Mar 16

Alderson Answers Critical Questions About Wheeler

Mets GM Sandy Alderson answered several questions raised Monday following the announcement Zack Wheeler‘s MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow that would require Tommy John surgery and cost the highly-touted prospect this season.

Earlier today I raised several questions pertaining to the Mets handling of Wheeler’s injury. Alderson addressed most of them in a conference call this morning prior to the exhibition game against Boston in Fort Myers.

WHEELER: Done for year. (AP)

WHEELER: Done for year. (AP)

Wheeler underwent an MRI Saturday despite Alderson insisting one wasn’t needed and traveled Monday to New York to meet with Dr. David Altcheck at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Among the questions raised and subsequently answered by Alderson:

* After two MRIs in the offseason, which were negative, Alderson said another MRI wasn’t needed, but relented Saturday and ordered one. What was his reasoning? In a conference call, Alderson said he changed his mind because “the area of pain had increased in size.”

* Earlier the Mets said they weren’t concerned about discomfort in Wheeler’s elbow. Why? “We had been forewarned by the doctor that his elbow was a concern and it was going to have to be managed over the course of this season. It wasn’t clear that the ligament was involved at that time, but we understood we were going to have to manage his elbow condition over the course of the season. So when he complained of the elbow pain, it wasn’t a surprise to us.”

* Is there any good news in all this? Alderson said if there’s a positive it is that the issue will finally be addressed, as it was with Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, and hopefully this will be the end of it. Said Alderson: “It’s a blow, but at the same time we knew there would be a lot of uncertainty surrounding Zack and his elbow over the course of the season. We’re obviously not happy he won’t be with us. But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that we now have some certainty and we have a solution for this that he won’t have to manage the kind of pain that he had to manage over the course of last season. Doing that over the course of a career is simply unsustainable.”

Manager Terry Collins said Wheeler managed discomfort last season, but what isn’t known is how adamant Wheeler was in complaining of the pain. Did he fail to disclose this, something Matt Harvey did the previous year?

Both Collins and Alderson said the two MRIs in the offseason were negative, so apparently this issue resurfaced this spring. What isn’t known is whether Wheeler threw too hard, too soon.

While Alderson addressed the obvious, something for down the road is how their pitchers throw in the offseason and the start of spring training. What exactly is the monitoring process and how can the pitchers be forced to be more open in disclosing injuries and pain?

While Alderson addressed the most pressing questions, the perception is the Mets mishandled this in not immediately getting a MRI. Again, if I were a Met pitcher and felt something wrong I would immediately want it checked out.

That’s because one critical question remains unanswered: Why does this always seem to happen to the Mets?

 

 

Mar 16

Wheeler Injury Raises Questions

When it comes to the New York Mets and injuries, specifically their pitchers, never take the initial news at face value.

NEVER.

Wheeler facing the knife.

Wheeler facing the knife.

GM Sandy Alderson was adamant initially saying Zack Wheeler didn’t need a MRI. Manager Terry Collins, after saying Wheeler had two MRIs over the winter, indicated prior to Saturday’s start, “everybody could use a little rest.’’

The Mets finally gave into common sense and Wheeler had a MRI, which showed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow that will likely require Tommy John surgery. That rest Collins was speaking of, well, we’ll get a lot between now and next spring.

“Everybody gets MRIs today,’’ Collins told reporters. “That’s the nature of the beast. You come in with an upset stomach and they give you an MRI. And then you have an abdominal strain. It’s what you do to protect yourself.’’

So, why the delay?

UNBELIEVABLE.

Just a couple of days ago, Alderson said a MRI wasn’t necessary. Today, he told reporters: “This is what happens to pitching. You see guys going down all over the place.’’

What exactly changed his mind? Could it have been the potential of negative backlash?

I’m not blaming Alderson or Collins for Wheeler’s injury, because the right thing was done in shutting him down when he reported persistent pain. But, I am criticizing them – and Wheeler, too – for downplaying this whole thing. None of the three are doctors and Wheeler especially, since it is his arm and career, should have been concerned.

