Mar 29

Pitching Staff Takes Shape

With Matt Harvey now cleared to start Opening Day, manager Terry Collins‘ rotation for the first week appears intact, and here’s a surprise, it’s what we thought it might be all along. Harvey, followed by Noah Syndergaard for the second game in Kansas City, and Jacob deGrom to start the home opener a week from Friday.

With the rotation set, the rest of the pitching staff is taking form.

With three days off in the first week, Bartolo Colon is available to work in relief for both games and Steven Matz possible out of the pen for the second game. These five will comprise the rotation until Zack Wheeler gets off the disabled list at mid-season. Colon should then move into the bullpen full time.

The Mets are likely to carry six relievers, with Jeurys Familia locked in as the closer and Addison Reed in the set-up role. Last year, the Mets lacked lefty relievers, but they have Antonio Bastardo and Jerry Blevins is back. They could also get Josh Edgin back by the end of May.

Hansel Robles will miss the first two games of the season while on suspension before taking on a middle relief role.

Both lefty Sean Gilmartin – a Rule 5 pick last year -and Logan Verrett made strong cases for the final spot on the staff as a long-reliever and spot starter. Gilmartin gave up a run in three innings Tuesday and Verrett pitched 3.2 scoreless innings.

The edge could go to Gilmartin who pitched effectively in that role last season. This would allow Verrett to stay in his routine as a starter at Triple-A, which would enable him to step in should an injury drop one of the starters. It should also be noted that neither Matz nor Colon have been effective this spring.

And, we should also remember Harvey’s recent medical issue stands out like a neon sign that anything can happen.

 

Mar 17

No Brainer Harvey Opening Day Starter

In a decision best described as a “no-brainer,’’ the Mets announced this morning Matt Harvey will be their Opening Day starter, April 3, at Kansas City.

So, let me be the first to say, “Harvey will be coming out for the tenth inning.’’

HARVEY: Gets Opening Day call. (AP)

HARVEY: Gets Opening Day call. (AP)

I wonder how much Harvey’s ninth-inning, Game 5 meltdown went into manager Terry Collins’ decision to go with Harvey. After all, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard were also viable options. If there was any “we want top re-establish his confidence’’ thinking – which I doubt – Collins wouldn’t admit to it. I’m sure he’ll be asked about it until the season starts.

For the past three years, the Mets have done things to project Harvey as the team’s ace, not the least of which is his $4 salary, which exceeds the combined amount of the rest of their young rotation. This excludes, of course, Bartolo Colon, who is seemingly ageless.

Based on service time, sure, Harvey has to be the one. Also playing into the decision has to be some ego. Harvey can be brash at times, but he’s also sensitive and probably would take being passed over as a slight. That’s not a bad thing, but why would Collins want to ruffle his feathers?

Harvey was thrilled with the appointment.

“It’s a huge honor,” Harvey told reporters. “A year after surgery, I’m 100 percent. It’s interesting how the schedule took place. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. It will bring back a lot of memories, but also bring out a lot of fire.”

Maybe that was part of Collins’ thinking.

There have been no issues surrounding Harvey based on protecting his surgically-repaired elbow, which is a great sign. I wrote several weeks ago Harvey should get the ball, and before that, projecting him to win 20 games this summer.

I was right on one. Hopefully, I’ll be correct on the other.

 

Mar 08

No Brainer Harvey Will Be Opening Day Starter

The Mets like to say they don’t have one ace, but a whole rotation full of aces. It’s the politically correct thing to say, of course. It’s also nonsense because everybody knows it’s a no-brainer Matt Harvey will get the ball on Opening Day in Kansas City.

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

Jacob deGrom had a better season statistically – traditionally a yardstick in naming an Opening Day starter – and Noah Syndergaard might have a higher upside, but Harvey is the arm the Mets first boast about.

