Mar 01

Mets Today: Parnell To Throw Batting Practice; Mets Host Marlins

Injury updates and position battles in spring training are the two most important items for the New York Mets this year, with both coming into play today.

The composition of the bullpen begins with closer Bobby Parnell, who underwent surgery on his neck to repair a herniated disk.

A strained quadriceps muscle forced Parnell’s first batting practice session to be pushed back until today. Parnell will throw prior to the exhibition game against Miami at Port St. Lucie, with the target being 20 pitches.

In addition:

* Left-hander John Lannan is to start against the Marlins and throw 30 pitches or two innings, which ever comes first. Lannan is competing with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia for the fifth spot in the rotation. At 29, a lefty and with a reasonable contract, Lannan is somebody the Mets should be paying close attention to.

* Vic Black, Scott Rice, Kyle Farnsworth and Ryan Reid will also pitch today.

* Outfielder Eric Young, out with a strained side, could resume working out, but isn’t expected to play. Sunday could be a possibility.

* Manager Terry Collins still wants to ease David Wright and Daniel Murphy into the line-up, so neither is expected to play.

ON DECK: Arguments for John Lannan being fifth starer.

Feb 17

Memo To Mets On Mejia: Just Pick A Role

The New York Mets are doing the rotation-bullpen dance again with Jenrry Mejia and who believes things will be better this time around?

After the first day of workouts in Port St. Lucie, manager Terry Collins left open the door to the bullpen shuttle. With Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan as fifth starter candidates, and the bullpen under construction with Bobby Parnell recovering from surgery, ESPN is reporting Collins is keeping an open mind on Mejia.

MEJIA: Where to put him?

MEJIA: Where to put him?

“One thing we know about him is he can pitch out of the bullpen. We’ve seen it,’’ Collins said Monday.

This debate has been going on since 2010, when Mejia, who wasn’t ready for the major leagues in any role, was force-fed the bullpen by then-manager Jerry Manuel, who entered the season knowing his job was on the line.

Mejia prefers the rotation, which is supported by his numbers, but Collins said his 2.30 ERA last year isn’t a definitive sample size. Mejia made five starts before surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow.

“There were some people in this organization who felt maybe he couldn’t be a starter because there’s such maximum effort in his delivery,’’ Collins said. “He proved them wrong, that he can go out there and start and can get you deep into a game. Now it’s, ‘What’s our best fit?’ Is it, ‘We’ve got five good guys. He’s the sixth. Do we have a spot in the bullpen for an arm like that with that kind of stuff?’ That might be a fit for him.’’

Under Manuel, Mejia started out of the bullpen, but pitched sparingly in mostly non-pressure situations. He understandably struggled and was sent down to start, but eventually hurt his elbow, needed surgery and missed the 2011 season.

At the time Mejia was one of the Mets’ most sought-after prospects, but the calls stopped because how could they promote him when they didn’t even know what role he fit best? How could the Mets talk him up as a starter if he wasn’t good enough for their rotation? How could they talk him up as a reliever if he couldn’t stay in their bullpen?

Mejia entered this off-season as the primary fifth-starter option, but the Mets obviously weren’t sold on his health as they signed Matsuzaka and Lannan, both of whom have contract clauses where they can opt out if not on the major league roster by June.

So, which is it, starter or reliever? And, if in the bullpen, what is his role?

Whatever they do, considering Mejia’s arm troubles, the best decision is to pick one and stick with it.

 

Feb 13

Mets Have Numbers, But Also Questions In Rotation

New York Mets pitchers and catchers will report to Port St. Lucie on Feb. 15 with the first workout the following day. Manager Terry Collins knows his first four starters, but the fifth is up in the air. However, regardless of how the rotation shakes out, there’s not a pitcher among them without a significant question attached to his name:

Jonathon Niese: The speculated Opening Day starter is coming off a shoulder injury and 8-8 record in 2013.

Signed through 2017 primarily because he’s left-handed, young at 27 and throws hard. Those types are always in demand, but with a lifetime 43-40 record and 3.99 ERA, he’s not exactly a budding Andy Pettitte.

Niese has never won more than 13 games or made more than 30 starts in a season, bringing into question his durability.

The significant question: Will he ever have a breakout season?

