Mar 23

Mets Outfield Still A Mess; No Help Coming

For those hoping for a last minute trade or free-agent signing to give the Mets a representative outfield, there will be no meteor like event to change the obvious impression it will be a long season.

Sandy Alderson did not make a significant move over the winter to build the outfield. Instead he tinkered and went into spring training with a “hope for the best” mentality. Now, he’s telling reporters what nobody – outside the players involved – wants to hear which is the Mets are keeping a pat hand.

COWGILL: Could be in center on Opening Day

COWGILL: Could be in center on Opening Day

And, it’s not a full house.

“I think we’ve got a sense of who the five or six are who might be on the team,’’ Alderson said. “How exactly they’re used is something that we’ll talk about over the next week or so. What we have is what we’re going to have, and we’re not entirely displeased with that.’’

Doesn’t that also mean, they are not entirely pleased?

Also unsettling is outside of Lucas Duda in left field, the Mets don’t have a concrete idea of how they’ll use Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill, Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin.

That could be because they have no idea of what they are getting. Byrd is at the end of his career; Cowgill and Baxter have never been fulltime starters; and Duda is trying to learn a new position while at the same time attempting to figure out major league pitching.

Valdespin is now projected to open the season at second base because Daniel Murphy will not be ready. Murphy, down with a strained intercostal muscle, will not play in a minor league game today as hoped. Manager Terry Collins said if Murphy did not play this weekend he would open the season on the disabled list. The announcement is a formality now.

Collins has used Cowgill all over the outfield, while Byrd – perhaps having the greatest offensive upside – has played center and right. Baxter has been mostly used in right field.

The Mets’ best defensive outfielder is Matt den Dekker, but there is no indication they are considering him, citing his offense. Den Dekker has hit well recently, but not enough for the Mets’ liking. It should be noted, that neither has anybody else.

Of the group, only Duda and Baxter were on the roster last season, and Duda could very well be the only one in spring training next season if there’s development in the minor leagues or the Mets spend in the off-season as they promised.

Entering spring training, the penciled-in outfield – from left to right – was Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Baxter, with Cowgill rated No. 4. Byrd wasn’t even in camp and Valdespin was a long shot to make the team.

The acquisition of Byrd put him ahead of Baxter in right because of his offensive potential, and Valdespin hit his way onto the Mets’ radar.

There is no track record to indicate Valdespin will continue to hit and when Murphy returns he will find himself back on the bench.

What the Mets have is a handful of role players who have never performed in the role of a fulltime, productive starter.

What the Mets have is a problem.

Mar 21

David Wright Named Captain; Disabled List Next? (Updated)

The Mets made it official this afternoon and named David Wright the team’s captain, joining a select group that includes Keith HernandezGary Carter and John Franco.

There has been speculation for years – as far back when Willie Randolph was manager – and intensified  this winter when Wright was signed to a $138-million eight-year extension. Manager Terry Collins said at the start of spring training it was something he was considering, but needed to run it through GM Sandy Alderson and COO Jeff Wilpon, as well as poll the clubhouse.

“This is probably one of the proudest days of my career so far,” Wright told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “To be on that short list of guys that have been considered captain of this franchise is, for me, a dream come true to say the least and something I’m very, very, very proud about.”

Wilpon said Wright’s appointment was sealed when he signed an eight-year, $138 million contract in early December. Wright, though, said he wanted the endorsement of teammates before accepting the honor.

“Did we announce it then? No, we didn’t announce it then,” Wilpon said. “But I believe the decision was made at that point in time. When you commit that kind of money and resources that we have to a guy like this, you want to make sure he’s the leader. And he’s proven to be that.”

WRIGHT AND WILPON: Wright named captain. Photo: Mets via Twitter

WRIGHT AND WILPON: Wright named captain. Photo: Mets via Twitter

It was a foregone conclusion the announcement would be made prior to Opening Day. According to ESPN, Wilpon said the second Wright signed the contract there was nothing else to think about.

In a statement released by the team, Franco said: “We had talks together. Being named captain is a sign of respect and a sign the players on the team hold you in high esteem.

“I took my captaincy very seriously and I know that David will do the same.”

In addition, Hernandez said: “I have been around David long enough to know that he is the perfect guy to the be the captain of the Mets.”

During the Randolph era, the manager said the promotion might be awkward because that team was loaded with veterans such as Carlos Delgado – who became a mentor to Jose ReyesCarlos Beltran, and pitchers Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez.

At the time, Randolph said there wasn’t a need for a captain because of the veteran influence. Then came the Jerry Manuel era, but the team was so bad it seemed like a futile gesture.

Even so, Wright was always the face of the franchise, and the one player the media sought out for analysis on the Mets or anything else relating to baseball. Wright will not wear a “C” on his uniform, but his leadership has been obvious in the clubhouse for years.

“Part of it, I think, is my personality, where I don’t necessarily like to stick out too much,” Wright said. “I think the uniform is uniform for a reason. So I think that everybody is kind of in agreement that we’re going to do without.”

Not having the letter hasn’t diminished his influence.

Once, Reyes wanted to stay in a game, but was clearly hobbled. Wright, knowing an injured Reyes could be a liability told the manager, then Manuel.

Wright has worked closely with the pitchers and was one of the few players who could reach Mike Pelfrey when he was losing concentration. He often goes to the mound when a rattled pitcher needs to catch his breath.

With the Mets moving in a youth direction, there was no veteran presence other than Wright, who, as an All-Star had the talent to back up the promotion.

At the start of camp, Wright said being captain would be an honor, but wanted it through his teammates and not an edict from ownership or management.

Currently, Wright has been shut down with a strained left intercostal muscle sustained while participating in the World Baseball Classic. Wright said he was hopeful of being ready for Opening Day, but at the time of the injury last Thursday, Collins said he wouldn’t be surprised if Wright were out a month.

After being examined last Friday in New York, Alderson said it would be three to five days. It has now been a week.

Once Wright is cleared to play in the next two weeks, he will likely only play in minor league games. The same will apply to Daniel Murphy, who has a strained right intercostal muscle.

The reasoning is to have the flexibility of backdating his time on the disabled list. If Wright or Murphy played in a major league spring training game and were hurt, they would be backdated to the date of the injury. If injured in a minor league game the Mets could backdate the injury from ten days to Opening Day. This limits his time on the disabled list.

The Yankees made a similar decision today with Derek Jeter, who is recovering from a broken ankle. Wright and Jeter, along with Paul Konerko are the only team captains in the sport.

The Mets also made it official and announced Jon Niese would be the Opening Day starter. However, the team did not make a corresponding announcement of Johan Santana going on the disabled list.

Mar 21

Shaun Marcum Added To Mets’ Injury List; Long Season Already Here

The worst-case scenario seems imminent for the Mets.

They faced a myriad of pitching questions entering spring training, including: Johan Santana’s availability after shoulder surgery; Dillon Gee coming off surgery to repair an injury to his shoulder; and injury-prone Shaun Marcum.

All three have been answered in the negative.

One would think a free agent would report to camp in shape, but Marcum didn’t and insisted a long-tossing program was what it took instead of the normal routine pitchers use in spring training.

Marcum said all he needed was four starts, and he might not even get that as he flew to New York on the off-day to have his shoulder examined.  He was diagnosed to have an impingement and received a cortisone injection.

Marcum will not make his start today against St. Louis and Jeremy Hefner will get the ball. Marcum is penciled in as the No. 2 starter, but if he isn’t ready left-hander Aaron Laffey is the likely candidate to replace him.

It will be interesting to see how the relationship develops between manager Terry Collins and Marcum if the pitcher misses several starts. Collins, who doesn’t have a contract after this season, already is dealing from a short deck and doesn’t need another injured pitcher.

While the Mets hope Marcum will miss just today, there’s no doubt they will indefinitely be without Santana, who hasn’t thrown in weeks and has no timetable to return. Forget Opening Day, the Mets might now be thinking May 1.

Think about it, it takes six weeks for a pitcher to get ready for the season with two weeks of long-toss and bullpen work prior to the games where he’ll get six starts to build up to 100 pitches. Santana has had none of that preparation. So, at age 34 he’s going to be ready in a few days? Hardly.

Meanwhile, Gee says he’s fine physically, but his last two starts have been painful to watch. Gee gave up five earned runs in last night’s 7-5 victory over Houston. Gee gave the Mets length last night, just not results. He insisted he’s had no setback and his mechanics are off. He might get two more starts to refine them.

The Mets hoped Jenrry Mejia could be a replacement for Santana and possibly evolve as a fifth starter if Marcum flamed out. However, Mejia has forearm tendinitis and isn’t close to being ready and will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

All this leads to the inevitable question of when Zack Wheeler could be called up. Wheeler is working himself back into shape after straining an oblique muscle, so it isn’t imminent. Alderson is adamant about not rushing Wheeler for two reasons, 1) to not hindering his development, and 2) to not put him on the clock for his service time, thereby delaying the arbitration and free-agent process.

The bullpen hasn’t been immune from injuries, either. Frank Francisco has not progressed following elbow surgery last December to remove a bone spur and inflammation.

Everybody’s injuries are different and there is no set formula to handle them, but you can’t help but wonder why Francisco, who did not finish the season, waited for December to have the surgery. Having it in late September or October would have given him more time for rehabilitation.

As for Santana, he took it easy over the winter after two off-seasons of rehab. Alderson said he didn’t come to camp in shape, prompting Santana to take it upon himself to throw off the mound the first week of March when it was thought he was ten days away from throwing.

The Mets pitching is currently a mess. Thankfully, everything is all right elsewhere. Oh, wait a minute. David Wright and Daniel Murphy will likely open the season on the disabled list and the outfield remains a house of cards.

It’s only March and it is already seems a long season for the Mets.

Mar 14

Dillon Gee To Face Headhunting Tigers Today

Normally, when a team has five of its hitters drilled in two games a case can be made for retribution. There’s been no such talk from the Mets about the Detroit Tigers taking liberties with their hitters.

Jim Leyland’s pitchers have always been aggressive, so perhaps this is just a case of not having control early in spring training.

Nonetheless, it hurts just as much in March as it does in July. It will be interesting to see how the Mets respond if somebody takes one in the ribs today.

Retaliation is tricky at any time, but especially during spring training because players are going in and out of the lineup and pitchers are just trying to make the team. Then again, the solution might be to sign Armando Benitez for the day.

Dillon Gee, today’s starter for the Mets against Detroit in Port St. Lucie, does have a spot in the rotation. Just saying.

Also scheduled to pitch today for the Mets are LaTroy Hawkins, Pedro Feliciano, Greg Burke and Josh Edgin.

SANTANA NOT READY: Terry Collins told ESPNNewYork.com yesterday Johan Santana is “not too close,’’ to getting back on the mound.

One has to wonder if Santana’s surprise mound appearance might have set him back. At the time, GM Sandy Alderson was projecting he wouldn’t throw for about ten days.

Whether or not Santana reinjured his shoulder is hard to ascertain, but he didn’t do himself any favors and his progress has been set back.

METS MUSINGS: Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis could resume baseball activities today, but is still a way from getting into a game. I’ll have something more about Nieuwenhuis’ disappointing spring later. … Daniel Murphy will take batting practice again today and could get into a minor league game this weekend. … I wrote yesterday about the Mets taking a look at outfielder Brennan Boesch. There could be mild interest. Perhaps working against Boesch is his age. At 27, one would assume an upside, but if this is so, why was he released? It can’t just be the strained oblique.

Mar 13

Matt Harvey, Bobby Parnell Ripped As Mets Lose

Nearly flawless in his last start, Matt Harvey took his lumps today, but on a positive note rebounded and regained control.

HARVEY: Gives up homer to Harper.

HARVEY: Gives up homer to Harper.

Harvey gave up a three-run homer to Washington’s Bryce Harper in the first inning, but rebounded to throw three scoreless innings and strike out six in an 8-5 loss.

Harvey settled down to retire 11 of the final 12 hitters against him; a very good sign for any pitcher let alone a young one after a rough start.

“I struggled there in the first inning, obviously. I think I came out a little too excited and needed to tone that down a little bit,’’ Harvey told reporters. “I made one bad pitch and it cost me three runs.’’

Harvey said he came out pumped in trying to atone for a three-homer rocking by the Nationals last year in spring training.

Bobby Parnell had a rough outing, giving up four runs in the seventh inning, which included a run-producing error by left fielder Lucas Duda and RBI single by Harper.

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