However, the perception garnered from this case follows that of how the Mets handled injuries in recent years, and that’s they don’t know what they are doing.

This raises several questions:

* Collins said Wheeler managed the discomfort last season. If that’s the case, why wasn’t he shut down and examined when he first complained of pain?

* Of course, that’s predicated on whether Wheeler reported the pain in the first place. Did he fail to disclose this, something Matt Harvey did the previous year?

* Collins said Wheeler underwent two MRIs in the offseason. Why wasn’t anything discovered at that time?

* If Wheeler was clean, as Collins said, it stands to reason he injured it at the start of camp. If so, did he throw too hard, too soon? If so, why wasn’t he monitored better? If Wheeler pushed himself, why wasn’t he more careful? How come he wasn’t smarter?

* If Wheeler did everything properly this spring, it would seem this injury was “just one of those things,’’ or it was missed in the two offseason MRIs. If it is the latter, shouldn’t the Mets go back and look at that film to see if that’s the case?

* While the surface issue is Wheeler being hurt and down for the season, underneath there are a lot of nagging questions that paint the perception something was amiss in how this was handled.

When it comes to the Mets and pitching injuries, perception is reality. Bottom line, if I were a Met pitcher and felt something in my arm, I would be concerned.

Very concerned.

NOTE:  Will update later after Alderson conference call.

 

Mar 15

Re-Visiting Spring Training Questions

The Mets opened spring training with ten significant questions. A month later, let’s take a look at the status of those questions to see what progress the Mets have made in answering them:

Q: How healthy is Matt Harvey?

A: This is arguably the most important question of the season. So far, indications are positive regarding Harvey’s health. The Mets still don’t know how they’ll break down Harvey’s innings or where he will slot into the rotation.

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring.  (AP)

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring. (AP)

Q: Who breaks camp as the leadoff hitter?

A: This remains undecided, but it appears Juan Lagares is the frontrunner based on his speed. However, Lagares must still improve his on-base percentage and reduce his strikeouts. Curtis Granderson had some success hitting leadoff last year, but has more value hitting in the middle of the order.

Q: How healthy is David Wright?

A: A weak shoulder sapped Wright of his power last season and it wasn’t until Saturday when he hit his first homer of the spring. Improving their offense to complement the potential of their young pitching is largely dependent of Wright.

Q: What will be the rotation order?

A: This much we know: Harvey will pitch in one of the first five games. I am not totally sold on the notion Harvey won’t be the Opening Day starter. If not Harvey, I had been thinking about Bartolo Colon, but he’s been getting hammered. So, it is now up in the air, with possibly Jacob deGrom over Jon Niese – who I would slot in the middle of the rotation – and Zack Wheeler, who is bothered by a sore shoulder.

Q: Will Dillon Gee be traded?

A: The Mets wanted too much for Gee when they dangled him during the winter. With Wheeler ailing, the need to keep Gee has been enhanced. The Mets currently are thinking of using Gee out of the bullpen.

Q: How good is Wilmer Flores?

A: Flores needs a legitimate opportunity, and that includes sticking with him even if with a poor spring training. Flores is off to a good start offensively and has committed only two errors.

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: Bobby Parnell and Josh Edgin will open the season on the disabled list. Jenrry Mejia will come out of spring training as the closer and Jeurys Familia as the set-up closer. The Mets currently have a handful of candidates to replace Edgin as the situational lefty.

Q: Will there be any additions?

A: It stands to reason the Mets will sign a free-agent lefty reliever if they are unable to trade for one. Once teams start making roster cuts there will be a flood of free agents.

Q: Who makes an impression?

A: None of the left possibilities have been impressive, which means Rafael Montero could steal a spot in the bullpen. GM Sandy Alderson said Steven Matz would not go to the bullpen to replace Edgin. Noah Syndergaard won’t make the rotation, even with Colon having a rough spring.

Q: Any injuries?

A: This is always the wild card. Edgin is lost for the season following Tommy John surgery. Lucas Duda missed three weeks with a strained intercostal muscle. And, there’s a lot left to the spring.

