Mar 08

Mets In Lakeland To Face Tigers; Gee Gets Ball

Good morning from Lakeland. Just arrived. The drive was a little over two hours, straight highways all the way through past Yeehaw Junction, dozens of orange groves, junkyards, farms and dilapidated motels.

The weather is nice, but it wasn’t a pretty drive.

The Tigers play in a place called Joker Marchant Stadium, built in 1966. It has been renovated several times. There’s a hill behind the left field fence, much like what the Mets have at Tradition Field in right.

The Mets’ bus just arrived and I’ll be heading to the clubhouse in a few minutes. The Tigers are taking batting practice and there’s only a few people in the stands.

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Mar 07

Zack Wheeler, Frank Francisco Injury Updates

Zack Wheeler said today is the first time he felt exceptionally good since straining his right oblique.

WHEELER: Feeling better.

WHEELER: Feeling better.

“Today was the first day I felt 100 percent,’’ Wheeler said. “ Every day leading up to today it felt a little better. It was 100 percent today.’’

Wheeler said he threw all his pitches at about 75 effort, but “I let it out a few times.’’

The plan is for him to rest for two days before throwing another bullpen. Ideally, they’d like to get him in a game sometime next week, but it is dependent on how he responds from this.

Wheeler will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas even if Johan Santana is not ready for Opening Day.

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Mar 02

Mets Matters: Johan Santana Doubtful For Opening Day; Lucas Duda Breaks Out

It is not surprising that GM Sandy Alderson indicated today it is “less and less likely,’’ Johan Santana

would be ready for Opening Day.

mets mattersAlderson attributed that to Santana not being in good shape when he reported to spring training because he didn’t go through his normal off-season routine after extensive rehabbing the previous two winters.

“From my standpoint, his arm is fine, as far as we know,’’ Alderson told reporters. “Was he ready to pitch when he came into camp? No. Even he may have been a little surprised by that.

“So that leaves us where we are today. And where we are today is getting him ready to pitch as soon as we possibly can. We haven’t rule out Opening Day, although given when we think he might get on the mound, it becomes less and less likely. We haven’t given up on that notion yet. And we’ll see where it takes us.’’

The Mets are kidding themselves in thinking Santana has a chance to make the Opening Day start because he hasn’t thrown off the mound since Feb. 19.

Jonathan Niese will start if Santana opens the season on the disabled list. In that scenario, ESPN reports the earliest Santana could start would be the sixth game of the season.

Also expected to open the season on the disabled list is closer Frank Francisco, meaning Bobby Parnell will get that opportunity.

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Mar 02

Jonathan Niese Next In Line For Opening Day Start

Jonathan Niese, whom I called the Mets’ most significant starter at the opening of training camp, threw three scoreless innings Friday against Detroit.

A key for Niese will be how he controls his change-up.

Niese, incidentally, will be the Opening Day starter if Johan Santana can’t go. I say book it. No way would Terry Collins send Matt Harvey out there just ten starts into his career.

Harvey will get the ball his afternoon against Miami.

As far as pitching assignments go, figure Bobby Parnell as the closer because Frank Francisco, who is down with a sore elbow, will likely not be ready.

AROUND THE HORN: David Wright leaves today for the World Baseball Classic. (I’ll have something on the WBC later today). … Lucas Duda was a scratch yesterday because of a medical issue. The Mets are saying it is minor. … Daniel Murphy has started hitting off a tee. He’s nine days away from playing in a game.

Feb 25

Mets Matters: Mets Lose To Nats; Duda To Get Extra Work; Cowgill At Leadoff

Lucas Duda did not start tonight’s 6-4 exhibition game loss against Washington, and won’t be in the lineup tomorrow. Look for him Wednesday or Thursday.

In his first two games, Duda went 0-for-7 with six strikeouts, and told reporters today, “we’re not going to hit the panic just yet.’’

DUDA: Gets cage work.

DUDA: Gets cage work.

The Mets will opt for extra work in the batting cage instead.

Duda, who underwent wrist surgery in the offseason, began to swing the bat in late January rather than December, and has been limited so far this spring, and manager Terry Collins attributes that to his early problems.

This is a good tact to take with Duda, who is being heavily counted on this year to fill voids in left field and power production.

Collins said this is not a demotion and doesn’t want to embarrass Duda, and believes this is the best way to restore his confidence, which can’t be too high right about now.

As of now, Duda is penciled in as the left fielder, but center appears to be a platoon between Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill. The platoon will include the leadoff spot.

Nieuwenhuis will get the first chance to win the job, but the Mets are concerned about his high strikeouts ratio. He struck out 98 times with 25 walks in 282 at-bats. He did hit seven homers, but who knows what his power potential can be? For the amount of times he strikes out, he would need to hit a lot more homers.

Cowgill started tonight in center and at leadoff. It has only been a couple of games, but Cowgill has made a good first impression with his hustle.

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