Apr 06

What Is With Today’s Lineup?

The Mets’ Opening Day lineup is a head-scratching stunner. It resembles one of those lineups manager Terry Collins might pull from a hat to break a losing streak. It is something nobody could have projected.

Here goes:

Curtis Granderson, rf: There was some consideration batting Granderson leadoff, but the thought was it would be Juan Lagares because of his good spring, speed and that the former would be better suited for the middle of the order.

David Wright, 3b: He had a good spring training, so why move him from his accustomed spot at No. 3?

Lucas Duda, 1b: He’s the cleanup hitter. That’s what hitting 30 homers should warrant.

Michael Cuddyer, lf: Maybe Collins is trying to take advantage of his good spring, but how many times will he hit here when Duda is also in the lineup?

Daniel Murphy, 2b: Keeping fingers crossed they haven’t rushed him. There was some debate hitting him in the middle of the order to give him more RBI opportunities. He’s a proven No. 2 hitter.

Juan Lagares, cf: Collins said he didn’t want to bat Lagares against the top of the Washington rotation. Question: If you’re afraid to have him face the Nationals’ best, then why give him a four-year deal? Lagares had a good spring hitting mostly at the top of the order. So, why mess with him?

Travis d’Arnaud, c: I have no problem with him batting seventh.

Wilmer Flores, ss: Ditto.

Bartolo Colon, rhp: At least he’s not eighth.

 

Apr 02

Harvey Is Ready, But Are Mets?

Matt Harvey is ready. Now, what about the rest of the Mets?

Harvey, who’ll start the season’s third game in Washington, threw four scoreless innings today in a 0-0 tie with St. Louis today, and he immediately pronounced himself ready.

“I’m ready to go,” Harvey told reporters. “All the work has been put in, and it is time to just let all that loose.”

Harvey did not walk a hitter and threw 41 of 56 pitches for strikes.

“You hear stories of guys who have trouble with command coming back,” Harvey said. “That was something that I really worked on. Obviously you never know until you start facing hitters and get into a game.”

Harvey is the first of a long list of questions I posed at the start of spring training. As the Mets are in Texas to play the Rangers this weekend before heading to Washington, let’s re-visit those questions:

Q: How healthy is Harvey?

A: This is arguably the most important question of the season. Today was part of the good news. The Mets are thinking 30 starts and 190 innings. He’ll be on a 90-pitch count for the Nationals.

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring.  (AP)

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring. (AP)

Q: Who breaks camp as the leadoff hitter?

A: This remains undecided, but it appears Juan Lagares is the frontrunner based on his speed, not to mention a new four-year contract. However, Lagares must still improve his on-base percentage and reduce his strikeouts. Curtis Granderson could hit second if Daniel Murphy isn’t ready, otherwise he should be in the middle of the order.

Q: How healthy is David Wright?

A: A weak shoulder sapped Wright of his power last season, but he has had a good spring. Wright is the centerpiece of the offense. If he’s on his game, the offense could be as potent as it was in Florida.

Q: Wil Dillon Gee be traded?

A: Unbelievably, the Mets are still interested in trying to trade him. They wanted too much when they dangled him during the winter. They finally broke down this week and slotted him into the rotation.

Q: How good is Wilmer Flores?

A: Flores had a solid spring and nobody is talking about replacing him. He needs a legitimate opportunity, and that includes sticking with him even if with a poor start.

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

A: Bobby Parnell and Josh Edgin will open the season on the disabled list. Jenrry Mejia will come out of spring training as the closer and Jeurys Familia as the set-up closer. The Mets will keep Rule 5 lefty Sean Gilmartin, along with lefty acquisitions Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres. Filling out the bullpen is long-man Carlos Torres and Rafael Montero.

Q: Any injuries?

A: They wouldn’t be the Mets without injuries. Zack Wheeler and Edgin are lost for the season following Tommy John surgery. Lucas Duda missed three weeks with a strained intercostal muscle, but enters the season in good shape. Granderson was hit on the leg with a pitch today and it is questionable for Opening Day. The Mets are adamant Murphy will not start the season on the disabled list. No doubt, that’s a gamble.

 

 

Mar 29

Alderson Facing A Lot Of Questions This Week

The Mets are entering the final week of their eventful spring training. Unless the Mets make a surprise trade – and what are the odds of that? – there shouldn’t be any notable additions, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t decisions to be made.

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

And, if you’ve followed closely, you know GM Sandy Alderson will make the final call on those decisions with only a minimal input from manager Terry Collins. The most successful teams have collaboration between the GM and the manager, usually based on respect, but that’s not the basis of this relationship. When the GM tells an author of his eroding confidence in his manager, what does that tell you?

So, operating under the theory this is Alderson’s team, here is what he must decide:

LEFTY RELIEVER: With Scott Rice optioned out, the thinking in Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin will get the nod over Dario Alvarez. There’s been talk about going outside, but that’s been going on all spring.

DISABLED LIST: There have been reports of Daniel Murphy and Vic Black being ready for Opening Day, but it’s a long season so why push it?

SECOND BASE: If not Murphy, then who? Alderson discusses Danny Muno or Matt Reynolds, but ignores Ruben Tejada, who is supposed to be the backup.

LEADOFF HITTER: They really don’t have one in the traditional sense, but based on their options it should be Juan Lagares. Quite simply, Curtis Granderson has more value as a run producer in the middle of the order.

BATTING ORDER: Primarily because of the juggling at the leadoff spot, there’s been little consistency in the order. We’ve seen the Mets have over 100 different batting order combinations in recent seasons. Unfortunately, it could be that way again.

