Mar 22

Santana To Stay Back; Wright, Marcum Updates

The Mets finally confirmed the obvious and said Johan Santana won’t be on the Opening Day roster. Considering he hadn’t thrown since his look-at-me-I’m-angry stunt, March 6, there was no suspense to this move.

“He’s not where he needs to be in his long-toss program,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters in one of spring trainings’ biggest understatements. “Even if it’s next week, he’s not going to open with us. He’s going to have to get himself ready. And that’s going to certainly determine on a daily basis where he is. But we’ll be gone. I’ll have to monitor it by the phone.’’

Collins said Santana is staying in Port St. Lucie until he’s ready, which could be up to a month. Collins dodged the inevitable question of whether Santana’s stunt sabotaged his efforts to be ready.

“It’s hard to say it was a setback. I just think he wanted to prove his arm was OK, that his arm was healthy,’’ Collins said. “Instead of trying to make sure and not let all this other stuff bother him, he got angry about it.

“We needed to go back to step one again. At that particular time that was his way of making sure everybody knew his shoulder was fine, that he wasn’t hurt. It’s just that he wasn’t ready to pitch. So now we’ve got to get him ready to pitch.’’

That Collins said they had to return to step one was a roundabout way of saying it was a setback without really saying it. But, Collins, who’ll need Santana this summer, wouldn’t come out and ruffle the feathers of his lefthanded diva.

Not sounding believable, Collins said he didn’t care about the past and was only worried about the future with Santana. Collins will save it for the book to tell us what he really feels.

WRIGHT UPDATE: David Wright, who is expected to join Santana on the disabled list, began stretching and strength-building exercises.

Wright strained his intercostal muscle while at the World Baseball Classic and said he’s hopeful of being ready by Opening Day. At the time the injury was revealed last Thursday, Collins estimated Wright would be out at least a month.

With a week to go, the odds are greater of Wright being re-injured than they are of him being ready.

Should Wright be cleared for a game, it will be in a minor league to backdate him to the disabled list ten days from the end of spring training.

MARCUM UPDATE: Assuming he is ready, Shaun Marcum will pitch Thursday against Washington. Not sure this is the right move.

If Marcum pitches and is injured and has to go on the disabled list, the Mets could only backdate it to Friday and could miss up to two starts.

Marcum received a cortisone injection in his shoulder Tuesday to relieve an impingement. If he pitches in a minor league game and is injured, the Mets could retroactive the date earlier.

If everything works out for the Mets, and that’s always a huge “if’’ with them, Jon Niese will be the Opening Day starter, followed by Marcum, Matt Harvey and then Dillon Gee. They are undecided whether to come back with Niese in the fifth game of the season or use Jeremy Hefner.

TONIGHT’S LINE-UP:

Jordany Valdespin, 2b

Collin Cowgill, cf

Mike Baxter, rf

Andrew Brown, lf

Anthony Recker, c

Brandon Hicks, 1b

Omar Quintanilla, ss

Brian Bixler, 3b

Jonathan Niese, lhp

Mar 21

David Wright Named Captain; Disabled List Next? (Updated)

The Mets made it official this afternoon and named David Wright the team’s captain, joining a select group that includes Keith HernandezGary Carter and John Franco.

There has been speculation for years – as far back when Willie Randolph was manager – and intensified  this winter when Wright was signed to a $138-million eight-year extension. Manager Terry Collins said at the start of spring training it was something he was considering, but needed to run it through GM Sandy Alderson and COO Jeff Wilpon, as well as poll the clubhouse.

“This is probably one of the proudest days of my career so far,” Wright told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “To be on that short list of guys that have been considered captain of this franchise is, for me, a dream come true to say the least and something I’m very, very, very proud about.”

Wilpon said Wright’s appointment was sealed when he signed an eight-year, $138 million contract in early December. Wright, though, said he wanted the endorsement of teammates before accepting the honor.

“Did we announce it then? No, we didn’t announce it then,” Wilpon said. “But I believe the decision was made at that point in time. When you commit that kind of money and resources that we have to a guy like this, you want to make sure he’s the leader. And he’s proven to be that.”

WRIGHT AND WILPON: Wright named captain. Photo: Mets via Twitter

WRIGHT AND WILPON: Wright named captain. Photo: Mets via Twitter

It was a foregone conclusion the announcement would be made prior to Opening Day. According to ESPN, Wilpon said the second Wright signed the contract there was nothing else to think about.

In a statement released by the team, Franco said: “We had talks together. Being named captain is a sign of respect and a sign the players on the team hold you in high esteem.

“I took my captaincy very seriously and I know that David will do the same.”

In addition, Hernandez said: “I have been around David long enough to know that he is the perfect guy to the be the captain of the Mets.”

During the Randolph era, the manager said the promotion might be awkward because that team was loaded with veterans such as Carlos Delgado – who became a mentor to Jose ReyesCarlos Beltran, and pitchers Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez.

At the time, Randolph said there wasn’t a need for a captain because of the veteran influence. Then came the Jerry Manuel era, but the team was so bad it seemed like a futile gesture.

Even so, Wright was always the face of the franchise, and the one player the media sought out for analysis on the Mets or anything else relating to baseball. Wright will not wear a “C” on his uniform, but his leadership has been obvious in the clubhouse for years.

“Part of it, I think, is my personality, where I don’t necessarily like to stick out too much,” Wright said. “I think the uniform is uniform for a reason. So I think that everybody is kind of in agreement that we’re going to do without.”

Not having the letter hasn’t diminished his influence.

Once, Reyes wanted to stay in a game, but was clearly hobbled. Wright, knowing an injured Reyes could be a liability told the manager, then Manuel.

Wright has worked closely with the pitchers and was one of the few players who could reach Mike Pelfrey when he was losing concentration. He often goes to the mound when a rattled pitcher needs to catch his breath.

With the Mets moving in a youth direction, there was no veteran presence other than Wright, who, as an All-Star had the talent to back up the promotion.

At the start of camp, Wright said being captain would be an honor, but wanted it through his teammates and not an edict from ownership or management.

Currently, Wright has been shut down with a strained left intercostal muscle sustained while participating in the World Baseball Classic. Wright said he was hopeful of being ready for Opening Day, but at the time of the injury last Thursday, Collins said he wouldn’t be surprised if Wright were out a month.

After being examined last Friday in New York, Alderson said it would be three to five days. It has now been a week.

Once Wright is cleared to play in the next two weeks, he will likely only play in minor league games. The same will apply to Daniel Murphy, who has a strained right intercostal muscle.

The reasoning is to have the flexibility of backdating his time on the disabled list. If Wright or Murphy played in a major league spring training game and were hurt, they would be backdated to the date of the injury. If injured in a minor league game the Mets could backdate the injury from ten days to Opening Day. This limits his time on the disabled list.

The Yankees made a similar decision today with Derek Jeter, who is recovering from a broken ankle. Wright and Jeter, along with Paul Konerko are the only team captains in the sport.

The Mets also made it official and announced Jon Niese would be the Opening Day starter. However, the team did not make a corresponding announcement of Johan Santana going on the disabled list.

Mar 21

Mets’ Batting Order Analysis

Without David Wright and Daniel Murphy available because of strained intercostal muscles, manager Terry Collins doesn’t have much to work with regarding his everyday line-up, which seems to change every day.

Here’s today’s Mets-Cardinals lineup and how it might translate to the regular season:

Marlon Byrd, rf: If Jordany Valdespin makes the team as it appears, he’ll lead off. So, what’s Byrd doing here? I don’t know. He’s also hit cleanup this spring. Actually, if he has the skills to hit cleanup and leadoff, then why not give him a shot batting third? I’d much rather have Ike Davis hitting fourth, which is where he’ll be when Wright returns.

Ruben Tejada, ss: Tejada’s miserable spring has the Mets wondering whether last year was a fluke offensively. Second would seem like a reasonable slot since he’s had success there in the past. Also, having Davis behind him could enable Tejada to see more fastballs in the zone which could snap him out of his slide.

