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.

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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.

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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.

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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