ROTATION ORDER: Most teams who already know their rotation would have an order. Not the Mets.

So, Alderson has a lot to think about this week.

Mar 27

Mets Matters: Murphy DL Bound; Harvey Sharp

In what hardly is a surprise, the Mets are now saying they expect Daniel Murphy to open the season on the disabled list with a pulled right hamstring.

“Look, any hamstring is typically a minimum of a couple of weeks,’’ GM Sandy Alderson told reporters today. “For him to come back sooner than roughly Opening Day would be a little surprising. But given the way he felt – and the fact that it was a very mild strain – it’s still a possibility he will be ready. I don’t think it’s anything we can predict right now.’’

mets-matters logoMurphy was injured March 19.

Alderson’s comments are vague, which is no shock. Alderson’s initial prognosis was, “he’ll be out a week or so, maybe a little longer … and, “hamstrings take longer than people want to admit.’’

He was correct there, but his subsequent comment about the injury being a “very mild strain,’’ is nonsense considering the Mets downgraded the hamstring from tightness to a pull. Until Alderson today, the Mets never described it a “very mild strain.’’

Two weeks from March 19 is April 2, or next Thursday.

If Murphy plays next week it will only be in minor league games, which will enable the Mets to backdate his time on the DL and allow him to miss only the season’s first six days. If he plays in a regular exhibition game and is injured the clock would start ticking that date.

Murphy started hitting off a tee Wednesday and did some light running Friday.

METS LOSE TODAY: Matt Harvey, who turned 26, gave up one run on three hits with five strikeouts in 4.1 innings in today’s 5-4 loss to St. Louis. … In the Mets’ grand experiment of batting the pitcher’s spot eighth, those hitters went a combined 1-for-3, which was pinch-hitter Anthony Recker’s single. Harvey was hitless in two at-bats. The Nos. 9 and 1 hitters – Danny Muno and Curtis Granderson – were a combined 4-for-7. … Closer Jenrry Mejia gave up a three-run homer in the eighth inning. … Lefty specialist Sean Gilmartin, a Rule 5 pick, struck out Scott Moore looking with two outs in the seventh.

EXTRA INNINGS: ESPN reported the Mets are scouting lefty relievers Rex Brothers (Colorado) and Boone Logan (Los Angeles Dodgers). Count on Logan being too pricey for the Mets as he is due $11.75 million in 2015 and 2016. … Pitching coach Dan Warthen said closer Bobby Parnell could throw 100 mph., which is another useless prediction by the Mets. Let’s see him not open the season on the DL first. … Jacob deGrom will start Saturday against Washington’s Stephen Strasberg at Tradition Field.

 

Mar 27

What’s Collins Really Thinking With His Lineup?

Here’s why I have trouble taking the Mets seriously at times. In today’s game against St. Louis, manager Terry Collins plans to bat Matt Harvey eighth.

Theoretically, it would enable him to bat Juan Lagares ninth followed by Curtis Granderson and David Wright.

COLLINS: What's he really thinking?

COLLINS: What’s he really thinking?

“I know in our market it’s a big issue. It’ll be a headline, back-page story,’’ Collins told reporters the other day. “But I’ll just do it to see what it looks like. Nothing more than that.’’

So, why do it then? That question becomes more pertinent when you consider the rest of the lineup.

First of all, if this is done to bunch your speed at the top of the order, you can do it the traditional way. The problem is Lagares isn’t even in the lineup, so the initial point is automatically defeated. Traditionally – and why is it tradition is such a taboo word in baseball these days? – a team’s best hitter, which is the combination of average and power, bats third. And, with the Mets that is Wright.

Today, it is Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who admittedly has had a good spring, but will open the season on the bench. Collins also has Michael Cuddyer clean-up and Wilmer Flores fifth – where neither will be during the season – Eric Campbell at first and Danny Muno at second. Campbell is a role player and Muno likely won’t make the team.

Spring training is in part used to experiment. Fine, but it you’re going to experiment then at least do it in such a way that you’ll get somewhat of an idea of how things will be in the season.

Here’s today’s Mets’ lineup:

Curtis Granderson, rf: Will bat leadoff only if Lagares can’t do the job, which means that’s another issue.

David Wright, 3b: Is having a good spring and should bat third until he proves he can’t.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf: Will make the team in part because he’s had a good spring, but also because he’s out of options.

Michael Cuddyer, lf: Won’t hit clean-up as that’s reserved for Lucas Duda. We’ll see how long he lasts in left field.

Wilmer Flores, ss: Is playing with a bruised foot. Let’s hope he doesn’t get re-injured. Even so, I can’t see him hitting this high in the order.

Travis d’Arnaud, c: He hasn’t had a great spring hitting, but I can see him in the sixth slot at times.

Eric Campbell, 1b: Valuable role player.

Matt Harvey, rhp: Yes, the DH is used to spread out at-bats, but they hit in the National League. How many games did the Mets lose because their pitcher was an automatic out or couldn’t advance a runner? Bottom line: The batters should hit more during spring training.

Danny Muno, 2b: Is making a push to make the team, however if Daniel Murphy isn’t ready then Ruben Tejada should be playing more at the end of spring training.

So, there you have it, the Mets’ order one-through-nine. Of the nine spots, only d’Arnaud at sixth seems like something they’ll do during the season.

Collins has wasted today’s batting order and made today a joke. Is that what he really wanted to do, or is he sending a message to GM Sandy Alderson? And, what could that message be? Perhaps that he doesn’t have a legitimate leadoff hitter? Or that Granderson really isn’t a good fit for this team?

I’m sure there are others, and you don’t have to look that hard.