Feb 25

Bullpen Close To Being Set; Would Include Gee

For the first time in his tenure as Mets’ general manager, Sandy Alderson has his bullpen close to being intact heading into spring training. And, with his rotation set, the Mets have a sense of pitching comfort they haven’t had since 2006, the last time they made the playoffs.

This is good news.

Gee: Ticketed for pen.

Gee: Ticketed for pen.

It is paramount a team have a strong bullpen if it remotely has the chance of being a contender. I like the make-up of this pen as it is loaded with hard-throwing arms, even with Bobby Parnell not available until May.

Without Parnell, the Mets have a strong idea of the relievers they’ll take north. Ideally, they want another left-hander to go with Josh Edgin, but if that doesn’t materialize they likely would carry Dillon Gee.

With the uncertainty of Matt Harvey coming back from Tommy John surgery, and if history is an indicator, and the likelihood of getting short starts from Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, there will be a need for a spot starter and long reliever as innings would need to be filled.

That’s three spots in the rotation that would call for Gee and Carlos Torres, and why Rafael Montero would be left out. There’s a strong possibility the pen would accumulate innings early in the season.

Montero us unproven working consistently out of the bullpen and should be to Triple-A Las Vegas until he would be needed, which is a possibility considering the Mets are shopping Gee and Bartolo Colon.

“You’re asking somebody to do something at the major league level that he hasn’t done very much of. And it’s important that we get out of the gate,’’ Collins told reporters about Montero. “Knowing that Bobby is going to be ready probably in the first part of May, I’m not sure where Raffy would fit in that bullpen coming out of spring training.

“If Dillon is there, we’ve only got one more spot left, and you might go with a little more experienced guy at the start of the season.’’

Joining Edgin, Gee and Torres are Jenrry Mejia as the closer replacing Parnell, followed by Jeurys Familia and Vic Black. That leaves one more. Scott Rice, perhaps?

In a perfect world, Familia would be the eighth-inning set-up man with Black available for the seventh if the starter can’t go that far.

Of course, that’s in a perfect world.

ON DECK: Don’t name an Opening Day starter now.

 

Dec 28

Mets Need To Lock Up Torres

I don’t know what the Mets are waiting for, but they need to lock up Carlos Torres, who might be the Mets’ most reliable reliever.

TORRES: Valuable asset. (AP)

TORRES: Valuable asset. (AP)

To understand why, you must first look past his 8-6 record and 3.06 ERA. The numbers are rather pedestrian, but 14 decisions out of 162 games indicate a sizeable percentage.

Torres appeared in 73 games last season and finished 20. His 97 innings pitched included working multiple innings in consecutive games. Prior to every game, manager Terry Collins was usually asked which relievers were available. Rarely did he say Torres couldn’t go.

Don’t think he doesn’t have great stuff? Well he struck out 96 in those 97 innings and walked only 38. There’s not a starter in the rotation that wouldn’t take that ratio.

Torres is pre-arbitration which means he doesn’t yet have a contract for 2015. The Mets are all excited about the potential of their young pitching and rightfully so. When they boast of those arms they don’t mention Torres. And, they should.

And, they should lock him up.

Nov 28

Mets’ Top Five Issues Entering Spring Training

I trust you all enjoyed Thanksgiving with your families. With Christmas fast approaching, followed by the Super Bowl, it is time to forget about the Jets, Giants, Knicks and Nets, and focus on hockey and the upcoming baseball season.

The spring training countdown begins at the conclusion of the Super Bowl. With that, I’ll take a look at what I consider the Mets’ top five issues entering the season.

HARVEY: No hiding he's a key. ESPN

HARVEY: No hiding he’s a key. ESPN

If you disagree, and that’s the point of this exercise, I would be interested to hear your issues.

1. DAVID WRIGHT’S HEALTH: I touched on this the other day, and rank it first because it is the lead domino. If Wright returns to All-Star status it alleviates a lot of pressure from the offense. It takes away a potential distraction and goes a long way toward making the Mets whole.

2. MATT HARVEY’S RETURN: If not Wright, then it has to be Harvey’s return from Tommy John surgery. The Mets have to handle him with kid gloves whether he likes it or not. There will be an innings limit, which has yet to be disclosed which figures to become an issue.

3. THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BULLPEN: For as long as Sandy Alderson has been here, building the bullpen has been a major issue. With Bobby Parnell’s injury, the Mets went with a patchwork bullpen last year that saw the emergence of Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Manager Terry Collins said the job is Parnell’s when he returns, but that’s premature. Let Parnell ease into form. As of now, Mejia, Familia, Parnell and Vic Black bring a lot of heat from the sixth through ninth innings. The Mets need another lefty to complement Josh Edgin and there’s a need to bring back Carlos Torres.

4. THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF JACOB deGROM AND ZACK WHEELER The Mets claim their foundation is young pitching, which means they need an encore year from deGrom and Wheeler to pitch up to expectations. For Wheeler, that means lowering his pitch count and giving the Mets depth. It can’t all be Harvey.

5.  WILMER FLORES’  ABILITY TO TAKE TO SHORTSTOP: Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t going to land a marquee shortstop, either through trade or free agency. It is time to see if Flores can produce. This should he his shot.

 

Oct 13

How Mets Should Handle Matt Harvey’s Innings

Operating under the assumption Matt Harvey will be ready for spring training and subsequently the start of the season, there will undoubtedly be an innings limitation.

In theory, the Mets want him ready for a postseason push. They haven’t announced what the cap would be, but let’s figure on 175-180 innings – which is at least three starts shy of the hoped for 200.

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

So, what are their options?

The first is to do nothing and let him pitch … pitch … and pitch. Undoubtedly, that’s Harvey’s choice, but it won’t happen. Why risk another injury?

Another is to pitch him without game or innings restrictions, then cut him in September if the Mets aren’t in contention. However, if they go that route and the Mets are in the race, they would be doing a disservice to their players and fans, and actually the integrity of the game because they wouldn’t be putting their best team on the field.
That’s not ideal, and neither is the pick-and-choose method, which would be to juggle him with off days and selected starts.

Also, not preferred is to pull him if the Mets are winning late in a game. Harvey will moan about this, and his noise would be amplified if the Mets’ bullpen blew the game.

One option because of the off days in April and the high probability of bad weather is to bag that month entirely or at least the first two weeks.

On the positive, it would keep him out of the cold weather. On the negative, he would still pile up innings in extended spring training games.

Finally, and I think it is the best – it’s something the Nationals didn’t do with Stephen Strasburg – is to have their figure in mind from the start and schedule accordingly.

That would mean making a schedule for the entire season and not deviate. Rainouts would only help the Mets because it would push him back.

In this format, the Mets could schedule skip days now for Harvey and not go on the fly. In addition, they could put him a rigid innings cap, but that would irritate him and lead to an occasional blown save.

However, if the Mets and Harvey knew from the outset his cap would be seven innings both parties could plan accordingly.

Harvey wouldn’t necessarily have to pace himself and Collins would know his bullpen options before the game started. They would accept the blown save as part of the deal.

This format would require discipline from Collins and acceptance from Harvey, which would be more likely because there wouldn’t be any surprises.

Like it or not, this is the hand the Mets have been dealt and must play.

In addition, they might consider plans for Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler.

All of this proves the cliché “you can never have too much pitching.’’

As frustrating as this might be, the Mets are set up for this complicated option because they have Rafael Montero, Carlos Torres and sometime in June, Noah Syndergaard. They also have depth with Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee.

 

Sep 19

Wheeler Leaves Us Wanting More

There is something about Zack Wheeler that leaves you – and the New York Mets – wanting more.

Tonight he threw his 21st quality start of the season; defined as at least six innings with three or fewer runs.

WHEELER: Needs to cut pitches. (Getty)

WHEELER: Needs to cut pitches. (Getty)

Wheeler struck out seven in six scoreless inning, and Carlos Torres, Jeurys Familia and Buddy Carlyle combined to retire the final 13 Atlanta hitters in the 5-0 victory.

Even so, in this age of counting pitches, Wheeler threw 105 pitches in those six innings. Sure, as a strikeout pitcher he’ll run up the pitch count, but in exchange for at least one more inning I’d give up a few strikeouts.

Is Wheeler a great pitcher? At l1-10 with a 3.51 ERA it is too soon to tell, but he is 8-2 over his last 15 starts.

For Wheeler and the Mets – who were officially eliminated from playoff contention Friday – to reach the next level, it is imperative for him to go further with his pitch count.

Only twice in 31 starts did Wheeler complete at least seven innings, and 11 other times he worked into the seventh.

Am I being too picky? Probably so, but the Mets have been boasting about Wheeler, and to completely buy into what they are saying, he needs to at least go seven.

Nobody is asking for complete games, but seven isn’t much to ask for a player being touted as an ace.