May 03

Shaun Marcum Has Chance To Make Amends

The first impression was not a good one for Shaun Marcum, but now he has the opportunity to make amends in a big way.

MARCUM: Gets the ball tonight. (AP)

MARCUM: Gets the ball tonight. (AP)

Marcum, signed to a free-agent contract last winter, did not report to spring training in good shape and tried to convince Terry Collins he only needed four exhibition starts instead of the normal six to get ready for the season. Marcum started the season on the disabled list, and his absence became a focal point as the back end of the Mets rotation became an issue.

Marcum wasn’t sparkling in his return, but with the Mets heading into a tailspin and in a marathon game Monday night in Miami, he volunteered to pitch in relief. He lost, but If nothing else, it caught the attention of his teammates. When reporters asked David Wright about pinch-hitting despite a stiff neck, he deflected the attention to Marcum.

“I would say Shaun Marcum was a much bigger situation, because you don’t see every day starting pitchers go down to the bullpen and kind of voluntarily want to do that to try to help us out,’’ Wright said. “That’s huge. All of us know how important wins are.’’

The Mets will give the ball to Marcum tonight in a place where wins have been scarce – Turner Field in Atlanta. Should he win, that would be two important outings in a week and could smooth over the poor first impression.

Marcum (0-2) said working in relief was akin to a between-starts bullpen workout, claiming the 28 pitches he threw Monday night were close to what he would have done in the bullpen.

“The bullpen was kind of running out there toward the end,’’ Marcum told reporters this week. “I told them if they needed me I was available and I’d be more than happy to go down there and give these guys whatever I had.’’

Marcum said the neck and shoulder pain that shelved him at the start of the season has dissipated, and he’s ready for tonight.

In looking at how he lost to the Marlins, Marcum said he made the pitches he wanted, but credited the hitters. That was another positive – no excuses.

“I made some pretty good pitches, especially when I went back and looked at the video,’’ Marcum said. “I guess you just tip your hat and move on.’’

The early pitching identity of the Mets has been good outings from Matt Harvey, decent starts from Jon Niese, and not much from the back end of the rotation. Jeremy Hefner’s last two starts have been good, and Dillon Gee has been erratic. It has added up to a lot of innings from the bullpen.

The Mets snapped a six-game losing streak Wednesday, but aren’t close to righting things. With Niese and Harvey working the last two games of this series, should Marcum give them a good game tonight, it could stabilize the pitching staff.

ON DECK: I’ll have a series preview against the Braves and the continuation of the Summer of 1973 Series.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 01

Mets Fans Betrayed By Management

I don’t need to tell you this, but being a Mets’ fan is about being disappointed, frustrated and angry. It shouldn’t have to mean being betrayed.

After the disappointment of the Omar Minaya Era, which was highlighted by bad contracts – but at least he was signing people – the Mets were promised a new day with the hiring of Sandy Alderson as general manager.

Alderson vowed things would be different, and to be fair, they have been as worse is different.

“Be patient,’’ Alderson said, telling us it takes time to scuttle a team and rebuild with youth. Three years into the Alderson regime and the Mets still don’t have a bullpen, don’t have a major league outfield, the back end of their rotation is patchwork and there’s little depth.

Remember, Alderson was brought here – at the suggestion of commissioner Bud Selig – to get the Mets’ financial house in order. To that degree, he’s done well, shedding the Mets of the contracts of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.

Alderson got prospect Zack Wheeler for Beltran, but little else other than a fresh feeling for the removal of Perez and the others. After this season, he will be done with the contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay, the two biggest contracts given out in the Minaya Era. But, make no mistake, they were done so with the blessings of the Wilpon ownership.

To date, none of Alderson’s draft picks are producing on the major league level. Few of his trade acquisitions outside of John Buck have contributed, and the Mets remain the mess that prompted the management changes in the first place.

Only, the Mets are losing with a lesser payroll. Is that really progress?

If you’re a Mets’ fan this morning, you have to feel betrayed by what you saw the first month of the season, especially with what has happened the last two games. You feel betrayed because you bought into Alderson’s promises of better times to come and the spending during the winter of 2014.