Mar 14

Mets Matters: Wheeler To Get MRI; Duda Returns

The Mets relented, finally did the right thing and sent Zack Wheeler for a MRI on his tender right elbow.

Wheeler was scratched from Saturday’s start and instead went for the MRI. The results were not immediately announced, but should be released by Sunday.

mets-matters logoWheeler underwent two MRI exams in the offseason, which is why the club said GM Sandy Alderson initially indicated there would be no pictures.

We’ll see how the results are,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “He had two this winter. They were clean as heck, so we don’t expect any damage. A little rest won’t hurt.’’

The rest also allowed Wheeler extra time for blister on his right index finger to heal.

The team hasn’t said when Wheeler will pitch next.

DUDA RETURNS: First baseman Lucas Duda, who hadn’t played because of a strained left intercostal muscle, returned to the lineup and went 1-for-4 in Saturday’s 13-4 rout of Washington.

“I felt good,” Duda told reporters. “The timing is a little bit off. But, for the most part, my body feels great and I’m happy with what happened.’’

Duda is expected to start Sunday against Tampa Bay, and have Monday off.

METS ROUT NATS: David Wright hit a three-run homer – his first since last July – and Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr., also homered to lead the Mets.

The Mets have scored 37 runs in their last three games.

EXTRA INNINGS: The MRI on Vic Black’s right shoulder was negative. There is weakness but no structural damage. … Prospect Tyler Pill, who started in place of Wheeler, threw 2.1 scoreless innings. … The Mets travel to Port Charlotte Sunday to play Tampa Bay, with Bartolo Colon starting. They will stay over on the Gulf side of the state and play Boston in Fort Myers on Monday, with Matt Harvey starting.

Mar 14

So Far Flores Making The Grade

Wilmer Flores has done nothing to thwart the Mets’ confidence in him to open the season at shortstop.

He’s made several nice plays in the field, and will only get better as his knowledge of opposing hitters and his positioning improves. Look, he’s not going to be the second coming of Rey Ordonez, but for now the Mets want him to make the basic plays, and for the most part that’s what he’s done.

FLORES: Holding his own.

FLORES: Holding his own.

Flores short-hopped a ball to Eric Campbell for an error Friday (his second of the spring), but that throw could have been handled by an accomplished first baseman. However, Flores made a diving stop to start a double play in the sixth.

“He’s got to get comfortable at shortstop,’’ manager Terry Collins said after Friday’s 13-2 rout of Atlanta. “He’s got to relax and realize what it takes to play there. He’s got to slow the game down a little bit. It’s natural when you’re young to try to hurry things. … Last year he looked comfortable out there, and we’ve got to get him that way this spring.’’

Flores had three hits Friday, including a three-run homer, and overall is batting .455 with four extra-base hits and five RBI.

Currently, Flores is going unchallenged for the shortstop job. Ruben Tejada will make the team as a bench player an Wilmer Flores has done nothing to thwart the Mets’ confidence in him opening the season at shortstop.

Specifically, he’s made several nice plays in the field, and will only get better as his knowledge of opposing hitters and his positioning improves. Look, he’s not going to be the second coming of Rey Ordonez, but for now the Mets want him to make the basic plays, and for the most part that’s what he’s done.

Flores short-hopped a ball to Eric Campbell for an error Friday (his second of the spring), but that throw could have been handled by an accomplished first baseman. However, Flores made a diving stop to start a double play in the sixth.

“He’s got to get comfortable at shortstop,’’ manager Terry Collins said after Friday’s 13-2 rout of Atlanta. “He’s got to relax and realize what it takes to play there. He’s got to slow the game down a little bit. It’s natural when you’re young to try to hurry things.”

Flores had three hits Friday, including a three-run homer, and overall is batting .455 with four extra-base hits and five RBI.

Currently, Flores is going unchallenged for the shortstop job. Ruben Tejada will make the team as a bench player and Matt Reynolds – who has a game-winning homer – will go to the minor leagues.