Harvey, today’s starter against the Braves at Disney, last pitched in Game 5 of the World Series when he convinced manager Terry Collins to go out for the ninth inning, and we all know how that worked out for the Mets.

Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA last year, but most importantly in his comeback season from Tommy John surgery was he made 29 regular-season starts and threw 216 total innings without any hint of re-injury.

Many times in the second year back from surgery the pitcher will come back even stronger and there are reports from Florida Harvey’s slider is back and his fastball has that last-second bite it lacked at times in 2015.

Harvey will make over $4 million this year, more than deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Zack Wheeler combined. The Mets will say when they finally make the official announcement money had nothing to do with their decision, but that would be a misnomer.

Harvey makes the most because his age put him first in line. That’s a fact, but it’s also symbolic. You see, the Mets were going to rebuild with their young pitching and Harvey was the first. He was the one they were going to build around.

Then came Wheeler, and deGrom, then Syndergaard and Matz. Come July when Wheeler is back and Bartolo Colon is relegated to the bullpen, will the Mets’ rebuilding plan be whole.

But, symbolically Harvey was the first step, which is why he’ll get the ball in Kansas City. It’s symmetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 26

Hypothetical Terry Collins Address To Mets

By all accounts, Mets’ manager Terry Collins‘ address to his players today was positive with him stressing the expectations will be higher this season and they should embrace being the hunted. Using that information, I’ve put together a hypothetical speech Collins should have said to his team this morning prior to their first full-squad workout in Port St. Lucie.

“Good morning, gentlemen. It’s great to see all of you. Of course, most of you have been here now for several days, which tells me a lot. It tells me how serious you are about the work ahead of us, which it get back to the World Series and win it this time.

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

“I know we all remember how great it felt after we clinched in Cincinnati, and after we beat the Dodgers and Cubs. I also know how bad we all felt after we lost the World Series. I’m sure you thought about it during the winter. I want you to carry that feeling with you this summer and use it to your advantage.

“Yes, last year was great. But, last year is also last year. Last year doesn’t guarantee us anything this year. Washington will be better. The Cubs are better. The Giants are better. St. Louis is good. The Dodgers and Pirates are good. Nobody will hand us anything. We have to earn anything we get, and that begins with us taking care of our business.

“The media will say David Wright and Matt Harvey are the leaders of this team, and they will right … but only a point. To me, a leader isn’t just a player who produces in a big spot, but somebody whose teammates can rely on at all times. A leader is somebody who does his job. That means keeping your head in the game and keeping your focus at all times.

“It means knowing what to do in the field before the pitch is thrown. It means not giving away at-bats. When we weren’t hitting last year it was mostly because we gave away too many at-bats. We have to do a better job of moving up runners, we have to be more aggressive on the bases and we have to take advantage of opportunities when we get them. Remember, nobody will give us anything.

“It’s a long season and we’re going to need everybody at one time or another. So, when your name is called you have to be ready to play.

“Last season taught us a lot of things. It taught us how great winning can feel. It also told us how bad losing can feel. Above all else, last year taught us how difficult winning can be and we’ll need everybody if we’re going to achieve what we want to do.”

Collins isn’t a rah-rah type, so there wasn’t any “win it for the Gipper,” emotion. So, all this is what he might have said to his team. Collins isn’t one to single players out in a team meeting. He’ll likely meet with his players individually. Hopefully, he’ll stress to Wright the need for him to be honest about how he feels and not fight him about rest.

And, along those lines, and you knew I would get to this eventually, in speaking to Harvey they would have to relive that ninth inning of Game 5. I hope Collins made Harvey understand he went against his better judgment when he let back out for the ninth inning. But, Collins let Harvey stay in the game because he trusted him.

That being said, I hope Collins made it known Harvey would have to regain that trust. And, that would start with Harvey not fighting his decisions when it comes to taking him out of a game.

