Mar 01

Mets’ Outfield Remains Muddled

After a handful of games, this much is certain about the Mets’ porous outfield situation: Nothing has been settled.

We know Lucas Duda is expected to play left field, but center field and right field are open. Wide open, it seems.

Going into spring training, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill were penciled in as a platoon in center, while veteran Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter were going to be a right field platoon.

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

“The outfield is definitely a question mark, collectively,’’ Sandy Alderson said. “I think we’ve liked what we’ve seen from Cowgill. I don’t think that (Andrew) Brown and (Jamie) Hoffman have had much of an opportunity to play at this point.

“Nieuwenhuis, (Matt) den Dekker, still have some work to do offensively. Marlon Byrd is what he is (which hardly qualifies as an endorsement. Mike Baxter is certainly in that mix- expect him to be on that team.’’

Nieuwenhuis if off to a horrible 0-for-12 start with six strikeouts, and both Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin have outperformed him offensively. Nieuwenhuis was given the first opportunity to with the leadoff spot because of his speed, but he’s shown nothing in that regard. Last night, he batted fifth.

Den Dekker has a great glove, but Jim Edmonds comparisons quickly end when his bat is mentioned.

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Feb 28

Valdespin Off To Hot Start

GM Sandy Alderson said not to discount Jordany Valdespin as a potential leadoff hitter. Valdespin had two singles in that role in last night’s 4-4 tie with Washington.

Valdespin played second base last night and will get a chance to play the outfield. There is a chance Valdespin could make the roster at second if Daniel Murphy isn’t ready.

Murphy will be out for another week to ten days with a strained muscle in his right side.

Valdespin made a bad impression with the Mets last year because of his lack of hustle, and compounded that by being suspended in winter ball. He’s been the good soldier so far this spring.

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Feb 28

Injury Updates: Wheeler, Santana, Feliciano And Murphy

When it comes to pitching injuries, always bet the over.

Despite Zack Wheeler saying he would be all right to make his next start, his strained right oblique muscle – classified as mild – will keep him sidelined.

The Mets haven’t determined when Wheeler will throw again, but these things usually have several steps, including long tossing, throwing off the mound and perhaps a batting practice session. Add a day of rest between each step, so do the math.

Sandy Alderson said last night in a conference call there’s no sense rushing Wheeler if he’s not ready, that it is counterproductive. He meant in all areas, and if there’s a physical question Wheeler will sit.

Manager Terry Collins said last year at this time pitchers were throwing batting practice. This year, the Mets have already played a handful of games thanks to the accelerated scheduling because of the World Baseball Classic.

Players are creatures of habit, and that includes offseason preparation. Not being exposed to spring training with the WBC, perhaps Wheeler wasn’t physically ready for his program.

This has always been a concern, that players would be susceptible, especially pitchers, to injury.

SANTANA UPDATE: Assuming no setbacks, the timetable for Johan Santana is to throw off a mound Friday, pitch batting practice or in a “B’’ game Tuesday, then in an exhibition game March 10 or 11.

MURPHY UPDATE: Daniel Murphy, down with a strained intercostal muscle in his right side, is a week to ten days away from playing in a game. That’s pretty much what the Mets said when he was injured several days ago.

FELICIANO UPDATE:  Pedro Feliciano has been cleared to resume throwing, but will keep wearing the heart.

NOTE: I will have several more posts throughout the day.

Feb 23

Mets Matters: Thoughts On Mets Winning Exhibition Opener

THE GAME: Ruben Tejada hit a two-run homer and Collin Cowgill drove in a run with double as the Mets won their exhibition opener, 5-3, over Washington. One game does not a spring training make, but if you’re going to play the games it is better to win them.

WHEELER IMPRESSIVE: Zack Wheeler wowed them in his first appearance of the spring, giving up a walk and hit in two scoreless innings. Wheeler threw mostly fastballs and sliders, the two easiest pitches to throw at the start, and will work more on his secondary pitches later in the spring. Even so, manager Terry Collins – despite Johan Santana’s condition – said Wheeler would likely open the season for Triple-A Las Vegas. The Mets believe they have a keeper in Wheeler, who threw 30 pitches with 19 of them strikes and working in the 94-96 mph., range and need to move him along slowly. He’ll continue to get work, but as spring training progresses and more innings go to the starters, he could get time in minor league or split squad games. Said Wheeler: “There wasn’t really nerves. I was just a little pumped up going out there. After I got settled down, after the first couple of batters, I think everything went well.’’ Translation: Yes, there were nerves.

PARNELL GETS TOUGH SAVE: With Frank Francisco down with elbow soreness, Bobby Parnell becomes the closer. Parnell worked the ninth and got out of trouble caused by an infield hit and error. I’d much rather see Parnell get in and out of trouble than blow hitters away. The more acclimated he becomes to working out of pressure situations the better. The word on Francisco is he might pick up a baseball Monday, but it would be several weeks before he’s throwing in games. The chances are very good he’ll open the season on the DL and Parnell will be the closer. Jeurys Familia will get a chance to close in a split-squad game Sunday against Houston in Kissimmee.

FELICIANO SIDELINED: Lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano was diagnosed with a heart condition and will be required to wear a monitor to measure an irregular heartbeat. Collins told reporters: “My understanding is he has a heart condition that could possibly be very serious. So that’s why we’re being very, very careful with him. Until we get further results on some of the tests he took in New York, he’s not to be on the field.’’ There remains the distinct possibility this could be the end of Felicano’s career.

NOTES: Shaun Marcum had a rough outing, giving up three runs on four hits, including a two-run homer to Chris Snyder. Marcum said he was having mechanical problems and pushing his change-up. … Somehow, the Mets still think they can get four starts for Santana and have him ready for the Opening Day. What’s the big rush? … Jenrry Mejia will start Tuesday against St. Louis. … Daniel Murphy is working out, but hasn’t been cleared to hit.

ON DECK: I’ll have my Sunday Column for you tomorrow morning. Have a great night.


Feb 23

Mets Need To Get That Winning Feeling

The question is always posed at the start of the exhibition schedule: How important is it to win during spring training?

For most teams it isn’t and history is full of examples of spring training winners who were flops during the regular season. The reverse also holds true.

But, what about the Mets, who open up today against the Washington Nationals? What are we to make if Zack Wheeler outpitches Stephen Strasburg or if the Nationals light him up?

Probably nothing, but over the next five weeks I believe it is important for the Mets to show something, if for no other reason but to get a good feeling about themselves. And, for us to get a good feeling about them.

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