Mar 05

Looking At Mets’ Bullpen; Parnell To Throw Today

Closer Bobby Parnell insists he will be ready for Opening Day, which, if it happens, is good news for the New York Mets. Parnell is scheduled to throw one inning in an intrasquad game today, pitching mostly to David Wright and Daniel Murphy.

If Parnell isn’t ready, Vic Black is first in line to be closer. However, after walking the bases loaded Tuesday, his command is an obvious issue.

PARNELL: To throw today. (AP)

PARNELL: To throw today. (AP)

Assuming a healthy Parnell, the other givens in the bullpen are Black – in a set-up role – lefty Scott Rice and Carlos Torres. That is four relievers in a projected seven-man bullpen.

Torres appears the most versatile, last year working in long relief, as a spot starter and in various match-up situations.

Early in spring training Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth were presumed to be in, but there’s no guarantee they’ll keep both, and it is difficult to say who has the edge.

For the sake of the argument, let’s say only one will make it between Valverde and Farnsworth. That leaves room for two more arms.

One would think Josh Edgin would be a factor as to give the Mets two left-handers.

That makes one more to come from Jeurys Familia, Farnsworth/Valverde and possibly Jenrry Mejia:

Familia: Has loads of potential and can throw hard. However, he hasn’t overwhelmed so far, but it is very early.

Farnsworth/Valverde: Both have outs in their contracts where they can opt to leave if they were not on the major league roster by June. Both could be worth keeping in the hope of them regaining something, and possibly act as a trade chip in July.

Mejia: The Cardinals have been successful in developing some of their power arms by first using them in the bullpen. However, the Mets have bounced Mejia from pen to starter, and he’s had elbow issues. They should think long and hard before sending him to the bullpen, especially since the numbers suggest he’s better as a starter.

While there has been little positive out of the pen to date, there’s still plenty of time. Soon, there won’t be.

 

Mar 01

Mets Week In Review: Niese, Davis, Trade Rumors

Since injuries to starting pitchers are more important than temper tantrums by struggling first basemen, undoubtedly the most important news item of the week was the MRI on left-hander Jon Niese.

The MRI showed no structural damage, but revealed weakness in the back area of the shoulder, which Niese took responsibility for, saying he didn’t work that enough.

That disclosure raised numerous questions about the Mets’ handling of the injury.

Niese’s first exhibition start, Tuesday against Houston, will be pushed back. He is to resume throwing and will be given a set of exercises designed to strengthen the back area of his shoulder.

Manager Terry Collins named Niese his Opening Day starter, and so far that hasn’t changed.

Also this week:

* Ike Davis verbally sparred with New York Post reporter Mike Puma, saying he didn’t “approve’’ of his story the first baseman concealed an oblique injury last year. Davis said he didn’t want to disclose the injury because it was about the time he was to be sent to Triple-A Las Vegas and didn’t want it to come off as making excuses.

Davis did not refute the accuracy of the story and produced a line-drive quote: “I sucked last year because I sucked.’’

However, Puma did him one better, and when asked what would happen if Davis took a swing at him, said: “He might miss.’’

* In the wake of the Davis story, Collins said he wants players to reveal injuries and indicated last year could have been different for Davis had he done so. Later, Niese said he didn’t want to tell anybody about his shoulder ailment.

* In a meeting with his staff, general manager Sandy Alderson said he thought 90 victories were possible, which would be a 20 percent improvement. Talk about setting the bar high.

* The Mets remain ambivalent about Ruben Tejada being their Opening Day shortstop. Alderson did not close the door on free agent Stephen Drew and talked trade with Seattle about Nick Franklin.

* Prospect Noah Syndergaard struck out five in two innings in Thursday’s intrasquad game. Syndergaard threw a nasty curve and fastball that topped out a 97 mph. His first exhibition start is scheduled for Monday against Atlanta.

* Outfielder Eric Young and pitcher Bartolo Colon missed time with muscle strains.

* Collins announced his tentative starting rotation: Niese, Colon, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler and the fifth starter, which is to come from the group of Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan and Jenrry Mejia.

* Collins said he would ease David Wright and Daniel Murphy into games, and indicated Wilmer Flores would get time at shortstop.

Mar 01

Arguments For John Lannan Being Fifth Starter

Current conventional wisdom has the inside track for the fifth spot in the New York Mets’ rotation belonging to Daisuke Matsuzaka, based primarily on how he finished last season in Flushing.

His competition is John Lannan and Jenrry Mejia, the latter who is coming off elbow surgery. There is sentiment for Mejia to win the job if healthy, but several arguments can be made in favor of Lannan:

* Lannan is left-handed, which would give the Mets two in their rotation. The other is Jonathon Niese, but his balky shoulder could give the Mets pause when it comes to cutting loose Lannan. If Niese isn’t ready, they will need a lefty in their rotation.

* Another consideration is age. At 29, Lannan is four years younger than Matsuzaka. Mejia is 24, but there’s still time for him to crack the rotation. In addition, Mejia has experience as a reliever, and the Mets have questions in their bullpen.

* He has a 45-58 record pitching for some pretty poor Washington teams during his seven-year career, but with a decent 4.12 ERA. Nine of those victories have been against Atlanta, but admittedly a weak 3-13 record against Philadelphia.

* In three out of four years from 2008-2011, Lannan started over 30 games and worked at least 180 innings. By contrast, Matsuzaka has only once started as many as 30 games and worked more than 170 innings during his career.

* Matsuzaka has a career 53-40 record, and seemed to correct his mechanical flaws in his final three starts in 2013 with the Mets. If Matsuzaka has indeed found his rhythm, the Mets could have a valuable trade chip while at the same time keep Lannan.

Lannan will get two innings or 30 pitches today against the Marlins.

The fifth spot remains up for grabs, but Lannan could fill the role while giving Mejia time to recover and work in the bullpen, and provide them a trade asset in Matsuzaka.

That’s a lot to consider.

Feb 26

Mets’ Tentative Pitching Rotation Pending Niese’s MRI

The New York Mets have their tentative pitching rotation for the first series of the season against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, pending Jonathon Niese‘s health.

Manager Terry Collins, as he’s said all along, will go with Niese on Opening Day, March 31. After a day off, the Mets will start Game 2 with Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee in Game 3.

Of course, this is predicated on health. Niese, who had rotator cuff issues last season, returned to New York today for a MRI on his sore left shoulder. Reports out of Port St. Lucie say Niese has a dead arm and the discomfort is in a different part of the shoulder.

Until the results are in, there’s no way of knowing how much time Niese will miss. Presumably, if he opens the season on the disabled list, everybody in the rotation would be moved up a day with another pitcher added.

That leaves Zack Wheeler as the fourth starter, going against Cincinnati, also at Citi Field, and the fifth starter in the season’s fifth game.

The competition for the fifth starter role appears boiled down to Daisuke MatsuzakaJohn Lannan and Jenrry Mejia. Matsuzaka, based on his performance in September for the Mets, and Mejia recovering from surgery, is the front-runner. Lannan could get the nod if neither Niese nor Mejia are available.

If he goes, this would mark the second straight season Niese was the Opening Day starter. Last season, he held San Diego to two runs on four hits in 6.2 innings in a game won, 11-2, by the Mets.

Colon, an 18-game winner last season with Oakland, figured to be the No. 2 starter. Collins also wanted to make sure Gee started in the series as he was 4-2 last season against the Nationals.

There has clamoring from fans on Internet message boards and websites endorsing Wheeler for the start, but there was no way Collins would lead frog established veterans for a young pitcher with limited experience. Also, this keeps Wheeler from the pressures of a high profile start.

Washington is expected to go with Stephen Strasburg in the opener, followed by Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez.

Feb 21

Three Mets Players to Watch This Spring Training

COLLINS: Issues to address.

The Mets begin their first full squad workout in St. Lucie on Saturday, February 22 and for us fans there’s nothing better than watching the news filter out of the camp, knowing the first day of the season is getting ever so closer.

Spring training usually sets the benchmark for how a team will perform in the regular season. New additions show off their talent, last year’s rookies return with confidence, old-timers find ways to hang on and those recovering from injury face the uncertainty of testing out their bodies once more.

It’s a fascinating time for baseball fans, but also for those who set the MLB odds for each team and try to predict who will be the division and wild card winners. As rosters begin to take shape in the next six weeks, every team goes into Opening Day in a tie for first place. The tough part will be staying there.

For the Mets, their 2014 journey begins tomorrow. The Mets have many issues ranging from the muddled situation at first base and the yet to be contested battles for the fifth spot in the rotation and who will be the leadoff hitter. But there are three more things to watch for in spring training:

1. Bartolo Colon needs to deliver

Ever since our ace underwent Tommy John surgery late last year – ruling him out for the entirety of 2014 – many are betting and wondering who will replace the majestic Matt Harvey. All eyes will be on Bartolo Colon who was signed to a two year deal worth $20 million and has been the front office’s solution to replacing Harvey’s loss in the rotation. While we all keep our fingers crossed and hope for improved command from Zack Wheeler and the mid-season debut of the promising Noah Syndergaard, the Mets need to hit big it with Colon – Alderson’s highest paid pitcher in four years. They’ll also need to see Dillon Gee and Jon Niese look like the pitchers we saw in the second half of last season.

2. Travis d’Arnaud must step up

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fill of articles and features on framing pitches, and I’m looking forward to articles on D’Arnaud mashing pitches. TDA didn’t get his billing at top catching prospect for getting one or two extra strike call per nine innings. The rookie catcher played 31 games in the close of last season, but often showed how pressure can get to him. Yet despite his poor form that saw him finish 2013 batting .202, d’Arnaud has the capabilities to be a solid performer in the Mets roster and must prove himself in spring training. At 25-years old it’s time to show-off the offensive package we’ve been hearing about for the last four years.

3. Chris Young against RHP

I’m not worried about Curtis Granderson, we all know what he can do. But as long as Chris Young is being handed an everyday job after a season that saw him bat .200 with a .280 OBP – both lower than Juan Lagares – he’s the man under the microscope.  What scares me more about him – aside from Billy Beane casting him away and proclaiming him a platoon player – is his horrendous .225 career batting average against right handed pitching in 2,825 plate appearances. Is that sample size big enough for you? He has declined every year since 2010 except for his strikeout rate, that continues to climb. He’s pushing a promising prospect to the bench, he better pay us back in spades.