Feb 15

Terry Collins Leaning To Jon Niese As Opening Day Starter

New York Mets manager Terry Collins reiterated his thoughts Jonathon Niese would be his Opening Day starter, as well he should according to conventional baseball wisdom.

Despite Zack Wheeler’s desire for the ball, the honor should go to Niese, last year’s starter and whom Collins called “the ace of the staff,’’ in wake of Matt Harvey’s injury. If not Niese, then it should be Dillon Gee, the Mets’ most consistent starter last year and author of 199 innings.

NIESE: Opening Day starter?

NIESE: Opening Day starter?

Barring injury, accepted baseball thinking is why Niese should start. Niese is the most experienced of the Mets’ starters – of those growing up in the organization – and having been signed to a long-term contract, the most is expected of him.

Niese’s 8-8 2013 record is mediocre, but attributable in large part because of a shoulder injury. Veterans usually get preference if for no other reason as a reward.

Bartolo Colon is obviously the staff’s most experienced starter, but has no cache within the organization to warrant the start.

As for Wheeler, he might represent the Mets’ future, but with 17 career starts and seven wins, he has a while to go.

You have to admire Wheeler’s desire to want to have that role. It shows where he wants to be in his career.

“Last year I was coming in trying to win a spot,’’ Wheeler said earlier this week. “This year I’m trying to get the Opening Day spot. … It’s nothing on those guys, on the other starters, because anybody in the starting rotation could be the Opening Day starter. But that’s just my mindset coming in – to push myself to try to get the Opening Day spot.’’

Niese probably thinks the same. At least, let’s hope he does.

ON DECK: Bartolo Colon greets media.

Feb 01

Projecting Mets’ Rotation

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has already come out and said Jon Niese would be his Opening Day starter. No surprise there, as he was in that role last year.

Given that, here’s how I’d piece together the rest of the rotation and my reasoning.

NIESE: Opening Day starter.

NIESE: Opening Day starter.

Collins said Dillon Gee would be the alternative Opening Day starter, so logically he would go second in the rotation. However, I’d go with Bartolo Colon because of his experience and propensity for eating innings and save Gee’s innings for the back end.

Third, I’m thinking they’ll go with Zack Wheeler, but if he cracks the rotation, I’m wondering if they’ll instead slot in John Lannan to go with a left-right-left format.

Fourth would be innings eater Gee. This way I’m thinking there will be an even distribution of innings with the rotation.

Finally, the fifth starter will probably be Lannan because I don’t know how much stock Collins puts in my lefty-righty-lefty theory. If he does buy into it, then that could push Wheeler back to the fourth or fifth starter.

Probably not, but there are advantages to starting Wheeler fifth: 1) if there is an innings limit on him, fifth is where starts most get pushed back because of early-season off-days, which cuts the innings, and 2) theoretically there’s less pressure as the fifth starter.

So, if the Mets want to treat Wheeler with kid gloves, then fifth is where they have the best opportunity to do so.

Jan 17

Four Mets Settle To Avoid Arbitration

Four more Mets avoided the arbitration process and settled their contracts for the 2014 season. Daniel Murphy, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell and Eric Young all agreed to terms. Still unsigned is Lucas Duda.

Murphy, who hit .286 with 13 homers and 78 RBI, settled on a contract for $5.7 million, a substantial raise from the $2.95 million. Murphy will be arbitration eligible after this year and will become a free agent following the 2015 season.

Gee, who made just over $527-thousand last year, settled on $3.625 million after winning 13 games and working 199 innings.

Gee submitted a proposal for $4.05 million to which the Mets countered at $3.2 million.

Parnell, who is recovering from neck surgery, will earn $3.7 million this year, up from $1.7 million.

Finally, outfielder Eric Young, agreed to a $1.85 million contract.

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Jan 09

Mets Need Breakout Year From Jon Niese

If there’s one player the New York Mets urgently, if not desperately need a breakout year from it is left-hander Jon Niese.

Some might say Ike Davis, which might be true if we even knew he’d be on the team. Another could be outfielder Chris Young, but odds are he won’t be back in 2015, so does it matter what kind of year he has? If he’s having a good season he might get dealt at the deadline. If he plays the season out and does well, the Mets would think he’d be too pricey to retain.

NIESE: Mets need big things from him.

NIESE: Mets need big things from him.

Niese, however, is cut from a different cloth.  He’s in a five-year contract, but coming off a disappointing season in 2013 in which he was injured and won only nine games.

“He was hurt and took a step back,’’ said one National League scout. “Two years ago he was on the verge of a breakout season if the Mets had hit for him.’’

The tightness in his neck and shoulder surfaced after consecutive freezing-weather starts in Minneapolis and Denver.

Niese was 13-9 in 2012, and with a little run and bullpen support could have won 17 games. He was the Opening Day starter last season when Johan Santana was injured, but if the appointment were based on solely on merit, he would have been named regardless.

Despite never having pitched a complete season – defined as 34-35 starts – Niese had steadily improved, winning nine, 11 and 13 games, respectively, from 2010-12, until a shoulder limited him to 24 starts, 143 innings and an 8-8 record.

Everybody is looking at Zack Wheeler to take a Matt Harvey-like step in his second year. I could happen, but what must happen is for Niese to start living up to the high expectations.

Wheeler is far from a given and Harvey is out, which leaves Niese, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon in the rotation. Of the three, Niese has the highest upside.

It’s time he lives up to it.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 10

Jenrry Mejia Not Close To Being Ready

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Staying healthy has always been an obstacle in Jenrry Mejia’s pursuit of a starting job in the New York Mets’ rotation and it is that way again.

Mejia, who underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow, isn’t a given in being ready for spring training.

If he was ready, he’s be the fourth starter slotted in after Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese.

MEJIA: When will we see him?

MEJIA: When will we see him?

As of now, general manager Sandy Alderson doesn’t expect him any sooner than May.

“He demonstrated he could pitch effectively as a major-league starter,’’ Alderson said. “It’s a question of can he stay healthy. … He won’t even be able to demonstrate that over the course of spring training or even the first month of the season.’’

The 24-year-old Mejia made five starts with an ERA of 2.30 before needing surgery.

The puzzling thing in how this was handled was the Mets said Mejia needed surgery in the offseason, yet kept pitching him.

It wasn’t the first time the Mets mishandled Mejia.

In 2010, then-manager Jerry Manuel, who going into the season knew his job was in jeopardy, battled the front office to bring up Mejia at the start of the season to work in the bullpen.

The troubling aspect of this decision was Manuel rarely used Mejia, especially when the game was in the balance. Eventually, he was returned to the minors, but as a starter. The strain of changing roles damaged his arm and he underwent Tommy John surgery.

At the time, Mejia was the Mets’ hottest prospect, but by not settling on a defined role for him it hurt his trade value. After all, how could the Mets pitch to other teams his potential value as a starter when he wasn’t even in that role for them?

Alderson doesn’t know when Mejia will be ready, and how he’ll perform when he’s available. As of now, it is back to Square One for Mejia.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos