Apr 05

Still Plenty Of Questions For Mets

The Mets have their Opening Day roster, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have questions or concerns. This is a team GM Sandy Alderson said has the potential to win 90 games.

But, it is the spring and everybody has the right to be optimistic – even overly optimistic.

Yes, Matt Harvey is back – and with a chip on his shoulder – but, remember he’s only won 12 games in the major leagues. Also, they are without four pitchers – Vic Black, Josh Edgin, Zack Wheeler and Bobby Parnell – expected to be key members of the rotation, and replacing them forced serious damage control to their roster.

There’s reason to be hopeful about the season, but for it to be a truly successful summer, the following questions must be answered in the positive: (Note: I will revisit these questions through out the season.)

1. What can the Mets reasonably expect from Harvey?

Answer: He had a good spring training, but coming off Tommy John surgery they’ll be cautious. Harvey has 12 major league victories in only 36 starts, so expectations must be tempered. Don’t go thinking 20 wins and a Cy Young. The Mets would take 15 wins and for him to be healthy by October.

2. What happens to Bartolo Colon this year?

Answer: The Opening Day starter had a horrible spring training. The decision was based on winning 15 games and throwing over 200 innings last season. The Mets wanted to trade him during the winter, but found no takers.

3. An encore year for Jacob deGrom?

Answer: Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year was 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA and with Zack Wheeler gone for the season, he’ll need a significant boost in his numbers for the Mets to entertain thoughts of being competitive.

4. Will it ever happen for Jon Niese?

Answer: Your guess is as good as mine. At one time Niese was a hot property. However, being left-handed and with a manageable contract have not been enough to offset his 52-51 career record over seven years; a career-high 13 wins in 2012; 17 victories in the past two years; and an injury history that has allowed him to make as many as 30 starts only three times.

5. How long a leash will the Mets give Dillon Gee?

Answer: Let’s face it, if he were pitching a no-hitter, they’d yank him in the seventh inning if somebody called with a trade offer. They waited to name him to the rotation, and if he falters at all there will be talk of Rafael Montero taking his place.

6. Can the Mets trio of lefty relievers do the job?

Answer: An on-going question this spring was whether they’d find a viable left-hander in the bullpen. In the final week they opted to keep Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin, and then traded for Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres. You wouldn’t be wrong asking yourself if something were deficient with these guys, otherwise why would they be so available?

7. Can Jenrry Mejia hold the fort until Bobby Parnell returns?

Answer: After being bounced around from the bullpen to the rotation, Mejia assumed the closer role when Parnell went down with an elbow injury and responded with 28 saves, which is six more than Parnell had in his best year. Terry Collins said it is Parnell’s job when he comes off the disabled list. When that happens perhaps the bullpen can settle down into roles.

8. Will the Mets stabilize the rest of their bullpen?

Answer: Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Carlos Torres haven’t had a great spring, and Collins is trying to find roles for Montero and Buddy Carlyle. It appeared at the start of spring training the Mets had the foundation of a solid bullpen. But, without Edgin, Black and Parnell, the Mets are in potentially a lot of trouble.

9. When will Travis d’Arnaud evolve from the prospect stage?

Answer: A trip to the minor leagues helped d’Arnaud in the second half of last season, but he’s still not close to where the Mets hope he’ll be. If d’Arnaud gets off to a slow start, there will be clamoring for Kevin Plawecki.

10. Is Lucas Duda worth that contract extension?

Answer: The Mets tabled talks on a four-year, $31-million extension until next offseason. If he comes through with another 30-homer, 90-RBI summer, he’ll be worth the deal.

11. What will the Mets do with Daniel Murphy?

Answer: Because he’s making $8-million this year and will not be resigned, the Mets will make every effort to deal him by the trade deadline. They might even make a trade regardless of how well they are doing just to save some money.

12. What kind of patience will they show Wilmer Flores?

Answer: Because he had a good spring training and the Mets were preoccupied with a myriad of issues and injuries, Flores was mostly ignored. Rest assured, however, if Flores gets off to a slow start, there will be mutterings of replacing him.

13. Will David Wright regain his stroke?

Answer: Wright’s 162-game averages are 25 homers and 101 RBI, figures he hasn’t reached since 2010. Injuries limited him less than 155 games played in all but two years since 2010. Wright’s stroke is totally dependent on staying healthy.

14. Will Juan Lagares be worth the extension?

Answer: This is not a move the Mets have traditionally made with their own prospects so this is a gamble in every sense. He’s already proven he can field as evidenced by winning the Gold Glove Award, but he must improve his on-base percentage and cut his strikeouts if he’s to excel in the leadoff slot.

15. What is the power range for Curtis Granderson?

Answer: The Mets don’t expect him to hit forty as he did twice with the Yankees, but they’d like him to hit more than the 20 he did last season in his first as a Met. There was talk of hitting him in the leadoff spot, but 141 strikeouts are contrary to success hitting first.

16. Can Michael Cuddyer hit like a former NL batting champion?

Answer: Cuddyer hit .331 in winning the NL crown in 2012, and was at .332 last year when injuries cut short his season. The Mets aren’t expecting him to hit for power, but he hit six homers this spring. The Mets are planning to bat him fifth behind Duda.

17. Just how long before their decision to use contractual decisions to build their Opening Day roster hurt them?

Answer: It could happen any time. Gilmartin, Carlyle and reserve outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis are on the Opening Day roster primarily because of contractual obligations. In addition, they will be without role player Eric Campbell and be forced to carry eight relievers. In addition, did the Mets put their best pitching staff together by leaving off Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz?

18. What one stat could best determine if the Mets are to become competitive?

Answer: There are dozens of stats the Mets must improve on, but their 4-15 record against the Washington Nationals is arguably the most telling. Even if they were just 8-11 last year that would put them over .500 for the season.

19. How important is a fast start?

Answer: Huge would be an understatement. Apart from screwed up notion of playing three interleague games against the Yankees, the Mets schedule is entirely within the NL East. They’ll have three games against the Nationals; six against Atlanta; three against Philadelphia and four against Miami. There should be no excuse not to make a statement within the division.

20. Will there be a time when Collins and Alderson clash?

Answer: Undoubtedly yes. The make-up of the Opening Day roster has already caused head scratching. What should really tell us something is what happens if the Mets are competitive at the trade deadline and Alderson doesn’t pull the trigger on a deal.


Mar 17

Alderson Defense Of Handling Of Wheeler Injury Weak

Mets GM Sandy Alderson answered many of the questions pertaining to Zack Wheeler’s injury Monday. However, that doesn’t mean he answered them all, and that’s not to say the Mets’ handling of the injury couldn’t have been better.

Alderson defended his handling of Wheeler’s injury, and as he frequently does with these things, his tenor came off as condescending and maddening. As usual, he came across as the lawyer treating us like idiots.

ALDERSON: Defense of Wheeler injury weak. (AP)

ALDERSON: Defense of Wheeler injury weak. (AP)

Most irksome was how he described Wheeler’s breakdown as “inevitable,’’ much as it was for Matt Harvey and saying the Mets’ treatment of each was the same.

“Let me just ask, why would we treat somebody like Harvey with the kind of caution that we did and then throw somebody else under the bus – somebody of essentially equal value to us as an organization?’’ Alderson said to reporters today. “That wouldn’t make any sense. I understand people can debate the number of pitches and the number of innings and this and that. We simply wouldn’t treat two guys that differently.’’

But, they did.

Harvey was shut down shortly after the All-Star break in 2013, but Wheeler continued to pitch at the end of last season despite soreness in his elbow. Alderson and manager Terry Collins even conceded Monday how Wheeler managed through the pain at the end of last year.

Alderson maintained Wheeler’s elbow was eventually going to break down, yet he was trotted out there every fifth day.

“The other thing is, when a guy is being managed, you understand what the sort of apocalyptic result could be – he blows something out,’’ Alderson said. “But the question is, what’s the alternative? If it blows out, it blows out. The alternative is that you manage somebody to the point where he’s not useful to you.’’

Which is what happened, as it has numerous times with other Mets.

When it comes to the Mets and pitching injuries, the club has a long list, including: Harvey, Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Johan Santana, Jenrry Mejia, Jeremy Hefner and Jon Niese.

That’s more than an entire rotation and nearly a complete staff. A common thread in these injuries have been Alderson and pitching coach Dan Warthen.

The Mets didn’t have Harvey last year, but nonetheless made a run at respectability, as in finishing .500 or better. You can’t help but wonder if the goal to be competitive forced them to push Wheeler too hard.

Questions linger about the others, although not all had Tommy John surgery. What was their training routine like? Did they throw too hard, too soon, at the start of spring training? Were they properly monitored? Did they throw too soon in the offseason? Did they throw too much between starts? What was the rest of their conditioning program like?

Alderson answered the question as to why he didn’t immediately order a MRI for Wheeler. It seemed somewhat plausible at the time, but after sleeping on it and considering the long list of ailing Mets’ pitchers under his watch, it left something to be desired.

Using “lawyerspeak,’’ Alderson defended his handling of Wheeler’s injury. There was his usual fancy language, but a sharp district attorney would nail him.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s Notebook.

Mar 17

DeGrom Sparkling In Win

Jacob deGrom was sparkling once again, giving up one hit in five scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Tuesday’s 6-4 victory over Miami in Port St. Lucie. DeGrom gave up a single to the first batter he faced, and then retired 14 straight hitters.

Steven Matz pitched a scoreless sixth, but relievers Scott Rice, Eric Goeddel and Jeurys Familia gave it up with four runs in two innings.

Jenrry Mejia pitched a scoreless ninth.

Kevin Plawecki hit a solo homer and Johnny Monell hit a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth for the game-winner.

ON DECK:  Sandy Alderson denies mishandling of Zack Wheeler‘s injury,

Mar 17

Today’s Game And Lineups

Jacob deGrom will start for the Mets Tuesday against Miami in Port St. Lucie. He will be followed by LHP Steven Matz, RHP Akeel Morris and RHP Jenrry Mejia.

DeGrom will throw up to 60 pitches in four innings.


Juan Lagares, cf

Curtis Granderson, rf

Micheal Cuddyer, lf

Lucas Duda, 1b

Daniel Murphy, 2b

Wilmer Flores, ss

Travis d’Arnaud, c

Kevin Plawecki, dh

Alex Castellanos, 3b

Jacob deGrom, rhp


NOTES: David Wright left the team to return to Virginia for what the family termed a “family matter.’’ He is scheduled to return to camp Tuesday night. … Reliever Vic Black, who has been sidelined with weakness in his throwing shoulder, resumed throwing Tuesday. He threw on flat ground and might not get on a mound until Friday. … Closer Bobby Parnell, who had been penciled in to throw in a minor league game today, has been pushed back several days. Parnell said there were no problems, but didn’t say why his session was delayed.

Feb 25

Bullpen Close To Being Set; Would Include Gee

For the first time in his tenure as Mets’ general manager, Sandy Alderson has his bullpen close to being intact heading into spring training. And, with his rotation set, the Mets have a sense of pitching comfort they haven’t had since 2006, the last time they made the playoffs.

This is good news.

Gee: Ticketed for pen.

Gee: Ticketed for pen.

It is paramount a team have a strong bullpen if it remotely has the chance of being a contender. I like the make-up of this pen as it is loaded with hard-throwing arms, even with Bobby Parnell not available until May.

Without Parnell, the Mets have a strong idea of the relievers they’ll take north. Ideally, they want another left-hander to go with Josh Edgin, but if that doesn’t materialize they likely would carry Dillon Gee.

With the uncertainty of Matt Harvey coming back from Tommy John surgery, and if history is an indicator, and the likelihood of getting short starts from Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, there will be a need for a spot starter and long reliever as innings would need to be filled.

That’s three spots in the rotation that would call for Gee and Carlos Torres, and why Rafael Montero would be left out. There’s a strong possibility the pen would accumulate innings early in the season.

Montero us unproven working consistently out of the bullpen and should be to Triple-A Las Vegas until he would be needed, which is a possibility considering the Mets are shopping Gee and Bartolo Colon.

“You’re asking somebody to do something at the major league level that he hasn’t done very much of. And it’s important that we get out of the gate,’’ Collins told reporters about Montero. “Knowing that Bobby is going to be ready probably in the first part of May, I’m not sure where Raffy would fit in that bullpen coming out of spring training.

“If Dillon is there, we’ve only got one more spot left, and you might go with a little more experienced guy at the start of the season.’’

Joining Edgin, Gee and Torres are Jenrry Mejia as the closer replacing Parnell, followed by Jeurys Familia and Vic Black. That leaves one more. Scott Rice, perhaps?

In a perfect world, Familia would be the eighth-inning set-up man with Black available for the seventh if the starter can’t go that far.

Of course, that’s in a perfect world.

ON DECK: Don’t name an Opening Day starter now.