Apr 04

A good weekend in Florida for Mets; Bay still ailing.

The Mets didn’t win their first road series last year until June. They didn’t win their first on the road against a National League team until August.

That’s just the beginning of a positive first impression to take out of the first weekend for the Mets, a team with lowly expectations.

Take away Mike Pelfrey on Friday, and it was a good weekend for the Mets in Florida as they received strong pitching performances from Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, questions going in.

“The first game was more of what Josh Johnson did than what we didn’t do,’’ said David Wright. “All in all, it was a good weekend, especially since the last couple of years we’ve had a lot of trouble here. It’s good to get off to a good start. We’re going to have to play just as well in Philadelphia [next series].’’

While nobody is getting carried away by the Marlins series, following the Mets must include finding your silver linings when you can. The Mets didn’t let blowing a ninth inning lead derail them Saturday and they put a team away Sunday, both signs missing from last season.

Chris Young will start for the Mets tomorrow night in Philadelphia, where things are always different.

Meanwhile, Jason Bay’s ribs are still hurting and he hasn’t begun swinging a bat, yet. I wouldn’t be placing any bets on him returning in a week. Also, Jason Isringhausen is feeling discomfort in his back. Just as well he took the extended spring training.

 

Apr 01

Terry Collins sends open letter to Mets’ fans

What we’ve been waiting for since that final Sunday at Citi Field, when Oliver Perez was booed off the mound for the last time is hours away: The start of another era in Mets’ history.

COLLINS: A new era begins

The Yankees had their moment yesterday, and I’m watching Roy Halladay and the Phillies are in a pitching duel with Houston. Meanwhile, in Florida, Mets manager Terry Collins is already at the ballpark and his players are trickling into the clubhouse.

For today, at least, the disappointments of the past have given way to optimism despite the issues – on and off the field – swirling around this team. It’s Opening Day, for some the real New Year’s day, and the air is full of hope and positive feelings.

Collins, who hasn’t stopped working since he was hired to replace Jerry Manuel, began his work day by sending the following open letter to Mets’ fans:

 

Dear Mets Fan:

With our 2011 opener tonight in Florida, I want to make this pledge to Mets fans — our team will play the game the right way.

We will always hustle on the bases, run balls down in the outfield and never take anything for granted, no matter the score of the game.

We had a great Spring Training. From Day 1 my message has been look ahead, not backward, and not to worry about what the people outside the clubhouse are saying. If we pitch and play defense like I know we can, we will surprise a lot of people, a lot of people.

I stack our lineup against anyone else’s in the league. Getting Carlos Beltran back and hitting cleanup is really big. The way Carlos handled his move to right field was one of the classiest things I have ever seen. Angel Pagan is coming off a great season. While we had a little setback this week with Jason Bay — who was swinging the bat well — going on the disabled list, he shouldn’t be out too long. We believe with the three of them on the field, we have one of the top outfields in baseball.

Our infield is anchored by the two All-Stars on the left side: David Wright at third and Jose Reyes at short. I think David will add on to his numbers from last year and Jose is ready to have a tremendous season. He is one of the most dynamic players in the game. Ike Davis will continue to develop at first base and Josh Thole is one of the fine young catchers in the game. Brad Emaus, a Rule 5 pick, got better and better as the spring went on and won the second base job.

On the mound, sure, we are going to miss Johan Santana until he comes back, hopefully in mid-year. But this spring, I think we established a solid rotation with Mike Pelfrey, followed by R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese. Chris Young and Chris Capuano proved that they are healthy, and they really strengthen us on the back end.

We remade our bullpen and we think we have quality arms who throw strikes to get to closer Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod has just had a fantastic spring and I never have seen him throwing better. People like Bobby Parnell, D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Buchholz, Blaine Boyer, Tim Byrdak and Pedro Beato — another Rule 5 selection who is from Queens — will give us a solid ‘pen.

I believe we have fortified our bench with the additions of Scott Hairston, Willie Harris, Ronny Paulino (who will begin the year on the disabled list) and Chin-lung Hu, along with Daniel Murphy.

It’s been 12 years since I have started a season as a Major League manager. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be leading the New York Mets and am very excited about the season ahead.

Thanks for your support and see you at Citi Field.

Sincerely,

Terry Collins

 

Realistically, I didn’t expect Collins to write anything else, but then again I don’t recall a gesture like this recently from a Mets’ manager. David Wright said Collins’ team speech to close spring training was like something out of “Hoosiers.”

