Mar 09

Wheeler “Must See” Met

So far, Mets’ starting pitchers have done well in their exhibition starts. Zack Wheeler is up next scheduled Monday afternoon against Miami at Tradition Field (1:10 p.m., SNY). Of all Mets pitchers, Wheeler is the one I am most intrigued with as he could have the biggest upside this summer.

WHEELER: Faces Marlins today.

WHEELER: Faces Marlins today.

Coming off Tommy John surgery, Matt Harvey could have understandable issues; it would be interesting to see if 2014 Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom can have an encore season; Jon Niese can be an enigma; and Bartolo Colon is 41.

That leaves Wheeler, who was 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA last year and threw 185.1 innings. Wheeler averages nine strikeouts per nine innings, which is ace worthy. However, his four walks per nine innings is something that must be reduced – by at least half.

Depending on whom you talk with, Wheeler’s stuff might be better than Harvey’s. Command is a different issue.

Wheeler must improve his control, and doing so would enable him to work deeper into games. In 32 starts last year, Wheeler worked into the seventh only 13 times. He also reached 100 pitches 24 times and 110 pitches 13 times.

That doesn’t seem like much, but there’s an accumulative effect on the arm when you factor what he throws in the bullpen between starts; the eight warm-ups between innings; and the 50 or more warm-ups before the game.

After April he did not throw less than 100 pitches in consecutive starts. That must change to not only preserve his arm, but he could add an inning a start that would also reduce the workload of the bullpen.

There are progressions in the development from a prospect to a quality starter. Wheeler has already shown he can be overpowering. Now he must prove he can dominate with his control.

If he does that, there’s no telling how good he can become.

 

Mar 08

Mets Game Thread: Niese So Far Impressive In Debut

It’s only two innings, but another solid start by a Mets starter. So far, it has been two perfect innings from Jon Niese.

It’s hard to get a good read on somebody after two innings, but he worked quickly and showed good command. That’s what you want this early. One of the reasons it is difficult to get a solid read on a pitcher like Niese today is that Boston didn’t field its “A’’ team. Let’s see what he does against Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz.

Let’s see how he does in the third.

But, you have you like the first impression because a good Niese is critical to the Mets as far as showing a balanced rotation and eating innings.

Oh, and for Niese, most importantly, he must stay healthy.

Mar 08

Mets Game Thread: Easy First For Niese

I’m anxious to see Jon Niese pitch this year for the Mets. If he lives up to the expectations – even a little bit – it will answer a lot of questions, perhaps even more than Matt Harvey.

By the way, that was a good back-handed diving stop by Wilmer Flores. I’m not sold on the notion he’s a terrible defender. With Flores, as well with Daniel Murphy, they can be better with positioning.

An easy 1-2-3 first for Niese.

Mar 07

Mets Matters: deGrom, Matz Sharp In Split Squad Games

There was more good news for the Mets concerning their young pitching with strong performances from Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz during Saturday afternoon’s split squad games.

The Mets beat Atlanta, 3-1, in deGrom’s start as he gave up one run in three innings; Matz pitched two scoreless innings in his start, with the Mets losing, 8-7, to Miami.

mets-matters logoLast year’s NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom, threw only 19 pitches in his two innings and was so efficient Terry Collins gave him a third inning.

“I feel like my command is there, so just staying consistent with my delivery,’’ deGrom told reporters. He is tinkering with a curveball, but didn’t throw any.

In the other game, Matz struck out two and hit a batter with a pitch.

“I was a little jittery,’’ Matz said. “I was excited to be out there, and it got the best of me. But I was able to settle down.’’

MURPHY UPDATE: Daniel Murphy confirmed his right hand injury to be a bone bruise and not a fracture. Murphy was hit on the hand by Detroit’s David Price Friday.

“It’s a little sore, but not as much as I thought,’’ said Murphy.

CONFORTO HAS BIG DAY: Michael Conforto, the Mets’ 2014 first-round draft pick out of Oregon State, went 3-for-4 with three RBI against the Braves.

Conforto had a RBI single in the second and two-run double in the fifth.

“I kind of surprised myself a little bit. I felt very comfortable,’’ said Conforto. “My goal was just to come out here and have fun and embrace the moment. The opportunity to be out here with these guys is pretty good. I had a lot of fun today.’’

Conforto was in the starting lineup and given the lineup card by manager Terry Collins. Conforto said he planned to send the card to his grandfather.

GEE WORKS OUT OF PEN: Ranked sixth in the rotation, Dillon Gee, will work out of the bullpen unless he’s traded.

Gee threw 2.2 scoreless innings Saturday against the Marlins. He last pitched out of the bullpen in 2011.

UP NEXT: Jon Niese will start Sunday against Boston at Port St. Lucie. The game will be telecast on WPIX.

 

Mar 02

No-Brainer: If Not Harvey, Colon Should Be Opening Day Starter

If the Mets are to name an Opening Day starter who isn’t Matt Harvey, there is only one logical choice and that is Bartolo Colon as he is the least likely to be overwhelmed by the circumstances.

COLON: A no-brainer.

COLON: A no-brainer.

Jon Niese has been an Opening Day starter before, but as a left hander I would slot him No. 3 to put a break in the rotation. Starting him in the first game would require too much juggling.

As for Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, neither is in what you would call in the ace category.

Ideally, they want Harvey, and personally, I think manager Terry Collins is biding his time to see how Harvey comes out of spring training before making the call. He doesn’t want to announce something today about Harvey and then having to change his mind.

I believe that is his reluctance in making an announcement on the Opening Day starter. Collins said Harvey would start one of the first five games, and he’s waiting this out to see what kind of spring he has. I would slot Colon behind Harvey, and the former wouldn’t get bent out of shape if Harvey were to be named at the last minute.

But, if he were to make an decision now, it must be Colon, who was his most reliable starter last season winning 15 games and working over 200 innings. But, Collins isn’t making a decision now, and I think it is because he’s hoping on Harvey.

ON DECK:  Mets Matters: Today’s notebook.