Aug 30

Montero Shows What Fuss Has Been All About

Tonight, my friends, is what all the fuss surrounding Rafael Montero has been about. There it was, the eighth incredible inning in Cincinnati, and Montero was still dealing.

MONTERO: Wears the crown tonight. (AP)

MONTERO: Wears the crown tonight. (AP)

He worked quickly and confidently, challenging the Reds inside with his fastball, his slider, his changeup. It was art to watch Montero change speeds and hit his spots.

Above all, Montero pitched fearlessly, changing speeds and throwing his change-up off the inside corner. If he missed, the ball would tail further inside and not fade over the middle of the plate.

“He established inside and pitched off of that,’’ said catcher Kevin Plawecki. “He’s throwing effectively inside. That’s why he’s had so much success lately.’’

Montero is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA over his last four starts, but so importantly, averaged 6.2 innings. That length has gone a long way toward earning the trust from manager Terry Collins.

“He got easy outs,’’ Collins said. “He had a lot of 1, 2, 3-pitch outs. He probably thinks he has a home in the rotation, and he should feel that way.’’

The last time the Mets farmed out Montero, Collins told him he needed to throw strikes if he was to have a future with the Mets.

Montero took that to heart.

“When I was sent down, I said to myself, `I can’t go back there. I have to make changes.’ ’’

Montero took a one-hit, shutout into the ninth. He retired the first Red – Billy Hamilton on a grounder to second. Phillip Ervin singled to center, but Collins chose to give Montero one more batter, Zack Cozart, who promptly doubled.

Joey Votto was intentionally walked to load the bases, and put the winning run on base.

Enter AJ Ramos, who struck out Adam Duvall and Scooter Gennett to end the game and give the Mets their most significant victory in months.

And to Montero, the most significant victory of his short and tumultuous career.

Aug 30

Reyes Auditioning For Next Year

Nothing is ever black or white when it comes to the Mets. There’s always an aura of mystery, of speculation with every issue. Take Jose Reyes playing left field – for the first time in his major league career – last night in Cincinnati. While it is true the Mets are playing shorthanded following season-ending injuries to Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes, preceded by the season-scuttling trades of Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson.

It’s great to talk about a player’s versatility and willingness to play a different position, but that usually comes with roster decisions coming out of spring training. Reyes is earning extra credit for taking Amed Rosario under his wing and demonstrating a willingness to be a team player. Not long ago he wasn’t so agreeable about playing third base, remember?

REYES: Trying to enhance value. (AP)

REYES: Trying to enhance value. (AP)

Things changed because this is a different Mets’ team than the one in June when their season was strained, but hope remained. At the time, Reyes was competing for playing time and a 2018 contract.

However, with the future already here regarding Rosario, and the outfield cupboard thin with the Conforto and Cespedes injuries, Reyes’ ability to play the outfield is being revisited. The Mets have few minor league outfield options, with their primary choices are to hope for the best physically from Conforto and Cespedes.

Conforto had his second opinion examination today on his left shoulder and we should know more tomorrow regarding surgery. As far as Cespedes is concerned, his vow to re-evaluate his conditioning program has to be taken at face value, meaning we’ll see next year. Presumably, the Mets are being cautious about projections for Conforto and Cespedes. Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo will be factors, but there could be a need for Reyes in the outfield.

We can assume the Mets won’t be big spenders, so I won’t get too excited about bringing Bruce back.

Reyes didn’t distinguish himself last night but will get more opportunities as the season winds down.

“We’ve got to find out, and get him out there,” Collins said. “He’s anxious to try it. I think as we move forward, it’s something we’ve got to take a look at.”

Reyes wants to come back – there’s a comfort to him playing with the Mets – but his value would be further enhanced if he proves he can play the outfield.

“I feel like a lot of teams this year, they use a lot of versatile players who can play a lot of positions,” Reyes said. “So that’s going to be a plus for me if I can do a very good job in the outfield. I don’t know how it’s going to be because I don’t have too much work there, but I’m still a very good athlete. I feel like I can play the position.”

 

Aug 29

Familia, Smith Lone Bright Spots In Rout

There aren’t many positives the Mets can find in a ten-run loss, but here goes: 1) Jeurys Familia was strong in his second game coming off the disabled list, and 2) struggling rookie Dominic Smith drove in two runs on a pair of hits.

FLEXEN: Apologizes for gesture> (AP)

FLEXEN: Apologizes for gesture> (AP)

Hey, I told you there wasn’t much to shout about.

Familia was the most important development with three strikeouts in 1.2 innings. Familia threw 27 pitches, many of them in the mid-to-high 90s.

Regarding next year, should Familia return healthy and Jerry Blevins is brought back, and AJ Ramos and the Mets have potentially a solid back end of the bullpen.

As far as Smith goes, he’ll get his hits. What I’m looking from him this early in his career is to not try to pull everything and to be patient at the plate.

Smith is hitting .183, but with a .206 on-base percentage, marked by only two walks over 80 at-bats.

C’MON REYES, PLAY SMART: The Mets trailed by four runs in the seventh inning and Jose Reyes was on first. So, what did he do?

He was thrown out trying to steal second.

Seriously, Jose? If you’re trying to be a mentor for Amed Rosario, don’t play like you’re brain dead.

ACCOUNTABILILTY: Mets starter Chris Flexen apologized to manager Terry Collins and Reyes after the game for when he threw up his arms after Billy Hamilton’s fly ball over Reyes’ head in the second.

“You can’ do that,’’ Flexen said.

Aug 28

More Bad Injury News; Wright Rehab Derailed

They wouldn’t be the Mets if they didn’t have another day of bad injury news. What had been a glimmer of hope in this painful season turned south today with David Wright’s announcement his comeback was over.

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

“After playing in a few games, I continued to have shoulder pain,” Wright said in a statement released by the team. “So, I decided to go to the doctor and get it checked out. Will make any decisions going forward after my appointment.”

Wright, 34, last played in May of 2016. Wright will be re-examined in New York later this week, after which the next step in his long and arduous comeback from spinal stenosis. I can’t imagine Wright retiring now, but instead think he’ll spend the off-season getting stronger and trying to give it one more chance next spring.

While Wright’s comeback has hit the skids, we don’t know for sure how Michael Conforto’s recovery from a tear in his posterior capsule that will likely require surgery with a recovery time of six to 12 months.

Conforto’s injury will impact the Mets approach this offseason. Because they can’t count on Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes for next season, the Mets will be in the market for an outfield bat – Jay Bruce II, perhaps?

Aug 27

Next Year Brought Into Focus In Doubleheader With Nationals

With Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes currently on the disabled list and out for the rest of the season, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares will get a bulk of the playing time.

Both distinguished themselves today, but in different ways.

For Nimmo, who hit third in the nightcap, his two-run homer briefly game the Mets a lead in the game they eventually lost, 5-4.

Lagares had two hits in the second game, but more impressive was how alertly he backed up right fielder Travis Taijeron on Daniel Murphy’s single to start a blurry fast relay to nail pinch-runner Edwin Jackson at the plate to end the game and preserve the Mets’ 6-5 victory.

D'ARNAUD: Blocks plate on game-ender. (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Blocks plate on game-ender. (AP)

Let’s assume Conforto’s pending shoulder surgery keeps him off the Opening Day roster, then Nimmo would likely play in right field to start the season. If not, he could start the season coming off the bench.

Nimmo isn’t a home run hitter, but there’s a lot to like about his enthusiasm and .378 on-base percentage. He can play off three outfield positions, so his versatility is a plus.

Lagares’ problem has been with his bat, but there’s nothing wrong with his defense.

That he backed up the plate is part of his job description, but with the Mets playing out the string, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see a role player just coast, but that’s not the case with Lagares.

Without Lagares’ awareness, the Mets might have lost the first game, too.

But, it’s plays like that, and Nimmo’s hitting, that should stand out to GM Sandy Alderson as he makes notes regarding next year.

LUGO PITCHES WELL:  Seth Lugo, in his start coming off the disabled list, gave up two runs on four hits with five strikeouts in the second game.

“I thought I threw the ball really well,’’ Lugo said. “I had life on my pitches and was hitting my spots.’’

Robert Gsellman was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Lugo on the roster.

In looking at next season, I see Lugo better suited as a starter and Gsellman coming out of the bullpen.

TWO FACES OF ROBLES:  We saw the two faces of Hansel Robles in today’s double-header.

In the first game Robles, struck out the only two hitters he faced. In the second game, Robles walked three straight batters, including the last two with the bases loaded to force in the tying and go-ahead runs.

Robles is wildly inconsistent, and if the Mets are auditioning for their bullpen for 2018, he must show more consistency, beginning with throwing more strikes.

The real problem I had with Robles’ second appearance was more with manager Terry Collins, who left the reliever in to walk three straight batters.

“You can’t walk guys in the big leagues,’’ Collins said. “You can’t walk three hitters in a row, like that.’’

I understand it was a double header and the bullpen was taxed, but you can’t leave a reliever in to walk three straight hitters.

Just bad managing.

THE METS AND DUSTY:  Both the Mets’ Collins and Nationals manager Dusty Baker are in the final years of their contracts.

Of course, that begs the question: If neither are brought back in 2018, would the Mets entertain signing Baker to manage them.

While the Mets are non-commital about Collins, Baker has let it be known he is interested in returning. If Baker does hook on with the Mets, it could cost them as he is making $4 million this year.

HARVEY UPDATE: Matt Harveys next game will be with the Mets. After four rehab starts – including 4.2 innings Saturday for Double-A Binghamton – the Mets announced he will be activated when the rosters are expanded Sept. 1.

The Mets will be in Houston then, so his first start will be against the Astros, who are slightly better than the Portland Sea Dogs. Harvey threw 72 pitches against Portland and probably won’t throw much more than that against Houston.

UP NEXT: The Mets are off today, then are in Cincinnati for the start of a three-game series against the Reds.