Sep 25

Mets’ Collins Can’t Say Goodbye To Summer With Matsuzaka

Terry Collins has been endorsed by this blog several times to come back to manage the New York Mets next season, but only if that is a multi-year contract. Collins should tell the Mets “no thanks,’’ and walk away if the contract offer is for one year or one plus an option. Anything else puts him in lame duck status and that’s not fair.

Collins doesn’t have many “serious’’ choices left season, excluding the naming of his lineup. In that regard, Collins would be absolutely foolish to start Daisuke Matsuzaka as the starter in the season finale Sunday at Citi Field.

NIESE: Want to see him one more time. (AP)

NIESE: Want to see him one more time. (AP)

“I’ll probably go with Daisuke,’’ Collins told reporters in Cincinnati prior to today’s game. “He’s one of those guys who loves to pitch. He could throw 125 pitches in a game and be ready to go three days later without being the worse for wear.’’

I don’t give a damn if he loves to pitch. And, regardless of how many pitches he throws he won’t have another game three days later. Based on his performance for the Mets, he might not get a spring training invite to Port St. Lucie. He should only get one if the Mets are thin on starters, definitely not on merit.

So, why bother starting him? The ball has to go to Jon Niese, and if the reasons aren’t obvious to Collins, allow me the liberty to point them out.

Matsuzaka’s body of work with the Mets has been slightly above that of bad. It is the last day of another loss season, so why would you want to leave the fan base of that as the season’s last memory? Why give them a foul taste?

It is reminiscent of Jerry Manuel’s decision to pitch Oliver Perez in the final game of the 2010 season. Perez had been a cancer, both on the mound and in the clubhouse, that year yet Manuel decided to leave that image. Maybe, and I don’t discount this, he was sticking it to the Mets, whom he knew wouldn’t bring him back.

Maybe he was telling the fans who continually booed him to go to hell. Who knows? We haven’t heard from Manuel since.

In contrast, the Mets are negotiating to bring back Collins, so why, on a day the franchise is honoring Mike Piazza, will he want to leave Matsuzaka as the “good-bye to 2013’’ image?

Just not smart.

The start has to go to Niese, who will be part of the franchise’s future. Don’t chance injury by taxing him, although it will be on short rest. Give him five innings max and turn it over to the relievers who have a chance to make next year’s team: Vic Black, Jeurys Familia, LaTroy Hawkins.

If the Mets had a sense of imagination, they would have had Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard throwing all this time and had them pitch in the season finale, only if for an inning or two. Say good-bye for the summer with a real look at the future.

I know, I know, it never would have happened because it would have meant tinkering with the 40-man roster. That’s a rule that should be modified so a team can showcase it’s minor league talent for one game in September, but only if has been eliminated.

But, it would have been a way of giving their frustrated fan base a glimpse into spring training.

And, one more thing, since David Wright is back, I don’t want to hear anything about resting him for a day this weekend.

If you’ve hung around this summer and you’re buying a ticket for this weekend, you deserve a chance to see him play.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 24

Mets Wrap: Aaron Harang And David Aardsma Show Something For 2014

It was fun to watch the New York Mets play a meaningful September game. Maybe next year they’ll be in one for their own benefit.

Manager Terry Collins said prior to the game the Mets could benefit just by playing a team with something on the line.

HARANG: Pitching for 2014.

HARANG: Pitching for 2014.

“It will be an education for our young players,’’ Collins said of this series with the Cincinnati Reds. “It will be fun to watch. We’ll see how we react. The pressure is on them. We’ll see how our guys measure up.’’

They measured up well in tonight’s 3-2 10-inning loss at Cincinnati, with a couple of nuggets worthy of a look.

The first was Aaron Harang, who gave up two runs in six innings. By definition, that was a quality start, but there was nothing good about the six walks.

However, what Harang demonstrated was an ability to work out of trouble, which is something to look for in a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.

Harang should be invited to spring training to compete for a spot in the rotation.

Assuming Matt Harvey won’t be ready for the start of spring training, the Mets have three starters in Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee. That leaves Harang competing for the fourth spot with the fifth spot wide open.

