Mar 02

Mets Matters: Looking At Harvey, Left Field And Other Issues

It is way too early for rave reviews, but the first impression of Matt Harvey have been positive. Harvey threw to hitters – who swung this time – Monday morning and the reaction has been good.

Curtis Granderson especially liked Harvey’s command, telling reporters: “The big thing is he went to both sides of the plate really consistently and accurately and effectively. If he did miss, it was a miss that he wanted to make — not toward the middle of the plate.’’

mets-matters logoHarvey is ready, if not anxious.

“Once the hitters start swinging, that’s kind of a sign games are near and the season is coming closer,’’ Harvey said. “For us it’s exciting. Especially being 18 months from a competitive game, it’s a good feeling.’’

This is the last time for Harvey to be scheduled against hitters before Friday’s exhibition game against Detroit.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said Harvey is slated to throw 35 pitches over two innings Friday, and will not exceed 40 pitches.

DUDA TO SWING THIS WEEK: First baseman Lucas Duda, bothered by a strained left intercostal muscle, could start hitting off a tee this week.

Manager Terry Collins said if that goes well he could start taking batting practice next week.

UP IN THE AIR: Collins hasn’t decided who’ll be his leadoff hitter, but favors Juan Lagares over Granderson.

Collins wants Lagares’ on-base percentage, which was .321 last season, to be in the .330 to .340 range.

Left field is to be determined between Granderson and Michael Cuddyer. Neither is greatly experience in left field, but both say they are willing to play wherever Collins wants. Cuddyer has three career starts in left, while Granderson has 22. Collins will rotate them for two weeks before making a decision.

“Obviously I don’t have much experience, but at the same time there’s no saying that I can’t come over there and learn,’’ Cuddyer told reporters about playing left field. “I take a lot of pride in being an athlete, not just a right fielder or a first baseman. It’s being a baseball player. And the definition of being a baseball player is going out and playing baseball where the manager puts you. So it’s fine with me.’’

You love to hear that stuff.

 

Mar 14

Niese Mishandles Twitter Issue

There are many conflicts Jon Niese will face in his Mets’ career, ranging from hitters, to injuries, to the weather and considerably more. Trying to take on reporters doing their jobs using Twitter is one he’ll have difficulty winning.

That is, if he even has a chance.

In the wake of pitching coach Dan Warthen’s apology for a supposed racial slur, an angry Niese told reporters to stop Tweeting from the clubhouse. I understand his angst, but as in most issues steeped in emotion, it is an uphill climb and one handled poorly by all sides.

Reporters are allowed by Major League Baseball to tweet and post blogs from the clubhouse, and in fact, I was one of the first Mets’ reporters to post blogs from the clubhouse when I started the beat in 2006.

Major League Baseball wants the information out there. That creates interest, which leads to ticket sales and television-radio ratings. It’s about money, so as much as Niese wants it, he’s fighting the bottom line.

That’s also why many of Niese’s teammates, including Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, have Twitter handles.

So, who is at fault for this flap?

It starts with Warthen, who apologized to Daisuke Matsuzaka’s interpreter, Jeff Cutler, for his comment, but unfortunately did so in front of a reporter he might not have known well, if at all.

Apologies, warranted or not, should be done in private, especially if there’s not a working knowledge of the reporter, who reportedly is from San Francisco and not on the Mets’ beat.

Also at blame is the reporter, who, according to reports either overheard the apology and/or wasn’t part of the conversation.  I don’t know the reporter, who is Chinese and offended by the comment. That’s his issue, but his sensitivities sparked this fire and now it’s a political correctness issue.

One person is upset and now the world revolves around those feelings.

Seemingly, the apology was an off-the-record comment, and therefore the reporter violated a basic tenet of the reporter-athlete relationship, which made it harder for all reporters to do their jobs.

Finally, Niese must take responsibility for how this unravels. When you’re in a crowded clubhouse, you don’t tell a group of reporters: “Stop Tweeting about our clubhouse. That —-‘s got to stop.’’

How could he not think it wasn’t going to escalate from there? There are ways to deal with the press, either by talking to reporters privately or through the media relations department.

This could have been handled better by everyone.

 

Feb 28

Jon Niese Injury Raises Questions

It was interesting to hear Jonathon Niese take responsibility for his setback, but his comments raised questions as to how the New York Mets handled his injury.

