Apr 03

Swarzak Goes On DL; Robles Recalled

Maybe the Mets are changing their posture when it comes to injuries. They were forthright during spring training in giving updates on injured players, and this morning they placed reliever Anthony Swarzak on the 10-day disabled list – retroactive to Sunday – with a strained left obligue.

With Swarzak, who refreshingly said “I’m not a doctor,’’ when asked for a prognosis, there was none of this, “we’ll wait a few days, have him throw on the side, then make a decision.

Hansel Robles was called up to fill Swarzak’s spot.

Swarzak, who missed two weeks during spring training with a strained left calf, felt pain in his left side in the eighth inning Saturday against the Cardinals.

The part of this move I don’t like is seeing Robles again. He had a 9.26 ERA over 11.2 innings this spring, including giving up five homers.

Apr 01

Matz Fails First Test

It didn’t take long for Mets manager Mickey Callaway to learn today wasn’t going to belong to Steven Matz. When a pitcher throws 26 pitches in the first inning, even if he doesn’t give up any runs, you know he won’t be long for that game.

Callaway knew it was the same old problem for Matz – fastball command.

“He struggled with his release point and couldn’t establish the fastball needed to set-up his other pitches,’’ said Callaway. “He battled himself all game. He didn’t execute his pitches. He was struggling from the get-go and couldn’t locate his fastball.’’

Callaway said Matz didn’t have confidence, but that’s now how he started the day that ended in a 5-1 loss to the Cardinals.

“I was trying to do a little too much out there. I was really smooth and easy before the game and was feeling really confident,’’ Matz said. “Then when a hitter stepped in, I was trying to make my pitches better and that’s when I get in trouble.

“I was leaving the ball up a lot and they were able to get their barrels on it. When I don’t have my fastball command that’s where it all starts for me.’’

Matz threw 73 pitches after three innings and finished with 89 pitches in four innings. He gave up three runs on four hits and three walks, including solo homers to Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong.

I’ve been saying all along that it is way too early to make any definitive judgments on anything pertaining to the Mets and that includes on Matz. However, today does raise a red flag.

With Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard the Mets have a strong front end of the rotation. But, it’s what they get from Matz and Matt Harvey that determines what will happen with the Mets this season.

EXTRA INNINGS: Juan Lagares started in center because Brandon Nimmo had flu-like symptoms and responded with three hits. Nimmo was sent home and not available. … Michael Conforto will return to New York and is scheduled to face Jason Vargas in a simulated game Monday. There is a chance Conforto could be activated from the DL as early as Thursday. … Anthony Swarzak will have his sore left oblique muscle re-examined Monday.

 

Mar 31

Mets Wrap: Small Ball Prevails Again

The Mets hit a couple of homers, but that is the least important thing to take out of their 6-2 victory today over the Cardinals. Instead, focus on how they made things happen on the bases; how Jacob deGrom was effective despite not having his best stuff; and how Mickey Callaway will handle his stressed bullpen tomorrow.

DE GROM: Grinds it out. (AP)

DE GROM: Grinds it out. (AP)

Small ball prevails again: Callaway stressed base running in spring training and the Mets kept the pressure on all day. In the first, Jay Bruce scored from first on Todd Frazier’s two-run double, with Frazier taking third on the throw home. … Then, in the seventh, even more impressive than his homer, was Yoenis Cespedes tagging and taking third on Frazier’s shallow sacrifice fly.

There seems something different about the Mets’ offense. It’s refreshing to see their hustle and patience at the plate.

Of course, it has only been two games.

DeGrom grinds it out: Throwing 101 pitches in 5.2 innings is indicative of deGrom not having his best stuff, in particular, his change-up was off.

“I felt good early on,’’ deGrom said. “But, I thought I was flying open a little bit and it was tough to grip the ball. There are days when you have your best stuff and days you don’t. That’s when you have to bear down.’’

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who hit the Mets’ first homer of the season, said deGrom reached another level as evidenced by seven strikeouts.

“He didn’t have his best stuff,’’ d’Arnaud said. “But, he went out and made the pitches when he had to.’’

Not all peachy: These being the Mets, of course, there’s always a glitch. Today it was Anthony Swarzak straining his left oblique muscle, which forced Jeurys Familia to get a four-out save.

Swarzak’s answer as to the severity of the injury illustrated how new he is to the Mets: “I’m not a doctor, so I really don’t know.  We’ll see what happens. Hopefully, this is just a little scare.’’

GM Sandy Alderson never answered an injury-related question in that manner.

It’s likely Swarzak will miss several games – it would be wise not to pitch him in the chilly weather – but could end up on the disabled list.

It will be interesting to see what Callaway does Sunday if faced with a save situation. Familia threw 30 pitches today, but Callaway said early in camp he wasn’t married to having a designated closer.

Given that don’t be surprised if AJ Ramos gets the ball in the ninth.

Mar 30

Callaway Made Right Call With Syndergaard

While Mickey Callaway’s lineup decision continues to be analyzed – just check out today’s papers – I believe his most important one was removing Noah Syndergaard after six innings.

After throwing 85 pitches, it might have been tempting to squeeze out another inning, perhaps even two, but Callaway’s niche is pitching and he made the right call.

Syndergaard left with an 8-4 lead, and while four runs isn’t an insurmountable deficit, it certainly is large enough to warrant Callaway’s confidence in his bullpen.

With the temperatures in the high 40s and Syndergaard having to sit through the Mets taking batting practice against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez, there was a reasonable-to-good chance the pitcher could have stiffened up. And, with Syndergaard having sustained a torn lat muscle that cost him most of the 2017 season, Callaway was protecting one of his biggest assets.

“I felt like he had done his job,’’ Callaway said. “We wanted to get some of our relievers in the game, so there was no second thought there at all.’’

There shouldn’t have been.

Syndergaard, who was one of former pitching coach’s biggest supporters, had no problem with being pulled: “I think that was the right managerial decision, just because we were up by a lot.’’

As far as batting the pitcher eighth, Amed Rosario ninth and Yoenis Cespedes second, I can appreciate the logic, but I prefer Cespedes hitting in the traditional run-producing slots in the batting order.

I would do it again Saturday because it worked and you never want to mess around with success

Mar 25

High Marks For Callaway In First Spring

There’s nothing Mickey Callaway will learn by Thursday he already doesn’t know by now about his Mets. He had to know when he took the job that the Mets were lacking, and with his first spring training nearly under his belt, that’s still the case.

We won’t know about Callaway’s managerial acumen until the games count, and, of course, this spring training doesn’t mean anything. It was a learning experience for Callaway, his team, and for all followers of the Mets.

I don’t what kind of manager Callaway will become, but the first impression has been a good one. Callaway has only one real decision, and that’s a short-term one in how to divide the time in center between Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares until Michael Conforto returns.

Other than that, Callaway doesn’t have many critical decisions to make before the Cardinals come to town. What I like so far is how he’s handled what decisions he’s made so far:

Opening Day starter: When Jacob deGrom came down with a sore back and making as the Opening Day starter would be a stretch, Callaway named Noah Syndergaard and it took the pressure off everybody. Callaway let deGrom get ready at his own pace and didn’t rush him to get ready, which was contrary to what Sandy Alderson did last spring.

Harvey: Callaway has refrained from making any bold projections on any expectations, something that hasn’t always been the case. All Callaway has said about Harvey is that he just wants him to be as good as he can be. It’s pretty vague, but is better than saying he can win 17 games. Just let him pitch then watch him hit the free agent market.

First base: This figures to be a mess with Dominic Smith hurting and Adrian Gonzalez not hitting. Callaway has said Wilmer Flores will get more at-bats – but we’ve heard that before – and made no predictions about Smith.

Injuries: It hasn’t been an injury-free spring for the Mets, but he’s made no promises about Yoenis Cespedes or Jeurys Familia and Conforto other than to say he’ll miss the first month of the season. When it would have been tempting to push Conforto the first-year manager – and yes, Alderson, also – opted for patience.

A lot of managers coming into a high-profile job such as the Mets might be inclined to make promises and bold predictions. We’ve heard them from Jerry Manuel and Terry Collins but so far we haven’t heard any from Callaway.

So far, so good, regardless of what their spring training record was.