Apr 10

Mets Have Rotation Concerns; Wheeler Not Answer

The night Dillon Gee had in Philadelphia happens to all pitchers. It happened to Stephen Strasburg the other day. It will happen to Matt Harvey. It is premature to worry about Gee two starts into the season. It was not a game worthy of capital punishment.

It was a file-and-forget game.

GEE: Spent week in Philly last night. (AP)

GEE: Spent week in Philly last night. (AP)

“There’s not a whole lot to say. A terrible night,’’ Gee told reporters. “But you’ve got to move past it.’’

He’s right, so let’s move on to something worthy of concern.

With Gee’s short outing and Aaron Laffey not getting through five innings Sunday, the Mets’ bullpen has worked 4.2 and five innings in two of the last three games. That’s over the equivalent of an entire game.

The accumulation of innings by the bullpen is already a concern for manager Terry Collins as it indicates a three-fold problem: 1) the Mets have a problem with the back end of their rotation, 2) they lack a quality long man, somebody who can give them three or more innings when a game gets away early, and 3) this will eventually add up to a bullpen meltdown.

That is why Collins took Lucas Duda out of the game in a double-switch in the fourth inning. He explained the need to get two innings out of Greg Burke, and the No. 9 spot in the order was due up second the next inning.

It makes total sense.

Last night was the 51st start of Gee’s career, and he’s gone at least five innings in 47 of them, so let’s not get crazy with him. However, he’s also a No. 3 starter and the Mets need him to get out of the sixth on a consistent basis.

The difference between five and six innings over a full season – considered 34 starts – is 34 innings, or roughly four games. It adds up and if Collins is already thinking of these things, it isn’t an indication of comfort.

That’s why the Mets’ refusal to consider Aaron Harang is puzzling. Since 2005, he’s worked at least 180 innings in all but two years. Three times he’s gone over 200 innings. That’s acceptable for a No. 4 and No. 5 starter. Unless Harang has an injury we don’t know about, if he becomes a free-agent in a week (he was recently designated for assignment) the Mets should be calling him.

The Mets were fortunate to have Harvey to slot in between Gee and Laffey – caused by the off day last week – but that won’t always be the case. If Collins can maneuver it, he should separate Gee and Laffey whenever possible to avoid consecutive short days by the starters.

However, he is limited because there’s also Jeremy Hefner, who is not a proven long haul starter. With the exception of last night and Laffey, the Mets have received strong starts in every game, but that won’t last all season.

Naturally, when the topic is the Mets needing a quality starter the talk turns to Zack Wheeler. Let’s say it one more time about Wheeler: He is not ready.

Wheeler was rocky again last night as he gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in 5.1 innings and 92 pitches. For Wheeler’s stuff, 92 pitches should translate into eight or nine innings, not one out into the sixth. It doesn’t matter that three of the runs were unearned. The unearned runs indicates Wheeler strained to get out of trouble.

So, unless Wheeler proves he can get himself out of trouble, he won’t be able to get the Mets out of trouble.

ON DECK:  A look at Jeremy Hefner.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Apr 09

Mets Game #8 Wrap; Phillies Rock Dillon Gee

This one was over early when the Phillies scored four runs in the second and three more in the third off Dillon Gee. Ryan Howard, Michael Young and John Mayberry all homered within five pitches. The game wasn’t worth watching after that explosion in the Phillies’ 8-3 rout.

ON THE MOUND: In losing his second straight start, Gee authored the worst outing by a Met starter this season. Gee threw 56 pitches, many of them hit hard, in giving up seven run on ten hits.

AT THE PLATE:  John Buck hit a two-run homer in the fourth, but that was pretty much it off Cliff Lee. Both Buck and Daniel Murphy had two hits. … Lee pitched 8.2 innings.

METS MUSINGS: Mets assistant GM John Ricco told ESPN that Buck was always considered a significant piece of the R.A. Dickey because of the Blue Jays intent to shed his $6 million salary. … With Kirk Nieuwenhuis not getting much playing time the Mets might consider recalling reserve infielder Omar Quintanilla. … Although Ike Davis did not play last night, manager Terry Collins never considered starting Lucas Duda at first base. … The Mets’ starters in Minnesota this weekend will be Jonathon Niese (against Vance Worley), Matt Harvey (no starter named yet by the Twins) and Gee (against Kevin Correla). Former Met Mike Pelfrey, started Tuesday and was rocked in Kansas City, won’t face his former team.

