bad idea.

Of course the media wants to know. I want to know, but considering the make-up of the Mets’ rotation it serves no purpose announcing a starter this early.

WHEELER: No reason to name his Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

WHEELER: No reason to name him Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

The Mets already said it will not be Matt Harvey, but what if that changes? It already changed from him being the home opener starter to working in of the first five games.

With six weeks remaining until Opening Day and the Mets lacking a legitimate ace such as Johan Santana or even a healthy Harvey, simply too much can happen that could change Terry Collins’ mind:

* What if Harvey has a great spring training? Surely he then would get the nod.

* What if Wheeler has a lousy spring training, or worse, is injured?

* What if one of the other starters emerges strong this spring. What then?

The Opening Day starter should be based on two things: 1) experience, and 2) merit. Wheeler, despite showing promise last year and is a cornerstone of the future, doesn’t meet either.

If he’s healthy, it should be Harvey because of his brief window of success and what he means to the franchise. If not, the best choice should be Bartolo Colon.

It is highly improbable he won’t be traded this spring, so it has to be him. He’s best equipped to handle the distractions and pressure, and last year was the Mets’ most accomplished starter winning 15 games and working over 200 innings.

Wheeler is the sexy pick, but for the best results, it should go with Colon.

But, even so, the same rules apply. It is too early and every manager should know not to make a decision until absolutely has to … and Collins has not need to make an announcement now.

ON DECK TODAY: Mets’ Matters: Today’s notebook.

Feb 25

Bullpen Close To Being Set; Would Include Gee

For the first time in his tenure as Mets’ general manager, Sandy Alderson has his bullpen close to being intact heading into spring training. And, with his rotation set, the Mets have a sense of pitching comfort they haven’t had since 2006, the last time they made the playoffs.

This is good news.

Gee: Ticketed for pen.

Gee: Ticketed for pen.

It is paramount a team have a strong bullpen if it remotely has the chance of being a contender. I like the make-up of this pen as it is loaded with hard-throwing arms, even with Bobby Parnell not available until May.

Without Parnell, the Mets have a strong idea of the relievers they’ll take north. Ideally, they want another left-hander to go with Josh Edgin, but if that doesn’t materialize they likely would carry Dillon Gee.

With the uncertainty of Matt Harvey coming back from Tommy John surgery, and if history is an indicator, and the likelihood of getting short starts from Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, there will be a need for a spot starter and long reliever as innings would need to be filled.

That’s three spots in the rotation that would call for Gee and Carlos Torres, and why Rafael Montero would be left out. There’s a strong possibility the pen would accumulate innings early in the season.

Montero us unproven working consistently out of the bullpen and should be to Triple-A Las Vegas until he would be needed, which is a possibility considering the Mets are shopping Gee and Bartolo Colon.

“You’re asking somebody to do something at the major league level that he hasn’t done very much of. And it’s important that we get out of the gate,’’ Collins told reporters about Montero. “Knowing that Bobby is going to be ready probably in the first part of May, I’m not sure where Raffy would fit in that bullpen coming out of spring training.

“If Dillon is there, we’ve only got one more spot left, and you might go with a little more experienced guy at the start of the season.’’

Joining Edgin, Gee and Torres are Jenrry Mejia as the closer replacing Parnell, followed by Jeurys Familia and Vic Black. That leaves one more. Scott Rice, perhaps?

In a perfect world, Familia would be the eighth-inning set-up man with Black available for the seventh if the starter can’t go that far.

Of course, that’s in a perfect world.

ON DECK: Don’t name an Opening Day starter now.

 

Feb 24

Mets Matters: Alderson Jabs Flores; Parnell To Throw; Duda Ailing

If I were Wilmer Flores, I’d be hacked off at GM Sandy Alderson. I wouldn’t be happy being Ruben Tejada, either.

Several times Alderson has cracked wise about the Mets’ shortstop situation. The Wall Street Journal reported when Alderson showed up for jury duty he was asked what he did in his free time.

Reportedly, Alderson said: “Well, now I’m looking for a shortstop.’’

I still don’t understand why a general manager would continually undercut his players in public.

mets-matters logo* Today, manager Terry Collins said the Mets would miss Eric Young’s speed. Young’s absence underscores the Mets’ need for a leadoff hitter. Currently, it’s between Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson.

Earlier today, I endorsed Lagares because I believe Granderson’s greater value is as a run producer in the middle of the order.

* Hindered by his wild throwing to bases, the Mets will work hard with reliever Jeurys Familia this spring. The Mets also want Familia to throw more four-seam fastballs, which gives hitters something else to consider.

* Reliever Bobby Parnell is scheduled to throw in the bullpen and pitch to hitters this weekend. As with Matt Harvey, Parnell is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Parnell could throw to hitters on Thursday.

* Lucas Duda sustained a strained left oblique muscle and might not hit for another three days, but will participate in fielding drills.

Feb 24

Leaning Toward Lagares As Leadoff Hitter

The Mets are undecided as their leadoff hitter, with the competition coming down between Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson.

LAGARES: Should get leadoff job. (AP)

LAGARES: Should get leadoff job. (AP)

For my money, I’d rather open the season with Lagares for the simple reason this decision doesn’t only impact the No. 1 spot, but also the middle of the order.

While both players are potential strikeout machines, Granderson offers a higher upside as a run producer in the middle. He has greater power and I’d rather bunch him with Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer, than leaving him exposed at the top.

My thinking is Granderson could produce more runs batting sixth than Lagares can leading off.

Both have the speed needed to hit first, but neither is the classic leadoff hitter in that both strike out too much and don’t have high on-base percentages. Both can steal a base, but I’d rather see Granderson’s speed trying to stretch a double in the gap into a triple.

For a team struggling to score runs, this is the best way to go.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notes.

Feb 24

Duda Strains Oblique

You’re a winner if you had Lucas Duda in the pool as to what Met would be the first to strain his oblique muscle. Duda strained his right oblique swinging a bat and won’t hit for two to three days.

Duda will continue to work out in the field.

Manager Terry Collins plans to limit the amount of swings a batter takes, just as a pitcher is restricted.

A lot of players report early and often over-do it. Players also work hard lifting weights, but often overlook doing core strength exercises, which includes the oblique muscle.