Jun 05

Mets Matters: Is Kirk Nieuwenhuis An Upgrade?

I don’t understand all the hating of Rick Ankiel. Sure, he strikes out a lot, but he was brought here to plug a hole in the Mets’ shoddy outfield defense and hit the occasional home run. That, he’s done.

His throw in the ninth inning last night would have nailed Ryan Zimmerman at second had shortstop Omar Quintanilla been in position and stayed with the play. Had the play been made, perhaps the Mets would have won, but the point is no other outfielder’s throw would have made it close.

NIEUWENHUIS: On Mets' radar. (AP)

NIEUWENHUIS: On Mets’ radar. (AP)

I am all for playing the young players in a lost season, but Juan Lagares isn’t the answer. He has been clearly overmatched, but could get a chance against lefty Gio Gonzalez, who’ll replace Stephen Strasburg Thursday.

Terry Collins said Kirk Nieuwenhuis in back in the Mets’ thinking for a promotion, and I say, to do what? Strike out. The Mets already have enough of those hitters, including, Ankiel.

The rap on Triple-A Las Vegas is the climate makes it conducive for the long ball. That’s what Collins told Zack Wheeler, saying there would be less a premium on numbers. Using the same reasoning, why should Nieuwenhuis’ recent power surge of eight homers in 14 games – giving him ten overall – be regarded differently?

For his power, Nieuwenhuis only has 18 RBI, an indication he’s not hitting with runners in scoring position. Nieuwenhuis is still striking out at an alarming rate to prove he still doesn’t get it. He has more strikeouts (34) than hits (32) in 133 at-bats.

I don’t see where that is an upgrade.

PITCHING INJURY UPDATES: Jon Niese, who was scratched from his last start with shoulder tendinitis will throw in the bullpen this afternoon.

Niese hopes to start Saturday against Miami, but that is clearly in doubt. If his shoulder doesn’t respond, Niese could find himself on the disabled list.

Several weeks ago, Collins said back-to-back cold weather starts in Minnesota and Denver caused Niese’s back to tighten. It is possible this is a residual effect.

Also, Jeurys Familia will undergo surgery on his right elbow today to remove a bone spur.

PATRIOTIC OBLIGATION: As they always do when in Washington, the Mets will visit Walter Reed National Military Center this afternoon.

There are no reported exemptions from owner Fred Wilpon’s traditional, and urgent, request of his players.

IN TROUBLE: Cesar Puello isn’t in the major leagues, but the Double-A Binghamton outfielder is facing a suspension in the Biogenesis case now that founder Tony Bosch is willing to list names.

ON DECK: Tonight’s game.

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

Apr 21

Zack Wheeler: Not Ready For Primetime

Baseball 101: Regardless of the level of play, if a pitcher walks too many batters he will be beaten.

It is a baseball fundamental understood by everybody, with the exception of those insisting the Mets bring up Zack Wheeler, who walked six hitters in his last start.

WHEELER: Not ready.

WHEELER: Not ready.

The clamoring is getting louder in the wake of the Mets’ continued problems with the back end of their rotation. Maybe Dillon Gee, he of the 0-3 record and 8.36 ERA, will get it going Sunday against Washington. But, also struggling are Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey, both of whom were hit hard Saturday by the Nationals.

David Wright was correct in saying if the Mets score five runs off Gio Gonzalez they should win, but the combined efforts of Hefner and Laffey made that impossible. Hefner has given up seven homers in 14 innings, with two of them coming Saturday. Laffey gave up three runs in 2/3 of an inning out of the bullpen.

The Mets are hoping for Shaun Marcum’s return, or could give Triple-A starter Collin McHugh a spot start because it won’t, and shouldn’t, go to Wheeler.

The six walks Wheeler gave up trump any radio host’s rant of, “I want to see what he can do.’’ Well, we know what he can do, and that’s walk hitters and get shelled. Hey, the Mets are getting that now.

Do they really need to see one of their prized prospects get routed up here? The Mets took their time with Matt Harvey and should do the same with Wheeler.

And, let’s hear no more about the Mets being cheap because they want to keep him away from the free-agent market another year. That is not the issue. Wheeler is simply not ready for the major leagues, a fact Collins reiterated Saturday.

“That’s a red flag and I don’t want to see walks from those guys,’’ Collins said. “I told Zack in spring training, you’re going to pitch in a tough place [the Pacific Coast League] and I was in that league for 12 years, I know how hard that league is to pitch in.’’

Collins said he would talk to Las Vegas manager Wally Backman about Wheeler. There are times statistics aren’t defining in evaluating performances in the minor leagues. Walks, however, are telling on any level. Overall, in four starts, Wheeler has walked 12 in 18.1 innings. On top of that, he’s given up 20 hits.

“Ten hits, I can understand,’’ Collins said. “But six walks, he’s better than that.’’

He needs to show it.

Apr 17

Sanity Prevails: Mets And Rockies Bagged

Either sanity or winter prevailed as tonight’s Mets game at Denver was snowed out. It is the third game this week the Mets had postponed by winter weather.

The Rockies don’t want a doubleheader tomorrow, so their regularly scheduled afternoon game will be played with Jonathan Niese going against Jon Garland.

“It’s been odd,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters in Denver of this week’s postponements. “This is a game of consistency. This is a game of repetition. And when you lose those reps, you can change the outcome a lot and how things go. … This has been a tough trip for us. It really has been. Guys are tired of sitting at the hotel.’’

Collins said not playing the doubleheader is beneficial to the Mets in the short-term, although the team have to squeeze in a trip to Denver later this summer.

The Mets return home Friday against Washington and the marquee match-up of Matt Harvey against Stephen Strasburg.

Tonight’s starter, Jeremy Hefner, will be pushed back to Saturday against Gio Gonzalez, and Dillon Gee will face Jordan Zimmermann Sunday.

The way the Mets’ rotation plays out, they won’t need a fifth starter until April 27, when they host Philadelphia. That will give Shaun Marcum another ten days to get ready.

NOTE:  Reliever Frank Francisco is scheduled to throw an inning tonight for Single-A St. Lucie. Francisco underwent surgery in December to remove a bone spur in his right elbow.

Apr 15

Is The Steroid Era Actually The Real Deadball Era?

alex rodriguez

ADD DESTROYING CRIMINAL EVIDENCE TO A-ROD’S RAP LIST?

On Friday afternoon, Michael Schmidt of the New York Times broke the story and identified Alex Rodriguez as the player who allegedly purchased documents from a former employee of Biogenesis of America in an attempt to destroy evidence linking him to the anti-aging clinic’s distribution of performance-enhancing drugs.

When the Miami New Times broke the story in January, I remember saying “this is the White Whale. This is the one that will blow the lid completely off the entire steroid and PED scandal.”

Since that day more than a dozen players have been implicated and tied to Biogensis including Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Gio GonzalezBartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz and Yasmani Grandal and 2012 MVP Ryan Braun.

While they all continue denying everything and scrambling for and convenient excuse they can find, the plot keeps thickening and the sordid details are piling up by the hundreds. Real details and real documents that even MLB themselves are trying to illegally buy at any price to get to the bottom of this and protect what little integrity the game has left.

The person charged with the role of Super Spy is none other than Bud Selig himself who who has been authorizing and signing off on huge sums of cash that is being used to secure whatever documents they can get their hands on from former employees of the lab who are now all seeking to cash to pay off their significant mounting legal fees.

And while Alex Rodriguez is no less guilty of doing the same thing, there is a huge difference.

MLB wants those documents so they can go after every player that is implicated and try to clean up the game.

A-Rod on the other hand, was seeking to get those documents and destroy them before the FBI or MLB got a hold of them.

But wait, there’s more…

Of course, Rodriguez flatly denied the accusation through a spokesman, but then he dropped another bombshell alleging that it was the New York Yankees that were paying for and buying those documents from the rogue former employee. Wow…

Oh and one more thing… Let’s stop calling them documents and lets start referring to them instead as illegally obtained evidence to hinder an ongoing federal, state and MLB investigation.

These are all allegations at this time, but when this is all over, I think more than a few people, including players, will be looking at life from a different perspective…

Prisoner Holding Cigarette Between Bars

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Mar 28

Daniel Murphy Passes Audition

Daniel Murphy passed the audition and said it was worth the risk.

Murphy, playing for the first time in a major league game this spring because of a strained right intercostal muscle, singled in three at-bats against Washington’s Gio Gonzalez, played five innings and declared himself ready for Opening Day.

MURPHY: Five innings at second; one hit.

MURPHY: Five innings at second; one hit.

Had he kept playing minor league games until Monday and was re-injured, his DL stint would be backdated deep into spring training. Should he get hurt now the clock would be running and he could miss the first two weeks of the season at least.

Considering how thin the Mets are, it didn’t seem worth the gamble, but it looks as if they dodged it, especially since he tagged up and advanced to second on a fly ball. Most guys don’t even think of such a play in the regular season, let alone the exhibition schedule.

“It was nice to slide,’’ Murphy told reporters. “It was nice to get the headfirst one out of the way.’’

Murphy understood the risks of playing in the major league game, but said he needed the speed of it to get ready for the season. Similarly, David Wright wants a major league game tomorrow or Saturday for the same reason.

“The speed of the game is obviously going to be a little quicker here,’’ Murphy said. “I actually was pleasantly surprised at how far along I was, and not even on the base hit. That was trash. … It was good to face (Gonzalez). It was really good to face a lefty with some velocity like that.’’

Pain wise, Murphy didn’t feel anything, so it was a positive day all along.

Figuring Murphy wakes up tomorrow without any discomfort, he’ll play second against St. Louis and Saturday against Baltimore at Sarasota, Fla.

With Murphy back at second the dilemma is what to do with Jordany Valdespin, who has had a good enough spring to make the 25-man roster.

When Murphy was down and Kirk Nieuwenhuis out with a bruised left knee, Valdespin seemed a lock to make the team. But, with Murphy back, reserve infielder Omar Quintanilla better defensively, and Nieuwenhuis again in contention in center field and needing at-bats, Valdespin could be back to the bench, if not the minors.

“We’ve got to decide who’s going to play center,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “Therefore, we’ve got to get Kirk some at-bats.’’

Nieuwenhuis is batting only .094. Unbelievably, if he and shortstop Ruben Tejada are Opening Day starters, the Mets could have two hitters with averages below .100 (Tejada is at .080).