Bartolo Colon: Once nabbed for PEDs, Colon is coming off a strong 18-6 season with a 2.65 ERA last year with Oakland and signed a two-year, $20-million contract with the Mets on the last day of the Winter Meetings.

He was brought in to fill the void caused by Matt Harvey’s elbow injury and provide veteran support.

Colon, 40, has won a career 189 games with a 1.314 WHIP. The Mets will be his eighth team.

The significant question: How much does he have left?

Zack Wheeler: Some scouts say he has more potential than Harvey. We shall see.

The Mets took their time in bringing up Wheeler, 23, and he flashed promise expected. The Mets tinkered with his mechanics after reports he tipped his pitches, then told him to throw more breaking balls, but Wheeler didn’t show anything until they told him to just work off his fastball.

Wheeler was 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts before he was shut down in September after complaining of stiffness in his shoulder.

The significant question: How much will he progress in his second year?

Dillon Gee: A 12-strikeout, 7.1-inning outing at Yankee Stadium, May 30, kept Gee in the rotation and he went on to go 12-11, but more importantly work 199 innings.

Gee doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but when his command is on he usually gives the Mets five or more innings as a reliable back-end starter.

Gee’s reliability and reasonable contract could make him attractive to other teams in July. Should Noah Syndergaard or Rafael Montero be promoted in June, it could give the Mets a valuable trade chip.

The significant question: Will Gee have another 199-inning season?

Jenrry Mejia: Up and down has been the story of Mejia’s short career. Mejia’s role bounced from being a starter to an ill-fated trip to the bullpen under Jerry Manuel that eventually ended in a demotion and elbow injury.

Mejia still throws hard and is back competing as a starter. He’s coming off surgery, but has the inside track for the fifth starter role if he’s sound.

The significant question: How healthy is he?

John Lannan: He’s 29, left-handed and comes with a reasonable contract.

The Mets signed him as Mejia insurance, but he has shown signs of becoming a solid starter. From 2008-2011, he started 31, 33, 25 and 33 games respectively for some pretty bad Washington teams, and three times worked at least 180 innings.

There’s promise here, and because of his age, he’s worth keeping.

The significant question: Will he get a chance to show his durability?

Daisuke Matsuzaka: Brought in as a stop-gap following the injury to Harvey and innings ceiling on Wheeler, Matsuzaka won his last three starts and went at least six innings each time.

That was good enough for Alderson to say last October he could come back. However, nothing was done until after January.

Matsuzaka, 33, turned his season around when he accelerated his delivery.

The significant question: Were those last three starts a fluke?

Summation: Barring injury, Niese, Wheeler, Colon and Gee are givens in the rotation. If Mejia falters and Lannan pitches well, expect Mejia to start the season in the minor leagues.

So, the Mets have a balanced rotation with at least one question for each starter.

(Note: Montero, Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom were omitted because they aren’t expected to be promoted before June. I will discuss them later this spring in a prospects segment).

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.

Feb 01

Projecting Mets’ Rotation

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has already come out and said Jon Niese would be his Opening Day starter. No surprise there, as he was in that role last year.

Given that, here’s how I’d piece together the rest of the rotation and my reasoning.

NIESE: Opening Day starter.

NIESE: Opening Day starter.

Collins said Dillon Gee would be the alternative Opening Day starter, so logically he would go second in the rotation. However, I’d go with Bartolo Colon because of his experience and propensity for eating innings and save Gee’s innings for the back end.

Third, I’m thinking they’ll go with Zack Wheeler, but if he cracks the rotation, I’m wondering if they’ll instead slot in John Lannan to go with a left-right-left format.

Fourth would be innings eater Gee. This way I’m thinking there will be an even distribution of innings with the rotation.

Finally, the fifth starter will probably be Lannan because I don’t know how much stock Collins puts in my lefty-righty-lefty theory. If he does buy into it, then that could push Wheeler back to the fourth or fifth starter.

Probably not, but there are advantages to starting Wheeler fifth: 1) if there is an innings limit on him, fifth is where starts most get pushed back because of early-season off-days, which cuts the innings, and 2) theoretically there’s less pressure as the fifth starter.

So, if the Mets want to treat Wheeler with kid gloves, then fifth is where they have the best opportunity to do so.