Apr 26

Niese Still Key In Mets’ Rotation

In the first two games of this series, the focus for the Mets was on their stud pitchers Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, but I remain intrigued with Sunday’s starter, Jon Niese.

In the pre-Harvey years, when the Mets were forced to move from Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey – wow, I hadn’t thought of him in a long time – Niese was in the driver’s seat of their rotation. Young, left-handed, and a hard thrower with a manageable contract, Niese not only was a Mets’ leader but coveted by other teams.

NIESE: Still important to Mets. (AP)

NIESE: Still important to Mets. (AP)

However, injuries – including a partial tear of his rotator cuff – sapped the effectiveness of Sunday’s starter against the Yankees. Last winter the Mets were open to trading Niese, but at 28, he’s young enough to reverse the perception of him and increase his value to the Mets for the long-term.

And, it definitely helps that he’s healthy, which only fuels his confidence.

“I haven’t been this confident in my arm in probably three years,’’ Niese said during spring training. “I feel really good. … I feel a lot stronger. My arm feels excellent.’’

That has translated to the mound, where Niese is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA – and 1-1 with a 2.05 ERA in four starts against the Yankees. He is off to the good start he hopes will fuel a comeback season. It must keep playing out this way if Niese is thinking long-term, although the math remains in his favor.

On one hand, there’s Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz waiting at Triple-A Las Vegas to push him out of the rotation. On the other, figure on Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee not coming back next season, and we won’t see Zack Wheeler until at least July.

Also, he’s still young and hard-throwing left-hander with a manageable contract (under their control for the next two seasons). In this scenario, figure on Niese returning.

However, the Mets aren’t just interested in him just holding a roster spot, but needing him to perform as he did in his last start, Tuesday against Atlanta, when he gave up a solo homer in 6.2 innings.

They will take that tonight and every night.

Apr 23

Amazing Start Changing Perception Of Mets

As special as the Mets played Wednesday, today was important for another reason. After winning their tenth straight game last night, there was tremendous letdown potential for today, but this team would have no part of such talk as it tied a franchise best with its eleventh straight victory in sweeping a ten-game home stand.

COLLINS: Revels in great start.

COLLINS: Revels in great start.

It was cold, the stands were mostly empty, and there were moments of sloppiness. Daniel Murphy blew a play in the field that lead to a pair of Atlanta runs; Wilmer Flores was picked off second; and the hitting was sporadic.

However, the offense drew eight walks; Bartolo Colon was sharp again in winning his fourth straight start; Murphy drove in four runs; and the bullpen was again in shutdown mode, keyed by another strong appearance from Buddy Carlyle and Jeurys Familia‘s eighth straight save in a 6-3 victory over the Braves.

To win despite not being sharp is another significant sign in a season that already has had so many. The starting pitching; the bullpen; winning close games; winning within the division; coming from behind; just about everything they haven’t done in previous seasons.

What the Mets are doing is changing the perception, which might be one of the hardest things to do in sports.

“That was one of our goals coming out of spring training, that we are different,” manager Terry Collins said. “There are expectations. This sends a huge message to our fans that what we said we meant.”

Previous Mets teams would not have over come the long string of injuries and adversity that has already hit them hard this season.

“It has been the resiliency,” Collins said of the one ingredient that defined the home stand. “We have been behind in a lot of the nights, but we hung in there and executed.”

The Mets had spotty moments today and will have some in the future. However, Collins vowed this team is different and will handle those moments different than from other recent Mets’ teams.

“Whether it will be in the next week, the next six weeks, the next four months, there will be no panic with this team,” Collins promised.

He sounded believable.

Apr 23

April 23, Mets’ Lineup Vs. Braves

The Mets will be going for their 11th straight victory this afternoon with this lineup:

Curtis Granderson – RF

Juan Lagares – CF

Lucas Duda – 1B

Michael Cuddyer – LF

Daniel Murphy – 2B

Eric Campbell – 3B

Wilmer Flores – SS

Anthony Recker – C

Bartolo Colon – RHP

Apr 17

Looking At The Mets’ Fast Start

No, I can’t do it when it comes to the New York Mets. I can’t look at 7-3 and just say, “hey, that’s great.” I certainly can’t say they’ll keep this pace, because playing .700 ball would be incredible. Nobody plays .700 ball. Now that the Mets are playing at that clip, I am thinking a lot better than .500.

