Jul 05

It’s All About Learning For Zack Wheeler; Mets Need To Let Him Be

The New York Mets claimed they didn’t want to bring up Zack Wheeler and then send him back to the minor leagues. They said he was here to stay, but the qualifier is Wheeler has to pitch worthy of sticking.

Wheeler will be making his fourth start Friday at Milwaukee, but he’s gotten progressively worse since his debut in Atlanta.

WHEELER: Leave him alone and let him learn. (AP)

WHEELER: Leave him alone and let him learn. (AP)

The issue is command, which was exacerbated by Wheeler tipping off his breaking pitches. In his second start, the Mets called for more breaking balls, and he was simply a mess in his third start when he gave up five runs in 4.2 innings against Washington.

Manager Terry Collins said his staff has been tinkering too much with Wheeler, but remember he was part of that decision making process. Pitching coach Dan Warthen doesn’t construct a game plan without Collins’ knowledge, and catcher John Buck calls pitches predicated on his pregame talks with Wheeler and the staff.

With Wheeler, the Mets have been like the man with the barbeque who is always poking at the fire. They were doing him a disservice.

Now, Collins is advocating what was written here after Wheeler’s second start, which is the rookie must go more with his fastball and use that as his foundation.

“We’ve addressed a couple of issues,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday. “Once again, I don’t like handing out scouting reports. But it’s pretty basic: One of the things I really, really, really believe in – I don’t care if it’s a guy like Zack Wheeler who is strictly a power guy, or a guy like Dillon Gee – you have to pitch to your strengths.

“You can’t always pitch to the hitters’ weaknesses. I’ve had some of the greatest pitchers that ever pitched say the same thing. … That was my whole message to Zack: Don’t get away from your strengths. Just because so-and-so can’t hit a slider doesn’t mean you can’t get him out with your fastball.’’

Collins said the tip-pitching has been corrected. That, combined with throwing more fastballs, should give us a clearer pitcher of Wheeler. We will also learn tonight how well he rebounds from adversity.

Wheeler indicated he wasn’t happy with his latest bullpen session, but there isn’t always a correlation with that and how he does in a game.

Wheeler has had time to clear his head, study film of himself and go over the scouting reports. The early book on him was an ability to focus and not let things bother him.

That includes interacting with the media, which hasn’t always been smooth. There are times when he can get short and curt, but getting acclimated with the media will come in time, as will his level of comfort on the mound.

Right now, nothing is easy for Wheeler, but that’s part of the learning curve. Wheeler isn’t Matt Harvey and the Mets must have different expectations. The Mets are banking he’ll pick it up so he doesn’t have to see the minors again.

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Jul 03

Mets Lineup, July 3, Against Arizona

Fireworks at Citi Field tonight following Matt Harvey’s start against Arizona. The New York Mets will attempt to make it three straight against the Diamondbacks and fall inside of ten games under .500.

Here’s tonight’s lineup behind Harvey:

Eric Young, LF: Hitting .321 (18-for-56) since joining the Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Takes a six-game hitting streak into the game.

David Wright, 3B: Ranks fourth in NL with .392 on-base percentage.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Hitting .274 with RISP.

Josh Satin, 1B: Takes an eight-game hitting streak into the game.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Is hitting .133 (4-for-30) since coming up from Triple-A Vegas.

John Buck, C: This is hard to understand. Anthony Recker had two hits, including a homer last night and doesn’t get a start. What’s wrong with rewarding performance? Buck is hitting .170 since May 5.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Has seven hits in his last four games.

Matt Harvey, RHP: One of only three pitchers to throw at least five innings in each of his 27 career starts.

Jul 03

A No-Hitter Watch Always On With Matt Harvey

ESPN’s Mark Simon wrote an interesting piece on what it would take for Matt Harvey to throw a no-hitter tonight for the New York Mets. I can narrow it down for you: Be on his game and be lucky.

Nobody can predict a no-hitter, but Simon is on the right track in that Harvey is one of those pitchers you can’t help but watch because of the possibility. If you want to turn away from a Harvey start – and why would you? – just wait until the first hit because you never know.

Harvey has already had three no-hit bids through six innings this season, and lost a fourth into the fifth inning.

You can’t help but think it will happen eventually, but then again there have been plenty of overpowering pitchers who never threw a no-hitter, and some non-descript arms that made history. It is such a fickle achievement, and to think Johnny Vander Meer did it in consecutive starts.

One thing to consider when Harvey starts is his pitch count. He regularly tops 100 because he’s a high-strikeout pitcher, and after Johan Santana’s 134-pitch no-hitter last year Terry Collins won’t let him get close to that number.

METS MUSINGS: While Harvey remains a workhorse, Shaun Marcum’s durability is again an issue. Marcum opened the season on the disabled list and his start Saturday in Milwaukee is in doubt because of pain and/or stiffness in his upper back. Marcum underwent a MRI Tuesday. Carlos Torres could get the ball if the 1-9 Marcum can’t go. … Jon Niese will be re-examined this week and it could be determined then if he will need season-ending surgery on his shoulder to repair a rotator cuff tear. … It has taken him until July, but Collins is finally hinting Anthony Recker might get more playing time now that John Buck is in a dreadful slump. … LaTroy Hawkins hasn’t given up an earned run in 13 appearances. … Ike Davis is hitting .268 with six homers for Triple-A Las Vegas. He was 0-for-5 Monday night. Collins said the reports he’s getting on Davis are encouraging in that his hitch isn’t as pronounced and he’s going more to the opposite field. However, Collins gave no timetable for his return. With Josh Satin doing so well and the All-Star break approaching, it might be a prudent idea to keep him in the minors until the second half. … Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are expected to start against each other in the Futures Game.

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Jul 03

Jeremy Hefner Among Group Of Mets Making 2014 Noises

The New York Mets had high expectations for Matt Harvey for this year. Jeremy Hefner was to fill out the rotation in Las Vegas, and be called up if something went wrong, like we knew it would, in Flushing.

Hefner’s break came with the expected breakdown of Johan Santana. He made the Opening Day roster, was hammered early, but eventually has become one of the Mets’ most effective pitchers with a 1.80 ERA in June. That was even better than Harvey.

HEFNER: Proving his value every fifth day. (AP)

HEFNER: Proving his value every fifth day. (AP)

A successful season for the Mets would be defined as .500, and the rest of the season should be about who will be around in 2014.

Hefner is one, as are five other players in last night’s lineup who weren’t on the Mets’ Opening Day roster: Eric Young, Josh Satin, Omar Quintanilla, Anthony Recker and Andrew Brown. There are others, too, including: Zack Wheeler, David Aardsma, Carlos Torres and Juan Lagares.

That’s eight players out of 25, roughly a third of their roster who were afterthoughts in April now on their radar. That’s a combination of making the wrong decisions coming out of spring training and having some organizational depth.

Perhaps all won’t be on the 2014 Opening Day roster, but it’s a starting point for next year, which is the essence of this summer.

A lack of run support has Hefner at 3-6, but his ERA of 3.54 is telling us a different story. With Jon Niese out, and Dillon Gee and Shaun Marcum hurting, Hefner is the No. 2 starter, one who’ll be sought out by contenders and someone the Mets would be foolish to deal.

In constructing next year’s rotation, factor in Wheeler and Hefner, and discard Marcum. Should Niese require rotator cuff surgery, which we could know this week, there will be a need to add.

After going through nine other players, the Mets seen to have found their leadoff hitter in Young, who can play the outfield and second base.

Lagares is being given every opportunity to win the center field job, which accounts for two of the outfield positions. Marlon Byrd, you figure, will either be traded or too expensive to re-sign in the off-season. If it’s the latter, that could turn into a mistake.

The Mets promised to add an outfielder, but assuming they don’t that leaves Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda competing for a spot.

Josh Satin is proving to be a viable option at first base assuming Ike Davis is either traded or leaves as a free agent. The Mets are using this month to ascertain Davis’ trade value. If they don’t deal him, there’s a good chance he won’t be tendered a contract and leaves as a free agent.

Terry Collins said Ruben Tejada must beat out Quintanilla to re-take the shortstop job. Assuming he doesn’t, Quintanilla has shown the Mets they won’t have to shop at that position.

I look at Brown as bench depth, and the same for the loser of the Quintanilla-Tejada competition.

The only other positions in question are catcher and the bullpen. The latter has recently been good, but overall is inconsistent. Torres should get a chance to compete for a job, but I don’t see LaTroy Hawkins coming back. He and Brandon Lyon can be swapped out. The same goes to Scott Rice if the Mets don’t burn him out.

Recker started last night and homered and singled, which should get him more playing time since the Mets have burned out John Buck. Travis d’Arnaud is now considered a September call-up, which might not be enough time to learn about him. So, somewhere Buck and Recker must be in the Mets’ 2014 plans somewhere.

Rarely does a season begin and end with the same roster, and the Mets are no exception. However, what they have now can morph into the foundation for next year’s roster.

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

Jul 02

Mets Would Be Foolish To Deal Jeremy Hefner

Matt Harvey isn’t the only New York Mets pitcher not receiving any support from his hitters. The true measure of how well Jeremy Hefner has pitched this year isn’t found in his 2-6 record, but 3.72 ERA. Hefner has arguably been the Mets’ second most effective starter behind Harvey, which should mute any trade discussions.

HEFNER: Having understated season. (AP)

HEFNER: Having understated season. (AP)

Hefner, tonight’s starter against Arizona, was 1-1 in June with three no-decisions despite a 1.80 ERA. The Mets gave him all of nine runs for the month, including just one in his previous start, last Thursday in Denver.

Conversely, Hefner has given up 14 runs in his last four starts, with nine of them unearned, so he’s getting it on both ends. Hefner took a no-decision in the Colorado start, but didn’t go away discouraged.

“I knew that I could pitch this way,’’ Hefner said that day in Denver. “My performance is finally matching up to the expectation. This doesn’t surprise me. I know I’m capable of doing this. So it’s not a shock to me.’’

Hefner is one of the most quietly, unassuming players on the Mets, if not in all of baseball. He’s quick to assume responsibility and point the finger at himself rather than rip his teammates.

It was thought Hefner would be bounced from the rotation in the wake of Zack Wheeler’s promotion, but the Mets would be thrilled if the rookie matched Hefner’s performance.

It has also been speculated the Mets might attempt to deal Hefner at the trade deadline, but with Jon Niese injured, and he pitching better than Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee having some health issues, the Mets could regret losing him.

Here’s tonight’s lineup behind Hefner:

Eric Young, 2B: Daniel Murphy rests against LHP Patrick Corbin, so Young moves into the infield.

Juan Lagares, CF: Glad to see his speed was moved to the top of the order.

David Wright, 3B: Leads Giants Pablo Sandoval by almost 900,000 votes for All-Star start.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Nobody could have guessed 12 homers and 40 at the end of the season, let alone in the first week of July.

Josh Satin, 1B: Has consecutive three-hit games to take advantage of Ike Davis not being here.

Andrew Brown, LF: Drove in tying and winning runs last night in the 13th inning.

Anthony Recker, C: They can’t help but start him after John Buck caught 13 innings last night.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Had three hits last night and is making all the plays in the field. Has played better than Ruben Tejada at any time this year.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Has ten quality starts, second behind Matt Harvey’s 14.

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