Apr 10

Mets Have Rotation Concerns; Wheeler Not Answer

The night Dillon Gee had in Philadelphia happens to all pitchers. It happened to Stephen Strasburg the other day. It will happen to Matt Harvey. It is premature to worry about Gee two starts into the season. It was not a game worthy of capital punishment.

It was a file-and-forget game.

GEE: Spent week in Philly last night. (AP)

GEE: Spent week in Philly last night. (AP)

“There’s not a whole lot to say. A terrible night,’’ Gee told reporters. “But you’ve got to move past it.’’

He’s right, so let’s move on to something worthy of concern.

With Gee’s short outing and Aaron Laffey not getting through five innings Sunday, the Mets’ bullpen has worked 4.2 and five innings in two of the last three games. That’s over the equivalent of an entire game.

The accumulation of innings by the bullpen is already a concern for manager Terry Collins as it indicates a three-fold problem: 1) the Mets have a problem with the back end of their rotation, 2) they lack a quality long man, somebody who can give them three or more innings when a game gets away early, and 3) this will eventually add up to a bullpen meltdown.

That is why Collins took Lucas Duda out of the game in a double-switch in the fourth inning. He explained the need to get two innings out of Greg Burke, and the No. 9 spot in the order was due up second the next inning.

It makes total sense.

Last night was the 51st start of Gee’s career, and he’s gone at least five innings in 47 of them, so let’s not get crazy with him. However, he’s also a No. 3 starter and the Mets need him to get out of the sixth on a consistent basis.

The difference between five and six innings over a full season – considered 34 starts – is 34 innings, or roughly four games. It adds up and if Collins is already thinking of these things, it isn’t an indication of comfort.

That’s why the Mets’ refusal to consider Aaron Harang is puzzling. Since 2005, he’s worked at least 180 innings in all but two years. Three times he’s gone over 200 innings. That’s acceptable for a No. 4 and No. 5 starter. Unless Harang has an injury we don’t know about, if he becomes a free-agent in a week (he was recently designated for assignment) the Mets should be calling him.

The Mets were fortunate to have Harvey to slot in between Gee and Laffey – caused by the off day last week – but that won’t always be the case. If Collins can maneuver it, he should separate Gee and Laffey whenever possible to avoid consecutive short days by the starters.

However, he is limited because there’s also Jeremy Hefner, who is not a proven long haul starter. With the exception of last night and Laffey, the Mets have received strong starts in every game, but that won’t last all season.

Naturally, when the topic is the Mets needing a quality starter the talk turns to Zack Wheeler. Let’s say it one more time about Wheeler: He is not ready.

Wheeler was rocky again last night as he gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in 5.1 innings and 92 pitches. For Wheeler’s stuff, 92 pitches should translate into eight or nine innings, not one out into the sixth. It doesn’t matter that three of the runs were unearned. The unearned runs indicates Wheeler strained to get out of trouble.

So, unless Wheeler proves he can get himself out of trouble, he won’t be able to get the Mets out of trouble.

ON DECK:  A look at Jeremy Hefner.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Apr 08

Mets Game #7 Wrap: Harvey And Buck Roll

The pre-game buzz was Matt Harvey being a growing hot property and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay on a downhill slide. Both bandwagons got a little more crowded Monday night as Harvey was superb as his Mets pounded Halladay, 7-2. The Mets also received big nights from John Buck and Ruben Tejada in winning their third straight game.

HARVEY: On again. Very on.

HARVEY: On again. Very on.

ON THE MOUND: Harvey gave up a run in seven innings, giving up three hits and striking out nine to win his second start and lower his ERA to 0.64. With bullpen worked hard for 4.2 innings Sunday, the Mets received the innings they needed from Harvey. Harvey has struck out 89 in his first 12 starts.

AT THE PLATE:  Buck hit a three-run homer in the second and the Mets never looked back. … Tejada hit a two-run single in the fifth when the Mets broke the game open. … David Wright and Lucas Duda also drove in droves. … Daniel Murphy doubled twice.

METS MUSINGS: Manager Terry Collins said Aaron Laffey could be in the rotation indefinitely. His next start will be a week from Tuesday at Colorado. … Shaun Marcum threw today in Port St. Lucie, but Collins said he’s not close to pitching in a game. … Also not close is reliever Frank Francisco. Collins said he must twice throw in consecutive games to prove he’s ready.

Apr 07

Mets Wrap: Marlon Byrd And Bullpen Keys To Comeback Win

There are a lot of indicators for a successful team and the Mets did several of them today in beating the Miami Marlins, 4-3, Sunday. Among them are winning close games, being able to come from behind, clutch hitting and solid relief work. The bullpen kept the Mets in the game until aggressive base running by Ruben Tejada and Kirk Nieuwenhuis set up Marlon Byrd’s game-winning, two-run single off Marlins’ closer Steve Cishek.

BYRD: Delivers in clutch. (AP)

BYRD: Delivers in clutch. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: In his Mets’ debut Aaron Laffey gave up three runs on 10 hits, but did get into the fifth inning. … Greg Burke, Josh Edgin, Scott Atchison, LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Rice combined for 4.2 scoreless innings. … Atchison came into the game with one out and runners on second and third in the seventh and was able to get out of the inning.

