Aug 26

Mets This Week: Watching Wheeler And Listening To Buck Offers

The New York Mets never made it over the hump en route to .500, and after being swept – better yet, mauled – by the Tigers, this week is about licking wounds and finding a positive heading into the last month.

The Mets are in serious danger of giving up third place to the Phillies, who are in for four games. But, that’s just cosmetic stuff.

WHEELER: Watching him closely. (AP)

WHEELER: Watching him closely. (AP)

The meat of the week is how they treat Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, who’ll bookend the Phillies series. Wheeler has worked into the seventh in two of his last three starts, and went over 100 pitches in his last four games.

Terry Collins has not said what Wheeler’s limit will be tonight. One thing he won’t do, with rain in the forecast, is bring him back after a delay, so theoretically they could lose Wheeler’s start after two innings.

The Mets want to limit innings for Wheeler and Harvey, but haven’t come up with a definitive plan. They have not but a cap on a game, and seem to be hoping for off-days, of which they only have two remaining.

But, one is trumped because of a double header.

Harvey said he was gassed after Saturday’s loss, which puts him and the Mets in a difficult spot: How do they limit his innings, yet at the same time try to build him up to pitch in September?

I’m interested to see if the Mets don’t push Harvey back a day into the Washington series or skip him altogether.

Jonathon Niese starts Tuesday, his fourth since coming off the disabled list with a slight tear. Niese went seven innings in his last start and six in the previous two. He struck out nine hitters in his last two starts, showing there’s nothing wrong with his shoulder.

Even so, I’d be surprised if the Mets aren’t careful with him.

Getting the ball Wednesday will be Daisuke Matsuzaka, who gets mixed reviews from his Mets’ debut. On the down side, he gave up five runs in five innings. However, he retired the last ten batters he faced, so that is five runs in two innings.

The Mets get lefties Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, tonight and Wednesday, respectively, so which lefty-hitting first baseman gets to play, Lucas Duda or Ike Davis?

One thing for certain, is we’ll continue to see plenty of Travis d’Arnaud this week, and the Mets hope, for the next few years. That means seeing less of John Buck.

Buck has been terrific this year in what the Mets asked him to do, and since he showed there’s still pop in his bat, he’s going to want to play.

So, off the field, the Mets might have to decide if they are satisfied with d’Arnaud, Anthony Recker and whomever, and try to swing a waiver deal for Buck.

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

Aug 19

Sickels Weighs In On D’Arnaud

mejia d'arnaud

John Sickels on Minor League Ball featured Travis d’Arnaud as his Prospect of the Day and pointed out how steadily his throwing has improved as evidenced by increasing caught-stealing percentages since turning pro. So for those of you worried about those three stolen bases against him this weekend, don’t go jumping to any conclusions, and it was not like the pitcher’s didn’t play a part in it.

Here is what he had to say regarding D’Arnaud’s bat and projectability:

Offensively, his best tool is power. He was rather impatient early in his career but has made progress with the strike zone. He looked dramatically improved in that department for Vegas this spring and summer, when he wasn’t hurt anyway. His power usually comes when he pulls the ball, although he is more willing to take something the opposite way than he was earlier in his career.

I don’t see him as a .300 hitter at the major league level, but he should be good for a solid .250-.270 range, with an adequate OBP and better-than-average power. He could exceed those projections in his peak seasons.

Back in February, I wrote a Prospect Smackdown article comparing d’Arnaud with Mike Zunino of the Seattle Mariners, who is d’Arnaud’s primary competition as the top catching prospect in baseball. I concluded that I preferred Zunino very slightly because he was two years younger. Zunino has had his own set of problems this year. Catchers get hurt a lot and they often don’t have linear development curves.

Although I don’t see him in the Buster Posey or Joe Mauer class of superstar catcher, d’Arnaud produces quality play on both sides of the ball. If he can avoid getting hurt too often, d’Arnaud will be a fixture in the Mets lineup for years to come.

By the way, despite an report yesterday that the Mets will be keeping d’Arnaud once John Buck returns on Tuesday, the team says they haven’t made an official determination about that yet and it’s still up for debate.

Aug 17

Mets’ Terry Collins Deserves To Stay

The firing of Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel has put Terry Collins’ status with the New York Mets into the forefront.

The sacking of Manuel demonstrates once again baseball is widely unfair. After a long playoff run, which included several trips to the World Series, followed by a run of injuries from Chase Utley to Ryan Howard to Roy Halladay, the Phillies are south of the Mets, both in the standings and on the map.

COLLINS: Merits another introductory press conference.

COLLINS: Merits another introductory press conference.

So naturally, Manuel is out.

Collins, in the final season of his contract, could finish 2013 with his third straight losing year the Mets’ fifth overall, but is expected to get an extension because of how well the team has performed despite not adding significant pieces and substantial injuries.

After winning the first two games of the San Diego series, the Mets are eight games below .500, but have a reasonable chance of finishing even, but second place appears less likely.

Should the Mets lose the remainder of their games they would have 106 losses, a number many predicted of them heading into the season.

However, with several key injuries – including David Wright, Jon Niese, Johan Santana and Bobby Parnell – a patchwork bullpen and outfield, and dreadful slump of Ike Davis, the Mets adjusted on the fly and are playing competitive ball.

For the most part, the Mets have played well fundamentally, while breaking in a new outfield, and always seem to play hard for him. Collins has had several head-scratching moments, but has generally been solid.

When teams hustle and keep their heads in the game, it indicates the manager has things under control. Collins definitely merits an opportunity to stay now that resources have been promised.

Also working in Collins’ favor is nearly half the roster is different than what he left spring training with, and he’s had to juggle with 92 different line-ups in 120 games. That is almost incomprehensible.

The Mets appeared to have answered five significant spots this season, including positives in the development of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler; Parnell’s acclimation to the closer role; and the additions of outfielders Eric Young and Juan Lagares.

There have been other positives, such as the catching tandem of John Buck and Anthony Recker; the mostly solid play of Daniel Murphy at second base; and the play of Marlon Byrd in right field and Omar Quintanilla at shortstop.

There remain several holes and questions, but overall Collins deserves to be in that dugout next season. Not only that, he needs to stay.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 16

What’s Mets’ Thinking With Flores Injury?

There are times when the New York Mets are hard to figure out, and the latest regarding Wilmer Flores is one of them.

Flores sprained his right ankle running the bases Monday in Los Angeles and hasn’t played since. He is, however, in a walking boot and supposedly able to pinch-hit.

“It was important that he get an at-bat,’’ manager Terry Collins said about Flores staying in the game. “Because if he can’t play for a few days, at least if we know he can go up and hit, it’s going to help us.’’

Really? How is he going to help the Mets if he can’t run to first base? I can see not rushing him to the disabled list immediately, but if he can’t play for a few more days they can backdate him to Tuesday.

Why can’t they simply say “he won’t play until he’s ready?’’ Bottom line: If he’s in a protective boot there’s no reason to even think about playing him.

GREAT PLAY: We’ve seen some terrific defensive plays this year from the Mets’ outfield, but the one Thursday night when Eric Young scaled the wall to deflect what would have been a home run back into the outfield is one of the best.

Young has been a joy to watch, both offensively with his ability to make things happen, and defensively for his penchant for running balls down.

I recently read where the Mets won’t keep both Young and Juan Lagares next year, to which I say: Why not?

There’s nothing wrong with stacking two speedy playmakers at the top of the order. Both are part of that group I recently profiled of in-season additions that developed this team and brought excitement where there was once none.

Young is in center tonight as Lagares gets the night off and Mike Baxter is given a chance to play in left field.

Tonight’s line-up at San Diego:

Eric Young, CF: Has 15 steals in 49 games with the Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Is hitting .224 (13-for-58) with one walk in August.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Is getting warm again, hitting .417 (10-for-24) on the trip.

Ike Davis, 1B: Is hitting .284 with 30 walks since recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Josh Satin, 3B: Is hitting .303 since joining the Mets, but has just one homer.

Mike Baxter, LF: Not hitting at all this season with a paltry .213 average with four RBI.

John Buck, C: Still waiting for his wife to deliver and him to go on leave and enable Travis d’Arnaud to make his Mets’ debut.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Takes a 0-for-9 slide into tonight’s game.

Jonathon Niese, LHP: Since August 2012. Niese has given up more than four earned runs twice in 25 starts.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 08

Dillon Gee Continues Roll; Mets’ Rotation Looks Strong For Future

Never mind Matt Harvey for a moment, but the New York Mets must be thrilled with the continued solid production from Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee. If this season is about laying the groundwork for the future, then Mejia and Gee are good signs.

GEE: Superb again Thursday. (AP)

                                  GEE: Superb again Thursday. (AP)

Assuming they continue this run for the rest of the season, the Mets could enter the winter without the need to add another starter through free agency.

The Mets have several holes they must fill, and if another starting pitcher is not one of them, there would be resources for use elsewhere.

Gee was strong again today as the Mets completed a sweep of the Colorado Rockies. He is 6-2 with a 2.42 ERA in his last 13 starts, beginning with a May 30 victory over the Yankees. He’s proven durable from last year’s surgery and should go into spring training with a spot in the rotation. Gee got off to a slow start, perhaps attributable to the surgery, but is health is no longer an issue.

Of those 13 starts, 10 are defined as quality, which is giving up three or fewer runs in six innings. As a fourth or fifth starter, the Mets can’t ask for more. Mejia has a quality outing in each of his three starts.

Gee downplayed his numbers to reporters after the game: “I don’t worry about that stuff. At the end of the year, when you look up, you see what it’s been. I try to take it day by day, and hopefully we win the games.’’

The Mets’ pitching as been strong recently, and forecasting to next year, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Gee and Mejia comprise a youthful rotation with potential. And, we haven’t even gotten to Rafael Montero.

The Mets began their season with Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum on the disabled list. Marcum is gone and Santana will never pitch again for the Mets. As bleak as that news was at the time, it turned out to be a fortunate break for the Mets.

METS MATTERS: The Mets’ catching is approaching a state of flux with John Buck to shortly leave the team for maternity leave. Buck’s wife was due to deliver several days ago. They could bring up Travis d’Arnaud for the allotted three-day period, or they could go elsewhere in their system. … Lucas Duda, on the DL with an intercostal strain, isn’t close to being recalled, and we might not see him until the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1. … Harvey, who took a liner off his knee Tuesday night, said he’s fine and his between starts routine should not be impacted. … The Mets’ bullpen has a 2.10 ERA dating back to July 1.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos