Sep 19

Syndergaard Spits Bit; Owns Responsibility

Let’s put the brakes on this conversation about the Mets having a cupcake schedule, and while we’re at it, Noah Syndergaard being a Cy Young Award candidate. All games are vital at this point, and the last thing the Mets need is for their best pitcher to respond as poorly as Syndergaard did Monday night in a game they had to win – and with him getting an extra day of rest.

SYNDERGAARD: Doesn't have it. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Doesn’t have it. (AP)

“It stings a little bit,” said a dejected Syndergaard. “These last two weeks, every win is critical. It’s a disappointment. I didn’t go out there and get my job done.”

I love that. No excuses. Pointing a finger only at himself.

Syndergaard asked for the day and produced the third-shortest start of his career, giving up five runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings in the 7-3 loss to Atlanta. You knew Syndergaard and the Mets were in trouble with his 35-pitch second inning. He encored that with 29 more in the third. Syndergaard finished with 99, of which 26 were foul balls.

“I lost control of my fastball and couldn’t get my slider over,” said Syndergaard. “Baseball is s funny game. Once you think you have it figured out, it knocks you down.”

After a rough stretch in midseason where his pitch count mounted, Syndergaard had been very good over the past month, giving up four runs in his previous five starts and going 4-1 in his last five decisions.

His location had been better, as was his slider. He was pitching the way an ace is supposed to pitch.

“He’s our guy,” manager Terry Collins said. “Certainly [Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman] have stepped up and done a great job, but you’re going to go into the playoffs looking at Noah Syndergaard as the guy. If there’s a big game to be pitched, he’s the guy you’re going to turn to.”

Syndergaard is lined up to start the wild-card game, as is San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw and St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez. At this point, all might be slotted ahead of Syndergaard as a Cy Young favorite.

We saw all the foul balls again tonight, an indication he didn’t have sharp movement on his pitches and couldn’t put away hitters.

Collins said Syndergaard was throwing in the high 90s, but again, velocity isn’t nearly as important and movement and location. And, no, nothing was bothering him physically.That wasn’t the case,” Collins said. “He wasn’t making any pitches.”

“That wasn’t the case,” Collins said. “He wasn’t making any pitches.”

With the way the schedule pans out, Syndergaard will get two more starts. He can’t afford to let one more get away.

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May 30

What Will Mets Get From Harvey?

The Mets set the bar low for Matt Harvey’s last start. It’s been set even lower for what could be a water-logged Memorial Day start this afternoon against the Chicago White Sox.

Before the Nationals ripped him last week, manager Terry Collins wanted a “quality’’ outing from his former No. 1 starter. He didn’t get it, Harvey’s ERA zoomed to 6.08 and he left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.

HARVEY: What will we get? (AP)

HARVEY: What will we get? (AP)

This time out, “I’m hoping that he relaxes,” said Collins.

If he does, Harvey will have to shift it into a higher mental gear we haven’t seen before.

“I’m hoping that he just goes out and pitches like he knows how – and that is worrying about making pitches, not so much about the mechanics,” Collins said.

Meanwhile, Collins believes Harvey’s problems are a combination mechanical and mental. In addition to working with pitching coach Dan Warthen on his mechanics – from release point to where his lead foot lands – Collins said Harvey is also working with the Mets’ mental skills coach.

Collins wouldn’t specify the next step for Harvey if he gets routed.

“I just think we’ve got to wring the rag dry here,” Collins said. “This is not just a Triple-A guys who’s up for a tryout. This is a guy who pitched in an All-Star Game a couple of years ago and was one of the best in the game. And, I think we need to push a little bit farther.”

Nobody knows what will happen today, but perhaps Harvey will come up with a performance worth talking about.

May 18

Will We See D’Arnaud Again?

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports Travis d’Arnaud is in California rehabbing his right shoulder with a private trainer, which makes me wonder if we’ll ever see him in a Mets’ uniform again, much less develop into an All-Star player anywhere.

His inability to stay on the field is rapidly derailing a career that has never gotten off the ground.

D'ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’Arnaud working with a private physical therapist makes me wonder why he isn’t in Port St. Lucie or in New York where he can be around team doctors and officials. When I recall the controversy of where Matt Harvey would rehab his elbow, I wonder why the double standard.

It’s a given the Mets value Harvey more than d’Arnaud, but this detachment makes me think he’ll never make it as the player they hoped he’d be and are beginning the process of cutting ties.

D’Arnaud went on the disabled list April 26 with a right rotator cuff strain, which was aggravated when he tried throwing May 7 in Port St. Lucie. GM Sandy Alderson said the pain in his shoulder subsided, but couldn’t provide a possible return date. He couldn’t even pinpoint a month.

As for the California question, Alderson said: “He’s more or less as well off out there with somebody who knows him as well as our guys would know him. Right now I can’t give you chapter and verse on exactly what his return [date] is. We have to keep in mind that sometimes when we cite chapter and verse on when he will return, we’re kidding ourselves.”

