Apr 23

Mets Have Few Options To Revive Offense

Pennants aren’t usually won in April, but can be lost, which is the prospect facing the Mets. After being swept by the Nationals – losing 6-3 to Max Scherzer – they are 5.5 games behind with a week remaining in the month.

There’s a lot of time remaining, but in addition to their myriad of injuries, the Mets aren’t hitting. They are in a deep and lengthy slump with few breakout signs and don’t have many options as to how they can turn it around.

CESPEDES: DL decision coming? (AP)

CESPEDES: DL decision coming? (AP)

There’s a 10-day disabled list now, so why aren’t the Mets using it with Yoenis Cespedes? They are using it with Lucas Duda (elbow) and Wilmer Flores (knee), but heading down the same road with Cespedes’ hamstring as they did last year with his quad, when a few games turned into weeks.

When they finally made the move, GM Sandy Alderson conceded they waited too long. However, the rules were 15 days then but a more manageable ten now.

Cespedes didn’t start tonight, which the Mets anticipated. However, if he’s not ready to go Tuesday against the Braves, then it could be time to make a retroactive move. However, they should guard against being foolish enough to use him in a pinch-hit role and risk starting the clock over. The game ended with him on the on-deck circle, which was reckless.

Admittedly, the Mets aren’t deep in the minors but have prospects Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario. They don’t want to bring up either now because they don’t want the arbitration clock to start ticking. Of the two, there should be serious thought to replacing Jose Reyes with Rosario.

Money also factored into why Michael Conforto started the season on the bench behind Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce, and, while we’re at it, in light of Daniel Murphy’s first-inning grand slam off Zack Wheeler, why he’s with the Nationals. Wheeler, by the way, put it together after the first.

The Mets’ mentality that favors bucks over baseball underscores an underlying cheapness that has been always disturbing. It isn’t the approach of a championship caliber organization.

Quite simply, Conforto needs to play, and with the offense on a hiatus, I don’t see why that’s even a question. He had three more hits tonight.

Another aspect of the Mets’ approach that is lacking regards injuries. When Alderson was hired, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon vowed an overhaul of their handling of injuries, which hasn’t happened.

It is well documented four of their starters are coming off various arm surgeries. Fate or coincidence?

Collins made a point of referring to Cespedes being tightly muscled in regards to being cautious. Considering his problems last season, I wonder how serious they thought about that before re-signing him.

It’s an oversimplification to think all injuries are a product of fate or are even avoidable. Both Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera have hamstring issues. Are they doing enough stretching? It’s a legitimate question, especially in the cold.

Whatever the answer, it won’t have an immediate impact on the Mets. What will have an impact is when they’ll start hitting.

Apr 20

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Takes Responsibility For Botched Play

It is one thing to lose, but how the Mets are doing so is extremely head scratching. Their bullpen has been spotty at times, but lately it has been their lack of offense coupled with shoddy defense.

i-5Of course, if they don’t hit several home runs, they will end up wasting a strong pitching effort by one of their starters, as was the case in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Phillies at Citi Field.

The Mets committed three more errors tonight and seven for the series, and if not for Jay Bruce’s two homers Wednesday, they would have been swept at home by Philadelphia.

Instead, they lost two of three and five of their last seven, which is not the way they want to be playing with Washington coming in for three this weekend.

It is said the ball will find the inexperienced glove, but don’t blame Bruce for the mix-up at first base in the second inning that lead to three runs.

Bruce gloved Freddy Galvis’ dribbler, but his throw fell between pitcher Noah Syndergaard and second baseman Neil Walker.

Although Bruce was charged with an error, manager Terry Collins said he wasn’t to blame.

“Noah has to get over there,” Collins said. “Jay made a nice play on it.”

Syndergaard called it a freakish play, and it was, but ultimately pointed the finger at himself.

“It was a mess up from the get go,’’ Syndergaard said. “But, it is my responsibility to get over there and cover the bag.”

Another error, this time by Asdrubal Cabrera on room service double-play grounder, lead to two runs in the third.

“I can’t remember Asdrubal Cabrera missing a play like that,” lamented Collins. “The fact that we didn’t make two plays turned the tide of the game.”

Syndergaard gave them the chance to win, but Collins summed it up perfectly.

“We have to start scoring some runs,” Collins said. “We have to start playing better.”

SYNDERGAARD COMES UP EMPTY: Syndergaard was splendid in his season-high 114-pitch effort over seven innings in which he gave up five runs – two unearned – with no walks and ten strikeouts.

In four starts overall, Syndergaard has 30 strikeouts with no walks in his four starts.

“For the most part, I felt pretty good,” Syndergaard said. “I felt this was the best my mechanics have been for a long time.”

FAMILIA UNIMPRESSIVE: Jeurys Familia wasn’t effective in his first relief appearance of the season, issuing two walks in the ninth inning.

“Rusty, to say the least,”” was how Collins evaluated Familia’s outing.

Collins said Familia needs the work, which is why he left him in to throw 30 pitches. Collins said Familia should be ready for Friday.

CESPEDES INJURED: The Mets’ injury woes continued when Yoenis Cespedes left the game in the fifth inning with a left hamstring cramp while running the bases. He was replaced by Juan Lagares and Michael Conforto moved to left.

“Anytime you talk about hamstrings it is a concern,” Collins said. “When you have a hamstring with his body (tightly muscled), it is a concern.”

Cespedes will have a MRI Friday.

Don’t forget, Cespedes took over a month to recover from a strained quad last season, so I wouldn’t bet on seeing him Friday night against the Nationals.

INJURY UPDATES: Lucas Duda, who sustained a hyperextended left elbow the night before did not play. … Travis d’Arnaud, who sustained a contusion to his throwing hand, appeared as a pinch-hitter. … Wilmer Flores was unavailable with an infection in his knee.

“Our training room is starting to fill up and we don’t need that,” Collins said.

NATS UP NEXT: Jacob deGrom starts Friday night against Washington.

Apr 12

Wheeler, Conforto Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

Sometime next season or the year after, Zack Wheeler and Michael Conforto will combine to lift the Mets. They did for awhile Wednesday night in Philadelphia until Hansel Robles sprayed graffiti on their near masterpiece.

i-5Wheeler, backed in large part by Conforto’s homer and Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run single, cruised into the sixth with a five-run lead. It looked as if manager Terry Collins would let him pitch out of trouble, but pulled him with two outs and the bases loaded in favor of Robles.

Collins feared the Phillies would break through and spoil Wheeler’s night and he’d suffer an emotional setback. Instead, Maikel Franco turned around Robles’ first pitch for a monster grand slam that changed the complexion of the game, but the Mets held on to win 5-4 to complete the sweep.

In winning his first game since coming off Tommy John surgery in 2014, Wheeler gave up three runs on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw the target 85 pitches, but the key was working ahead in the count with his secondary pitches. Miami hurt Wheeler in his first start – of a cold damp day – when he fell behind in the count and waited on his fastball.

Wheeler coasted into the sixth but the Phillies worked him hard to load the bases.

“I was very happy with the way he pitched tonight,” Collins told reporters of Wheeler’s start. “He threw the ball as well as he could but he ran out of gas all of a sudden.”

Pitchers usually won’t admit to getting tired, but Wheeler was stand-up. He knows the score.

“I was a little tired at the end,” Wheeler said. “It’s all about building myself up. …I had better command. That’s what I needed from my first start. It felt good to bounce back after that rough outing. I was nice to go out there and do well.  It’s a weight off my shoulders.”

Conversely, it hasn’t appeared the Mets were all that interested in building up Conforto’s at-bats. They had a huge lead, but Conforto sat until the end. Conforto was a surprise start over Curtis Granderson and responded with two hits and a walk and scored three runs.

One of those hits was an opposite-field homer to give the Mets an early 2-0 lead.

Conventional wisdom has Conforto going to the minors when Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list. He needs at-bats, but Collins would not commit to starting him Thursday in Miami.

Conforto hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time but responded with what little he has.

“I’m getting good pitches to hit and getting deep into the count,” said Conforto, who continues to refuse to get drawn into the debate on his immediate future.

