May 03

Conforto Comparisons, Contract Speculation Premature

When Michael Conforto finished second to Bryce Harper for NL Player of the Month honors for April came the inevitable comparisons and with them predictable comments the Mets might be wise to consider signing him to a long-term contract.

That won’t happen anytime soon.

CONFORTO: Too soon to talk contract. (AP)

CONFORTO: Too soon to talk contract. (AP)

While the thought of securing Conforto is appealing, it’s not on the Mets’ priority list for a variety of reasons.

If the Mets sign a player to a long-term deal before declaring free-agency, they will be inclined to do so with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey, although I still maintain the last one will eschew any early contract negotiations and wait until he’s on the market.

The Mets have the money to sign all four pitchers, plus Conforto, if they are inclined, but that’s not the way they do business. It’s early in all their careers and so much can happen, such as injuries and poor performance that could derail plans all together on long-term contracts.

Let’s not forget Tuesday night’s game against the Braves was the 80th of Conforto’s promising, yet still very young career. Conversely, Harper – a three-time All-Star – is in his fifth season and has played in 535 games. Putting the brakes on the comparison even further, Harper has 106 career homers while Conforto has 75 career hits.

It’s way too soon to compare Conforto to Harper or Mike Trout, or to a lot of people. Eighty games, people. That’s half a season.

I like Conforto. There’s so much about his game to like, including his potential. His career is off to a good start, but the reality of it is it’s way too soon to be talking about such things as long-term contracts.

May 01

Mets Wrap: Is Running On Syndergaard A Big Deal?

Like a shark senses blood in the water, a team will jump all over a pitcher when it detects a weakness, especially when it’s somebody such as the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard, who doesn’t have many.

The book on Syndergaard is you can run on him. No, make that you can run all over him – that is, if you can get on base.

SYNDERGAAARD: You can run on him. (AP)

SYNDERGAAARD: You can run on him. (AP)

Runners have been successful in all ten of their stolen base attempts against Syndergaard, but what the Mets have to figure out is if it is a big deal or something they can live with.

The Giants’ running game resulted in four runs in San Francisco’s 6-1 victory Sunday over the Mets.

“We have to do a better job of holding runners,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “He can’t be that slow to the plate. He can’t be that deliberate. What I don’t want is to get him out of sync.’’

Scoreless going into the fourth, the Giants had runners on the corners with one our following singles by Matt Duffy and Buster Posey. With the count full, Giants manager Bruce Bochy sent Posey to stay out of the double play, which undoubtedly would have been the case on Brandon Belt’s hard-hit ball to second.

So, instead of being out of the inning with no runs, the Giants scratched out a manufactured run, and Hunter Pence followed with a two-run homer.

The Giants eked out another run off Syndergaard in the sixth when Duffy singled and stole second. After a walk to Belt chased Syndergaard in favor of Hansel Robles. Pence followed with a RBI single to pad Madison Bumgarner’s lead.

Syndergaard allowed three steals Sunday – the Giants stole four overall – and five in his previous start against Cincinnati. In his short 15-start career, runners have stolen 27 bases in 29 attempts.

Collins said Syndergaard could incorporate a slide-step to the plate, which is harder for runners to time. The downside is a possible loss in velocity, or worse.

“You don’t want him to lose command,’’ Collins said.

Another downside of a slide step is it could force Syndergaard to tip his pitches, telling the hitter a fastball is coming.

As it is, if a runner gets on against Syndergaard, especially a speed guy leading off an inning, it’s almost a sure double.

Syndergaard is a rising star, but his Achilles Heel is not being able to hold runners. It hurt him Sunday, and will continue to do so in games in which he doesn’t have his best stuff or when the Mets don’t hit.

It’s a flaw that can be corrected, but pitching coach Dan Warthen isn’t likely to make any major mechanical adjustments during the season. This is something the Mets will work on with Syndergaard during spring training.

Or, they could decide Syndergaard is pretty good now the way he is and don’t want to mess with him.


Game: #23 Record: 15-8  Streak: L 1

SUMMARY: Bumgarner outpitched Syndergaard in a dynamic pitching matchup and was backed by Pence’s three RBI.

KEY MOMENT: By sending the runner to stay out of what would have been an inning-ending double play, the Giants scored a scratch run and set up Pence’s homer.

THUMBS UP: Two hits from Juan Lagares, David Wright and Neil Walker. … It was Curtis Granderson Socks Day, so we don’t have to see any more of those commercials.

THUMBS DOWN: Two runs against the bullpen, including Posey’s homer off Logan Verrett. … Syndergaard threw 98 pitches in 5.2 innings. … The Mets left 12 runners.

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets’ winning streak was snapped at eight, but they have won five straight series. … Granderson and Lucas Duda sat against Bumgarner. Duda appeared in the eighth as a pinch-hitter for Eric Campbell and grounded into a force out. Granderson also appeared in the game and struck out. … Michael Conforto’s streak of reaching base ended as 17 straight games, also ending a stretch of hitting a double in six consecutive games.

QUOTEBOOK: “He’ll be all right. There will be days like this.’’ – Collins on Conforto going 0-for-5.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0.62: Bumgarner’s career ERA at Citi Field.

PUT A CLOCK ON IT: A pitching coach or manager has 30 seconds from the time he steps out of the dugout to deliver his message and leave the field. Yet, instant replays drag on. There were two replays Sunday, both over a minute.

TOMORROW’S STARTER: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 3.42) goes against the Braves, who have not named their starter. Colon is 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts against the Braves.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets close the homestand with three games against the Braves, whom they swept last weekend in Atlanta. After Colon, Matt Harvey (2-3, 4.76 ERA) and Steven Matz (3-1, 3.86) will go for the Mets.

Apr 24

Mets Wrap: DeGrom Passes Big Test

It is safe to say Jacob deGrom passed the audition. How deGrom responded in his second start of the season and first since April 8 could turn out be one of the most pertinent issues of the year.

DeGROM: Passes big test. (AP)

DeGROM: Passes big test. (AP)

His 16-day absence was first caused because of a strained right lat muscle that turned into something far more serious following health complications of his newborn son.

That deGrom threw 82 pitches and said his lat felt fine gave the franchise a huge sigh of relief.

“He got after it,” manager Terry Collins told reporters about deGrom’s start. “After what he’s gone through he gave us plenty.”

In beating the Braves, 3-2, deGrom gave up one runs on eight hits with no walks and just three strikeouts. His ERA dropped to 1.54. His fastball velocity was clocked in the low 90s, not where he wants it to be. The eight hits were indicative of getting the ball up.

“It was nice to be back out there,’’ deGrom told reporters. “I was a little nervous, but excited to be out there. Everything feels fine.”

What deGrom didn’t like was his inability to put away hitters ahead in the count, but especially was pleased he didn’t walk any hitters.

“I had a lot of guys with two strikes I couldn’t put away,” deGrom said. “Other than that I was pretty happy with the outcome.”

We’ve seen deGrom be more dominant, but this was a great sign for him and the Mets. It was a huge sigh of relief.

Mets Game Wrap

Game: #17  Record: 10-7  Streak: W 3

SUMMARY: DeGrom worked into the sixth and the offense manufactured three runs, two coming of sacrifice flies. “It was great to see,” Collins said. “Personally, I’d like to get four homers every game.”

KEY MOMENT: Two stood out. … The Braves got two hits off deGrom in the first after the Mets gave him a 1-0 lead. A big inning is his first start was not something he needed. … When the Braves got to him for a run in the fifth deGrom minimized the damage.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera remains a bright spot with his timely hitting. … Michael Conforto drove in two runs. … A question entering the season and an issue early, the bullpen has pitched very well. Jim Henderson, Hansel Robles and Jerry Blevins were bright spots. … Wilmer Flores legged out his second hit of the season. … No walks issued from five pitchers.

THUMBS DOWN: Despite their power, the Mets struggle hitting with RISP, ranking last in the National League. … You don’t want to go to the bullpen four times, but considering the circumstances it was understandable. … Despite the save, Jeurys Familia is still not crisp. He gave up a run on three hits. … Cabrera failed to get the lead runner on a grounder in the ninth and it cost the Mets a run.

EXTRA INNINGS: Yoenis Cespedes didn’t play for the second straight game because of a bruise to his right upper leg. He will be examined Monday in New York. … David Wright had the day off, but was available to pinch-hit. … Kevin Plawecki started at catcher and Flores at third.

QUOTEBOOK: “You can’t hang sliders. The more he’s out there the better he’s going to feel.” – Collins on Familia’s problems.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7-5: Mets’ record vs. NL East. Braves (3-0), Phillies (3-3), Marlins (1-2). With the sweep of the Braves, the Mets have won seven straight games at Turner Field.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets return home to start a three-game series against Cincinnati Monday at Citi Field. Noah Syndergaard (2-0), Bartolo Colon (1-1) and Matt Harvey (1-3) are scheduled to start.

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Apr 23

Mets’ Wrap: Collins Shows Confidence In Pitchers

One would think a manager shouldn’t make too many key pitching decisions in an 8-2 rout, but the Mets’ Terry Collins made a pair Saturday night in Atlanta that could serve to benefit him down the road.

MATZ: Another solid start. (AP)

MATZ: Another solid start. (AP)

The first was sending starter Steven Matz out for the seventh inning in the left-hander’s second straight start. Matz was stellar last Sunday in Cleveland and was also brilliant against the Braves. Collins could have played in conservatively and gone to the bullpen, but his confidence in sticking with Matz was refreshing.

Matz didn’t make it out of the seventh, but the important thing was that Collins stretched him out. Matz gave up nine hits – but didn’t walk a batter – and had nine strikeouts in 6.1 innings. He threw 98 pitches, which should only help him later.

Collins’ second key decision was allowing right-handed reliever Hansel Robles to stay in and face left-handed hitter Freddie Freeman. The Braves already had a run in and a runner on, but Robles struck out Freeman.

Granted, Freeman has been struggling, but when the easy thing would have been to go by the book, Collins stuck with Robles. That can only benefit both the Mets and Robles in the future.

Were they outlandish gambles? No, but the confidence Collins displayed in Matz and Robles could pay dividends. I especially liked him sticking with Robles.


Game:  #16   Record:  9-7  Streak: W 2

SUMMARY: A solid start by Matz, a strong performance from the bullpen and the Mets continued to rake with 15 hits and two more homers.

KEY MOMENT: The Braves cut the Mets’ lead to 2-1 in the third, but Matz minimized the damage and benefitted from tack-on runs in the fourth.

THUMBS UP: A pair of doubles from David Wright, who also drove in two runs. … Two more hits from Curtis Granderson. … Two hits by Michael Conforto, who also stole his first career base. … Strong relief efforts from Robles, Addison Reed and Logan Verrett. … Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera hit back-to-back homers in the ninth. … Two hits by Travis d’Arnaud.

THUMBS DOWN: Eleven strikeouts, 12 runners stranded and going 2-for-16 with RISP.

EXTRA INNINGS: With the win the Mets have won three straight series. … Walker leads the team with seven homers. Tonight’s was the 100th of his career … The Mets have 23 homers in their last eight games.

QUOTEBOOK: “Focus. Taking it one pitch at a time.”- Matz on the key to his success.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6: Consecutive victories by the Mets at Turner Field. Who would have ever thought that could be possible?

NEXT FOR METS: Jacob deGrom makes his second start of the season and first since April 8.

Apr 23

Mets Matters: Harvey Still Searching

Mets manager Terry Collins finally admitted the team’s handling of its pitchers perhaps contributed to Matt Harvey‘s sluggish start. The Mets held their pitchers back a week because of last season’s workloads. Harvey threw 12 innings in spring training whereas most starters log close to 30 innings. Harvey’s spring was further cut short by a urinary tract infection.

mets-matters logo“He really never got to where he was game-ready at the end of spring training,” Collins told reporters. “It just kind of carried over into the season.”

Now, was that so hard?

Harvey lost his first three starts before winning an unimpressive start Friday night.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Harvey said. “Parts of the game obviously felt better, and it felt like I was releasing the ball the way I should be. Other times it was not that way. I’m still working. There’s more positives than negatives out of this game.”

Perhaps the biggest negative was Harvey throwing 101 pitches in five innings.

“Obviously throwing that many pitches in five innings is not ideal,” Harvey said. “My goal today was going out there and really trying to work on what we had worked on this past week. At times, I was able to do that, and at times I fell out of that. I have to re-find that.”

Prior to the game, pitching coach Dan Warthen said Harvey had developed a mechanical flaw where he collapsed his push-off leg working out of the stretch.

“The majority of the time out of the stretch I did feel better,” Harvey said. “Like I said, there’s still work to be done.”

If this is the work in progress Harvey proclaims it to be, it could take a few more starts before he gets it right.

But, on a positive note, at least the Mets seem to have an idea of what’s wrong with Harvey.

DeGROM READY FOR SUNDAY:  Jacob deGrom rejoined the Mets today after being on emergency family leave and will start Sunday against the Braves.

DeGrom said his two-week-old son, Jaxon, was suffering from apnea and would stop breathing while he slept.

“It was definitely scary,” deGrom said told reporters. “When all the tests came back and nothing was seriously wrong, we were pretty relieved.”

Sunday’s start will be his first since April 8, a game he left with tightness in his right lat after six innings. After studying video, deGrom theorizes his landing leg was too stiff.

“I feel good,” deGrom said. “The last few bullpen sessions have been good.”

CESPEDES SIDELINED: Collins said Yoenis Cespedes aggravated the bruise on his right leg sliding into second and would probably not play the remaining two games during this series.

“The bruise is pretty big,” Collins said. “He’s aggravated it, and he’s limping pretty bad. … He’s pretty swelled. He’s certainly not going to be available today.”


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