Feb 16

Mets Matters: Gee Wants To Stay; Figueroa Signs

The top news of the day is Dillon Gee reported to spring training and threw off the mound. Gee, whom the Mets tried to trade in the winter, told reporters he wants to remain with the team and is willing to move to the bullpen.

He admits hearing the rumors.

“As long as I’m playing baseball, I don’t really care where it’s at,’’ Gee said. “The majority of me wants to stay here because I have all my buddies here and I think this team is going to succeed and I want to win. I want to help the team win. To me, though, as long as I’m on that mound pitching, that’s where I’ll be happy.’’

While pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Thursday, several Mets are already in camp, among them: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Jacob deGrom, David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.

Pitchers and catchers will workout Saturday, with position players scheduled to report, Feb. 24, and the first full-squad workout to be two days later.

The Mets’ first exhibition game is against Atlanta in Orlando.

SNY MOVE OFFICIAL: Nelson Figueroa signed a contract to replace Bobby Ojeda as a studio pregame and postgame analyst for SNY.

Figueroa started 16 games for the Mets in 2008 and 2009 and went 6-11. In five years with the Mets (1986-1990) Ojeda was 51-40 with a 3.12 ERA.

Ojeda has been critical of the Mets, but the reason for the split with SNY is believed to be financial.

Feb 16

Mets Should Have No Rush To Trade Gee

Dillon Gee threw off the mound Monday, three days ahead of schedule, but how long will he remain with the Mets?

Gee is the Mets’ sixth-ranked starter, and that doesn’t include Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard, both of whom will be promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas this summer. Yes, the Mets are boast a glut of starting pitching, but exactly how deep is it?

GEE: Has value. (Getty)

GEE: Has value. (Getty)

Since I don’t believe the Mets will get immediate major-league help in exchange for Gee, the belief here is he has a higher value on the 40-man roster than as a trade chip. It’s realistic to say the Mets’ rotation isn’t without questions, beginning with health. Let’s forget for a moment the potential for any pitcher to develop arm problems at any time, and look at these issues:

Matt Harvey: He’s recovering from Tommy John and has only 12 career victories in parts of two seasons. Despite his confident statements to the contrary, nobody knows how Harvey will respond coming back from the knife.

Bartolo Colon: As they did with Gee, the Mets will listen to any and all offers for Colon. At 41, he threw 200 innings last season and would be a find for a contender. However, that’s a trade better suited for July.

Zack Wheeler: His command is an issue, and despite glimpses of being the real deal, he’s still largely unproven.

Jacob deGrom: The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year only has last year under his belt. He still has a lot to prove.

Jon Niese: His potential has always outweighed his production. The Mets were also willing to trade him over the winter.

Steven Matz: He’s unproven.

Rafael Montero: Glimpses, but nothing else.

Noah Syndergaard: He’s unproven.

The potential is great, but since there are no guarantees there could be enough chances for Gee to be slotted into the rotation. For now, the $5.3 million they’ll pay him this year represents a solid insurance policy, but for now will likely be used in long relief.

Just trading him for the sake of making a trade is foolish, especially considering the chance for something to go wrong and for him to fill a sudden void. And, if the rotation stays healthy for the first half of the season and Gee pitches well, there could be July interest in him that isn’t there now.

Gee has always been a gamer, and two years ago threw nearly 200 innings. The Mets have control over him for two more years, so there shouldn’t be any rush to trade him. Gee’s preference is to be a starter with the Mets, but that’s not happening right now. He told reporters in Port St. Lucie he’s willing to work out of the pen.

“If I’m asked to be a reliever, then I’m going to do the best I can. … I have no doubt that I can be successful,’’ he said.

And, I have no doubt if they keep Gee, he’ll be of value to the Mets.

Feb 15

Top Ten Mets’ Questions Entering Spring Training

The New York Mets open spring training this week with ten key questions that must be answered in the positive to justify the optimism surrounding this team.

Of course, several questions are pitching oriented, beginning with the obvious:

Q: How healthy is Matt Harvey?

A: This is the most important question of the season. The Mets still don’t know how they’ll break down Harvey’s innings, but we should have a good sense by the time they break camp. Harvey claims to be healthy, but there is still the matter of throwing to hitters.

LAGARES: Pegged for leadoff. (AP)

LAGARES: Pegged for leadoff. (AP)

Q: Who breaks camp as the leadoff hitter?

A: Juan Lagares has the speed, but lacks the on-base percentage. Curtis Granderson was used there last season, but has more value hitting in the middle of the order.

Q: How healthy is David Wright?

A: A bum shoulder sapped Wright of his power last season. A healthy Wright answers a lot of questions. The expectations of the Mets are dependent on their young pitching and a boost from their offense, and that’s about Wright.

Q: What will be the rotation order?

A: With Harvey reportedly not starting until the seventh game of the season, I’m thinking Bartolo Colon will be the Opening Day starter followed by Zack Wheeler, then Jon Niese and Jacob deGrom. With an off day thrown in that should leave Harvey to start the April 13 home opener against Philadelphia.

Q: Will Dillon Gee be traded?

A: They’ve been trying to trade him all winter, but probably wanted too much. That’s usually the way it is with the Mets. Gee is the sixth starter, but they won’t go with a six-man rotation. They could use him in long relief or send him to the minors.

Q: How good is Wilmer Flores?

A: The one thing I don’t want to see is Flores losing his job with an off spring. He needs a legitimate opportunity, and that includes sticking with him even if he has a poor spring training. Manager Terry Collins has to convey confidence in his shortstop.

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

A: That depends on the health of Bobby Parnell. As it is, he’s not expected back until a month into the season. That means Jenrry Mejia should be the closer coming out of spring training with Jeurys Familia the likely set-up reliever. The Mets will probably carry seven relievers, but how many will be left-handed?

Q: Will there be any additions?

A: The Mets’ biggest off-season acquisition was outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who’ll start in right field, with Granderson playing left. They also picked up John Mayberry for their bench. If everybody stays healthy, there is no reason to add anybody. Of course, at the end of spring training there is always a flood of available players who have been released.

Q: Who makes an impression?

A: Does Rafael Montero steal a spot? Will Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard leave a mark for later in the summer? Will Eric Campbell win a spot on the bench? For a team with six straight losing seasons, the Mets don’t have many issues with their starting position players. The main issues are with the bench and batting order.

Q: Any injuries?

A: This is always the wild card. Something could always happen, and if it does will the Mets have the depth to overcome? What must happen is for the Mets not to push the envelope with Harvey and Wright. It’s a long season.

Feb 14

Forget NBA, Baseball Still Has Best All-Star Game

For all the tinkering Major League Baseball does with its All-Star Game, it remains superior to the other All-Star Games, including the one we’ll see Sunday night.

Of course, all are commercialized to death, but the baseball edition still is played as a sport. They still play the game, unlike basketball and football, where defense is forgotten and it’s mostly showboating.

Those two are basically pick-up games.

I like the baseball game better because performances have to be earned. It’s also that way in hockey, where not much of anything can be predicted. The batter still has to hit the ball, whereas the basketball game can easily be taken over by a singular player.

In football, with no blitzing, there aren’t many quarterbacks who can’t light up a secondary.

This might sound weird, but one of the reasons I like the baseball game better is that players wear their own uniforms. In that, you get a sense of team. You don’t get in the other games, with the exception of football and their helmets.

Another reason is history.

Selected games in all sports have their moments, but there is a history, a tradition, to the baseball game. Ted Williams’ game-winning homer in 1941 in Detroit; Reggie Jackson going off the light tower, also in Detroit; the 15-inning 1967 game in Anaheim, when pitchers actually pitched, with Catfish Hunter going five innings in relief; Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse; Johnny Callison winning the 1964 game at Shea Stadium; how New York buzzed over Matt Harvey two years ago.

There are so many more, but after awhile the dunks all look the same in the NBA game. And, please, the fashion week adds nothing.

Feb 13

Wheeler Must-See Watch In 2015

Of all the Mets, Zack Wheeler is the one I am most curious to watch this summer. Wheeler made a strong first impression in 2013 and improved last season to 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA while working 185.1 innings in 32 starts.

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

His durability last year indicates 200-plus innings is within reach. We don’t know Wheeler’s ceiling, but our expectations are realistically high.

Wheeler averages over nine strikeouts per nine innings, but also just over four walks which is  red-flag worthy.

There’s no doubting his stuff, but his command must improve. It’s not just the walks, but consistently running deep into the count. Consequently, he only worked into the seventh just 13 times. By comparison, 41-year-old Bartolo Colon pitched into the seventh or longer 18 times.

When looking at the development of a young pitcher, innings pitched might be most important as it indicates an ability to work out of trouble to give his team a chance to win.That’s why 200 innings was important to Colon last year and to Dillon Gee the previous season.

If Wheeler can cut the four walks he gave up in half and convert them into outs, that could have pushed him into the seventh nine more times last year if not longer because it would have reduced his pitch count. As it was, he threw over 100 pitches 24 times and at least 110 in 13 games.

This is the step Wheeler must take this summer. If he can, a lot of good things can happen.