Mar 14

Questions Remain Throughout Rotation

The New York Mets had a vision entering spring training as to the makeup of their rotation. However, that’s not to say there aren’t questions. Name a starter and I’ll give you questions and issues.

The expected rotation is comprised of Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler and Daisuke Matsuzaka; none considered an “ace’’ in the traditional sense. Realistically, none would be higher than a No. 3 when their career numbers are examined.

NIESE: It starts with him. (AP)

NIESE: It starts with him. (AP)

Not really the stuff of 90-win teams.

There was to be competition for the fifth-starter role between Matsuzaka, John Lannan and Jenrry Mejia, but based on how he closed last year, Matsuzaka has the edge.

Mejia has thrown well and seems healthy enough to warrant the opportunity. That begs the question: If not now, then when?

Let’s take a look at the rotation and potential issues with each starter:

JON NIESE: He’s never won more than 13 games, and enters No. 1. Niese has a history of injuries and only twice since 2008 started as many as 30 games. He missed time last year with a rotator cuff issue, and a MRI this spring revealed weakness in his shoulder. He didn’t pitch well in his only start, and has thrown only two innings. The goal is 30 for most starters, but with three starts remaining, he won’t come close.

BARTOLO COLON: He’s 40, so there’s always the inevitable possibility of breaking down. Colon won 18 games and pitched 190.1 innings in 2013, but what are the odds of doing it again? I would say longer than an Ike Davis slump. He’s signed to a two-year contract. Breakdowns occur with 40-year old pitchers. Who is to say it won’t be this year?

DILLON GEE: He turned last season around in a May 30 start against the Yankees and finished 12-11 with 199 innings. However, he was close to being bumped from the rotation prior to that Yankee Stadium start. Gee’s career high was 13 victories in 2011. Gee is grit and guile, but is throwing hard this spring. Even so, his career numbers indicate a No. 4 starter. Assuming all works out with Matt Harvey’s recovery and the development of Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, aren’t we talking about him being out of the rotation next year?

ZACK WHEELER: He worked 100 innings last season before he was shut down. Ideally, the Mets would like to double that number. That’s a huge increase, even considering the 68.2 innings he pitched for Triple-A Las Vegas. Wheeler won seven games in 2013 and the Mets need him to double it, which is a lot. Wheeler has loads of potential, but they need proven production.

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA:  He won 15 and 18 games, respectively, his first two seasons in the majors with Boston in 2007-8, but never more than nine in the subsequent five years (2010). Pitching coach Dan Warthen got him to speed up his delivery, which lead to him closing the year with three strong starts, working at least six innings in each. That’s a small sample. What isn’t a small sample are the last five years, in which he threw more 60 innings only once.

Factoring all that, just what was Sandy Alderson thinking saying this was a 90-win potential season? Considering the fragility of Niese and Colon, Wheeler’s inexperience and Matsuzaka’s inconsistency, it isn’t hard to imagine it won’t be long before we see Mejia, Syndergaard or Rafael Montero.

ON DECK: Niese’s war on Twitter

 

Mar 14

Mets Today: Wheeler Starts; Vegas Bound

There’s a lot to like about Zack Wheeler, who really wants the ball Opening Day for the Mets. Manager Terry Collins said if Jonathon Niese isn’t physically ready, he would decide between Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee.

Colon is the most experienced, but with no goodwill stock in the organization. Gee is deserving based on 199 innings last year, but ambivalent to the prospect. Meanwhile, Wheeler wants that game, which are points in his favor.

WHEELER: Starts tonight. (AP)

WHEELER: Starts tonight. (AP)

Also to like about Wheeler is his perfectionist nature. Despite three scoreless innings Sunday against Atlanta, Wheeler wasn’t pleased with his changeup, which will be his focus tonight against Miami.

Wheeler said at times he opens up his shoulders too early.

“Every time you get out there on the mound, it’s been a little problem for me,’’ Wheeler said. “There’s a little too much adrenaline, I guess.’’

Too much adrenaline is an argument against starting Wheeler Opening Day.

In addition:

* A group of Mets will travel to Las Vegas for split-squad games Saturday and Sunday against the Chicago Cubs. Among those expected to go are David Wright, Curtis Granderson, Travis d’Arnaud, Bobby Parnell and starters Colon and Jenrry Mejia.

* Ike Davis (calves) and Lucas Duda (left hamstring) will continue to take batting practice and field grounders at first base. It is hoped they will play in DH roles this weekend. Neither has done any running.

* No word when Wilmer Flores will get another chance to play shortstop, but with two split-squad games this weekend there could be an opportunity.

 

Mar 13

Mets Wrap: Warthen Apologizes For Slur; Mets Beat Nationals; Matsuzaka Sharp

Pitching coach Dan Warthen apologized for a racial slur and received support from Daisuke Matsuzaka and his interpreter, Jeff Cutler.

Warthen approached Cutler in the clubhouse and apologized to Cutler, saying: “I’m sorry I called you a Chinaman yesterday.’’

Warthen said the statement was a joke, and Cutler said he was not offended. However, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, a Chinese American from San Francisco heard the apology, and was put off by it, although not hearing the context of the original comment.

Warthen and GM Sandy Alderson apologized on behalf of the club.

Neither Matsuzaka nor Cutler vilified Warthen.

“Today I was just preparing for my game, so I just spoke to him about today’s lineup and what was going on during the game,’’ Matsuzaka said through Cutler. “… I think everyone makes mistakes, and Dan has already commented on it. I don’t want to dig deeper into it or try to add to what it is.’’

Said Cutler: “Dan has already commented on it. And Sandy has talked about it. I don’t really have anything else to add to it.’’

In addition:

* Matsuzaka started in the 7-5 victory over Washington and gave up one earned run and three hits over 3 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked none to increase his grip as the projected fifth starter.

* Noah Syndergaard gave up three runs in 3.2 innings. He struck out five and acknowledged he would be sent to the minor leagues to start the season.

* Manager Terry Collins used Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom in relief. They will additional looks this spring, but neither is expected to make the Opening Day roster in the pen.

* Ruben Tejada committed his third error in six exhibition games, and after going 0-for-3, is 1-for-15.

* Ike Davis (calf injuries) and Lucas Duda (left hamstring) took batting practice and grounders. Neither ran, but Collins is hoping they can be used this weekend in DH roles.

Mar 13

Mets’ Alderson Bluffing On Shortstop Situation

There are times I’m not sure the New York Mets’ Sandy Alderson understands what it means to be a general manager in this market. Other times I am positive he doesn’t.

Take for instance, his caustic remark the other day when asked about the relevance to Atlanta’s signing of Ervin Santana – even if it meant forfeiting a draft pick – in contrast to the Mets sitting on their hands about the mess that is their shortstop situation.

TEJADA: Holding on (Getty)

TEJADA: Holding on (Getty)

“I’m not interpreting it in terms of ‘our situation,’ ” Alderson told reporters Wednesday. “I don’t know that we have a situation here.’’

You don’t? What else would you call it, then?

The Mets continue to say they have confidence in Ruben Tejada, yet their actions are to the contrary.

If they were enthusiastic about Tejada, then why do they keep monitoring Stephen Drew in the long-shot hope agent Scott Boras lowers the price? Would they still consider trading for Nick Franklin if they had confidence in Tejada? Would they wonder about Wilmer Flores if Tejada was their answer?

Meanwhile, Alderson said Tejada isn’t under a microscope, but considering what is swirling around him, what else would you call it?

“We continue to look at how he’s doing, but it won’t be a judgment based on one game or two games or three games,’’ Alderson said. “We’ve got a lot of spring training left. In the meantime, we’ll continue to look at our other options.’’

In classic GM speak; Alderson is saying everything is on the table, including Tejada not being the starter. There’s no other way this can be interpreted.

Meanwhile, of the internal options, Alderson won’t weigh in on Flores, although those in the organization and scouts continue to say he doesn’t have the range or footwork to play shortstop.

Alderson and manager Terry Collins must also buy into this, otherwise wouldn’t he get more of a chance?

As for when Flores might get another chance to play shortstop, Collins said: “You guys are asking me what’s going to happen in four days, and I don’t know what’s going to happen at 9 o’clock tonight.’’

That’s hardly comforting. By the way, two weeks isn’t a lot of time remaining. My guess is Tejada will be the Opening Day shortstop because Alderson is too paralyzed to pull the trigger on any other options.

ON DECK: Gamer/fifth starter situation.

 

Mar 13

Mets’ Lineup, March 13, Against Washington

Daisuke Matsuzaka has the opportunity to cement his position as the Mets’ fifth starter today against Washington.

This is the lineup behind him:

Ruben Tejada, ss

Daniel Murphy, 2b

David Wright, 3b

Curtis Granderson, rf

Josh Satin, 1b

Travis d’Arnaud, c

Andrew Brown, lf

Anthony Recker, dh

Matt den Dekker, cf

LINEUP COMMENTS: Tejada as the leadoff hitter is semi-interesting. Manager Terry Collins alluded to the possibility over the winter, but we know it won’t happen on a consistent basis. … Anthony Recker as the DH indicates Lucas Duda still isn’t ready. … I wish they would play Matt den Dekker more. I really like his defense. The Mets are higher on Juan Lagares, however, but he needs the at-bats in the minor leagues instead of sitting on the bench in the majors.

ON DECK: What’s going on at shortstop?