Ike Davis, 1b: Your No. 3 hitter should be your best hitter in terms of contact and power. That’s Wright when he’s healthy. It looks as if Davis will hit third at the start. Only question is will there be runners on base ahead of him.

Zach Lutz, 3b: Lutz is expected to open the season in the minors. His presence today at clean-up only indicates Collins will separate strikeout machines Davis and Lucas Duda, who conceivably in a full season could strike out a combined 300 times.

Lucas Duda, lf: With Wright out, Duda is the only other power to complement Davis, and the leftfielder has not had a good spring. He’s fifth today, but expect him lower in the order when the season comes, and definitely when Wright returns.

John Buck, c: Buck is a decent hitter, but nothing that makes you roll your eyes. He’s made for lower in the order. However, there are times I can see him moving up and slotted between Davis and Duda.

Matt den Dekker, cf: This is a major league glove headed to the minor leagues. Den Dekker drove in the game winning run last night and has been hitting better lately. If he’s consistent offensively he should be at Citi Field. Valdespin has had a good spring with the bat, but he’s never put it together for a full season. And, that includes his attitude and hustle.

Omar Quintanilla, 2b: With all the injuries in the infield and the expectation of Tejada being pulled for a pinch-hitter at times, Quintanilla should make the roster and have a defined role off the bench. He’s not much with the bat, so eighth is perfect for him.

Jeremy Hefner, rhp: Hefner is the fifth starter in place of Johan Santana, and if he’s effective could remain there for a month or more.

 

Mar 21

Shaun Marcum Added To Mets’ Injury List; Long Season Already Here

The worst-case scenario seems imminent for the Mets.

They faced a myriad of pitching questions entering spring training, including: Johan Santana’s availability after shoulder surgery; Dillon Gee coming off surgery to repair an injury to his shoulder; and injury-prone Shaun Marcum.

All three have been answered in the negative.

One would think a free agent would report to camp in shape, but Marcum didn’t and insisted a long-tossing program was what it took instead of the normal routine pitchers use in spring training.

Marcum said all he needed was four starts, and he might not even get that as he flew to New York on the off-day to have his shoulder examined.  He was diagnosed to have an impingement and received a cortisone injection.

Marcum will not make his start today against St. Louis and Jeremy Hefner will get the ball. Marcum is penciled in as the No. 2 starter, but if he isn’t ready left-hander Aaron Laffey is the likely candidate to replace him.

It will be interesting to see how the relationship develops between manager Terry Collins and Marcum if the pitcher misses several starts. Collins, who doesn’t have a contract after this season, already is dealing from a short deck and doesn’t need another injured pitcher.

While the Mets hope Marcum will miss just today, there’s no doubt they will indefinitely be without Santana, who hasn’t thrown in weeks and has no timetable to return. Forget Opening Day, the Mets might now be thinking May 1.

Think about it, it takes six weeks for a pitcher to get ready for the season with two weeks of long-toss and bullpen work prior to the games where he’ll get six starts to build up to 100 pitches. Santana has had none of that preparation. So, at age 34 he’s going to be ready in a few days? Hardly.

Meanwhile, Gee says he’s fine physically, but his last two starts have been painful to watch. Gee gave up five earned runs in last night’s 7-5 victory over Houston. Gee gave the Mets length last night, just not results. He insisted he’s had no setback and his mechanics are off. He might get two more starts to refine them.

The Mets hoped Jenrry Mejia could be a replacement for Santana and possibly evolve as a fifth starter if Marcum flamed out. However, Mejia has forearm tendinitis and isn’t close to being ready and will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

All this leads to the inevitable question of when Zack Wheeler could be called up. Wheeler is working himself back into shape after straining an oblique muscle, so it isn’t imminent. Alderson is adamant about not rushing Wheeler for two reasons, 1) to not hindering his development, and 2) to not put him on the clock for his service time, thereby delaying the arbitration and free-agent process.

The bullpen hasn’t been immune from injuries, either. Frank Francisco has not progressed following elbow surgery last December to remove a bone spur and inflammation.

Everybody’s injuries are different and there is no set formula to handle them, but you can’t help but wonder why Francisco, who did not finish the season, waited for December to have the surgery. Having it in late September or October would have given him more time for rehabilitation.

As for Santana, he took it easy over the winter after two off-seasons of rehab. Alderson said he didn’t come to camp in shape, prompting Santana to take it upon himself to throw off the mound the first week of March when it was thought he was ten days away from throwing.

The Mets pitching is currently a mess. Thankfully, everything is all right elsewhere. Oh, wait a minute. David Wright and Daniel Murphy will likely open the season on the disabled list and the outfield remains a house of cards.

It’s only March and it is already seems a long season for the Mets.

Mar 18

Wright, Santana, Murphy And Duda Among Mets’ Questions As Opening Day Looms

Here we are, two weeks from Opening Day and the Mets still have a myriad of questions that can’t be answered by Google. Perhaps they should get a Celebrity Apprentice from Trump to fill in the holes.

Jon Niese was superb in yesterday’s loss to the Braves and we know he’ll get the ball that first day against San Diego regardless of the Mets’ refusal to acknowledge anything negative about Johan Santana, who is among their many questions.

Q: What will the Mets get, and when, from Santana?

A: Considering it had been almost two weeks since his ill-fated mound attempt to quell the negativity from the Mets and media that Santana has done any significant throwing, it is anybody’s guess. Maybe next week, maybe the week after, but he will open the season on the disabled list regardless of his rate of denial. The Mets would dearly love to trade his $31 million contract, but the fact is they’ll have to eat over $20 million to do so. Might as well let him rest and hope for the best.

Q: Will David Wright open the season on the disabled list?

A: Technically, today is the third day of the three to five Wright will have to rest. He has received a cortisone injection in his strained ribs since coming back from the World Baseball Classic. Injuries of this type often last a month, as Wright learned last spring. Maybe he would have gotten hurt just the same in a regular spring training, but that doesn’t change the fact the odds are against Opening Day.

Q: How good is Matt Harvey?

A: He’s been good this spring, but has also thrown the occasional dud. He has ten major league starts on his resume, but the expectations of a proven veteran. The other teams have scouting reports, too, so don’t be shocked if he takes some lumps early.

Q: How healthy is Dillon Gee?

A: He says he has fully recovered from surgery to repair an artery in his pitching shoulder, but has been off this spring. He could use another three or four starts to get all the rust off, but there’s not enough time.

Q: What can the Mets expect from Shaun Marcum and fifth starter Jeremy Hefner?

A: Considering Marcum will not make six exhibition starts, don’t be too optimistic. At this rate, the Mets will be fortunate to get five innings from either of them. The back end of the rotation is clearly a weakness.

Q: Will Lucas Duda hit for power?

A: Let’s rephrase that: Will he substantially cut his strikeouts? He’s had a rough spring showing little of his power potential. When he hits them, he hits them far. Just not often enough.

Q: Who starts in center field?

A: Kirk Nieuwenhuis spit the bit early, and then was hurt. He was the projected starter and leadoff hitter, but now is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Let’s hope that includes his bad habits at the plate. We’re looking at Collin Cowgill as the starter and Jordany Valdespin making the team. They can use Matt den Dekker’s defense, but want more from him at the plate.

Q: Will Daniel Murphy be ready?

A: Murphy had one of those “seven to ten days’’ rib injuries that has lasted a month. He played five innings of defense in a minor league game three days ago, but has been stiff since. The early word is Wednesday of this week, but we know how such projections go with the Mets. It is possible Valdespin will start at second while Justin Turner is at third Opening Day. Excited yet?

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: Bobby Parnell is the closer and he’s taken some hits this spring. Josh Edgin is the lefty specialist, but Pedro Feliciano is making a run. He’s one of several veterans hoping to extend their careers with the Mets.

Q: Will they add anybody before the end of spring training?

A: Don’t count on it.