May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

Please follow me on Twitter

May 21

May 21, Mets’ Lineup Against Milwaukee

Jacob deGrom will try to give the Mets their second straight victory this afternoon against Milwaukee. He is coming off back-to-back no-decisions in his last two starts.

Here’s the lineup behind him:

Curtis Granderson – RF: Hitting .115 (3-for-26) with RISP. Career .253 hitter (22-for-87) vs. Milwaukee.

David Wright – 3B: Hitting .185 (5-for-27) with RISP. Career .261 hitter (60-for-230) vs. Milwaukee.

Michael Conforto – LF: Hitting .303 (10-for-33) with RISP. Career .500 hitter (2-for-4) vs. Milwaukee.

Yoenis Cespedes – CF: Hitting .270 (10-for-37) with RISP. Career .400 hitter (10-for-25) vs. Milwaukee.

Neil Walker – 2B: Hitting .320 (8-for-25) with RISP. Career .270 hitter (95-for -352) vs. Milwaukee.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: Hitting .276 (8-for-29) with RISP. Career .250 hitter (1-for-4) vs. Milwaukee.

Eric Campbell – 1B: Hitting .182 (2-for-11) with RISP. Career .250 hitter (5-for-20) vs. Milwaukee.

Kevin Plawecki – C: Hitting .286 (4-for-14) with RISP. Career .333 hitter (3-for-9) vs. Milwaukee.

DeGrom – RHP: Is 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA in four career starts vs. Milwaukee.

COMMENTS:  Campbell is in the lineup because Lucas Duda has a sore back. … Jeurys Familia is 14-for-14 in save opportunities. … Cespedes is third in the NL with 33 RBI. … Nine of Conforto’s 16 career homers have either tied the game or give the Mets the lead.

May 19

Collins Must Share Blame For Wright; DL Should Be Considered

In the 20-plus-years I have written about major league baseball, there are a handful of players I admire and respect as much as David Wright.

Even so, I am still objective as to what I see and it currently isn’t good. Wright was scratched Tuesday because of a sore back, and then returned to go 0-for-4 with three more strikeouts Wednesday.

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

Wright is in persistent discomfort and needs up to two hours to get ready to play. He is not suited to pinch-hit, especially in cold weather, as he did Sunday in Colorado. Wright knows not to push it, but when asked he will play. That’s in his DNA.

Translated: Manager Terry Collins did Wright a disservice when he asked him to pinch-hit. Winning one game in mid-May isn’t as important as risking losing him for the long haul.

I know Collins wants to win, but he was wrong, selfish and shortsighted for asking Wright to pinch-hit. It isn’t the first time Collins pushed the envelope with Wright or other players. Don’t forget his panic move of labeling the eighth game of the season “must win,’’ and pushing Wright, Jim Henderson and Jeurys Familia, none of whom should have played that day.

Wright would never finger-point at his manager. The bottom line is Collins should have been smart enough to not put Wright in that position.

“I don’t know,” Wright told Newsday on whether pinch-hitting took him out of Tuesday’s lineup. “Again, it’s probably not the ideal circumstances. But this is the National League, you really don’t have that much leeway especially when you’re playing with a short bench.”

That puts the onus on the manager to pay attention to what he has available.

Wright is batting .221, which is a career-low for this point in the season. He already has 47 strikeouts in 113 at-bats, with four homers and eight RBI. He’s on pace to strike out 195 times, hit 17 homers and drive in 33 runs. His on-base percentage of .362 gives us glimpses of him still being a productive player.

“The back thing is just something that I’m going to have to get used to because it’s not changing,” Wright told reporters. “But I feel like I can play at a much higher level than I’m playing at right now.

“I think that there are certainly some things I’m having to make adjustments with as far as preparation, as far as playing schedule, that I’m going to have to get used to. But when I go take the field I expect to play much better than I am right now.”

Is Wright done?

I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. It’s worth sticking with him to find out, but that means staying with the plan and not deviating. That’s all on the manager.

Can Wright play Thursday night? That’s up in the air. If his availability is day-to-day and Collins doesn’t know what he has on any given night, he should go on the disabled list.

Go back to the beginning. Get re-examined and concentrate on nothing but getting stronger for the next couple of weeks. And, during this time, management should have a sit-down with Collins and tell him to get with the program and stick with it.

A lot of things must happen for this to work, including the manager being smarter than he has been.

 

May 17

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Stuffs Nats

SYNERGAARD: All arm and hair. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: All arm and hair. (Getty)

Take away two pitches and the Mets and Nationals might still be playing. Home runs by Curtis Granderson – off the first pitch thrown to him – and Michael Conforto off Max Scherzer were all Noah Syndergaard needed to win, 2-0, Tuesday night.

“I think he rises to the challenge,” Mets manager Terry Collins to reporters about Syndergaard in a classic understatement.

Syndergaard struck out ten to break the Mets’ four-game losing streak to pull them within a half-game of the Nationals. Scherzer, who was coming off a 20-strikeout performance in his previous start, also struck out ten.

The game featured the return of long-time Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy to return. Murphy hit six homers in last year’s postseason before he was signed as a free-agent in the offseason.

“Very nice of them,” Murphy said of two standing ovations.

After that, he was booed.

METS GAME WRAP

May 17, 2016

Game: #38      Score: Mets 2, Nationals 0

Record: 22-16      Streak: W 1

Standings: Second, NL East .5 GB Nationals Playoffs Today: First WC vs. Pittsburgh

Runs: 148       Average: 3.89    Times 3 or less: 17

SUMMARY: Sometimes pitching duels don’t live up to their promise. This one did.

KEY MOMENT:  Granderson’s homer in the first.

THUMBS UP:  Syndergaard was brilliant, throwing 102 pitches in seven innings. He gave up five hits and didn’t walk a batter. … Granderson reached base in all four plate appearances. … Addison Reed struck out two of the three Nationals he faced. … Jeurys Familia earned his 13th save in as many opportunities.

THUMBS DOWN:  None.

EXTRA INNINGS:  David Wright was scratched because of sore back and is listed day-to-day. It is the first time this season Wright didn’t play because of his back. I am wondering if his late pinch-hit appearance Sunday after sitting all day might have been a cause. … Lucas Duda didn’t play because of a sore back. He received an injection and the hope is he’ll be able to play Thursday. … Tests showed no ligament damage with Steve Matz. He won’t pitch in this series but could start Friday. I would still save him for next week.

QUOTEBOOK:  “Played good because we pitched good.’’ – Collins in as succinct an analysis as possible.

BY THE NUMBERS:  6-0: Mets’ record this year after an off day.

NEXT FOR METS:  Bartolo Colon Wednesday against Gio Gonzalez.

May 14

May 14, Mets’ Lineup At Colorado

The last time Logan Verrett started a game in Denver it was to replace Matt Harvey when he needed to skip a turn. Tonight he’s replacing Steven Matz.

Verrett will be making his third start of the season. In his previous two, he pitched back-to-back scoreless six-inning starts against Miami (April 13) and Philadelphia (April 19). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Verrett is the first pitcher ever with two relief wins and two scoreless starts of at least six innings before the end of April.

Here’s the lineup behind him:

Curtis Granderson – RF: Batting .171 (6-for-35) on the trip and is 9-for-47 over his last 16 games.

David Wright – 3B: Has drawn at least one walk in 11 of his last 12 games. Is currently on a 0-for-14 slide.

Michael Conforto – LF: Glad to see him still hitting third despite being in a prolonged slump (6-for-42) .143 since May 1.

Yoenis Cespedes – CF: Has back-to-back 0-for-4 games. Has 28 strikeouts in last 31 games.

Lucas Duda – 1B: Another one on a dry road trip, hitting .154 (4-for-26). Enters with a 13-game hitting streak against Rockies’ pitching.

Neil Walker – 2B: After a blistering April, he’s hitting .121 (4-for-33) in 11 games in May. Is a lifetime .301 hitter at Coors Field.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS:  Has gone 37 games without a homer. Is hitting .308 on the road this year.

Kevin Plawecki – C: Having a good road trip .280 (7-for-25). Is batting .273 (3-for-11) with RISP.

Verrett – RHP: Hitters are 0-for-16 with five strikeouts with RISP against him this year. Has 10 strikeouts with three walks as a starter.