Feb 05

Mets’ Pitching Questions Heading Into Spring Training

With spring training less than two weeks away, the Mets have a myriad of questions they’ll hope to resolve before Opening Day. That’s six weeks to get done what hasn’t been completed all winter.

With a late push, GM Sandy Alderson added a fifth starter and has tinkered with his bullpen. The operative word there is “tinkered,’’ because there’s more hope than actual production in what he’s done.

Many of the questions, not surprisingly, are concerned with pitching. Here’s the pitching questions I’m asking:

Q: How healthy is Johan Santana, and what is his mindset in his walk year?

A: Once again, Santana didn’t complete a whole season with the Mets. This time, it wasn’t his shoulder, although he did experience some tiredness after his 134-pitch no-hitter. Santana has to know the Mets have no intention of extending his contract beyond this year, so he’s pitching to impress new suitors. In that case, he might give a little extra in his walk year. Then again, he might just coast to show he’s healthy. There’s a gradual build-up in spring training to 100 pitches so we should get an idea of how sound he is. If he’s not, the Mets might have to scramble for another starter.

Q: What is Dillon Gee’s status?

A: Gee’s 2012 was cut short because of a blood clot in his shoulder. The projection for him is as a fourth or fifth starter. Surgery removed the clot and he has been cleared. I’m curious as to his strength and stamina. Clots are serious things and Gee has probably been prescribed blood thinners to prevent them. Still, until he gets out there we won’t know for sure.

Q: Does Zack Wheeler make a statement?

A: Wheeler isn’t expected to make the rotation, but will be a call-up during the season. With concerns about Santana and Gee – and you know something else will pop up – Wheeler might be counted on sooner than expected. The Mets don’t expect Wheeler to be a full-time contributor until 2014, but that’s only a rough timetable.

Q: What is the composition of the bullpen?

A: The Mets added Pedro Feliciano, LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Atchison, and are talking to Brandon Lyon. Jose Valverde won’t happen and Frank Francisco is a $6.5 million health issue. Kind of gives you a warm, optimistic feeling doesn’t it? The bullpen is essential to any progressive step the Mets might take and currently it doesn’t seem better than last year. On a positive note, Josh Edgin and Robert Carson showed potential worth grooming and Bobby Parnell was a positive when Francisco went down at the end of the season.

Jan 25

Mets Get Shaun Marcum; More Work To Do

Seven down, 13 more to go. That’s the math if you’re thinking signing Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal will replace R. A. Dickey’s production in the rotation.

Marcum was 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 starts last year with Milwaukee, good enough to be a reliable fifth starter. Dickey, of course, one year wonder or not, was an ace who won the Cy Young Award.

To make up the remaining 13 victories, the Mets need three more each from Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Even so, it still puts the Mets 14 games below .500.

Once Marcum passes his physical and the ink dries on the contract, the Mets avoid being the only team not to have signed a free agent this offseason.

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Jan 23

Thoughts On 2013 Projected Roster

Will Ruben Tejada leadoff for the Mets in 2013?

Mets beat writer Anthony DiComo, posted what he believes the Mets roster will look like come Opening Day.

C : John Buck
1B: Ike Davis
2B: Daniel Murphy
SS: Ruben Tejada
3B: David Wright
OF: Lucas Duda
OF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis
OF: Mike Baxter
Bench: Collin Cowgill
Bench: Andrew Brown
Bench: Justin Turner
Bench: Brandon Hicks
Bench: Anthony Recker

SP: Johan Santana
SP: Jon Niese
SP: Matt Harvey
SP: Dillon Gee
SP: Jenrry Mejia
RP: Frank Francisco
RP: Bobby Parnell
RP: Josh Edgin
RP: Greg Burke
RP: Robert Carson
RP: Jeurys Familia
RP: Jeremy Hefner

I have it almost exactly the same way. I also feel confident that Hefner, Familia and Mejia all make the team as I asserted yesterday in another post. The real battle will be Feliciano versus Burke for one bullpen spot.

The starting lineup and bench is about the same as last year from a production standpoint, but still considerably worse than 2011. That outfield is really tough on the eyes.

I think Valdespin edges out Brown or will make the team for his ability to play second base and for the fact he may have the best speed on the team. The only way ‘Spin doesn’t make the team is if Hairston comes back.

By the way, for three weeks in a row there was a report that Hairston was about to announce who he was signing with that week. It hasn’t happened yet. Are the Mets waiting him out or is he waiting the Mets out?

I agree that Recker will edge out Powell who I never took as a serious catching option anyway. Not that Recker is all that better, it’s just a hunch.

I have no idea what the top of the order will look like this season, but I can assure you it will have a resounding effect on RBI opportunities for both Wright and Davis.

Will it be Tejada and Murphy?

Both of them are slow of foot, and if it’s Baxter, his boneheaded plays on the bases last season made Angel Pagan look like a Mensa.

This team might be one of the slowest Mets teams I’ve ever seen and I wonder if they will crack the 50 stolen base mark in a park that was apparently built for pitching, defense and SPEED.

Whenever d’Arnaud does come up, I hope they don’t do something crazy and bat him in the middle of the order out of desperation. I wouldn’t put that past Terry Collins. Even David Wright was batting seventh and eighth after he was promoted from Triple-A and stood there for almost two months until he slowly inched his way up.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts on DiComo’s projected roster…

 

Jan 17

Daniel Murphy Not Concerned

So, Daniel Murphy told ESPN he’s not concerned that the Mets haven’t signed a major league free agent, and like David Wright, is satisfied with the club’s direction.

Well, what else did you expect him to say?

MURPHY: GM in training.

Murphy, the man without a position stuck at second base, isn’t in position to rock the boat. The arbitration-eligible Murphy banged the drum for Scott Hairston and Chris Young, both of whom would fill needs but not necessarily raise the Mets to the next level.

Murphy sounded like a Sandy Alderson groupie when he said “we don’t want to get quite get sucked into maybe some of the prices that are going on right now for outfield.’’

In other words, forget about re-signing Hairston, who is asking for $8 million over two years. The Mets aren’t enamored by either the years or dollars. Put it this way, Hairston is asking for $4 million in 2013. In comparison, the anticipated outfield as of now in Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter might not make $2 million combined.

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Jan 15

Jon Niese Could Be Most Indispensable Met

Normally, I might say David Wright when it comes down to who might be the most indispensable Met this season. Wright is, after all, the center of the Mets’ offensive universe and when he’s hitting it elevates the entire team.

However, I’m a pitching guy first and when I posed the question to myself this morning Jon Niese popped up as the answer.

NIESE: Needs breakout year.

With the trade of R.A. Dickey to Toronto and Johan Santana entering his walk year coming off another injury, Niese, despite a career-high 13 wins last year, is the No. 1 starter.

Dillon Gee is a health question and the No. 5 starter is anybody’s guess, so it comes down to the necessity of Niese having to pitch well every fifth day to minimize the losing streaks, which will happen as they do every year. It was Dickey who kept the Mets on an even keel last summer; Niese must now do the same.

The Mets always liked Niese, as evidenced by the long-term contract they gave him and refusal to discuss him in trade talks. When teams call the Mets, they ask for Niese, a hard-throwing lefthander, with major league success and a manageable contract.

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