Mar 16

Lost Velocity Could Be Best Thing For Harvey

The issue of Matt Harvey’s lost velocity could be the best thing to happen to him in his effort to rejuvenate his career.  The headlines after Wednesday’s loss asked if Harvey would ever be the same.

HARVEY: He shouldn't hold his head. (AP)

HARVEY: He shouldn’t hold his head. (AP)

What exactly is “the same?” Outside of four spectacular months in 2013 and several scintillating starts in 2015 – which culminated in a hissy fit in Game 5 of the World Series – we must remember for all the hype, he is 29-28 lifetime, which, unlike his string of model girlfriends, is nothing to get excited about.

That 2013 All-Star start and career 2.94 ERA and 1.08 WHIP give us reasons to be hopeful, but for all his sparkling moments there has considerable diva tarnish.

Harvey’s scouting report in 2013 showed a fastball in the high 90s, impeccable control and a bulldog, don’t-give-in mentality that culminated in him pitching through the pain of a strained forearm leading to Tommy John surgery.

Back then, Harvey’s high profile personality was outlined by his high 90s heater. Pitching coach Dan Warthen said we might not know until May whether his velocity will return. If two surgeries aren’t enough of a wake-up call, perhaps the velocity issue could be. It’s important Harvey stay in Florida at the start of the season to find his confidence more than his fastball.

Nolan Ryan was a freak who threw triple digits into his 40s. A chemically-induced Roger Clemens threw high heat late into his career. However, they, like Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Tom Seaver, eventually lost what made them great. Age and injury reaffirmed their pitching mortality.

Harvey is lucky in comparison. He’s only 27 and hopefully will take advantage of his lost fastball to learn how to pitch. Let’s hope he’ll learn how to pitch like Mike Mussina, Jack Morris, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine – don’t snicker on the last one, because after all, he won over 300 games and is in the Hall of Fame – which could extend the career of the pitcher many have given up on.

I wrote yesterday how the Mets should leave him off the Opening Day roster and send him for an extended spring training. I didn’t say Harvey’s career was over and the column didn’t bash him. To the contrary, I still think he can become a solid major league starter.

I have previously been hard on Harvey for his attitude and I’m not backing off. I don’t expect Harvey to consistently throw 98, but I do hope he’ll be smart enough to capitalize on being given the great gift of being young enough in his career to reinvent himself.

Hopefully, he was taking notes the past two years from watching Bartolo Colon. Harvey’s career is not over unless he mentally gives up.

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 15

Wheeler’s Sore Elbow Illustrates Mets’ Depth

The issues of whether Zack Wheeler is a starter or reliever, or his innings limitations, are moot if the Mets can’t get him on the mound. Here we are, less than a week into spring training, and the Mets’ first red flag is already flapping with news Wheeler – who hasn’t pitched in two years while recovering from Tommy John surgery – has tenderness in his elbow.

The immediate plan is for him to play catch Thursday, and if there’s no pain then throw in the bullpen Friday.

It’s all about caution for Wheeler, who likely will open the season on the disabled list because let’s face it, there’s no reason to rush him, not with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman around to pick up the slack. When Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz were injured last season, Lugo and Gsellman – and don’t forget, Bartolo Colon – kept the rotation afloat.

Maybe the tenderness is because Wheeler hasn’t really thrown since last August, or perhaps it was scar tissue, but pitching coach Dan Warthen said they won’t rush him. There’s no reason.

“We’re not going to push it because we want to see this kid healthy and once we get healthy, we want him to stay healthy, so we’ll have kid gloves with him,” Warthen told reporters in Port St. Lucie.

Warthen said it would be great if Wheeler made 25 starts, and even projected how many innings he’d throw if that happened, He also said it might be difficult for Wheeler to work out of the bullpen, something he’s never down before. But none of that matters if he can’t get to the mound.