 

Jan 13

Top Ten Reasons Why Mets Can Return To World Series

As they are presently constructed, can the Mets return to the World Series? Why, of course. They are the defending National League champions, and while they haven’t gotten the big bopper they wanted, they still bring a formidable team to spring training.

Here are ten reasons why the Mets, if they stay healthy, can have another October:

1. They learned from 2015:

As Kansas City proved last season following their 2014 Series loss to San Francisco, a team can learn from defeat. From manager Terry Collins on down, the Mets will be better for the experience. They know what it takes to get there and you can’t buy what those five games against the Royals gave them. Not to mention the series against Chicago and Los Angeles.

HARVEY: I'm betting on 20 (Getty)

HARVEY: I’m betting on 20 (Getty)

2. The experience of Game 5:

Believe me on this, Matt Harvey is seething over Game 5. I’m not buying the Mets have the best rotation in the game until one of those wonder kids win 20 games. You’ll read it here first, but I think this is the year Harvey wins 20. I’m guessing he’s more than motivated, and with the restrictions from Tommy John surgery behind him, this could be a special year.

3. A full year with that rotation:

I don’t know if there will be innings restrictions on Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz – or Zack Wheeler when he comes off the disabled list. What I do know is if these guys are as special as advertised, I’m betting they learned from 2015. And, don’t forget, the Mets will have Matz and Syndergaard for a full season.

4. A full year from The Captain:

Assuming David Wright is healthy, and there’s no reason to figure otherwise, the Mets will have him for the full summer. He missed over four months last year, and missed them at a time when the offense struggled. Will he return to All-Star status? That might be a reach, but if he’s healthy and consistent, the Mets will be better.

5. The closer must have learned something:

Jeurys Familia had a breakout year, but didn’t have the smoothest postseason. He could have the potential to consistently save 40 games. That’s precious production. Personally, I’m glad he blew that Series game. Mariano Rivera said the best thing to happen in his career is when Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar Jr., homered off him in the 1997 playoffs. Rivera went on to become the game’s greatest closer.

6. They have a deeper bullpen:

Former closer Jenrry Mejia, when he comes off his suspension, will provide depth. They’ll also have Addison Reed for a full season, and hopefully a healthy Josh Edgin. And, once Wheeler returns, Bartolo Colon will go to the bullpen, where he excelled in the postseason. Hopefully, Hansel Robles will do some maturing. Lefty Jerry Blevins is back from missing last year with a broken. Logan Verrett provides depth, and can even spot start. The most intriguing spring training project with be Rafael Montero.

7. A better keystone combination:

The Mets’ defense up the middle is better with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrerra and second baseman Neil Walker. Offensively, replacing Daniel Murphy with Walker is a wash. Cabrerra is on a par with Wilmer Flores at the plate and is an upgrade in the field. Flores will add depth on the bench and give Collins more opportunities to rest Wright.

8. Left-handed power:

I never liked Curtis Granderson leading off, but love his ability to draw walks. He also hit 26 homers, but would he have more RBI if he batted in the middle of the order? It’s more than possible. Lucas Duda hit 27 homers last year after 30 in 2014. Why does it seem they all came in the same week? He still strikes out too much (138), but had a good on-base percentage (.352). Duda’s numbers should improve with more playing time (only 471 at-bats in 135 games). More consistency would be better, but I’ll take the 27 homers any way I can get them.

9. They have deeper catching:

Kevin Plawecki is here to stay, but could he force Travis d’Arnaud out of town? That will be interesting situation that could play itself out. d’Arnaud showed offensive promise when he came off the disabled list, but his inability to throw out base runners in the playoffs proved to be a glaring weakness. Having Plawecki around for an entire season will give Collins a chance to platoon him, especially against teams that like to run.

10. The kid in left:

Or, should I say that “budding star” in left? I’m among the many who are high on Micheal Conforto. Hopefully, Collins won’t fall into the trap of sitting him against lefties. He needs to play against everybody. If he’s the real deal, the Mets have something special.