Sep 06

The Mets Should Explore Six-Man Rotation For 2017

This won’t be a popular suggestion with the Mets’ starters, but with everybody in the rotation having been shelved at one time or another with an injury – save Bartolo Colon – perhaps it might be time to consider a six-man rotation for 2017.

HARVEY: Maybe he could stay healthy in 6-man rotation. (Getty)

HARVEY: Maybe he could stay healthy in 6-man rotation. (Getty)

None of the young bucks want this, and understandably so because they’ve been raised on the five-man rotation. Change is difficult, but then again one time there was a four-man rotation. This suggestion is prompted by Rafael Montero replacing Jacob deGrom today in Cincinnati, coupled with the report the latter might miss multiple starts.

It also coincides with solid outings from Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

Matt Harvey is done for the year. So is Zack Wheeler, and nobody knows when he’ll pitch again. After all, it’s been two years now. Steven Matz, sidelined with a bone spur and an impingement in his shoulder, will try to throw in Port St. Lucie today, but his return status is basically a hope.

Noah Syndergaard has also been pitching with a bone spur. Matz’s bone spur will require surgery, but it isn’t known what will happen with Syndergaard.

Meanwhile, deGrom missed time early with a strained lat muscle. His velocity has dipped and after three horrible starts, he has gone from manager Terry Collins not knowing he motioned for the trainer to deGrom saying, “I’m fine,” to missing today’s game, to nobody knows.

The Mets’ rotation for the ages won’t happen this year.

Several weeks ago I wrote how the Mets should re-evaluate the handling of their pitchers. I’m calling for it again, but adding the suggestion they go to a six-man rotation.

Years ago pitchers just pitched. But, the times were different. The salaries have skyrocketed, so there’s a greater need to protect these guys. That’s a partial explanation for why the DL is used so often. What has also changed is pitchers used to throw a fastball, curveball and change-up. Today, there are sliders, sinkers, cut fastballs, all which put strain on the arm.

There’s plenty to share responsibility for Harvey being lost twice, including the player, who wasn’t always upfront. I admire his grit, but we don’t need any heroes. I don’t know if he’ll ever learn, so this might protect him for his own good.

A six-man rotation could save the starters at least a game a month, which is a savings of roughly six starts a year, or as many a 36 innings. Injuries can occur any time despite the greatest precautions, but this could improve the odds or staying healthy.

There will be the natural attrition, such as free agency, trades and injury. Colon might eventually retire. But, if the idea is to keep these guys healthy and pitching, a first step could be reducing the workload.

Some team was the pioneer going from a four-man to a five-man rotation. The Mets have the depth other teams don’t, so why can’t they be the pioneer going to six?

To make this work, it must be installed in spring training with a defined rotation. There can be no deviation, as it will throw off the rest.

If it keeps them off the disabled list, then why not? It’s better than what’s happening now.

ON DECK: Looking at tonight’s starter, Montero.

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Sep 05

Three Mets’ Storylines: The Importance Of Colon

To a player, every year is an audition for the next, and here’s hoping the Mets are taking copious notes on Bartolo Colon. With how well he’s pitched, how ravaged the rotation has been, and the uncertainty of Zack Wheeler’s future, it should be a given re-signing Colon is a priority.

It doesn’t matter he’s 43, or can’t throw his fastball through a wall, or the ceiling of their younger pitchers, Colon knows how to pitch. Colon knows what he has, or more importantly, what he doesn’t possess.

COLON: Bring him back. (AP)

COLON: Bring him back. (AP)

“We had a man on the mound,” manager Terry Collins said. “Nothing fazes him. He gave us what he always does, which is quality innings. He’s an amazing guy.

“Every fifth day he takes the baseball. You don’t have to worry about pitch counts. You don’t have to worry about innings. All he does is make pitches.”

But, none of those pitches were more important than in the third and sixth innings when the Reds had a runner on third with no outs, and twice came away empty. That enabled the half-asleep Mets’ offense time to wake up with three tack-on runs to beat the Reds, 5-0, on Labor Day.

With the victory, the Mets kept heat on St. Louis for the second wild-card and moved to six-games over .500 (72-66), a level they hadn’t been since the night of July 27 when they lost to the Cardinals as Jeurys Familia blew his first save of the season.

The Mets, save Colon, who flew in Sunday afternoon, were dog tired after playing a night game and flying in well past midnight. The Mets were asking Colon to carry them, which he has done now for three seasons.

On Aug. 19, the Mets fell two games below .500 with a loss in San Francisco. Colon beat the Giants the next day to jumpstart the Mets on a stretch where they have won 12 of their next 16 games.

During that stretch, Colon won three games at a time when the Mets lost Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom from the rotation.

Colon gave up five hits and a walk in six scoreless innings to raise his record to a team-high 13-7 with a 3.22 ERA. Colon does it by keeping the Reds off balance by working quickly and staying ahead in the count with a fastball that didn’t stray much over 90 mph.

While Noah Syndergaard throws in the high 90s and sometimes touches triple digits, and deGrom raises red flags when his fastball drops to 91 mph., Colon remains a testament to the pitching tenants of location and movement over velocity.

It’s something the vaunted Mets youthful rotation should learn from, as well as they could from how often to throw between starts. In essence, he’s an active pitching coach.

“If you don’t learn stuff watching him pitch, you’re wasting your time,” Collins said.

For as well as Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman pitched as spot starters, here’s hoping the Mets aren’t seduced by their success and don’t assume Matt Harvey, deGrom and Matz will return without incident. And, for not pitching for the last two years, the Mets can’t assume anything with Wheeler.

However, for the bargain basement cost of $7.25 million, Colon leads the rotation in wins (13), starts (28) and innings pitched (164.2).

Colon doesn’t fit the prototype, but all he does is come through and that’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

REYNOLDS RAKES: While everybody was tired, probably nobody was more drained than Matt Reynolds, who flew all night from Salt Lake City and arrived a few hours before game time.

Reynolds caught the red-eye from Salt Lake City to catch a connection in Boston before heading to Cincinnati. And, it didn’t help he was seated next to one of those obnoxious fliers who insist on talking non-stop.

Reynolds drove in two runs on three hits, including a homer, to lead an offense that rested Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Reyes, Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera (he appeared as a pinch-hitter and singled).

“I just wanted to go out there and play and have fun,’’ Reynolds told SNY. “I didn’t try to put too much pressure on myself.”

Reynolds said a key was an adjustment he made in Triple-A to move closer to the plate, which forced him to shorten his swing.

BULLPEN STRONG AGAIN: Before this season is over, the Mets’ bullpen will throw a pile of innings, perhaps too many for Collins’ liking.

Collins was able to rest Addison Reed and Familia, who were both used in a non-save situation the night before.

Collins got an inning from the recently-and-frequently abused Hansel Robles; two-thirds of an inning from Jerry Blevins; and 1.1 innings from the recently acquired Fernando Salas.

BRUCE RETURNS HOME: Cincinnati will always be home to Jay Bruce, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his return to Great American Ballpark.

The Reds honored Bruce prior to the game with a video tribute and made a donation to his foundation that supports children with development disabilities.

“It was good. It was a bit odd,” said Bruce. “The Reds took the time to welcome me back. It was what I expected out of this organization. They treated me great the whole time I was here.”

EXTRA INNINGS: Kelly Johnson hit his tenth homer. In looking ahead, the Mets need to seriously consider bringing back Johnson, who doesn’t appear ready to retire. … Wilmer Flores had an interesting day, getting thrown out at second trying to stretch a single and at third attempting to stretch a double. I admit, I was hoping to see him try for an inside-the-park homer. C’mon, admit it, so were you. … The shutout was the Mets’ 11th of the year.

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Sep 04

Three Mets’ Storylines: Has Granderson Answered Wake-up Call?

The Mets have waited all season for Curtis Granderson to answer his wake up call. Did he finally pick up the phone?

Moved to the cleanup spot, Granderson drove in three runs with a sacrifice fly and two-run homer in the Mets’ 5-1 victory Sunday over the Washington Nationals.

i-1Granderson drove in two runs with a bases load single Saturday.

“When he’s hitting we’re a completely different team,” said manager Terry Collins.

Granderson has three homers, eight RBI and has scored six runs over his last six games, but even if he continues on a streak of historic proportions, he won’t finish with the numbers he envisioned coming out of spring training.

He’s hitting .222, but what is alarming is his homers-to-RBI ratio of 23-43.

Perhaps also warming up – just in time to his return to Cincinnati – is Jay Bruce, who had two hits, including a two-run homer.

With Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom currently out with injuries, the Mets might be in position where their offense must carry them.

With the victory, the Mets remain one game behind St. Louis for the second wild card. They have now won 11 of their last 15 games.

LUGO SUPERB AGAIN: About that comment about the offense carrying the Mets, well, that might not be the case if they continue to get strong pitching from Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

Starting on the heels of Gsellman’s strong start the previous night, Lugo was terrific, giving up one run on six hits in seven innings.

He’s now 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA since joining the Mets.

If there was a turning point, it came in the first inning when the Nationals loaded the bases, but Lugo escaped untouched.

“Absolutely,” Collins said when asked if that was a deciding factor. “He needed to get out of it and he did. He settled down and pitched well.”

Lugo, Gsellman and Gabriel Ynoa have a combined six victories as spot starters.

KEEPING IT GOING: Yes, the Mets are hot, and yes, their schedule is seemingly easier than the rest of their competitors for the wild card.

“We need to go and have a good road trip and see where we are when we get back,” Collins said.

Here’s hoping the Mets sleep fast tonight as they have a 1 p.m., game tomorrow in Cincinnati.

Brilliant scheduling.

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Sep 02

Three Mets’ Storylines: De Grom To Miss Start

Do you wonder why I greet most Mets’ statements pertaining to injuries with skepticism?

Answer: On the day after Jacob deGrom emphatically said there was nothing wrong with him physically and manager Terry Collins pleaded ignorant to why his starter called for trainer Ray Ramirez when he left the game, the Mets said he’ll miss his next start, Tuesday, in Cincinnati with elbow inflammation.

DE GROM: To miss start. (AP)

DE GROM: To miss start. (AP)

For a team hasn’t had a chance to catch the Nationals for weeks now, it was the most important storyline for the Mets Friday.

A MRI showed inflammation but no structural damage. The prescription is anti-inflammatory medication and to resume throwing when the discomfort subsides.

“We’re lucky it isn’t worse than it is,” Collins said.

DeGrom gave up three runs on six hits and a season-high four walks in five innings Thursday. Considering he gave up 13 runs on 25 hits in his previous two starts, he would be watched closely. So, don’t you think Collins might have noticed when deGrom motioned for the trainer? If not him, then how about pitching coach Dan Warthen?

After the game, deGrom said he felt: “Just out of sync out there. I waved him [Ramirez] in to talk to him, but there’s nothing wrong.”

DeGrom said his problems weren’t physical, but mechanical. Since when did he start consulting with the trainer on mechanics?

DeGrom said he’s not too concerned and attributed the stiffness to poor mechanics.

“My arm is dragging and that put more stress on my elbow and causes it to flare up a little bit,” deGrom said. “Maybe the cause for my arm dragging is because of bad mechanics.”

 

The other storylines in Washington’s 4-1 victory were Noah Syndergaard’s continued inability to hold runners and the Mets’ inability to touch A.J. Cole.

SAME PROBLEM BEATS SYNDERGAARD: Syndergaard pitched well enough to win most games, giving up two runs on three hits and one walk in seven innings. He retired the final ten batters he faced.

Syndergaard was done in by giving up four stolen bases that resulted in both runs. Both Trea Turner in the first and Bryce Harper in the fourth stole third base and eventually scored from there.

Take away the steals and Syndergaard could have been on the winning end.

Analyst Ron Darling said teaching pitchers during the season to hold runners wouldn’t work, but it prompts the question why this isn’t done during spring training or when these guys are in the minor leagues.

Darling left the impression there isn’t an organizational philosophy in stopping the running game.

That could be that many teams don’t emphasize stolen bases as a weapon. Note: The Nationals and Diamondbacks sure do.

NO OFFENSE, AGAIN: A.J. Cole was superb in making his third start of the season, giving up one run on three hits in six innings, that being Asdrubal Cabrera’s 19th homer of the season.

Washington pitchers struck out 10, including five by Cole. Jose Reyes, Jay Bruce and Kelly Johnson each struck out twice.

Outside of Cabrera’s homer, only twice did the Mets have a runner in scoring position.

The Mets had two on in the seventh, but Reyes struck out to end the inning.

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Sep 02

Elbow Issue To Sideline DeGrom

Jacob deGrom will miss his next start, Tuesday in Cincinnati, because of inflammation in his right elbow. The report comes less than 24 hours after manager Terry Collins pleaded ignorance to deGrom calling for trainer Ray Ramirez to follow him to the clubhouse after Thursday’s start.

DeGrom underwent a MRI that showed inflammation but no structural damage.

On Thursday, deGrom gave up three runs on six hits and four walks in five innings. In his two previous starts he had given up 13 runs on 25 hits, and Collins, believing the problem was fatigue, opted to give him an extra three days of rest.

After the game, deGrom said he felt out of sync, but everything was fine.

It isn’t.

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