Feb 24

Looking At Mets’ Position Battles

The New York Mets begin their exhibition season this week, and with it will come the renewed focus on the club’s position battles and roster issues.

LANNAN: To compete for No. 5 starter role.

LANNAN: To compete for No. 5 starter role.

Let’s take a quick look:

FIFTH STARTER: John Lannan, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia are in line. Matsuzaka is considered the front-runner because of his performance at the end of last year and the desire not to rush Mejia, who is coming off elbow surgery. An argument in Lannan’s favor is it would give the Mets two left-handers in the rotation.

THE BULLPEN: The configuration of the bullpen is contingent on Bobby Parnell’s recovery from neck surgery. The Mets figure to carry seven relievers, including Vic Black, Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Rice. That leaves Carlos Torres, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen, Jeurys Familia, Jeff Walters and Ryan Reid competing for two spots. This will provide the most competition. If Parnell isn’t ready, Black will close and the Mets will take another reliever.

FIRST BASE: Ike Davis or Lucas Duda? The Mets were unable to deal Davis, who reportedly concealed an oblique injury, and Sunday sparred with reporters about the story’s accuracy. None of this makes Davis look good. Both could stick on the Opening Day roster because the Mets have an April series at Anaheim and Duda could be the DH.

OUTFIELD: Does Juan Lagares stick or not? Defensively, he should start in center, but his offense is poor. Will they give him his at-bats in the minor leagues – which would also resolve the question at leadoff – or force-feed him in the majors?

 

Feb 12

Analyzing Mets’ Bullpen After Jose Valverde Signing

For each of the past three winters New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has tried to construct a bullpen. Until Bobby Parnell showed signs of being the first reliable closer since Billy Wagner was traded to Boston in 2009 in a salary dump, it has been a ninth-inning adventure.

Francisco Rodriguez and Frank Francisco were tried, but their best days were in the rear view mirror. Alderson brought in another retread today with the signing of Jose Valverde to a minor league contract.

PARNELL: Lead domino in bullpen.

PARNELL: Lead domino in bullpen.

He’ll compete against the masses for a spot in the bullpen. Alderson said he other day the Mets had money to spend, but after striking out on Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney, he hopes to catch an encore from Valverde.

Valverde, 35, was on the top when he converted 49 of 49 opportunities in 2011 for Detroit, but spit the bit the following year in the playoffs. He had an unimpressive nine saves in 12 opportunities with a 5.59 ERA last year.

The construction of the Mets’ bullpen depends on Parnell, who saved 22 of 29 games before undergoing surgery last September to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Parnell lost 30 pounds after the surgery, but told reporters in Port St. Lucie he’s doing fine.

“Everything is feeling great, no pain,’’ Parnell said. “I mean, I haven’t done it yet, so obviously, you want to know. But we’re doing little things every day to get to that point. I’ve had no setbacks or pain or anything like that.’’

Parnell won’t be cleared for two weeks, and there is reasonable doubt he won’t be ready for the start of the season. There hasn’t been an announcement of how many innings manager Terry Collins wants to give him this spring. Normally, starters hope to get 30 innings with relievers nearly half that amount.

Vic Black, whom the Mets acquired from Pittsburgh last year in the Marlon Byrd-John Buck deal, is first in line after Parnell. Black is 25 and throws in the mid-90s, which is a lot to like.

If Black doesn’t make it, presumably Kyle Farnsworth and Valverde are next. Assuming Black pitches well and wins the closer job, Valverde and Farnsworth will compete for the set-up role, vacated when LaTroy Hawkins left as a free agent.

In large part because of Parnell’s emergence and Hawkins’ resurgence, the Mets’ bullpen finished 22nd in the majors with a 3.98 ERA in 2013. They ranked 29th and 28th in Alderson’s first two years.

Alderson has built on the cheap, but that approach would have changed had he signed Balfour or Rodney. Joel Hanrahan is available should Alderson have the urge to spend.

Truth is, you can’t have too many pitchers – starters or relievers – in the system because there are always injuries and pitching slumps. In addition, a guy like Valverde, if he shows something, could be a July trade chip.

You never know.

Outside of the 29-year-old Parnell, Farnsworth and Valverde, we’re not talking about significant experience. The rest of the pen includes Jeurys Familia, 24, who throws in the mid-90s, Gonzalez Germen, Carlos Torres, Ryan Reid, Jeff Walters and Cory Mazzoni, all whom throw from the right side.

The Mets’ left-handers are Josh Edgin and Scott Rice, the latter whom was a 32-year-old rookie last season after 14 years of knocking on the major league doors. The Mets also invited prospect lefty Jack Leathersich to compete for a spot.

That makes 13 relievers competing for seven slots.

“We’ve got a lot of good young arms that we like; they just don’t have much experience,’’ Alderson said. “Acquiring someone with some experience would give us some comfort going into Spring Training, but we don’t want to preclude some of our younger pitchers from getting a solid opportunity either.’’

How much comfort Valverde gives remains to be seen. He certainly didn’t make Jim Leyland’s job easier the past two years.

But, that’s what you get when you shop in the bargain bin.

Feb 03

Mets Still Looking For Bullpen Help; Add Kyle Farnsworth

How much money the New York Mets have left to spend during what is left of their offseason is uncertain, but as recently reported here, it is earmarked for the bullpen, specifically a closer as Bobby Parnell’s status is questionable.

FARNSWORTH: Added to pen.

FARNSWORTH: Added to pen.

Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Hanrahan have been mentioned on this site. ESPN added Kevin Gregg and Ryan Madson to the table.

Farnsworth, who has pitched for the Yankees, was signed to a minor-league deal Monday and given an invitation to spring training.

At 37, he was a combined 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA last season with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Farnsworth’s role with the Mets, assuming he makes the team, will be not as a closer but to provide depth.

Figuring Parnell will not be ready for the season, the configuration of the Mets’ bullpen will be Vic Black – the presumed closer – Farnsworth, Carlos Torres, Scott Rice, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen and Jeurys Familia.

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Aug 16

Mets Bullpen Has Surprised This Season

gonzalez germanAfter 3-4 consecutive seasons of bullpen failures and a couple of unsuccessful revamps and overhauls by Sandy Alderson in 2011 and 2012, it looks like the Mets have finally turned a corner and figured things out this season. In doing so they’ve also uncovered a few potential keepers for 2014 and beyond, some of them developed through our system and others who were key acquisitions straight from the scrap heap.

One such find has been Gonzalez Germen, who recorded the final six outs in last night’s 4-1 win against the San Diego Padres to notch his first major league save. It was a big moment for Germen who plans to give the game ball to his mother. Germen stepped in for LaTroy Hawkins who was unavailable due to a sore groin. Hawkins too, has been a key cog in this now very effective bullpen.

Since July 1, the Mets pen has a 2.10 ERA (30 earned runs/128.2 innings), ranking third in the majors. New York’s pen has a 1.83 ERA (seven earned runs/34.1 innings) this month, the sixth-best mark in the majors. The pen’s 3.64 overall ERA, ranks 15th in the majors after two straight seasons of ranking 29th in 2011 and 2012.

Even more telling is that Met relievers have stranded 141 of 189 inherited runners, the fifth-best percentage (74.6) in the majors. The Mets’ bullpen has been coming into games in critical spots and have done a great job of limiting the damage and stranding runners. It’s time to give Sandy Alderson his due for a job well done this season.

The Mets bullpen has endured losses to their close Bobby Parnell who was in the midst of the best season of his career, and also losing second-year reliever Josh Edgin was a significant blow as well. Since his return from the minors, Edgin led the bullpen in BAA and WHIP.

Some player performances of note are that of Scott Rice, who leads the team with 61 appearances and has surprised everyone while limiting opposing batters to a .224 average and posting a 3.34 ERA in his rookie season. The 32-year old late bloomer, has held lefthanded batters to a .162 average and has allowed just one home run all season in 45.1 innings pitched. Boom…

Scott Atchison was another scrapheap signing and all he’s managed to do is post a 3.34 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 31 appearances since joining the Mets.

As a reliever, perhaps the best performance of this season belongs to Carlos Torres whose 0.65 ERA is the best mark among all relievers in the game. His 0.87 WHIP ranks fifth in the NL and he has 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio.

So while not everything has gone perfectly for the Mets this season, there have been some very notable bright spots and certainly the bullpen has been one of them.

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