Last night might have been the worst loss of the season.

After the Mets received eight scoreless innings from journeyman pitcher Jeremy Hefner – penciled in as a Triple-A starter going into spring training – their bullpen again collapsed. That’s three blown saves in two games.

It is easy to blame last night on third base umpire Tim McClelland’s blown call, but that’s only part of the reason why they lost.

They lost because their offense continues to be pathetic. While the onus has fallen on Ike Davis’ woes, he’s not the only one. The Mets have only one hit in their last 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position. The offense is dormant, and a lot of that stems from the fact they have no outfield.

Building a team is acquiring depth, but Anthony Recker had three bad plays in the ninth inning that led to the unraveling. Recker took accountability last night, saying he should have caught the pitch that turned into a passed ball; should not have made the throw to third, which because necessary because of the passed ball; and should have blocked Brandon Lyon‘s wild pitch.

Recker was stand-up about his performance, but he’s a Double-At catcher performing in the major leagues. He’s here because the Mets did such a poor job of building their bench.

And, why was Lyons in the game to begin with?

Bobby Parnell is the closer and should have gotten the ball at the start of the ninth. That was the formula, so why did manager Terry Collins deviate?

He said he didn’t want to burn out Parnell. Damn it, what are you saving him for, the World Series?

If he’s the closer, then he needs to go two or three games in a row. That he threw two innings the night before is avoiding the issue. Either Collins has faith in Parnell or he doesn’t. Parnell should have gotten the ball.

Even so, the Mets made a number of bad plays in the ninth inning, and missed several opportunities to lengthen their lead. Only, they didn’t execute, and much of that is because Collins doesn’t have the right pieces, and that falls on management. Why do you think the Mets didn’t post their line-up until moments before first pitch? It is because Collins didn’t know what pieces he’s have and if they’d fit.

Collins couldn’t rest David Wright, who has a stiff neck. Collins has to wait until batting practice to even see if Wright could play. He also had to figure out where Ike Davis would do the least amount of damage. Davis is batting seventh today, quite simply, because he has little other options on this level.

It is Alderson’s responsibility to give him those options. It is Alderson’s responsibility now that streamlining the budget has been addressed, of putting a representative team on the field.

So far, he hasn’t.

 

 

Apr 30

Jeremy Hefner Tries To Stop Mets’ Slide

Jeremy Hefner: Streak stopper.

Some clairvoyant on television said this morning, “the Mets have lost five straight for the first time this season.’’  He’s probably right, but that’s an awful assumption.

All streaks must end somewhere, and while Matt Harvey didn’t stop the slide last night, the Mets will ask Hefner to do it tonight.

Hefner, who hasn’t been consistently good this season, is coming off a solid start in which he gave up a run in seven innings, April 25, against the Dodgers.

The Mets, losers of five straight and nine of their last 12 games, will need Hefner to contain two horrible statistics: he’s walked at least three in each of his last three starts, and he’s given up seven homers in 21 innings

A big Ouch! on that last number.

“It bugged me a little more than I let on,’’ Hefner said of the homers allowed after the Dodger start. “If I’m successful, I’m getting groundballs. … So that’s something I’ve still got to work on.’’

A case can be made Hefner saved his job last week against the Dodgers, but then again, just whom do the Mets have to replace him? They won’t bring up Zack Wheeler before he’s ready, and he’s not close.

Hefner was thrust into the rotation when Johan Santana went down, but he’s become a mainstay. Hefner matter-of-factly says his objective with each game is to give the Mets a quality start, which is three runs given up in six innings, something he’s done twice in four starts.

The offense has to shoulder some of the blame for the Mets being 0-4 in Hefner’s starts as it has given him eight runs in 20 innings.

Hefner is what he is, and that’s a fifth starter. His outpitched his job description in his last start, but he’s not living up to his stated goal of six innings.

