Apr 03

Matt Harvey: Ace In Making

There is a likable quality to Matt Harvey having nothing to do with his pitching.

He speaks with confidence that doesn’t border arrogance. He has a big time arm without the big time attitude. He’s attentive to your questions, and thoughtful and respectful with his answers.

Harvey has a big time future, but doesn’t come across as a big timer. The tip-off is he carries his dirty T-shirt and shorts to the laundry bin instead of leaving them on the floor for the clubhouse attendant.

HARVEY: Has the right stuff. (AP)

HARVEY: Has the right stuff. (AP)

He’s acutely aware of the expectations, vocalized in the ovation he received Opening Day Monday at Citi Field, second only to David Wright in terms of length and volume.

“It was great,’’ Harvey said. “It made me feel very good.’’

Now comes the hard part, living up to the expectations of those in the stands, his teammates behind him in the field, and most of all himself.

“He has a lot going for him,’’ Wright said. “He carries himself well and pitches with confidence. We believe in him.’’

Injuries thrust Harvey into the Mets’ rotation last July and he responded, pitching with guile, poise and command. Other times, not so much. In ten starts, Harvey went 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA, including an 11-strikeout debut at Arizona. He wasn’t impressive in his lone start against the Padres, giving up five runs, but lasting five innings.

Based on last year’s numbers, there is a multitude of scouting reports and statistical projections of him. Harvey wants to hear none of that and cites one number.

“Innings are most important,’’ said Harvey. “I want to pitch over 200 innings. If I can do that, the rest will come.’’

Harvey accomplished much last year, but didn’t win at Citi Field. He gets his chance tonight against the Padres.

“It’s a new season and everybody wants to get that first win out of the way,’’ Harvey said on Opening Day. “Pitching at Citi Field is awesome. … [Tonight] is going to be a lot of fun for me. I’m really excited about it and after watching [Jon] Niese out there [Monday], it was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to my turn.’’

The original scouting report on Harvey was sketchy, but he’s no longer a surprise. Every team has him on film and knows his tendencies. That’s why it is important to tone down your expectations because often a pitcher hits a wall in his second year and realizes what he counted on before might not work now.

Harvey said his sophomore year is about making adjustments. He realizes he can’t get by on just a fastball. He realizes he can’t overpower everybody. He realizes he must bring more to the table.

“You can’t get into a routine and rhythm of doing the same things over and over again,’’ said Harvey, who had a spectacular 2.96 ERA in seven starts this spring.

“I think that kind of carried over into spring training too, facing a couple of teams, the Nationals, things like that. Those guys have seen me before. It’s just going out and attacking the zone and try to mix in different pitches in different counts and hopefully not leading every guy off with a fastball, or something like that.’’

There are nights Harvey can dominate, as he did the Diamondbacks. However, strikeouts cause the pitch count to add up, and with it, the possibility of coming out of a game early.

“I want them to put the ball in play,’’ Harvey said. “I want to keep my pitch count down and that will give me length.’’

Yes, Harvey has a plus fastball, but said it’s important to throw his curveball and change-up for strikes, especially in a fastball count.

“I can’t have them waiting on the fastball,’’ said Harvey, repeating the mantra of ever pitcher outside a knuckleballer.

If he does that, those expectations will be met, and with that, come even higher expectations.

Mar 27

Opening Day Prospects Improve For Wright And Murphy

After repeatedly expressing doubt recently David Wright and Daniel Murphy will in the Opening Day lineup, the Mets changed course today and indicated otherwise.

Murphy, speaking on WFAN, said he expects to play. Manager Terry Collins said Murphy could play in a major league exhibition game tomorrow, which represents a huge mistake if he were injured and had to go on the disabled list.

WRIGHT: News getting better.

WRIGHT: News getting better.

If went on the DL now, he would miss five or six games because the assignment would be backdated into spring training; if he goes on the DL after playing in a major league game he would miss a minimum of two weeks.

The same applies to Wright, who will play in a minor league game tomorrow. Obviously, the Mets want to have some good news going into Monday’s Opening Day game against San Diego at Citi Field, but this seems pushing too much.

While they could still make it without playing in major league exhibition games now, this is simply not a risk worth taking.

SANTANA DL UPDATE: Johan Santana will be on the disabled list to start the season, but despite the possibility of missing up to two months, he will not go on the 60-day disabled list.

When Santana goes on the disabled list it will be retroactive into spring training and he would miss a week. Although it is expected he will be out longer, going on the 60-day disabled list means exactly what it says and he wouldn’t be available until June.

It makes no sense to guarantee him being out two months if that isn’t certain.

Placing Santana on the 60-day disabled list would open up a spot on the 40-man roster, which will be needed to accommodate LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Atchison, Marlon Byrd, Aaron Laffey and Omar Quintanilla.

However, the Mets will be listening to trade proposals for some of their minor leaguers. They might also re-assign several players to make room.

HEFNER UPDATE: Jeremy Hefner was struck on his elbow yesterday, but said he hopes to make his start in the rotation.

It hasn’t been decided if Hefner, penciled in as the fifth starter with Santana down, will start the fifth game of the season, or if the Mets will go twice with Jon Niese before going to Hefner.

Laffey could be brought up if Shaun Marcum, who has a pinched nerve in his neck, isn’t available to start the second game of the season.

FELICIANO ACCEPTS ASSIGNMENT: Calling the Mets “home,’’ lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano accepted a minor league assignment over free agency.

His reasoning is three-fold: 1) there’s a familiarity between Feliciano and the Mets, 2) there’s a greater probability of getting back to the majors with the Mets, and 3) a minor-league salary is better than nothing.

Mar 08

Dillon Gee Takes Mound Today Against Detroit

They all can’t throw like Matt Harvey this time of spring.

Overpowering and arguably flawless in yesterday’s start against Miami, Harvey had one of those seamless starts pitchers rarely have in their third spring training game.

GEE: Continues comeback today.

GEE: Continues comeback today.

Dillon Gee, today’s starter against Detroit in Lakeland, has no such illusions.

“My mechanics are off,’’ Gee said. “It will be just my third start of the spring, so they are bound to be off. Spring training is for trying to figure out that kind of stuff.’’

Gee insists it is not an injury-related mechanical problem, but a matter of working off the rust that is a natural occurrence this time of year. It’s part of the process of getting ready to make 30 stars a summer.

“It’s all about location,’’ said Gee as he laced up his shoes while sitting at his locker yesterday afternoon. “Location is all about repetition early in spring training. I’m trying to refine everything.’’

As it is with Harvey and Jon Niese, Gee said mastering his change-up is the pitch he most needs to refine that will tell him if he’s ready to start the season. A change-up is thrown with the same motion as the fastball, and even though the pitcher uses the same grip, he releases the pitch with a different pressure on the ball.

“The change-up is such a feel pitch,’’ Gee said. “It takes time to feel comfortable with it. … Having good results would be good, but the important thing is to feel comfortable with all my pitches and improve my location.’’

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Jan 23

Thoughts On 2013 Projected Roster

Will Ruben Tejada leadoff for the Mets in 2013?

Mets beat writer Anthony DiComo, posted what he believes the Mets roster will look like come Opening Day.

C : John Buck
1B: Ike Davis
2B: Daniel Murphy
SS: Ruben Tejada
3B: David Wright
OF: Lucas Duda
OF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis
OF: Mike Baxter
Bench: Collin Cowgill
Bench: Andrew Brown
Bench: Justin Turner
Bench: Brandon Hicks
Bench: Anthony Recker

SP: Johan Santana
SP: Jon Niese
SP: Matt Harvey
SP: Dillon Gee
SP: Jenrry Mejia
RP: Frank Francisco
RP: Bobby Parnell
RP: Josh Edgin
RP: Greg Burke
RP: Robert Carson
RP: Jeurys Familia
RP: Jeremy Hefner

I have it almost exactly the same way. I also feel confident that Hefner, Familia and Mejia all make the team as I asserted yesterday in another post. The real battle will be Feliciano versus Burke for one bullpen spot.

The starting lineup and bench is about the same as last year from a production standpoint, but still considerably worse than 2011. That outfield is really tough on the eyes.

I think Valdespin edges out Brown or will make the team for his ability to play second base and for the fact he may have the best speed on the team. The only way ‘Spin doesn’t make the team is if Hairston comes back.

By the way, for three weeks in a row there was a report that Hairston was about to announce who he was signing with that week. It hasn’t happened yet. Are the Mets waiting him out or is he waiting the Mets out?

I agree that Recker will edge out Powell who I never took as a serious catching option anyway. Not that Recker is all that better, it’s just a hunch.

I have no idea what the top of the order will look like this season, but I can assure you it will have a resounding effect on RBI opportunities for both Wright and Davis.

Will it be Tejada and Murphy?

Both of them are slow of foot, and if it’s Baxter, his boneheaded plays on the bases last season made Angel Pagan look like a Mensa.

This team might be one of the slowest Mets teams I’ve ever seen and I wonder if they will crack the 50 stolen base mark in a park that was apparently built for pitching, defense and SPEED.

Whenever d’Arnaud does come up, I hope they don’t do something crazy and bat him in the middle of the order out of desperation. I wouldn’t put that past Terry Collins. Even David Wright was batting seventh and eighth after he was promoted from Triple-A and stood there for almost two months until he slowly inched his way up.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts on DiComo’s projected roster…

 

Jan 15

Jon Niese Could Be Most Indispensable Met

Normally, I might say David Wright when it comes down to who might be the most indispensable Met this season. Wright is, after all, the center of the Mets’ offensive universe and when he’s hitting it elevates the entire team.

However, I’m a pitching guy first and when I posed the question to myself this morning Jon Niese popped up as the answer.

NIESE: Needs breakout year.

With the trade of R.A. Dickey to Toronto and Johan Santana entering his walk year coming off another injury, Niese, despite a career-high 13 wins last year, is the No. 1 starter.

Dillon Gee is a health question and the No. 5 starter is anybody’s guess, so it comes down to the necessity of Niese having to pitch well every fifth day to minimize the losing streaks, which will happen as they do every year. It was Dickey who kept the Mets on an even keel last summer; Niese must now do the same.

The Mets always liked Niese, as evidenced by the long-term contract they gave him and refusal to discuss him in trade talks. When teams call the Mets, they ask for Niese, a hard-throwing lefthander, with major league success and a manageable contract.

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