Sep 27

Mets Wrap: Pitching Should Be Mets’ Offseason Priority

By definition, Carlos Torres gave the New York Mets a quality start tonight – three runs in six innings – which is usually good enough to win most starts.

However, the Mets aren’t scoring much these days, and didn’t again tonight in a second straight 4-2 loss to Milwaukee, a team they should beat.

Terry Collins started his 128th different batting order out of 160 games tonight, which is as telling a stat as there is to define the 2013 Mets. Most of that is attributable to injuries and poor performance – notably Ike Davis – but indicates a lack of offensive consistency and depth

TORRES: Could get spring training invite.

TORRES: Could get spring training invite..

The popular belief is the Mets need to upgrade their offense, which is true, but is it really their top priority?

Factoring having David Wright for a full season; improvement that comes from experience with Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker; having Eric Young for a full season; developing a consistent batting order; and, of course, the annual hope of whether Davis or Lucas Duda will find it, the Mets’ offense should be better in 2014.

Adding a bat is important, but is it imperative?

As is usually the case, pitching should be their primary concern, especially considering general manager Sandy Alderson has just three starters heading into spring training: Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler, the latter who was scratched from his final start with shoulder soreness.

Torres’ start tonight underscores the Mets’ need to add pitching. Theoretically, if the Mets pitch well their offense should improve enough to manufacture enough runs to be competitive.

The odds are long the Mets will have Matt Harvey for 2014, so they have two slots to fill in the rotation.

Torres has been valuable out of the bullpen in long relief and as a spot starter. He’s pitched well enough to get a spring training invite. What he did tonight is what the Mets need in a fifth starter, but he might be more valuable in long relief.

Saturday’s starter, Aaron Harang, should also be invited to spring training. I had my doubts, but Daisuke Matsuzaka has pitched well recently and would likely also be invited to spring training.

Prior to the game Collins said he doesn’t anticipate Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard cracking the rotation coming out of spring training, which means adding a veteran arm, especially one who has a taste of playing on a winning team, should be their priority.

When Citi Field opened, the Mets said they would build around pitching, speed and defense. Power is great, but it isn’t essential in building a winner. The Mets should emphasize that mentality in constructing their 2014 team.

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Sep 24

Mets Wrap: Aaron Harang And David Aardsma Show Something For 2014

It was fun to watch the New York Mets play a meaningful September game. Maybe next year they’ll be in one for their own benefit.

Manager Terry Collins said prior to the game the Mets could benefit just by playing a team with something on the line.

HARANG: Pitching for 2014.

HARANG: Pitching for 2014.

“It will be an education for our young players,’’ Collins said of this series with the Cincinnati Reds. “It will be fun to watch. We’ll see how we react. The pressure is on them. We’ll see how our guys measure up.’’

They measured up well in tonight’s 3-2 10-inning loss at Cincinnati, with a couple of nuggets worthy of a look.

The first was Aaron Harang, who gave up two runs in six innings. By definition, that was a quality start, but there was nothing good about the six walks.

However, what Harang demonstrated was an ability to work out of trouble, which is something to look for in a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.

Harang should be invited to spring training to compete for a spot in the rotation.

Assuming Matt Harvey won’t be ready for the start of spring training, the Mets have three starters in Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee. That leaves Harang competing for the fourth spot with the fifth spot wide open.

Should Harvey be ready, Harang would be competing for the fifth spot. Harvey opted to rehab his elbow and eschew surgery for now. Part of that rehab could be to test the elbow in the Arizona Fall League, as it would enable him to throw at game speed.

The Fall League is advantageous to the Mets in finding out about Harvey. Throwing on flat ground or in the bullpen does not test the elbow as facing hitters. Of course, Harvey won’t pitch in Arizona if he feels any discomfort in his elbow.

Something else to consider as they prepare their offseason moves is reliever David Aardsma, who pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.

The Mets, as in what has been a winter tradition in the past four years, will be attempting to build a bullpen. Aardsma has been effective in stretches this season, and tonight was another example.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 18

Mets’ Aaron Harang Pitching For Spring Training Invitation

With the New York Mets having several holes in their rotation, it’s never too late to make a strong impression heading into winter. Tonight, journeyman veteran Aaron Harang will attempt to encore his 10-strikeout debut against Washington with another quality start against San Francisco.

With Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia on the shelf and questionable for next spring, the Mets have two holes in their rotation. Harang could get one and Daisuke Matsuzaka will compete for another, as might Rafael Montero.

Harang, 35, could be the type of innings eater the team needs. He didn’t have great numbers with Seattle before coming over to the Mets – 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA – but he did throw 120.1 innings in 22 starts. His innings would represent the fourth highest on the Mets.

This morning I floated the idea of Tim Lincecum. I don’t believe the Mets will commit to that salary, but it was done to illustrate the type of arms that could be available.

Plugged into the Mets’ rotation for next season – assuming Harvey is not around – are Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler pitched a disappointing game Tuesday with six walks in five innings, but will get another start to redeem himself.

“He might get two,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

Niese will start Thursday in the series and homestand finale, while Matsuzaka, Gee and Carlos Torres will start over the weekend in Philadelphia. Wheeler, Harang and Niese will start at Cincinnati.

Collins hasn’t named the starters for season’s final weekend against Milwaukee, but despite being on an innings limit, Wheeler could get some work.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against the Giants’ Matt Cain:

Eric Young, LF: Has a career-high 38 stolen bases, including 30 with the Mets. He leads the majors with 23 steals in the second half.

Josh Satin, 3B: David Wright took grounders today, but is still not ready to be activated (hamstring). Has reached base safely in 29 straight starts, to tie the Mets’ rookie record (Steve Henderson, 1979).

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Is batting .364 with 10 doubles and 11 since August 28. He is tied for fourth in the NL with 173 hits.

Andrew Brown, RF: Has a career-high seven homers. Enters the game batting .083 (2-24) over his last ten games.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Is second to Wright (16) with 14 homers. Has a .356 on-base percentage.

Juan Lagares, CF: Is ties for fifth in the majors with 12 outfield assists. Takes an 0-for-19 slide into the game.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Is batting .200 with no homers and 10 RBI for the season.

Juan Centeno, C: Hit .305 for Triple-A Las Vegas. Noted for being a defensive specialist.

Aaron Harang, RHP: Struck out ten Nationals in his Mets’ debut.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 18

Is Tim Lincecum On Mets’ Radar?

What might the New York Mets be wondering as they look into the Giants’ dugout and see Tim Lincecum?

Could they be mulling over the idea of signing him as a free agent this winter? He’ll be pricey, but if the Mets are serious about contending in 2014, they’ll have to pay for pitching.

LINCECUM: Could he be on Mets' radar?

LINCECUM: Could he be on Mets’ radar?

With Matt Harvey opting for rehab over the next two months instead of immediate Tommy John surgery, the Mets have no certainties with their young ace. Surgery is still a possibility, and that would mean he would miss all of next year.

At the time Harvey went on the disabled list and surgery was anticipated, GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets would have to prepare to not have him next season.

Perhaps he didn’t want to reveal his true thoughts in front of Harvey in a press conference, or perhaps he didn’t want to come across as being desperate, but Alderson backed off that sentiment yesterday.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect our offseason planning as much as has been speculated,’’ Alderson said. “The one thing we have is a great deal of starting-pitching depth, some of it untested at the minor league level. But we have a lot of confidence in the quality and quantity of our starting pitching.

“So hopefully Matt is part of that rotation next year. But if he’s not, I don’t foresee us working hard to fill his spot from outside the organization.’’

What Alderson should have said is the Mets have “potential’’ starting-pitching depth.

Harvey, of course, is no given. Jenrry Mejia just underwent elbow surgery. Noah Syndergaard isn’t ready, and there’s nothing imminent with Rafael Montero.

By my count, the Mets will go into spring training with a rotation of Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Tonight’s starter, Aaron Harang, could be invited to spring training and so might Daisuke Matsuzaka. Are you comfortable with those last two options?

They will have to add somebody regardless of what Alderson said and Lincecum could be available. He’s in the final season of a two-year, $40.5-million contract, and the Giants haven’t said anything about bringing him back.

If not the Giants or Mets, somebody will offer Lincecum a contract, and considering what he made this year there won’t be much of a salary cut.

Lincecum was signed to the contract after the 2011 season, in which he went 13-14, but with a 2.74 ERA and having worked 217 innings. The feeling it was due to a lack of run support.

Lincecum was 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA in 2012 and a drop to 186 innings. He has thrown 184 so far this season while going 10-13 with a 4.40 ERA. Both this year and last there were reports his velocity is down. Even so, something had to be there to throw a no-hitter.

There’s some sentiment a change of scenery might benefit Lincecum, who is only 29. The flip side reported in San Francisco is the Giants might sign him for one year plus a team option.

Of course, the Mets might offer the same. They might have to.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 12

Mets Wrap: Classless Frank Francisco Needs To Go

The New York Mets brought back Frank Francisco from oblivion this season because their bullpen was depleted, but also in the off chance somebody might be desperate enough to trade for him.

After his despicable display this afternoon at Citi Field, any team wanting him would not only be desperate, but stupid as well.

WERTH: Gets drilled by Francisco. (Getty)

WERTH: Gets drilled by Francisco. (Getty)

With the game in the balance in the eighth inning and behind 3-0 in the count, Francisco drilled Jayson Werth in the back after giving up back-to-back doubles to Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman. It was obvious; Francisco was in trouble and wanted his pound of flesh.

Of course, Francisco later said it was unintentional and he was “obviously all over the place,’’ but the Nationals weren’t buying. Players know, and Werth took out Ruben Tejada with an aggressive slide that could have broken the shortstop’s ankle.

Werth, obviously, was sending his own message. The retiring Davey Johnson, who likely managed his last game in New York, told reporters after the 7-2 victory, “it’s a good thing we don’t play them again.’’

There’s no misunderstanding what that meant.

Teams remember, and Terry Collins should have done something to diffuse the situation – and perhaps any future clash – by immediately pulling Francisco. In doing so, Collins would have been telling the Nationals, “I understand Francisco is an idiot and I’m getting him out of here.’’

It should have been his last pitch with the Mets. Clearly, nobody would want Francisco now, and if Collins is about sending messages to his rookies about playing the game the right way, this would have been the perfect opportunity.

The Mets were upset with Francisco’s work ethic in his rehab, and this bush league act should not be tolerated, not if the Mets want to be considered a classy organization. It was a thuggish act by Francisco with no place in the game. I don’t care if they owe him money, get him out of here.

The Mets have lost 10 of their last 12 games, and what was once a chance at respectability is now an attempt to avoid 90 defeats. Today was their 81st loss. They are now a season-low 17 games below .500 with 17 remaining to play.

If there was a positive today, it was Aaron Harang’s quality start of giving up three runs in six innings. All three runs came on solo homers, but he walked one and struck out ten. However, those strikeouts will be enough to get Harang another start and perhaps an invitation to spring training.

Meanwhile, who knows who’ll be dumb enough to extend such an invitation to Francisco?

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos