Jun 03

Rushing Cespedes Smacks Of Desperation

If it was late August and the Mets were five games behind, I might see rushing Yoenis Cespedes off the disabled list. If he could save their season and give them a realistic shot at the postseason, then, why not?

But, they are not. They aren’t even close. Before today’s game, the Mets trailed Washington by 11 games and were nine games out of the second wild card.

ALDERSON: No need to rush Cespedes. (AP)

ALDERSON: No need to rush Cespedes. (AP)

I might be inclined to push the envelope with Cespedes if it meant improving the Mets’ offense, but that’s not even their biggest weakness. The Mets never thought pitching – both starters and relievers – would be what’s holding them back.

Cespedes originally tweaked his left hamstring, April 20, against Philadelphia. The Mets originally said he would miss at least four games, but instead of placing him on the 10-day disabled list, they foolishly kept him on the active list. He missed three games, then after an off-day and rainout, rushed him back.

Cespedes played in two games, reinjured the hamstring April 27 and went on the disabled list the following day.

He hasn’t played since.

Cespedes has had two “setbacks,” including one last weekend. Even so, GM Sandy Alderson said the hope is for him to be activated when the Mets are in Texas, June 6, where he can be the designated hitter.

Manager Terry Collins said Cespedes is “making strides,’’ although the best he’s doing now is jogging.

Cespedes needs to run full speed; change speeds and direction in the outfield; and run the bases. He’s still a week away from doing those things, before he plays at least a week of minor league games.

That is, if Alderson wants to handle this the right way. Anything else is asking for trouble. Forcing Cespedes back now with so much of the season remaining is foolish.

It smacks of desperation.

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 25

Mets Wrap: Conforto Should Stay At No. 3 Against Finnegan

When Terry Collins moved Michael Conforto to the third slot in the batting order, he left open the possibility of moving him against a left-hander.

Conforto ripped three more hits Monday night’s 5-3 victory over Cincinnati – including a homer in the first – but with left-hander Brandon Finnegan going Tuesday for the Reds, what will Collins do?

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

Here’s hoping he lost his righty-lefty book and keeps Conforto batting third. Most importantly, you don’t want Collins messing with a hot hitter and giving even the slightest hint of not having complete confidence in Conforto against left-handers.

Maybe, against Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner – the Giants are in this weekend – Conforto might move, but against Finnegan?

That would make no sense.

In going 3-for-3 with a walk, Conforto is hitting .378 (14-for-37) with eight runs scored, five doubles, three homers and eight RBI since moving to the No. 3 spot. He’s hitting .333 overall without even a whisper of a reason why he should be moved.

Even if Yoenis Cespedes can play Tuesday, Conforto should stay third. He said he’s always hit third and relishes the role. Those aren’t reasons why he should stay there. He should stay because he’s the best player for that role, even over Cespedes.

Tell me, the Mets have a runner on third with one out, who would you rather have at the plate, Cespedes of Conforto?

“It’s where you want to be,’’ Conforto told reporters about hitting third. ““You have to be a guy who uses the whole field,’’ Conforto said. “You have to have a good [hitting] zone and be able to shrink that and you want to be a guy who tends to hit well in big situations, a guy who drives runs in, you have to make sure those situations don’t get too big.’’

Third is the spot where a team traditionally bats its best hitter. Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays usually hit third in another era, as did Keith Hernandez for the 1986 champion Mets. Barry Bonds and a healthier David Wright most recently flourished hitting third.

I’m not saying Conforto will turn into an elite player like them – in his wildest dreams he probably hasn’t considered it – but he is the Mets’ best overall hitter.

“He drove in big runs, that’s why he’s hitting third,’’ Collins said.

Conforto spent a lot of time this winter working on situations a No. 3 would face, such as pulling inside fastballs; cutting down his hitting zone on specific counts; and hitting the ball on the ground or in the air depending on the game situation.

Collins said Conforto would likely be the Mets’ long-term No. 3 hitter. Don’t change things now.

METS GAME WRAP

 Game: #18 Record: 11-7 Streak: W4

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard labored most of the night, but home runs from Conforto, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker gave the Mets their fourth straight victory.

KEY MOMENT: Walker’s two-run homer in the seventh. When the Mets were on defense in the eighth fans chanted Walker’s name. Sweet.

THUMBS UP: Two hits, including a two-run homer in the third from Lucas Duda. … Logan Verrett struck out Ivan De Jesus with the go-ahead runner on third to end the seventh. … A 1-2-3- eighth in relief from Addison Reed. … Twelve strikeouts from Mets’ pitchers, including nine from Syndergaard. … A 1-2-3 stress-free ninth from Jeurys Familia.

THUMBS DOWN: The Reds stole five bases against the Syndergaard-Travis d’Arnaud battery. … Antonio Bastardo had a blown save. … Mets’ hitters struck out 10 times. … An 0-for-4 night from Wright with two strikeouts. … They were 1-for-9 with RISP. … d’Arnaud left the game with a sore right shoulder. Collins said it is too early to project it being a DL situation.

EXTRA INNINGS: The homer was Walker’s eighth of the month, the most he’s ever hit in a month. … The Mets have won nine of their last 11 games. … They have scored in the first inning in eight of their last ten games. … They’ve won nine straight against the Reds.

QUOTEBOOK: “That was pretty awesome,’’ Walker on he crowd chanting his name after his homer.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28: Mets’ homers in 18 games.

NEXT FOR METS: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 2.89) starts for the Mets against Reds’ Finnegan (1-1, 3.74). Colon gave up three runs in six innings with a no-decision in his last start, April 20, at Philadelphia. Colon in 4-1 with a 3.77 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.

Apr 20

April 20, Mets’ Lineup At Philadelphia

The Mets behind Bartolo Colon go for the series sweep at Philadelphia tonight. Before we get carried away about how the Mets are pulverizing the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park, please remember it isn’t just the ballpark, but the Phillies’ incredibly bad pitching.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Curtis Granderson – RF

David Wright – 3B

Michael Conforto – LF

Yoenis Cespedes – CF

Lucas Duda – 1B

Neil Walker – 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Colon – RHP

COMMENTS: Despite Walker’s recent tear, I am glad manager Terry Collins resisted the temptation to tinker with the lineup and move him up. Perhaps it is because everybody is hitting, too, but it shows consistency and that’s a good thing. … I never cared much for Wright hitting second, but he’s no longer the Mets’ only big bat, so second is fine. Just keep Conforto third.

Please follow me on Twitter.

Apr 20

April 20.10: Chat Room, Game #14 vs. Cubs: Staying on a roll?

Jerry Manuel said he’ll keep an eye on Mike Pelfrey tonight as he his pitching for the third time in six days in an effort to give the Mets two straight wins for the first time this season.

Last Thursday he pitched seven shutout innings in beating the Rockies and Saturday worked an inning of relief in the 20-inning marathon against St. Louis.

Remember how woeful the Mets were the first week of the season? Well, that’s the Cubs right now. This is the team the Mets should get well against.

Here’s the line-up for the Mets (5-8):

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Ike Davis, 1B
Angel Pagan, CF
Henry Blanco, C
Mike Pelfrey, RP

SOME THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS: Will be interesting to see how Reyes responds from his day off. First thing I thought of when I heard he requested last night off was a thyroid reaction. … I’m waiting for Wright to take off at the plate. Some tentative at-bats lately. … Also waiting on Bay. He hit the ball yesterday, but still looking for the long ball. … Francoeur needs a hit to snap out of a slide. Those long games have sent many players into slumps. … Looks like to the center field platoon is no more. … Blanco is with Pelfrey because they worked so well the last time. Could it be permanent?

NOTE: I am taking my class tonight so I’ll miss the start of the game. Should be back around nine. I hope you guys pick up the flow.