Aug 26

Mets This Week: Watching Wheeler And Listening To Buck Offers

The New York Mets never made it over the hump en route to .500, and after being swept – better yet, mauled – by the Tigers, this week is about licking wounds and finding a positive heading into the last month.

The Mets are in serious danger of giving up third place to the Phillies, who are in for four games. But, that’s just cosmetic stuff.

WHEELER: Watching him closely. (AP)

WHEELER: Watching him closely. (AP)

The meat of the week is how they treat Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, who’ll bookend the Phillies series. Wheeler has worked into the seventh in two of his last three starts, and went over 100 pitches in his last four games.

Terry Collins has not said what Wheeler’s limit will be tonight. One thing he won’t do, with rain in the forecast, is bring him back after a delay, so theoretically they could lose Wheeler’s start after two innings.

The Mets want to limit innings for Wheeler and Harvey, but haven’t come up with a definitive plan. They have not but a cap on a game, and seem to be hoping for off-days, of which they only have two remaining.

But, one is trumped because of a double header.

Harvey said he was gassed after Saturday’s loss, which puts him and the Mets in a difficult spot: How do they limit his innings, yet at the same time try to build him up to pitch in September?

I’m interested to see if the Mets don’t push Harvey back a day into the Washington series or skip him altogether.

Jonathon Niese starts Tuesday, his fourth since coming off the disabled list with a slight tear. Niese went seven innings in his last start and six in the previous two. He struck out nine hitters in his last two starts, showing there’s nothing wrong with his shoulder.

Even so, I’d be surprised if the Mets aren’t careful with him.

Getting the ball Wednesday will be Daisuke Matsuzaka, who gets mixed reviews from his Mets’ debut. On the down side, he gave up five runs in five innings. However, he retired the last ten batters he faced, so that is five runs in two innings.

The Mets get lefties Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, tonight and Wednesday, respectively, so which lefty-hitting first baseman gets to play, Lucas Duda or Ike Davis?

One thing for certain, is we’ll continue to see plenty of Travis d’Arnaud this week, and the Mets hope, for the next few years. That means seeing less of John Buck.

Buck has been terrific this year in what the Mets asked him to do, and since he showed there’s still pop in his bat, he’s going to want to play.

So, off the field, the Mets might have to decide if they are satisfied with d’Arnaud, Anthony Recker and whomever, and try to swing a waiver deal for Buck.

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

Aug 17

Mets’ Terry Collins Deserves To Stay

The firing of Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel has put Terry Collins’ status with the New York Mets into the forefront.

The sacking of Manuel demonstrates once again baseball is widely unfair. After a long playoff run, which included several trips to the World Series, followed by a run of injuries from Chase Utley to Ryan Howard to Roy Halladay, the Phillies are south of the Mets, both in the standings and on the map.

COLLINS: Merits another introductory press conference.

COLLINS: Merits another introductory press conference.

So naturally, Manuel is out.

Collins, in the final season of his contract, could finish 2013 with his third straight losing year the Mets’ fifth overall, but is expected to get an extension because of how well the team has performed despite not adding significant pieces and substantial injuries.

After winning the first two games of the San Diego series, the Mets are eight games below .500, but have a reasonable chance of finishing even, but second place appears less likely.

Should the Mets lose the remainder of their games they would have 106 losses, a number many predicted of them heading into the season.

However, with several key injuries – including David Wright, Jon Niese, Johan Santana and Bobby Parnell – a patchwork bullpen and outfield, and dreadful slump of Ike Davis, the Mets adjusted on the fly and are playing competitive ball.

For the most part, the Mets have played well fundamentally, while breaking in a new outfield, and always seem to play hard for him. Collins has had several head-scratching moments, but has generally been solid.

When teams hustle and keep their heads in the game, it indicates the manager has things under control. Collins definitely merits an opportunity to stay now that resources have been promised.

Also working in Collins’ favor is nearly half the roster is different than what he left spring training with, and he’s had to juggle with 92 different line-ups in 120 games. That is almost incomprehensible.

The Mets appeared to have answered five significant spots this season, including positives in the development of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler; Parnell’s acclimation to the closer role; and the additions of outfielders Eric Young and Juan Lagares.

There have been other positives, such as the catching tandem of John Buck and Anthony Recker; the mostly solid play of Daniel Murphy at second base; and the play of Marlon Byrd in right field and Omar Quintanilla at shortstop.

There remain several holes and questions, but overall Collins deserves to be in that dugout next season. Not only that, he needs to stay.

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

Jul 24

Jeremy Hefner Trying To Rebound From Last Start

It is amazing how a team starts getting greedy when it starts playing better. For example, had Bobby Parnell not blown Monday’s save opportunity they would be trying tonight to clinch this series with Atlanta.

After being 15 games under .500, the Mets are again eight below. Several times they’ve been here, but unable to reach seven and get on a roll that would legitimatize their prospects of a successful season.

HEFNER: Trying to rebound after mauling by Phillies. (AP)

HEFNER: Trying to rebound after mauling by Phillies. (AP)

Jeremy Hefner, who sizzled going into the break, was hammered by Philadelphia last Friday. Hefner has 13 quality starts to highlight a staff with a 3.20 ERA since May 26. Collectively, the staff has given up four earned runs in the last 36 innings, or since Hefner’s game coming out of the break.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Eric Young, LF: Is 2-for-18 on the homestand. Has .280 average since joining Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hitting just .244 at Citi Field.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .350 since the break. Ranks fifth in the NL with a .395 on-base percentage.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Leads the Mets with 17 homers.

Ike Davis, 1B: Hitting .385 on the homestand, but only .191 at home for the season.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Batting just .192 with RISP.

Anthony Recker, C: Has five homers, four of which have either tied the game or given the Mets the lead.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Only 1-for-15 on the homestand, and batting .122 over his last 12 games.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Is 0-1 with a 5.85 ERA in three career games against Atlanta.

GAME NOTES: Mets are 6-4 in their last ten games. … The Mets have come from behind 22 times to win. … Since Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler combined in a doubleheader sweep of the Braves, June 18, the Mets are 19-12, for the best record in the NL East. Philly and Miami are each 15-14, the Braves are 14-16 and Washington is 14-17. … The Mets’ bullpen has a 2.45 ERA in eight July games. The pen has 13 blown save opportunities. … Scott Rice hasn’t given up a run in 13 of his last 14 appearances. … Eight inherited runners have scored off Scott Atchison, the most on the team. … Tonight will be the Mets’ 74th different batting order in 97 games. … Wright’s next homer will be his 220th, to tie Mike Piazza for second in club history. Darryl Strawberry is first with 252. … The Mets are 7-8 in walk-off games.

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

Jul 12

Jeremy Hefner On Roll For Mets

There is a likeable quality to New York Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner. He’s modest and unassuming, and has been stand-up in the bad times.

However, recently it’s been good times for Hefner, Friday’s starter in Pittsburgh, who will be trying for his eighth straight strong outing. Hefner is coming off a one-run performance in seven innings last weekend in Milwaukee. Hefner has 12 quality starts, and had he any support earlier this year might have a winning record.

HEFNER: On a roll. (AP)

HEFNER: On a roll. (AP)

Roughly a month ago Hefner appeared the odd-man out in making room for Zack Wheeler, but his roster spot was preserved because of injuries to Jon Niese and Shaun Marcum.

Hefner told ESPN he knew he was vulnerable.

“I was maybe one or two bad starts from being in Las Vegas,’’ Hefner said. “So something had to change.’’

In seven starts since June 4, Hefner has a 1.64 ERA, which is better than Harvey over a similar span. He has given up two earned runs or fewer in those seven starts. The Mets have won his last five starts.

Hefner said he didn’t feel pressure in his turnaround: “It was a challenge for me. And I embraced it. And I’m doing pretty good.’’

Part of his turnaround is mechanical, in that he twists his torso to give the hitter a glance at his back. The intent was deception, but the bonus was increased velocity.

Hefner is one of the Mets’ bright spots this season. There’s some talk about him being dealt to a contender, but the Mets are better off keeping him because they don’t know if Niese will need surgery and Marcum is gone for the year.

Hefner moved up the pecking order for a promotion during spring training when it was apparent Jenrry Mejia wasn’t going to be healthy. Mejia is pitching in Double-A and is scheduled to pitch six innings Saturday. Apparently, there was no thought of bringing him up to replace Harvey that day.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup tonight behind Hefner against the Pirates’ Charlie Morton:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Ike Davis, 1B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

METS MUSINGS: Reliever Frank Francisco – remember him? – pitched one inning in a Gulf Coast League game over the weekend. He gave up an unearned run on one hit with on strikeout. Francisco is recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow. Francisco is making $6.5 million this season and is not in the Mets’ plans.

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

Jul 03

Mets Lineup, July 3, Against Arizona

Fireworks at Citi Field tonight following Matt Harvey’s start against Arizona. The New York Mets will attempt to make it three straight against the Diamondbacks and fall inside of ten games under .500.

Here’s tonight’s lineup behind Harvey:

Eric Young, LF: Hitting .321 (18-for-56) since joining the Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Takes a six-game hitting streak into the game.

David Wright, 3B: Ranks fourth in NL with .392 on-base percentage.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Hitting .274 with RISP.

Josh Satin, 1B: Takes an eight-game hitting streak into the game.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Is hitting .133 (4-for-30) since coming up from Triple-A Vegas.

John Buck, C: This is hard to understand. Anthony Recker had two hits, including a homer last night and doesn’t get a start. What’s wrong with rewarding performance? Buck is hitting .170 since May 5.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Has seven hits in his last four games.

Matt Harvey, RHP: One of only three pitchers to throw at least five innings in each of his 27 career starts.