Aug 24

Optimal Time For Wright To Return

In some respect, it will be Opening Day II for the Mets with the return of David Wright tonight in Philadelphia. Only this time the Mets are 11 games over .500.

“For me it almost feels like Opening Day, where you have some butterflies, kind of nervous excitement,” Wright told reporters this afternoon.

The last time they had a record this good was Sept. 28, 2008 when they lost to the Marlins – and consequently the pennant – on the last day of the season for the second straight year and finished 89-73.

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

No, this wasn’t the Tom Glavine game, but Johan Santana pitched a 2-0 gem the previous day to give the Mets life. They were in first place as late as Sept. 19 and held a 3.5-game lead on Sept. 10.

This was the last time the Mets were truly relevant in the concept of October baseball.

This is the optimum time for Wright to come back because how well they are playing with a five-game lead on Washington, and their rejuvenated offense has to alleviate the pressure he would normally face when coming off the disabled list.

If the Mets go on and in the words of Bob Murphy, “win the damn thing,’’ it will be because they played over .500 during his absence with four players – Daniel Murphy, Eric Campbell, Ruben Tejada and Juan Uribe – trying to take his place.

For the longest time the Mets weren’t hitting or winning on the road. They are doing both now. And, concurrently the Washington Nationals are floundering. However, five-game leads can quickly evaporate as the Mets learned in 2007 and 2008. Those were completely different teams then, deeper offensively but not with this pitching. That pitching provides optimism they won’t fade this time.

As September approaches, Wright will complement the offense and not be required to carry it on his shoulders. With less pressure, and manager Terry Collins knowing he can plug in Juan Uribe any time if he needs to rest him, the situation is such once Wright catches up to the speed of the major league game as opposed to the minors, he can resume raking.

And, the Mets can build on this lead.

Aug 23

Things Falling Into Place For Mets

Maybe there are omens, if you believe in such things, but there is so much to like about what’s happening for the Mets, and it could be personified by Logan Verrett. Not only did the Mets get five innings from Verrett in his start for Matt Harvey, but got eight strong – with eight strikes in today’s series clinching win over the Rockies.

Things don’t often fall into place the way did for the Mets today. After a rocky first inning Verrett settled down to where you thought you were actually seeing Harvey. Funny line from Verrett, telling Harvey, “I don’t know why everybody is freaking out because everybody knows I’m a better pitcher than you.”

Not only did the Mets rest Harvey, but got a victory and their first sweep of the Rockies in Coors Field. For one day at least, Verrett made us believe this innings-saving program with Harvey might just work after all.

Conventional wisdom had the Mets sending down Verrett to Triple-A Las Vegas after the game, but he was so impressive the Mets optioned out left reliever Dario Alvarez instead. Verrett also gives manager Terry Collins a reliable choice should he need to rest Harvey again or Noah Syndergaard. As a manager, you don’t want to do a lot of searching in September.

The Mets’ bullpen – evidenced by the first two games of the Colorado series – has been shaky lately, but Verrett can offer stability.

There were other season-falling-into-place signs for the Mets this week.

All right, I thought they dragged their feet placing Lucas Duda on the disabled list, but they appear to be surviving his absence. Daniel Murphy, who supposedly can’t play defense, started a key double play. Speaking of defense, Wilmer Flores – with tears out of his eyes – is showing he can play shortstop when he has to. He saved a run, today.

And, the more I see him, the more I like Yoenis Cespedes. He made two scintillating plays in center field that undoubtedly saved a few runs. Since the Mets got him their offense has transformed into something to be feared.

I didn’t think GM Sandy Alderson had it in him, but getting Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard jumpstarted this team.

Once struggling for runs, the Mets are scoring at a rate where the pressure was lessened on Michael Conforto, and will be for David Wright when he’s activated from the disabled list Monday in Philadelphia. The Mets need Wright to be Wright, but with the way the Mets are hitting – thanks in large part to Cespedes – they can ease him back. The last thing the Mets want is for Wright to force things, and if the offense keeps producing it makes things easier for Wright.

And, with Uribe, they have a reliable option at third. Uribe, with the Latin pitchers, can be a calming influence. He was today with Hansel Robles.

The Mets are a season-high 11 games over .500 as they go to Philadelphia. However, these Phillies are a different bunch than the team the Mets have beaten up on this year.

The Mets have pitched well all season, recently started to hit and their defense is better. If Verrett can stabilize the bullpen when he’s not pitching eight strong, then the Mets could be doing more than playing meaningful games in September.