Should Harvey be ready, Harang would be competing for the fifth spot. Harvey opted to rehab his elbow and eschew surgery for now. Part of that rehab could be to test the elbow in the Arizona Fall League, as it would enable him to throw at game speed.

The Fall League is advantageous to the Mets in finding out about Harvey. Throwing on flat ground or in the bullpen does not test the elbow as facing hitters. Of course, Harvey won’t pitch in Arizona if he feels any discomfort in his elbow.

Something else to consider as they prepare their offseason moves is reliever David Aardsma, who pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.

The Mets, as in what has been a winter tradition in the past four years, will be attempting to build a bullpen. Aardsma has been effective in stretches this season, and tonight was another example.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 18

Is Tim Lincecum On Mets’ Radar?

What might the New York Mets be wondering as they look into the Giants’ dugout and see Tim Lincecum?

Could they be mulling over the idea of signing him as a free agent this winter? He’ll be pricey, but if the Mets are serious about contending in 2014, they’ll have to pay for pitching.

LINCECUM: Could he be on Mets' radar?

LINCECUM: Could he be on Mets’ radar?

With Matt Harvey opting for rehab over the next two months instead of immediate Tommy John surgery, the Mets have no certainties with their young ace. Surgery is still a possibility, and that would mean he would miss all of next year.

At the time Harvey went on the disabled list and surgery was anticipated, GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets would have to prepare to not have him next season.

Perhaps he didn’t want to reveal his true thoughts in front of Harvey in a press conference, or perhaps he didn’t want to come across as being desperate, but Alderson backed off that sentiment yesterday.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect our offseason planning as much as has been speculated,’’ Alderson said. “The one thing we have is a great deal of starting-pitching depth, some of it untested at the minor league level. But we have a lot of confidence in the quality and quantity of our starting pitching.

“So hopefully Matt is part of that rotation next year. But if he’s not, I don’t foresee us working hard to fill his spot from outside the organization.’’

What Alderson should have said is the Mets have “potential’’ starting-pitching depth.

Harvey, of course, is no given. Jenrry Mejia just underwent elbow surgery. Noah Syndergaard isn’t ready, and there’s nothing imminent with Rafael Montero.

By my count, the Mets will go into spring training with a rotation of Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Tonight’s starter, Aaron Harang, could be invited to spring training and so might Daisuke Matsuzaka. Are you comfortable with those last two options?

They will have to add somebody regardless of what Alderson said and Lincecum could be available. He’s in the final season of a two-year, $40.5-million contract, and the Giants haven’t said anything about bringing him back.

If not the Giants or Mets, somebody will offer Lincecum a contract, and considering what he made this year there won’t be much of a salary cut.

Lincecum was signed to the contract after the 2011 season, in which he went 13-14, but with a 2.74 ERA and having worked 217 innings. The feeling it was due to a lack of run support.

Lincecum was 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA in 2012 and a drop to 186 innings. He has thrown 184 so far this season while going 10-13 with a 4.40 ERA. Both this year and last there were reports his velocity is down. Even so, something had to be there to throw a no-hitter.

There’s some sentiment a change of scenery might benefit Lincecum, who is only 29. The flip side reported in San Francisco is the Giants might sign him for one year plus a team option.

Of course, the Mets might offer the same. They might have to.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 17

Matt Harvey Opts For Rehab Over Surgery; Mets Must Prepare To Not Have Him

The New York Mets haven’t said anything on Matt Harvey not having to undergo surgery other than it is his decision. Multiple news agencies report Harvey will opt for rehabilitation over surgery after getting a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews Monday in Alabama.

The plan is to rehab for up to two months to see how his elbow responds. After that, he’ll have another MRI, and then possibly opt for surgery at that time.

HARVEY: Taking a gamble.

HARVEY: Taking a gamble.

Whether he has surgery now or in two months, Harvey won’t be available until 2015.

Surgery, of course, has no guarantees, but neither does rehab. If I were Harvey, I’d have the surgery and be done with the issue. But, I am not, and I understand it is his decision on his career.

