May 03

Shaun Marcum Has Chance To Make Amends

The first impression was not a good one for Shaun Marcum, but now he has the opportunity to make amends in a big way.

MARCUM: Gets the ball tonight. (AP)

MARCUM: Gets the ball tonight. (AP)

Marcum, signed to a free-agent contract last winter, did not report to spring training in good shape and tried to convince Terry Collins he only needed four exhibition starts instead of the normal six to get ready for the season. Marcum started the season on the disabled list, and his absence became a focal point as the back end of the Mets rotation became an issue.

Marcum wasn’t sparkling in his return, but with the Mets heading into a tailspin and in a marathon game Monday night in Miami, he volunteered to pitch in relief. He lost, but If nothing else, it caught the attention of his teammates. When reporters asked David Wright about pinch-hitting despite a stiff neck, he deflected the attention to Marcum.

“I would say Shaun Marcum was a much bigger situation, because you don’t see every day starting pitchers go down to the bullpen and kind of voluntarily want to do that to try to help us out,’’ Wright said. “That’s huge. All of us know how important wins are.’’

The Mets will give the ball to Marcum tonight in a place where wins have been scarce – Turner Field in Atlanta. Should he win, that would be two important outings in a week and could smooth over the poor first impression.

Marcum (0-2) said working in relief was akin to a between-starts bullpen workout, claiming the 28 pitches he threw Monday night were close to what he would have done in the bullpen.

“The bullpen was kind of running out there toward the end,’’ Marcum told reporters this week. “I told them if they needed me I was available and I’d be more than happy to go down there and give these guys whatever I had.’’

Marcum said the neck and shoulder pain that shelved him at the start of the season has dissipated, and he’s ready for tonight.

In looking at how he lost to the Marlins, Marcum said he made the pitches he wanted, but credited the hitters. That was another positive – no excuses.

“I made some pretty good pitches, especially when I went back and looked at the video,’’ Marcum said. “I guess you just tip your hat and move on.’’

The early pitching identity of the Mets has been good outings from Matt Harvey, decent starts from Jon Niese, and not much from the back end of the rotation. Jeremy Hefner’s last two starts have been good, and Dillon Gee has been erratic. It has added up to a lot of innings from the bullpen.

The Mets snapped a six-game losing streak Wednesday, but aren’t close to righting things. With Niese and Harvey working the last two games of this series, should Marcum give them a good game tonight, it could stabilize the pitching staff.

ON DECK: I’ll have a series preview against the Braves and the continuation of the Summer of 1973 Series.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 01

Mets Wrap: Jordany Valdespin Homer Stops Slide

Well, the Mets weren’t going to lose them all. Jordany Valdespin, whose personality would be ideal for an NBA point guard, hit a three-run pinch-hit home run in the sixth inning to lift the Mets to a 7-6 victory to snap a six-game losing streak. “We got some offense going,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “The most frustrating thing about the past six days is we’ve been in the games. We’ve given ourselves a chance, we just haven’t been able to create any offense. Hopefully today is a start.’’

VALDESPIN: High-fives all around after homer.

VALDESPIN: High-fives all around after homer.

ON THE MOUND: Dillon Gee (2-4) picked up the victory despite so-so effort, giving up four runs on nine hits in five innings. Perhaps him winning was justice served, as the Mets had given him just ten runs in his previous five starts. … Bobby Parnell, who was testy about being bypassed for a save opportunity in Tuesday’s loss, used just seven pitches in a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

AT THE PLATE: Valdespin’s homer was one of many important hits for the Mets. … David Wright and John Buck each had three hits. Wright hit his third homer of the year and Buck added a two-run double to give him 27 RBI.

PARNELL BACK IN: Parnell was upset at not being used Tuesday, but was all business this afternoon. Collins’ explanation was he didn’t want to overuse Parnell and risk injury. “I heard it and understood it right off the bat,’’ Parnell said. “I’m competitive. Your competitive nature, you want to be out there and help the team. I understand what he said completely and I agree with it. Sometimes you don’t want to hear it.’’

BY THE NUMBERS: 6. Career pinch-hit homers by Valdespin, second to Mike Carreon in franchise history.

THEY SAID IT: “I wasn’t really pleased with anything I did today. I’m happy the team won. We needed that. That was good. Everybody did a great job. But as far as I’m concerned, I actually almost feel bad for getting a win today.” – Dillon Gee on his performance.

ON DECK: The Mets are off Thursday, then begin a three-game series Friday in Atlanta, with Shaun Marcum (0-2, 7.94 ERA) going against Mike Minor (3-2, 3.13).

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 01

Mets Lineup At Miami

Another day, another lineup for the Mets. It’s now 22 different lineups going into Game No. 26. It’s not as if Collins can’t make up his mind, but that he’s trying to juggle what little options he has remaining to him.

Ruben Tejada, SS: One of six Mets to lead off.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Back at second after hitting third and fifth. Doubled yesterday to break a 1-for-21 slide.

David Wright, 3B: Says stiff neck feels better.

John Buck, C: Hit nine homers with 25 RBI in April.

Lucas Duda, LF: On-base percentage is good; RBI total is low.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has double digit RBI.

Ike Davis, 1B: Batting seventh because he can’t go much lower.

Juan Lagares, CF: Has done little with his cup of coffee.

Dillon Gee, RHP: Tries to snap six-game losing streak.

Apr 27

Sluggish Mets Need Boost From Their Pitching

Dillon Gee didn’t pitch that badly last night, but the Mets’ struggling offense – five straight games of scoring three or fewer runs – brought nightmarish memories of last year’s second-half offensive drought.

The Mets made Kyle Kendrick look untouchable as they lost for the seventh time in their last ten games.

MARCUM: Makes first start today.

MARCUM: Makes first start today.

With their offense stagnant, the Mets will need a boost from their already stretched pitching staff. This afternoon they’ll ask journeyman pick-up Shaun Marcum to come up big in his first start of the season.

“I’m sure I’ll have a little bit of adrenaline, a little more than I had in the extended spring game,’’ Marcum said last night. “At the same time you got to know how to control it and use it to your advantage and know when to back off and when to add on a little bit. I’m looking forward to it and I’m definitely excited to get out there and get in situations in real games.’’

Marcum was signed to a free-agent contract in the offseason, but didn’t endear himself to manager Terry Collins when he reported to spring training in poor condition and attempted to justify matters by saying he only needed to make four exhibition starts. He didn’t even make those as he was sidelined with neck and shoulder pain.

“It’s been a while,’’ Marcum said. “Definitely looking forward to getting out there.’’

Marcum will be on a pitch count of 90, and if his command is off, he can get there by the fifth inning. If he does, the Mets would be in trouble. They could also be in trouble Sunday if Jon Niese isn’t able to make his start.

Niese took a hard-hit comebacker off his right ankle Tuesday, but said he felt fine after a light bullpen session Thursday. Yesterday he just played catch and ran in the outfield.

If Niese can’t go, he’ll be the third pitcher of the Mets’ projected five to miss a start, joining Johan Santana, whose career with the team is over, and Marcum.

Even so, the Mets remain adamant about not bringing up Zack Wheeler, whose wildness continues to be an issue. In his last two starts, Wheeler has walked nine batters over 9.1 innings.

The reports Collins is getting from Triple-A Las Vegas have not been encouraging. First, there was Wheeler’s blister problem, followed by his control. When Wheeler was optioned in spring training, he said he was told to concentrate on is his control.

However, concentrating on his control and getting command of it are two different things.

“What worries me the most is that he’s not pounding the strike zone,’’ Collins said. “We’ve got to have some strikes out of him because his stuff is going to play. If he’s in the strike zone, you’d be surprised at the outs because his stuff is just that good.’’

Then again, when he’s out of the strike zone it doesn’t matter how good his stuff is.

Apr 26

Mets’ Juggle Lineup Again Tonight Against Phillies

Terry Collins wanted to keep a set lineup, but that hope has long since gone.  Here it is, Game #21 and the Mets are on their 19th different batting order.

Tonight against Kyle Kendrick as several new twists, beginning with David Wright hitting clean-up, Lucas Duda batting fifth and Ike Davis dropping to seventh.

That seems logical; especially considering Wright is 9-for-18 against Kendrick, including two doubles and two homers.

However, what I don’t understand is why Ruben Tejada, who is batting .217, including .118 over his last seven games, is hitting second while Jordany Valdespin is eighth. You might not like Valdespin’s demeanor, but he does make things happen and he has speed.

Until Tejada snaps out of his funk, keep him eighth, and the same applies to Davis at seventh.

Here’s the order:

Mike Baxter, RF

Ruben Tejada, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Ike Davis, 1B

Jordany Valdespin, CF

Dillon Gee, RHP

Overall, the Mets are averaging just under six runs a game, but are hitting .207 in their last seven games. With runs scarce lately, the Mets are hoping Gee can give them what Jeremy Hefner did yesterday.

Gee snapped his three-game losing streak with a strong start last Sunday with 5.2 scoreless innings against Washington.

“I think he needed it bad. I think it’s a great confidence builder for him,’’ Collins said.

Gee is 2-2 with a 7.03 ERA in six career starts against the Phillies. He’ll need the change-up that was so effective against the Nationals. The Phillies hammered Gee for seven runs on ten hits – including homers by Ryan Howard, Michael Young and John Mayberry – in a 8-3 rout of the Mets, April 9, at Philadelphia.