Sep 18

Mets’ Aaron Harang Pitching For Spring Training Invitation

With the New York Mets having several holes in their rotation, it’s never too late to make a strong impression heading into winter. Tonight, journeyman veteran Aaron Harang will attempt to encore his 10-strikeout debut against Washington with another quality start against San Francisco.

With Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia on the shelf and questionable for next spring, the Mets have two holes in their rotation. Harang could get one and Daisuke Matsuzaka will compete for another, as might Rafael Montero.

Harang, 35, could be the type of innings eater the team needs. He didn’t have great numbers with Seattle before coming over to the Mets – 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA – but he did throw 120.1 innings in 22 starts. His innings would represent the fourth highest on the Mets.

This morning I floated the idea of Tim Lincecum. I don’t believe the Mets will commit to that salary, but it was done to illustrate the type of arms that could be available.

Plugged into the Mets’ rotation for next season – assuming Harvey is not around – are Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler pitched a disappointing game Tuesday with six walks in five innings, but will get another start to redeem himself.

“He might get two,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

Niese will start Thursday in the series and homestand finale, while Matsuzaka, Gee and Carlos Torres will start over the weekend in Philadelphia. Wheeler, Harang and Niese will start at Cincinnati.

Collins hasn’t named the starters for season’s final weekend against Milwaukee, but despite being on an innings limit, Wheeler could get some work.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against the Giants’ Matt Cain:

Eric Young, LF: Has a career-high 38 stolen bases, including 30 with the Mets. He leads the majors with 23 steals in the second half.

Josh Satin, 3B: David Wright took grounders today, but is still not ready to be activated (hamstring). Has reached base safely in 29 straight starts, to tie the Mets’ rookie record (Steve Henderson, 1979).

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Is batting .364 with 10 doubles and 11 since August 28. He is tied for fourth in the NL with 173 hits.

Andrew Brown, RF: Has a career-high seven homers. Enters the game batting .083 (2-24) over his last ten games.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Is second to Wright (16) with 14 homers. Has a .356 on-base percentage.

Juan Lagares, CF: Is ties for fifth in the majors with 12 outfield assists. Takes an 0-for-19 slide into the game.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Is batting .200 with no homers and 10 RBI for the season.

Juan Centeno, C: Hit .305 for Triple-A Las Vegas. Noted for being a defensive specialist.

Aaron Harang, RHP: Struck out ten Nationals in his Mets’ debut.

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Sep 14

Lucas Duda Getting His Chance To Shine

When New York Mets manager Terry Collins railed at his listless team for not taking advantage of the opportunity to make an impression toward 2014, he had Lucas Duda in mind.

“This is his chance to play every day at first base. That’s where he likes to play,’’ Collins said last night. “We’re hoping he relaxes at the plate. He doesn’t have to worry about playing defense because he knows he can play first.’’

DUDA: Marlin mashing. (Getty)

DUDA: Marlin mashing. (Getty)

This is the third year the Mets hoped Duda would emerge as their lefty-hitting slugger, and the third time he has disappointed.

However, in Friday night’s 4-3 victory over Miami, Duda responded with a three-run homer in his chance to play with the injured Ike Davis sidelined. Duda has outperformed Davis statistically this season, hitting .236 with 13 homers, 30 RBI and a much-improved .351 on-base percentage.

Even so, Davis has the 32-homer 2012 season on his resume.

The Mets began the season with the offensive approach of patience, of working the count, waiting for and then driving your pitch. The rap on Duda was he became too selective and subsequently too passive at the plate.

But, playing in New York is about right-now production and Duda’s critics were far less patient with him than he was at the plate. While the final two weeks is about making an impression over Davis, everybody knows there will be a sense of urgency come spring training.

The experiment at the start of the year of Duda in left field – after playing right field the previous season – is over. It effectively ended when Duda went on the disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle. Duda lacks speed and range to complement his poor defensive skills, and there was no way he’d get back in the lineup after the acquisition of Eric Young.

At one time this summer there was the feeling the Mets would not tender a contract to Davis and Duda would get first base by default. However, Duda’s power output wasn’t what the Mets hoped, and when Davis showed signs of patience after his return from Triple-A, management’s thinking changed to keeping Davis and have the two battle it out in spring training.

Part of their thinking is that whoever wins, it will be an inexpensive option, and with first base covered they could fill other holes.

The Mets won’t carry two lefty first basemen, and with right-handed hitting Josh Satin available in a platoon, the loser would either go to the minors or be traded.

The homer last night is what the Mets want, but after the game Duda wouldn’t bite on reporters’ questions speculating the future.

“I’m just more concerned with winning and playing well,’’ Duda said. “Whatever they do is up to them. I’m just going to play hard, have fun, and hopefully continue to win.’’

Those comments are about playing the good soldier and saying the right thing, but what the Mets really need from his is to be aggressive and mash.

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Sep 12

Where Is Mets’ Opening Day Lineup?

All teams evolve throughout a season, but the New York Mets’ transformation in 2013 has been staggering, with only second baseman Daniel Murphy and shortstop Ruben Tejada were in last night’s lineup at those positions. Lucas Duda started, but at a different position.

Here’s what has happened to the 2013 lineup in comparison to the team the Mets ran out there in Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss to Washington. Three starters plus the pitcher remain on the team; three were traded; and two are on the disabled list.

Colin Cowgill, CF: Was going to start after beating out Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker’s injury.  Cowgill was the starter for roughly a week after he was demoted and eventually traded. Den Dekker started last night, but Juan Lagares could eventually win the role next year if he’s more consistent offensively.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Started, but hit third last night. He’s been all over the top of the order. A slump followed a hot start, but he’s back up to .282. The Mets, however, aren’t enamored by his .316 on-base percentage.

David Wright, 3B: Entered the season after a contract extension and being named captain. He’s lived up to all that but is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Wright vows he’ll return.

Ike Davis, 1B: Slumped horribly before being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas. Eventually wound up hitting .204 with nine homers. There was considerable speculation the Mets would not tender him a contract, but he’ll get another chance to next season.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Signed for depth, but wound up leading the team in homers and could be its MVP. Eventually traded to Pittsburgh, where he could see the playoffs. Good for him. Lagares was in right last night, and could stay there if den Dekker develops consistency at the plate.

Lucas Duda, 1B: This guy just can’t play the outfield. Has improved his plate presence as evidenced by a .353 on-base percentage, but has not produced for power. Will compete with Davis for the first base job next spring. Eric Young was acquired at mid-season and became the Mets’ tenth, and final, leadoff hitter. But, for all his speed, he must do better than a .318 on-base percentage.

John Buck, C: Carried the Mets offensively in April before tailing. However, he was consistent all year behind the plate and has to get some credit for the development of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. His status was doomed with the promotion of Travis d’Arnaud, who has struggled at .152. Traded along with Byrd to Pittsburgh.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Played brutally in the beginning before going on the DL. Omar Quintanilla more than adequately filled the void. Tejada is back, but the Mets openly question his work ethic and commitment. He has a lot to prove, and trading for a veteran in the winter isn’t out of the question.

Jon Niese, LHP: Was the de facto ace and Opening Day starter because of the season-ending shoulder injury of Johan Santana. Niese developed shoulder problems after back-to-back cold weather starts in Minnesota and Colorado. As Niese labored and eventually went on the disabled list. Niese could end up being the Opening Day starter in 2014 with Harvey’s injury.

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

Sep 08

In Retrospect Mets Made Right Call In Passing On Michael Bourn

Watching the New York Mets this weekend in Cleveland reinforced the adage the best deals are the ones you don’t make.

The Mets were heavily criticized last winter for their choice not to sign free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn from Atlanta because they didn’t to give up the compensatory draft pick.

Bourn was supposed to give the Mets the leadoff hitter they lacked plus a defensive anchor in center field. For the first two months of the season the Mets lamented not getting Bourn as they went through ten leadoff hitters before settling on Eric Young, and used eight center fielders with Juan Lagares having the inside track heading into spring training.

As for Bourn, the Mets didn’t miss his .263 average with five homers, 40 RBI, paltry .317 on-base percentage and 22 stolen bases.

n the end, the Mets waited, filled two voids and saved themselves over $40 million in the process.

SECOND OPINION FOR HARVEY: Perhaps the most important decision to impact the Mets over the next two years will whether Matt Harvey will proceed with Tommy John surgery.

Harvey’s initial thought was to rest in the hope he’ll be ready for Opening Day 2014, but conventional wisdom dictates surgery. In that regard, a decision could be made as soon as this week after an exam with Dr. James Andrews.

The sooner the surgery, the sooner the rehab and the sooner the return, but it isn’t expected to be before the start of the 2015 season.

MORE CALL-UPS: The Mets are expected to include Ruben Tejada in their latest group of call-ups. Tejada his .288 with 24 RBI at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Outfielder Mike Baxter and catcher Juan Centeno are also expected to be brought up.

TODAY’S BATTING ORDER:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

Josh Satin, DH

Lucas Duda, 1B

Justin Turner, 3B

Juan Lagares, RF

Matt den Dekker, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP

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Aug 29

Mets’ Outfield Prospect Matt den Dekker To Make Debut Today

Providing the weather clears, the New York Mets will run out another rookie this afternoon: lanky center fielder Matt den Dekker. This kid can fly and run down a ball in the gap with anybody the Mets have, but is a slow study at the plate.

Den Dekker’s opportunity comes in the aftermath of the trade of Marlon Byrd to Pittsburgh.

DEN DEKKER: Tracks them down.

DEN DEKKER: Tracks them down.

A capsule of den Dekker’s production was last year when he hit .340 at Double-A Binghamton, but .220 at Triple-A Buffalo. Den Dekker was producing for Triple-A Las Vegas, hitting .296 with six home runs, eight doubles and 38 RBI in 53 games.

Like other outfield prospects in the organization – Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares – den Dekker has had too high a strikeout ratio for his production.

However, after starting the season with a broken wrist, den Dekker’s strikeout ratio has dropped and he’s walking more. The speculation is the injury forced him to shorten his swing.

When the Mets opened Citi Field, they did so under the pretext of defense and pitching, but their first significant signing was Jason Bay.

From left to right, the Mets will likely go with Eric Young, den Dekker and Lagares, easily their fastest and best defensive outfield alignment they’ve had in a long time.

The projected power numbers from that trio would be too low for the major leagues, but theoretically it could be acceptable if they were getting it elsewhere, but David Wright is on the disabled list (he leaves for treatment in Florida today) and they are getting nothing from Ike Davis.

The Mets will use the final month to get an idea of what their outfield could look like next year. With the absence of Byrd, the Mets will still look for a power-hitting outfielder over the winter.

Should they obtain that kind of outfielder, it could come down to den Dekker or Lagares for the starting job in center. Lagares has been impressive in streaks, but strikes out too much. Defensively, den Dekker goes back on the ball better, which is very important in Citi Field, but Lagares, who already has 11 assists, might have a stronger arm.

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