Isn’t everybody?

But, I’m like the man grilling over coals. I can’t resist poking at them. It’s part of my nature, and also why I became a journalist. I am wonder why. That’s what I do.

So here are my thoughts on this terrific start, and yes, I do hope they’ll prove me wrong and keep it up. I want to see them play in October. I’ve covered a lot of playoff and World Series games, but the Mets in 2006 were positively electric. I’d love to see that again.

Here’s to the fast start and some of the reasons why:

* Matt Harvey: He’s had two starts, one great and the other not so much. He’s still throwing too many pitches for six innings, but it is easy to see the Mets have something special when he goes to the mound and the team has an aura when he pitches. That might be the best thing he brings to the table.

* Bartolo Colon: He’s had two outings and proven he still has something to give. When it comes to counting pitches, I hope they’d do with Colon the way they do Harvey. If they can keep him strong for the season it could bear fruit in September.

* Jacob deGrom: One of my favorites. He has great stuff and has also shown an ability to pitch out of trouble. Rookie of the Year last season. What’s his ceiling this year?

* Jon Niese and Dillon Gee: Neither has been stellar, but they did work into the fifth which minimizes the use of the bullpen. That can’t be underestimated.

* The bullpen: Forget Jenrry Mejia and I think the Mets will when his suspension is lifted. But, Jeurys Familia has been terrific as has the lefty relievers we all thought would be a problem. I’ve been critical of GM Sandy Alderson, but kudos for fixing the left bullpen hole at the end of spring training. They won’t get back Josh Edgin, but things could be better when Bobby Parnell and Vic Black return.

* Travis d’Arnaud: Is doing it at both sides of the plate. And, he’s showing some pop. Defensively, the pitchers like him, he’s blocking the plate better and shows a strong arm.

* David Wright: His fast start before hurting his hamstring had a calming influence. They haven’t lost since he’s been out, but that’s coincidence. Another positive is Eric Campbell has played well since replacing Wright.

* Lucas Duda: No, this wasn’t written by order of importance. For some reason I always lead with pitching. However, Duda is having a terrific start and is shows the ability to hit lefties. His stroke is short and compact, and he’s showing plate presence and patience. If he continues like this there’s no telling what he can do.

Wilmer Flores: Yes, Flores. He didn’t have a good start, but he’s not letting it bother him. They don’t win last night without his homer. And, kudos to Terry Collins here. It could have been easy to panic and pull Flores, but he stayed the course. Good job by Collins.

Juan Lagares: He’s not hitting leadoff, and perhaps the early confusion lead to his slow start at the plate. But, it hasn’t affected his defense and he’s starting to improve at the plate. A less tougher player might have let the lineup change bother him. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Lagares.

Curtis Granderson: He’s not hitting, but has a high on-base percentage with all his walks. If Granderson weren’t getting on base there would be a problem.

Michael Cuddyer: Has been a steady and consistent presence in the middle of the order. So far, a good signing. And, a lot of people other than Wright like him.

Other good signs: They are winning close games and won two of three in Washington. Winning in the division is a great indicator and they’ll continue to get those opportunities the rest of the month. … Atlanta has cooled and Washington has sputtered and has significant bullpen problems. April is a great opportunity to make a strong, early statement and that’s what they are doing.

Of course, I could ask for more. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. But, I couldn’t ask for a better start.

 

 

 

Apr 16

Mets-Marlins Rotation

The following are the starting pitchers for the Mets-Miami series, starting tonight at Cit Field:

Tonight: RHP Dillon Gee (0-1, 9.00) vs. RHP Jarred Cosart (0-1, 1.50), 7:10 p.m. ET

Friday: RHP Bartolo Colon (2-0, 2.77) vs. RHP David Phelps (0-0, 36.00), 7:10 p.m. ET

Saturday: RHP Jacob deGrom (1-1, 1.46) vs. RHP Mat Latos (0-2, 17.36), 7:10 p.m. ET

Sunday: RHP Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.25) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (1-1, 3.18), 1:10 p.m. ET