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

Mets Waste Jeremy Hefner’s Effort

The Mets (2-2) received their fourth straight solid outing from the rotation, but Jeremy Hefner’s effort was wasted as the offense disappeared and the bullpen was hit hard for the second time in four games in tonight’s 7-5 loss to Miami. The Mets have lost two straight after opening the season with two victories over San Diego. Miami won for the first time.

MURPHY: Homered.

MURPHY: Homered.

ON THE MOUND:  Hefner surrendered a homer to Greg Dobbs, the only run he allowed in six innings. The Mets will take that every time. What they can’t accept was what the bullpen combination of Greg Burke and Scott Rice did, giving up four runs on three hits and a walk in the five-run seventh inning to break the game open. … Overall, the Mets’ pen gave up six runs.

AT THE PLATE:  Jordany Valdespin started in center and at the leadoff position and singled. He was also picked off first base. … Daniel Murphy hit a three-run homer in the seventh. … Ike Davis has started the season on a 1-for-16 slide. … The Mets stranded 12 runners.

IN THE FIELD:  Sparkling plays by David Wright and Ruben Tejada. Few make the barehanded scoop-and-throw as well as Wright. … Tejada made a costly throwing error that opened the door to the Marlins’ five-run seventh. It was his third in four games.

METS MUSINGS: Shaun Marcum was scheduled to return to Port St. Lucie and will be shut down for a couple of days. Don’t expect to see him any time soon. … Look for Anthony Recker to start in place of John Buck tomorrow afternoon.

ON DECK: Saturday, RHP Ricky Nolasco vs. LHP Jon Niese, 1:10 p.m., SNY/WFAN

Apr 01

Like It Or Not, Terry Collins Has His Team

COLLINS: Over/under when he stops smiling.

COLLINS: Over/under when he stops smiling.

The sun broke through the blinds this morning as it always does, but there was a different feel to the day. There was a chill in the air and patches of plowed snow remain, but one sensed summer.

It is Opening Day, and as I wrote yesterday, Major League Baseball doesn’t know what it has with this day. Fortunately, every one of us does.

We all know why the first game of the season is special to us. To many, Opening Day is the real New Year’s Day.

My favorite Opening Day was when my father took my brother and I out of school to watch the Indians. The teachers didn’t like the idea, but my father said we’d get more out of the game than that day at school.

He was right. He’s gone now, but that day was one of my favorite memories of him. I can’t say I remember in detail any particular day in grade school. The Indians won that afternoon, but went on to have a long and disappointing summer.

See, I grew up on bad baseball.

We don’t know what will happen with the Mets, but the conventional thinking is it will be a long year, but there are reasons to watch. By far, the most important being the Mets are your team and you always follow your team.

I never bought the term “die hard fan’’ because it insinuates an ending and giving up. You never give up on your team. They’ll always be your team for a reason, and if you’d like to comment on why the Mets are your team it would be great to read.

Like it or not, Terry Collins has his team, and here’s the batting order against San Diego:

Collin Cowgill, CF: Beat out Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jordany Valdespin for the job because he’s the best combination of offense and defense.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Dodged the disabled list to start. His patience and bat control are suited for the No. 2 spot in the order.

David Wright, 3B: Your best hitter in terms of average and power hits third. There’s no debate here.

Ike Davis, 1B: If he can put two halves together he might approach 40 homers and 120 RBI. He has that kind of power.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Spring training pick-up makes the team and beat out Mike Baxter for the starting job. Slotted fifth to keep Davis and Lucas Duda separated in the order.

Lucas Duda, LF: Moves over from right field. Spotty defender, but the Mets are waiting for a breakout year with his power.

John Buck, C: Holding the fort until Travis d’Arnaud gets here. Hate to say this on Opening Day, but if d’Arnaud comes up early and plays well, Buck could be desired at the trade deadline.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Coming off miserable spring training at the plate. Needs to show last year’s offense wasn’t a fluke.

Jon Niese, LHP: There’s no more debate, with Johan Santana gone he’s No. 1. Mets are counting on more than his career-high 13 wins.

METS OPENING DAY ROSTER

When the Mets are introduced this afternoon, there will be only nine players who were on last year’s Opening Day roster: Murphy, Wright, Davis, Duda and Ruben Tejada were in the lineup; Baxter was on the bench; Niese and Dillon Gee were in the rotation; and Bobby Parnell was the only reliever.

Come to think of it, for a team that seemingly didn’t do anything in the off-season, the Mets were busy.

Here’s this year’s roster:

Catchers (2): Buck, Anthony Recker.

Infielders (5): Murphy, Wright, Davis, Tejada, Justin Turner.

Outfielders (6): Valdespin, Cowgill, Byrd, Duda, Nieuwenhuis, Baxter.