Maybe the odds are as long for the Mets this year as they were for Hickory High School, but for today at least, it is time to believe in miracles.

Afterall, isn’t that what Opening Days are for.

 

NEXT UP: Tonight’s lineup and 2011 Over/Unders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 16

Mets’ roster has remaining issues

HARRIS: Will play is Beltran opens on DL

With spring training down to a couple of weeks after today’s loss to Minnesota, the Mets are still trying to final situations in right field, second baseball, the bullpen and in the rotation.

 

All of these will be filled with those players already in camp.

RIGHT FIELD

Carlos Beltran has been cleared to resume baseball activities, but probably won’t play until next week, which would leave a week of games until Opening Day. However, with the Mets wanting to ease him back, it’s realistic to figure he might not be ready.

Currently, he’s limited to batting practice and doesn’t know when he’ll test his knees by playing the field or running the bases.

Should Beltran open the season on the disabled list, Willie Harris would probably get the start, but manager Terry Collins could go to a platoon system with Scott Hairston.

That would make Lucas Duda the odd-man out because the Mets want him to get consistent at-bats. The way he could stick would be if Beltran were to open on the disabled list. Beltran says he’ll be ready, but the time frame suggests otherwise.

SECOND BASE

Nobody wants Luis Castillo, but he’s playing the best offensively and is not ahead of the others defensively. Castillo can turn the double play better than the others but has limited range. It’s not totally out of the question Castillo would stick if the Mets find it distasteful to eat his $6 million contract.

Luis Hernandez has emerged, perhaps as the front-runner as has been reported, primarily because nobody has stepped to the forefront. Hernandez can play the position and isn’t a liability with the bat, but it’s not as if he’s blowing away the field.

Ideally, they would have liked for Daniel Murphy to grasp the position defensively, but that hasn’t happened, especially when it comes to the double play. Murphy should still make the team as a left-handed bat off the bench.

The Mets like the potential of Brad Emaus, but he’s not hitting and hasn’t made up for it with his glove. An Emaus-Murphy platoon isn’t out of the question should the Mets not want to return the Rule 5 Emaus to Toronto.

The only sure thing at second base is the return of Justin Turner to the minor leagues because he has remaining options.

Continue reading

Feb 15

Top Ten Mets issues as camp opens

Good afternoon. Players are trickling into camp today in Port St. Lucie. A few pitchers are throwing, but they don’t have to officially check in until to tomorrow.

No team reports to spring training without questions, and the Mets are no exception. They will enter the season this spring loaded with questions, but without any substantive answers.

Here’s the top ten issues surrounding your New York Mets:

Q: WHAT WILL BE THE OWNERSHIP FALLOUT?

A: Speculation has the Mets attempting to reach a settlement in the Ponzi mess instead of taking their chances in court where reportedly the losses could reach as high as a billion dollars and undoubtedly force the Wilpons to sell the franchise. Who knows? Even a settlement could be that costly. One thing where there is no doubt is the team won’t be adding salary at the trade deadline, but will be trying to shed it, notably with Carlos Beltran being shopped.

COLLINS: Will run a tight camp.

Q: HOW WILL TERRY COLLINS IMPLEMENT THE NEW CULTURE?

A:  The Mets are supposed to be a no-nonsense bunch concentrating on fundamentals. Such things like hustling, working the count, throwing to the right base and running the bases begin in spring training. Collins is expected to run a tight camp and is to be decisive about two issues, whether Beltran plays center or right and where, or if, Oliver Perez fits in the roster.

Q: HOW HEALTHY IS CARLOS BELTRAN?

A: Let’s face it, this is Beltran’s last year. The Mets would like to move him and save on his $18.5 million salary, but to maximize the return he has to be healthy, productive and playing center. Beltran playing a sound center will make him easier to move.

REYES: Could be moved.

Q: WHAT WILL BECOME OF JOSE REYES?

A: Again, this is predicated on the ownership situation. Ideally, the Mets would like to sign Reyes – the 2006-2007 model – to an extension, but what will their economic situation be like? If Reyes gets off to a great start the meter will start running high, and at the same time so would the price tag in prospects that it would take to procure him. There is a prevailing sentiment the Mets’ ownership situation might force the team to deal Reyes to ease the financial strain. Such a decision would impact the franchise for years.

Q: WILL MIKE PELFREY TAKE THE NEXT STEP?

A: Many scouting reports have Pelfrey ranked as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, but Johan Santana’s injury makes him the ace. Pelfrey said his goal is consistency, but he has to be more than that – he has to be dominant. The rest of the rotation is loaded with concerns, but even should Pelfrey develop into a 20-game winner, probably won’t be enough to lift the Mets into competitive status.

Q: WILL THE REAL JASON BAY STAND UP?

A.: The Mets expect 25 to 30 homers a year for the $66 million package they will spend on Jason Bay, not the six they received last season before he sustained a concussion. Bay gave the Mets hustle and defense, but was clearly an offensive liability. The Mets must hit this summer to make up for the multitude of pitching problems. David Wright, Beltran and Bay are the projected 3-4-5 hitters.

Q: WAS R.A. DICKEY A FLUKE?

A: The Mets are banking no with a two-year deal, but the fact remains he’s coming off the best season of his career. Dickey never pitched better than he did last year, and he’s only done it once. Dickey’s numbers dictate a No. 5 starter, but he’s second behind Pelfrey.

NIESE: Not proven.

Q: WHAT ABOUT THE BACK END OF THE ROTATION?

A: Jon Niese, the No. 3 starter, ran out of gas after a 6-2 start and finished 9-10. Clearly, he’s not a given. Neither are the No. 4 and No. 5 starters, which should come from a pool of Chris Young, Chris Capuano, Dillon Gee, and yes, Perez. Young and Capuano are coming off injuries, Gee is unproven and Perez is on his last chance. Management will not endure another summer of a Perez saga. He’ll earn it in spring training or they’ll cut ties and be quick about it.

Q: WHO’S IN THE BULLPEN?

A: Speculation is the Mets will monitor Francisco Rodriguez’s appearances as to avoid his $17.5 million option from kicking in. Of course, part of that is predicated on Rodriguez’s health.  But, what of the rest of the pen? Bobby Parnell figures to be the set-up man.  D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Buchholz and Taylor Tankersley will be in the mix there somewhere, but hardly come across as clamp-down relievers.  Pat Misch could be the long man, and there’s always the chance Perez could stick in the pen.

Q: WHO PLAYS SECOND?

A: The Mets have already said Ruben Tejada isn’t in the plans to start. The cast includes Daniel Murphy, who hasn’t shown he can play the position, or for that matter, stay healthy. Justin Turner, Chin-lung Hu, Brad Emaus and don’t forget, Luis Castillo, are also in the mix. The best combination would be Tejada’s glove and Murphy’s bat, but that’s not an option. The uncertainty of it all could bring us another year of Castillo, who, if nothing else, is fairly predictable in what he can provide.

Jan 20

Collins seems refreshing

The impression in talking with Terry Collins yesterday is that he’s decisive, something we haven’t always had with Mets managers.

It’s January and Collins already named his Opening Day starter and the top five of his batting order, after which you can figure the rest out. Ask most managers simple questions this time of year about the rotation and batting order and they waffle, saying it is too early, even though the answers seem obvious.

Of course, injuries, performance and match-ups can change things, but the impression is Collins wants to use a set batting order as much as possible, something Jerry Manuel didn’t always do, even when health wasn’t an issue. And, there will be no fooling around with Jose Reyes. Collins recognizes him as a premier leadoff hitter and will ride that horse.

Collins will bunch his speed in Reyes and Angel Pagan at the top of the order, go the traditional route and use his best hitter in David Wright third, utilize his power in Carlos Beltran clean-up and protect him with a right-handed bat in Jason Bay fifth. From there he’ll go with left-handed power in Ike Davis sixth, followed by Josh Thole, the second baseman and finally the pitcher.

Collins knows the landscape about the fans’ expectations and interest this time of year and fueled it with something to talk about. I hope he maintains this approach during the season when things get rough. Who wants the Mets to have eight different batting orders in ten games?

Incidentally, Chris Young passed his physical and the team will make an announcement today or tomorrow. If healthy, he should be among the top four, with Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee competing for the fifth spot. Pat Misch is on the peripheral, but he’s out of options and his best chance of making the team is as a long reliever.

The Mets are counting on Francisco Rodriguez to be healthy and stay the closer with Bobby Parnell seemingly having the inside track as the set-up reliever.