Feb 28

Valdespin Off To Hot Start

GM Sandy Alderson said not to discount Jordany Valdespin as a potential leadoff hitter. Valdespin had two singles in that role in last night’s 4-4 tie with Washington.

Valdespin played second base last night and will get a chance to play the outfield. There is a chance Valdespin could make the roster at second if Daniel Murphy isn’t ready.

Murphy will be out for another week to ten days with a strained muscle in his right side.

Valdespin made a bad impression with the Mets last year because of his lack of hustle, and compounded that by being suspended in winter ball. He’s been the good soldier so far this spring.

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Feb 22

Things To Look For In Mets Intrasquad Game

Several things to look for in today’s Mets intrasquad game in Port St. Lucie. You don’t get answers in a game like this, but you can get a first impression or something to build on.

Here’s the players I am interested in and why:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: Leading off for Team 1. Nieuwenhuis is getting the first chance to win the leadoff job, which is definite hole.

Jordany Valdespin: Playing second base for Team 1 and batting second. Valdespin is ticketed to open the season in the minors, but that could change on how well he plays second base and how Daniel Murphy recovers from a ribcage injury.

Andrew Brown: Playing left field for Team 1. He has a chance to stick as a reserve in the Mets’ undermanned outfield.

Wilmer Flores: A top prospect playing second base for Team 2. Opportunities often come out of injuries and if Murphy’s injury is worse than expected Flores might become an option. Even so, he should see major league time this summer.

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Feb 16

I Don’t Get Jordany Valdespin

Maybe it is me, but I don’t think I will ever understand Jordany Valdespin. At one time I wanted him to get a chance and wonder why he wasn’t. Now, it is clear. The guy’s elevator doesn’t go to the top and he ranks low on the charm and responsibility meters.

When asked by reporters today in Port St. Lucie to explain why his Twitter account had a photo of himself wearing a Marlins cap, he lamely said it was taken by his cousin who put up the picture.

“Things happen,” Valdespin said. “My cousin put that picture over here. I don’t have any information about that. When I see that picture, everything happened, and I said, ‘What the —-?’ But I had a big problem with my family about that. So that’s not my fault.’’

Yes, it is his fault. On two counts. One, for wearing the Marlins’ cap in the first place in public, and two, for giving a relative access to your social media account. Evidently, the photo was online long enough for people to notice.

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Feb 15

Monitoring Santana And Keeping Him Away From The WBC

I realize the matter of national pride and his desire to represent Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, but Johan Santana is set to get $31 million from the Mets this year (including a $5.5 million buyout) and that’s where his responsibility lies and the team has told him so.

Once ardent supporters of the WBC, the team has told Santana it doesn’t want him to pitch in the international event.

There’s no disputing Santana pitches hard and has been a workhorse when healthy, but the problem is staying healthy. Only in 2008, his first year with the Mets, did Santana make his entire allotment of 34 starts.

Santana10The Mets have paid Santana a considerable amount of money, including a full season (2011) when he gave them nothing. This is his last year with the Mets and the club is within their rights to insist he not risk injury in the World Baseball Classic.

The magic number for Santana this year is 215, as in the number of innings he must pitch for his $25 million option to kick in. Considering his recent history, that likely won’t be a problem, but if he’s healthy it will be an interesting scenario.

You can bet the Players Association would get involved if Santana was close and had to skip a start or two. If it involves a player getting less money, they will be all over it.

Actually, if the Mets can’t, or won’t trade him, they would be wise to periodically skip him to keep him strong.

Teams have monitored pitcher’s pitch counts for years, but only recently has the trend turned to limiting pitcher’s innings in a season. Innings clauses in contracts are designed for teams to get the most for their money, but that backfires in the case of injury or if a player reached the level to have his option kick in and pitch poorly the next year.

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Feb 13

Outfield? What Outfield?

Here are some quotes from Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter who now know they have their work cut out for them this season.

But before that, here’s what the architect of the New York Mets outfield, Sandy Alderson, had to say. “I’m excited to see what we have. I’m excited to see what those outfielders can provide us.”

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Left Field – Lucas Duda

2012: .239/.329/.389, -1.4 WAR

“You want me to go yell at Sandy? That’s how it is. He’s right. There is no outfield.”

“It’s time to help the team anyway I can. That’s what I’m here for. I’ve been in the big leagues for a little bit now so I know what to expect and I think experience is a big factor. I think I’ll build on that. People can say what they want about our outfield. We’re just going to continue to work hard.

kirk nieuwenhuis

Center Field – Kirk Nieuwenhuis

2012: .252/.315/.376, 0.0 WAR

“I’ve spent this offseason dwelling mentally on what I can do better as a player and how, as an outfielder, we can become better. The way last season ended was frustrating.”

“We know what we’re capable of doing and we’re excited for the season. All that stuff that people talk about, all that stuff is just completely out of our control. For us to dwell on that and think about that would be completely detrimental to our play on the field.”

mike-baxter-mets

Right Field – Mike Baxter

2012: .263/.365/.413, 0.3 WAR

“I’d like to do a lot more with my career than just make a catch. We’ve just got a good, scrappy, hungry group of guys. Baseball’s a game you really can’t count anybody out. Knowing the group we have here, it’s just a really resilient and hungry group that is going to go out and not be too fazed by what’s going on publicly.”

“We might not have the biggest names in the outfield, but we have hungry guys out there who are excited and prepared for this opportunity.”

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Duda, Nieuwenhuis and Baxter will get the lion’s share of playing time for the Mets in 2013. Righthanded bench options include Collin Cowgill (.269/.336/.317, 0.3 WAR) and Andrew Brown (.232/.302/.429, -.01 WAR) who both will play mostly when a southpaw is on the mound and to spell Nieuwenhuis and Baxter.

If one of them should someone pull up lame or prove ineffective, the Mets could turn to Jordany Valdespin or possibly promote Matt Den Dekker. But let’s be honest here, this situation is obviously less than ideal. Not one of these players has ever had a full major league season in their career. If this was the plan all along, it wasn’t a very good one.

I’m not buying the excuse that the appeal to protect the pick would have taken as long as three weeks. If they were genuinely interested in signing a Type-A free agent, why didn’t they file the appeal three months ago, or two months ago, or one month ago? Why didn’t they raise a fuss the second they knew their pick would be unprotected?

Let’s call this what it is, a big-time fail.

It’s too bad, because I actually have great expectations for the starting pitching, the bullpen and the catching this year as readers of this site know. It sucks that we couldn’t bring in one capable everyday outfielder to compliment that. It would have been nice.

It also sucks for the rest of the team. This will put more pressure on everyone to ramp up their performances to compensate for the deficiency in the outfield and that’s totally unfair to all of them.

I know these guys will bust their behinds out there this season and give the team their best efforts. They are a terrific bunch of likable guys with great character and a burning desire to succeed. But the thing of it is, they had those same qualities last year too.

I’ll get over this by the end of the day, and you should too. We still have a lot of bright spots on the team and despite the losses of R.A. Dickey and Scott Hairston, there’s still a lot to be excited about, and it should be a fun season to watch.