The bullpen worked 9.1 innings last night, and with the short turnaround before Wednesday afternoon’s game, the Mets need six from Hefner tonight. His job would be a little easier if the Mets scored some runs, too.

Just saying.

Apr 26

Mets’ Juggle Lineup Again Tonight Against Phillies

Terry Collins wanted to keep a set lineup, but that hope has long since gone.  Here it is, Game #21 and the Mets are on their 19th different batting order.

Tonight against Kyle Kendrick as several new twists, beginning with David Wright hitting clean-up, Lucas Duda batting fifth and Ike Davis dropping to seventh.

That seems logical; especially considering Wright is 9-for-18 against Kendrick, including two doubles and two homers.

However, what I don’t understand is why Ruben Tejada, who is batting .217, including .118 over his last seven games, is hitting second while Jordany Valdespin is eighth. You might not like Valdespin’s demeanor, but he does make things happen and he has speed.

Until Tejada snaps out of his funk, keep him eighth, and the same applies to Davis at seventh.

Here’s the order:

Mike Baxter, RF

Ruben Tejada, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Ike Davis, 1B

Jordany Valdespin, CF

Dillon Gee, RHP

Overall, the Mets are averaging just under six runs a game, but are hitting .207 in their last seven games. With runs scarce lately, the Mets are hoping Gee can give them what Jeremy Hefner did yesterday.

Gee snapped his three-game losing streak with a strong start last Sunday with 5.2 scoreless innings against Washington.

“I think he needed it bad. I think it’s a great confidence builder for him,’’ Collins said.

Gee is 2-2 with a 7.03 ERA in six career starts against the Phillies. He’ll need the change-up that was so effective against the Nationals. The Phillies hammered Gee for seven runs on ten hits – including homers by Ryan Howard, Michael Young and John Mayberry – in a 8-3 rout of the Mets, April 9, at Philadelphia.

Apr 21

Zack Wheeler: Not Ready For Primetime

Baseball 101: Regardless of the level of play, if a pitcher walks too many batters he will be beaten.

It is a baseball fundamental understood by everybody, with the exception of those insisting the Mets bring up Zack Wheeler, who walked six hitters in his last start.

WHEELER: Not ready.

WHEELER: Not ready.

The clamoring is getting louder in the wake of the Mets’ continued problems with the back end of their rotation. Maybe Dillon Gee, he of the 0-3 record and 8.36 ERA, will get it going Sunday against Washington. But, also struggling are Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey, both of whom were hit hard Saturday by the Nationals.

David Wright was correct in saying if the Mets score five runs off Gio Gonzalez they should win, but the combined efforts of Hefner and Laffey made that impossible. Hefner has given up seven homers in 14 innings, with two of them coming Saturday. Laffey gave up three runs in 2/3 of an inning out of the bullpen.

The Mets are hoping for Shaun Marcum’s return, or could give Triple-A starter Collin McHugh a spot start because it won’t, and shouldn’t, go to Wheeler.

The six walks Wheeler gave up trump any radio host’s rant of, “I want to see what he can do.’’ Well, we know what he can do, and that’s walk hitters and get shelled. Hey, the Mets are getting that now.

Do they really need to see one of their prized prospects get routed up here? The Mets took their time with Matt Harvey and should do the same with Wheeler.

And, let’s hear no more about the Mets being cheap because they want to keep him away from the free-agent market another year. That is not the issue. Wheeler is simply not ready for the major leagues, a fact Collins reiterated Saturday.

“That’s a red flag and I don’t want to see walks from those guys,’’ Collins said. “I told Zack in spring training, you’re going to pitch in a tough place [the Pacific Coast League] and I was in that league for 12 years, I know how hard that league is to pitch in.’’

Collins said he would talk to Las Vegas manager Wally Backman about Wheeler. There are times statistics aren’t defining in evaluating performances in the minor leagues. Walks, however, are telling on any level. Overall, in four starts, Wheeler has walked 12 in 18.1 innings. On top of that, he’s given up 20 hits.

“Ten hits, I can understand,’’ Collins said. “But six walks, he’s better than that.’’

He needs to show it.