Sep 07

Mets See Good In Zack Wheeler Despite Loss; Scott Rice Season Ends

The result wasn’t what the New York Mets wanted, but overall they must be pleased with what they’ve seen from Zack Wheeler this season.

Even Friday night when he walked five in five innings in a loss at Cleveland.

WHEELER: Not a kid anymore.

WHEELER: Not a kid anymore.

I thought Wheeler might have been rushed to the major leagues because he didn’t dominate at Triple-A Las Vegas, and that idea seemed to be reinforced when his control was off early. Wheeler seemed to correct the problem, but it resurfaced against the Indians.

However, after the game he told reporters his shoulder was “flying open.’’ That he understood that flaw, no doubt pointed out by pitching coach Dan Warthen, but limited the damage are positives.

What’s next for Wheeler’s development is to not only notice a mechanical issue by himself, but also be able to correct it during the game. The great ones cannot only recognize a flaw by where their pitch went, but correct in during the at-bat.

During his first two starts, the Mets went overboard in calling his pitches – perhaps in the wake of Terry Collins getting messages Wheeler was tipping his pitches – but they quickly abandoned that plan and allowed him to use his fastball.

Although the Mets will limit his innings for the remainder of the season, Wheeler, 7-4, could get another three or four starts, and should he run the table, will have won more games than Matt Harvey.

Who would have thought that in April?

Who also would have envisioned at the time that Scott Rice would still be around?

Everybody expected big things from Harvey, but Rice was easily the Mets’ most inspirational story of the season. Harvey was the given; Rice was the underdog who made good.

The 31-year-old lefty reliever toiled for 14 years in the minor leagues before hooking on with the Mets this spring. He didn’t stick because of the state of their bullpen, but because he deserved to in leading the majors with 73 appearances.

Rice was 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA, but his most important statistic was the .174 average lefties hit off him. As a lefty specialist, that’s important. Rice walked 27 and struck out 41, and could go into spring training as the lead lefty in the pen.

Rice’s season, however, ended with the news he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia and will be out for the remainder of the season.

Even so, Rice was a good Mets’ story this summer. Maybe the best.

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Aug 18

Mets Playing Fast And Loose With Mejia’s Elbow

Another day, another injury for the New York Mets, and not surprisingly, one involving a pitcher.  Jenrry Mejia didn’t make it out of the fourth Saturday night in San Diego because of pain caused by a bone spur in is right elbow. His season is in jeopardy as he likely will be placed on the disabled list today.

This is not new for Mejia – he left a game in Miami, July 31 – and he is supposed to have off-season surgery.

MEJIA: Is season over? (AP)

MEJIA: Is season over? (AP)

What has been reported is pitching coach Dan Warthen said, “Mejia did not warm up well,’’ which should make anybody wonder why he started in the first place.

If somebody is known to be hurt, is scheduled for surgery, and has difficulty warming up, one would think caution would be exercised. One would think.

Yes, I am more cautious when it comes to injuries than the Mets. I also know that after covering baseball for two-and-a-half decades, one should bet the over. It rarely breaks the other way.

A roster move will be made today, so figure Mejia going on the disabled list. Of course, that doesn’t take away what further injury might have been sustained Saturday.

General manager Sandy Alderson spoke like the lawyer in defending starting Mejia.

“We all know that he’s had some issues with his elbow,” Alderson said. “He was pitching to [pain] tolerance. That tolerance was exceeded tonight apparently and he had to come out. The doctor here took a look at him, but at this point it’s about his symptoms. They were obviously severe tonight, and we’ll see where this takes us.’’

Sometimes, you just want to scream listening to Alderson.

If the Mets knew he had issues, he shouldn’t have started following a bad warm-up. He should have been given an MRI. And, what in the hell is pitching to pain tolerance? Is it pitching just before serious damage is done?

The Mets, predictably, said there was no chance of further injury. Care to guarantee that assessment? The spur has to be rubbing against something to cause pain.

If surgery is to happen, it is to remove a pain-producing problem. Yes, bone spurs can cause damage, and yes, they can cause a pitcher to overcompensate in his delivery and produce a residual injury.

Alderson has been around long enough to know both possibilities.

Mejia was pitching well since returning to the Mets, but after the Miami incident, considering the team already determined he’d have surgery, it should have been done immediately.

The Mets are going out of their way to protect Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler with innings limits, but they saw no reason to protect Mejia, who already had Tommy John surgery.

The Mets mishandled Mejia in juggling his roles several times under Jerry Manuel, and it appears they are doing it again.

Why are they playing fast and loose with Mejia?

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 02

Using Zack Wheeler Out Of The Bullpen Is A Bad Idea

There are bad ideas and really bad ideas, and the New York Mets considering using Zack Wheeler out of the bullpen falls into the latter category.

WHEELER: Leave him alone. (AP)

WHEELER: Leave him alone. (AP)

Wheeler has thrown a combined 114.1 minors-and-majors innings this season with a cutoff number at 180. With the intent of limiting his innings, manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen are mulling using Wheeler out of the bullpen.

This is a bad idea on so many levels, beginning with the up-and-down nature of a reliever. The Mets will say they will only use Wheeler at the start of an inning, but that’s no guarantee. It is still a change in routine and they must scrap this idea immediately.

The Mets’ goal of winning as many games as possible in the second half and limiting Wheeler and Matt Harvey aren’t mutually compatible. The best way to achieve their goal of making a .500 run is to not change their pitching, which has been good.

Pitchers are creatures of habit and Wheeler hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen since 2010. For the past three years, he’s worked in the routine of a starter. Bouncing from starter to reliever in the middle of a season is never a good idea. The Mets should know that by now with Jenrry Mejia, who went from reliever to starter and ended up having Tommy John surgery.

A coincidence? Perhaps, but why take the chance? Considering how the Mets handled Wheeler with kid gloves, thrusting him into a new role is counter productive. It might be different if the Mets were in a pennant race, but they are not.

Figuring ten more starts they should simply cut Wheeler at six innings a game and do not deviate under any circumstances. That would give him 174.1 innings, just under the limit. This way, it keeps Wheeler in his normal routine and eliminate the different strain on his arm caused by working in relief. A starter has a set program, but a reliever does not.

San Francisco used Tim Lincecum out of the pen last year, but he’s a veteran more capable of making the adjustment than Wheeler.

Currently, the Mets are operating with a six-man rotation, which could go back to five once Jonathan Niese comes off the disabled list. The Mets have not said they’ll continue with six when Niese returns. Doing so might not be a bad idea because it would accomplish the dual  purposes of monitoring Wheeler and Harvey, not to mention protecting Niese.

If the Mets go down to five, it would give Wheeler and Harvey additional turns. In that case, they should be skipped or pushed back a turn, which is preferable to shaving innings piecemeal..

The Mets haven’t said whether they will have an innings limit on Wheeler and Harvey next season, but if they do, they should map out their plan from the beginning than doing so mid-stream.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 01

What Zack Wheeler Brings To Mets

MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta BravesZack Wheeler proved why he has the potential to transform the New York Mets into legitimate contenders this week after a sterling pitching performance that saw him take a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Marlins.

The 23-year-old has flashed much of the raw ability and plus offerings that have made him one of the top right-handed pitching prospects in the game three years running.

As the Mets move closer to becoming a perennial contender built on a foundation of formidable starting pitching, MLB betting fans look to operators like casino tropez online to find the betting odds for the Mets improving much as their fortunes are.

Wheeler is still trying to find consistency within his delivery, but continues to work with pitching coach Dan Warthen after every start as he strives to refine his delivery.

“I just have to figure out my motion,” Wheeler said. “It’s about finding a motion that works for me.”

The key for the young righty will be consistency, and in his last start he delivered perhaps his best and most dominating performance since his promotion. He continues to evolve and as he gets better, so do the betting odds for the Mets.

The Mets can already see the bright futures that await Wheeler and his teammate and ace pitcher Matt Harvey. The two of them have invoked memories of past Mets 1-2 punches like Seaver and Koosman and Gooden and Darling.

The scouts and talent evaluators all agree that the Mets are on the verge of something special. To that end the Mets will play it safe and ensure that they do not overwork their prized young pitchers.

Both of them will have less than ten starts left to the season and their innings pitched will be monitored closely.

They will be protecting their investment by going to a six-man rotation, even if it means playing with a short bench. It’s a risk worth taking and the rewards could come as soon as the 2014 season.

Jul 31

Zack Wheeler Shows What The Fuss Was About

When the New York Mets traded Carlos Beltran, arguably one of their top three position players in history, for prospect Zack Wheeler, they said this guy was going to be good. Really good.

We got a glimpse of just how good Tuesday night in Miami when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He lost it, but also impressive was despite the emotions of losing history, he kept his composure enough to minimize the damage to two runs.

WHEELER: Domination. (Getty)

WHEELER: Domination. (Getty)

In what Wheeler called a learning experience that might have been the most important thing he took from the game. Wheeler also learned pitching to contact, when you’re throwing in the mid-90s is a positive. He showed it isn’t necessary to try to strike out everybody, which spikes his pitch count.

Wheeler has struggled with command, but after six innings he was at 65 pitches. There have been times when he had that many after three innings.

No-hitters, as exciting and a dominant display of pitching as they are, remain flukes with a certain element of luck. Averaging around ten pitches an inning is a sign of complete control.

Through six innings, Wheeler showed what all the fuss has been about. He showed why he was worth the wait.

“I felt smooth with my mechanics,’’ Wheeler told reporters last night. As evidenced by the pitch-tipping episode, that hasn’t always been the case.

“The rhythm was good. Good tempo in between pitches,’’ he continued. “Everything was just clicking well and I was hitting my spots.’’

When Wheeler made Giancarlo Stanton look foolish earlier, it looked as if he might get it, but his grasp at history slipped away when the non-descript Ed Lucas singled with one out in the seventh.

Who?

That’s right; things often get broken up by the unknown. It wasn’t a fluke hit, but a solid drive off a bad pitch. John Buck called for a fastball in, but Wheeler left it out over the plate.

Usually when a pitcher loses a no-hitter, the manager or pitching coach comes out to settle him down, to remind him there’s still a game. Surprisingly, pitching coach Dan Warthen wasn’t sent out after several more hitters, but by that time the shutout was lost and Wheeler was tinkering on disaster.

Wheeler later admitted he lost his concentration.

“I did get a little rushed after that,’’ he said. “I probably let down my guard a little bit, but it was a learning experience.’’

Wheeler composed himself enough to get an inning-ending double play, but he was too spent to go out there for the eighth.

Wheeler’s effort marked the fifth time a Mets’ pitcher took a no-hitter into the seventh this season. Matt Harvey has done it three times and Dillon Gee once.

Maybe Wheeler will throw a no-hitter someday. So might Harvey. Then they may not. However, they’ve shown us you have to watch.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos