Nov 04

Barry Zito Could Plug A Hole In Mets’ Rotation

There are already over 150 players who filed for free agency, but one who could be an interesting fit for the New York Mets might be Barry Zito.

If given the choice of trying to fill a back-of-the-rotation hole between Johan Santana and Zito, I would make a run at Zito, even though he had a miserable 5-11 record and 5.74 ERA in 2013 for the simple reason he is healty.

ZITO: Worth thinking about.

ZITO: Worth thinking about.

Zito, at 35, obviously has seen better days, but he is one year removed from going 15-8 with a 4.15 ERA while making 32 starts in 2012. He made 25 starts last season.

Instead of picking up an $18 million option for 2014, the San Francisco Giants will give him a $7.7 million buyout. To get Zito, the Mets wouldn’t have to spend close to either figure.

Zito didn’t live up to the expectations of his seven-year, $126-million contract with the Giants, but he did do this: for the most part remained healthy; made at least 25 starts in all but one season; and worked at least 180 innings in all but two.

He only went 63-80 with a 4.62 ERA, but was always a team player who willingly worked out of the bullpen when the Giants opted to go with their younger options. He always took the ball, which is what the Mets need with the holes left by the Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia injuries.

General manager Sandy Alderson has a familiarity with Zito from his time in Oakland, and the veteran left-hander fills a definite need for the Mets, who lack two starters in the back end of their rotation until Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom are ready to be promoted.

Citi Field’s vast outfield would accommodate the fly ball pitcher, and more importantly, he will be able to eat innings and be a positive influence to the Mets’ younger pitchers.

No, the Mets wouldn’t have to go overboard on a contract, instead, give him one loaded with incentives such as games started and innings pitched. In 14 seasons, he has averaged 34 starts and 206 innings pitched, while going 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA. His career WHIP is 1.334. The Mets would have killed for that stat line last season.

Alderson stated the Mets will prepare to not have Harvey, and doing so requires they plug the back end of their rotation with an innings eater. Is Zito somebody the Mets can build around? No. But, he is a pitcher who can fill an obvious void and likely won’t be a liability in doing so.

Plus, his unselfishness can enable the Mets to use him in long relief or a spot starter until their minor league options are ready.

The Mets say they won’t spend lavishly in the market and aren’t interested in an injury reclamation project. Zito can fill their void with a one-year deal plus an option. It’s a no-lose situation for the Mets, who weren’t going to go after a big name. Remember, in filling this hole, don’t look at the attractive names the Mets wouldn’t get anyway, but who is available they can sign to immediately help them.

LATER TODAY:  Free agent options within the NL East the Mets might consider.

Oct 29

Mets’ Matt Harvey Reports Progress After Surgery

While watching those hot young arms the St. Louis Cardinals are showcasing to the nation during the World Series, no doubt you might be wondering about the Mets’ Matt Harvey.

Six days after undergoing Tommy John surgery, while attending Monday night’s Rangers’ home opener at Madison Square Garden, Harvey told the Daily News he was ahead of schedule.

HARVEY: Reports progress.

HARVEY: Reports progress.

Before getting too excited you must remember Harvey – who did not study medicine at the University of North Carolina – also announced surgery wasn’t necessary before he realized it might be the only way he misses one season instead of two.

“I am just doing range of motion stuff now, but today was the first day I could take the bandages off and I was at Hospital for Special Surgery working and everybody thinks I am ahead of schedule,’’ Harvey said. “We were able to straighten it today and I think they were surprised I could do that, already. So the rehab is ahead of schedule.’’

Yes, it would be great if Harvey could come back next September and pitch the Mets into the playoffs, but try not to get carried away.

Sure, Jenrry Mejia returned ten months after surgery, but he’s had a second surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow.

All humans are different. They have different thresholds of pain; they recover differently and not always at the same rate. When it comes to pitchers and Tommy John surgery, it seems all pitchers get it and the recovery rate has been especially high. However, it isn’t a given Harvey’s recovery and rehab will fall into that category, especially considering his propensity for pushing himself. He did not report back discomfort this season and made several starts with soreness in his forearm before an MRI revealed a tear.

We can only hope for the best in that regard, and that the Mets aren’t seduced by encouraging news and attempt to push him. There could be setbacks and the best thing is to go on planning without him and hope for the best in 2015.

If nothing else, the World Series has demonstrated how much pitching outweighs hitting as far as being a team priority.

For all the talk about David Ortiz, remember the Red Sox took Games 4 and 5 on the strength of production from the non-descript Jonny Gomes and David Ross, and the pitching of a deep bullpen in Game 4 and Jon Lester in Game 5.

And, quite simply, the Cardinals are here based on their young arms. When enticed by teams to part with the likes of Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard, general manager Sandy Alderson should note what the Cardinals have done with their pitching and what the Red Sox have done in patching their lineup with veteran, and relatively inexpensive, bats.

The Mets won 74 games this season, but before writing off 2014, remember only nine of those wins were by Harvey. He had 12 no-decisions. If the Mets can pick up a veteran arm in free-agency to compensate for those nine wins, and if Wheeler takes the next step and Jon Niese and Dillon Gee continue to improve, a .500 season, if not a winning year, is possible without diving into the deep end of the free-agent market and get stuck with a contract they’ll soon regret.

 

 

Oct 22

Mets’ All-Star Matt Harvey Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

The New York Mets announced this afternoon All-Star pitcher Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery, with Dr. James Andrews performing in Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Harvey will miss the entire season.

HARVEY: Has the knife today.

HARVEY: Has the knife today.

Initially, Harvey wanted to attempt rest and rehab as treatment for the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Harvey was even given Andrews’ blessing to try that first, but couldn’t build up the strength to resume throwing, let alone compete in the Arizona Fall League.

Harvey waffled on surgery for over a month, but in the end did what general manager Sandy Alderson thought he would. Alderson said he was careful not to influence Harvey’s decision, but once the All-Star starter opted for surgery he said it was the right choice.

Alderson admitted Harvey was taking a gamble that he would be healthy for spring training, then re-injure his elbow and miss the remainder of the 2014 season and all of 2015. Alderson described that as the worst possible scenario for the Mets.

All along, Alderson said Harvey’s condition wouldn’t impact the Mets’ offseason approach to their rotation. Alderson said not to expect the Mets to sign a marquee free agent pitcher despite him saying he had the resources. Instead, Alderson said the team would target two innings eaters for the back end of the rotation until Rafael Montero’s Super Two deadline is reached and he would be available by June.

The Mets’ current rotation is Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee, all with questions of their own. Niese is coming off a slightly torn rotator cuff; Wheeler was scratched from his last start with a sore shoulder and will be entering his first full season; and Gee, based on victories, is now the de facto No. 1.

The Mets also do not know whether Jenrry Mejia, who underwent elbow surgery to remove bone spurs will be available for the start of the season.

The innings-eaters Alderson is searching for could be Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Both showed enough – especially Matsuzaka – to warrant being brought to spring training.

Trouble is, they also showed enough to other teams who might pry them away if the Mets lowballed them.

It sure is strange how things tend to turn around. Prior to Harvey’s injury the Mets were thinking about going to a six-man rotation to conserve innings for Harvey and Wheeler.

They are now looking for help.

Sep 24

Are Mets Making A Medical Mistake With Zack Wheeler?

When it comes to injuries, will the New York Mets ever learn? Zack Wheeler has been shut down for the season after complaining of shoulder stiffness last weekend in Philadelphia.

Smart move.

However, Wheeler was examined only by an on-call doctor at the park in Philly, and as of now hasn’t been examined by Mets’ doctors. So far, no MRI.

After what happened with Matt Harvey, who is facing Tommy John surgery after a sore forearm was neglected, one would think the Mets would take a cue.

Usually, teams give their players physicals after the season, along with conditioning and rehab programs. Hopefully, Wheeler will get a full exam, including a MRI.

Personally, I believe all pitchers should receive a MRI after each season just to check the wear-and-tear on the arm.

Who knows if such a step were taken that the Mets might have known about Jeremy Hefner, who had Tommy John surgery.

The Mets were careless with Harvey, and the pitcher didn’t help himself by pitching with discomfort. They were also reckless with Jenrry Mejia, and let him pitch with bone spurs, even though they had him scheduled for surgery in the offseason.

I certainly hope Wheeler was paying attention this summer.

The Mets’ medical practices have long been criticized, and rightfully so. When Sandy Alderson was hired CEO Jeff Wilpon said there would be a new culture, and that included a change in the handling of injured players.

The route from when the injury occurred to how it was initially handled – first by the trainers and then the medical staff – and rehab after surgery would all be examined.

It has mostly been the same old story.

Now, after Harvey, we learn Wheeler’s sore shoulder was examined not by a Mets’ doctor, but an on-call physician at the park in Philadelphia.

And, instead of going back to New York for a MRI, he was allowed to dress up as a bride in the team’s annual rookie hazing.

Memo to Wheeler: You’re in the major leagues and have a sore shoulder. The honeymoon is over.

If the Mets won’t do it for you, then get your own MRI. It’s your future. Take care of it.

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

Sep 17

Matt Harvey Opts For Rehab Over Surgery; Mets Must Prepare To Not Have Him

The New York Mets haven’t said anything on Matt Harvey not having to undergo surgery other than it is his decision. Multiple news agencies report Harvey will opt for rehabilitation over surgery after getting a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews Monday in Alabama.

The plan is to rehab for up to two months to see how his elbow responds. After that, he’ll have another MRI, and then possibly opt for surgery at that time.

HARVEY: Taking a gamble.

HARVEY: Taking a gamble.

Whether he has surgery now or in two months, Harvey won’t be available until 2015.

Surgery, of course, has no guarantees, but neither does rehab. If I were Harvey, I’d have the surgery and be done with the issue. But, I am not, and I understand it is his decision on his career.

If he has it now, there could be a possibility of him being ready next September. Wouldn’t it be great to have him activated and help them compete for a wild card?

The risk Harvey is taking is not feeling discomfort in November, and making a decision based on that information. He will not be throwing under game conditions. So, if he’s ready to start the season, that’s great, but the gamble is he’ll stay healthy the entire season.

What if he doesn’t? What if there’s more pain and he further tears his ulnar collateral ligament? If he re-injures the elbow and has surgery next summer he would miss the rest of the 2014 season and all of 2015.

That adds another year to when he won’t be pitching.

I understand Harvey’s competitive nature and desire to pitch. It is admirable. I don’t believe he’s being selfish, but I wonder if he’s seeing the entire picture about potential lost time. Although there are no givens in surgery, the odds have greatly improved for undergoing the Tommy John procedure.

Whatever route Harvey chooses in two months the Mets must make starting pitching their priority, even over an outfield bat. Currently, the Mets are looking at their 2014 rotation consisting of Dillon Gee, the staff leader in victories; Zack Wheeler, who’ll be on an innings limit; and Jon Niese, who had his own injuries this year.

Jenrry Mejia underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow. Noah Syndergaard will not be ready to start next season and Rafael Montero is questionable. The Mets can’t count on Montero to make the team coming out of spring training.

So, that leaves two starters to find for next year. We can safely say Shaun Marcum won’t be an option.

For all the talk of adding a power hitting outfielder and the Mets’ other voids, any chance they have for a winning season is dependent on their pitching. It has been that way for 100 years, and nothing has changed.

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