If he has it now, there could be a possibility of him being ready next September. Wouldn’t it be great to have him activated and help them compete for a wild card?

The risk Harvey is taking is not feeling discomfort in November, and making a decision based on that information. He will not be throwing under game conditions. So, if he’s ready to start the season, that’s great, but the gamble is he’ll stay healthy the entire season.

What if he doesn’t? What if there’s more pain and he further tears his ulnar collateral ligament? If he re-injures the elbow and has surgery next summer he would miss the rest of the 2014 season and all of 2015.

That adds another year to when he won’t be pitching.

I understand Harvey’s competitive nature and desire to pitch. It is admirable. I don’t believe he’s being selfish, but I wonder if he’s seeing the entire picture about potential lost time. Although there are no givens in surgery, the odds have greatly improved for undergoing the Tommy John procedure.

Whatever route Harvey chooses in two months the Mets must make starting pitching their priority, even over an outfield bat. Currently, the Mets are looking at their 2014 rotation consisting of Dillon Gee, the staff leader in victories; Zack Wheeler, who’ll be on an innings limit; and Jon Niese, who had his own injuries this year.

Jenrry Mejia underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow. Noah Syndergaard will not be ready to start next season and Rafael Montero is questionable. The Mets can’t count on Montero to make the team coming out of spring training.

So, that leaves two starters to find for next year. We can safely say Shaun Marcum won’t be an option.

For all the talk of adding a power hitting outfielder and the Mets’ other voids, any chance they have for a winning season is dependent on their pitching. It has been that way for 100 years, and nothing has changed.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 13

Mets Wrap: LaTroy Hawkins Still Has The Right Stuff

When the New York Mets begin their annual winter task of building their bullpen, they’d be wise to consider three names instrumental in beating Miami tonight at Citi Field.

Yes, Lucas Duda gets props for a three-run homer, Jon Niese pitched into the seventh, and Andrew Brown took advantage of a rare start by hitting a mammoth home run, but the Mets might not have won without Vic Black, Pedro Feliciano and LaTroy Hawkins.

HAWKINS: Still has it. (AP)

HAWKINS: Still has it. (AP)

By definition, winning 4-3 is not a slam-dunk, but a study of perseverance and endurance. Those three carried the Mets to the end.

Hawkins has been solid all year in a set-up role, and despite his reservations, assumed the closer role when Bobby Parnell went down and excelled, picking up his ninth save with a 1-2-3 ninth highlighted by a classic punch-out of Giancarlo Stanton, who already hit two homers.

In a masterful display, Hawkins got ahead 0-and-2 with two inside fastballs. Stanton wouldn’t bite on two down-and-away sliders to even the count 2-and-2. But, fearless as usual, Hawkins blew away Stanton inside with a 94 mph. fastball.

At 40, most teams might consider Hawkins an afterthought in constructing a bullpen, but he still has the fastball plus the guile that can’t be measured by a radar gun.

Not only does he get the job done, but he’s an invaluable and calming influence to the younger relievers and in the clubhouse.

My favorite Hawkins moment came at mid-season when the Mets – including manager Terry Collins – danced around the Jordany Valdespin saga. However, Hawkins, a proud veteran, called it as he saw it and wouldn’t let the immature Valdespin off the hook.

Meanwhile, Feliciano doesn’t throw in the 90s, but is still an effective lefty specialist and last night closed the eighth by getting Christian Yelich on a grounder to second.

If used properly – which is to say sparingly and not wear him out – Feliciano is still a plus.

The Mets don’t know Parnell’s availability next year after undergoing neck surgery. They must assume they won’t have him, at least at the start.

They’ll need a closer and Black, who throws in the mid-90s, could emerge as the choice. In preparing for next season, Collins should use Black in as many pressure situations as possible.

Of course, the bullpen key for 2014 is Parnell. If healthy, the three could slot in behind him and GM Sandy Alderson’s bullpen reclamation would be halfway done.

The key to a strong bullpen is having quality starters capable of working deep into the game as Niese did last night. The fewer innings the bullpen works, the more effective.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos