Jun 18

Zack Wheeler Lives Up To Hype

Zack Wheeler is here, so the New York Mets might as well get a real good look under his hood to see how the gears in his gut work.

The Mets believe they have another young star pitcher in their midst, but were on verge of watching a scoreless debut unravel. At the time, a Mets’ 6-1 victory and doubleheader sweep of the first-place Braves seemed highly unlikely.

WHEELER: Wins debut. (AP)

WHEELER: Wins debut. (AP)

The Braves had two on with one out in the sixth inning and Wheeler’s pitch count was approaching 100. The sixth was to be Wheeler’s last, but this time Terry Collins did not pull him so the rookie starter would have a “good feeling about himself.’’

No, Collins let Wheeler earn that good feeling by himself. Wheeler’s debut was already remarkably good, but he iced it by blowing away Dan Uggla for his seventh strikeout and getting Chris Johnson on a pop-up to second base.

It was a moment Wheeler will no doubt reflect on tonight before he falls asleep – if he falls asleep – and perhaps constantly before his next start.

Wheeler threw an emotional and encouraging 102 pitches, but only 55 of them were strikes, so that’s something he’ll work on. Six scoreless innings from Wheeler, giving up four hits and five walks.

Control was forecast to be an issue for Wheeler. It was in Las Vegas and was tonight, but that should be correctable over time. However, what can’t be taught are his 97 mph., fastball and composure to work out of trouble.

Wheeler walked two in the first, but got B.J. Upton on an inning-ending fielder’s choice. That inning could have gotten away from him easily.

Uggla hit a one-out double in the second, but Wheeler struck out the next two hitters.

Atlanta had runners on the corners with two outs in the third, but Wheeler retired B.J. Upton on a fly.

Wheeler never had a 1-2-3 inning, and seemed ready for another lack-of-support no-decision by a Mets’ starter, but catcher Anthony Recker hit a two-run homer, leaving the rookie starter to hope for his bullpen.

This time, the pen held and the Mets, unbelievably added tack-on runs. Couple this with Matt Harvey’s strong first-game effort and the Mets looked like a good team. They also made us greedy thinking how sweet it would have been to get the first game of the series.

The Mets had been riding this image since last season when Harvey burst into our consciousness. They were going to build around the young pitching of Harvey and Wheeler. That feeling intensified the past few days when it was imminent Wheeler would be promoted, and for one day at least, it all worked out for the Mets.

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Jun 15

Is Jordany Valdespin Experiment Part Of Mets’ Greater Plan To Trade Ike Davis?

We are almost over with the great Jordany Valdespin experiment by the New York Mets of playing him at second and hitting leadoff.

Now what?

VALDESPIN: Is there a plan here?

VALDESPIN: Is there a plan here?

Six days doesn’t seem like a long time because it isn’t. However, Terry Collins is staying with this a lot longer than some of his other experiments such as Collin Cowgill in center; Daniel Murphy at leadoff; a half-dozen other guys hitting first. The assumption is Collins will stay with this as long as Ike Davis is in Triple-A Las Vegas, but after that, by his own admission the manager doesn’t have a plan.

The path of least resistance would have been to play first baseman Josh Satin at first and leave Murphy alone at second, a position where he’s made strides.

What will the Mets infield look like as of August 1, the day after the trade deadline? Are they showcasing Valdespin for a trade? How about Murphy? Perhaps, they are hoping Davis pulls himself out of this funk so they can trade him.

The Mets could non-tender Davis as they did Mike Pelfrey last winter and let him walk, or, they could hope he finds some life in his bat and find a taker. If Davis isn’t part of their future, there are worse options. If Davis isn’t part of their future, they should move him as soon as possible.

So, the Mets, losers of five of their last six games and eight of ten, will attempt to salvage this homestand today and Sunday before starting a killer trip that includes five games in Atlanta; three in Philadelphia; two in Chicago against the White Sox; and a make-up game in Denver, before returning home to start a three-game series with Washington.

The Mets’ next off day will be July 11, the day after a three-game series in San Francisco. The All-Star break can’t come soon enough for a team now 14 games below .500.

This afternoon, Jon Niese will attempt to start putting his season back together. Niese, 3-5, hasn’t won a start since May 16 in St. Louis, which seems ages ago. He is coming off a quality start last Sunday in a no-decision in a game lost to Miami.

Here’s Niese’s line-up, which only once in the past week scored as many as five runs:

Jordany Valdespin, 2B: Is making the most of this opportunity and to his credit is making clubhouse strides.

Daniel Murphy, 1B: Hitting just .219 in last 17 games.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .462 during homestand and .333 this year with RISP.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has 10 homers with 31 RBI. That has to interest some team.

Lucas Duda, LF: Ten of his 11 homers have been with nobody on base.

Justin Turner, SS: Giving Omar Quintanilla a rest.

Anthony Recker, C: John Buck can’t catch them all.

Juan Lagares, CF: Got a hit last night, so Collins riding the hot hand.

Jonathon Niese, LHP: Is 2-3 with a 5.61 lifetime ERA in six starts against Cubs.

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Jun 05

Mets Wrap: Dillon Gee, Marlon Byrd Power Rout Of Nationals

It hasn’t happened often this season, but tonight the Mets received strong pitching from Dillon Gee and top-to-bottom hitting to rout the Washington Nationals, 10-1. It was just the third time this year the Mets scored in double-figures.

GEE: Another strong start. (AP)

GEE: Another strong start. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Gee was again superb to beg the question: Why should he be moved from the rotation to make room for Zack Wheeler? Gee have up a run and struck out seven in seven innings. He gave up nine hits and walked a batter, but managed to escape trouble. … Greg Burke and Robert Carson each threw a scoreless inning.

AT THE PLATE: Marlon Byrd hit two homers and David Wright added one. … The Mets had 15 hits to match a season high, including going 6-for-17 with runners in scoring position. … Every starter, including Gee, had at least one hit. … Byrd and Anthony Recker drove in three runs each.

THEY SAID IT: “We needed one bad. Been in our share of close games. To have a game where you can take a breath and relax was important for us.’’ – Manager Terry Collins on getting a blowout victory.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Combined hits for Recker and Juan Lagares, both of whom entered the game hitting less than .200. … For Lagares, he had a career-high three hits.

METS MATTERS: Jon Niese threw a successful bullpen session and said he’ll be ready to make Saturday’s start against Miami at Citi Field. “How I felt then and today is night and day,’’ Niese said. … Lagares is expected to get another start Thursday.

ON DECK: Shaun Marcum (0-6) goes against Gio Gonzalez.

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May 30

Dillon Gee Pitching For Rotation Spot; Jon Niese Scratched

At one time, the Mets could count on Dillon Gee giving them five innings. They weren’t always pretty, but at least there was length.

Not so much anymore.

In ten starts this spring, he’s produced one quality start and only three times worked into the sixth or longer.

At 2-6 with a 6.34 ERA, and Jeremy Hefner pitching well and Shaun Marcum too expensive to option, Gee is pitching for his spot in the rotation as Zack Wheeler casts a shadow over the back end of the rotation.

“I’m always pitching for my job,’’ Gee said. “Nothing is guaranteed here. I know I haven’t pitched well. I have to turn things around and give us a chance to win.’’

That’s something he hasn’t done this spring as he has given up at least four runs in six starts and has given up eight homers in 49.2 innings. Gee holds a NL-high 1.73 WHIP, which is staggering when you come to think about it.

Gee will be trying to extend the Mets’ winning streak to four over the Yankees and five overall, before the team heads to Miami for the start of a three-game series beginning Friday night.

While there’s pressure on Gee, he might have caught a temporary break as Jon Niese was scratched this afternoon with tendinitis in his left shoulder. The Mets waited this long, so they won’t bring up Wheeler now, so the option is Collin McHugh to start Saturday at Miami.

The timetable for Niese is at least ten days, which could translate into a retroactive DL assignment.

Here’s the Mets’ batting order tonight against left-hander Vidal Nuno:

Justin Turner, 1B: Ike Davis’ two hits Wednesday evidently didn’t make that great of an impression as he’s sitting tonight. Bottom line: If Davis is going to play on this level, he has to hit lefties. Turner is one of seven hitters the Mets have used to lead off.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Leads team with 18 multi-hit games. He’s hitting .386 on the road.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .378 (17-45) with RISP. Has nine career homers against the Yankees, most ever by a Met.

John Buck, DH: Cooled considerably after hot start. Hit the ball hard on a line twice Wednesday night. Hit nine homers in April but only two since.

Lucas Duda, LF: Had key two-run double Wednesday night. Hitting .167 (6-36) with RISP.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Hitting just .161 (5-31) over his last ten games.

Anthony Recker, C: Hitless in 21 at-bats with RISP in his career.

Juan Lagares, CF: Has good glove, but hasn’t shown anything offensively.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Recalled this afternoon when Ruben Tejada was placed on the disabled list with a strained right quad.

Dillon Gee, RHP: Is 0-1 lifetime against Yankees.

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May 28

Mets Drop Ike Davis To Eighth In Order; Honor Mariano Rivera

Assuming the Mets play tonight, Ike Davis will bat in the eighth slot. Terry Collins didn’t give a good explanation for the drop in the order, simply saying he wanted to get Marlon Byrd in the game and separate his lefty hitters. Of course, he could do that without dropping Davis.

However, the only thing lower than batting eighth is Triple-A Las Vegas, but the Mets don’t want to go there, yet. Not sure what they are waiting for as the season is already rapidly fading away. The sooner they  send down Davis to work on his approach and mechanics, the sooner he has a chance to salvage this season.

Despite Davis’ insistence he needs to stay on the major league level, the only way he’ll break out of this is to go down. The pitchers are too good and the game is too quick for him at this level. Davis has proven he’s unable to hit breaking balls down and away, and until he does, that’s all he’ll get. Any pitcher who gives him anything but that should be fined.

Here’s tonight’s batting order:

Ruben Tejada, SS:  He’s hitting .206 this season at home and a blistering .185 (5-27) during the homestand.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hitting .316 with RISP. Has hit in 12 of his last 15 games. Was hitting .296 in the leadoff role, but he’s not there any longer. Don’t ask why.

David Wright, 3B: Homered and tripled Monday night. Hitting .372 with RISP and .353 lifetime vs. Hiroki Kuroda.

Lucas Duda, LF: Misplayed ball last night into triple. Hitting .333 (9-27) on the homestand.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has ten RBI to tie for the team lead with Wright for month of May.

Rick Ankiel, CF: Is 10-42 (.238) with two homers and six RBI in 12 games with Mets.

John Buck, C: Hit nine homers in April, but only two in May. Hasn’t had a multi-hit game since May 1.

Ike Davis, 1B:  Struck out three times Monday night. Hitting .155 with four homers and 11 RBI this year. Batting .114 (5-44) with RISP.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Gave up season-high four runs in last start. Is trying to go 6-0. Already has five no-decisions.

NOTE:  Bobby Parnell’s availability is doubtful for tonight. He’s worked the last two games, but there’s no report of any injury.

METS HONOR RIVERA: The Mets will honor Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera with a presentation from the NYPD. He’ll also have the unique distinction of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Curious as to who will catch it. No disrespect intended for back-up catcher Anthony Recker, but I assume it won’t be him. Perhaps Wright?

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