Mar 27

Mets’ Issues With A Week To Go

The Mets begin defense of their National League title a week from today, but will do so a team not without its issues.

Let’s go position-by-position to see how they stack up:

STARTING PITCHING: One issue was Jacob deGrom’s dip in velocity, but he was back in the mid-90s in Saturday’s start. Steven Matz gave up one run Sunday, but also walked four and later said he was gassed. He only gets one more start and doesn’t look sharp. There are no questions with Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, and Bartolo Colon has not pitched well.

MATZ: Not ready. (AP)

MATZ: Not ready. (AP)

BULLPEN: Jim Henderson, Erik Goeddel, Sean Gilmartin and Logan Verrett are competing for the last bullpen spot. With three days off in the first week, the Mets shouldn’t have a problem not having Hansel Robles for the first two games as he serves a suspension.

CATCHER: Travis d’Arnaud is penciled in as the starter, but took a .200 batting average and .275 on-base percentage into Sunday’s game against the Nationals. The original plan was for Kevin Plawecki to be the back-up, and as of today they are leaning in that direction. However, with a heavy dose of days off in April – meaning he wouldn’t play much – and the prospect of saving a few bucks because of his Super 2 status, why not go with Johnny Monell and give Plawecki at-bats.

FIRST BASE: Lucas Duda hit 27 homers with 73 RBI last season and 30-92 in 2014. However, he had nearly a 2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks-ratio in both seasons. He’s extremely streaky, capable of ten homers in one month and two in another. Five drives a month would be add consistency to his make-up. Wilmer Flores is the projected back-up.

SECOND BASE: Neil Walker is not having a good spring, but his track record shows he’s not a .171 hitter. There’s no indication his lack of production is because of any injury. It’s just a slow start.

SHORTSTOP: Asdrubal Cabrera has missed much of the spring with a strained left knee. There’s a chance he’ll be ready by Opening Day, but there’s no sense in pushing things. If not Cabrera, then Flores could get the start.

THIRD BASE: David Wright’s back seems fine, but he’s been bothered by tightness in his legs. He won’t get the at-bats he prefers but will have to make the best of it. I still think the best decision would be for him to be the DH in the first two games at Kansas City.

LEFT FIELD: Michael Conforto didn’t play Saturday because of a back issue, but was in the lineup Sunday. The Mets ideally want to play Conforto against lefties, but hasn’t had a good spring, which might temper those plans. In that case, we could see more of Juan Lagares (.316 this spring).

CENTERFIELD: The Mets’ best left fielder is center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, whose .394 average and .429 on-base percentage, not to mention the pig roast he hosted, would combine to push his brain cramp to the back burner. The Mets figure to bat him third behind Wright.

RIGHT FIELD: Curtis Granderson is hitting .324. A walking machine last year, he has drawn only one this spring.

Mar 22

Wondering If Wright Will Be Ready

David Wright says he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but who can’t see somebody else being the Mets’ third baseman that day that night in Kansas City?

That’s the consensus I get from most Mets’ fans, who on a recent poll I conducted on Twitter responded with Wright’s health (57 percent), followed by the pressure on free-agent Yoenis Cespedes (22 percent), the defense up the middle, which includes playing Cespedes out of position (14 percent) and the bullpen (7 percent) being the most pressing Mets’ issues.

WRIGHT: Will he be ready? (Getty)

WRIGHT: Will he be ready? (Getty)

Wright, who won’t play Tuesday against the Yankees, has three hits in nine at-bats in three exhibition games. With only a week remaining, he won’t play in the dozen or so exhibition games originally projected he’d play.

Wright says he’s on pace for Opening Day, but admits there are days when the spinal stenosis doesn’t respond to his exercise program. There are times when he simply hurts. There are days when he wakes up feeling 60.

“It’s frustrating, but it’s out of my control,’’ Wright told reporters. “I learned a long time ago: You can control the things that you can control. And this is something that I can’t.

“I can give myself every opportunity to put myself in a position to play, and give my back every chance possible. But there are going to be some days where it’s just not possible.’’

Between now and Opening Day, Wright can accumulate another 40 or so at-bats, but most of them could come against minor-league pitchers. And, it wouldn’t entail getting much rest between games, which is a test he doesn’t need to take now. Is that really going to get him ready?

The ultimate test will come on defense, which features bending, stretching, diving and quick responses under game conditions. Those can’t be simulated.

Wright is known for being notoriously optimistic, and his desire to be ready Opening Day might be a stretch.

I’m thinking this might be one of those times.

 

Mar 14

Mets Handling Wright Correctly

The Mets continue to handle David Wright with kid gloves, which is the only way to go. Wright, who has yet to play in an exhibition game this spring, singled in five at-bats in a minor-league intrasquad game today. Wright didn’t play in the field.

As of now, the plan is to get Wright into a dozen exhibition games, and there’s no idea as to how many games he’ll play this season.

Wright will play in minor league games Tuesday and Thursday, and possibly getting in a regular season game for the first time on Friday.

“You don’t know what to expect your first time taking at-bats as far as timing and stuff, and that was really secondary to going out there, simulating some at-bats in a game-like situation,” Wright told TCPalm.com. “Taking some swings, trying to run to first base, run the bases a little bit – I thought it went great. Obviously, the biggest thing now is try to get some timing, but I feel mechanically health-wise, I thought it worked out great. Now it’s just a matter of doing it over and over again.”

Wright does up to 90 minutes of stretching and exercising prior to each game, so even if he’s not playing his body is taking a toll.

So, even if you don’t notice Wright’s name in a box score, understand he’s still working and his body is being taxed. Hopefully, it will pay off.

 

Mar 09

Why I Will Always Miss My Friend Shannon

At the end of the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” were the words you can judge a person’s worth by the number of friends they have. If that’s an accurate measure, then Shannon Forde is one of the richest people I ever met.

Hundreds of her family, friends and colleagues honored her life this afternoon in a memorial service at Citi Field. They all left saddened by her passing last Friday from breast cancer, but also grateful for having known her and her being in their lives. I don’t think there was a person there who don’t believe their lives weren’t enriched by knowing her/

Goodbye, Shannon.

Goodbye, Shannon.

So many words have been so eloquently written and spoken about Shannon over the past few days. Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record and David Lennon from Newsday wrote especially moving remembrances. They wrote pieces that when her children, Nick and Kendall, read in twenty years, will gain a greater appreciation of what she meant to those in the baseball community and how special their mom was to so many.

To the Mets players – David Wright said she was the team mom – and to those in the media, who combined made countless demands on her time that she always met with a smile, she was a rock. There were so many media members who no longer cover the Mets who made their way to Citi Field. That’s the kind of impression she made on people.

To the hundreds at Citi Field today that paid their respects, they learned more about her as a mother, wife, friend and colleague through the beautiful remembrances from team vice president Jay Horwitz and Wright, who said the championship belt given each player after every victory this year will have a shamrock and pink ribbon in her memory.

Horwitz and Wright spoke how Shannon touched their lives; Klapisch and Lennon, and others in the media wrote the same.

I first met Shannon when I covered the Yankees, but it didn’t matter, she was always helpful. I got to know her better when I moved to the Mets’ beat. I didn’t work for The New York Times, but she treated me with the same courtesy and respect as the writers from the bigger papers.

When I left the beat and covered the team on this blog, she still treated me with the same courtesy and respect she did when I worked for the paper.

I relayed this story to Wright and Klapisch this afternoon and both said that was just like her. That she was, in a word, “genuine.”

Mar 09

Not Worried About Wright Not Playing

David Wright isn’t in the Mets’ lineup today and won’t be tomorrow. He’s not expected to play until next week at the earliest and reportedly won’t play more than a dozen games all spring. One thing for sure, you won’t hear me complaining.

WRIGHT: Taking it slow. (Getty)

WRIGHT: Taking it slow. (Getty)

I don’t know how many games Wright will play this season and neither does he. What I do care about is him being healthy and staying off the DL. Based on that, the Mets are handling him the right way.

After all, I’d rather have him get off to a slow start than spend two months on the DL.

Meanwhile, Wright is doing the work he needs to get strong, loose and ready for the season. That’s all that’s important now. I think that this could be beneficial to me because I’m getting really good work in. … There were some things that I felt I need to work on mechanically fielding, and I wouldn’t be able to do that along with getting ready for a game.”

“I think that this could be beneficial to me because I’m getting really good work in,” Wright told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “There were some things that I felt I need to work on mechanically fielding, and I wouldn’t be able to do that along with getting ready for a game.”

Don’t forget, Wright still must put in up to two hours of prep time to play. Couple that with BP and infield practice and you’re talking about him getting to the park at six in the morning. Hell, he might as well sleep there.

Wright, who missed over four months last year after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal column – will need to continue his daily pre-game routine of stretching and exercises for the remainder of his career.

Wright has long been known for rushing back from injuries, including a small fracture in his back several years ago. This practice put him on the disabled list numerous times. For whatever reasons, the Mets let him. This time, both parties appear to be on the same page, and that’s a good thing.

Very good.