May 30

Ruben Tejada Issue Solves Itself

It appears the Ruben Tejada problem has taken care of itself.

On the day after hearing a wake-up ultimatum or risk being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas, Tejada strained his right quadriceps going after a ball he had no chance of catching in Wednesday night’s victory over the Yankees.

TEJADA: A head-scratching player.

TEJADA: A head-scratching player.

That left the Mets with the easy option of placing Tejada on the disabled list, where he could stay for two weeks. Once Tejada begins a rehab assignment, the Mets will have 20 days in which to activate him. That’s nearly five Tejada-free weeks.

Tejada ran a long way for the ball – one of the few bursts of hustle we’ve seen from him – but to risk injury in a blowout game was senseless. Even worse, was he nearly took out left fielder Mike Baxter in a sliding attempt at the ball.

It was the latest in a series of head-scratching plays from Tejada, who had a brain cramp in the sixth when he looked the runner back to third despite a big lead and didn’t get the runner at first.

It’s one thing to make a physical error, of which he’s had many, but shortstop is a thinking position and he gives the Mets nothing when his mind is elsewhere. In some ways, his wandering mind reminds me of Angel Pagan.

Tejada first tested Terry Collins’ patience when he didn’t report early to spring training in 2012. Collins reasoned with Tejada to replace Jose Reyes, the new shortstop would want to get a head start.

Collins was clearly annoyed that Tejada wasn’t in good shape, but had few options. Tejada made things easier for himself with a solid offensive season, but defense – supposedly his strong suit – was erratic.

Tejada opened the season with a handful of errors in the first two weeks and has been shaky since. At the plate, he couldn’t break the habit of hitting the ball in the air, which makes him an easy out.

Tejada has not been able to seize the leadoff spot, and when he does get on there are times he looks clueless on the bases, such as when he was picked off second Tuesday night.

The Mets won Tuesday giving Tejada another day, but even without the injury, his play Wednesday warranted a demotion.

The Mets are expected to promote Omar Quintanilla today. Quintanilla was a last-day cut in spring training when the Mets opted to keep Kirk Nieuwenhuis as an extra outfielder. To make room on the 40-man roster, they could move Frank Francisco to the 60-day disabled list.

The Mets won despite Tejada in large part because of Jeremy Hefner’s strong start. Hefner has pitched well, but in bad luck lately. He’s pitched well enough to stay in the rotation, but the Mets must make a move when Zack Wheeler is ready.

One demotion possibility is tonight’s starter, Dillon Gee (2-6, 6.34 ERA). If not him, then perhaps Collin McHugh would go. The underperforming Shaun Marcum isn’t leaving because he’s getting $4 million this year.

After the Pittsburgh series, I wrote how the following two weeks could define their season. It didn’t look good in St. Louis and when they were swept by Cincinnati.

However, they have sparked interest with this four-game winning streak, and with two series coming up against Miami, they could see relevance again.

ON DECK: Dillon Gee pitching for his job.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 22

Matt Harvey Reveals What Little Else Mets Have

The headlines were basically the same no matter where you look: Today Is Matt Harvey Day.

Harvey, undeniably the most exciting thing to happen to the Mets this season, starts Wednesday against Cincinnati. In games following his start, the Mets are 0-9.

HARVEY: Goes against Reds.

HARVEY: Goes against Reds.

Harvey has started nine games and won five with four no-decisions. Even in those games he was brilliant. Yes, when Harvey starts the Mets have a very good chance of winning. On those days, the Mets are major league quality.

That’s a good thing, but it comes with a flip side, and that’s outside of him, David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell, there’s little substance on this team. Harvey’s success merely illustrates how little the Mets have on the major league level, and their refusal to demote Ike Davis shows how little faith they have in their minor league players.

Harvey is a major leaguer both in talent and demeanor, surrounded by players who mostly are not.

John Buck has his moments, as does Marlon Byrd, but seriously, you’re talking about two players who might not be here next year. Hey, they might be dealt at the July 31 deadline.

Besides Harvey, who can start on anybody’s staff, Wright and maybe Murphy – depending on the team – can be starters elsewhere.

The Mets began the season with a core they hoped to build around and contend with for a decade. Harvey and Jon Niese in the rotation; Davis, Wright and Ruben Tejada in the infield; Lucas Duda in the outfield, and Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate.