AT THE PLATE:  Daniel Murphy homered again. … Tejada was hit by a pitch and Nieuwenhuis singled and took second on the throw to set up Byrd for the game-winner. … The Mets overcame 13 strikeouts and going 1-for-8 with RISP.

IN THE FIELD: Lucas misplayed a ball near the wall, but was bailed out by Atchison. … Murphy is getting better at second, starting two double plays.

ON DECK:  A tale of two pitchers heading in opposite directions in their careers when Matt Harvey (1-0, 0.00 ERA) goes against Roy Halladay (0-1, 13.50).

Apr 07

Aaron Laffey Gets Ball For Mets

If the Mets had a perfect world, Aaron Laffey wouldn’t start for them until June or July. That his start comes in the season’s fifth game tells you how tissue thin their rotation is.

Game six, and already the Mets are into two pitchers that weren’t in their immediate plans as Johan Santana is gone for good and Shaun Marcum is out indefinitely. Question: Who will we see first, Marcum or Zack Wheeler?

LAFFEY: As an Indian.

LAFFEY: As an Indian.

Laffey, who won four games in 16 starts for Toronto last year, was signed to a minor league free agent contract after Christmas as anticipated depth because of health concerns over Santana, Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee.

He’s starting against Miami today in place of Marcum, who is out indefinitely with neck inflammation. To make room on the roster the Mets optioned reliever Jeurys Familia to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The choice of Familia indicates the Mets are either pleased or intrigued with what they’ve seen from 14-year minor league veteran Scott Rice.

Here’s today’s Mets’ lineup against Marlins starter Jose Fernandez:

Collin Cowgill, CF: Back after not starting the last two games. Came off the bench Saturday to hit his second homer. Entered the season with only two career homers. He’s best offensive option in center.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Drove in game-winning run Saturday with triple. Hit three-run homer Friday. Is 3-4 with RISP. How many homers could he hit if he swung for power?

David Wright, 3B:  Has played in club-record 60 straight games without an error. No homers, but had three hits Saturday.

Ike Davis, 1B: Snapped 1-for-16 slide with two hits Saturday. Has seven strikeouts and only three hits; not a good ratio. Batting .158.

Mike Baxter, RF: Starting again in right after reaching base three times Saturday. Led off 12 times last year and the Mets were 7-5 in those games. So, why not put him there today?

Lucas Duda, LF: Who would have thought he’d have more walks than strikeouts? One of the most encouraging statistics so far. Hasn’t played poorly in left field.

Ruben Tejada, SS: If anybody could use a head-clearing day off it is he. Hitting .176 with four errors in five games.

Anthony Recker, C: Makes first start to give John Buck the day off. Hit .310 during spring training. Played with Athletics and Cubs last season.

Aaron Laffey, LHP: Went 4-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 22 appearances (16 starts) for Toronto last year. Has also played for Cleveland, Seattle and the Yankees.

Apr 05

Zack Wheeler Roughed Up In Vegas Debut

For those thinking Zack Wheeler will be the answer to the gaping hole in the Mets’ rotation, think again. He’s at Triple-A Las Vegas for a reason, and that being he’s not ready. Injuries to Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum will be handled without compromising Wheeler’s development.

WHEELER: Rocked last night.

WHEELER: Rocked last night.

Jeremy Hefner tonight against Miami and Aaron Laffey Sunday is what it is going to be. If they get through those starts intact, then they’ll get another.

“I don’t know what they have planned for me,’’ Wheeler told me in spring training when asked if there was a timetable for his promotion. “All I know is I have to keep working and improving.’’

Wheeler identified his growth obstacles as control and command of his secondary pitches, notably his change-up. He’s not able to consistently throw it for strikes, especially when behind in the count and hitters are sitting on a fastball.

“It’s a feel pitch,’’ Wheeler said. “It’s the toughest pitch for me to command. It takes a lot of work.’’

Wheeler, who missed time this spring with a strained oblique muscle, has reported no discomfort since he was cleared to pitch, but nonetheless hasn’t been sharp He said there’s nothing wrong physically, but remains in a mechanical funk.

In his debut last night for Las Vegas, Wheeler didn’t get a decision, but there was no hiding the difficulty in his start, as he labored through 86 pitches in 3.1 innings, giving up a run on three hits, but with three walks and a wild pitch. For the 86 pitches Wheeler threw, he should have worked into the sixth or seventh innings at least. A no-decision with 86 pitches is a wasted start.

General manager Sandy Alderson repeatedly said this spring the Mets won’t rush Wheeler. Part of sending him down for the first six weeks of the season is to give the Mets another year of control to keep him off the free-agent market for another year and delay arbitration.

“He’s not ready,’’ Alderson said. “We’re not going to bring somebody up where he would be in position to fail.’’

Wheeler had spectacular moments this spring when he overpowered hitters and impressed with his composure, but it was early so not much can be drawn from that other than optimism.

Last night is no indication of what kind of year, let alone career, is in store for Wheeler. But, the lack of command underscored he isn’t ready to dominate major league hitters. For all the talk Wheeler might have better stuff than Matt Harvey, that’s not the issue. That’s only speculation that doesn’t help either pitcher.

So, those dreaming of a Harvey, Wheeler and Jon Niese trio, keep dreaming. It’s not coming any time soon.

NOTE: I’ll be back later this afternoon with posts on Hefner/Buck working together tonight; the continuation of the 73 series; an analysis of the lineup; and a game wrap. Please drop in throughout the day. Thanks.