NIESE: Flirts with no-hitter.
The Mets and Yankees were at opposite ends of the broom over the weekend, but it didn’t take much to guess where most of the newspaper attention went. Right – in Florida where the Rays were disposing of the Yankees.
Being a Mets fan, you’re used to that, but today you want it this way. Let the Mets fly in under the radar; let the Yankees deal with the pressure and panic.
The weekend was all about pitching, with Jon Niese flirting with the franchise’s first no-hitter. The string remains intact for 7,971 games. Who cares how long the streak goes as long as they keep playing well.
Out of the ashes of last season we might have uncovered some life, that being Lucas Duda’s power. The guy is frighteningly strong and homered twice yesterday to beat the Braves.
DUDA: In HR trot.
With last season a washout from the beginning, it was a matter of time before Carlos Beltran was traded and that opened the door for Duda. That, and Ike Davis’ freakish injury.
After the Beltran trade the Mets finally acknowledged Duda’s future was in right field and played him there at the end. When you have a losing team, you must always think ahead and that’s what the Mets were able to accomplish last year with Duda.
“Lucas benefited from last summer when he was in the lineup every day and he realized he belongs,” manager Terry Collins said. “He put good swings on mistakes, he’s got the strength to hit it out of anywhere. He’s got a chance to be some kind of power hitter.”
Duda took advantage on the shorter dimensions with one of his homers, but the ball was still crushed. Later, he admitted to a confidence burst.
“Any time you produce a little bit you get that confidence going, and its carried over,” Duda said. “I think everybody [has doubts]. I don’t think you’d be human if you don’t.”
With Duda, Davis and David Wright, the Mets have some potent power potential in the middle of the order. They’d have even more if Jason Bay would produce.
With Opening Day hours away, the Mets began the 2012 season on a positive note by agreeing to a contract with left-hander Jon Niese.
NIESE: Locked up for five years.
In agreeing to the five-year, $25.5 million deal – pending a physical – the Mets will avoid the arbitration and free-agent processes and locked up one of their most important young players.
With the Mets resolving their most stressing financial problem is reaching a settlement in the Madoff scandal, their next most important step is to achieve as much economic certainty as possible. That would be in reaching long-term obligations with their young talent.
They did it with David Wright and Jose Reyes several years ago. The next wave would be Niese, Ike Davis, and possibly Wright again.
Niese won a career-high 11game last year before it was cut short with a side injury. There’s no guarantee Niese will become the next Jerry Koosman, but his career is off to a good start and he’s caught the attention of others. Several teams have inquired into Niese and for good reason; he’s immensely talented and poised. And, hard throwing left-handers are a premium.
The Mets have taken deserved heat for their questionable decisions. They should also get credit for their good moves, and this is one.
The Mets finally received good news on the injury front as relievers Frank Francisco and Tim Byrdak, and center fielder Andres Torres are all expected to be at Citi Field instead of the disabled list on Opening Day.
Francisco took a cortisone injection to his sore left knee Sunday, and after throwing off the mound this morning pronounced himself ready.
Byrdak underwent left knee surgery March 13 and is scheduled to pitch today against the Yankees.
Andres Torres sustained a strained left calf March 20 and was in the starting lineup today.
Relievers Pedro Beato (shoulder) and D.J. Carrasco (ankle) will be on the disabled list to start the season.
Today’s lineup, with the exception of pitcher Mike Pelfrey, is the projected starting lineup for Opening Day.
Andres Torres, cf
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Ike Davis, 1b
Jason Bay, lf
Lucas Duda, rf
Josh Thole, c
Ruben Tejada, ss
The Mets are off tomorrow, which is a good thing, and gives us some time to look at what is going on for the Mets so far this spring.
Most encouraging has been Johan Santana’s progress through three starts. He’s been healthy and his velocity is gradually increasing.
Jon Niese has been solid and showing all signs he’s on the mend. If Santana isn’t ready for spring training, then Niese is the No. 1 as Mike Pelfrey hasn’t shown he’s capable in that role.
Pelfrey is still an enigma and has shown nothing to prove he’ll go into the season on a role. There’s still something missing in the Mets’ biggest question.
Health questions Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy seem as if they sound, but the latter still has his shaky moments at second base.
Andres Torres had a fast start in center field, but there’s not a reliable backup.
David Wright remains a health question, as does lefty reliever Tim Byrdak. With a hole in the bullpen, the Mets have four candidates vying for the role, with Garrett Olson seemingly having the inside track.
Ruben Tejada has a hamstring problem which was a temporary setback, but those types of injuries have a long recovery period.