Feb 28

Mets Wrap: Drop Exhibition Opener; Ike Davis homers

The New York Mets (0-1) dropped their exhibition opener Friday, 5-4, to the Washington Nationals in Port St. Lucie.

It’s just the first game, but the Mets have to be encouraged by the performances of pitchers Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom, who each threw two perfect innings.

The Mets also got a two-run homer from Ike Davis.

Neither Montero nor deGrom are expected to make the Opening Day roster, but both could be brought up in June. Each is expected to open the season in Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Nationals scored four runs in the final three innings off several pitchers, including Gonzalez German and Jeff Walters. Gonzalez is competing for one of the Mets’ seven bullpen spots, but Walters, who saved 38 games last season for Double-A Binghamton, is expected to open in Triple-A.

We should all temper our enthusiasm for Davis, but that being said, it is better than striking out four times. Manager Terry Collins said he wants to give the struggling and often-times frustrated first baseman at least 90 at-bats in spring training.

Wilfredo Tovar left the game in the seventh inning with a right hamstring injury.

On deck: Left-hander John Lannan will start Saturday against Miami’s Kevin Slowey. The Mets will also pitch Vic Black, Scott Rice, Kyle Farnsworth and Ryan Reid.

Feb 27

The Mets’ Ambivalence Towards Ruben Tejada Opens Door For Flores

Of all the young New York Mets, the one I am most interested in seeing is Wilmer Flores, especially at shortstop. While Ruben Tejada is the starter by default, Flores has a legitimate shot with a strong spring to grab a job.

FLORES: Has opportunity to earn job (Getty)

FLORES: Has opportunity to earn job (Getty)

As the Mets monitor Stephen Drew’s interest and Seattle for Nick Franklin’s availability, it is clear they aren’t sold on Tejada. That makes it no better time than now for Flores to surface.

As team officials continue to portray Tejada as the most likely starter on Opening Day, they acknowledge those two other possibilities and are showing a declining enthusiasm for the incumbent.

A hot spring from Flores could make things interesting if the Mets don’t make an acquisition, especially if he shows something defensively.

The rap on Flores is he doesn’t have the first-step quickness in moving laterally. He also doesn’t have a lot of speed, but shortstops don’t have to be fast. Flores attended the same Michigan fitness camp as Tejada and reports are he improved his straight-ahead speed and lateral quickness.

However, for the offensively-challenged Mets, Flores’ upside is greater than Tejada’s. Flores drove in 13 runs in 27 games last season, which projected over a 162-game schedule is 78 RBI. In contrast, Tejada’s 162-game average is a mere 40.

In addition, as a spray hitter, Tejada’s career on-base percentage is only .323 and his 162-game average is 87 strikeouts.

Flores played shortstop in the minors until 2011, but because of the range issue, the Mets started playing him at third, second and first. All this begs the question: With all the ways prospects are measured, couldn’t they have figured out his range limitations?

Flores’ value to the Mets would be to show something at shortstop, because he is a man without a position and despite his supposed offensive abilities, never hit more than 18 homers (2012) in the minors.

His best season was at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2013 when he hit .321 with a .357 on-base percentage, 15 homers and 86 RBI.

As the Mets consider Drew and Franklin – neither is imminent – this is the perfect time for Flores to make a statement.

Although Flores has experienced every position in the infield, shortstop is the one with the most potential for a breakthrough. Barring injuries, he won’t supplant David Wright at third or Daniel Murphy at second this year.

Who knows what could happen at first base? I floated the idea last year they might cut loose both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda and go with Flores at first base.

That’s not imminent, either.

 

Feb 25

Wrapping The Day: Ike Davis’ Motivation; Tejada Not Answer

Some people don’t get. It was reported by one Internet writer he was happy with the verbal sparring by Ike Davis with a reporter, saying it might “fire up,’’ the non-slugging first baseman.

The point is as a professional athlete Davis needs more than an argument with a writer for motivation. If Davis needs it and must use an external force for inspiration he’s in the wrong profession and the Mets have more trouble than they think.

Reportedly, the Pirates are monitoring the Mets’ camp about Davis, but are also looking at other possibilities.

In addition:

* The Mets haven’t closed the door on signing free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew or trading for Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

* Rafael Montero, Friday’s starter in the exhibition opener against Washington, threw live batting practice.

* Reserve catcher Anthony Recker told ESPN he’s in favor of the rules prohibiting catchers from blocking the plate.

* It is expected Josh Satin will play against left-handers regardless of whether Davis or Lucas Duda play first. Of course, Satin needs his at-bats, but if there’s a strict platoon at first base neither Davis nor Duda will develop into a real hitter.

 

Feb 25

For Ike Davis, Motivation Should Come From Within, Not Yelling At Reporters

One of the more ridiculous things I’ve read in the wake of the Ike Davis-Mike Puma verbal spat is the notion this will motivate the underperforming first baseman. If that’s the case, the New York Mets have a greater problem than they thought.

That thinking is flawed on many levels. As a professional athlete, if Davis needs a confrontation with a reporter to fire him up, it says little about his mental constitution.

DAVIS: Needs to motivate from within (Getty)

DAVIS: Needs to motivate from within (Getty)

It says that constitution is weak.

A professional athlete should be motivated first by pride and a sense of accomplishment. These rank even ahead of money, as often times you’ll hear if a player is solely motivated by dollars his fire dies and the game becomes a grueling job.

The hottest fire is the desire to compete, and yelling at a reporter is misguided and wasted energy. If Davis need jousting with Puma to get him going then he’s in the wrong profession.

If you’ve seen Davis struggle you have to know his pride is wounded. That is where the rebuilding must originate. Arguing with a reporter does nothing to restore his pride, unless he thinks it makes him big in the eyes of his teammates. Even then, most were probably thinking to themselves, “please Ike, shut up.’’

Davis’ confidence is in tatters for the simple reason because what worked for him in high school, college and minor leagues abandoned him in the major leagues.

The competition level is much greater and Davis has not adjusted. Those few good moments he’s enjoyed in his MLB season were snuffed out by superior pitching and betting that he could play through injuries and he doesn’t know how to react.

One just does not restore confidence without a fundamental overhaul, which in Davis’ case is his basic Neanderthal approach to hitting of  “I see ball, I must crush it.’’

Davis labels himself as a “home run’’ hitter with the understanding “strikeouts will happen.’’

What Davis doesn’t understand is why strikeouts happen, which are because of both mechanical and mental flaws. The two become linked.

Davis wants to pull the ball and does use the whole field. Doing so leaves himself open to the mechanical issues of pulling his head off the pitch and opening up too quickly.

When that happens, there’s no way he can hit the outside pitch, especially if it is a breaking ball. He’s simply not in good hitting position.

Davis also has a terrible hitch and dramatically moves his hands before the pitch arrives, leaving him behind and slow in his swing.

The more he struggled with mechanics, the greater the frustration and the more he pressed. It grows into a vicious cycle.

If Davis said he was hurt last year I believe him, but what I don’t accept is the injury did not affect him. Being in pain makes it hard to swing the bat and slows everything.

And, hitting is about being quick. Be quick with your thinking and pitch recognition, with your hands, with your hips.

A slow hitter walks back to the dugout. And, yelling at a reporter does nothing to speed up your swing.

Mechanics are the issue and in Davis’ case they stem from a poor approach. That good stretch of at-bats he needs to get him going – as some said – will never come unless he changes his thinking.

Look, Davis said he wants to be with the Mets and I believe him. Yesterday probably hurt the chances of the Mets making a trade because the perception is Davis is a headache in the clubhouse.

And, in the parking lot.

That Davis continued with Puma in the parking lot shows he didn’t adjust to the incident from earlier in the morning. Much like he hasn’t adjusted to the down-and-away slider.

ON DECK: Ruben Tejada a question – again

Feb 24

Mets’ Manager Terry Collins Wants Players To Reveal Injuries

Ike Davis isn’t the first New York Met to withhold an injury from manager Terry Collins and won’t be the last.

He’s just the latest, and his recent revelation he concealed an oblique injury last season perplexed and frustrated his manager.

COLLINS: Not pleased with Davis. (AP)

COLLINS: Not pleased with Davis. (AP)

As Davis struggled at the plate, he denied anything was bothered him. On Sunday he opened up to the New York Post and indicated he didn’t report anything to the medical staff because it was about the time he was to be optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas and didn’t want people to think he was making excuses.

Davis admonished the reporter Monday morning, and by the afternoon Collins was in the storm – and not pleased about it.

“There’s got to be a conversation,’’ Collins told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “And then certainly it’s up to me to decide which way to proceed. … As I look back now, everything would have been better off had he said something, and certainly he’ll hopefully learn from it that he needs to speak up.’’

Davis defended his actions, telling The Post, players perform injured all the time and he didn’t want to come off as making excuses. At the time, Davis said he was fine, but clearly something was off.

Collins said it goes beyond pain and discomfort.

“Once again, I can’t address it because I don’t know how bad it was,’’ Collins said. “Was it aggravating? Was there pain? Did it hurt you to swing? Were you trying to protect it coming off the ball? I mean, there’s all sorts of different things. And I certainly don’t have any answers for you.’’

All managers receive a daily report from the training staff on the extent of an injury and whether the player received treatment. If Davis said nothing, then Collins wasn’t given any information.

That this story came out the way it did is embarrassing to Collins and the Mets, an organization that has received its share of criticism on how it treats injuries.

The Mets received heat for how it dealt with injuries to Ryan Church, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes and Pedro Martinez to name a few.

Last summer, they were embarrassed when the story broke that Matt Harvey wasn’t forthcoming on pain to his forearm, which eventually landed him on the disabled list and under the knife.

There were conflicting reports as to when Collins and the Mets’ hierarchy knew of Harvey’s injury. Collins said he never received a trainer’s report.

Of course we can speculate – and rightfully so – as to whether that lack of disclosure cost Harvey this season.

One understands a player’s desire to perform and help his team, but such intent isn’t always beneficial. Harvey, Davis and the Mets would all have been better off had players reported the injury immediately.

Not doing so shows poor judgment, but it is also something players have done for years, especially young players such as Harvey and struggling ones like Davis. Sometimes fear, and sometimes the competitive juices drown out good judgment.

No, Davis won’t be the last Met to feel something and hold his tongue.

ON DECK: Wrapping the day.