NIESE: Injury raises questions. (AP)

NIESE: Injury raises questions. (AP)

Niese’s MRI revealed scapula-muscle weakness in the back of his left shoulder.

How did this happen?

Niese missed two months last season with a rotator-cuff strain, but returned to pitch late in the year.

Before the offseason, I asked Niese his off-season plans and he said he would get a workout routine from the trainers and concentrate on strengthening his shoulder. Sounded reasonable.

Today, Niese told ESPN in Port St. Lucie he worked on the rotator cuff area, but neglected the area in the back part of the shoulder leading to an imbalance of strength and caused his shoulder blade to be tugged at an awkward angle.

Often with an arm injury a pitcher overcompensates, which leads to another problem.

“The MRI revealed that my shoulder this year is actually better than it was last year,’’ Niese said. “[Mets physician Dr. David Altchek] said everything was healed and everything was clean.

“It’s just the fact that there are little weak spots. I kind of blame that on myself. Last year, with it being the rotator cuff, this off-season that’s pretty much all I was working on. I neglected the other things. So everything was at an imbalance. That’s when I started having the shoulder-pinching issues and discomfort.’’

This leads to several questions:

* Was Niese instructed to work on that area of the shoulder and just didn’t? If so, why? Surely, he has to be smart enough not to ignore rehab instructions.

* Did the doctors not tell and show Niese how to work those muscles? One would think they would have.

* Was Niese rushed back too soon last season and developed bad habits that carried over to his off-season throwing? If so, it wouldn’t have been the first time a Met was rushed back.

* Are Niese’s mechanics the same as they were prior to the injury, and if so, why wasn’t this caught by pitching coach Dan Warthen? Everything is on tape, so it’s a wonder why it was missed if that’s the case.

* Niese said he would get a workout routine from a physical therapist, leading to speculation he wasn’t given that series of exercises. If so, why not?

The Mets have been frequently criticized for their handling of injuries. While it might be premature to make that accusation in this case, there is cause to wonder.

Feb 21

Bobby Parnell Injures Quad Muscle

Closer Bobby Parnell is day-to-day with a strained quad muscle. Parnell was injured covering first base during a pitchers fielding drill Thursday.

Parnell was scheduled to throw off the mound Thursday, but pushed his session back a day to be cautious. Then came the injury.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said he didn’t believe the injury was serious.

“Everyone thinks it’s very, very mild,’’ Warthen told reporters. “He wanted to throw today.’’

Parnell, who is coming off neck surgery to repair a herniated disc, threw 35 pitches in the bullpen Tuesday, but doesn’t know when he will throw again.

It was questionable to begin with whether Parnell will be ready for the start of the season. This sets him back even further, but the team isn’t close to saying there’s a sense of urgency with him.

If Parnell isn’t ready, the Mets plan on using Vic Black as the closer. They also signed veterans Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth for bullpen depth.

 

Feb 20

Mets’ Matt Harvey Cleared To Throw

Filed under the category of good news for the New York Mets: Matt Harvey is cleared to throw. It’s important to know this does not accelerate his timetable and should not be construed to mean he will pitch this season.

HARVEY: Green light.

HARVEY: Green light.

Harvey, who finally relented to Tommy John surgery after initially wanting to rest, is expected to miss this season but be ready for next spring training.

The way these things progress, it first starts with a game of catch on flat ground – like you did with your dad in the backyard – with the distance gradually increasing to build up arm strength.

Eventually, leads to throwing halfway up the mound for a few sessions until reaching the rubber. The initial times on the rubber will not be at full speed. It might not be until the end of spring training before Harvey reaches that objective.

You’ll hear often the most important days are not the ones he throw, but the day after to see how his elbow responds.

Harvey expressed a desire to be with the team during the regular season opposed to the staff in Florida. While this hasn’t been decided, he will spend some time in Port St. Lucie for extended spring training and possibly minor league games.

It’s a good idea for Harvey to rehab in New York because Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson and Dan Warthen can keep an on him, not just to see how he’s progressing physically, but to be able to put the brakes on him mentally and emotionally.

Twice already in his young career – that we know of – Harvey pressed the issue when it came to dealing with pain.

First, he pitched through a tweak in his back and subsequently missed a start. Next, he tried to pitch through discomfort in his forearm that led to his elbow injury and eventual surgery.

If Harvey resists the urge to push things, he should be all right.