They could be playing meaningful games in October, and wouldn’t that be sweet.

 

Aug 20

Hopes And Expectations Not The Same For Wright

There are hopes and there are expectations, and they aren’t one of the same when it pertains to the Mets and David Wright. When Wright returns – perhaps within the week – we hope for him to stay healthy and perform like the All-Star he was. But, we can’t really expect it, can we?

Manager Terry Collins is already putting limits on Wright by telling reporters, “[he] won’t be that everyday guy until we know his back is 100 percent and that might not be until next spring.” That might be the most realistic thing Collins ever said about Wright.

WRIGHT: We want to see his smile. (AP)

WRIGHT: We want to see his smile. (AP)

From when Wright comes back and until the end of the season, the Mets might learn third base might be pushing it for him. We might learn because of the bending at the position, that third base might not be the place for him. Then what?

Wright might share time with Daniel Murphy and Juan Uribe, as the Mets’ infield will resemble a jig-saw puzzle with pieces strewn all over the table. Murphy, Kelly Johnson and Wilmer Flores could share second; Ruben Tejada and Flores would share shortstop. Johnson can spell anybody at any position.

“That is what happens when you get a lot of players that are pretty good,” Collins told reporters in Baltimore. “You’ve got to figure out how to get them all in the game at different times. Yeah, it will be a little bit of a challenge.”

However, if Wright is stable and hitting, he’ll get most of the time at third base. Everybody, even Collins, knows that to be true.

That’s the best case scenario for the Mets, regardless of Collins’ words or caution. That is what we’re hoping for, but can’t realistically expect.

Aug 19

No Winning For Mets With Six Man Rotation

The problem with the Mets skipping Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard for a start or two in September, is that by the end of the month they might need those games. That’s why having a definitive plan entering the season was the way to go, but GM Sandy Alderson was too smart for that and Harvey was too stubborn.

Getting their starts will be Steven Matz and Logan Verrett. And, hopefully Bartolo Colon will have as strong a finish as he did a start and Jon Niese continues his good pitching.

With 154 innings already, it is projected he has 36 innings left, which is six starts of six innings. And, considering the strain on the bullpen that’s not encouraging. The projection is the same for Syndergaard.

“We want to have innings left and all the big boys ready to pitch the postseason,” pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters.

Warthen is also adjusting Syndergaard’s pregame routine by starting his warmups later. Presumably, this will get him in a rhythm sooner. Hopefully, this will enable him to use fewer pitches. However, the innings goal will remain the same.

The other alternative is to junk the limits and take their chances. But, there will be hell to pay if it doesn’t work and they get hurt. Then again, if there will be hell if they restrict them and they don’t get in.

But, I’m giving them hell for not having a plan in place from the beginning.

 

 

Aug 18

How Will Mets’ Rotation Shake Out In September?

Sorry for the no-show yesterday folks. Had another setback and back in Ohio for more rehab. There are good and bad stretches, and I’m currently on one of the bad ones. It happens, but like your Mets, I have to keep plugging away. It’s the only way to get from here to there, and in the case of our heroes, that would be the playoffs.

We’re two weeks away from the Mets playing meaningful games in September, and for the Mets what will again entail the return of the six-man rotation. That is, of course, if management follows through on its intent to keep the starters on their innings limitations.

It all begins when the rosters are expanded Sept. 1 with Steven Matz. The Mets will also throw a spot start or two to Logan Verrett, who was added to the roster today in Baltimore. Verrett will work both as a starter and reliever, with an emphasis on the latter now that Bobby Parnell is back on the disabled list.

The driving force behind the innings limits was to protect Matt Harvey, who already has thrown 154 and is on pace for 211, which is roughly 15 more than the Mets wanted. This is an issue I’ve been pounding on all season and I can think of several games in which Harvey should have been cut off but wasn’t. There was the Yankees game in which he was hell bent to try for a complete game during a blowout. There was also the sore throat game in which he should have been skipped. That accounts for almost six innings right there. Can you see now why that was important?

Noah Syndergaard has thrown 135.1 innings this year after 138 last season. The Mets are thinking a 35-inning jump maximum.

Jacob deGrom threw 178.2 innings last season and already has 146.2 this year.

There are no limits for Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon.

On of the residual issues here is the bullpen, which is now getting dangerously thin. Without a reliable bullpen to carry some of the workload, it will add pressure to the starters. This is where the Mets can get into trouble.