May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

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May 21

May 21, Mets’ Lineup Against Milwaukee

Jacob deGrom will try to give the Mets their second straight victory this afternoon against Milwaukee. He is coming off back-to-back no-decisions in his last two starts.

Here’s the lineup behind him:

Curtis Granderson – RF: Hitting .115 (3-for-26) with RISP. Career .253 hitter (22-for-87) vs. Milwaukee.

David Wright – 3B: Hitting .185 (5-for-27) with RISP. Career .261 hitter (60-for-230) vs. Milwaukee.

Michael Conforto – LF: Hitting .303 (10-for-33) with RISP. Career .500 hitter (2-for-4) vs. Milwaukee.

Yoenis Cespedes – CF: Hitting .270 (10-for-37) with RISP. Career .400 hitter (10-for-25) vs. Milwaukee.

Neil Walker – 2B: Hitting .320 (8-for-25) with RISP. Career .270 hitter (95-for -352) vs. Milwaukee.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: Hitting .276 (8-for-29) with RISP. Career .250 hitter (1-for-4) vs. Milwaukee.

Eric Campbell – 1B: Hitting .182 (2-for-11) with RISP. Career .250 hitter (5-for-20) vs. Milwaukee.

Kevin Plawecki – C: Hitting .286 (4-for-14) with RISP. Career .333 hitter (3-for-9) vs. Milwaukee.

DeGrom – RHP: Is 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA in four career starts vs. Milwaukee.

COMMENTS:  Campbell is in the lineup because Lucas Duda has a sore back. … Jeurys Familia is 14-for-14 in save opportunities. … Cespedes is third in the NL with 33 RBI. … Nine of Conforto’s 16 career homers have either tied the game or give the Mets the lead.

May 12

Are Mets On Verge Of Blunder With Matz?

When it comes to the Mets and injuries ALWAYS bet the over.

The latest is Steven Matz‘s sore forearm and the Mets’ apparent lack of urgency to do something. When will these people learn? Will they ever learn?

MATZ: Hello. Anybody home. (AP)

MATZ: Hello. Anybody home. (AP)

Matz pitched six quality innings against the Dodgers Monday, but needed 98 pitches to do so. That’s way too many and could explain – in part – why he’ll miss Saturday’s start in Colorado.

After the game, Matz said he pitched with a sore forearm, which he evidently hid from manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen. It was obvious with the pitch count Matz was having some trouble.

“It was pretty sore,” Matz told reporters. “I was still able to throw, but it was enough concern for me to say something to the trainers and just kind of tell them what was going on. Before I see the doctors, they just want to play it safe.”

Presumably, had Matz said something to the trainers during the game they would have said something to Collins. You would like to think so, anyway.

Matz has already had Tommy John surgery. Shouldn’t he be smart enough to say something when he’s hurting? The Mets don’t need any heroes; they need healthy arms.

Then, there is the Mets’ puzzling response or lack of a substantive one. Matt Harvey pitched through a sore forearm in 2013 and look what happened to him. Don’t these guys talk to each other?

Stephen Strasburg signed a $175-million contract this week. If Matz keeps pitching as he has, someday he could earn that kind of deal. However, if he keeps making foolish decisions with his arm, his value might not be more than $1.75.

Matz won’t pitch Saturday and will be replaced by Logan Verrett. Matz didn’t throw Wednesday, but could try to throw today. The Mets are in Los Angeles, which has hundreds of accomplished orthopedic specialists. Couldn’t the Mets – through the Dodgers – arranged for an exam and MRI? How hard would that have been?

Reportedly, Matz won’t be examined until the Mets return home Monday. I understand back-dating to place a player on the disabled list, but the Mets constantly delay making these appointments.

Why?

It shows a haphazard, lazy response. GM Sandy Alderson isn’t, but that’s the perception. When Alderson was hired, COO Jeff Wilpon promised an overhaul would be made of the Mets’ medical practices.

From Jose Reyes to David Wright, from Carlos Beltran to Ryan Church, from Ike Davis to Harvey, the Mets have misdiagnosed and mishandled numerous injuries.

If nothing else, why didn’t they learn from Matz last year, when a strained lat muscle landed him on the disabled list for a couple of months?

Collins said – and apparently with a straight face – the Mets are being cautious with Matz because of last year. Matz felt discomfort after his major league debut, yet made his next start. Then came the disabled list.

“Last year I tried to pitch through it and ended up missing two months,” Matz told reporters. “So it’s better to play it safe and give it the rest when I need it.”

Rest plus anti-inflammatories, which is another way of saying, “take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”

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May 11

May 11, Mets’ Lineup At Dodgers

Noah Syndergaard (2-2, 2.58) starts against the Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda (3-1, 1.66) tonight in Los Angeles. The Mets are 3-3 on their season-long, 11-game road trip. Overall, the Mets are 11-6 on the road this season.

The Mets are 16-6 in their last 22 games.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Curtis Granderson – RF: Back leading off after getting Tuesday off. Hasn’t had a good road trip, hitting .184 (4-for-22 with two homers). Has ten strikeouts in his last ten games.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: I’m wondering if Cabrera will end up hitting second full time and David Wright will be moved somewhere else in the order. Is batting .212 lifetime against the Dodgers.

Michael Conforto – LF: Is back hitting third. We’ll see how long this lasts, although I’m not betting he’ll be there Thursday against Clayton Kershaw.

Yoenis Cespedes – CF: Has six hits so far on the trip. Is second in the majors with 31 RBI. Has cut his strikeouts with only four in his last 13 games.

Lucas Duda – 1B: Is batting .190 (4-for-21). Is a .203 lifetime hitter (24-for-118) against the Dodgers. Tied with the Orioles’ Chris Davis with eight multi-homer games since the start of last season.

Neil Walker – 2B: Is on a 0-for-20 slide, including 0-for-11 on the trip. Hasn’t homered in his last 33 at-bats.

Eric Campbell – 3B: Playing third with Wright not starting against Maeta.

Rene Rivera – C: His arm could turn him into Syndergaard’s personal catcher to cut down on potential base stealers.

Syndergaard – RHP: Has 49 strikeouts through his first six starts which is tied for seventh in the majors.

 

May 10

May 10, Mets’ Lineup At Dodgers

The Mets behind Jacob deGrom will be going after their fourth straight victory tonight in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. After dropping the first two games on this road trip in San Diego the Mets seem to be back on their game.

Here’s the Mets’ batting order tonight against Alex Wood.

Juan Lagares – RF: Curtis Granderson, who hit the first pitch of Monday’s game for a homer, is on the bench. Lagares is 0-for-7 on this trip.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: Is hitting .300 on the trip and .333 on the road this season. Defensively, has committed one error in 117 chances, sixth among ML shortstops.

David Wright – 3B: Is a .340 lifetime hitter against the Dodgers, including the playoffs. Of his three homers, two put the Mets in the lead.

Yoenis Cespedes – CF: Is hitting .303 with five homers and 21 RBI with RISP. Has three homers on this trip.

Wilmer Flores – 2B: Is a .403 lifetime hitter against Los Angeles, including .464 at Dodger Stadium. Hitless in ten at-bats with RISP.

Michael Conforto – LF: Did not play Monday. Is 2-for-14 on the trip. Three of his five homers have put the Mets in the lead. Is batting .333 with RISP.

Kevin Plawecki – C: Is batting .357 (5-for-14) on this trip, which began the day after Terry Collins called him out in the press for not hitting.

Eric Campbell – 1B: Replaces Lucas Duda tonight. Made his first Opening Day roster as the result of hitting .292 with a .433 on-base percentage in spring training.

DeGrom – RHP: Is coming off his first loss of the season, May 5, in San Diego. Cruised through seven scoreless innings against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS and gutted his way through six innings in Game 5.