Jul 07

Mets’ Harvey Facing No-Brainer Surgery

For the second time within four years, Mets pitcher Matt Harvey is facing season-ending surgery. However, it should be remembered surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder should not be interpreted to mean it is career ending.

One day after being placed on the 15-day disabled list, Harvey was examined today in St. Louis by Dr. Robert Thompson. This syndrome is when nerves and blood vessels are compressed because of a closure in a passageway through the base of the neck and armpit.

HARVEY: Faces tough choice.  (AP)

HARVEY: Faces tough choice. (AP)

GM Sandy Alderson told reporters today at Cit Field the pressure could be caused by several ways, including muscle build up, contact with the bone and repetitive movement caused by pitching. Alderson said Harvey’s options are two-fold: 1) season-ending surgery which could take four months to recover, and, 2) a nerve-block injection, which is temporary.

Alderson said surgery is likely unavoidable, which makes this a no-brainer of a decision.

“I do believe that surgery is probably inevitable and more a question of timing than anything else,” Alderson said. “So obviously to the extent that we’re backed up for a period of time, it begins potentially to encroach on 2017 as well.”

Alderson said pretty much the same thing in 2013 about Tommy John surgery. Harvey balked, but eventually relented to the obvious choice. Had he chosen surgery immediately, he might have had more time in rehab and consequently the innings limit might have become less of an issue.

Should Harvey choose the injection and makes it through the season, there’s no telling how it would impact his performance. However, if he takes the injection and eventually requires surgery, it could cost him all of 2017. And, with him becoming a free-agent after the 2018 season, that doesn’t leave much time for him to make a positive impression on potential suitors.

Harvey is in his second year following Tommy John, which can sometimes be the most difficult as proven by his 4-10 record and a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts. In Monday’s game he gave up 11 hits in 3.2 innings and avoided defeat by a late rally by the Mets.

After the game, manager Terry Collins said Harvey complained he couldn’t feel the ball.

“Obviously it was happening during the game,” Collins said. “He didn’t say anything until after the game.”

Why Harvey didn’t say anything is anybody’s guess, but falls into line with how he’s handled things in the past. I don’t know what option Harvey will choose about surgery, but based on the information already given, it would be the prudent choice both for his health, comeback and financial future.

As for the Mets, they will be forced to scramble, but with how he’s pitching so far, will they really be missing that much?

Jul 06

Three Mets’ Storylines: Harvey Injury Overshadows DeGrom

What many speculated all season finally surfaced in a bad way after Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over Miami with the news Matt Harvey was placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder discomfort. Harvey will be examined by Dr. Robert Thompson in St. Louis on Thursday. He’s the same surgeon who operated on Dillon Gee several years to remove a blood clot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Harvey has a similar issue, but that’s a good place to start.

HARVEY: DL bound. (AP)

HARVEY: DL bound. (AP)

All season, including after his poor performance Monday against the Marlins, Harvey, GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins insisted there was nothing physically wrong with him.

Considering that, this issue might have surfaced Monday when he gave up 11 hits.

However, Harvey said he wasn’t comfortable with his mechanics, but never complained about pain.

All indications from the Mets are this came out of nowhere, but then again Harvey hasn’t always been totally upfront about his arm. He’s also been stubborn about having things his way ranging from not being open about his initial injury in 2013; to resisting surgery; to where he would rehab; his innings limits last year; to coming out of games.

Of course, today’s DL move again raises questions of Harvey’s workload of 216 innings last season after missing 2104 with Tommy John surgery. The Mets didn’t have a definitive innings last year, which his agent Scott Boras didn’t let us forget.

Also to be revisited was how the Mets reduced his spring training workload. This is something Collins attributed to Harvey’s slow start. Don’t forget, as that bad start dragged on, the Mets gave Harvey the options of sorting things out either on the DL or in Port St. Lucie.

He declined both.

The Mets didn’t handle Harvey well last year, and today’s news makes you wonder whether they are handling the bone spur problems with Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz wisely.

Harvey’s injury, plus the questions surrounding Syndergaard and Matz – not to mention Zack Wheeler’s setback – reinforces the importance of what Jacob deGrom gave the Mets Wednesday.

DeGrom is 5-4 and has won two straight following ten consecutive winless starts.

The Mets were to ride all their young arms to a return to the World Series, but all of their starters – outside of Bartolo Colon – have had, or currently have significant health concerns. That’s why deGrom’s seven strong innings – two runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts – was the key storyline for the Mets until Harvey rocked their world.

First deGrom, then Harvey, and today’s final storyline was how to divvy up playing time between Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores, both of whom had two hits.

A couple of days ago I suggested a simple plan how to keep Flores in the lineup despite the addition of Reyes, which is to put him in a rotation system along with Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and James Loney.

Foolproof actually, but apparently not Collins proof. When asked about splitting time between Reyes – who doubled twice – and Flores – who for the second time this homestand homered twice – during the Nationals series, said: “Look, it’s going to be hard to get both guys in there at the same time. One of them is going to have to sit.”

Why?

When the Mets slumped last year, Collins said if a player didn’t hit he would sit. What’s wrong with that approach now?

Cabrera, Walker and Loney all will need to rest. However, I’m afraid Collins is going to let Flores cool off on the bench.

Jul 05

Three Mets’ Storylines: Did Alderson Push Reyes’ Return?

On a night when several issues swirled around the Mets, there was little doubt the headliner in their 5-2 loss to Miami was the return of Jose Reyes.

REYES: Did Alderson rush him back? (AP)

REYES: Did Alderson rush him back? (AP)

Reyes topped the list of three key storylines, with the others being a second straight encouraging outing by Steven Matz, who is battling a bone spur in his left elbow and the selection of three Mets to the National League All-Star team.

Reyes was hitless in four at-bats and only touched the ball on a throw from catcher Travis d’Arnaud in a steal attempt.

However, that only touches the surface of the timing of his return.

REYES’ RETURN: There were reports in Tuesday’s papers that had manager Terry Collins saying Reyes wouldn’t be activated because he wasn’t ready, and the player himself said he didn’t think he was comfortable with a promotion based on how he was hitting.

Considering the Mets scored 40 runs in their previous five games – all wins – and with Wilmer Flores hitting well, there seemed no sense of urgency for this move.

This again smacks of a disconnect between GM Sandy Alderson and his manager. Why would Collins say Reyes wouldn’t be brought up unless that was his understanding after communicating with Alderson?

Somebody isn’t communicating and the feeling here it is Alderson for pushing Reyes’ return when both the manager and player said he wasn’t ready.

MATZ PUSHED IT: Matz, who hasn’t won since May 25, made his second start since the reports of a bone spur in his elbow. Matz gave up a single to open the seventh, but considering his elbow, why would Collins let the left-hander pitch to Giancarlo Stanton, who responded with a two-run homer?

Oh well, maybe it wouldn’t matter as Stanton hit a three-run homer in the eighth. Considering Matz has a health concern, I wouldn’t have let him pitch to Stanton.

ALL-STAR METS: In addition to Yoenis Cespedes, who was voted in by the fans, and homered Tuesday, Noah Syndergaard and closer Jeurys Familia, will represent the Mets in San Diego.

All are deserving but I was hoping for Bartolo Colon over Syndergaard, but the latter is also bothered with a bone spur and could use the rest.

As for Colon, he’s 43 and pitched well enough to go. I always root for good storylines, and Colon going would have been a great angle.

Jul 04

Three Mets’ Storylines: Don’t Forget Cespedes As MVP Candidate

As impressive as the Mets’ four-game sweep was of the Cubs, a case can be made it was validated by what they did Monday afternoon with their firecracker comeback victory over the Miami Marlins. You can even argue two of the Mets’ most important victories this season came during this home stand.

There was Thursday’s rally from three runs down – call it the Brandon Nimmo Game – in a 4-3 victory over the Cubs. Today, they overcame another poor performance from Matt Harvey to come from six runs behind to win their fifth straight game, 8-6, to pull within four games of Washington.

CESPEDES: MVP Candidate. (AP)

CESPEDES: MVP Candidate. (AP)

On Thursday they put the brakes on what was turning into a severe skid; today they pressed down on the accelerator in their playoff push.

There were three significant storylines from the game, with two – Harvey and the bullpen – intertwined. The third was Yoenis Cespedes‘ clutch hitting.

CESPEDES: I keep hearing about potential NL MVP candidates, among them Daniel Murphy and Kris Bryant.

But, Cespedes can’t be ignored. He has five of his 20 homers and 28 RBI coming with RISP. His 20 homers – fourth in the NL – suggest he’s in scoring position as soon as he leaves the on-deck circle. In his last 12 home games, Cespedes is batting .419 with four doubles and four homers, including that monster drive to jumpstart Thursday’s win.

Cespedes had no chance of being the NL MVP last year because of his limited time in the league. But this year, he’d be my choice, with his game-winning, two-run double in the eighth just another sample of what he’s been doing all year.

