Oct 23

Did Mets Fix Daisuke Matsuzaka Only To Lose Him?

Even knowing that the New York Mets would not have Matt Harvey next season, there was a slight glimmer of optimism they might have enough to piece together a rotation and spend elsewhere.

That glimmer is fading.

MATSUZAKA: Will he walk away?

MATSUZAKA: Will he walk away?

Pitching coach Dan Warthen fixed Daisuke Matsuzaka’s long and cumbersome delivery, complete with a hitch. With a faster delivery, Matsuzaka showed he could be the real deal. After a rocky first two starts, Matsuzaka settled in to become one of the Mets’ most reliable starters in September. Matsuzaka finished at 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts with the Mets. His fastball returned with bite as evidenced by his 33-16 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He averaged just under eight strikeouts per nine innings.

The Mets were interested when Matsuzaka came out of Japan, but didn’t come close to matching Boston with the qualifying negotiating offer to his Japanese team.

Matsuzaka earned $1.5 million this season from the Mets, who picked him up after Cleveland released him at the end of spring training.

The Mets also signed innings-eater Aaron Harang, Sept. 1, after his release from Seattle. Harang, who has also pitched for Cincinnati, San Diego and the Dodgers, is a reliable workhorse. From 2004 through this season, Harang has pitched less than 150 innings only twice, including this year when he worked a combined 143.1 innings with the Mariners and Mets.

Harang gave the Mets six innings in three of his four starts, and five in the other. He was 0-1 with a representative 3.52 ERA, but struck out 26 in 23 innings. However, he did give up five homers.

What Harang and Matsuzaka did was log enough innings to conserve the bullpen and prevent the Mets from unraveling the last month of the season.

What Harang and Matsuzaka also did was impressive to enough scouts to where somebody will make them an offer to pry them away if the Mets go low-ball. The last thing a journeyman pitcher wants to do is not leave an impression in September.

This would not be something new to the Mets, as both Chris Capuano and Chris Young proved enough in their Flushing auditions for another team to take them away.

They aren’t the only ones.

Carlos Torres, who previously pitched in Japan, Colorado and with the Chicago White Sox, was an asset as a spot starter, long reliever and situational reliever this season. In 33 games with the Mets, nine of which were starts, Torres was 4-6 with a 3.44 ERA.

He pitched 86.1 innings, which isn’t bad considering he wasn’t on their radar in spring training. He struck out 75 and walked just 17 with a career-best 1.112 WHIP.

Torres, who made $415,000 this season, will leave if the Mets don’t tender him a contract.

So, that feeling of holding the fort until Rafael Montero is ready, and to a larger extent, until 2015, is giving way to a sense the Mets might have done it again and fixed several pitchers to where somebody else will take them away from them.

 

Apr 02

More Bad Pitching News For Mets; Shaun Marcum Scratched

Another day and with more Mets’ pitching news and naturally some of it being bad.

The club said Johan Santana underwent successful surgery on his left shoulder today, but failed to define “successful.’’ It is being able throw, much less pitch again, or the ability to raise his arm over his shoulder?

In addition, free-agent Shaun Marcum – who didn’t endear himself to the Mets for not being in shape during spring training – was scratched from today’s simulation game after expressing neck pain as he warmed up and won’t pitch this weekend against Miami.

Obviously, he is the Mets’ most immediate concern because Santana’s career is over, while the club hopes Marcum will pitch for them.

The Mets placed Marcum on the disabled list retroactive to March 22. Marcum had been sidelined with shoulder and neck pain and took a cortisone injection that obviously hasn’t helped.

Marcum was signed to a one-year, $4-million deal – with up to another $4 million in incentives – but didn’t report in shape and tried to convince manager Terry Collins he only needed three starts in spring training to get ready for the season.

This was notably concerning because Marcum has an injury history, which makes one wonder why the Mets pursued him in the first place.

Normally, a starter gets six starts and up to 30 innings, but Marcum made only three for 9.2 innings. So, one game into the season and the Mets are already scrambling for another starter. The primary candidates are Aaron Laffey and Collin McHugh of Triple-A Las Vegas.

There is also the possibility of signing a free-agent such as former Met Chris Young.

Whatever the Mets choose, they’ll need to do something quickly because there is no timetable for Marcum’s return.

Ironically, Young is also coming back from the same surgery as Santana’s, to repair a tear in the anterior capsule.

For Santana, it will be his second such surgery in 31 months. His first surgery came in September of 2010, and it took him 19 months to get onto the mound for the start of last season.

The abuse of Santana’s shoulder includes not only his 134-pitch no-hitter last June and anger-fueled mound session March 3, but also several arm injuries plus all those innings with Minnesota.

While Santana will not throw a pitch in his last year with the franchise, the Mets will still be on the hook for $31 million, including a $5.5 million buyout. The contract is not covered by insurance.

Feb 22

Mets Should Consider Starting Season Without Santana

What are we to make of the Mets’ decision today to push back Johan Santana at least two weeks with the specific purpose of building up arm strength?

SANTANA: Should Mets open season without him?

SANTANA: Should Mets open season without him?

With the exception of his first season with the Mets, Santana has not pitched a full year for his $137.5 million package. Last season ended with lower back inflammation and prevented him from having a normal offseason workout program. That’s why his arm isn’t as strong as it normally would be this time of spring.

My first reaction, of course, is a red flag, that this is a sign of things to come. When it comes to pitcher’s health, always bet the worst. Sure, that’s a pessimistic attitude, but that’s the way it usually works out – especially with the Mets.

The Mets are acting on the side of caution, which is the right tact. The Mets are going to pay Santana $31 million this year whether he pitches 200 innings or two. Really, their only option is caution as that’s the only way they’ll get anything out of him.

The Mets don’t know when Santana will be full strength, and if his status lingers I would not hesitate holding him back at the start of the season. It might be a prudent choice given the cold weather in April and Santana’s health issues to hold him back a couple of weeks.

This way, Santana can progress at his rate and not worry about rushing to get ready. This guy will pitch hurting, but does anybody really want that?

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Dec 30

Ignore Pavano Rumors To Mets

One of the most ridiculous things I’ve read over the past few days was the idea of the Mets being interested in signing FA pitcher and Alyssa Milano reject Carl Pavano as their fifth starter. Let’s be realistic about this, the penny-pinching Mets have no chance of signing Pavano, even if they wanted him.

Pavano made $8.5 million last year with Minnesota, and although he could take a pay cut, even that will be too pricey for Sandy Alderson. If anything, of all the veteran FA starters on the market, the one they have the best chance of signing would be to bring back Chris Young.

The Mets are also searching for relief help, and Francisco Rodriguez – been there, done that – Matt Capps and Jose Valverde are also too rich for the Mets’ blood.

 

Oct 19

2012 Mets Player Review: Chris Young

                                                              CHRIS YOUNG, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: With veteran Chris Young there was first a hope before any expectations. Signed as a stop gap starter to begin with prior to the 2011 season, Young pitched effectively at first before injuring his shoulder. In four starts he was 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA, giving the Mets six innings a start. Although an injury risk, when sound he was a veteran presence who pitched with composure and guile an a sharp curveball. He could pump up his fastball if needed, but wouldn’t overpower hitters for any length of time. Young was coming off a shoulder surgery as severe, if not moreso, than Johan Santana’s. The Mets didn’t when he’d be ready when they signed him to a minor league deal in late March. He was signed as a reward for a good April in 2011, his desire to remain with the organization, and the inevitability there would be breakdowns in the rotation. After all, there always is. If Young could pitch, they were hoping for the same calming presence whenever that time came.

 

2012 SEASON REVIEW: That’s exactly what the Mets got when they purchased his contract in June. As expected, there were health cracks in the rotation when Mike Pelfrey went down early, Santana became ineffective following his 134-pitch no-hitter, and Dillon Gee went down with numbness in his arm. A breakdown from Young never happened and he gave the Mets 20 starts. Some were solid, others not so much, but he did reach an innings incentive in his contract which the club probably didn’t expect. Young finished at 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but he pitched better than his numbers and was often frustrated with a lack of run support and porous bullpen evidenced by seven no-decision. Realistically he could have finished at 7-7, which is acceptable for a No. 5 starter who made 20 starts.

 

LOOKING AT 2013: As of now, there isn’t a clear spot in the rotation for Young, with presumably Santana and Dillon Gee – both coming off injuries – R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and Matt Harvey ahead of him. Then again, that rotation is a house of cards. What if Santana and Gee aren’t ready? What if the Mets can’t extend Dickey’s contract and they trade him? What if Harvey has a setback? All of those things are possible and would leave the Mets with gaping holes in their rotation. So, if not Young, the Mets would need a veteran like him to fill the emergency void. There’s a sense of familiarity with Young, and last year he earned a reasonable $1.1 million salary. The Mets would be lucky to get 115 innings for that price somewhere else in the market. Young’s starts and innings could induce a contending team with a rotation hole to give him a shot as he proved his durability.

 

NEXT: Mike Pelfrey