Another positive note to the day was the report Matt Harvey, who strained his left hamstring Tuesday night, would be able to make his next start Sunday in Miami.

While Wheeler and Conforto were the headliners, Robles served as a reminder of one of the Mets’ biggest weaknesses, which is the bridge to the back end of the bullpen.

Apr 03

Game Wrap: Mets Blank Braves In Opener; Syndergaard Leaves With Blister

GAME #1

SCORE: @Mets 6, Braves 0

RECORD: 1-0

RISP: A season-long problem last season, the Mets went 2-for-6 Monday and stranded nine runners.

HOMERS: None.

SYNDERGAARD: Superb in Opener. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Superb in Opener. (AP)

ANALYSIS

Although Noah Syndergaard didn’t get the victory, he was the headliner in the Mets’ 6-0 Opening Day blanking of the Atlanta Braves today at Citi Field.

Syndergaard was superb and dominant, giving up five hits, no walks with seven strikeouts before leaving after six innings because of a blister on his right middle finger.

Syndergaard had moments of decision in the fourth and sixth innings. In the fourth, Freddie Freeman tripled with one out, but Syndergaard regrouped to strike out Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis. In the sixth, with one out and runners on the corners, he struck out Kemp and got Markakis on a liner to left.

“That to me was the difference in the game,” manager Terry Collins said. “When the great ones have runners in scoring position against them, they up their game.”

That defined Syndergaard, who was pushed back a day to have his next start flipped with Robert Gsellman.

“It’s a little blister,” Syndergaard said. “I’m not worried about it.”

Even so, Collins said it doesn’t hurt to start taking care of his pitchers from the beginning: “We preach protecting these guys, now we have to do something about it.’’

ON THE MOUND: Hansel Robles pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to earn the victory. … Projected set-up reliever Fernando Salas worked the eighth. … Gsellman pitched the ninth. Speculation is because he’ll be moved up a day to replace Syndergaard

AT THE PLATE: Asdrubal Cabrera had three hits, including driving in the game-winner in the seventh. … The Mets broke the game open with six runs in the inning highlighted by five of their eight walks and Lucas Duda’s three-run double. … Jay Bruce walked three times including once with the bases loaded. … Syndergaard got a hit. … Wilmer Flores and Cabrera each stole bases.

IN THE FIELD: Superb pick and throw by Jose Reyes to nail Brandon Phillips leading off the seventh. … Bruce played Freeman’s triple in the fourth like he was a first baseman.

EXTRA INNINGS: With the victory, the Mets improved their Opening Day record to a major league best 36-20 (.643) R.A. Dickey, David Wright, Bartolo Colon and Jacob deGrom received the loudest cheers, with Colon probably getting the longest.

ON DECK: Colon vs. deGrom, Wednesday night at Citi Field in the second game of the season.

 

Feb 03

How Will Collins Work In Reyes?

Among Mets manager Terry Collins‘ more interesting decisions this season will be where he’ll play Jose Reyes. Shortstop? Third base? Second base? The outfield?

REYES: Needs to get regular time. (Getty)

REYES: Needs to get regular time. (Getty)

It has been a long time since Reyes played second – remember the Kaz Matsui fiasco? – and the outfield would be forcing the issue considering the Mets have a glut of outfielders.

Satisfied with Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, the Mets brought back Reyes to play third when David Wright injured his back. Well, Wright is healthy now – knock on wood and fingers crossed – so where does that leave Reyes?

Because the Mets don’t have a bonafide leadoff hitter outside of Reyes, it’s important Collins devises a rotation with his infielders to keep him fresh and sharp at the plate. But, how many games is enough?

But, how many games is enough?

We can assume Collins will rest Wright at least twice a week, and if he subs him for Walker and Cabrera at least once, that’s four games, which should be enough. However, that’s not written in stone and leads to the question of much time will Wilmer Flores get.

It won’t be easy for Collins, but a rotation has to be made to juggle the priorities of giving Wright, Neil Walker and Cabrera regular rest and keep Reyes sharp at the top of the order.

Because the Mets have older and fragile players in their infield – of which Reyes is one – Collins should have enough opportunities to juggle this properly.