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.

Feb 17

Wrapping Up The Day: Wilpon On Finances; Tejada And Syndergaard Impress

It was a busy day Monday for the Mets, who concluded their first official workout. Here’s what’s going on:

* Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said if GM Sandy Alderson thought there was a fit for free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew the Mets would have made the resources available.

* Matt Harvey has conceded missing the season.

* The Mets will wear a patch on their uniform honoring Ralph Kiner.

* Ruben Tejada reported early and manager Terry Collins was impressed by how he looked, saying: “You can tell he’s really worked hard and trimmed down. I asked him how much faster he was. He said, ‘I’ll show you.’ And I said, ‘OK, good.’ He’ll have the chance.’’

* Collins said it’s possible Jenrry Mejia could wind up in the bullpen.

* Prospect Noah Syndergaard threw 97 in his bullpen session. Said Syndergaard: “It’s kind of hard to settle down. I tried to take it easy, but I still was going pretty hard at it.’’

* Jeremy Hefner threw for the first time since having Tommy John surgery last August.

* Chris Young said he doesn’t care where he plays in the outfield, but admitted a preference to center field.

Feb 13

Mets Have Numbers, But Also Questions In Rotation

New York Mets pitchers and catchers will report to Port St. Lucie on Feb. 15 with the first workout the following day. Manager Terry Collins knows his first four starters, but the fifth is up in the air. However, regardless of how the rotation shakes out, there’s not a pitcher among them without a significant question attached to his name:

Jonathon Niese: The speculated Opening Day starter is coming off a shoulder injury and 8-8 record in 2013.

Signed through 2017 primarily because he’s left-handed, young at 27 and throws hard. Those types are always in demand, but with a lifetime 43-40 record and 3.99 ERA, he’s not exactly a budding Andy Pettitte.

Niese has never won more than 13 games or made more than 30 starts in a season, bringing into question his durability.

The significant question: Will he ever have a breakout season?

Bartolo Colon: Once nabbed for PEDs, Colon is coming off a strong 18-6 season with a 2.65 ERA last year with Oakland and signed a two-year, $20-million contract with the Mets on the last day of the Winter Meetings.

He was brought in to fill the void caused by Matt Harvey’s elbow injury and provide veteran support.

Colon, 40, has won a career 189 games with a 1.314 WHIP. The Mets will be his eighth team.

The significant question: How much does he have left?

Zack Wheeler: Some scouts say he has more potential than Harvey. We shall see.

The Mets took their time in bringing up Wheeler, 23, and he flashed promise expected. The Mets tinkered with his mechanics after reports he tipped his pitches, then told him to throw more breaking balls, but Wheeler didn’t show anything until they told him to just work off his fastball.

Wheeler was 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts before he was shut down in September after complaining of stiffness in his shoulder.

The significant question: How much will he progress in his second year?

Dillon Gee: A 12-strikeout, 7.1-inning outing at Yankee Stadium, May 30, kept Gee in the rotation and he went on to go 12-11, but more importantly work 199 innings.

Gee doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but when his command is on he usually gives the Mets five or more innings as a reliable back-end starter.

Gee’s reliability and reasonable contract could make him attractive to other teams in July. Should Noah Syndergaard or Rafael Montero be promoted in June, it could give the Mets a valuable trade chip.

The significant question: Will Gee have another 199-inning season?

Jenrry Mejia: Up and down has been the story of Mejia’s short career. Mejia’s role bounced from being a starter to an ill-fated trip to the bullpen under Jerry Manuel that eventually ended in a demotion and elbow injury.

Mejia still throws hard and is back competing as a starter. He’s coming off surgery, but has the inside track for the fifth starter role if he’s sound.

The significant question: How healthy is he?

John Lannan: He’s 29, left-handed and comes with a reasonable contract.

The Mets signed him as Mejia insurance, but he has shown signs of becoming a solid starter. From 2008-2011, he started 31, 33, 25 and 33 games respectively for some pretty bad Washington teams, and three times worked at least 180 innings.

There’s promise here, and because of his age, he’s worth keeping.

The significant question: Will he get a chance to show his durability?

Daisuke Matsuzaka: Brought in as a stop-gap following the injury to Harvey and innings ceiling on Wheeler, Matsuzaka won his last three starts and went at least six innings each time.

That was good enough for Alderson to say last October he could come back. However, nothing was done until after January.

Matsuzaka, 33, turned his season around when he accelerated his delivery.

The significant question: Were those last three starts a fluke?

Summation: Barring injury, Niese, Wheeler, Colon and Gee are givens in the rotation. If Mejia falters and Lannan pitches well, expect Mejia to start the season in the minor leagues.

So, the Mets have a balanced rotation with at least one question for each starter.

(Note: Montero, Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom were omitted because they aren’t expected to be promoted before June. I will discuss them later this spring in a prospects segment).

Jan 18

Jenrry Mejia Reports To Camp

Jenrry Mejia, who represents one of the more important questions for the Mets entering spring training, reported to Port St. Lucie.

Mejia is recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow and assuming he’s sound is expected to be the fifth starter entering the season.

Mejia was 1-2 with a 2.30 ERA in five starts, but with a 27-to-4 strikeouts to walks ratio. Control had normally been Mejia’s weakness, but those numbers indicated improvement to the degree where manager Terry Collins could have confidence in him.

Mejia, 24, will compete with Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom. However, regardless of who wins the job, it could go to Noah Syndergaard after he’s promoted sometime in July after the Super 2 deadline.

DUDA FILES: First base candidate Lucas Duda and the Mets exchanged arbitration figures with the two sides a little more than a half-million apart.

Duda requested $1.9 million for hitting .223 with 15 homers and 33 RBI, while the Mets offered $1.35 million.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos