Feb 09

Mets Can’t Afford To Let Matt Harvey Rush Rehab

As spring training rapidly approaches, perhaps the New York Mets’ most interesting bid of news this week, was Matt Harvey’s statements he expects to start throwing Feb. 22, a week after pitchers and catchers report.

“They said I should be able to start throwing four months after the surgery, and that’s Feb. 22,’’ Harvey said. “|And I haven’t had any setbacks. I can’t wait. Even if it’s 10 feet, I just want to pick up a ball. As if right now, I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to do that.’’

HARVEY: Needs to not push it

HARVEY: Needs to not push it

The worry about Harvey is he’ll push the envelope. The accepted recovery time for rehab from Tommy John surgery is 12 months, which Harvey said he wants to beat.

Nonetheless, he vows not to push it.

“I completely agree that I shouldn’t come back too soon,’’ Harvey said. “I haven’t touched a baseball yet, so I don’t know how things are going to go once that happens. But if things are still progressing and it shows I’m ready to go and I get cleared, I want to be able to play.’’

There’s the rub.

The dilemma is hypothetical: What will the Mets do if they find themselves in wild-card contention in September? Will they keep him down or let him loose?

Already in his young career Harvey has tried to pitch through, and/or ignore pain. He didn’t say anything after tweaking his back and missed a start. Later, he said nothing about soreness in his forearm, which eventually led to the surgery.

Pitchers must learn to differentiate between pain and injury. Nonetheless, he must be more forthcoming in reporting pain and discomfort to the training staff. He’s not informed or trained enough to make his own diagnosis.

A pitcher’s arm is a fragile and precious thing. Harvey has a bright future and the last thing he needs to do is jeopardize it by being reckless with his health, which can be concluded by his comments about wanting to be able to pitch in September.

Regardless of where the Mets are in the standings or how well they are playing in September, Harvey should not be allowed to pitch this year. There should be no discussion or consideration about it.

The Mets have a reputation of playing fast and loose with injuries – see David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church and Johan Santana, among others – and with their future seemingly on the upswing, don’t blow it now.

Everybody needs to be smart about this, even if it comes down to protecting Harvey from himself.

 

Feb 07

Bronson Arroyo Still On The Market

We always knew the New York Mets would never be players for Jacoby Ellsbury or Robinson Cano, or Ervin Santana or Matt Garza, or any other marquee free agents for that matter. Bronson Arroyo drew their interest early in the free-agent process, but it didn’t happen. Now, eight days before pitchers and catchers report, Arroyo is still out there. So are Ubaldo Jimenez and A.J. Burnett.

ARROYO: There's still time,

ARROYO: There’s still time.

Slugger and PED user Nelson Cruz and shortstop Stephen Drew remain on the market. Although the Mets need power, I wouldn’t have wanted Cruz because of his connection with Biogenesis.

Bottom line: How to we know if his production was real or chemistry enhanced? When the Biogenesis case broke is irrelevant; he still was involved. With a reported asking price of $30 million over two years, let’s pass.

The Post’s Ken Davidoff wrote Cruz might be headed to the suddenly free-spending Seattle Mariners, which is a good call. The Mariners need to build around Cano because he can’t do it himself. If he doesn’t he’ll just mope and take even longer to run to first base. Given their need for power, Seattle might bring back first baseman Kendrys Morales, which would be a more expensive version of Ike Davis.

As for Drew, if the Mets had Harvey and were realistic contenders this season, they might have wanted to make a run at him. Both the Mets and Yankees could use Drew, especially the latter because nobody knows what to expect from Derek Jeter. Agent Scott Boras, who isn’t helping his client any, now wants an opt-out clause after one year. I’m betting a return to Boston.

As for Santana, one Santana should be enough for the Mets. Johan Santana is still out there, but even though the Mets carried him the past two years (as they were contractually bound) he has no intention of giving an employee discount. You would have thought $137 million would have bought that goodwill. Apparently not.

I don’t know what Jimenez is asking, but he has a $14.1 million qualifying offer from Cleveland that would cost the Mets a draft pick. Considering he also had back-to-back lousy seasons – 22-26 the past two years – he carries with him some baggage. However, he’s 30 years old, which work in the Mets’ favor. What about a one-year deal with an option loaded with incentives? Even a two-year deal wouldn’t choke the Mets. If offered, Jimenez should jump on it because time is running out, and after two years, he’d still be young enough for a payday.

But, let’s go back to Arroyo, who wouldn’t cost the Mets a compensatory draft pick.

Yes, he’ll be 37 this season, but he’s a proven innings eater, having worked at least 200 innings every year but one since 2004. He pitched 199 in 2011. Arroyo also has been a double-digit winner in all but two seasons since 2004 (he won nine games each in 2007 and 2011). Arroyo reportedly wanted three years, but couldn’t two plus an option work?

The Mets hope Daisuke Matsuzaka or John Lannan fill the fifth starter role at the start of the season. They are questions, while Arroyo is proven. Even when the young pitchers are ready, there are no guarantees.

Just as Seattle loaded up on defense to win the Super Bowl, loading up on pitching is always the right move because you’ll always need it. The Mets should’ve gone after Arroyo and/or Jimenez. There’s still time.

Dec 10

Wilpon: Matt Harvey Injury Impacted Mets’ Offseason Approach

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon conceded this afternoon what we’ve known for months: Matt Harvey’s elbow injury greatly impacted the team’s offseason plans.

For one thing, the Mets would only need one pitcher and not two at the back end of their rotation.

WILPON: Harvey's injury had impact.

WILPON: Harvey’s injury had impact.

“Matt getting hurt has taken away unquestionably a guy who looked like he was going to be our ace,’’ Wilpon said. “It changes things a little bit. We don’t need an extra pitcher if Matt is the guy there. And you might use the resources elsewhere.’’

Since Sandy Alderson became general manager, the plan was to compete in 2014 when the contracts for Johan Santana and Jason Bay came off the books. Now, the talk is for 2015 when Harvey is back from Tommy John surgery.

“I don’t have an answer. You’d like to say no,’’ Wilpon said when asked if the Mets tempered expectations with Harvey gone. “But if he was going to be out there for 200 innings, you’d think the results would be pretty good. Taking away those 200 innings is definitely an issue.’’

Wilpon said Anderson isn’t restrained by finances, but the Mets haven’t moved on Bronson Arroyo, who has been an effective innings eater for years. Reportedly, Arroyo is close to signing with Minnesota. Bringing in Arroyo or Paul Maholm aren’t current options. However, re-signing Jeremy Hefner is, although he won’t pitch in 2014 as he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Alderson said the Mets would be interested in talking to Johan Santana, who just got a $5.5 million buyout from the team. Santana is throwing off flat ground at 150 feet, so he’s nowhere close to being an option. There are a half-dozen teams interested in talking to Santana when he’s ready. Of course, Santana won’t give the Mets any kind of discount. Don’t be surprised if Santana ends up where he started, which is Minnesota.

As for a fourth starter, there’s a disconnect between Terry Collins and Alderson on Jenrry Mejia. Today Collins said Mejia should be ready for spring training, but yesterday Alderson indicated he might not be ready until after the season started.

The Mets are reluctant to open the season with one of their young pitchers in the rotation, but Collins said: “Somebody has to win Rookie of the Year. Why not one of our guys?’’

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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.

Nov 02

Mets Gambled And Lost On Johan Santana; End Era By Buying Out Contract

The New York Mets took care of business and officially parted ways with often-injured Johan Santana when they paid a $5.5-million buyout Friday, and the classy left-hander, who always wanted to do more – sometimes to his detriment – did the same and thanked the franchise and its fans for their support.

In a statement, Santana said: “I want to thank the Mets organization, my teammates, and, of course, a big thank you to Mets fans, who have been behind me from day one and stood by me through all the good and bad.’’

SANTANA: Era ends.

SANTANA: Era ends.

It was a noble gesture from Santana, something he didn’t have to do after completion of the six-year, $137.5-million contract that made him the highest-paid Mets’ pitcher.

The Mets have not ruled out bringing back Santana at a low-cost deal – which would be on top of the buyout – and toward that end, the left-hander lobbied on his behalf.

“I am not sure what the future holds, as this is all new to me,’’ Santana continued, “but I have every intention of pitching in 2014 and beyond and I am certainly keeping all my options open.’’

After losing in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS and kicking away a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining in 2007, and in dire need of pitching, the Mets gambled big on Santana. They sent four prospects to Minnesota – one of them turning out to be All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez – to acquire the already damaged left-hander. Then they signed him at the time to the richest contract in franchise history.

Santana became available because both the Yankees and Red Sox backed off, so in essence the Mets were bidding against themselves, and arguably could have had him for less. Subsequently, they issued a contract they didn’t have to at that price. Clearly, they mis-read the market. The deal turned out to symbolize then-GM Omar Minaya’s tenure that included a run of lucrative, underachieving contracts.

Outside a 15-7 record with a league-leading 2.53 ERA in 34 starts in 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana never completed a full year in New York and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and 2013 because of shoulder injuries. If a full season is considered 34 starts, Santana left 95 starts on the table. That is more glaring than his production of 46-34, a 3.18 ERA and the only no-hitter in franchise history.

That no-hitter came in just his 12th start after rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. To this day, manager Terry Collins laments letting him throw 134 pitches.

Ironically, it was a tainted no-hitter because a blown call on what should have been an extra-base hit for Carlos Beltran was ruled a foul ball. If that call is made correctly, then Santana doesn’t throw that many pitches, then, who really knows?

Santana made only 10 more starts for the Mets before he was shut down in August of 2012. In spring training of 2013, in an angered response to GM Sandy Alderson’s comments he didn’t report in shape, Santana went against his prescribed rehab routine and without Collins’ knowledge, threw off the mound and aggravated the injury.

In another dose of irony, the pitcher often fueled by pride was done in by the same. Santana re-tore the capsule and underwent a second surgery.

To this day, Santana never acknowledged his mistake of throwing off the mound, and Anderson never admitted whether his dig at the left-hander’s condition was meant as motivation and backfired.

Either way, at least publicly, both sides are open for a return. But, don’t bet on it.