However, Tuesday night showed Niese to be unreliable. He is 3-5 with a 4.80 in ten starts. By definition, he has six quality starts, however, by sight he’s not been quality at all. Certainly, not one you would build a team around. He recovered Tuesday to give the Mets a chance to rally if they had any kind of offense. However, as has often been the case with Niese, one bad inning did him in, and it was the first when with no one on base and two outs, he walked three and fell behind 3-0.

Davis had an opportunity to get the Mets back in the game, but struck out. What can you say about Davis that hasn’t already been said, other than he’ll be on the next flight to Las Vegas?

Sandy Alderson, speaking during the SNY broadcast, said he sees last year’s second half when he watches Davis. Eventually, he concluded: “It may be he is better off going to Las Vegas for some period of time. But at this point we’re going to live with Ike for a little longer.’’

“Going to live with.’’ That’s some endorsement, isn’t it?

Duda’s on-base percentage has improved, but has little run-production – only 14 RBI – despite eight homers. One could conclude Buck drove in many of those potential RBI hitting ahead of him, but in reality Duda is not a good situational hitter.

Tejada has fallen off both at the plate and in the field, and you realize he’ll never be close to being what a healthy Jose Reyes was at one time.

Murphy is reliable, but not a star. He’s greatly improved at second base, but the Mets will always be looking for somebody faster and more athletic at that position. Murphy is a piece they could dangle in front of a contender in a couple of months.

That’s about the time d’Arnaud could be under consideration to being promoted. For now, his broken foot will be in a cast for another two weeks and he’ll begin rehab.

Parnell has been one of the few pleasant surprises, showing he can be a closer. Even if Frank Francisco’s elbow improves to where he’ll come off the disabled list, he won’t get the closer job back. We might not see him at all this season, which means never again in a Mets uniform.

The Mets host the All-Star game in less than two months. By that time, they could be 20 games under .500 and their fall complete before the dog days of summer.

But, enough of that for now. Today is Matt Harvey Day and there’s a reason to watch.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 07

Mets Wrap: Matt Harvey Dominant Again

It wasn’t a perfect game, but it was close. Matt Harvey gave up one hit in nine scoreless innings, and Bobby Parnell threw a 1-2-3 tenth, as the Mets beat the Chicago White Sox, 1-0, tonight at Citi Field.

HARVEY: Over comes bloody nose to stuff White Sox. (AP)

HARVEY: Over comes bloody nose to stuff White Sox. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Harvey struck out a career-high 12 and didn’t walk a hitter. … Combined with Parnell, Mets pitchers retired 30 of 31 hitters. … Alex Rios was Chicago’s lone baserunner with an infield single after two were out in the seventh.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets were unable to touch Chicago lefty Hector Santiago, who is from Newark. … The Mets won it when Ike Davis walked, advanced on a sacrifice and scored on Mike Baxter’s pinch-hit single to right.

THEY SAID IT: “In the fifth inning, I was thinking `he’s going to pitch a no-hitter.’ ’’ – Manager Terry Collins on watching Harvey pitch.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 – Near perfect-games lost by Mets pitchers, including Harvey, Tom Seaver twice and Rick Reed.

NO CHANGES IN PEN: Now that Frank Francisco has worked on consecutive days in his rehab assignment for Single-A St. Lucie he’s closer to coming off the disabled list. Another rehab appearance or two should do it, but that doesn’t mean he’ll automatically reclaim his closer role.

ON DECK: Jeremy Hefner (0-3, 4.34) will be going after his third straight quality start tomorrow night against Jake Peavy (3-1, 3.38). Hefner gave up a combined three runs on seven hits in 15 innings. The Mets are 0-6 in the six games Hefner started for them this season.

Apr 29

Has Mets’ Freefall Begun Early This Year?

Rocky might be sugar coating what is going on with the Mets these days. Do you remember the beginning of the month when the Mets were off to a semi-good start and the Yankees – beset by injuries – stumbled out of the gate and the talk was could they actually finish with a better record?

Not happening. We are looking at a fifth straight losing season, and please, don’t delude yourselves into thinking the Mets will suddenly go on a spending spree this winter. Now that the Mets have substantially reduced their payroll and after this year will be finally rid of the contractual anchors of Johan Santana and Jason Bay, do you honestly believe they’ll be writing a lot of checks this winter?

HARVEY: Bright spot. (AP)

HARVEY: Bright spot. (AP)

Next year could be more of the same.

After being swept over the weekend by Philadelphia, going 3-6 on their recent homestand and losers of nine of their last 12 games overall, all appearances have the Mets are packing it in before the All-Star break this season. I’m not saying the effort isn’t there, just the talent.

The weekend proved the Mets don’t need Arctic conditions to play their worst. Without Matt Harvey to protect them against the Phillies, the Mets had breakdowns with their rotation, bullpen, defense and hitting this weekend. It was as complete a sweep as can be.

* The Mets are 5-0 when Harvey starts and 5-13 when he doesn’t. He goes tonight at Miami against fellow phenom Jose Fernandez.

* The last two winters GM Sandy Alderson made rebuilding the bullpen the priority. However, this year’s nightmarish edition is the major league’s worst with an ERA nearing 5.50. It doesn’t even matter how close Frank Francisco is to returning as he proved he’s not the answer, either. Typical Mets. Their best reliever is closer Bobby Parnell and they can’t even get to him.

* Terry Collins said at the beginning of the season he wanted to use set line-ups. Twenty-three games later he has used 20 different batting orders/line-ups. That’s not even close to being stable.

* The outfield remains fluid, with something different each day. Jordany Valdespin provides a spark and then sits. Does anybody really think Juan Lagares is the answer? Collin Cowgill won the starting center field job coming out of spring training, but was sitting by the fourth game of the season and only has 47 at-bats.

* Ike Davis continues to flounder and look overmatched at the plate with half as many hits (13) as strikeouts (26). He’s on pace to strike out 183 times. He’s also on track to hit 28 homers, but drive in only 56 runs. Need I say he’s hitting less than .200?

With the way the Mets are playing, there’s no guarantee they’ll get better with three games in Miami. About the only encouraging thing you can come up with concerning this series is even if the Mets are swept, they can’t fall into the cellar behind the Marlins.

Ah, good times.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

ON DECK: David Price vs. Tom Hallion

Apr 22

Parnell Must Stay As Closer When Francisco Returns

Most everything about the Mets these days is about the future. From Matt Harvey, to extending David Wright, to the trade of R.A. Dickey and protecting Zack Wheeler, we’re talking about 2014 and beyond.

Sure, it would be great to compete now, but 2013 is mostly for establishing the foundation. It is the development of Harvey and Jon Niese; giving Wheeler major league experience – while avoiding free agency for a year – and hope Ike Davis and Lucas Duda improve their offensive efficiency while still producing power.

PARNELL: Don't mess with him now.

PARNELL: Don’t mess with him now.

This trend should extend to the bullpen, where Bobby Parnell, despite limited save opportunities, has performed in the role that should hopefully define his career.

Manager Terry Collins told Parnell at the beginning of spring training he would be the closer if Frank Francisco were not ready. Collins should pull Parnell aside tomorrow at Citi Field – today is an off-day – and tell him he’ll have the job when Francisco returns.

Parnell spit the bit on previous chances, but is grasping the brass ring now. And, tightly. Parnell struck out two Washington Nationals in a perfect ninth Sunday to earn his second save of the season. Parnell is following up last year’s strong second half with a blistering start.

He has a strong traditional statistic in a 1.35 ERA – mostly overrated for relievers – with an even stronger new wave stat of a 0.45 WHIP.  He’s given up three hits and a run in 6.2 innings. He’s been virtually untouchable.

More to the point, he’s pitching the way the way the Mets always hoped.

Collins and GM Sandy Alderson saw that coming at the end of 2012, when with Francisco on the disabled list, Parnell went 3-1 with a 0.96 ERA and paltry .196 opponent’s batting average in 17 appearances.

The Mets might feel obligated to return Francisco to the closer role based on his $6.5-million salary, but they need to resist that temptation. It is not an obligation to return Francisco to the closer role, especially because it is anticipated he will not be re-signed this winter.

If Francisco were in the Mets’ future plans, I might think differently. Parnell, however, is expected to be here next season and beyond. The Mets – namely Jerry Manuel – have jerked around Parnell to the point of messing with his confidence. They must not do it again by changing his role.

Perhaps this is nothing more than a hot stretch for Parnell; perhaps it is the beginning of something special. We need the time to see.

We don’t know to what degree Parnell will develop. What we do know is Francisco will not be here next year and Parnell will. Parnell must stay in the closer role, and remain there in good times and in bad.

That’s the way to build for the future, which is now for Parnell.