Feb 18

Mets’ Zack Wheeler Likes Low Profile

One of the highlights for the New York Mets last season was a double-header sweep of Atlanta anchored by future aces Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.

If you weren’t reading about Harvey last summer you were reading about Wheeler. This spring most of the ink is going to Noah Syndergaard, whom the Mets expect will be in the major leagues in June.

WHEELER: That night in Atlanta.

WHEELER: That night in Atlanta.

“That’s fine with me,’’ Wheeler told reporters Tuesday in Port St. Lucie when asked about the spotlight being on Syndergaard. “I don’t have to have all the attention.’’

Actually, in Wheeler’s perfect world, he would rather have little, if any. Wheeler is extremely quiet and shy, and if given the choice, he’d rather not talk if he didn’t have to.

Wheeler was 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA last season in 17 starts. Manager Terry Collins doesn’t presently see an innings limit on Wheeler, and believes his composure and natural stuff will enable him to progress.

Collins said at the Winter Meetings Harvey showed he could make adjustments on the run and thinks Wheeler has that same capability.

Wheeler was matter-of-fact when asked today what he needs to do to improve: “Just being more consistent, throwing more strikes and stuff.’’

Ask any veteran pitcher and he’d say the same thing. That’s one of the things the Mets like about Wheeler.


Feb 15

Bartolo Colon Arrives In Camp

Bartolo Colon signed with the New York Mets for the same reason most free agents go to a new team – they offered the most. At 40, Colon didn’t have many teams banging on his door. Nobody was offering $20 million over two years like the Mets.

COLON: Hired gun.

COLON: Hired gun.

“Other teams had one-year offers,’’ Colon told reporters Saturday in Port St. Lucie. “The second year really sealed the deal for me with the Mets.’’

Colon said he left it to his agent to find him a team that would be the best fit, but the fit was in the number of years and dollar amount. Yes, Colon is a mercenary, but that’s the nature of the sport.

The Mets could have had younger, more durable and potentially more productive pitchers, but they didn’t want to spend the money. This was the ultimate business relationship.

Colon, once nabbed for PED use, was 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA last year over 30 starts with Oakland, numbers he said even surprised himself. The Mets are gambling Colon has at least one more year in him to fill the void left by Matt Harvey’s injury.

The Mets don’t expect Colon to lose it overnight. As far as the second year, that’s for insurance for 2015 if the Mets’ young pitching is slow in developing.

The 265-pound Colon said he’s always pitched heavy and plans to pitch, “until my body can’t take it any more.’’

ON DECK: Wrapping up the week.

Jan 22

What Can Mets Expect From Zack Wheeler?

What exactly should the New York Mets realistically expect from Zack Wheeler this summer?

He was 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts last year, and to double the victories would be a good progression especially if his starts were doubled to 34. What is unfair would be to think he’s have a Matt Harvey type season, one in which he captured the imagination of the city and made the All-Star team.

WHEELER: What can we expect?

WHEELER: What can we expect?

I’m not in agreement with those who debunk the traditional pitching statistics of victories and ERA, which have been fair measuring sticks for over 100 years. Just because something has been a staple for a century-plus does not make it outdated or obsolete.

Victories mean games won, and isn’t that the objective of the sport – to win games? I realize the game has changed and pitchers don’t throw complete games anymore, but even with limited innings, getting a “W’’ means you kept your team in the game. How is that not important?

If Wheeler can increase his victories by one a month, that’s six over the course of the season, and 13 total for the year. I’d take that for starters.

An ERA measures runs allowed, which is vastly more important for a starter, because even a few runs over a short number of innings greatly inflates a reliever’s ERA.

If Wheeler duplicates last year’s ERA, especially with an increase over last season’s 100 innings it would be more than acceptable. Manager Terry Collins suggested during the Winter Meetings 200 innings for Wheeler isn’t out of the question, but an innings limit hasn’t been ruled out.

What Harvey accomplished last year prior to his injury was exceptional, but that was his achievement, not Wheeler’s. Wheeler is unique in his own right and to say he’ll be just as dominant is unfair.

For now, I just don’t want to see a regression, just some improvement to suggest he’s heading in the right direction.

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

Nov 20

Mets Not Players For Josh Johnson

When you’re the New York Mets and have to think outside the box, it’s stuff like what happened today that drives you crazy.

Josh Johnson wanted to play close to his Las Vegas home and signed today with San Diego for an easily digestible one-year, $8-million contract. Even so, you have to wonder whether the Mets even kicked the tires on this one. Even if they had, don’t you wonder if free agents – even those who are questions – seriously take the Mets.

JOHNSON: Would have been worth the risk.

JOHNSON: Would have been worth the risk.

Once, one of the rising young stud pitchers in the National League with Miami, Johnson made the All-Star team in 2009 and 2010. However, he was taken down with triceps and forearm injuries last year with Toronto that culminated in elbow surgery to remove bone spurs in October.

Johnson was 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA in 16 games last year, but that’s not who Padres general manager Josh Byrnes was thinking about.

“Here’s a guy who led the league in ERA who has been a dominant pitcher,’’ Byrnes told San Diego reporters. “We know there’s risk in any signing but we’re very excited about the upside, what he can bring and now what our rotation can do to deliver us toward our goal.

“We want to be an October team. We really feel like the evolution of our starting pitching and bringing in Josh, we’ve taken a big step in that direction over the last 12 months.’’

At 29, Johnson is young enough to turn it around and regain the form that has earned him a career 58-45 record with a 3.40 ERA.

“I was pretty close last year, just not healthy,’’ Johnson said. “It was tough trying to throw through it and all of a sudden I’m getting these weird pains all the way up my triceps and my forearm’s getting tight because of everything going on with my elbow. Hopefully that took care of everything.’’

If it does, the Padres would have hit the jackpot, something the Mets, who have two rotation spots to fill, must do.

Because of Johnson’s location preference, the Mets weren’t players, but represents the out-of-box thinking they must utilize in the absence of making a substantial trade or major free agent signing.

May 20

Appearances Are Piling Up For Reliever Scott Rice

scott riceLefty reliever Scott Rice tossed two scoreless innings to pick up the win against the Cubs on Sunday. It was his major league-leading 25th appearance of the season.

Rice lowered his ERA to 3.05, and is now on pace for 99 appearances. That would surpass Pedro Feliciano‘s franchise mark of 92 games in 2010 and rank second all-time to Mike Marshall‘s 106 appearances for the Dodgers in 1974.

That is one heck of a workload to say the least, and to think that it’s coming from a pitcher who has toiled for 14 years in the minors before finally getting his shot in the majors makes this all the more amazing.

Rice, the 31 year old rookie, is proving to be the second best weapon in the Mets bullpen after closer Bobby Parnell. However, how long can he continue on this torrid pace before it all catches up to him and he begins to breakdown?

“Right now it’s early enough in the year”, manager Terry Collins said. “We’ve tried to get him some days off. But he keeps pitching four out of five, it’s got to be a concern. We’ve got to certainly pick up some of the workload with somebody else.”

Rice has no complaints and is enjoying every minute of his new-found life in the majors, but he also understands the risks.

“If my arm is feeling fine, I’m going to go out there and throw,” Rice said. “I’m going to be smart, and I know my body. I know how to take care of myself and prepare myself to throw every day.”

I’ve been pulling for Rice since back in Spring Training and was so glad for him when he made the team, but I never expected he would play such a significant role this season. Here’s to more great outings for this veteran rook, who definitely knows his place. He earned it the hard way.