That was a fairly evasive answer, which we’ve come to expect from Alderson.

The season began with d’Arnaud the starter and Kevin Plawecki the backup. Depending on how the year progressed, one ocould be traded as a catcher with major league experience is a valuable commodity.

Plawecki has proven good defensively, in fact, Mets’ pitchers have a better ERA with him behind the plate. He offense picked up on the last road trip, but he still needs a way to go. Gone are the days when a catcher was supposed to be an offensive force – Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson and Mike Piazza – as defense is now paramount.

Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are today’s premier catchers, but Plawecki has potential. Should d’Arnaud play again this season and the debate resurface between him or Plawecki, the Mets must consider his injury history.

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May 10

Collins Gives No Confidence Vote To Conforto

Looking at the Mets’ lineup for Tuesday’s game in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but notice a glaring mistake. Perhaps it was just an oversight on manager Terry Collins’ part, but I’m not thrilled with Michael Conforto batting sixth, protected between the red hot Wilmer Flores (.170, one homer and two RBI) and the sizzling Kevin Plawecki (.229, one homer and three RBI).

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

The Mets touted Conforto as the team’s No. 3 hitter of the future when Collins moved him there in mid-April. The move, where he hit ahead of Yoenis Cespedes, jumpstarted the Mets’ offense and sparked their surge in the standings.

The Mets are 16-5 isince moving Conforto to third, which includes losing the first two games on this trip. Unquestionably, Conforto is on a significant slide, going 3-for-29 (.103) over his last eight games. Basically, that’s a bad week.

Although the Mets are facing a left-hander in Alex Wood, it should be noted he’s 1-3 with a 5.18 ERA. The message indicated a lack of confidence by Collins in Conforto, but the manager’s words flat out shout it loud.

Lefties are batting .367 this year against Wood, but the manager doesn’t think that’s relevant. Collins said batting Conforto sixth wouldn’t create pressure to perform, but he’s mistaken. There’s more pressure now.

Collins made a big deal saying Cespedes’ presence helped Conforto, but if you buy that logic, you must also accept he’s getting next to no protection between Flores and Plawecki. In addition, what must Conforto be thinking about this demotion?

As far as his reasoning for moving Conforto, Collins told reporters today: “I’d like to leave him in the three-hole if I thought he could do some damage.”

That’s another way of saying he doesn’t think he can do any damage against a pitcher with an ERA just under six. How’s that for a pat on the back?

No, I don’t like this decision. Confidence is essential in the development of a hitter, and this move screams Collins has doubts. When Collins moved Conforto, I wrote how important it was for him to stay with him during slumps. At least the first one.

If Conforto is to become the No. 3 hitter the Mets expect of him, he’ll have to endure dry stretches. So, what does Collins do? He bails at the first sign of a problem. Collins said Conforto will bat third against right-handers, but said nothing about lefties. You have to assume he won’t hit third against Clayton Kershaw.

It has only been eight games. Let Conforto work his way out of this, the same way he’s given a long leash to Matt Harvey.

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Apr 16

Is It Time To Wonder About Harvey?

Matt Harvey clearly doesn’t have it, and it is time to wonder, not if, but what is wrong with the Mets’ pitcher. Is something bothering him physically or didn’t he get enough work during spring trainiing?

HARVEY: ``Nobody is more frustrated than I am.'' (AP)

HARVEY: “Nobody is more frustrated than I am.” (AP)

After cruising through four innings Saturday in Cleveland, Harvey suddenly lost it and ended up giving up five runs in 5.2 innings to lose his third straight game and watch his ERA balloon to 5.71.

While those are numbers, they are also the product of a fastball in the low 90s. So are opponents hitting .452 in the fifth and sixth innings. In that span his ERA is over 10.00. His sixth-inning ERA is 27.00 alone.

That’s not the stuff of aces.

“The one thing I saw was he was pounding the zone early and then he got some pitches up,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “Right now, I am worried about how he’s cruising along and loses it so fast.”

Harvey doesn’t have an answer, either, but dismissed the idea he was injured.

“I’m fine,” Harvey said. “I’m not hitting a wall. I have to figure out how to get through the fifth and sixth innings and right now I’m not doing that. It’s not only location; everything fell apart. My job is to keep us close and I didn’t do that. I’m going to have to start over and flush this one.”

This leaves greater credence to the theory he didn’t get enough work in spring training. Also supporting that theory was pitching coach Dan Warthen suggesting Harvey might be pressing because of a mechanical issue. Not only is his fastball down, but his slider has no bite and he only threw one significant curveball against the Indians.

If there’s nothing physically wrong, I’m inclined to go back to my initial theory he didn’t get enough work in spring training. Most starters aim to get in 30 innings, but Harvey got only 12, hardly enough to build up the arm strength needed to snap off a breaking ball, especially his slider.

Maybe that theory is wrong, but this much is certain. Something is not right.

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