Jun 30

For Best Results Mets Need To Turn Wheeler Loose

After what happened Friday night, it was impressive how the New York Mets rebounded yesterday. While the baseball cliché is “there’s always a game tomorrow,’’ there can be a carry-over. Now, let’s see if there is one today in Zack Wheeler’s Flushing debut.

WHEELER: Turn him loose.

WHEELER: Turn him loose.

In his first two starts, Wheeler is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA. The Mets took him off the hook for what would have been a loss last Tuesday in Chicago, but they aren’t able to erase his wildness.

Foolishly, the Mets mandated Wheeler throw more breaking pitches against the White Sox. Unfortunately, he was tipping his pitches when he did.

Wheeler’s money pitch is his fastball. First things first: He should learn command of that pitch on the corners before going to his slider and curveball.

There are many – Wheeler included – who believe he’s being force-fed the major leagues. But he’s here now, so the Mets should put him in the best position to win. With their offense suspect and bullpen shaky at times, that means letting Wheeler go with his fastball.

There will be pressure on Wheeler this afternoon against the Nationals, but he’ll have third baseman David Wright available as a calming influence.

“It’s going to be one of the most enjoyable, memorable times for anybody making their home debut, especially as highly touted as Zack,’’ Wright told reporters at Citi Field yesterday. “Best advice is just enjoy it because it only happens once. Don’t go out and try to do too much. Don’t try to go out and impress. Do what’s got you to this point, and he obviously knows what he’s doing.’’

And, what got Wheeler here was his fastball.

NEWS NOT GOOD ON GEE: Dillon Gee gave the Mets six strong innings yesterday, but he did it with flexor tendinitis in his arm making the disabled list a possibility.

As most pitchers do, Gee said he’s fine.

“It actually felt pretty good lately,’’ Gee said after beating the Nationals. 5-1. “Hasn’t really been an issue.’’

Over his past six starts, Gee as limited opponents to one run in four of them.

METS MATTERS: One of the best pick-ups by the Mets has been outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is second on the team with 40 RBI. Ideally, you’d like to keep him in the hope the Mets will make a run toward respectability, but realistically he could prove valuable to a contender. … Terry Collins said Ruben Tejada has to beat out Omar Quintanilla when he comes off the disabled list. Quintanilla has played very well, and yesterday broke an 0-for-17 slide with two hits. … Jon Niese, on the disabled list with a partially torn rotator cuff, is scheduled for a follow-up MRI July 4, which could determine the need for surgery.

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

Jun 29

Mets Wasting Matt Harvey

It happens. It just happens with more regularity with the New York Mets. Sometimes it is the offense that let’s Matt Harvey down; other times it is the bullpen.

Either way, the Mets are wasting the best thing to happen to them in years.

LYON: Part of the carnage. (AP)

LYON: Part of the carnage. (AP)

Last night it was a little bit of both, with the obvious villain the bullpen which gave up five runs in the last two innings to leave Harvey with his ninth no-decision of the season.

That’s a high number for even a full 34-start season, but shockingly alarming considering last night’s 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals came in Harvey’s 16th start.

In Godfather fashion the Mets pulled us back in to thinking there could be some fun in the second half of the season. During the Mets’ 7-4 road trip, the pen had a 0.52 ERA in 34 1/3 innings. But, it wasn’t all roses as there were several walk-off defeats. Veteran Mets watchers would have noted those losses and waited for the other shoe to fall.

It did last night.

It was a crushing defeat regardless of who started, but moreso because it was Harvey, the best they have to offer as nobody can say for sure what Zack Wheeler will give them and Jon Niese is out indefinitely.

Harvey was magnificent, giving up a run on three hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks in seven innings. He was even better after the game by not throwing the pen under the bus when he had every right.

If the media was waiting for fingers to be pointed, it wouldn’t come from Harvey.

“It’s baseball, it happens,’’ Harvey told reporters last night. “Those guys go out every single day and pitch their butts off. Today just happened to be one of those days.’’