Lugo figures to be the fifth starter and Gsellman could make the final 25-man roster as a long reliever. As for Wheeler, just getting him healthy is imperative. If they can do that, perhaps we’ll see Wheeler sometime in June.

We won’t know what kind of setback this will be, but it underscores the potential depth the Mets have in their rotation. There has been sentiment the Mets could trade Lugo or Gsellman, but Wheeler’s elbow reminds us there’s no reason to go there now because of the fragility of the rotation.

 

Feb 11

Reviewing Mets’ Status Quo Offseason

With the Mets’ pitchers and catchers reporting tomorrow, let’s take a quick look at what they did this offseason.

When you look at the Mets’ 40-man roster – Note: trading Gabriel Ynoa to the Orioles basically cleared a spot on the 40-man for Fernando Salas – it is the same as the team that finished 87-75, eight games behind the Nationals in the NL East and lost to the Giants in the wild-card game.

CESPEDES: Doesn't fill all Mets' holes. (AP)

CESPEDES: Doesn’t fill all Mets’ holes. (AP)

That the Nationals added Adam Eaton, yet lost closer Mark Melancon, so it is questionable as to how much they improved. However, they didn’t maintain the status quo as did the Mets.

We must also note the Braves, Phillies and Marlins also made moves to improve, so the NL East isn’t just a two-horse race anymore.

The Mets’ offseason plan first included picking up Jay Bruce’s $13-million option as a hedge for Yoenis Cespedes not coming back.

The Mets then resigned Cespedes and picked up Neil Walker’s one-year $17.2 qualifying offer. They also extended Lucas Duda and brought back Jose Reyes.

Pitching wise, the Mets also brought back Jerry Blevins and Salas.

However, they were unable to trade either Bruce or Curtis Granderson, and consequently, may not have a spot for Michael Conforto, the player that manager Terry Collins proclaimed to be the team’s future No. 3 hitter.

Regarding their pitching, they had three starters – Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom – undergo surgery. Throw in Zack Wheeler and that’s four recovering from the knife. That’s four injury-related questions, and you know as well as me not all questions are answered in the positive.

Complicating matters is the Mets let Bartolo Colon get away. That’s roughly 30 starts and 200 innings, not to mention 15 victories. There’s no guarantee either Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman can fill that void.

They also have a gap in the bullpen with the expected suspension of at least 30 games of closer Jeurys Familia. They will sub Addison Reed for Familia, but that still leaves a hole in the set-up role.

Yes, they got Cespedes and Walker – who is coming off back surgery – but GM Sandy Alderson has a $13-million outfielder he can’t trade and a myriad of pitching questions, so they didn’t get better. Once the games begin we will see they didn’t get worse.

Jan 16

Let’s Hedge Raves About Mets’ Rotation

Many of the baseball preview magazines are already on the newsstands, with more than a few suggesting the Mets have one of the sports’ top rotations. However, they omit one word in the description, that being “potentially.”

The Cubs, Giants, Boston, Cleveland are all right there. So are the Nationals. The Mets? Well, if healthy, their group can throw as hard as anybody, but throwing hard isn’t the issue. Four potential starters will be coming off surgery, with a fifth, Noah Syndergaard, gutting through the second half of the season with bone spurs in his elbow.

Matt Harvey (shoulder) had seasons cut short by the knife in 2013 and 2016 and missed all of 2014; Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz each had elbow surgery; Zack Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two years; and, they did not bring back Bartolo Colon. The Mets clearly have health issues, which is why they aren’t listening to calls for Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, knowing they might need them this summer, either as a starter or in a relief role.

Harvey, deGrom and Matz each have had surgery twice, and Wheeler’s surgery hasn’t worked out. We can’t assume the four recovering from surgery will pitch without incident in 2017, nor are there any guarantees all four will bounce back. That’s banking on a lot of things working out positively, including nothing happening with Syndergaard.

Even if they did, you can’t forget none of the Mets’ young studs have won more that 15 games, much less 20, or pitched more than 200 regular-season innings. The Mets’ young arms are immensely talented with loads of potential, but championships are won on proven production and not potential.

If everything breaks to the positive, it could be a sweet season reminiscent of 2015, but there are no guarantees.

 

Dec 31

Wrapping Up Mets’ Season That Wasn’t

Time to take a moment to look back on “The Season That Didn’t Happen,’’ before moving on to panning the Mets of 2017 and wishing you all a Happy New Year.

After being ousted in the World Series in five games, with Game 5 decided by Terry Collins’ decision to let Matt Harvey go out for the ninth, it was easy to project the summer of 2016 for the Mets.

SYNDERGAARD: Sums up disappointing season. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Sums up disappointing season. (FOX)

Harvey, who gave it up and Jeurys Familia, who blew the save, would come back with fiery determination. Hell, I even wrote Harvey would win 20 games.

They brought back Yoenis Cespedes and added Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. The future was bright for Michael Conforto.

Yes, there was a lot of optimism entering the season as there should have been. But, the World Series was never meant to be.

Writing on Twitter, Noah Syndergaard summed up 2016 in 140 characters:

2016 Mets Recap:

Wright hurt
Duda hurt
Walker hurt
Harvey hurt
DeGrom hurt
Matz hurt
Wheeler delayed
lost Wild Card
Bart leaves

It really wasn’t much more than that.

KEY STORYLINE: Harvey didn’t win 20 and didn’t come close. For the second time in three years, Harvey’s season was cut short by arm surgery. He wasn’t the only one. The knife also fell on Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler never recovered from his surgery.

KEY ADDITION: The Mets got off to a fast start in large part by Walker’s power surge, predominantly from the right side. Alderson plugged holes, adding James Loney when Lucas Duda went down and Jose Reyes to replace David Wright. The high-profile addition was Jay Bruce at the deadline, but the most important pick-us were Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman when Harvey and deGrom went down. Without them, the Mets don’t see the Wild Card game against the Giants.

MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENTS: The injuries to the pitchers and Wright were the biggest. … It can’t be underestimated how vital Conforto’s inability to build on 2015’s first impression. … Once again, the Mets’ inability to hit with runners in scoring

HIGH DRAMA: The puzzlement of what was bothering Harvey hung in the forefront until his shoulder injury was diagnosed. However, most of July was overshadowed by the high maintenance Cespedes, who couldn’t play because of a strained quad, but was able to golf instead of taking treatment. Neither Alderson nor Collins had the backbone to call out the outfielder, but Cespedes’ availability prompted the trade for Bruce. That could have been avoided had Alderson sent Cespedes to the disabled list three weeks before they finally pulled the trigger.

CONTINUING ISSUES: It shouldn’t have been all that hard to project Wright going down again. It shouldn’t be difficult for it happening again in 2017. … Also lingering is not hitting with runners in scoring position. They’ve done nothing to address that situation. … The middle innings in the bullpen also remained a problem, and that’s still in question with the pending suspension of Jeurys Familia.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR: There were a lot of electric moments, many of them of the walk-off variety, but is there any doubt about it being Bartolo Colon’s homer?

GAME OF THE YEAR: The Mets were reeling on Aug. 20, in third place, 12.5 games behind Washington when Colon went to the mound in San Francisco. Colon gave up two runs in 6.1 innings and was picked up by the Mets’ suddenly revived offense, which knocked out 13 hits, including two homers from Cespedes and one from Alejandro De Aza, to beat the Giants, 9-5. That was the first victory in a stretch where the Mets won nine of 11 games to go back over .500 and generate the push into the Wild Card.

 MVP: Cespedes was brought back to provide the spark he did in 2015. Despite playing in 132 games, Cespedes hit 31 homers, but was limited to 86 RBI. There really wasn’t a serious challenger to him.

PITCHER OF YEAR: Working most of the year with a bone spur, Syndergaard started 30 games and compiled 183.2 innings, going 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA. Does Syndergaard have Cy Young potential? You bet.