Dec 07

Wheeler To The Pen Has To Be For Right Reasons

The first thing I thought of after hearing the Mets were considering using Zack Wheeler out of the bullpen was “don’t let this turn out to be another Jenrry Mejia.”

You’ll recall the Mets bounced Mejia from the rotation to the bullpen, without leaving him long enough to grasp either role. Consequently, Mejia’s trade value deteriorated and he eventually injured his arm. He appeared to get it together as a closer until he screwed up his career by violating MLB’s PED policy.

WHEELER: A new role? (Getty)

WHEELER: A new role? (Getty)

Wheeler in the pen is an intriguing idea, but it has to be done for the right reasons. If it is because they are apparently deep with young starters and woefully thin in the pen, made more so with the anticipated suspension of closer Jeurys Familia, then I can see that logic. If it is because Wheeler only has two really good pitches, then that’s a justifiable reason, also.

However, if the reasoning is what manager Terry Collins said at the Winter Meetings, which is to shave innings off Wheeler’s total before he moves into the rotation later in the year, then that’s not good enough. It’s not good at all.

Wheeler said all the right things today at Citi Field during a coat drive.

“I’ve started my whole life, and obviously, I’d like to do that,” Wheeler told reporters. “But they’re looking out for me, innings-wise and stuff like that. I’ve been out for two years, so … whatever’s best for my health is what’s fine with me and the plan going forward.”

The Mets wouldn’t be looking after Wheeler if they bounced him around. If they are serious about the bullpen, they have to go all in. That means use him there in spring training and stay with it the entire season.

GM Sandy Alderson said this is currently in the bounce-it-off-the-wall phase.

“There’s no reason for us to say, `Well, he’s got to be a starter,’ ” Alderson told reporters. “Now, he may feel that way himself. But, it may be that coming back after two years you have to be careful. You might not be able to pitch him back-to-back [days]. It might have to be two innings at a time. But, I don’t see any reason to just eliminate that possibility.”

Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two seasons, so the Mets don’t know what to make of him physically. As a starter, he’ll have a more consistent schedule and workload, so that’s a plus.

There are too many variables that tax a pitcher’s arm coming out of the pen, especially if that’s a new role for him. That makes it risky.

Pitchers have made the transition from starter to reliever and been successful. I’m not saying the Mets would be making a mistake. The mistake would come if they waffled and changed course, especially without knowing his condition.

Jan 20

Top Ten Mets’ Issues Heading Into Spring Training

With spring training five weeks away, and a major storm due in two days, what better time to examine the top ten issues facing the Mets? Some projections have the Mets breezing back to the World Series, but I don’t see it. Things won’t be that easy for them. They never are. Other projections have them dropping off to 84 victories, which might not be enough for them to reach the playoffs.

I’m pegging them for at least 85, with the added expectation the Washington Nationals will be better.

1. What is the temperature of this team after its World Series run?

A. I recently wrote these guys are professional athletes and shouldn’t need a manager to motivate them. That being said, after 2006 the Mets entered spring training thinking all they needed to do was show up. Consequently, they didn’t do much to plug their holes, of which there were several, mostly pitching related. You, of course, remember the collapse of 2007? What Mets’ follower doesn’t? Actually, that bothered me more than the Carlos Beltran strikeout. The Mets don’t have to look any further than David Wright to know these opportunities are fleeting.

DeGROM: Can he get to 20? (GETTY)

DeGROM: Can he get to 20? (GETTY)

2. How strong is the bullpen?

A: This is the prevailing issue to me. It appears they are banking on the returns of Jerry Blevins and Jennry Mejia, and if Hansel Robles can develop. They’ll have Addison Reed for the full season, and hopefully Jeurys Familia learned something after taking his World Series lumps. We shall see. Bartolo Colon will go to the pen once Zack Wheeler comes off the disabled list. It doesn’t matter what power hitting outfielder they might find in the next five weeks (I’m betting none), if their bullpen is shaky then so are the Mets’ chances.

3. How healthy is Wright?

A: Wright is already in Port St. Lucie. Who wasn’t expecting that? Wright finished the season feeling strong, but that was after two months of playing time. He’s preparing himself for at least six months of playing time. He’ll have a special routine before each game. It will be interesting to see how Terry Collins carves out his playing time.

4. Who’ll be in center field?

A: My pick is Juan Lagares because I don’t see them bringing back Yoenis Cespedes. He’s still in play, but I’m not betting on it. Let Lagares run with the opportunity.

5. Will any of the starters have innings or pitch-count restrictions?

A: Obviously, Wheeler will have some. Perhaps the same goes for Steven Matz, but Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard should be fine. If there are restrictions, hopefully the Mets will have learned from last year with Harvey. They Mets are touting their young pitching, as well they should. But, either Harvey or deGrom must make a leap toward 20 wins. Here’s hoping Harvey pitches with a massive chip on his shoulder.

6. Will the double-play combination mesh?

A: Collins has a new double-play combination of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker. This involves timing and positioning and things don’t happen over night. Collins still needs to find time for Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada and Dilson Herrera. Collins needs to give them all a chance to work together so there will be no surprises. A lot is banking on this.

