Sep 10

Mets Matters: DeGrom Improves

I didn’t really expect the Mets to skip Jacob deGroms start today, but it wouldn’t have killed them if they had done so. DeGrom rebounded from going 3.2 innings in his last start to post his tenth double-digit strikeout performance of the season. DeGrom came away with a no-decision in the Mets’ 10-5 loss to Cincinnati.

DeGrom will likely make four more starts before calling it a winter. He has accumulated 188.1 innings, so barring something unforeseen he should reach his goal of 200.

DE GROM: Better. (AP)

DE GROM: Better. (AP)

“Jake’s our guy and we ride him. We kind of push him, let him go a little deeper than others,” manager Terry Collins said. “We think when we send him out there we’re going to be in the game.”

Today was just deGrom’s sixth no-decision of the season, a testimony to his ability to work long into games. Since pitch counts dominate most pitching conversations these days, it’s rather remarkable deGrom’s low this year was 69 in a June 6 loss at Texas.

My point in skipping deGrom is that with him coming off surgery, I don’t think it’s worth taking a risk with his arm. So much has gone wrong this season, that why take the chance?

DISTURBING TREND: There have been numerous statistics that have defined this season for the Mets, and today revealed another that showed a lack of a killer instinct. The Mets not only had their 18th blown save of the season, but it went deeper than that. The Mets had a chance today to complete a weekend series sweep, but for the sixth time failed to put away the opposition on a Sunday.

SMITH HAS WORK TO DO: Despite hitting his fifth homer, rookie Dominic Smith has struggled to the point where nothing is assured for him for next season.

A .210 batting average with a .257 on-base percentage illustrate holes in his offensive profile that must be improved. Currently, I would be reluctant to simply gift the first base job to Smith right now.

NOAH SCRATCHED: Noah Syndergaard’s rehab today was delayed because of “general soreness.’’ It’s possible he could throw Tuesday in Chicago.

“We aren’t going to push him, first of all. We’ll go at his pace and how he feels,’’ Collins said. “[Saturday] night he said he was feeling a little sore from the outing the other day and wanted to throw a bullpen and we just said, ‘No, until you feel better we’re not going to do that.’ So, we’ll wait.’’

Syndergaard threw 36 pitches in Brooklyn Thursday, throwing 36 pitches.

Aug 31

Cabrera Remains A Met

It’s ironic the only Met not traded over the past two months was the one who asked to be dealt. Asdrubal Cabrera could still be moved, but wouldn’t be eligible for the playoffs.

Now, Cabrera can’t imagine playing anywhere else, even if it’s with a reduced role.

“I love this team,’’ Cabrera said after today’s 7-2 loss in Cincinnati. “We’ve got good talent now, young guys and they’re learning a little bit. It’s going to be a good team next year if everybody stays healthy.’’

The Mets hold an $8.5-million club option on Cabrera for 2018, and if they bring him back it will in a reserve role at second and third – with only an occasional start at shortstop.

“It’s not what I want, but I’ve got to play where the team needs me,’’ Cabrera said. “I’ll try to do my best at any position.’’

Earlier this season, when Neil Walker was on the disabled list and Jose Reyes said he was more comfortable playing shortstop than third, Cabrera balked at moving to second, and said he wanted to be traded.

“I understood his frustration in the beginning,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “This guy was the shortstop here last year when we went to the playoffs, and he played great. And all of the sudden, you’re asking [him] to move.

“I understand that. He’s a possible free agent. I get it all. He just let his emotions get the best of him. But I knew he could play anywhere.’’

 

Aug 30

Montero Shows What Fuss Has Been All About

Tonight, my friends, is what all the fuss surrounding Rafael Montero has been about. There it was, the eighth incredible inning in Cincinnati, and Montero was still dealing.

MONTERO: Wears the crown tonight. (AP)

MONTERO: Wears the crown tonight. (AP)

He worked quickly and confidently, challenging the Reds inside with his fastball, his slider, his changeup. It was art to watch Montero change speeds and hit his spots.

Above all, Montero pitched fearlessly, changing speeds and throwing his change-up off the inside corner. If he missed, the ball would tail further inside and not fade over the middle of the plate.

“He established inside and pitched off of that,’’ said catcher Kevin Plawecki. “He’s throwing effectively inside. That’s why he’s had so much success lately.’’

Montero is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA over his last four starts, but so importantly, averaged 6.2 innings. That length has gone a long way toward earning the trust from manager Terry Collins.

“He got easy outs,’’ Collins said. “He had a lot of 1, 2, 3-pitch outs. He probably thinks he has a home in the rotation, and he should feel that way.’’

The last time the Mets farmed out Montero, Collins told him he needed to throw strikes if he was to have a future with the Mets.

Montero took that to heart.

“When I was sent down, I said to myself, `I can’t go back there. I have to make changes.’ ’’

Montero took a one-hit, shutout into the ninth. He retired the first Red – Billy Hamilton on a grounder to second. Phillip Ervin singled to center, but Collins chose to give Montero one more batter, Zack Cozart, who promptly doubled.

Joey Votto was intentionally walked to load the bases, and put the winning run on base.

Enter AJ Ramos, who struck out Adam Duvall and Scooter Gennett to end the game and give the Mets their most significant victory in months.

And to Montero, the most significant victory of his short and tumultuous career.

Aug 30

Reyes Auditioning For Next Year

Nothing is ever black or white when it comes to the Mets. There’s always an aura of mystery, of speculation with every issue. Take Jose Reyes playing left field – for the first time in his major league career – last night in Cincinnati. While it is true the Mets are playing shorthanded following season-ending injuries to Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes, preceded by the season-scuttling trades of Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson.

It’s great to talk about a player’s versatility and willingness to play a different position, but that usually comes with roster decisions coming out of spring training. Reyes is earning extra credit for taking Amed Rosario under his wing and demonstrating a willingness to be a team player. Not long ago he wasn’t so agreeable about playing third base, remember?

REYES: Trying to enhance value. (AP)

REYES: Trying to enhance value. (AP)

Things changed because this is a different Mets’ team than the one in June when their season was strained, but hope remained. At the time, Reyes was competing for playing time and a 2018 contract.

However, with the future already here regarding Rosario, and the outfield cupboard thin with the Conforto and Cespedes injuries, Reyes’ ability to play the outfield is being revisited. The Mets have few minor league outfield options, with their primary choices are to hope for the best physically from Conforto and Cespedes.

Conforto had his second opinion examination today on his left shoulder and we should know more tomorrow regarding surgery. As far as Cespedes is concerned, his vow to re-evaluate his conditioning program has to be taken at face value, meaning we’ll see next year. Presumably, the Mets are being cautious about projections for Conforto and Cespedes. Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo will be factors, but there could be a need for Reyes in the outfield.

We can assume the Mets won’t be big spenders, so I won’t get too excited about bringing Bruce back.

Reyes didn’t distinguish himself last night but will get more opportunities as the season winds down.

“We’ve got to find out, and get him out there,” Collins said. “He’s anxious to try it. I think as we move forward, it’s something we’ve got to take a look at.”

Reyes wants to come back – there’s a comfort to him playing with the Mets – but his value would be further enhanced if he proves he can play the outfield.

“I feel like a lot of teams this year, they use a lot of versatile players who can play a lot of positions,” Reyes said. “So that’s going to be a plus for me if I can do a very good job in the outfield. I don’t know how it’s going to be because I don’t have too much work there, but I’m still a very good athlete. I feel like I can play the position.”

 

Aug 27

Next Year Brought Into Focus In Doubleheader With Nationals

With Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes currently on the disabled list and out for the rest of the season, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares will get a bulk of the playing time.

Both distinguished themselves today, but in different ways.

For Nimmo, who hit third in the nightcap, his two-run homer briefly game the Mets a lead in the game they eventually lost, 5-4.

Lagares had two hits in the second game, but more impressive was how alertly he backed up right fielder Travis Taijeron on Daniel Murphy’s single to start a blurry fast relay to nail pinch-runner Edwin Jackson at the plate to end the game and preserve the Mets’ 6-5 victory.

D'ARNAUD: Blocks plate on game-ender. (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Blocks plate on game-ender. (AP)

Let’s assume Conforto’s pending shoulder surgery keeps him off the Opening Day roster, then Nimmo would likely play in right field to start the season. If not, he could start the season coming off the bench.

Nimmo isn’t a home run hitter, but there’s a lot to like about his enthusiasm and .378 on-base percentage. He can play off three outfield positions, so his versatility is a plus.

Lagares’ problem has been with his bat, but there’s nothing wrong with his defense.

That he backed up the plate is part of his job description, but with the Mets playing out the string, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see a role player just coast, but that’s not the case with Lagares.

Without Lagares’ awareness, the Mets might have lost the first game, too.

But, it’s plays like that, and Nimmo’s hitting, that should stand out to GM Sandy Alderson as he makes notes regarding next year.

LUGO PITCHES WELL:  Seth Lugo, in his start coming off the disabled list, gave up two runs on four hits with five strikeouts in the second game.

“I thought I threw the ball really well,’’ Lugo said. “I had life on my pitches and was hitting my spots.’’

Robert Gsellman was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Lugo on the roster.

In looking at next season, I see Lugo better suited as a starter and Gsellman coming out of the bullpen.

TWO FACES OF ROBLES:  We saw the two faces of Hansel Robles in today’s double-header.

In the first game Robles, struck out the only two hitters he faced. In the second game, Robles walked three straight batters, including the last two with the bases loaded to force in the tying and go-ahead runs.

Robles is wildly inconsistent, and if the Mets are auditioning for their bullpen for 2018, he must show more consistency, beginning with throwing more strikes.

The real problem I had with Robles’ second appearance was more with manager Terry Collins, who left the reliever in to walk three straight batters.

“You can’t walk guys in the big leagues,’’ Collins said. “You can’t walk three hitters in a row, like that.’’

I understand it was a double header and the bullpen was taxed, but you can’t leave a reliever in to walk three straight hitters.

Just bad managing.

THE METS AND DUSTY:  Both the Mets’ Collins and Nationals manager Dusty Baker are in the final years of their contracts.

Of course, that begs the question: If neither are brought back in 2018, would the Mets entertain signing Baker to manage them.

While the Mets are non-commital about Collins, Baker has let it be known he is interested in returning. If Baker does hook on with the Mets, it could cost them as he is making $4 million this year.

HARVEY UPDATE: Matt Harveys next game will be with the Mets. After four rehab starts – including 4.2 innings Saturday for Double-A Binghamton – the Mets announced he will be activated when the rosters are expanded Sept. 1.

The Mets will be in Houston then, so his first start will be against the Astros, who are slightly better than the Portland Sea Dogs. Harvey threw 72 pitches against Portland and probably won’t throw much more than that against Houston.

UP NEXT: The Mets are off today, then are in Cincinnati for the start of a three-game series against the Reds.