Sep 13

Mets Wrap: LaTroy Hawkins Still Has The Right Stuff

When the New York Mets begin their annual winter task of building their bullpen, they’d be wise to consider three names instrumental in beating Miami tonight at Citi Field.

Yes, Lucas Duda gets props for a three-run homer, Jon Niese pitched into the seventh, and Andrew Brown took advantage of a rare start by hitting a mammoth home run, but the Mets might not have won without Vic Black, Pedro Feliciano and LaTroy Hawkins.

HAWKINS: Still has it. (AP)

HAWKINS: Still has it. (AP)

By definition, winning 4-3 is not a slam-dunk, but a study of perseverance and endurance. Those three carried the Mets to the end.

Hawkins has been solid all year in a set-up role, and despite his reservations, assumed the closer role when Bobby Parnell went down and excelled, picking up his ninth save with a 1-2-3 ninth highlighted by a classic punch-out of Giancarlo Stanton, who already hit two homers.

In a masterful display, Hawkins got ahead 0-and-2 with two inside fastballs. Stanton wouldn’t bite on two down-and-away sliders to even the count 2-and-2. But, fearless as usual, Hawkins blew away Stanton inside with a 94 mph. fastball.

At 40, most teams might consider Hawkins an afterthought in constructing a bullpen, but he still has the fastball plus the guile that can’t be measured by a radar gun.

Not only does he get the job done, but he’s an invaluable and calming influence to the younger relievers and in the clubhouse.

My favorite Hawkins moment came at mid-season when the Mets – including manager Terry Collins – danced around the Jordany Valdespin saga. However, Hawkins, a proud veteran, called it as he saw it and wouldn’t let the immature Valdespin off the hook.

Meanwhile, Feliciano doesn’t throw in the 90s, but is still an effective lefty specialist and last night closed the eighth by getting Christian Yelich on a grounder to second.

If used properly – which is to say sparingly and not wear him out – Feliciano is still a plus.

The Mets don’t know Parnell’s availability next year after undergoing neck surgery. They must assume they won’t have him, at least at the start.

They’ll need a closer and Black, who throws in the mid-90s, could emerge as the choice. In preparing for next season, Collins should use Black in as many pressure situations as possible.

Of course, the bullpen key for 2014 is Parnell. If healthy, the three could slot in behind him and GM Sandy Alderson’s bullpen reclamation would be halfway done.

The key to a strong bullpen is having quality starters capable of working deep into the game as Niese did last night. The fewer innings the bullpen works, the more effective.

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Aug 29

Mets Wrap: When Will They Appreciate Daniel Murphy?

When it comes to Daniel Murphy, the New York Mets always seem to think they might have a faster gun. Murphy, a natural third baseman, couldn’t find a home in left field or first base, but the past two seasons appears to have settled in at second base.

However, just as he seems to be taking to the position, the Mets haven’t been able to resist other options. Justin Turner has been there to give him a rest; Eric Young played when Murphy briefly replaced Ike Davis at first; Jordany Valdespin got a week audition after his tantrum; and Wilmer Flores got a chance as part of the Mets’ youth movement.

MURPHY: Huge game vs. Phillies. (AP)

MURPHY: Huge game vs. Phillies. (AP

“I’d like to think of myself as a young guy, too,’’ said the 28-year-old Murphy after today’s four-hit, two-RBI outburst in an 11-3 rout of the Phillies.

Manager Terry Collins said Murphy has been tired, hitting just .233 in August, with two extra-base hits – both homers – in his previous 31 games before two doubles today. Collins said yesterday’s start with Flores was to give Murphy a rest and not meant as his job was in jeopardy.

But, that’s not the thinking of others. In talking about finding a spot for Andrew Brown, Mets analyst Bob Ojeda suggested left field and moving Young to second. In where Flores might play, regardless of what Collins said, second is the spot first mentioned.

However, in analyzing the Mets’ holes needing to be filled for 2014, there are other positions ahead of ahead of Murphy at second that are more pressing. They’ll need another starter or two if Harvey can’t pitch, and the bullpen is always an issue, especially if Bobby Parnell isn’t ready.

The Mets also have questions at shortstop and the outfield.

As for Murphy, he was named in trade rumors at the end of July, and he’s still on the table as the waiver deadline nears.

But, in the end the Mets could do far worse than playing Murphy at second base.

WRIGHT REHAB: David Wright said he wanted to play again this season before leaving to Port St. Lucie to continue his rehab. Wright also spoke to the Phillies’ Michael Young about how he rehabbed his hamstring injury. Young stressed that regardless of his rehab, it’s different and tenuous when he gets into games.

“I don’t want the next time I’m on the field to be in spring training with the uncertainty,’’ Wright said. “This is what I do. I want to play. It’s against pretty much everything I believe in to shut the season down and get ready for next season. I want to get back and join my teammates and help them finish strong.’’

METS MUSINGS: GM Sandy Alderson said surgery hasn’t been determined on Matt Harvey‘s tear in his UCL. Harvey consulted with the Phillies’ Roy Halladay, who had a similar injury that didn’t require surgery. Harvey will get a second opinion after the swelling goes down. … Carlos Torres was terrific giving up one run on four hits in 6.2 innings with six strikeouts and no walks. … Reliever Vic Black was the player-to-be-named-later in the deal with Pittsburgh. … Young had three hits including a three-run triple. … Catcher Anthony Recker hit a two-run homer on his 30th birthday. … Matt den Dekker was hitless in five at-bats with two strikeouts in his major league debut.

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Jul 02

Mets Would Be Foolish To Deal Jeremy Hefner

Matt Harvey isn’t the only New York Mets pitcher not receiving any support from his hitters. The true measure of how well Jeremy Hefner has pitched this year isn’t found in his 2-6 record, but 3.72 ERA. Hefner has arguably been the Mets’ second most effective starter behind Harvey, which should mute any trade discussions.

HEFNER: Having understated season. (AP)

HEFNER: Having understated season. (AP)

Hefner, tonight’s starter against Arizona, was 1-1 in June with three no-decisions despite a 1.80 ERA. The Mets gave him all of nine runs for the month, including just one in his previous start, last Thursday in Denver.

Conversely, Hefner has given up 14 runs in his last four starts, with nine of them unearned, so he’s getting it on both ends. Hefner took a no-decision in the Colorado start, but didn’t go away discouraged.

“I knew that I could pitch this way,’’ Hefner said that day in Denver. “My performance is finally matching up to the expectation. This doesn’t surprise me. I know I’m capable of doing this. So it’s not a shock to me.’’

Hefner is one of the most quietly, unassuming players on the Mets, if not in all of baseball. He’s quick to assume responsibility and point the finger at himself rather than rip his teammates.

It was thought Hefner would be bounced from the rotation in the wake of Zack Wheeler’s promotion, but the Mets would be thrilled if the rookie matched Hefner’s performance.

It has also been speculated the Mets might attempt to deal Hefner at the trade deadline, but with Jon Niese injured, and he pitching better than Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee having some health issues, the Mets could regret losing him.

Here’s tonight’s lineup behind Hefner:

Eric Young, 2B: Daniel Murphy rests against LHP Patrick Corbin, so Young moves into the infield.

Juan Lagares, CF: Glad to see his speed was moved to the top of the order.

David Wright, 3B: Leads Giants Pablo Sandoval by almost 900,000 votes for All-Star start.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Nobody could have guessed 12 homers and 40 at the end of the season, let alone in the first week of July.

Josh Satin, 1B: Has consecutive three-hit games to take advantage of Ike Davis not being here.

Andrew Brown, LF: Drove in tying and winning runs last night in the 13th inning.

Anthony Recker, C: They can’t help but start him after John Buck caught 13 innings last night.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Had three hits last night and is making all the plays in the field. Has played better than Ruben Tejada at any time this year.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Has ten quality starts, second behind Matt Harvey’s 14.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 26

It’s Shaun Marcum Day!

Nope, I couldn’t write the headline with a straight face. I tried, but Shaun Marcum’s start in his first year with the New York Mets is reaching historic proportions. To the point of being humorous if it weren’t so aggravating.

Marcum, who has had several strong relief performances, but generally has pitched in bad luck and an inability to avoid the big inning, will be going for his first victory of the season. It is almost impossible to believe he’s 0-9. One would think he’d win one by accident.

MARCUM: Sooner of later he has to win, right?

MARCUM: Sooner of later he has to win, right?

Only two pitchers in club history to have a worse start than Marcum are Anthony Young (0-13 in 1993) and Bob Miller (0-12 in 1962).

It was thought Marcum’s $4-million salary might save him from being bounced from the rotation, but that issue never materialized when Jon Niese was placed on the disabled list.

I still maintain Marcum could have some value to a contender in that he’s giving roughly five innings a start and his record is largely indicative of a lack of support.

Since it is clear the Mets will not bring him back, they should get whatever they can for him.

After the game, the Mets fly to Colorado for a make-up game. Terry Collins is saying that’s the day he’ll give a day off to David Wright, who is in the line-up today against left-hander John Danks.

Here’s tonight’s batting order:

Eric Young, LF: Is the tenth and hopefully last leadoff hitter used by the Mets. Is batting .360 (9-for-25) in six games with the Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: In a bit of a slump, hitting .179 (7-for-39) in his last ten games.

David Wright, 3B: Takes a seven-game hitting streak into tonight’s game. Overall he’s crushing the ball, hitting .359 (14-for-39) on the trip.

Marlon Byrd, RF: One of the few Mets to hit for power with 11 homers and 36 RBI. Is playing good defense and has more than justified his signing. He’s a chip the Mets could dangle in front of a contender.

Josh Satin, 1B: Very glad to see him get a shot at first base. When Ike Davis returns, which could be Thursday, he could go back to Triple-A Las Vegas.

John Buck, C: Has played in 60 of Mets’ 73 games. Yes, he’s tired as reflected in his 36 RBI, with 25 of them coming in April. Has only three homers since April.

Andrew Brown, DH: Has three homers in limited time with Mets.

Juan Lagares, CF: This guy can play center field. There’s no question about his defense, but the issue is whether he can consistently hit. Is batting .286 (8-for-28) on the trip.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Is batting .333 over his last eight games and making most of the plays in the field. Funny we don’t hear much about Ruben Tejada’s rehab.

Shaun Marcum, RHP: Is 3-0 lifetime against the White Sox.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 21

Sandy Alderson Doing Mets Disservice With Ike Davis Decision

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ALDERSON DOING METS A DISSERVICE IN STAYING WITH DAVIS

Perhaps Sandy Alderson knew of Andrew Brown’s strained oblique when he said there was nothing imminent about sending Ike Davis to the minor leagues. Assuming he did not, it is puzzling as to why he’s in no hurry to ship out his struggling first baseman.

Eventually, Alderson said, “everything comes to a head at some point,’’ but evidently it is not hitting .156 two months into the season. Either are Davis’ other miserable numbers.

Alderson said he’s interested not in results, but good at-bats. Sounds good in theory, but that won’t happen if Davis’ thinking doesn’t change, and there’s no indication of it happening soon.

About the minor leagues, Davis said that would not help because he needs to learn to hit at this level. Davis insists he’s a home run hitter, that he likes to hit home runs and strikeouts are part of the equation.

I can’t scream “that’s crap,’’ loud enough. Davis is so married to his pull-everything approach that improvement is almost impossible to attain.

Davis’ extraordinary wide stance offers no alternatives but to lunge, and he doesn’t have the discipline to lay off breaking balls down and away and fastballs up in the zone. Davis’ mechanics and approach must be torn down and built back up. It could take a month for that to happen, and it shouldn’t be a month up here.

Incredibly, Davis said he’s having positive at-bats, that in Chicago he just missed driving a few balls. But, the fact is he missed those pitches so they can’t be considered good at-bats. It isn’t as if he’s hit a lot of balls on the screws or driven them to the warning track.

Davis was 1-for-24 on the trip to St. Louis and Chicago; is hitting .103 (4-for-39) with runners in scoring position; and is on pace for 177 strikeouts.

So, you tell me how his getting out of his funk.

When he first came up, Davis showed a willingness to go to the opposite field. There’s none of that now.

Davis said he’s still playing good defense, but he’s delusional there, too. He should have been given an error when he short-armed Ruben Tejada’s wild throw in the dirt in Chicago. The ball did not take a short hop and was something he should have snared.

He was also flat out lazy Monday night on a obstruction call that opened the door to a big inning for Cincinnati in the first inning.

Davis’ head isn’t screwed on straight and he’s fallen into a myriad of bad habits that preclude good at-bats. Davis anticipates getting a month to work out of his funk, but how much lower will the Mets sink in that time?

For the past three years, the Mets had to settle for lousy at-bats and performance from Jason Bay because of his salary. Currently, Alderson plans to have the Mets settling from horrid performance from Davis despite a manageable contract.

OK, Brown is out, but what about Zach Lutz? What about making a move and adding Josh Satin to the 40-man roster?

It doesn’t matter what they do, except for standing pat, and Alderson hasn’t given a good reason for choosing that route. That decision is doing a disservice to the Mets and not helping Davis any, either.

As usual, your comments are always welcome and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos