Jul 03

A No-Hitter Watch Always On With Matt Harvey

ESPN’s Mark Simon wrote an interesting piece on what it would take for Matt Harvey to throw a no-hitter tonight for the New York Mets. I can narrow it down for you: Be on his game and be lucky.

Nobody can predict a no-hitter, but Simon is on the right track in that Harvey is one of those pitchers you can’t help but watch because of the possibility. If you want to turn away from a Harvey start – and why would you? – just wait until the first hit because you never know.

Harvey has already had three no-hit bids through six innings this season, and lost a fourth into the fifth inning.

You can’t help but think it will happen eventually, but then again there have been plenty of overpowering pitchers who never threw a no-hitter, and some non-descript arms that made history. It is such a fickle achievement, and to think Johnny Vander Meer did it in consecutive starts.

One thing to consider when Harvey starts is his pitch count. He regularly tops 100 because he’s a high-strikeout pitcher, and after Johan Santana’s 134-pitch no-hitter last year Terry Collins won’t let him get close to that number.

METS MUSINGS: While Harvey remains a workhorse, Shaun Marcum’s durability is again an issue. Marcum opened the season on the disabled list and his start Saturday in Milwaukee is in doubt because of pain and/or stiffness in his upper back. Marcum underwent a MRI Tuesday. Carlos Torres could get the ball if the 1-9 Marcum can’t go. … Jon Niese will be re-examined this week and it could be determined then if he will need season-ending surgery on his shoulder to repair a rotator cuff tear. … It has taken him until July, but Collins is finally hinting Anthony Recker might get more playing time now that John Buck is in a dreadful slump. … LaTroy Hawkins hasn’t given up an earned run in 13 appearances. … Ike Davis is hitting .268 with six homers for Triple-A Las Vegas. He was 0-for-5 Monday night. Collins said the reports he’s getting on Davis are encouraging in that his hitch isn’t as pronounced and he’s going more to the opposite field. However, Collins gave no timetable for his return. With Josh Satin doing so well and the All-Star break approaching, it might be a prudent idea to keep him in the minors until the second half. … Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are expected to start against each other in the Futures Game.

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Jun 30

Was Wheeler A Premature Promotion?

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WHEELER: On an island (AP)

Can we stop pinning the greatness label on Zack Wheeler? If they hadn’t already, the New York Mets surely learned Sunday, Wheeler has a long way to go before he’s the next Matt Harvey, let alone the next Tom Seaver.

Nobody knows how Wheeler’s career will unfold, but there’s one camp believing he was rushed by the Mets. The arguments from that corner are carrying more weight after Wheeler was pounded by the Nationals in Sunday’s 13-2 rout.

Before Wheeler was brought up from Triple-A Vegas, there was the feeling of some scouts – and even a little from the phenom himself – he wasn’t ready. Contrary to the sentiments of his minor league manager, Wally Backman, Wheeler had problem with his command and secondary pitches.

Backman was wrong; Wheeler was not ready.

In his first two starts, Wheeler had problem with his command, and it surfaced in his second game he was tipping his breaking pitches. Tipping his pitches wasn’t no much the issue against the Nationals as it was simply making bad ones. The problem was again command.

“The first inning I was hitting my spots. Everything was working,’’ Wheeler told reporters after his first Citi Field start. “And then I just started leaving some balls up. I’m starting to learn the hard way you can’t get away with mistakes up here as much as you do down there.’’

Which only illustrates Backman was premature in his assessment.

Wheeler gave up four runs in the second, starting with a first-pitch homer leading off the inning by Adam LaRoche on a fastball. Jayson Werth took him deep in the third. Wheeler threw 80 pitches in 4.2 innings, a clear sign his command was nowhere to be found. He struck out five, which averaged to one an inning, but that was overshadowed by giving up five runs on six hits and two walks.

With eight runners in less than five innings, Wheeler was continually in trouble. This is not the way it is supposed to be with a phenom who has it all together.

The bottom line is Wheeler doesn’t have it all solved. By his own admission, he has a lot to learn, and he’s trying to do it all on the fly. Wheeler was rushed to the Mets, and each pitch is a test, one he is not passing.

The Mets were adamant once Wheeler was brought up that he would stay, and with injuries to Jon Niese and now possibly Dillon Gee, that’s the way it appears it is going to stay. Wheeler is now here out of necessity.

Even if the promotion might have been a mistake in the first place.

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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