Mar 15

Jeremy Hefner Solid Against Braves

Jeremy Hefner, the likely replacement for Johan Santana in the rotation, gave up two homers this afternoon but rebounded to strike out the last six hitters he faced in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Atlanta.

Hefner had a solid line of two runs on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in five innings.

HEFNER: Solid outing today.

HEFNER: Solid outing today.

Even so, Hefner wasn’t pleased, telling reporters he was concerned because he left the ball up in the strike zone. Hefner said he pitched with a chip on his shoulder the last two innings.

“I was less than thrilled about my performance before then,’’ Hefner said. “The ball was up, as evidenced by all the fly balls and hard-hit balls. I’m the guy that has to pound the bottom of the strike zone and get ground balls to be successful.’’

Hefner said earlier this week he will be ready to replace Santana at the start of the season but that’s my focus.

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Mar 14

Mets Lineup Against Tigers

The Mets are home to Detroit this afternoon in a game that will be seen on SNY. Here’s who’ll they’ll be watching today at Tradition Field:

Jordany Valdespin, lf

Justin Turner, 2b

Ike Davis, 1b

Marlon Byrd, dh

Mike Baxter, rf

Zach Lutz, 3b

Anthony Recker, c

Matt den Dekker, cf

Ruben Tejada, ss

Dillon Gee, rhp

LINE-UP ANALYSIS: If you examine it closely, only two players – Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada – figure to be in the Opening Day lineup. It is possible one of the three between Marlon Byrd, Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin, could also start. … I see Justin Turner and Anthony Recker making the 25-man roster as reserves. … I am pulling for Matt den Dekker to stick. … As far as the batting order goes in the regular season Tejada could hit second as easily as eighth.

NOTE: Later today I’ll post a projected everyday batting order. The word “awesome” doesn’t come immediately to mind.

 

Mar 13

Matt Harvey, Bobby Parnell Ripped As Mets Lose

Nearly flawless in his last start, Matt Harvey took his lumps today, but on a positive note rebounded and regained control.

HARVEY: Gives up homer to Harper.

HARVEY: Gives up homer to Harper.

Harvey gave up a three-run homer to Washington’s Bryce Harper in the first inning, but rebounded to throw three scoreless innings and strike out six in an 8-5 loss.

Harvey settled down to retire 11 of the final 12 hitters against him; a very good sign for any pitcher let alone a young one after a rough start.

“I struggled there in the first inning, obviously. I think I came out a little too excited and needed to tone that down a little bit,’’ Harvey told reporters. “I made one bad pitch and it cost me three runs.’’

Harvey said he came out pumped in trying to atone for a three-homer rocking by the Nationals last year in spring training.

Bobby Parnell had a rough outing, giving up four runs in the seventh inning, which included a run-producing error by left fielder Lucas Duda and RBI single by Harper.

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Mar 12

In Defense Of Matt Den Dekker

Do you remember when Citi Field opened the Mets vowed they they were going to build around pitching and defense? Then, they immediately signed Jason Bay, who played well defensively, but that wasn’t the point.

Enter Matt den Dekker, who doesn’t have the inside track at making the team as the center fielder despite being the their best defensive outfielder.

DEN DEKKER: Magic glove.

DEN DEKKER: Magic glove. (AP)

Terry Collins managed arguably one of the greatest defensive center fielders in history when he had Jim Edmonds. Collins said they compared favorably in their ability to chance down fly balls in the gap with their speed, “although nobody got a jump like Jim Edmonds … it seemed like he took two steps before the ball was hit.’’

That comes from knowing the hitters and the pitch, so maybe that part of it will come to den Dekker. However, and this is the rub, he’s not even close to Edmonds at the plate and it could cost him a spot on the roster.

Den Dekker made another spectacular catch Monday when he went against the wall in left-center to rob Detroit’s Austin Jackson of extra bases. It is one of several he’s made this spring, each one seemingly more scintillating than the previous.

Den Dekker told reporters later in Lakeland he was “just doing my job,’’ but for a team lacking in offense, that’s only part of what the Mets need from him.

“If you are going to be a platoon player, you got to be able to do something off the bench in the National League, and that’s not just play defense,’’ Collins told reporters.

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Mar 11

Jordany Valdespin Making Impact

Jordany Valdespin is not an easy person to like, and especially hard to cheer for. Ask a question and he’ll often mumble an indifferent and inaudible answer.

VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)

VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)

He exudes confidence on the field, but crosses the line with a brash attitude, tendency to showboat and not always hustle. Off the field he wears a bright red baseball cap reading “JV 1.’’ He often carries himself  with an “I own the world,” persona that goes beyond confidence, so much that manager Terry Collins has warned him to tone it down a notch.

Last year, Valdespin fell out of favor with the Mets despite hitting five pinch-hit homers. He didn’t help himself in the offseason when he was suspended in winter ball. Even so, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis out with a bruised left knee and Daniel Murphy sidelined with a strained right side, Valdespin is being given every opportunity to make the roster in the outfield or as a second baseman.

Valdespin has produced, but with a caveat: He plays to his own soundtrack.

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