Mar 31

Mets Matters: Niese Sharp And Other Good Things

A lot of good things happened to the Mets in today’s 2-0 victory over Washington.

* Jon Niese, who is facing a pivotal season in his career, threw six scoreless innings.

* The Mets have been searching all spring for a left specialist, and Jerry Blevins, acquired Monday from the Nationals for outfielder Matt den Dekker, struck out Bryce Harper.

mets-matters logo* Ruben Tejada, whom the Mets apparently don’t want to use at second base, had his 12th RBI of the spring in 19 games.

* John Mayberry Jr., earmarked for a bench role, had three hits, including his fourth homer. He’s batting .426 in spring training.

* The Mets, now 18-11 including 5-1 against the Nationals, have won 12 of their last 15 games.

* Lucas Duda had his fourth straight hit against left-handed pitching with a single against Gio Gonzalez.

* Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin threw 1.2 scoreless innings to earn the save.

ALVAREZ OPTIONED: Less than 24 hours after picking up lefty relievers Blevins and Alex Torres, Dario Alvarez was optioned to the minor league camp.

He appeared in ten games this spring and compiled a 4.91 ERA.

The plan is for him to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Mets host St. Louis with Bartolo Colon (0-2, 7.71 ERA) going against Carlos Martinez.

Mar 05

Wheeler Responds To Nats’ Harper

I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler, and from Bryce Harper, either. Sure, the Nationals’ outfielder was giddy about his team getting Max Scherzer and why shouldn’t he?

WHEELER: Responds to Harper.

WHEELER: Responds to Harper.

“To be able to have a guy like Scherzer come in? I just started laughing,’’ Harper told reporters. “I was like, ‘Where’s my ring?’ You know what I mean? It’s stupid. It’s absolutely stupid how good our staff is.’’

I would have hoped he’d have that confidence in his team.

As for Wheeler, it wasn’t exactly talking smack according to professional wrestling or NBA standards, but the soft-spoken Met had something to say.

“I guarantee you we all saw what Bryce Harper said,’’ Wheeler told the New York Daily News. “He said, ‘give me my ring… we’re going to make it hard for him to get that ring, I’ll guarantee you that.’’

Wheeler isn’t a braggart, but I was glad to see him exhibit some spine. I wouldn’t want to have seen anything less from him.

It’s good he’s thinking that way, but if the Mets are to challenge Washington, much less compete in the NL East, they must do better than going 4-15 against the Nationals.

ON DECK: Daniel Murphy to go on ESPN to tell his side.

Nov 22

Could Former Met Davis Land With Nats?

The reports came so close together that they invariably are linked. First, Ike Davis was released by Pittsburgh, and then Met-killer Adam LaRoche bolted the Nationals and signed a two-year, $25-million deal with the White Sox.

So, what does two plus two equal? I can see it adding up to Washington signing the former Met.

DAVIS: Could he go to Washington?

DAVIS: Could he go to Washington?

Davis hit 11 homers with 51 RBI and a surprising .344 on-base percentage last year. There was so much going on with Davis’ head last season, then the trade, that it was almost inevitable he wouldn’t have a breakout year.

Davis made $3.5 million in 2014, so he shouldn’t command a big salary. And, by putting him in a powerful lineup where he doesn’t have to carry the full load – Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth – he could be worth a roll of the dice.

There were a lot of reasons why Davis didn’t make it with the Mets. After a promising start there were injuries and slumps, the latter having its roots in a misguided approach where he didn’t care about strikeouts and tried too much to pull the ball for home runs.

“I’m a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs,’’ Davis once told me. “Strikeouts are going to happen.’’

That, and trying to power-pull the ball through a shift were aggravating to watch.

It wasn’t too long that those lunging catches over the dugout rail were forgotten.

If he learned, it wouldn’t be a bad move by the Nationals.

Mar 12

The Importance Of John Lannan As The Second Lefty In The Bullpen

John Lannan signed with the New York Mets to compete for a spot in the rotation, but circumstances dictate he might have a more valuable role out of the bullpen.

“I think that’s been the plan since Day 1,’’ Lannan said Tuesday about possibly working in relief. “They’ve been pretty transparent with that.’’

The Mets figure to keep seven relievers, but with Josh Edgin sent to the minor league camp earlier this week, it leaves Scott Rice as the only left-hander and an increased importance in Lannan.

Lannan starts today against St. Louis, but after that, figures to get substantial time out of the bullpen in a situational role. In today’s specialized game, teams can’t afford to get by with just one left-handed reliever, especially in the lefty-loaded hitting National League East, which goes beyond Chipper Jones, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Jones retired, and Howard and Utley are on the decline, but the latter two still have their moments with the Phillies, as does Domonic Brown.

Washington could start as many as four lefty hitters in Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Nate McLouth and Denard Span.

The Braves have Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, and the Marlins have Greg Dobbs and switch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Obviously, that’s more than Rice can handle, and something we don’t know if Lannan can do. He’s made 148 major league appearances, all as a starter. He’s only started seven of 95 minor league games.

This is not something easily picked up, especially with three weeks remaining in spring training.

Lannan said he can get loose quickly, but there’s more to it than that, as he must see how his arm adjusts to: 1) warming up several times in the same game, 2) how he responds to back-to-back appearances, and 3) how he feels after pitching two or three innings one day and coming back the next.

This is a gamble, no question.

 

Jun 07

Mets Can’t Project Anything From Top Draft Pick Dominic Smith

There are a lot of things you can make of the Mets’ selection of high school first baseman Dominic Smith – all of 17 years old – with the 11th overall pick in the draft.

The first is the obvious, that the Mets are no longer enamored with Ike Davis, but that’s the knee-jerk response. However, remember Smith, at 17, has to be at least three to four years away.

SMITH: Mets' future at first? (MLB)

SMITH: Mets’ future at first? (MLB)

It isn’t as if Smith was the No. 1 overall pick with the can’t-miss status of Bryce Harper.

At least, if you’re using the Mets’ recent drafts of position players as indicators, don’t expect Smith at Citi Field any time soon. By that time, Davis might have figured out his swing.

Mets scouting director Tommy Tanous said Smith’s swing reminds him of Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark. Speaking of great swings, I would have thought Tanous might have mentioned Keith Hernandez.

“It’s a traditional swing as far as his hands work very well,’’ Tanous said. “This is as ‘handsy’ a hitter as you’re going to find. He can get his hands to the ball and get inside the ball as well as anybody I’ve seen as an amateur.

“He can actually be caught out front of some balls, be out ahead of the ball, and still barrel the baseball. It’s an extremely smooth swing. His legs stay under him. His head never moves. It’s really, really a flawless bat path once he gets to the ball.’’

If Smith could have remotely the career of Clark, Palmeiro or Hernandez, the Mets would have done very well.

For his part, Smith said all the right things without the braggadocio from the Jets’ pick of quarterback Geno Smith.

“That’s a great compliment,’’ Smith said. “Hopefully I can live up to it, or just live up to the best Dominic Smith I can be. And hopefully I can help the Mets win a World Series.’’

That’s all well and good, but the success rate of baseball draft picks is less projectable than those in the NFL and NBA, and it’s not as if there aren’t a lot of busts in those sports, too.

I’m not saying Smith will be a bust or not, just that the draft is a crapshoot and it is far too soon to predict anything.

METS SHOULD BAG TONIGHT: The forecast tonight isn’t good for tonight’s game against Miami, which is a Matt Harvey start.

They don’t want to waste it by having him begin the game and then potentially sit through a long rain delay.

The side benefit would be not having the fans sit through the lousy weather, unlike those who sat through four hours in a recent Kansas City-St. Louis game.

The Marlins will be in later this year so it would be easy to reschedule.

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