HARVEY: Gone are the feel-good thoughts Harvey might have turned around his season after making three strong starts. Harvey encored those three starts with four bad ones in which he gave up a combined 13 runs on 30 hits and five walks with only 15 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. For the second straight game Harvey worked just 3.2 innings. (In fairness, his outing was cut short in the Washington start by rain, but even so he wasn’t pitching well.)

Harvey hasn’t come away with a victory since, May 30, some seven starts ago.

On the bright side, he hasn’t given up a homer since his May 24 loss at Washington when he gave up three. However, of his 17 starts he’s only gone seven innings twice.

For someone who considers himself an ace, this is unacceptable. For those of you who still believe him to be an ace, kindly think again if his 4-10 record and 4.86 ERA haven’t convinced you. That’s not to say he can’t be an ace in the future, but not now.

The Mets will need Harvey because of looming physical questions of Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard.

BULLPEN: The pen has been maligned, but today it stepped up with 5.1 scoreless innings.

The Mets didn’t have Addison Reed, but were picked up by Erik Goeddel, Logan Verrett, Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins and Jeurys Familia. Kudos for Verrett and Robles for working out of trouble, and again for Familia, who always seems to be on the ropes only to escape with his 29th straight victory.

A point that requires no debate: Championship teams need a strong bullpen.

Jul 03

A Master Plan For Flores

FLORES: A plan for him. (AP)

FLORES: A plan for him. (AP)

As they were with Daniel Murphy, the Mets never seem pleased with Wilmer Flores, who carved a place in club lore last July when he was brought to tears on the field after thinking he had been traded to Milwaukee.

A couple of days later, he hit a walk-off homer to beat the Nationals to jumpstart the Mets’ pennant push. Perhaps the Mets’ 2016 pennant push began with this weekend’s four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field, capped off by today’s 14-3 rout in which Flores tied a franchise record – Edgardo Alfonzo – with six hits, including two homers.

Yeah, six-for-six. Riding a 0-for-14 slide entering the game, there was a school of thought Flores might get sent down when Jose Reyes is brought up.

“Players aren’t naive,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “They read the papers. They know what’s going on. I don’t think there’s any question he hasn’t heard Reyes is coming.”

What’s going on is Flores is on the cusp of losing his job as the Mets, in search of an offensive spark, reached into their past. And, outside of a wild few days last summer, the Mets’ past didn’t include Flores.

A starter for much of last season in the second half at shortstop, Flores started this year on the bench following the winter acquisitions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Theoretically, Flores was to serve as the back-up at third for David Wright and first for Lucas Duda.

Flores assumed the starter’s role at third when Wright went down, but now the Mets seemed poised to replace him with a player who has never played third. Reyes is coming, make no mistake, but what should be done with Flores?

Under no circumstances should they option him to Triple-A to make room for Reyes, an idea Keith Hernandez floated on SNY. First of all, there are no assurances Reyes will take to third. They should also not relegate him full time to the bench.

“It’s experience and reps. you have to get him out there,” Collins said to give the impression Flores’ best position is batter. “You have to get him 500 at-bats. In order to have an idea of what a player is capable of doing you have to play him.”

There’s the rub. One of the things I find annoying about Collins is how he uses his bench. All too often he’ll ride his starters while the role players collect rust, which seemed to be the case with Flores before Wright was hurt. There never seemed to be a regular resting format for Wright. There was no third-to-first rotation with Flores to start the season as he sat in ten games and only had 28 at-bats in April.

Flores was on a 0-for-14 skid before Sunday’s once-in-a-lifetime game.

“I thought I was swinging the bat well, I just wasn’t lucky,” was how Flores described his mini-slump, and of his turnaround, added, “I was looking to be aggressive.”

Whatever the Mets had in mind for Flores, he’s always been the good soldier. Genuinely hurt last year when he thought he had been traded, he seemed annoyed when the Reyes issue was raised Sunday.

“It’s not my choice,” Flores curtly said. “I’m here to play.”

But where?

Like a six-year-old child who ignores his favorite toy when presented with a new one, I fear Collins might bury Flores on the bench.

Collins has proven he doesn’t always follow through with a plan. From batting Juan Lagares leadoff last season to starting the year with Curtis Granderson hitting first; to an innings limit for Matt Harvey; to juggling his lineup; to how to handle Michael Conforto, Collins is quick to abandon a plan.

I get it, Reyes will play third base, but Flores must be used. He should start at least four games a week to keep his bat sharp. One game at third, one at shortstop, one at second and one at first. Have him be a super sub on a regular rotation. If the Mets make a run, Collins can’t afford to drive Cabrera and Walker into the ground, and James Loney needs a breather at first.

Flores is hitting and the Mets must keep it that way.