Mar 12

In Defense Of Matt Den Dekker

Do you remember when Citi Field opened the Mets vowed they they were going to build around pitching and defense? Then, they immediately signed Jason Bay, who played well defensively, but that wasn’t the point.

Enter Matt den Dekker, who doesn’t have the inside track at making the team as the center fielder despite being the their best defensive outfielder.

DEN DEKKER: Magic glove.

DEN DEKKER: Magic glove. (AP)

Terry Collins managed arguably one of the greatest defensive center fielders in history when he had Jim Edmonds. Collins said they compared favorably in their ability to chance down fly balls in the gap with their speed, “although nobody got a jump like Jim Edmonds … it seemed like he took two steps before the ball was hit.’’

That comes from knowing the hitters and the pitch, so maybe that part of it will come to den Dekker. However, and this is the rub, he’s not even close to Edmonds at the plate and it could cost him a spot on the roster.

Den Dekker made another spectacular catch Monday when he went against the wall in left-center to rob Detroit’s Austin Jackson of extra bases. It is one of several he’s made this spring, each one seemingly more scintillating than the previous.

Den Dekker told reporters later in Lakeland he was “just doing my job,’’ but for a team lacking in offense, that’s only part of what the Mets need from him.

“If you are going to be a platoon player, you got to be able to do something off the bench in the National League, and that’s not just play defense,’’ Collins told reporters.

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Mar 11

Jordany Valdespin Making Impact

Jordany Valdespin is not an easy person to like, and especially hard to cheer for. Ask a question and he’ll often mumble an indifferent and inaudible answer.

VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)

VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)

He exudes confidence on the field, but crosses the line with a brash attitude, tendency to showboat and not always hustle. Off the field he wears a bright red baseball cap reading “JV 1.’’ He often carries himself  with an “I own the world,” persona that goes beyond confidence, so much that manager Terry Collins has warned him to tone it down a notch.

Last year, Valdespin fell out of favor with the Mets despite hitting five pinch-hit homers. He didn’t help himself in the offseason when he was suspended in winter ball. Even so, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis out with a bruised left knee and Daniel Murphy sidelined with a strained right side, Valdespin is being given every opportunity to make the roster in the outfield or as a second baseman.

Valdespin has produced, but with a caveat: He plays to his own soundtrack.

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Mar 10

Zack Wheeler Among Roster Cuts; Mets Lineup Against Cardinals

Zack Wheeler was one of the ten the Mets re-assigned to the minor league camp this morning.

In addition to Wheeler, also sent down were: Collin McHugh, Gonzalez Germen, Darin Gorski, Elvin Ramirez, Wilfredo Tovar, Hansel Robles, Juan Lagares, Cesar Puello and Reese Havens.

WHEELER: Sent down today.

WHEELER: Sent down today.

The highly-touted prospect acquired from San Francisco for Carlos Beltran two years ago expressed disappointment, but not surprise at the demotion. After all, GM Sandy Alderson has said several times Wheeler would not be rushed.

“I expected it,’’ said Wheeler. “They told me this at the start of spring training.’’

Wheeler, who has been sidelined with a strained oblique, threw off the mound this morning at Port St. Lucie.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen spoke with Wheeler this morning to offer some homework advice.

“I told him to work on his secondary pitches and fastball command on both sides of the plate,’’ Warthen said.

Here’s today’s lineup against the Cardinals:

 

Marlon Byrd, rf

Justin Turner, 2b

Collin Cowgill, cf

Lucas Duda, dh

Andrew Brown, lf

Brandon Hicks, 3b

Zach Lutz, 1b

Landon Powell, c

Omar Quintanilla, ss

Shaun Marcum, rhp

Mar 04

Questions About Marcum, Santana And Nieuwenhuis

The Mets are off tomorrow, but have a “B’’ game in Jupiter in which Shaun Marcum, Pedro Feliciano and LaTroy Hawkins will pitch.

The projected fifth starter, Marcum, raised concerns when he didn’t report in shape. Here is a guy trying to hang onto a major league job and he doesn’t come to camp ready to pitch and says he only needs four exhibition appearances to get ready for the season.

MARCUM: Pitches tomorrow.

MARCUM: Pitches tomorrow.

Guys like that are hard to cheer for and you only hope he’s right about the four games. Somehow, I doubt it.

Hawkins, 40, is competing for a bullpen spot, and as a veteran supposedly requires only a minimum amount of innings.

Feliciano, once a Mets’ workhorse out of the pen, was sidelined with a heart ailment and is required to wear a monitor.

Considering all three could make the staff, that’s not a good sign for the Mets’ pitching.

SANTANA QUESTIONS: Other than Johan Santana being angry at reporters having the nerve to ask him about his condition, there’s been no timetable in the wake of his throwing off the mound Sunday.

I still don’t understand how the Mets can say they monitored Santana in the off-season, yet be surprised he didn’t come to camp in shape.

I also don’t understand why Santana, who knows the Mets won’t extend him beyond this season, didn’t report ready considering he would be pitching for a new contract.

Perhaps, with $31 million due him from the Mets this year, he’s already thought about cashing in his chips and calling it a career.

Just wondering. Also wondering why Santana wanted to pitch in the World Baseball Classic for Venezuela  when he’s not even ready to pitch in an exhibition game for the Mets.

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Mar 01

Mets’ Outfield Remains Muddled

After a handful of games, this much is certain about the Mets’ porous outfield situation: Nothing has been settled.

We know Lucas Duda is expected to play left field, but center field and right field are open. Wide open, it seems.

Going into spring training, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill were penciled in as a platoon in center, while veteran Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter were going to be a right field platoon.

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

“The outfield is definitely a question mark, collectively,’’ Sandy Alderson said. “I think we’ve liked what we’ve seen from Cowgill. I don’t think that (Andrew) Brown and (Jamie) Hoffman have had much of an opportunity to play at this point.

“Nieuwenhuis, (Matt) den Dekker, still have some work to do offensively. Marlon Byrd is what he is (which hardly qualifies as an endorsement. Mike Baxter is certainly in that mix- expect him to be on that team.’’

Nieuwenhuis if off to a horrible 0-for-12 start with six strikeouts, and both Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin have outperformed him offensively. Nieuwenhuis was given the first opportunity to with the leadoff spot because of his speed, but he’s shown nothing in that regard. Last night, he batted fifth.

Den Dekker has a great glove, but Jim Edmonds comparisons quickly end when his bat is mentioned.

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