Apr 24

It’s Up To Harvey If Bullpen Works

Dave Righetti did it. So did Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz. Now, can Matt Harvey make the transition from the rotation to the bullpen? Harvey’s initial response – that he’s pissed off – wasn’t a positive sign, but his subsequent comments are more encouraging.

HARVEY: It's up to him.. (AP)

HARVEY: It’s up to him.. (AP)

Harvey, who will be available coming out of the bullpen starting Tuesday, was not happy about the decision.

“It’s the decision that they made,’’ Harvey told reporters. “I have to suck it up and go out there and do everything I can to get things back in gear. I don’t have to agree with it, but I have to go out there and do the best I can to get things going and do everything I can to help this team get back to where I believe I can help this team, and that’s as a starter.’’

Whether he makes it back as a starter remains to be seen, and actually is irrelevant. If Harvey concentrates solely on being a reliever, long or short, it might enhance his value this offseason.

The way the market was last year, relievers were signed earliest and that hold true next winter, as well.

Harvey doesn’t throw as hard as he used to – he’s gone from 96.5 mph., in 2015 to 92.6 mph., this season, which is acceptable for the pen, as long as the pitcher has secondary pitches, which he does.

Former Mets GM Jim Duquette, currently a commentator for SNY, said it is common when a starter moves to the pen that his velocity will increase. And, Harvey has a good enough slider. By all accounts, Harvey has the physical tools and his problem is psychological.

If the Mets concentrate on starting Harvey at the beginning of an inning and limit him getting up and down, he should get the appropriate warm-up time.

Physically, Harvey can do this. If he has the proper attitude and meets with success, this could be the start of the second part of his career. Others have done it, such as Cleveland’s Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer [so Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland] have the experience in helping pitchers make the transition].

If Harvey stops thinking about starting and concentrates on being the best reliever possible, it could work. It’s up to him.

Feb 22

Mets Must Make Decision On Wheeler

Zack Wheeler gets the ball tomorrow against the Braves in their exhibition opener. He’ll get roughly 30 pitches or two innings.

It’s one of five appearances he’ll get this spring to prove his elbow is sound enough for him to make the Mets’ rotation. There’s also been talk about trying him out of the bullpen, or him staying back.

WHEELER: Rotation or bullpen? (AP)

WHEELER: Rotation or bullpen? (AP)

Frankly, I’m intrigued by the possibility of him working out of the pen. I’m aware of the concern over the up-and-down nature of a reliever being an injury risk, just as the probability of breaking down after pitching on consecutive days.

The biggest chance for injury is if the Mets plan for him to start then switch direction and try him out of the pen. Or, do the opposite in working him in the bullpen during spring training then switching gears during the season.

This is what happened with Jenrry Mejia, who bounced around from the rotation to the pen and back again, only to blow out his arm.

It’s too simplistic to say, “Well, he’s a pitcher, just throw the damn ball.’’

There have been plenty of pitchers to go from the rotation to star in the bullpen. Dave Righetti, Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz all made the transition and starred. Smoltz even went back to the rotation, but the key was it wasn’t done during the season.

I don’t know what the Mets will decide to do with Wheeler, but whatever they do, for this year at least they can’t deviate. Make the decision and stick with it, even if he opens the season in the minors. If they decide to pitch him out of the bullpen, then send him to the minors, he must pitch in relief at Las Vegas.

I’m intrigued by the idea of Wheeler pitching out of the pen. He has a live fastball – his out pitch – and from starting he has a secondary pitch. If he can control his command issues, he could be an effective reliever.

He gets into trouble facing a lineup the third time through when his pitch count rises so maybe being a closer would suit him.

Plus, are you all that convinced Jeurys Familia is a great closer. Both he and AJ Ramos will be free agents in 2019, so it would be beneficial to prepare for them leaving.

Unlike Sandy Alderson, I don’t see the Mets competing this year, so getting some answers would be a good thing.

 

Mar 16

Lost Velocity Could Be Best Thing For Harvey

The issue of Matt Harvey’s lost velocity could be the best thing to happen to him in his effort to rejuvenate his career.  The headlines after Wednesday’s loss asked if Harvey would ever be the same.

HARVEY: He shouldn't hold his head. (AP)

HARVEY: He shouldn’t hold his head. (AP)

What exactly is “the same?” Outside of four spectacular months in 2013 and several scintillating starts in 2015 – which culminated in a hissy fit in Game 5 of the World Series – we must remember for all the hype, he is 29-28 lifetime, which, unlike his string of model girlfriends, is nothing to get excited about.

That 2013 All-Star start and career 2.94 ERA and 1.08 WHIP give us reasons to be hopeful, but for all his sparkling moments there has considerable diva tarnish.

Harvey’s scouting report in 2013 showed a fastball in the high 90s, impeccable control and a bulldog, don’t-give-in mentality that culminated in him pitching through the pain of a strained forearm leading to Tommy John surgery.

Back then, Harvey’s high profile personality was outlined by his high 90s heater. Pitching coach Dan Warthen said we might not know until May whether his velocity will return. If two surgeries aren’t enough of a wake-up call, perhaps the velocity issue could be. It’s important Harvey stay in Florida at the start of the season to find his confidence more than his fastball.

Nolan Ryan was a freak who threw triple digits into his 40s. A chemically-induced Roger Clemens threw high heat late into his career. However, they, like Sandy Koufax, Bob Feller, Tom Seaver, eventually lost what made them great. Age and injury reaffirmed their pitching mortality.

Harvey is lucky in comparison. He’s only 27 and hopefully will take advantage of his lost fastball to learn how to pitch. Let’s hope he’ll learn how to pitch like Mike Mussina, Jack Morris, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine – don’t snicker on the last one, because after all, he won over 300 games and is in the Hall of Fame – which could extend the career of the pitcher many have given up on.

I wrote yesterday how the Mets should leave him off the Opening Day roster and send him for an extended spring training. I didn’t say Harvey’s career was over and the column didn’t bash him. To the contrary, I still think he can become a solid major league starter.

I have previously been hard on Harvey for his attitude and I’m not backing off. I don’t expect Harvey to consistently throw 98, but I do hope he’ll be smart enough to capitalize on being given the great gift of being young enough in his career to reinvent himself.

Hopefully, he was taking notes the past two years from watching Bartolo Colon. Harvey’s career is not over unless he mentally gives up.

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 27

My Hall Of Fame Ballot And Reasoning

As I do every time this year, I mail in my Hall of Fame ballot. To grow up loving baseball and to vote for the Hall of Fame is a tremendous thrill. It is also a responsibility I take greatly, which is why I don’t understand the rationale of some of colleagues who use their vote as a political statement. If you don’t want to vote, then surrender your vote.

I can comprehend checking off two or three names if that’s all you believe are worthy and not the ten maximum. If you want to vote in a steroid user that’s your prerogative.

But, what I will never get is them believing, is because of the flux of steroid users that there are more than ten qualified candidates and therefore not submitting any ballot.

Just vote for your top ten and move on. Because candidates stay on the ballot based on the percentage of votes, there’s a chance worthy players will be left off. That’s blatantly unfair and penalizes deserving players.

How can you cover Major League Baseball for at least ten straight years – the requirement to vote – and you’re not able come up with a top ten? Just makes no sense.

I take pride in my vote, do a lot of research and talk to players, managers, coaches and general managers to gain input. And, it’s still hard. Here are my top ten and why:

Craig Biggio: He should have been voted in last year. Over three thousand hits. Aren’t you paying attention?

Mike Piazza: I hear the steroid rumors, but that’s all they are. Innuendo and some back acne aren’t reason enough to bar him.

Jeff Bagwell: Like Piazza, he’s not linked to steroids in any official capacity. Writers should be more responsible than to buy into rumors.

Tim Raines: Arguably one of the three best leadoff hitters in history along with Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock.

Lee Smith: There’s a bias against him, but he’s third on the career list with over 400 saves.

Edgar Martinez: There’s a bias against him, also, because he’s a designated hitter. But, that’s an official position, and he was as good as anybody at it.

Mike Mussina: He could have pitched another two years and won 300 games, which is automatic entry. Seventeen straight seasons with double-digit victories, and 11 overall with fifteen or more, often pitching with inferior teams against the American League East.

Randy Johnson: A ten-time All-Star and five-time Cy Young Award winner with over 300 victories and 4,875 strikeouts. He’s a slam dunk. He also threw over 200 innings in 14 seasons.

Pedro Martinez: He was an eight-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner. His average season was 17-8 with a 2.93 ERA and 217 innings pitched.

John Smoltz: He won 213 games, but likely would have won over 300 if he didn’t miss the 2000 season with an injury and returned as a closer where in saved 154 games.

I did not vote for any of the players who were directly linked to steroids, either by direct testimony from other players or were mentioned in the Mitchell Report. Until the Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball put a notation on their plaques they played in the steroid era and their records come with an asterisk, that will be my stand.

Feb 06

Feb. 6.10: Random thoughts.

Just some things that have passed through my mind lately:

* If catcher is a position of mostly back-ups, I’d just as soon see what Josh Thole can do, maybe sooner than later.

* If first base is a platoon between Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis, I’d like to see what Murphy can do against left-handed pitching.

* David Wright ended last season stepping into the bucket after he was beaned. I hope he’s over that. Fear can quickly derail a career.

* I just wonder where Carlos Beltran would be had he had surgery in September.

* I’d like to see them sign John Smoltz for the bullpen, but he still wants to start. He’s worth a shot in either role. Hall of Famers deserve one more shot.