Jul 28

The Importance Of Jon Niese Pitching Again This Season

Jon Niese began his rehab assignment for the New York Mets with two inning to recover from a partially torn rotator cuff and might not be available until late August if not early September. While it might be tempting to shut him down for the remainder of the season, there is an importance of him pitching again this year.

NIESE: Needs to pitch this year. (AP)

NIESE: Needs to pitch this year. (AP)

First, for Niese’s peace of mind, he’d like to enter the offseason with an idea of where he stands physically. This makes mapping out his winter conditioning and throwing programs easier and alleviates a repeat of what happened last year with Johan Santana.

The more information the Mets know about Niese the better, not only for the left-hander’s off-season training, but also for their shopping lists. If they suspect a strong return from Niese, that could give them the freedom of making a trade.

How much Niese will pitch the rest of the season, nobody knows, but getting out there is important because it alleviates the wonder and there’s nothing more frustrating for a pitcher to be sitting home in December and January and thinking if he should start throwing.

ON DEALING BYRD: I have been against the Mets dealing Marlon Byrd because I’d like to see how strong they could finish as to get an idea of what to do in the off-season.

After being 15 games below .500, they cut that to seven games under after winning the first game of Friday’s double-header, but with a loss today they will again be ten games under.

The Mets have made it clear they don’t want to deal Bobby Parnell, which makes Byrd their most sought after player.

However, Terry Collins said this morning he doesn’t expect anything to happen by Wednesday’s trade deadline.

“You look at our team, and right now we’ve got some guys that are playing good,’’ Collins told reporters in Washington. “And I don’t know what’s going to happen the next three days. … If I was a team that was in a hunt, who had a couple of holes, I’d go searching and we’ve got some guys. But from everything I’m hearing right now, there’s no reason to think we’re going to change.’’

 

LINE-UP VS. NATIONALS

Here’s today’s lineup:

Eric Young, LF

Josh Satin, 3B

Daniel Murphy, 2B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Ike Davis, 1B

John Buck, C

Juan Lagares, CF

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Carlos Torres, RHP

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

Jul 20

Zack Wheeler Tries To Get Mets On-Track

Well, so much for that fast start out of the second-half gate for the New York Mets.

That great ERA Jeremy Hefner was sporting going into the game? Not so much anymore. The Phillies nailed him for eight runs on ten hits. The carnage was accumulated over 63 pitches, 38 of them in the first inning.

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

The first inning and the Phillies have not been a good mix to Hefner over the years, and before you knew it, the Mets were down 11-0.

Terry Collins tried to put a positive spin on the rout.

“I’ll tell you what, down 11-0, make it a game, pretty impressive by our guys,’’ Collins told reporters after the game, most of who had their storied written by the fifth inning.

Uh huh. Forty years in the game should know by now there are no morale victories in baseball. Few of them, anyway, and last night wasn’t one of them.

Unfortunately for the Mets, them chopping away at the lead provided the illusion there was a chance, and consequently Collins had to go to his bullpen for seven innings.

Otherwise, Collins might have left Hefner in to take his lumps for the team to save the bullpen.

Either way, it was a hot, muggy miserable night, one better spent watching The Great Escape on the Military Channel.

Nonetheless, it is only one game and the Mets have their two of their best, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, going the next two games of this series. After that, it’s four more home games at home against Atlanta before hitting the road to Washington and Miami before the trade deadline.

So, there’s plenty of time for the Mets to make a run at .500 and make the second half of this season worthy of watching. The last four years after the break effectively ended the competitive part of their season.

Was there anything good out of last night’s game?

Juan Lagares had a good at-bat and Ike Davis had a couple of hits. Kirk Nieuwenhuis looked like Mr. Magoo in center field. Other than that, not too much.

I wasn’t crazy about Collins’ managing last night. David Wright did homer in the ninth, but after a busy All-Star break, he should have been pulled and given a rest. The same goes for John Buck, who cramped up.

Here’s today’s lineup against Cole Hamels:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Josh Satin, 1B

Juan Lagares, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Zack Wheeler, RHP

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

Jul 12

Jeremy Hefner On Roll For Mets

There is a likeable quality to New York Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner. He’s modest and unassuming, and has been stand-up in the bad times.

However, recently it’s been good times for Hefner, Friday’s starter in Pittsburgh, who will be trying for his eighth straight strong outing. Hefner is coming off a one-run performance in seven innings last weekend in Milwaukee. Hefner has 12 quality starts, and had he any support earlier this year might have a winning record.

HEFNER: On a roll. (AP)

HEFNER: On a roll. (AP)

Roughly a month ago Hefner appeared the odd-man out in making room for Zack Wheeler, but his roster spot was preserved because of injuries to Jon Niese and Shaun Marcum.

Hefner told ESPN he knew he was vulnerable.

“I was maybe one or two bad starts from being in Las Vegas,’’ Hefner said. “So something had to change.’’

In seven starts since June 4, Hefner has a 1.64 ERA, which is better than Harvey over a similar span. He has given up two earned runs or fewer in those seven starts. The Mets have won his last five starts.

Hefner said he didn’t feel pressure in his turnaround: “It was a challenge for me. And I embraced it. And I’m doing pretty good.’’

Part of his turnaround is mechanical, in that he twists his torso to give the hitter a glance at his back. The intent was deception, but the bonus was increased velocity.

Hefner is one of the Mets’ bright spots this season. There’s some talk about him being dealt to a contender, but the Mets are better off keeping him because they don’t know if Niese will need surgery and Marcum is gone for the year.