Terry Collins said he could have left Harvey in the game, but he had already thrown 109 grueling pitches on a hot, humid night. It was a close game throughout, so every pitch mattered. Every pitch had some stress attached.

Perhaps Collins over-managed in the eighth by using David Aardsma, Josh Edgin and Brandon Lyon, with the latter giving up a game-tying three-run double to Ryan Zimmerman.

Bobby Parnell, who had been a plus this year, gave up two runs in the ninth.

Of course, it didn’t have to come down to that, as the offense went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine, including the bases loaded in the fourth. They also left runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

When the game was getting away from them in the last two innings, all they managed was a walk by Omar Quintanilla.

Although Harvey has gone longer this year, I can’t fault Collins for pulling him.

“Yeah, I could have left him in, no doubt about it,’’ a defensive Collins said. “I could have let him throw 150 [pitches]. I decided to take him out, I thought he had enough.’’

Harvey did his job, and Collins made the right decision. But, as has often been the case, it wasn’t enough.

Once again, Harvey, the best the Mets have to offer, was wasted.

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

Jun 27

Shouldn’t Players Association Assume Some Responsibility In Cause Of Niese Injury?

Jon Niese is in the second season of a five-year, $25.5 million contract with the New York Mets. He can thank the MLB Players Association.

Regardless of how this shoulder injury plays out, Niese will collect every penny, again thanks to the MLBPA.

However, MLBPA should also bear some responsibility for the injury in the first place.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

For years, the MLBPA’s priority in dealing with the owners in labor talks centered around money and protecting players in disciplinary and PED cases. Unfortunately, such things as interleague play, which contributed to issues as scheduling and playing conditions has been ignored.

The norm in MLB these days is the absurdity of teams playing in frigid conditions in April, traveling cross-country for one-game make-ups and waiting out four-hour rain delays. The owners are making huge financial commitments to these players, yet have them play in conditions that contribute to injuries.

It’s like owning a high-end sports car, yet leaving it out in the rain and snow. Makes little sense.

Because the MLBPA hasn’t emphasized these areas in collective bargaining, management has rammed through such things as the circumstances of having the Mets playing back-to-back series in snowy and frigid Minneapolis and Denver.

“I think it beat up his body,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Denver. “ I think he had to work extra hard. It’s freezing cold. … He’s the only guy who is really starting to get warm when he’s on the mound.

“Everyone else is standing out there. He and the catcher are really the only two guys with continual movement. When he’d come in, he’d get so chilled between innings, it was tough to go back out there and get loose. So now he had to work even harder to keep himself warm. I just think it took a beating on him.’’

Niese struggled in his subsequent starts and missed one after complaining of back stiffness and soreness. With every pitch Niese placed more stress on his body. As a pitcher, the brunt of it lands on the shoulder.

Sure, it is possible his rotator cuff tear has been an accumulation of all the pitches he’s thrown, but it also is likely pitching in the cold exasperated the stress and contributed to the injury.

Somebody has to play in those games, but the Mets, with reasonable, limited-greed scheduling, shouldn’t have been there.

Major League Baseball is trying to squeeze too much into the schedule and too much out of its players, and has been given carte blanche by the Players Association, which is content to bypass playing conditions for a bigger piece of the pie.

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

Jun 27

Time Is Right For Mets To Deal Shaun Marcum

With each scoreless inning Shaun Marcum threw Wednesday night in Chicago, I couldn’t help but think: What could the New York Mets get for this guy?

Marcum was stellar in shutting down the White Sox, 3-0, giving up four hits and two walks, and several times showed the guile needed to escape trouble. The eight innings was a terrific sign for a contender needing rotation depth.

MARCUM: Trade value could be high now. (Getty)

MARCUM: Trade value could be high now. (Getty)

The concept of dealing Marcum has been raised here several times, but the question was always raised of what the Mets could get for him.

They certainly won’t get a blue-chip prospect, but somebody in the lower levels. That’s not a lot, but for a rebuilding team the stockpiling of minor leaguers or draft picks are essential.

There’s roughly $2 million remaining on Marcum’s contract for this season, which is highly palatable these days. Plus, the Mets are highly unlikely to bring him back next season.

Marcum won for the first time last night, but strange as it sounds, he’s pitched better than his 1-9 record. He’s given the Mets innings and pitched both as a stater and reliever. He’s 31 and the injury issues in the spring are behind him. After last night, his value will never be higher.

The Mets are short in the rotation with Jon Niese on the disabled list and Collin McHugh traded, but this is an opportunity to take a look at somebody in their minor league system.

WEATHER FORECAST: The expected high today in Denver will be 94 degrees, 65 degrees warmer from when the Mets were here in April.

In the absurdity of the major league schedule, the Mets were scheduled for back-to-back April series in Minnesota and Denver, where the weather is traditionally raw that time of year.

Yes, somebody has to play in those cities, but it shouldn’t be an interleague or non-division team, which makes it difficult to reschedule. If Major League Baseball is adamant about interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, at least schedule within the division for the first three weeks.

Doing so makes it easier to reschedule rained-out games with day-night doubleheaders later in the season.

HEFNER GOES TODAY: Jeremy Hefner (2-6, 3.89 ERA) goes against Tyler Chatwood (4-1, 2.22) today at Coors Field.

Today’s game marks the return of Eric Young to Denver, where he played five seasons. The acquisition of Young provided a spark and apparently resolved the Mets’ leadoff issues. Young is the tenth player they’ve used at the top of the order and he has responded, hitting .414 in his first 29 at-bats with the Mets.

Young told reporters last night in Chicago: “It’s going to be my first time being on the visiting side when it comes to playing against the Rockies. … I’m sure a lot of emotion is going to be involved.’’

Terry Collins said David Wright will sit today, but since he’s hot and always hit well in Colorado, don’t be surprised. Wright has proved persuasive in staying in the lineup.

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

Jun 20

It Is Time Niese Prove His Worth

In all this talk about the New York Mets and their bright pitching future, Jon Niese has been overlooked. His upside has not been projected as high as that of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, but it was lofty enough at one time for the Mets to give him a long-term deal.

The Mets eschewed numerous trade overtures for him, instead opting to keep him as a building block because he’s a hard-throwing left-hander who experienced success and has a controllable contract.

However, he’s overlooked for a reason.

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

The Mets extended Niese’s contract with the expectation he’d lift them in games like tonight in Atlanta, where he’d be the difference between a winning and losing series. There’s not a high degree of confidence in him tonight.

After winning a career-high 13 games last year, Niese has not progressed. Yes, a case can be made to explain his 3-6 record because of a lack of run support, but there’s that sticky matter of a 4.15 ERA.

Niese pitched in consecutive sub-30 degree games in Minnesota and Denver and came away with stiffness in his back. No doubt, that is a contributing factor to his mediocre numbers, but what about his 1.57 WHIP?

In only four of his last ten starts has he gone into the seventh inning or further. The Mets have lost eight of those starts, and Niese has one victory in that span to his ledger.

One could argue Niese’s ERA is attributable in large part to giving up seven and eight runs in consecutive starts, but you could counter that by saying staff anchors must find away to minimize the damage, something Niese has yet to master.

This year Harvey, despite his limited experience, has proven more adept at escaping big innings than Niese. What Wheeler showed three times Tuesday night was something the Mets needed from Niese last weekend against the Cubs.

When the Mets had Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, Niese was projected as a No. 3 starter. Through attrition, he entered the season No. 1 and pitched like it in his first two starts.

Since then, he has been outpitched by Harvey consistently, and Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner over the past month. Currently, based on merit, Niese’s performance is indicative of a fifth starter at best, which is where he would be if the Mets dropped Shaun Marcum from the rotation.

I would still hold onto Niese for the same reasons: being a hard-throwing left-hander with a reasonable contract. There’s reason to believe there’s an upside to Niese, but he must start to outpitch his paltry support and perform to his expectations. He has to pitch better than his team, as all good pitchers must.

The Mets signed Niese to a long-term deal because they believed they could build around him. It is time Niese lives up to that faith.

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