ON DECK: The Mets conclude this series in Philadelphia tomorrow with Jeremy Hefner against Kyle Kendrick.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 09

Slumping Ike Davis Benched

If the Mets are to beat Cliff Lee tonight – the second Phillies’ ace in as many nights – they’ll have to do it without Ike Davis.

Davis is struggling out of the gate, hitting .148 with one homer and showing no signs of breaking out. He’s on the way of repeating last spring, which morphed into a miserable first half.

DAVIS: Haven't seen much of this lately.

DAVIS: Haven’t seen much of this lately.

“I don’t know if I can say I am better for going through that,’’ Davis said during spring training. “But, you do learn that eventually you’ll come out of it. That’s what happened to me.’’

Davis had strong second half to finish with 32 homers; that’s what gives him confidence now.

Tonight is as good a night as any to give Davis a break as he is 1-for-11 with four strikeouts in his career against Lee.

It was suggested in this column earlier today that if Terry Collins needed to adjust his lineup he might consider dropping Daniel Murphy to third and David Wright to fourth.

Instead, Collins chose to keep Murphy and Wright in their respective, two-three, slots and play Justin Turner at first base and insert hot-hitting catcher John Buck in the clean-up spot.

It is premature to say Davis is evolving into a left-handed hitting Dave Kingman, but there are signs he is not far off, such as 10 strikeouts to only four hits this year in only 27 at-bats this year. For his career, Davis has 320 strikeouts to 154 walks and 299 hits.

“I like to him home runs,’’ Davis said when asked if he considered changing his approach. “I’m going to strike out.’’

The Mets are seeking their fourth straight victory tonight behind Dillon Gee, who is coming off a masterful performance last week in a 2-1 loss to San Diego in which gave up a run on three hits in 6.1 innings.

Gee’s changeup was especially good that day, and must be so again tonight as he is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in four games against the Phillies.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Collin Cowgill, CF: Struggling at .176 with two homers and five RBI, with most of it on his Opening Day slam. Hitless in two at-bats Monday.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Has eight hits, five for extra bases. Was 5-for-16 with two doubles off Lee last year. Is riding an eight-game hitting streak in Philadelphia, going 12-for-36.

David Wright, 3B: Including two hits and an RBI Monday, has hit .413 in his last 19 games in Philadelphia.

John Buck, C: His 12 RBI is a club record through the first seven games of a season. Lifetime is a .292 hitter with three homers against Lee. Said Buck: “The key is I just feel good and I’m not trying to do too much.’’

Marlon Byrd, RF: Hitting .278, but .375 with runners in scoring position.

Lucas Duda, LF: With Davis sitting, Collins wisely chose not to move Duda, instead giving him more time to learn the outfield.

Justin Turner, 1B: Starting for Davis. Turner had three hits in his first start of the season, April 4, vs. San Diego.

Ruben Tejada, SS: In both fielding (four errors) and hitting (.211) slumps.

Dillon Gee, RHP: Has gone at least five innings in 47 of 50 career starts.

I will have another post following tonight’s game.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Apr 04

Dillon Gee’s Comeback One Of The Good Stories

The cold didn’t bother Matt Harvey last night, but the Mets will pay close attention this afternoon to Dillon Gee if the temperatures drop during his start against the San Diego Padres.

In the quest of rooting for good stories, Gee is up there in his attempt to come back from emergency surgery to repair a blocked artery in his shoulder that caused his right hand to go numb. Simply, you can’t throw if you can’t feel the ball.

GEE: Takes a big step today.

GEE: Takes a big step today.

“I’ve had no setbacks, zero,’’ said Gee during spring training, where the temperatures were thirty degrees higher than the mid-40s expected today in New York, where the Mets go for a sweep of their season-opening three-game series.

Gee will throw his first major league pitch since undergoing surgery at last year’s All-Star break. He had many of his fears quelled because he was able to throw last September.

“I didn’t want to spend the off-season wondering if I could throw again,” Gee said. “It took a lot off my mind.”

The feeling returned to Gee’s hand, but today will be the coolest weather in which he’s had to pitch. In preparation, Gee is on nitroglycerin tablets to expand the blood vessels and maintain circulation. Command will be the issue if the cold makes it difficult for him to grip the ball.

“I think I’ll be fine,’’ Gee said. “It hasn’t been an issue.’’

Gee will attempt to give the Mets their third straight strong starting effort, following Jon Niese in the opener and Harvey’s 10-strikeout performance last night.

His start is part of the progression that began when he was drafted in the 21st round of the 2007 draft. His first work was out of the bullpen, but by the end of his first season with Single-A Brooklyn he was starting and had a 3-1 record with a 2.28 ERA. Gee moved up to Double-A in 2008 and Triple-A in 2009, but that year ended not with a September call-up by the Mets, but with a torn labrum in his shoulder.

Gee returned strong in 2010 and was brought up by the Mets to make his debut, Sept. 7, and was brilliant in taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He eventually gave up a run on two hits. Gee stayed in the rotation and finished 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA in five starts. That first impression wasn’t a fluke as he won his first seven decisions in 2011, and finished at 13-6 with a 4.43 ERA and firmly entrenched in the rotation.

Gee doesn’t have the physical make-up of Harvey or Zack Wheeler, but the Mets like his poise and resiliency. He doesn’t get rattled when things go wrong, as they did in 2012 when he was hit hard and often to have a 5.65 ERA in his first seven starts.

The clot in his shoulder didn’t appear to be the cause of his problems as he rebounded with nine-strikeout games against San Diego and Baltimore and improved to 6-7 at the break. He was supposed to open the second half against Atlanta, but it never happened because he complained of numbness in his arm.

Then came the wonder if he’d ever pitch again. Now there’s no pain, no numbness. Just anticipation.

Mar 30

Mets’ Spring Training Booms And Busts

It is the same in every spring training camp with winners and losers. Booms and busts. With camp ending today, the Mets had their share of both.

THE WINNERS

Jon Niese: With Johan Santana a question going in, Niese entered camp No. 1 in the rotation and pitched deserving of that title. Not surprisingly, he was named Opening Day starter. With Santana gone for the year, he’s the de facto ace, at least until Matt Harvey takes over.

NIESE: A good spring.

NIESE: A good spring.

Matt Harvey: He took some lumps, but was far more good than bad. Most importantly, he didn’t show any signs of being overwhelmed. With Shaun Marcum hurting, Harvey is now No. 2.

Zack Wheeler: He strained an oblique muscle, but when he pitched he showed a glimpse of things to come. Wheeler was never going to make the Opening Day roster, but should be in Flushing soon enough.

Jeremy Hefner: Reported as a contender for the Triple-A rotation, but with Santana’s injury is now scheduled to be the No. 4 starter.

Jordany Valdespin: Here’s a guy who wasn’t in the Mets’ plans, but took advantage of injuries to Daniel Murphy and Kirk Nieuwenhuis to earn a spot on the roster. That is, unless something dramatic happens today.

Marlon Byrd: He was a spring training pick-up who not only won a spot on the roster, but in the Opening Day lineup.

Travis d’Arnaud: He was always going to open the season in the minors, but stayed healthy and opened a lot of eyes. He’ll be up before the All-Star break. The pitchers like throwing to him.

Lucas Duda: Surprised, aren’t you? Duda had a miserable start with an extraordinary number of strikeouts, but finished strong to give him confidence going into the season.

LOSERS

Johan Santana: It was a rocky spring for Santana, who responded in anger at criticism from GM Sandy Alderson about not being in shape by throwing off the mound ahead of schedule. He never got on the mound again and it is possible he never will.

Shaun Marcum: He didn’t endear himself to the Mets by showing up to camp in poor shape and could open the season on the disabled list.

Frank Francisco: He has not responded from elbow surgery and will be on the disabled list. Francisco might not get his closer role back if Bobby Parnell doesn’t spit the bit.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: He was penciled in as the leadoff hitter in center fielder, but missed most of camp with a bruised knee. Amazingly, because of the Mets’ dismal situation in the outfield, he still has a chance despite hitting less than .100.

Dillon Gee: He came to camp a health question, and while he says there are no complications from surgery to repair an artery in his shoulder, he had several rough starts. He had a good one toward the end, but wasn’t consistent, especially with his change-up.

Ruben Tejada: He hit better than expected last season, and didn’t hit at all this spring. In most camps, hitting less than .100 would be a ticket to the minors, but the Mets have little alternatives.