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

Jun 27

David Wright To Rest Against Rockies

It wasn’t as if David Wright was going to challenge Cal Ripken in the first place. Wright will be out of the New York Mets’ lineup tonight in Colorado for their make up game against the Rockies.

There was speculation Wright might lobby manager Terry Collins to keep him in the lineup. Despite being on a tear lately, Wright knew he needed a night off and being the DH in Chicago wouldn’t have accomplished the same thing.

Over the past 19 games Wright has hit a blistering .383 with five homers and 11 RBI, and has played a sparkling third base. Oh, by the way, he also surged ahead of San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval to take the lead in the All-Star balloting.

“DH is playing, isn’t it?’’ Wright asked reporters. “It’s good, especially with the rainouts for us and doubleheaders and stuff. As much as you’d like to play, you understand that these are good for you, especially when your goal is to play 155, 160, 156 games.

“These are the types of days, when the manager says he wants to give you a day, that sometimes it’s best just to oblige and take it, because you obviously play better when you are rested. Especially with the way I want to play, it’s much better when I’m a little more rested.’’

Of course, Wright and Collins had to be tempted considering his lifetime numbers at Coors Field, where he’s a career .392 hitter with 10 homers and 38 RBI in 120 at-bats.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Eric Young, LF: Returns home. Hitting .414 with six RBI in seven games with Mets.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Collins said Ruben Tejada will have to beat him out to regain his job.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Struggling on the trip with .200 average.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Tied for second on Mets with 36 RBI.

Josh Satin, 1B: Hitting .313 on the road trip. Had nine homers with Vegas.

Zach Lutz, 3B: Had his first major league hit last April at Colorado.

Juan Lagares, CF: No Kirk Nieuwenhuis vs. Rockies right-hander. Could the job be Lagares’ to lose?

Anthony Recker, C: With the way John Buck has struggled, Recker needs to play more.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Has pitched a quality start in five of last six starts.

Jun 17

Lucas Duda At First For Mets; Jordany Valdespin Goes To Bench

So much for the Jordany Valdespin experiment at second base until Ike Davis returns, but the premise of what I wrote earlier remains the same: the New York Mets don’t have an idea of what to do with the mercurial role player.

Terry Collins said he would give Valdespin a week at second base leading off. Valdespin responded by hitting .130 (3-for-23) in that span, and one week later is back to the bench. The outfield is out for now, with Collins saying he needed to see more from Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Juan Lagares, and Marlon Byrd, one of the few Mets who is hitting.

Saying, `you’re allowed to change,’ ’’ Collins returned Valdespin to the bench for Monday’s series opener in Atlanta. Along with that move, Daniel Murphy will go back to second and Lucas Duda will move in from left to play first.

This juggling improves the Mets’ defense, which is a positive. The Mets claim second base is Valdespin’s natural position, but he had problems, especially turning the double play. Murphy is an upgrade, as is Duda an upgrade over Murphy at first base.

Duda deferred to Davis, calling it “Ike’s position,’’ and adding, “I played there most of my amateur career. Hopefully I can just get the job done, and catch the ball and throw it.’’

Collins insisted the job was still Davis’ when he returns, but could not elaborate when that might be. Davis is still struggling at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Collins attempted to soothe Valdespin’s now-bruised ego, saying he still has value coming off the bench. It will be interesting to see how Valdespin responds when Collins asks him to pinch-hit.

There’s rain in the forecast tonight in Atlanta, but should the Mets start their 65th game of the season, it will be with their 53rd different lineup.

TONIGHT’S BATTING ORDER

Juan Lagares, CF: Is hitting .308 over his last ten games.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Thrilled to be back at second. Hitting .336 on the road (38-113) this season.

David Wright, 3B: Has hit in eight of last nine games, going 16-for-38 (.421).

Lucas Duda, 1B: Back at first base, where he has played well. Hitting .146 (7-48) with RISP.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has eight RBI in last 11 games.

John Buck, C: Since May 5, is hitting .190, going 22-for-116 in that span, including 34 strikeouts.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, LF: His game-winning three-run homer Sunday will buy him some more time.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Takes a 0-for-17 slide into the game.

Dillon Gee, RHP: In four career starts at Turner Field, he is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA.

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

Jun 17

Where Does Jordany Valdespin Fit In With Mets?

Should the New York Mets pull the plug on the Jordany Valdespin experiment, manager Terry Collins and management will be able to look in the mirror and say they tried.

They would be fooling themselves.

VALDESPIN: What is his future? (Getty)

VALDESPIN: What is his future? (Getty)

A week is clearly not enough for most players to come off the bench to make a solid statement at second base, or any other position for that matter. They might give Valdespin more time, but it won’t be a significant chance because the Mets don’t even know if they want him to play second base.

Valdespin is 3-for-23 at the plate and hasn’t been effective in the field. If second is his natural position, he’s in trouble. Then again, Daniel Murphy didn’t have a natural position and it has taken him nearly two years to get a feel for the position.

The Mets are going out of order in the Valdespin experiment. The first issue isn’t whether they think he can play second, but whether they want him in the organization in the first place. Next, is where do they envision Valdespin playing? And, who is his competition in the organization?

In the short term, it is Murphy, but if he’s their “real second baseman of the future” they never should have been playing him at first this past week. The time should have gone to first baseman Josh Satin to get an idea what they have in him.

On the minor league level, the Mets’ seventh-ranked prospect is Wilmer Flores, who is a natural third baseman. However, with David Wright signed long-term, the Mets are playing Flores at second base. Finding a place for him is a higher priority than finding a place for Valdespin.

If Flores is the second baseman of the future, it stands to reason neither is Valdespin nor Murphy – so they must be showcasing the latter. Flores could be tested at shortstop, but Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were all tall, lanky and strong shortstops, so that’s not a real argument if they want to look at Flores over Ruben Tejada.

The Mets seem to have two second base options – three if they consider moving Tejada back – ahead of Valdespin, so what exactly are they trying to find out?

They definitely can’t learn much in a week enough to showcase him in a trade, especially with his previous baggage. They have a better chance of building Valdespin’s value it they play him in the minor leagues every day for the next mont than if he played part time on the major league level.

There’s clearly room for Valdespin in the outfield; there’s room for a lot of options in the outfield.

If the Mets decide they want Valdespin a part of their future, they will eventually find him a spot if he can hit. And, save a handful of pinch-hit homers, what do they know about this guy offensively?

They know he has pop and can occasionally drive a ball.  However, from his limited 116-at-bats window the first impression is he’s undisciplined, which makes one wonder outside of his speed what are his attributes as a leadoff hitter.

Overall, Valdespin is hitting .207, but more concerning is .a 264 on-base percentage. Valdespin swings from his heels and often at breaking stuff away in the dirt. His 24 strikeouts-to-six walks ratio is alarming, and for all his speed, four steals to three times being caught is barely a wash.

I don’t know if, or where, Valdespin will fit in with the Mets two or three years from now. I don’t think the Mets know, either. Fact is, I’m not sure the Mets know where Valdespin will fit in a month from now.

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

Jun 15

Is Jordany Valdespin Experiment Part Of Mets’ Greater Plan To Trade Ike Davis?

We are almost over with the great Jordany Valdespin experiment by the New York Mets of playing him at second and hitting leadoff.

Now what?

VALDESPIN: Is there a plan here?

VALDESPIN: Is there a plan here?

Six days doesn’t seem like a long time because it isn’t. However, Terry Collins is staying with this a lot longer than some of his other experiments such as Collin Cowgill in center; Daniel Murphy at leadoff; a half-dozen other guys hitting first. The assumption is Collins will stay with this as long as Ike Davis is in Triple-A Las Vegas, but after that, by his own admission the manager doesn’t have a plan.

The path of least resistance would have been to play first baseman Josh Satin at first and leave Murphy alone at second, a position where he’s made strides.

What will the Mets infield look like as of August 1, the day after the trade deadline? Are they showcasing Valdespin for a trade? How about Murphy? Perhaps, they are hoping Davis pulls himself out of this funk so they can trade him.

The Mets could non-tender Davis as they did Mike Pelfrey last winter and let him walk, or, they could hope he finds some life in his bat and find a taker. If Davis isn’t part of their future, there are worse options. If Davis isn’t part of their future, they should move him as soon as possible.

So, the Mets, losers of five of their last six games and eight of ten, will attempt to salvage this homestand today and Sunday before starting a killer trip that includes five games in Atlanta; three in Philadelphia; two in Chicago against the White Sox; and a make-up game in Denver, before returning home to start a three-game series with Washington.

The Mets’ next off day will be July 11, the day after a three-game series in San Francisco. The All-Star break can’t come soon enough for a team now 14 games below .500.

This afternoon, Jon Niese will attempt to start putting his season back together. Niese, 3-5, hasn’t won a start since May 16 in St. Louis, which seems ages ago. He is coming off a quality start last Sunday in a no-decision in a game lost to Miami.

Here’s Niese’s line-up, which only once in the past week scored as many as five runs:

Jordany Valdespin, 2B: Is making the most of this opportunity and to his credit is making clubhouse strides.

Daniel Murphy, 1B: Hitting just .219 in last 17 games.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .462 during homestand and .333 this year with RISP.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has 10 homers with 31 RBI. That has to interest some team.

Lucas Duda, LF: Ten of his 11 homers have been with nobody on base.

Justin Turner, SS: Giving Omar Quintanilla a rest.

Anthony Recker, C: John Buck can’t catch them all.

Juan Lagares, CF: Got a hit last night, so Collins riding the hot hand.

Jonathon Niese, LHP: Is 2-3 with a 5.61 lifetime ERA in six starts against Cubs.

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