Pitchers (12):  Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, LaTroy Hawkins, Parnell, Niese, Gee, Jeremy Hefner, Scott Rice, Greg Burke, Josh Edgin, Scott Atchison, Brandon Lyon.

METS THIS WEEK

This title will be a weekly feature throughout the year.

The Mets host the Padres for three games starting with Opening Day and Niese going against Edinson Volquez. Harvey moves up to the second spot in the rotation and faces Clayton Richard on Wednesday, and it will be Gee against Eric Stults Thursday afternoon.

The Miami Marlins are in over the weekend.

On Tuesday, Santana will have surgery on his left shoulder in a last ditch effort to salvage his career. You’ve seen the last of Santana as a Met, but he will be rehabbing in Port St. Lucie. That’s a lonely and hot place to spend the summer.

ON DECK: Mets over/under for the 2013 season.

Mar 22

Santana To Stay Back; Wright, Marcum Updates

The Mets finally confirmed the obvious and said Johan Santana won’t be on the Opening Day roster. Considering he hadn’t thrown since his look-at-me-I’m-angry stunt, March 6, there was no suspense to this move.

“He’s not where he needs to be in his long-toss program,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters in one of spring trainings’ biggest understatements. “Even if it’s next week, he’s not going to open with us. He’s going to have to get himself ready. And that’s going to certainly determine on a daily basis where he is. But we’ll be gone. I’ll have to monitor it by the phone.’’

Collins said Santana is staying in Port St. Lucie until he’s ready, which could be up to a month. Collins dodged the inevitable question of whether Santana’s stunt sabotaged his efforts to be ready.

“It’s hard to say it was a setback. I just think he wanted to prove his arm was OK, that his arm was healthy,’’ Collins said. “Instead of trying to make sure and not let all this other stuff bother him, he got angry about it.

“We needed to go back to step one again. At that particular time that was his way of making sure everybody knew his shoulder was fine, that he wasn’t hurt. It’s just that he wasn’t ready to pitch. So now we’ve got to get him ready to pitch.’’

That Collins said they had to return to step one was a roundabout way of saying it was a setback without really saying it. But, Collins, who’ll need Santana this summer, wouldn’t come out and ruffle the feathers of his lefthanded diva.

Not sounding believable, Collins said he didn’t care about the past and was only worried about the future with Santana. Collins will save it for the book to tell us what he really feels.

WRIGHT UPDATE: David Wright, who is expected to join Santana on the disabled list, began stretching and strength-building exercises.

Wright strained his intercostal muscle while at the World Baseball Classic and said he’s hopeful of being ready by Opening Day. At the time the injury was revealed last Thursday, Collins estimated Wright would be out at least a month.

With a week to go, the odds are greater of Wright being re-injured than they are of him being ready.

Should Wright be cleared for a game, it will be in a minor league to backdate him to the disabled list ten days from the end of spring training.

MARCUM UPDATE: Assuming he is ready, Shaun Marcum will pitch Thursday against Washington. Not sure this is the right move.

If Marcum pitches and is injured and has to go on the disabled list, the Mets could only backdate it to Friday and could miss up to two starts.

Marcum received a cortisone injection in his shoulder Tuesday to relieve an impingement. If he pitches in a minor league game and is injured, the Mets could retroactive the date earlier.

If everything works out for the Mets, and that’s always a huge “if’’ with them, Jon Niese will be the Opening Day starter, followed by Marcum, Matt Harvey and then Dillon Gee. They are undecided whether to come back with Niese in the fifth game of the season or use Jeremy Hefner.

TONIGHT’S LINE-UP:

Jordany Valdespin, 2b

Collin Cowgill, cf

Mike Baxter, rf

Andrew Brown, lf

Anthony Recker, c

Brandon Hicks, 1b

Omar Quintanilla, ss

Brian Bixler, 3b

Jonathan Niese, lhp

Mar 14

Mets Lineup Against Tigers

The Mets are home to Detroit this afternoon in a game that will be seen on SNY. Here’s who’ll they’ll be watching today at Tradition Field:

Jordany Valdespin, lf

Justin Turner, 2b

Ike Davis, 1b

Marlon Byrd, dh

Mike Baxter, rf

Zach Lutz, 3b

Anthony Recker, c

Matt den Dekker, cf

Ruben Tejada, ss

Dillon Gee, rhp

LINE-UP ANALYSIS: If you examine it closely, only two players – Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada – figure to be in the Opening Day lineup. It is possible one of the three between Marlon Byrd, Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin, could also start. … I see Justin Turner and Anthony Recker making the 25-man roster as reserves. … I am pulling for Matt den Dekker to stick. … As far as the batting order goes in the regular season Tejada could hit second as easily as eighth.

NOTE: Later today I’ll post a projected everyday batting order. The word “awesome” doesn’t come immediately to mind.