Sep 10

Translating Alderson: Mets Not Expecting DeGrom, Matz Soon

Recent history tells us when Mets’ brass speculates on the return of injured players, it usually takes longer than announced. So, when GM Sandy Alderson refused to comment Friday on the progress of Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, I can’t help but conclude they aren’t coming back anytime soon.

“I’m not going to talk about them,” Alderson said. “The players who have gotten us here are the players who are healthy and the players who have performed. It doesn’t do anybody any good about talking about when, or if, certain players are going to come back.”

ALDERSON: Easy to conclude his words. (AP)

ALDERSON: Easy to conclude his words. (AP)

DeGrom threw on flat ground Friday. He’ll throw on flat ground again in a couple of days. Then, in a few days, he’ll throw off the mound, which should be in a week.

So, with me doing what Alderson won’t, I’m guessing the Mets will skip deGrom’s spot in the rotation at least twice.

Matz, who will throw off the mound Saturday, is slightly ahead of deGrom. Assuming all goes well, he’ll go off the mound again in several days. The best case scenario for him will be after next weekend’s series against Minnesota.

Figuring that time frame for both, each could get about two or three starts before the end of the season.

Until then, the Mets will continue with Robert Gsellman, who have up four runs Friday in Atlanta, and Seth Lugo, who has a blister and will be pushed back to Sunday.

“We have the players who we have,” Alderson said. “We hope they continue to do the same job they’ve done. It’s really not constructive to talk about the players who aren’t here, or the players who aren’t close to being here. Talking about injuries is history.”

The operative words being “aren’t close to being here.’’

If they were, Alderson would have said so. Right?

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Sep 09

Is There No Turning Back For Mets?

This certainly isn’t your father’s Turner Field for the Mets. This place used to torment the Mets not too long ago. Just ask David Wright; if you want to go back further, there’s Armando Benitez.

Not Friday night. In the first game of their final series for the Mets here before Turner Field closes after the season, they rallied from four runs down to beat the Atlanta Braves, 6-4.

JOHNSON: Hits game-winner. (AP)

JOHNSON: Hits game-winner. (AP)

With the all-hands-on-deck victory, the Mets have won six straight games and 15 of their last 19 to move a season-high nine games over .500 and remain a half-game ahead of St. Louis for the second wild-card spot.

“Right now, things are falling our way,” manager Terry Collins said. “That’s what you have to have. We had a lot of games this year when they weren’t falling our way. We have to keep plugging.”

On Aug. 19, they were 5.5 games out of wild-card contention and fading fast. Tonight, I can’t help but wonder if there’s no turning back for the Mets.

There were plenty of Mets to pick up Robert Gsellman, who has two wins in picking up their injury-ravaged rotation.

* It began with Curtis Granderson, who started the comeback with a two-run homer in the sixth. It was the fourth straight in which the now hot Granderson has homered.

* The bullpen of Jim Henderson, Josh Smoker, Hansel Robles, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia combined to throw four scoreless innings.

* James Loney started a 3-6-3 inning-ending double play in the sixth after the Braves opened the inning with runners on the corners. Smoker relieved Henderson to strike out A.J. Pierzynski and get Ender Inciarte to hit into the double-play.

* Alejandro De Aza’s walk jumpstarted the Mets’ four-run eighth, keyed by Yoenis Cespedes’ sacrifice fly – he always does something – Granderson’s game-tying single and Kelly Johnson’s go-ahead pinch-hit double.

Players who have struggled all year are playing big; players who weren’t even on the team on Opening Day are making contributions.

Everything is clicking for the Mets. Every decision Collins is making is working. With 21 games remaining, the Mets are playing like they are counting on October.

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Sep 08

So What If Tebow Signing A Gimmick

Why would the Mets sign Tim Tebow to a minor league contract? Well, why not?

My first thought was not that the Mets were seeking divine intervention in their playoff push, but of the more practical acceptance for what it really is – a no-risk opportunity.

TEBOW: Now a Met. (FOX Sports)

TEBOW: Now a Met. (FOX Sports)

The Mets don’t have anything to lose. If Tebow – who hasn’t played baseball since his junior year in high school – doesn’t make it like everybody expects, they haven’t lost anything. However, if the former Heisman Trophy winner and New York Jet does catch lightning in a bottle, then everybody is a winner.

In a conference call this afternoon. GM Sandy Alderson addressed, and as expected, denied the obvious motivation.

“While I and the organization, I think, are mindful of the novel nature of this situation, this decision was strictly driven by baseball,” Alderson said, his nose growing with each word.

“This was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort. We are extremely intrigued with the potential that Tim has.”

If that’s the case, then why were the decision makers Alderson and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon, and did not involve the Mets’ baseball operations personnel?

A decision on a prospect that will go to the fall instructional league, Sept. 19, doesn’t go all the way to the top. In addition, just any prospect trying to salvage a professional sports career, isn’t excused a couple days a week to pursue a college football TV analyst position.

Alderson spoke glowingly of Tebow’s work ethic and professionalism and how the Mets’ minor leaguers could learn from watching him. While that’s all well and good, but this is an opportunity to keep the Mets in the news this winter and sell some tickets in spring training and in the minors next year.

Of course, Alderson won’t admit that for it would defeat the purpose.

As for Tebow, who didn’t make it with Jets, Denver, Philadelphia or New England, his motivation is presumably the desire to compete. He likely doesn’t need the money, and if he did, he’s surely smart enough to understand he’s years from major league money.

He’s also smart enough to realize this won’t be easy. As Michael Jordan learned, hitting a baseball might be the single most difficult thing to do in sports.

“I know this is a tough game,’’ said Tebow on the conference call. “ But I’m looking forward to putting in the work and I felt like this was the best fit.”

This is very easy to figure out, but what I don’t get is all the criticism of him doing this and the calls for him to get a real job. Shouldn’t he be free to pursue whatever career he wants?

If this is what Tebow wants to do, and he’s found a willing partner in the Mets, what’s the big deal?

And for those who say the Mets already have enough left-handed hitting outfielders, well, that’s a little premature, don’t you think?

The call-in shows were full of Tebow this afternoon, and he’ll be on the back pages tomorrow.

Just like the Mets want.

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Sep 07

Mets’ Three Storylines: Taking Care Of Business

The Mets did more than complete a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, they did what all contenders must do, which is take care of business.

It’s hard enough to beat a team in three straight games, but the streak is now 14 straight for the Mets over the Reds with a 6-3 victory Wednesday.

REYES: Big time addition. (AP)

REYES: Big time addition. (AP)

The Reds showed why they are 24 games below .500, but manager Terry Collins said there was no danger of the Mets playing down to their competition, which they frequently have this summer.

“Our guys are completely focused on what they’ve got to do and how they’ve got to go about it,” Collins said.

Beginning with the game’s first pitch, which Jose Reyes crushed over the wall in right, the Reds did everything they could to give the game to the Mets, who gladly accepted.

The Reds had three runners thrown out attempting to steal, including one at the plate; they went 3-for-13 with RISP; they struck out 13 times; they left 12 runners. When offered such gifts, a contender must capitalize, which the Mets did, something they often didn’t do for nearly three months this summer.

Now, with a little over three weeks remaining, the Mets have sliced into a once 5.5-game wild-card deficit to mere percentage points behind St. Louis for the second wild-card after the Cardinals lost in Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Taking advantage of opportunities is why the Mets are back in the race and today’s primary storyline. The others are Reyes’ continued solid play and winning with Noah Syndergaard not at his best.

REYES DOES IT ALL: Reyes not only homered, but also stole a base, singled and scored two runs. Again, he played a solid third base.

“I thought he was going to be a guy that could create some runs by getting on base,” Collins said of Reyes. “But he’s gotten big hits, huge hits. There’s no question there’s a lot of baseball left in that guy.”

The Mets acquired Reyes as a spark plug and a stopgap, and he’s responded by hitting.287 with six homers, 15 RBI, eight stolen bases and a .341 on-base percentage as a reliable leadoff hitter.

Reyes’ production enabled Collins to drop the struggling Curtis Granderson to the middle of the order, where he’s finally showing signs of production.

Granderson hit his second homer in as many games hitting behind Yoenis Cespedes in the clean-up spot. Granderson now has 25 homers and 45 RBI.

Wilmer Flores also homered, his 16th of the season.

SYNDERGAARD STRUGGLES: All this power picked up Syndergaard, who pitched five scoreless innings, but allowed ten runners (six hits and four walks).

Syndergaard’s problem was again command, evidenced by 95 pitches, of which only 61 were strikes.

Syndergaard’s short outing forced Collins to dip deep into his bullpen using five relievers. Of the five, only one – Gabriel Ynoa, who gave up three runs – isn’t expected to be on the playoff roster if the Mets are fortunate to have one.

And, right now that’s a good possibility because they are taking care of business.

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Sep 06

Three Mets’ Storylines: Cespedes Primetime Player

When you’re a star, you come through in big moments. You live for them, and that’s what Yoenis Cespedes does for the Mets.

They Mets got Cespedes, and will likely break the bank for him, for nights like Tuesday when he slugged and threw the Mets into a vital crunch-time victory.

CESPEDES: Has a flair for dramatic. (AP)

CESPEDES: Has a flair for dramatic. (AP)

“When you’re a star, that’s what they do,” manager Terry Collins said. “That’s what Ces does. That’s why he’s here. That’s why he gets paid.”

Of his 70 RBI, seven have given the Mets the lead for good, including his two-run homer to dead center in the seventh inning of their 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

“When the team is down, I know I have to focus,” Cespedes told SNY.

As I’ve written several times, extending his current three-year, $75-million contract could hamstring the Mets financially in other areas, but there’s no denying this guy is a primetime player. Cespedes carried the Mets last year into the World Series, and he’s doing the same this summer. Five of his 28 homers have tied a game, while eight put the Mets in the lead.

As if that isn’t enough, Cespedes threw out Brandon Phillips at second to end the eighth.

There’s no other descriptor other than clutch.

Cespedes was one of four Mets’ homers, giving them 189 for the season. Curtis Granderson, Jose Reyes and Alejandro De Aza (he hit their 11th pinch-hit homer of the season) crushed the others.

Clearly, Cespedes was the storyline tonight. The others were Rafael Montero and newly acquired reliever Fernando Salas.

MONTERO OFF: Probably the best thing one could say about the performance of the Montero is it could have been worse.

The problem of command that has been an anchor to Montero dragged him down again.

Montero walked four in 4.1 innings. The killer was the walking Zack Cozart in the third as he scored ahead of Adam Duvall’s home run that tied the game.

The two walks Montero gave up in the first two innings, as well as the six in his first start, didn’t hurt him. But, you can only dance out of trouble for so long. Wildness would eventually catch up, and that’s what happened to Montero.

Throwing 79 pitches in less than five innings is the kind of stuff that has always hindered Montero, and is the obstacle keeping him out of the major leagues.

“He’s working hard to stay out of the middle of the plate and he’s missing,” Collins said. “That’s what gets him in trouble. But, I’m very impressed with his arm.”

SALAS LEADS BULLPEN: The Mets have been looking for a seventh-inning stopper for their bullpen all season.

Hansel Robles spit the bit, but perhaps Salas could fit the bill. The Mets picked up Salas in a waiver deal, Aug. 31, from the Angels in exchange for minor league pitcher Erik Manoah.

Robles was sensational from June 21 to August, going 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA. However, he had a meltdown on the mound at Yankee Stadium, Aug. 3, when Mark Teixeira rattled his cage. Since then, he’s given up 15 earned runs in his last 16 innings.

Salas was the fifth of seven Mets’ pitchers – the September call-ups issue must eventually be addressed – and put the Reds down in order in the seventh.

Josh Edgin, Gabriel Ynoa, Josh Smoker, Salas, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia – who registered his 46th save – followed Montero, just the way Collins drew it up.

Sort of.

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