Apr 29

Will Alderson Ever Say, `Conforto Needs To Play?’

After Michael Conforto‘s second homer today, the cynic in me couldn’t help but wonder, how will GM Sandy Alderson now try to limit his playing time? That is, of course, if Yoenis Cespedes is able to come back sooner than originally anticipated.

CONFORTO: Celebrating long ball. (AP)

CONFORTO: Celebrating long ball. (AP)

When Cespedes injured his hamstring Thursday and placed on the disabled list the following day, original reports indicated a serious injury, but today Alderson called it “mild.” Yeah, I’m buying into that diagnosis big time.

After opening the season on the bench following a hot spring, Conforto responded to his limited playing time until when the Mets’ anemic hitting forced manager Terry Collins to start him. The player last year Collins said would be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future.

That is until he went 0-for-5 a year ago Monday against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner that sent him into a downward spiral. From there, Conforto rode the Flushing-Vegas shuttle for much of last season, and when spring training started after Alderson re-signed Cespedes and was unable to trade Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson, conventional thinking had him opening in the minors.

However, Conforto kept hitting, first as a pinch-hitter and role player, until he broke into the starting lineup as a starter on April 20. Most recently he replaced Jose Reyes at the top of the order roughly a week ago. Since starting full time, Conforto has gone 11-for-30 with four homers and six RBI, and overall is batting .298 with a .386 on-base percentage, six homers and 12 RBI.

“Michael had a huge day for us and we needed it,” Collins said, “I have to salute him. When you’re not in the lineup every day you have to make the most of it. … He’s done a tremendous job in the leadoff spot. Just tremendous.”

Conforto hit a two-run homer in the fifth and solo homer in the eighth, the latter coming off lefty reliever Enny Romero. Conforto isn’t cocky, but he’s definitely not short of confidence. Despite what Alderson and Collins might worry about, Conforto has no double about his ability to hit left-handers, which is what it is going to take to stay in the lineup when Cespedes returns.

“Huge,” Conforto said when asked what kind of lift his homer off Romero gave him. “I’ve always felt I could hit lefties. No matter who is out there, I feel I can hit them. … As long as I put the work in, everything will take care of itself. I worry about what I can control and not worry about the other stuff.”

Conforto and Collins said all the right things today. What’s next would be for Alderson to finally say, “the kid has to play.”

Apr 28

Mets To Make Alamo Stand In DC

The setting for this series should be in San Antonio, home of the Alamo. That’s appropriate for the Mets, as they are about to make perhaps their last stand for the 2017 season.

The Mets enter this three-game series losers of six straight and 10 of their last 11 games; they are in last place 7.5 games behind.

DeGROM: Makes huge start tonight. (AP)

DeGROM: Makes huge start tonight. (AP)

Jose Reyes said it best about this series, saying, “we’ll see what we’re made of … we can’t too deep into the standings.’’

Should the Mets be swept by the Nationals as they were last weekend at Citi Field, they will limp into May 10.5 behind.

And, let us not forget their roster on the disabled list that could expand by Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard.

Cespedes had an MRI and the Mets put him on the disabled list today. The Mets hope Syndergaard will be available to start Sunday, but hoping isn’t much of a strategy.

The Mets are in a two-week long hitting funk and it will be hard-pressed for them to escape against Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

The Mets start Jacob deGrom tonight in what arguably could be call one of the five most important starts of his career. Raw, but promising Zack Wheeler goes Saturday and Sunday is up in the air. In anticipation of putting Syndergaard on the disabled list, the Mets recalled lefty Sean Gilmartin today.

Without the long ball, the Mets’ chances to win get longer. Twice during their losing stretch, manager Terry Collins said they needed to manufacture runs.

That lack of situational hitting has been a staple during GM Sandy Alderson’s tenure.

Alderson wanted to bury Michael Conforto on the bench, but he’s been forced to play because of injuries and the overall ineptness of the offense.

He’ll leadoff tonight. He’s a line drive hitter with decent speed, but don’t look for him to steal a game on the bases.

Here’s tonight’s batting order:

Conforto – LF

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS

Jay Bruce – RF

Neil Walker – 2B

Curtis Granderson – CF

Reyes – 3B

T.J. Rivera – 1B

Travis d’Arnaud – C

deGrom – RHP

 

Apr 12

Wheeler, Conforto Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

Sometime next season or the year after, Zack Wheeler and Michael Conforto will combine to lift the Mets. They did for awhile Wednesday night in Philadelphia until Hansel Robles sprayed graffiti on their near masterpiece.

i-5Wheeler, backed in large part by Conforto’s homer and Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run single, cruised into the sixth with a five-run lead. It looked as if manager Terry Collins would let him pitch out of trouble, but pulled him with two outs and the bases loaded in favor of Robles.

Collins feared the Phillies would break through and spoil Wheeler’s night and he’d suffer an emotional setback. Instead, Maikel Franco turned around Robles’ first pitch for a monster grand slam that changed the complexion of the game, but the Mets held on to win 5-4 to complete the sweep.

In winning his first game since coming off Tommy John surgery in 2014, Wheeler gave up three runs on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw the target 85 pitches, but the key was working ahead in the count with his secondary pitches. Miami hurt Wheeler in his first start – of a cold damp day – when he fell behind in the count and waited on his fastball.

