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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Feb 22

Things To Look For In Mets Intrasquad Game

Several things to look for in today’s Mets intrasquad game in Port St. Lucie. You don’t get answers in a game like this, but you can get a first impression or something to build on.

Here’s the players I am interested in and why:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: Leading off for Team 1. Nieuwenhuis is getting the first chance to win the leadoff job, which is definite hole.

Jordany Valdespin: Playing second base for Team 1 and batting second. Valdespin is ticketed to open the season in the minors, but that could change on how well he plays second base and how Daniel Murphy recovers from a ribcage injury.

Andrew Brown: Playing left field for Team 1. He has a chance to stick as a reserve in the Mets’ undermanned outfield.

Wilmer Flores: A top prospect playing second base for Team 2. Opportunities often come out of injuries and if Murphy’s injury is worse than expected Flores might become an option. Even so, he should see major league time this summer.

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Feb 21

Mets Matters: Kirk Nieuwenhuis Gets Leadoff Opportunity

Several days ago I gave you my idea for the Mets’ batting order and it included Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the leadoff hitter, so I was happy to read Adam Rubin’s story he will be given first chance to win that job.

Nieuwenhuis will be the leadoff hitter for Saturday’s exhibition game against Washington.

kirkThe Mets like Nieuwenhuis’ patience – he sees over four pitches an at-bat – and he had moderate success in the role last year hitting .264 with an on-base percentage of .303.

Both numbers need to be improved, but it must be remembered he did this in his first look at major league pitching.

Before their slide Nieuwenhuis played center and hit leadoff and Terry Collins remembered: “ … when we were playing really, really well, that guy was in center field. So he deserves the right to get the first shot.’’

Nieuwenhuis can steal the occasional base, but he’s not known as a steal threat. Steals can sometimes be overrated, but fundamental base running is always in vogue. Going first-to-third, realizing when a ball will go through, and running to avoid a double play are all critical components of good base running.

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Feb 19

Suggestions For A Mets’ Batting Order; Nieuwenhuis At The Top

Like every manager in the history of the game, I love to tinker with batting orders. So much can happen between now and Opening Day, but when it is below freezing it is as good a time as any to think of what Terry Collins’ lineup could be this summer.

Collins is on record with Ruben Tejada in the leadoff slot, but I’m suggesting a different direction.

NIEUWENHUIS: Trying him at leadoff.

NIEUWENHUIS: Trying him at leadoff.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis had limited success last season when he first arrived, but pitchers figured him out. I’d like to give Nieuwenhuis the chance to lead off because he demonstrated patience and the ability to slap the ball around and run. If he can become more disciplined he could develop into a good leadoff hitter, and since we’re thinking long-term let’s give it a try because there’s an upside with Nieuwenhuis hitting first.

Tejada would hit second because he has good bat control, knows how to work a pitcher and can bunt. All are ideal for a No. 2 hitter. Tejada can also hit-and-run and steal a base. If Tejada can do all those things, it could get a running game going with Nieuwenhuis. If Nieuwenhuis doesn’t pan out as a leadoff hitter, Tejada would go back to the top. Let’s give it a month.

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