Hefner moved up the pecking order for a promotion during spring training when it was apparent Jenrry Mejia wasn’t going to be healthy. Mejia is pitching in Double-A and is scheduled to pitch six innings Saturday. Apparently, there was no thought of bringing him up to replace Harvey that day.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup tonight behind Hefner against the Pirates’ Charlie Morton:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Ike Davis, 1B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

METS MUSINGS: Reliever Frank Francisco – remember him? – pitched one inning in a Gulf Coast League game over the weekend. He gave up an unearned run on one hit with on strikeout. Francisco is recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow. Francisco is making $6.5 million this season and is not in the Mets’ plans.

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

Jul 07

Mets Encouraged By Ike Davis Since Return; Worried About Shaun Marcum

The New York Mets should be very encouraged from what they’ve seen in the two games since Ike Davis was promoted. Personally, I think more Saturday than the three hits Friday.

Little League coaches are fond of saying, “a walk is as good as a hit,’’ and that couldn’t be truer about Davis last night as he walked three times. The walks show patience and plate presence, and for Davis that’s an encouraging sign.

Ike-DavisI’ve been writing the Mets might want to see what they can get for Davis by the trade deadline. That doesn’t mean I want the Mets to trade, just that’s what I believe could be their thinking.

Terry Collins vowed Josh Satin would not be forgotten in the wake of Davis’ promotion, and he’ll be playing today against left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, but would say where.

Satin has been working out in the outfield and second base. It’s difficult to believe he’ll replace leadoff hitter Eric Young in left field or Marlon Byrd, one of the Mets’ hottest hitters, in right field.

Against a lefty, Collins will likely sit Daniel Murphy or Davis. I’m thinking the former because Davis has had consecutive good games and Collins wouldn’t want to disrupt that roll.

MARCUM A PUZZLE: There have been a lot of good pitchers who use a personal catcher. Greg Maddux had one, as did Steve Carlton.

In his wildest dreams, Marcum isn’t half as good as either. Yet, he wanted one, and got John Buck last night. Based on performance, Marcum doesn’t deserve one, but Collins probably acquiesced because he’s searching for anything to get Marcum going.

It didn’t help as he gave up six runs in five innings. He also gave up 11 hits and a walk, so Brewers were on base all night against him.

After losing his tenth game of the season, Marcum said he’s bothered by numbness and coldness in his right hand.

Marcum played the brave soldier and told reporters last night, “I’m not going to pull myself out of the game.’’ Marcum has been bothered by neck and back soreness since spring training. He’s had his good moments, but mostly he’s been bad.

Marcum said the numbness increases and his velocity decreases as his pitch count mounts. With an off-day in the schedule this week, Marcum could get an extra day of rest. And, after that is the All-Star break, so he could get consecutive starts with additional rest. The Mets could give him those to see if that will help.

Marcum isn’t the Mets’ only pitching concern. Jon Niese, who has a slight tear in his rotator cuff is scheduled for a MRI Monday, which could determine whether surgery is needed.

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

Jun 28

Matt Harvey Starts Important Series For Mets

The New York Mets return home from a 7-4 road trip to face the Washington Nationals in a three-game series, with Matt Harvey going against left-hander Ross Detwiler.

The Mets are 5.5 games behind the Nationals in the standings, and four behind in the loss column. Yes, it sounds odd, perhaps premature to think, but a sweep could change the complexion of the NL East standings and maybe the Mets’ season.

HARVEY: Animated, as usual.

HARVEY: Animated, as usual.

A strong close to the first half could get them inside ten games below .500, which could bring some fun to Citi Field after the All-Star break. Too early to say playing meaningful baseball in September, but better than we thought a month ago.

Harvey, at 7-1, is an integral part of what the Mets are trying to do, and from his personal objective, a win tonight could go toward his being named a starter in the July 16 All-Star Game.

Harvey leads the NL with 112 strikeouts and MLB with opponent’s batting average (.188) and WHIP (0.88). If not for a lack of run support that has him with eight no-decisions, he might already have double-digit victories and his position as All-Star starter would be secure.

With Harvey going Friday and Zack Wheeler on Sunday, it could be and early version of the “Futures Game,’’ this weekend.

Incidentally, Wheeler is working with pitching coach Dan Warthen on not tipping his pitches. Just wondering why the Mets in his debut or at Triple-A Las Vegas didn’t pick this up earlier.

METS MATTERS: Doc Gooden will be at Citi Field tonight for a book signing. … Ruben Tejada begins a rehab assignment this weekend. Terry Collins said Tejada isn’t assured his job when he returns, claiming he has to beat out Omar Quintanilla, who has done nothing to warrant losing the starting position.

Here’s tonight’s Mets’ batting order:

Eric Young, LF: Hitting .556 (5-for-9) with RISP since joining the Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hitting .276 (16-for-58) with RISP.

David Wright, 3B: Hit .326 (14-for-43) on the trip.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has six homers in June, a career-high for him in any month.

Josh Satin, 1B: Hitting .273 while playing good defense. Is he a keeper?

John Buck, C: Is on a 2-for-24 slide.

Juan Lagares, CF: Looks as if center field job is his to lose. With his speed, I wouldn’t mind seeing him getting a chance at hitting second and dropping Murphy into a RBI position.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Takes a 0-for-13 slide into game.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Has reached the sixth inning or longer in 14 of 16 starts.

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