Mar 21

Mets’ Batting Order Analysis

Without David Wright and Daniel Murphy available because of strained intercostal muscles, manager Terry Collins doesn’t have much to work with regarding his everyday line-up, which seems to change every day.

Here’s today’s Mets-Cardinals lineup and how it might translate to the regular season:

Marlon Byrd, rf: If Jordany Valdespin makes the team as it appears, he’ll lead off. So, what’s Byrd doing here? I don’t know. He’s also hit cleanup this spring. Actually, if he has the skills to hit cleanup and leadoff, then why not give him a shot batting third? I’d much rather have Ike Davis hitting fourth, which is where he’ll be when Wright returns.

Ruben Tejada, ss: Tejada’s miserable spring has the Mets wondering whether last year was a fluke offensively. Second would seem like a reasonable slot since he’s had success there in the past. Also, having Davis behind him could enable Tejada to see more fastballs in the zone which could snap him out of his slide.

Ike Davis, 1b: Your No. 3 hitter should be your best hitter in terms of contact and power. That’s Wright when he’s healthy. It looks as if Davis will hit third at the start. Only question is will there be runners on base ahead of him.

Zach Lutz, 3b: Lutz is expected to open the season in the minors. His presence today at clean-up only indicates Collins will separate strikeout machines Davis and Lucas Duda, who conceivably in a full season could strike out a combined 300 times.

Lucas Duda, lf: With Wright out, Duda is the only other power to complement Davis, and the leftfielder has not had a good spring. He’s fifth today, but expect him lower in the order when the season comes, and definitely when Wright returns.

John Buck, c: Buck is a decent hitter, but nothing that makes you roll your eyes. He’s made for lower in the order. However, there are times I can see him moving up and slotted between Davis and Duda.

Matt den Dekker, cf: This is a major league glove headed to the minor leagues. Den Dekker drove in the game winning run last night and has been hitting better lately. If he’s consistent offensively he should be at Citi Field. Valdespin has had a good spring with the bat, but he’s never put it together for a full season. And, that includes his attitude and hustle.

Omar Quintanilla, 2b: With all the injuries in the infield and the expectation of Tejada being pulled for a pinch-hitter at times, Quintanilla should make the roster and have a defined role off the bench. He’s not much with the bat, so eighth is perfect for him.

Jeremy Hefner, rhp: Hefner is the fifth starter in place of Johan Santana, and if he’s effective could remain there for a month or more.

 

Mar 21

Shaun Marcum Added To Mets’ Injury List; Long Season Already Here

The worst-case scenario seems imminent for the Mets.

They faced a myriad of pitching questions entering spring training, including: Johan Santana’s availability after shoulder surgery; Dillon Gee coming off surgery to repair an injury to his shoulder; and injury-prone Shaun Marcum.

All three have been answered in the negative.

One would think a free agent would report to camp in shape, but Marcum didn’t and insisted a long-tossing program was what it took instead of the normal routine pitchers use in spring training.

Marcum said all he needed was four starts, and he might not even get that as he flew to New York on the off-day to have his shoulder examined.  He was diagnosed to have an impingement and received a cortisone injection.

Marcum will not make his start today against St. Louis and Jeremy Hefner will get the ball. Marcum is penciled in as the No. 2 starter, but if he isn’t ready left-hander Aaron Laffey is the likely candidate to replace him.

It will be interesting to see how the relationship develops between manager Terry Collins and Marcum if the pitcher misses several starts. Collins, who doesn’t have a contract after this season, already is dealing from a short deck and doesn’t need another injured pitcher.

While the Mets hope Marcum will miss just today, there’s no doubt they will indefinitely be without Santana, who hasn’t thrown in weeks and has no timetable to return. Forget Opening Day, the Mets might now be thinking May 1.

Think about it, it takes six weeks for a pitcher to get ready for the season with two weeks of long-toss and bullpen work prior to the games where he’ll get six starts to build up to 100 pitches. Santana has had none of that preparation. So, at age 34 he’s going to be ready in a few days? Hardly.

Meanwhile, Gee says he’s fine physically, but his last two starts have been painful to watch. Gee gave up five earned runs in last night’s 7-5 victory over Houston. Gee gave the Mets length last night, just not results. He insisted he’s had no setback and his mechanics are off. He might get two more starts to refine them.

The Mets hoped Jenrry Mejia could be a replacement for Santana and possibly evolve as a fifth starter if Marcum flamed out. However, Mejia has forearm tendinitis and isn’t close to being ready and will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

All this leads to the inevitable question of when Zack Wheeler could be called up. Wheeler is working himself back into shape after straining an oblique muscle, so it isn’t imminent. Alderson is adamant about not rushing Wheeler for two reasons, 1) to not hindering his development, and 2) to not put him on the clock for his service time, thereby delaying the arbitration and free-agent process.

The bullpen hasn’t been immune from injuries, either. Frank Francisco has not progressed following elbow surgery last December to remove a bone spur and inflammation.

Everybody’s injuries are different and there is no set formula to handle them, but you can’t help but wonder why Francisco, who did not finish the season, waited for December to have the surgery. Having it in late September or October would have given him more time for rehabilitation.

As for Santana, he took it easy over the winter after two off-seasons of rehab. Alderson said he didn’t come to camp in shape, prompting Santana to take it upon himself to throw off the mound the first week of March when it was thought he was ten days away from throwing.

The Mets pitching is currently a mess. Thankfully, everything is all right elsewhere. Oh, wait a minute. David Wright and Daniel Murphy will likely open the season on the disabled list and the outfield remains a house of cards.

It’s only March and it is already seems a long season for the Mets.

Mar 20

Not Optimistic About Wright And Murphy Being Ready By Opening Day

Opening Day is rapidly approaching, and it doesn’t look as if either David Wright and Daniel Murphy will make it to Flushing on time.

Wright told reporters he was in the World Baseball Classic where he played at an intense level, which shouldn’t put him at a disadvantage.

“I’m in a better position than Murphy, obviously, because I’ve been playing in games and taking plenty of swings,’’ Wright told reporters this morning.

Even so, if Wright doesn’t come back before the start of the season, and there aren’t any indications he is going to, it will be two weeks of being idle. Initially, at the time of the injury GM Sandy Alderson said Wright would rest from three to five days. Today is the sixth day.

There will be rust, count on it for Wright. Even more for Murphy, who hasn’t seen a pitch this spring. Murphy had a setback when he was shut down after playing five innings on defense last Friday. Terry Collins said if Murphy isn’t playing by the weekend he will open on the disabled list.

Both players claimed Opening Day was their goal, but made no promises and said they’ll be cautious as to not be re-injured and miss even more time.

Bet on the disabled list to start the season.

Injuries have also derailed Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who bruised his left knee in early March sliding into a base. Nieuwenhuis was scheduled to play three innings in the field and bat today in a minor league game.

In looking at tonight’s line-up against Houston in Kissimmee, it is possible it could be close to the Opening Day line-up, minus Brian Bixler and probably Mike Baxter.

For Opening Day, I’m going with Marlon Byrd in right instead of center.

Jordany Valdespin, 2b: He’s gone from being an outsider to likely starting at second base with Murphy out.

Collin Cowgill, cf: Looking at him as the starter in center. Could bat second as he is tonight.

Ike Davis, 1b: He isn’t a No. 3 hitter, but the best the Mets have with Wright gone.

Marlon Byrd, cf: He will be in right for the start of the season. He has been getting a lot of reps at clean up as Terry Collins wants to separate high strikeout batters Davis and Lucas Duda.

Lucas Duda, dh: Seriously, designated hitter is a natural for him. He moved from right to left because the latter is supposed to be easier. He still needs time in left, so why isn’t he there tonight?

John Buck, c: He’s the catcher until Travis d’Arnaud is ready. Should be June.

Mike Baxter, rf: Seems to have been pushed out of starter role by Byrd, who offers greater offensive upside.

Ruben Tejada, ss: It was thought he could contend for leadoff spot or No. 2, but not with the way he’s hitting now. He’ll be buried at No. 8, which gives Mets two back-to-back outs most times.

Dillon Gee, rhp: Says he needs work on his change-up.

Mar 20

Dillon Gee Comeback Continues Tonight

It’s not as if Dillon Gee didn’t think he’d ever pitch again. He was just concerned with how effective he would be at this level.

Gee was apprehensive and worried when his pitching arm and hand went numb last summer. At the time, he was coming off a stretch of 54 strikeouts in 60 innings and his best start when he gave up one run in eight innings against the Cubs, July 7. He felt no discomfort during the game, but a few days later came the numbness and just like that his season was over.

GEE: Continues comeback tonight.

GEE: Continues comeback tonight.

After surgery to repair an artery in his shoulder, and assurances from doctors he could resume his career, Gee didn’t doubt he’d be with the Mets this spring. He was probably thinking about it coming out of anesthesia. What he didn’t know was how long it would take for him to get where he needed to be. He’s still not there.

“I wanted to prove to myself and everybody else I could still do it,’’ said Gee, who’ll start for the Mets tonight against Houston in Kissimmee.

That’s why last September was so important. As soon as he received clearance he started to throw, and by the end of the season knew he could enter winter with peace of mind.

“I didn’t want to spend the offseason wondering if I could do it,’’ said Gee. “It was important to take that load off my mind. I didn’t want to be thinking about it all winter.’’

In doing so, Gee was able to get in his normal off-season program and put himself in position to adjust if there was a setback.

“If I waited and something happened in spring training, it would be too late to get it fixed,’’ Gee said. “I have felt great since the surgery. I have had zero setbacks.’’

What he has had is difficulty refining is mechanics, and subsequently, his change-up. It hasn’t been the prettiest of springs for him, as he’s given up seven runs on seven hits and eight walks, with only two strikeouts in nine innings.

However, Gee isn’t worried about his composite results as six of those runs and four of the walks came in his last start, March 14, when he was rocked by Detroit. Gee reiterated the problem wasn’t surgery related, but just not having it, yet.

“My mechanics have been off,’’ said Gee. “It is always about location, and that comes with repetition every spring. I am trying to refine everything.’’

Specifically, Gee needs his change-up to be effective because he doesn’t have an overpowering fastball. An effective change-up, he said, sets up everything else.

“I need to throw my change-up for strikes any time in the count,’’ Gee said. “It isn’t where I want it to be. It is a feel pitch and it takes some time. It is a huge pitch for me.’’

Tonight will be Gee’s fourth start of the spring and he could get two more so there’s not a whole lot of time. He will enter the season as the fourth starter.

Mar 20

Over Half Mets’ Payroll Could Be On DL Opening Day

According to the Mets’ timetable, today could greatly determine the make-up of their Opening Day roster and line-up, which probably won’t resemble anything you imagined a month ago.

Not even close.

WRIGHT: Will we know more today?

WRIGHT: Will we know more today?

The Mets hope to know more today of the status of third baseman David Wright and second baseman Daniel Murphy, both of whom have strained intercostal muscles. If reports are negative, it could give the Mets four prominent players – totaling nearly half their payroll – on the disabled list to open the season.

Combined, the salaries of left-hander Johan Santana ($31 million with the $5.5 million buyout is included), Wright ($11 million), closer Frank Francisco ($6.5 million) and Murphy ($2.95 million) amount to $51.95 million. The Mets’ 2013 payroll is yet to be determined, but assuming $100 million, that’s over half the roster’s payroll on the disabled list.

When Wright was pulled from the World Baseball Classic last Thursday with what was later diagnosed as a strained left intercostal muscle, GM Sandy Alderson said Wright would rest from three to five days.

Yesterday was the fifth day, and we should know more today on what’s next for Wright, who hasn’t made any promises regarding Opening Day.

“That’s looking to predict the future, and I can’t do that,’’ Wright told reporters when he returned to Port S. Lucie. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel … I’ll tell you that’s my goal.’’

When first informed of Wright’s injury, manager Terry Collins, citing Murphy’s injury this year and Wright’s strained side last year, projected the All-Star could be out at least a month.

Murphy strained his right intercostal muscle early in camp and played five innings of defense in a minor league game last weekend, but has been held out since because of continued stiffness.

Collins said he hopes Murphy will be ready today, but if he’s not by this weekend the disabled list was the probability.

MURPHY: Must play soon.

MURPHY: Must play soon.

“If he’s not back in a game, you’re down to seven days,’’ Collins said. “That’s not a lot of time to get somebody who hasn’t done anything all spring to get him ready.’’

Assuming that scenario, Justin Turner – currently suffering a sprained right ankle – and Jordany Valdespin will likely play third and second, respectively.

Meanwhile, there’s been little progress with Santana, down with shoulder fatigue, and Francisco, who has a persistent stinging feeling in his elbow after throwing. It has been a foregone conclusion for weeks now that both will be placed on the disabled list, and neither is expected to be with the Mets next season.

After spending the better part of the last two years rehabbing his surgically-repaired shoulder, Santana lightened up his off-season routine and consequently wasn’t in prime condition when he reported to camp. The Mets called him on that which annoyed Santana and prompted him – in an effort to quell criticism – to throw off the mound on March 3 without notifying Collins.

At the time, Santana hadn’t thrown in over a week and wasn’t supposed to throw for another week. Even so, Collins hoped Santana would be ready for the season. That won’t happen now as Collins said last weekend Santana wasn’t close to throwing again.

Why the Mets haven’t officially announced Santana will go on the disabled list is anybody’s guess, but Collins said Jon Niese would replace him as the Opening Day starter and Jeremy Hefner will take his place on the roster and then take his spot in the rotation.

Collins also said Bobby Parnell will take Francisco’s role as he closer. Francisco threw off the mound Saturday and reported feeling pain.

An injury also impacted center field, as a bruised left knee sidelined Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who’ll open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. Nieuwenhuis’ injury opened a spot for Collin Cowgill to be the starter.

Cowgill could lead off and play center in a line-up that might also include Lucas Duda and Marlon Byrd in the outfield; an infield – from first to third – of Ike Davis, Valdespin, Ruben Tejada and Murphy; with John Buck behind the plate and Niese on the mound.

Bet you didn’t see this coming.