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.

Jan 25

Mets Signed Daisuke Matsuzaka To Compete For Fifth Starter

After several months of speculation, the New York Mets finally did the obvious and re-sign free-agent pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to compete for the fifth spot.

He’ll go against Jenrry Mejia, recently signed left-hander John Lannan and prospects Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom.

MATSUZAKA: Competing for 5th starter role.

MATSUZAKA: Competing for 5th starter role.

Matsuzaka was signed to a minor league contract, which is what GM Sandy Alderson wanted from the outset with a veteran presence.

Once Matsuzaka, 33, straightened out his mechanics by speeding up his delivery, he closed on an upswing and finished at 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts with the Mets.

Matsuzaka had a 10.95 ERA over 12.1 innings over his first three starts with the Mets, but after working with pitching coach Dan Warthen, he had a 1.37 ERA over his final four starts.

Speculation has Matsuzaka and Lannan moving to the lead because of their experience, and to give Mejia more time in his recovery from elbow surgery and Montero and deGrom in their development.

An advantage of going with Matsuzaka out of the gate is if gets off to a strong start – and the same applies to Lannan – it enhances their ability to make a trade at the July 31 deadline.

Did the Mets improve their rotation with a substantial name such as David Price, or solid starters such as Matt Garza or Bronson Arroyo?

No, but they improved more than their cynics thought they might. They signed three starters to fill the back end of their rotation in Bartolo Colon as their fourth starter, and Lannan and Matsuzaka to compete for the fifth starter role.

Do they have a playoff rotation? Not likely, but they have a rotation that could be solid enough to make .500 possible.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Nov 21

Mets Dragging Feet On Matsuzaka And Harang

Earlier this week I suggested things could heat up in the Hot Stove and this might be the time for the New York Mets to strike.

And, I didn’t mean Prince Fielder, or Brandon Allen for that matter.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson agreed the other day things could get warm, but wouldn’t say how close he’d get to the “Stove.’’

“We have to be realistic about the market and not sort of deny the inevitable,’’ Alderson said. “If the market is as robust as it seems to be, I think we have to acknowledge that.’’

OK, he acknowledges it. Then what?

“And, consistent with that acknowledgement, if we’re going to participate, we have to recognize that,’’ Alderson added.

The operative word in all that was “if.’’

Well, are the Mets going to participate? A robust market means spending and Alderson’s checkbook is still under wraps.

Alderson said the team has been more active, but that has to mean working the phones because we’re not seeing anything public outside of Allen, the departures of Mike Baxter and LaTroy Hawkins, and, of course, the ones who got away – or are about to.

Because we’re not going to see Matt Harvey outside of a courtside shot of him at the Knicks game Wednesday night, the Mets are in need of pitching first and foremost. I’m aware of the crying for a power outfielder and the need of a shortstop, but the Mets only have three starters. Nothing happens without pitching.

It would have been sweet to get Josh Johnson, but that wasn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang could get away. Late season pick-ups last year, both provided quality innings at the back end of the rotation. In a combined 11 starts, only twice – both times by Matsuzaka – did they not get out of the fifth.

Alderson said he wanted veteran innings at the back end, and these two are as veteran as you can get. And, what they gave the Mets is what they are seeking now. Sure, the Mets want to do better. But, better means spending more.

Matsuzaka pitched well in September after pitching coach Dan Warthen tinkered with his mechanics and got him to speed up his delivery. My concern is he pitched well enough for him to catch another team’s eye and might be willing to give him two years. The presumption is the most the Mets will offer is one year plus an option. That would mean the Mets would lose him.

It’s still November, and there’s plenty of time remaining, but that’s not the issue. It’s a matter of who will be remaining when the Mets are ready to do more than talk on the phone.

ON DECK: Why not go with Montero now?