Apr 29

Will Alderson Ever Say, `Conforto Needs To Play?’

After Michael Conforto‘s second homer today, the cynic in me couldn’t help but wonder, how will GM Sandy Alderson now try to limit his playing time? That is, of course, if Yoenis Cespedes is able to come back sooner than originally anticipated.

CONFORTO: Celebrating long ball. (AP)

CONFORTO: Celebrating long ball. (AP)

When Cespedes injured his hamstring Thursday and placed on the disabled list the following day, original reports indicated a serious injury, but today Alderson called it “mild.” Yeah, I’m buying into that diagnosis big time.

After opening the season on the bench following a hot spring, Conforto responded to his limited playing time until when the Mets’ anemic hitting forced manager Terry Collins to start him. The player last year Collins said would be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future.

That is until he went 0-for-5 a year ago Monday against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner that sent him into a downward spiral. From there, Conforto rode the Flushing-Vegas shuttle for much of last season, and when spring training started after Alderson re-signed Cespedes and was unable to trade Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson, conventional thinking had him opening in the minors.

However, Conforto kept hitting, first as a pinch-hitter and role player, until he broke into the starting lineup as a starter on April 20. Most recently he replaced Jose Reyes at the top of the order roughly a week ago. Since starting full time, Conforto has gone 11-for-30 with four homers and six RBI, and overall is batting .298 with a .386 on-base percentage, six homers and 12 RBI.

“Michael had a huge day for us and we needed it,” Collins said, “I have to salute him. When you’re not in the lineup every day you have to make the most of it. … He’s done a tremendous job in the leadoff spot. Just tremendous.”

Conforto hit a two-run homer in the fifth and solo homer in the eighth, the latter coming off lefty reliever Enny Romero. Conforto isn’t cocky, but he’s definitely not short of confidence. Despite what Alderson and Collins might worry about, Conforto has no double about his ability to hit left-handers, which is what it is going to take to stay in the lineup when Cespedes returns.

“Huge,” Conforto said when asked what kind of lift his homer off Romero gave him. “I’ve always felt I could hit lefties. No matter who is out there, I feel I can hit them. … As long as I put the work in, everything will take care of itself. I worry about what I can control and not worry about the other stuff.”

Conforto and Collins said all the right things today. What’s next would be for Alderson to finally say, “the kid has to play.”

Apr 27

Syndergaard And Cespedes Go Down

The answer to today’s question, unfortunately, is YES: Something is wrong with the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard. First Wednesday’s, then today’s scheduled starter, was scratched with what manager Terry Collins called a “tired arm,” but technically biceps tendinitis, or possibly something else.

The Mets have until Sunday to figure it out, as that is when they figure is the earliest Syndergaard could next pitch.

“In my opinion, I think it’s very minor, and I’ll get back on the field Sunday,” said Syndergaard, who to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t have a medical degree.

Collins and GM Sandy Alderson don’t have medical degrees, either, yet roll the dice when it comes to dealing with injuries.

“It’s quite obvious we can’t take a chance on him, hurting this guy,” Collins said prior to today’s game, not long after he said, “because I wanted to,” when asked why Syndergaard was scratched Wednesday night. I wrote last night Collins didn’t deserve the benefit of doubt about being given leeway in discussing Mets’ injuries.

That’s based on Collins’ past deceptive and stonewall comments in covering for Alderson’s lack of decisiveness in those types of situations.

Because he’s a pitcher who works every fifth day, the Mets have the luxury of waiting for a few days before putting him on the disabled list

That wasn’t the case with Yoenis Cespedes, whom they kept hoping his strained left hamstring would get better. Based on Cespedes’ injury history, the Mets should have put him on the 10-day disabled list immediately. Instead, they sat him out last weekend’s series against the Nationals, but hoped he could pinch-hit.

They thought the day off and the rainout could buy them some healing time but gambled on him playing Wednesday. He came away from that game but re-pulled his hamstring legging out a double in the fourth inning.

It is clear Cespedes will be out for a long time.

MORE, MUCH MORE, TO FOLLOW

 

Apr 10

Bruce Red Hot; Value Enhanced

How can you not feel good for Jay Bruce? Booed by when he floundered last year following the trade that brought him from Cincinnati and into a pennant race, and whom GM Sandy Alderson desperately wanted to trade over the winter, has emerged as the Mets’ hottest hitter.

And, it isn’t close.

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

It started with three walks on Opening Day and continued Monday night in Philadelphia with a pair of homers in a 4-3 victory over the Phillies.

Bruce hit a solo drive off Phillies starter Jared Eickhoff to pull the Mets within 2-1 in the fourth, then put them ahead with a two-run drive off his image on the video board against reliever Joely Rodriguez.

“I think it is an approach,” was how Bruce explained his hot start to reporters. “I concentrate on being ready. Every day, I go into the game looking for the right pitches and taking a good swing.”

Bruce insisted he wasn’t daunted by the pressures of playing in New York when he struggled last summer, and that he didn’t want to leave his new team.

And, Alderson shouldn’t be in any hurry to deal Bruce, even if those teams that played hardball with him over the winter start calling him now.

It’s early, but Bruce leads the Mets with four homers and six RBI, and overall, they aren’t hitting, and in each of the last two seasons, they went into lengthy hitting droughts in the second half.

Quite simply, there will be a time this summer when the Mets have to count on Bruce carrying them the way he did the Reds for so many years.

Bruce, who has had 30-plus homers in four of his last six years, was moved to the clean-up slot to replace Curtis Granderson, and will likely remain there in the foreseeable future as the latter struggles.

Bruce, 30 is making $13.1 million this year, while the 36-year old Granderson is pulling in $15 million, which could give him a greater long-term value to the Mets.

Granderson has more of an immediate value to the Mets because he can play center field. However, that shouldn’t last too long because Juan Lagares will be coming off the disabled list shortly, at which time Michael Conforto will be shipped to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets will need Bruce this year, and likely they’ll need him next year. I can’t see the Mets bringing back both Bruce and Granderson. If they don’t bring back either, having just Lagares and Conforto next season to complement Yoenis Cespedes probably won’t be good enough and the Mets could go shopping again in July.

Meanwhile, at 37 next season, the Mets could lowball Granderson and bring him back for less in 2018. However, they couldn’t pull that off with Bruce because after a good year, his free-agent market value would he higher than Granderson’s.

 

Apr 08

Reyes Sits Tonight

Five games into the season and Mets manager Terry Collins is juggling his lineup. Tonight, Collins sits third baseman Jose Reyes‘ 1-for-18 start.

Undoubtedly, Reyes endured longer dry spells, but he looked terrible Friday night. He’s looked horrible all season.

REYES: Sitting vs. Fish. (AP)

REYES: Sitting vs. Fish. (AP)

Even so, Reyes said it is premature for him to panicI don’t want to put pressure on myself going to the film like, ‘Oh, what am I doing wrong?’ ” Reyes told reporters. “Sometimes, you have to give credit to the pitcher. They’ve pitched me tough. Sooner or later it’s going to change.”

Curtis Granderson and Wilmer Flores will replace Reyes at the top of the order and third base, respectively. I have no problems with sitting Reyes tonight, but I’m not crazy about what Collins is considering next for Reyes.

Collins said he’s looking to spell another slumping Met, Granderson, in center field with Reyes. The issue is to get a right-handed bat in the lineup. Meanwhile, Michael Conforto – who had a pinch-hit single Friday –  has all of two at-bats. It was last April when Collins forecasted him as the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future and said he would hit against left-handed pitching.

Evidently, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, just as it appears Conforto won’t be playing in the near future. As I, and others feared, Conforto will languish on the bench until Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list.

The Mets’ lack of a right-handed hitting outfielder smacks of two things: 1) Collins’ and GM Sandy Alderson’s marriage to the righty-lefty dynamics, and 2) Alderson’s inability to construct a team with a right-handed bat.

If Alderson had Babe Ruth he’d sit hit him against a lefty, and does this mean Lagares is the only acceptable right-handed outfield bat?

The bottom line: Conforto will never learn to hit lefty pitching until he gets the chance. You would think the game’s smartest general manager, would figure that out.

 

Mar 30

Are Mets Rushing Wheeler?

Evidently, Mets GM Sandy Alderson didn’t learn much from Matt Harvey’s innings limit fiasco in 2015. That’s what I took from his comments Thursday with the news Zack Wheeler made the Opening Day roster and rotation.

WHEELER: Why the rush? (AP)

WHEELER: Why the rush? (AP)

I’m happy for Wheeler because it has been a long, two-year road following Tommy John surgery. However, I’m not sure he’s physically ready and it appears the Mets might be pushing him, and possibly for the wrong reasons.

Alderson suggested the decision to take Wheeler north was made in part as a psychological boost to him, but is that a good enough reason?

“From our standpoint, it’s been a long trek for Zack, and we felt if it was kind of an uptick physically, then emotionally and mentally it would be a real positive for him to begin the season and not just be relegated to Port St. Lucie again,” Alderson told reporters. “He’s feeling good and we feel real good about it.”

I’m glad Wheeler feels better – who wouldn’t be? – but is he strong enough? And, do the Mets have a definitive plan to keep him strong and healthy?

Maybe I missed it, but I couldn’t find anything after translating Alderson.

“Assuming things go well, [Wheeler] will pitch until he reaches a limit,” Alderson said. “We have a target, but targets move, so I think it will depend a lot on how he’s performing and how he’s feeling, try to build in a little bit of flexibility. I don’t think he’s going to pitch 200 innings.”

Of course not, but that’s Alderson being sarcastic.

The target initially was 110 innings. Then up to 120 to 125. But, if targets “move,” as Alderson said, then it isn’t really a limit, is it?

Weeding through Alderson’s words, one can’t find when he would be shut down, or if he will even sit at all. That is reminiscent of what happened with Harvey when his agent, Scott Boras, came forward with an innings limit to catch Alderson off guard.

Because they are blessed with depth in Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero, they have the luxury of being able to shut him down.

Wheeler’s in the rotation and will make his first start, April 7, against Miami. Figuring six innings a start, Wheeler would reach his limit after 20 starts, which puts him around mid-to-late July.

What could be a driving force to go with Wheeler is because Steven Matz has been shut down for at least three weeks with a sore left elbow. But, they are trying to fill the void of one injured pitcher with another questionable pitcher.

Where’s the logic in that, especially when they have the Lugo and Montero options?

“It’s been a long road,” Wheeler told reporters. “I know I’m starting probably because Steve got hurt, and that is unfortunate and I wish him a fast recovery. But I’m here and healthy and want to pitch, and that is what I’m about to be able to do.”

I hope this all works out for Wheeler and this doesn’t come back to bite him in the elbow, or Alderson in the butt.