Wheeler coasted into the sixth but the Phillies worked him hard to load the bases.

“I was very happy with the way he pitched tonight,” Collins told reporters of Wheeler’s start. “He threw the ball as well as he could but he ran out of gas all of a sudden.”

Pitchers usually won’t admit to getting tired, but Wheeler was stand-up. He knows the score.

“I was a little tired at the end,” Wheeler said. “It’s all about building myself up. …I had better command. That’s what I needed from my first start. It felt good to bounce back after that rough outing. I was nice to go out there and do well.  It’s a weight off my shoulders.”

Conversely, it hasn’t appeared the Mets were all that interested in building up Conforto’s at-bats. They had a huge lead, but Conforto sat until the end. Conforto was a surprise start over Curtis Granderson and responded with two hits and a walk and scored three runs.

One of those hits was an opposite-field homer to give the Mets an early 2-0 lead.

Conventional wisdom has Conforto going to the minors when Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list. He needs at-bats, but Collins would not commit to starting him Thursday in Miami.

Conforto hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time but responded with what little he has.

“I’m getting good pitches to hit and getting deep into the count,” said Conforto, who continues to refuse to get drawn into the debate on his immediate future.

Another positive note to the day was the report Matt Harvey, who strained his left hamstring Tuesday night, would be able to make his next start Sunday in Miami.

While Wheeler and Conforto were the headliners, Robles served as a reminder of one of the Mets’ biggest weaknesses, which is the bridge to the back end of the bullpen.

Apr 08

Reyes Sits Tonight

Five games into the season and Mets manager Terry Collins is juggling his lineup. Tonight, Collins sits third baseman Jose Reyes‘ 1-for-18 start.

Undoubtedly, Reyes endured longer dry spells, but he looked terrible Friday night. He’s looked horrible all season.

REYES: Sitting vs. Fish. (AP)

REYES: Sitting vs. Fish. (AP)

Even so, Reyes said it is premature for him to panicI don’t want to put pressure on myself going to the film like, ‘Oh, what am I doing wrong?’ ” Reyes told reporters. “Sometimes, you have to give credit to the pitcher. They’ve pitched me tough. Sooner or later it’s going to change.”

Curtis Granderson and Wilmer Flores will replace Reyes at the top of the order and third base, respectively. I have no problems with sitting Reyes tonight, but I’m not crazy about what Collins is considering next for Reyes.

Collins said he’s looking to spell another slumping Met, Granderson, in center field with Reyes. The issue is to get a right-handed bat in the lineup. Meanwhile, Michael Conforto – who had a pinch-hit single Friday –  has all of two at-bats. It was last April when Collins forecasted him as the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future and said he would hit against left-handed pitching.

Evidently, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, just as it appears Conforto won’t be playing in the near future. As I, and others feared, Conforto will languish on the bench until Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list.

The Mets’ lack of a right-handed hitting outfielder smacks of two things: 1) Collins’ and GM Sandy Alderson’s marriage to the righty-lefty dynamics, and 2) Alderson’s inability to construct a team with a right-handed bat.

If Alderson had Babe Ruth he’d sit hit him against a lefty, and does this mean Lagares is the only acceptable right-handed outfield bat?

The bottom line: Conforto will never learn to hit lefty pitching until he gets the chance. You would think the game’s smartest general manager, would figure that out.

 

Apr 07

Game Wrap: Wheeler Rocked

GAME:  #4

SCORE: Marlins 7, @Mets 2

RECORD: 2-2    RISP: 2-for-5,  8 LOB

HOMERS: 1: Yoenis Cespedes (1).

ANALYSIS

In one of the most anticipated starts by a Mets’ pitcher in years, Zack Wheeler, pitching for the first time since September of 2014 after being shelved from Tommy John surgery, was hit early and hard, giving up five runs on six hits in four innings, logging 80 pitches.

“He needed this,” manager Terry Collins said. “He needed to get back in the flow. For the first game, it was OK.”

WHEELER: Rough start in return. (AP)

WHEELER: Rough start in return. (AP)

Is velocity a big deal? He touched 97 in the first inning, then was in the low 90s two innings later. Was it the weather? Was it coming off surgery? Whatever the reason, the circumstances were such that we can’t make any real assessments until we see how he feels tomorrow and after his next start, Wednesday in Philadelphia.

That’s how Collins saw it. He chose to look at some of the positives, such as his early velocity and building his pitch count up to 80.

“It was not what I wanted tonight, but it was good to get out there,” Wheeler told reporters. “I didn’t have my best stuff tonight. I didn’t have good control and they were able to sit on the fastball. … It’s a long season and I will get better.”

ON THE MOUND: Good relief efforts from Rafael Montero and Josh Edgin, both of whom worked two innings. … Josh Smoker gave up two runs.

AT THE PLATE:  Two hits each by Curtis Granderson and Rene Rivera. … Michael Conforto had a pinch-hit single. … Jose Reyes was hitless in five at-bats and is hitting .056 on the season with only one hit. Maybe a day off would help. … Marlins pitchers struck out eight Mets.

IN THE FIELD: The Mets are getting ripped and the wind chill had to be in the low 30s. Seemed like it would have been a good opportunity to get the bench some work.

ON DECK: The Mets continue their homestand Saturday against Miami with Robert Gsellman getting the start.