7. Who’ll be the catcher?

A: The Mets like both Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, but will have to decide on one and possibly move to trade the other. Among other things, d’Arnaud has to improve his throwing. After all, the base runners are trying to steal second base and not center field. The guess here is d’Arnaud will open the season as the starter, but Collins needs to have a defined platoon in mind.

8. How strong is the bench?

A: As of now, Plawecki, Flores, Tejada and Alejandro De Aza are the main figures coming off the bench. I prefer Lagares gets a chance to win the center field job outright, but if there is a platoon I hope it is something definitive. Flores is expected to relieve Wright at third, and I wonder what Collins’ thoughts are on that?

9. Are hot starts in order for left-handed power?

A: If Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson don’t hit coming out of the gate there will be rumblings about the big-popper the Mets didn’t sign. We can probably expect that anyway, hot starts by Duda and Granderson will alleviate pressure from the rest of the offense, especially if Wright doesn’t hit for power early on.

10. Who’ll be the big surprises?

A: A lot is expected from Michael Conforto. Hopefully, he’ll live up to the billing even if he doesn’t become Ted Williams right away. But, what about Brandon Nimmo? Isn’t it time for him to make a statement, even if it is, “I’ll see you this summer.” On the mound, the Mets are high on Rafael Montero. Can he become a viable bullpen presence coming out of spring training?

 

 

May 31

Mets Who Should Be All-Stars

Some people believe Matt Harvey should be the Mets’ representative on the National League All-Star team. Sure, I can see that, but he’s no higher than fourth on my list. However, there’s no way the Mets will have four players, especially since they won’t have anybody voted in. David Wright is fourth among third baseman.

FAMILIA: Saved 15th game today. (AP)

FAMILIA: Saved 15th game today. (AP)

My first choice is Jeurys Familia, who threw two innings of relief today, which included striking out Giancarlo Stanton with a wicked slider in the eighth. The Mets head to San Diego this week in second place, and it isn’t hard to imagine where they would be without Familia, who has 15 saves. Familia won the and won’t give it up. When he returns Bobby Parnell will have to assume another role. Likewise for Jennry Mejia, if he ever comes back.

My next choice is eight-game winner Bartolo Colon. It’s a funny for some to watch him hit, but he’s total serious on the mound. He has won eight of the Mets’ 28 games. I again wonder where the Mets would be without Colon.

They certainly wouldn’t be in second place.

Finally, there’s Lucas Duda, but Adrian Gonzalez (Dodgers), Anthony Rizzo (Cubs) and Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks)  are the top three vote getters at first base. Duda is emerging into an All-Star. If not this year, but soon enough.

The All-Star voting system is extremely flawed – any election that lets you vote 35 times is a joke – and the idea every team must be represented is also far from perfect. This variable often keeps out deserving players.

Hopefully, it won’t keep out Familia.

 

 

Mar 04

March 4.10: Mejia on Tap for Today.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey gets the start today against St. Louis, and Jason Bay, David Wright and Jeff Francoeur will make their spring training debuts, but arguably the most interesting moment of the day could be the appearance of 20-year-old prospect Jennry Mejia, whom manager Jerry Manuel admits is raw, but is also making noises about using him as a reliever.

And, in a comment that will do nothing but add pressure and expectations, Darryl Strawberry said his cutter reminded him of Mariano Rivera. Easy Darryl, easy Darryl.

Mejia has electric stuff, the kind scouts drool over and makes one wonder about future dominance as a starter. Mejia doesn’t have the command or pitch variety to be a starter now, but he could be a one-trick pony out of the pen. However, command is still command, and that’s important in any role and right now he’s more a thrower than a pitcher.

I saw how the Mets rushed Eddie Kunz – who is still struggling – and Bobby Parnell and I don’t want the same thing to happen to Mejia. If Mejia is to make the major league roster, he needs a defined role and a manager with the patience not to yank him out of a role with the first sign of struggle.

It’s easy to get seduced by a high-90s fastball, but most scouts say Mejia is not ready for prime time. Sure, it would be nice to fast forward a year or two, but that’s not realistic.

NOTE: No word yet as to why, but Jose Reyes was scratched from today’s line-up.

Feb 26

Feb. 26.10: Loose threads.

Sorry, but my internet was down until recently. Let me catch you up on some of what’s going in spring training.

* Not pleased with their bullpen and not wanting to burn out Pedro Feliciano, the Mets are searching for another lefty reliever. Toward that end, the Mets made an offer to free-agent Joe Beimel, the former Dodger. Beimel will take some of the load off Feliciano and give more depth to the pen.

* Jennry Mejia was wild during batting practice. The scouting reports on him are that he’s got a strong arm and throws hard, but doesn’t always know where it’s going. Mejia is a prospect worth watching – on the minor league level this season. They would be rushing him if they kept him on the major league level this season.

* The Mets will hold an intrasquad game Monday at Tradition Field. Nelson Figueroa will get the start against the Braves Tuesday when the exhibition schedule begins.