Mar 22

Santana To Stay Back; Wright, Marcum Updates

The Mets finally confirmed the obvious and said Johan Santana won’t be on the Opening Day roster. Considering he hadn’t thrown since his look-at-me-I’m-angry stunt, March 6, there was no suspense to this move.

“He’s not where he needs to be in his long-toss program,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters in one of spring trainings’ biggest understatements. “Even if it’s next week, he’s not going to open with us. He’s going to have to get himself ready. And that’s going to certainly determine on a daily basis where he is. But we’ll be gone. I’ll have to monitor it by the phone.’’

Collins said Santana is staying in Port St. Lucie until he’s ready, which could be up to a month. Collins dodged the inevitable question of whether Santana’s stunt sabotaged his efforts to be ready.

“It’s hard to say it was a setback. I just think he wanted to prove his arm was OK, that his arm was healthy,’’ Collins said. “Instead of trying to make sure and not let all this other stuff bother him, he got angry about it.

“We needed to go back to step one again. At that particular time that was his way of making sure everybody knew his shoulder was fine, that he wasn’t hurt. It’s just that he wasn’t ready to pitch. So now we’ve got to get him ready to pitch.’’

That Collins said they had to return to step one was a roundabout way of saying it was a setback without really saying it. But, Collins, who’ll need Santana this summer, wouldn’t come out and ruffle the feathers of his lefthanded diva.

Not sounding believable, Collins said he didn’t care about the past and was only worried about the future with Santana. Collins will save it for the book to tell us what he really feels.

WRIGHT UPDATE: David Wright, who is expected to join Santana on the disabled list, began stretching and strength-building exercises.

Wright strained his intercostal muscle while at the World Baseball Classic and said he’s hopeful of being ready by Opening Day. At the time the injury was revealed last Thursday, Collins estimated Wright would be out at least a month.

With a week to go, the odds are greater of Wright being re-injured than they are of him being ready.

Should Wright be cleared for a game, it will be in a minor league to backdate him to the disabled list ten days from the end of spring training.

MARCUM UPDATE: Assuming he is ready, Shaun Marcum will pitch Thursday against Washington. Not sure this is the right move.

If Marcum pitches and is injured and has to go on the disabled list, the Mets could only backdate it to Friday and could miss up to two starts.

Marcum received a cortisone injection in his shoulder Tuesday to relieve an impingement. If he pitches in a minor league game and is injured, the Mets could retroactive the date earlier.

If everything works out for the Mets, and that’s always a huge “if’’ with them, Jon Niese will be the Opening Day starter, followed by Marcum, Matt Harvey and then Dillon Gee. They are undecided whether to come back with Niese in the fifth game of the season or use Jeremy Hefner.

TONIGHT’S LINE-UP:

Jordany Valdespin, 2b

Collin Cowgill, cf

Mike Baxter, rf

Andrew Brown, lf

Anthony Recker, c

Brandon Hicks, 1b

Omar Quintanilla, ss

Brian Bixler, 3b

Jonathan Niese, lhp

Mar 20

Over Half Mets’ Payroll Could Be On DL Opening Day

According to the Mets’ timetable, today could greatly determine the make-up of their Opening Day roster and line-up, which probably won’t resemble anything you imagined a month ago.

Not even close.

WRIGHT: Will we know more today?

WRIGHT: Will we know more today?

The Mets hope to know more today of the status of third baseman David Wright and second baseman Daniel Murphy, both of whom have strained intercostal muscles. If reports are negative, it could give the Mets four prominent players – totaling nearly half their payroll – on the disabled list to open the season.

Combined, the salaries of left-hander Johan Santana ($31 million with the $5.5 million buyout is included), Wright ($11 million), closer Frank Francisco ($6.5 million) and Murphy ($2.95 million) amount to $51.95 million. The Mets’ 2013 payroll is yet to be determined, but assuming $100 million, that’s over half the roster’s payroll on the disabled list.

When Wright was pulled from the World Baseball Classic last Thursday with what was later diagnosed as a strained left intercostal muscle, GM Sandy Alderson said Wright would rest from three to five days.

Yesterday was the fifth day, and we should know more today on what’s next for Wright, who hasn’t made any promises regarding Opening Day.

“That’s looking to predict the future, and I can’t do that,’’ Wright told reporters when he returned to Port S. Lucie. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel … I’ll tell you that’s my goal.’’

When first informed of Wright’s injury, manager Terry Collins, citing Murphy’s injury this year and Wright’s strained side last year, projected the All-Star could be out at least a month.

Murphy strained his right intercostal muscle early in camp and played five innings of defense in a minor league game last weekend, but has been held out since because of continued stiffness.

Collins said he hopes Murphy will be ready today, but if he’s not by this weekend the disabled list was the probability.

MURPHY: Must play soon.

MURPHY: Must play soon.

“If he’s not back in a game, you’re down to seven days,’’ Collins said. “That’s not a lot of time to get somebody who hasn’t done anything all spring to get him ready.’’

Assuming that scenario, Justin Turner – currently suffering a sprained right ankle – and Jordany Valdespin will likely play third and second, respectively.

Meanwhile, there’s been little progress with Santana, down with shoulder fatigue, and Francisco, who has a persistent stinging feeling in his elbow after throwing. It has been a foregone conclusion for weeks now that both will be placed on the disabled list, and neither is expected to be with the Mets next season.

After spending the better part of the last two years rehabbing his surgically-repaired shoulder, Santana lightened up his off-season routine and consequently wasn’t in prime condition when he reported to camp. The Mets called him on that which annoyed Santana and prompted him – in an effort to quell criticism – to throw off the mound on March 3 without notifying Collins.

At the time, Santana hadn’t thrown in over a week and wasn’t supposed to throw for another week. Even so, Collins hoped Santana would be ready for the season. That won’t happen now as Collins said last weekend Santana wasn’t close to throwing again.

Why the Mets haven’t officially announced Santana will go on the disabled list is anybody’s guess, but Collins said Jon Niese would replace him as the Opening Day starter and Jeremy Hefner will take his place on the roster and then take his spot in the rotation.

Collins also said Bobby Parnell will take Francisco’s role as he closer. Francisco threw off the mound Saturday and reported feeling pain.

An injury also impacted center field, as a bruised left knee sidelined Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who’ll open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. Nieuwenhuis’ injury opened a spot for Collin Cowgill to be the starter.

Cowgill could lead off and play center in a line-up that might also include Lucas Duda and Marlon Byrd in the outfield; an infield – from first to third – of Ike Davis, Valdespin, Ruben Tejada and Murphy; with John Buck behind the plate and Niese on the mound.

Bet you didn’t see this coming.

Mar 18

Wright, Santana, Murphy And Duda Among Mets’ Questions As Opening Day Looms

Here we are, two weeks from Opening Day and the Mets still have a myriad of questions that can’t be answered by Google. Perhaps they should get a Celebrity Apprentice from Trump to fill in the holes.

Jon Niese was superb in yesterday’s loss to the Braves and we know he’ll get the ball that first day against San Diego regardless of the Mets’ refusal to acknowledge anything negative about Johan Santana, who is among their many questions.

Q: What will the Mets get, and when, from Santana?

A: Considering it had been almost two weeks since his ill-fated mound attempt to quell the negativity from the Mets and media that Santana has done any significant throwing, it is anybody’s guess. Maybe next week, maybe the week after, but he will open the season on the disabled list regardless of his rate of denial. The Mets would dearly love to trade his $31 million contract, but the fact is they’ll have to eat over $20 million to do so. Might as well let him rest and hope for the best.

Q: Will David Wright open the season on the disabled list?

A: Technically, today is the third day of the three to five Wright will have to rest. He has received a cortisone injection in his strained ribs since coming back from the World Baseball Classic. Injuries of this type often last a month, as Wright learned last spring. Maybe he would have gotten hurt just the same in a regular spring training, but that doesn’t change the fact the odds are against Opening Day.

Q: How good is Matt Harvey?

A: He’s been good this spring, but has also thrown the occasional dud. He has ten major league starts on his resume, but the expectations of a proven veteran. The other teams have scouting reports, too, so don’t be shocked if he takes some lumps early.

Q: How healthy is Dillon Gee?

A: He says he has fully recovered from surgery to repair an artery in his pitching shoulder, but has been off this spring. He could use another three or four starts to get all the rust off, but there’s not enough time.

Q: What can the Mets expect from Shaun Marcum and fifth starter Jeremy Hefner?

A: Considering Marcum will not make six exhibition starts, don’t be too optimistic. At this rate, the Mets will be fortunate to get five innings from either of them. The back end of the rotation is clearly a weakness.

Q: Will Lucas Duda hit for power?

A: Let’s rephrase that: Will he substantially cut his strikeouts? He’s had a rough spring showing little of his power potential. When he hits them, he hits them far. Just not often enough.

Q: Who starts in center field?

A: Kirk Nieuwenhuis spit the bit early, and then was hurt. He was the projected starter and leadoff hitter, but now is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Let’s hope that includes his bad habits at the plate. We’re looking at Collin Cowgill as the starter and Jordany Valdespin making the team. They can use Matt den Dekker’s defense, but want more from him at the plate.

Q: Will Daniel Murphy be ready?

A: Murphy had one of those “seven to ten days’’ rib injuries that has lasted a month. He played five innings of defense in a minor league game three days ago, but has been stiff since. The early word is Wednesday of this week, but we know how such projections go with the Mets. It is possible Valdespin will start at second while Justin Turner is at third Opening Day. Excited yet?

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: Bobby Parnell is the closer and he’s taken some hits this spring. Josh Edgin is the lefty specialist, but Pedro Feliciano is making a run. He’s one of several veterans hoping to extend their careers with the Mets.

Q: Will they add anybody before the end of spring training?

A: Don’t count on it.

Mar 17

Today’s Mets Lineup Against Braves

Jonathan Niese will be the Mets’ Opening Day starter. How many of the following from today’s line-up against the Braves be there with him?

Jordany Valdespin, 2b

Collin Cowgill, lf

Ike Davis, 1b

Marlon Byrd, rf

Zach Lutz, 3b

Landon Powell, c

Matt den Dekker, cf

Ruben Tejada, ss

Jonathan Niese, lhp

 

Mar 17

Kirk Nieuwenhuis Having Miserable Spring; Vegas Bound

With two weeks to go before Opening Day, Kirk Nieuwenhuis should be thinking about where he would live in New York rather than Las Vegas.

Nieuwenhuis, who made a strong first impression with the Mets last year, came to camp penciled in as the center fielder and first in line to win the leadoff spot. However, a hitless streak at the start of the exhibition schedule punctuated with a rash of strikeouts followed by deep bone bruise on his left knee made this a washout spring.

NIEUWENHUIS: Taking that swing to Vegas.

NIEUWENHUIS: Taking that swing to Vegas.

It should be fun for a young player competing for a starting job.

“Fun?’’ Nieuwenhuis asked. “It should have been fun, but it’s no fun spending time in the trainer’s room. It’s no fun when you can’t get onto the field. This has been a very frustrating time.’’

Nieuwenhuis was injured two weeks ago, and yesterday participated in batting practice and outfield drills. Once he runs the bases, he’ll be cleared to play, but it will be a minor league game.

Perhaps early this week Nieuwenhuis will get in a game, but Collin Cowgill has already leaped past him as well as Jordany Valdespin. Matt den Dekker also made a strong impression defensively, and still has a chance to make the team if he finishes with a hot two weeks with the bat.

Nieuwenhuis doesn’t say it, but despite his youth and inexperience, he’s smart enough to know the score. All he has to do is look at the stat sheet and compare his at-bats to Cowgill’s.

“I haven’t seen a lot of pitches,’’ Nieuwenhuis said in about as direct an admission that he’ll open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. “You need at-bats in spring training. You need repetition, and I haven’t gotten them.’’

Nieuwenhuis was brought up early last season after Andres Torres was injured and got two hits in his first game. Then he rattled off a seven-game hitting streak. Three times he had three hits in a game and at the end of April was hitting .325 with a .386 on-base percentage.

Nieuwenhuis remained productive in May – hitting .294 at the end of the month – and carried it into June and was emerging as an early Rookie of the Year candidate hitting .297 while playing a near flawless center field.

However, by the middle of the month, pitchers started figuring him out and his average plummeted. Anybody can hit fastballs, but Nieuwenhuis was having trouble with breaking balls and off-speed stuff and his strike zone widened for pitchers, who didn’t have to be so fine.

Nieuwenhuis sustained a hand injury in July and at the end of the month was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo, where he injured his foot and was lost for the remainder of the season.

At the time of his demotion, Nieuwenhuis was down to .252 with a .315 on-base percentage, and in 282 at-bats had more strikeouts (98) than hits (71).

Although general manager Sandy Alderson had his apprehensions with Nieuwenhuis, his early success last year coupled with the Mets’ wide-open outfield situation, enabled him to come to camp with a fresh start and high expectations.

“Strikeouts are acceptable to a point,’’ Alderson said. “If a player has a high on-base percentage and produces a lot of runs, you can take the strikeouts.’’

Nieuwenhuis got off to a slow start this spring with only one hit and seven strikeouts in 20 at-bats. He was quickly removed from the leadoff spot as manager Terry Collins searched for other options, including Valdespin and Cowgill.

“I know the strikeouts have been a problem,’’ Nieuwenhuis said. “I don’t want to strike out. I need to put the ball in play. Seeing pitches is very important, and you get that through repetition.’’

And, you don’t see pitches when you’re not on the field.