Apr 23

John Buck: From Trade Bait To Indispensable?

Several times this season John Buck’s fast start fueled speculation that with Travis d’Arnaud’s promotion the Mets might deal him at the trade deadline.

After all, who doesn’t want a hot-hitting catcher who calls a crisp game behind the plate? Most every team would and that includes the Mets, who, along with Buck exceeded early expectations.

BUCK: Proving very valuable.

BUCK: Proving very valuable.

It’s not as if Buck has gone from trade bait to indispensable, but he isn’t going anywhere any time soon. And, that has more to do than with d’Arnaud’s broken foot that will keep him out for two months. Buck is simply the Mets’ best offensive weapon and has been solid behind the plate, drawing raves from Matt Harvey and Jon Niese.

However, manager Terry Collins said it best: “John Buck seems to be in the middle of everything that’s good right now.’’

Buck homered in the Mets’ 2-0 victory over Washington Sunday, a comprehensive display of the fastest start of his career. There was the homer, giving him seven and a league-high 22 RBI, but also his defense and the game he called for Dillon Gee.

The Mets’ pride is their young pitchers, and Buck could be the same steading influence Jerry Grote once was to Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack.

Harvey has been the darling at 4-0 and a sub-1.00 ERA, swears by Buck. There’s no way the Mets break up that duo.

Harvey said he’s shaken off Buck maybe five or six times this year ins describing the same instinctual chemistry a quarterback would have with his best receiver.

“He already knows what’s coming,’’ Harvey said. “It’s really fun every time I take the mound and see him back there. It’s just positive energy. It’s more fuel.’’

It’s not luck or coincidence that has Buck putting down the correct fingers. It’s the culmination of hard work spent in the first nine years of his career. He keeps copious notes on his pitchers and opposing hitters, and they complement the game plan drawn up by pitching coach Dan Warthen.

On the day of the game Buck meets early with Warthen and the pitcher to go over the scouting reports and film. Later, he’ll meet with the pitcher privately. However, he talks to all the pitchers throughout the week, not just on the days they start. The communication is constantly flowing.

Harvey said Buck’s preparation is inspirational to the point where he’ll incorporate what he’s learned throughout his career.

“He knows what the hitters are going to do,’’ said Harvey. “The studying that he does and the video that he watches and the plan that he comes up with for each individual pitcher, it’s something that I’m learning still. And it’s awesome.’’

Buck and d’Arnaud’s lockers were side-by-side in spring training, and it wasn’t by accident, either.

“I like to pick his brain,’’ d’Arnaud said this spring. “He’s very easy to talk with and I’ve learned a lot from being around him.’’

Buck said in spring training he understood he was brought here to help d’Arnaud and that attitude hasn’t changed despite the latter’s injury. It’s not as if when he heard the news he moved out of his apartment and bought a house.

“My stance is still the same,’’ Buck said. “I truly feel if I do good, then he does good. I’ve been around too much to take positive thoughts out of something bad happening to someone else. … Until someone tells me otherwise, I’ll just keep going about my business.’’

Nobody will be telling Buck otherwise any time soon.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Mar 04

Is Terry Collins In Charge Or Is Johan Santana?

What we have here is a failure to communicate. Or worse, a desire not to communicate.

SANTANA: Shouldn't take a bow for Sunday's stunt.

SANTANA: Shouldn’t take a bow for Sunday’s stunt.

Apparently, unbeknownst to manager Terry Collins, his veteran left-hander Johan Santana threw off the mound Sunday when the Mets earlier indicated it could be at least ten days before he would do so.

ESPN reported this dialogue:

Collins: “What did you get on the mound for?”

Santana: “Because I felt good.”

Collins: “It was unnecessary. … The last thing I need is to have you wake up tomorrow stiff and then we take a huge step backward because you wanted to show everybody you’re OK. I understand what you’re doing, but once in a while you’ve just got to let stuff slide away. You’ve just got to let it roll off your back and move on and get yourself ready.”

From that exchange, Collins was in the dark when Santana took the mound. And, Santana apparently didn’t care enough to follow the rest plan or to tell his manager.

This was amazingly ridiculous on the part of both.

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Mar 03

Did Mets Rush Johan Santana On Sunday?

Some athletes will use anything as a motivator while others simply know what it takes to get ready.

Today, pitching coach Dan Warthen tried to sell the idea Johan Santana used perceived criticism of his physical condition as the spark to get him on the mound for the first time since Feb. 19. Santana threw the day after GM Sandy Alderson said he didn’t think the soon-to-be 34-year old lefty would pitch for another ten days to put his Opening Day start in jeopardy.

SANTANA: Pushes himself to mound. (AP)

SANTANA: Pushes himself to mound. (AP)

The Mets are trying to mix the contrasting positions Santana as the ultimate competitor who knows better than anybody what it takes to get ready and the other that he uses criticism as motivation.

Well, which is it?

Reportedly, Santana was irritated at reporters’ questioning, to which my first thought is for him to get over it as he’ll get $31 million this year regardless of how much he pitches, so answer the damn questions.

There’s no doubting Santana’s heart, but he can be sensitive.

What I especially found questionable is if the Mets thought he was ten days away from throwing, then why would they let him throw today? Who’s running the show anyway?

When a team puts it in the hands of the athlete to make medical decision, there is a likely chance of failure. Just think of Ryan Church, Mike Pelfrey, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes and others.

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Feb 26

Mets Matters: Mejia Rocked; Wright Captaincy

Jenrry Mejia was hammered this afternoon by Miami in his spring training debut, giving up a grand slam in a five-inning first inning in the Mets’ 7-5 loss.

MEJIA: Not a good day.

          MEJIA: Not a good day. (AP)

Mejia gave up five runs on four hits in a 30-pitch inning. Apparently, few of those pitches were effective.

Terry Collins said Mejia didn’t have the darting cut on his fastball, and suggested the problem could be attributed to having Tommy John surgery after the 2010 season. That was the year Mejia was rushed as a reliever, demoted to the minor leagues where he started, then was injured.

The Mets still don’t know Mejia’s eventual role. He’s expected to start this year, but pitching coach Dan Warthen and minor league manager Wally Backman believe he’s better suited for the bullpen. Collins admitted to that after the game.

Mejia is expected to open the season in the minor leagues unless there’s an injury in the rotation.

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Oct 02

Collins and Warthen Want Front Office To Retain Mike Pelfrey

Terry Collins and Dan Warthen would like the front office to retain Mike Pelfrey next season, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN.

“I know Terry Collins and I are very hopeful that Mike Pelfrey will come back — whether it be in the bullpen or as a starter,” pitching coach Dan Warthen said.

“We’ve always contended that he would be a great closer and just go out there with a power sinker and a split. I think we’d see 95 to 97 mph almost every night. When it comes to cost, we have to find out what we can afford. But I think we would all love to have Mike back.”

Pelfrey was shutdown after three starts in April and finished with a 2.29 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings pitched.

He underwent Tommy John Surgery on May 1, and most like will not be ready to pitch off a mound again until June or July. In the meantime he’ll be rehabbing and doing his workout with these exercise programs. It’s still a long road and one that could have setbacks as we’ve seen before on the Mets.

Pelfrey signed a one-year, $5.7 million contract with the Mets to avoid arbitration in January. He is eligible for arbitration again this winter and per MLB rules he cannot be offered less than 80% of his current salary.

He will be non-tendered for sure and become a free agent  who can deal with all 30 teams.

There’s a nice upgrade for us, let’s talk about this for a while.  :-)

Seriously, I had issues with Pelfrey when he was healthy, let alone now. Can we just move on already. If you want to take a trip down memory lane go and see what the Marlins want for Reyes or the Cardinals for Beltran. At least I know we’ll be bringing back stars rather than duds.