Apr 17

Sweep Exposes Mets’ Pitching Concerns; Was Mistake To Pull Laffey

Assuming Terry Collins pulled Aaron Laffey in Tuesday’s nightcap to set him up to pitch on short rest this weekend against Washington, then it was a bad move.

Collins assumed his already shaky bullpen could hold a six-run lead, but you know what happens when you assume. Especially to go to a bullpen that has given no reason to believe it could hold a lead in that park. Collins should know never to give away a game seemingly in hand to chase another.

COLLINS: Juggling bullpen.

COLLINS: Juggling bullpen.

This isn’t to say Laffey couldn’t have blown the game by himself, but with a six run lead should have been given another inning or two. Collins should realize he has an unreliable bullpen and he should stay out of it as much as possible.

Collins’ job should have been to hold onto Tuesday and let Sandy Alderson worry about finding him a pitcher for Saturday. Frankly, I believe Laffey had a better chance of holding a six run lead for two innings than coming back to beat Washington on Saturday.

What already had been Mets concerns re-emerged in the rubble of Tuesday’s double-header sweep at Colorado. A good start to the season leveled off on this road trip by the back end of the rotation that has not been picked up by the bullpen.

Theoretically, Jeremy Hefner – tonight’s starter at Colorado – and Laffey, would be whom the Mets would be looking at if they wanted an emergency starter. Problem is they are already here because of injuries to Johan Santana and Shuan Marcum. Also injured is Jenrry Mejia, who appears to have fallen off the radar.

The back end is clearly not producing and the Mets remain adamant on not bringing up Zack Wheeler, who is not ready.

However, Collin McHugh has pitched well for Triple-A Las Vegas, and he’s had limited major league success. If not him or Wheeler, Logan Verrett and Rafael Montero have each made three strong starts for Double-A Binghamton.

The bullpen is harder to patch from the minor leagues, so it figures the Mets will attempt to hold things until Frank Francisco is able to pitch. When he returns he’ll likely be in set-up and situational roles while Bobby Parnell stays the closer.

Greg Burke gave up three runs as his struggles continued. Josh Edgin, who had been effective, gave up four runs. In fairness, it is hard to be sitting and then getting up and throwing in 30-degree weather.

However, there was nothing wrong with the weather in Philadelphia, so the pen is still to be scrutinized.

Two other red flags were raised in Denver.

The first was Ruben Tejada’s throwing error in the eighth inning of the second game that helped erase the Mets’ six-run lead.

To their credit, neither Tejada nor any other Mets used the weather as an excuse, although it clearly had an impact on the game. Yes, it was difficult to throw, but Tejada’s error was his sixth in 13 games, so his fielding has been a problem.

Every time Tejada makes an error the issue on not having a quality back-up emerges. The Mets are dragging their feet on bringing up Omar Quintanillia. It is easy enough to say he’ll replace Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the active roster, but the obstacle is finding somebody to remove from the 40-man roster.

Las Vegas shortstop Wilmer Flores is on the 40-man roster, but the Mets won’t start the service-time clock on a player who isn’t ready and needs the minor league at-bats.

Another issue is Lucas Duda’s back, which tightened up Tuesday in the cold. He said he’ll play today, but there’s no guarantee.

Apr 07

Mets Wrap: Marlon Byrd And Bullpen Keys To Comeback Win

There are a lot of indicators for a successful team and the Mets did several of them today in beating the Miami Marlins, 4-3, Sunday. Among them are winning close games, being able to come from behind, clutch hitting and solid relief work. The bullpen kept the Mets in the game until aggressive base running by Ruben Tejada and Kirk Nieuwenhuis set up Marlon Byrd’s game-winning, two-run single off Marlins’ closer Steve Cishek.

BYRD: Delivers in clutch. (AP)

BYRD: Delivers in clutch. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: In his Mets’ debut Aaron Laffey gave up three runs on 10 hits, but did get into the fifth inning. … Greg Burke, Josh Edgin, Scott Atchison, LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Rice combined for 4.2 scoreless innings. … Atchison came into the game with one out and runners on second and third in the seventh and was able to get out of the inning.

AT THE PLATE:  Daniel Murphy homered again. … Tejada was hit by a pitch and Nieuwenhuis singled and took second on the throw to set up Byrd for the game-winner. … The Mets overcame 13 strikeouts and going 1-for-8 with RISP.

IN THE FIELD: Lucas misplayed a ball near the wall, but was bailed out by Atchison. … Murphy is getting better at second, starting two double plays.

ON DECK:  A tale of two pitchers heading in opposite directions in their careers when Matt Harvey (1-0, 0.00 ERA) goes against Roy Halladay (0-1, 13.50).

Mar 18

Mets’ Injury Updates And Today’s Batting Order

The Mets can realistically expect to have three, perhaps four, significant players open the season on the disabled list: David Wright, Johan Santana, Frank Francisco and possibly Daniel Murphy.

Murphy remains sore after playing five innings of defense in a minor league game last Friday. Terry Collins said to expect him to play no sooner than Wednesday, and if he’s not playing by the weekend he’ll open the season on the disabled list. Although Murphy has taken batting practice, he has not played in an exhibition game so he hasn’t faced game pitching.

Wright said he’s shooting for Opening Day, but is uncertain. He’s telling Collins he’s ready, but that could be wishful thinking. Since this has been fouled up enough as it is, the prudent thing is to make the decision to DL him where he’ll miss the least amount of time. That includes playing him in minor league games if he’s available to get on the field before Opening Day. If Wright were to play in major league spring training games and be injured, his DL time would be backdated from then.

Justin Turner, the projected third baseman while Wright is down, hopes to play by Thursday after spraining his right ankle last week. X-Rays were negative and he’s moving around, so the disabled list is unlikely,

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is out with a bruised left knee, hopes to bat in a minor league game today, but will not run the bases. That means no inside-the-park homers.

The following is today’s lineup against St. Louis at Jupiter:

Jordany Valdespin, cf: It is clear he has made the team, with his versatility being an asset. He’s also been hot at the plate, with another homer yesterday. Will play second if Murphy is not ready.

Ruben Tejada, ss: Hit well last year, but is on a miserable stretch this spring. Is it a slump or regression?

Lucas Duda, lf: Not hitting as the Mets hoped. Will bat lower in the order during the season. Strike outs and low on-base percentage remain issues.

Zach Lutz, lb: Wright’s injury has given him an outside chance of sticking early.

Matt den Dekker, rf: He would have a spot if he could hit.

Brandon Hicks, 3b: Getting the audition while Turner is ailing.

Omar Quintanilla, 2b: With injuries to Wright, Murphy and Turner, his versatility is a definite plus.

Matt Harvey, rhp: Lining up as the No. 2 starter behind Jon Niese.

Also pitching today for the Mets are LaTroy Hawkins, who looks like he’ll make it in the set-up role. Bobby Parnell will also go today as will Josh Edgin and Scott Rice.


Mar 18

Wright, Santana, Murphy And Duda Among Mets’ Questions As Opening Day Looms

Here we are, two weeks from Opening Day and the Mets still have a myriad of questions that can’t be answered by Google. Perhaps they should get a Celebrity Apprentice from Trump to fill in the holes.

Jon Niese was superb in yesterday’s loss to the Braves and we know he’ll get the ball that first day against San Diego regardless of the Mets’ refusal to acknowledge anything negative about Johan Santana, who is among their many questions.

Q: What will the Mets get, and when, from Santana?

A: Considering it had been almost two weeks since his ill-fated mound attempt to quell the negativity from the Mets and media that Santana has done any significant throwing, it is anybody’s guess. Maybe next week, maybe the week after, but he will open the season on the disabled list regardless of his rate of denial. The Mets would dearly love to trade his $31 million contract, but the fact is they’ll have to eat over $20 million to do so. Might as well let him rest and hope for the best.

Q: Will David Wright open the season on the disabled list?

A: Technically, today is the third day of the three to five Wright will have to rest. He has received a cortisone injection in his strained ribs since coming back from the World Baseball Classic. Injuries of this type often last a month, as Wright learned last spring. Maybe he would have gotten hurt just the same in a regular spring training, but that doesn’t change the fact the odds are against Opening Day.

Q: How good is Matt Harvey?

A: He’s been good this spring, but has also thrown the occasional dud. He has ten major league starts on his resume, but the expectations of a proven veteran. The other teams have scouting reports, too, so don’t be shocked if he takes some lumps early.

Q: How healthy is Dillon Gee?

A: He says he has fully recovered from surgery to repair an artery in his pitching shoulder, but has been off this spring. He could use another three or four starts to get all the rust off, but there’s not enough time.

Q: What can the Mets expect from Shaun Marcum and fifth starter Jeremy Hefner?

A: Considering Marcum will not make six exhibition starts, don’t be too optimistic. At this rate, the Mets will be fortunate to get five innings from either of them. The back end of the rotation is clearly a weakness.

Q: Will Lucas Duda hit for power?

A: Let’s rephrase that: Will he substantially cut his strikeouts? He’s had a rough spring showing little of his power potential. When he hits them, he hits them far. Just not often enough.

Q: Who starts in center field?

A: Kirk Nieuwenhuis spit the bit early, and then was hurt. He was the projected starter and leadoff hitter, but now is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Let’s hope that includes his bad habits at the plate. We’re looking at Collin Cowgill as the starter and Jordany Valdespin making the team. They can use Matt den Dekker’s defense, but want more from him at the plate.

Q: Will Daniel Murphy be ready?

A: Murphy had one of those “seven to ten days’’ rib injuries that has lasted a month. He played five innings of defense in a minor league game three days ago, but has been stiff since. The early word is Wednesday of this week, but we know how such projections go with the Mets. It is possible Valdespin will start at second while Justin Turner is at third Opening Day. Excited yet?

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: Bobby Parnell is the closer and he’s taken some hits this spring. Josh Edgin is the lefty specialist, but Pedro Feliciano is making a run. He’s one of several veterans hoping to extend their careers with the Mets.

Q: Will they add anybody before the end of spring training?

A: Don’t count on it.

Mar 16

Justin Turner Hurt, Marcum Solid In Defeat, Injury Updates

They wouldn’t be the Mets if things came easily. So, on the day after losing third baseman David Wright indefinitely, they lost his back-up, Justin Turner, to a sprained ankle.

Turner was injured in the fourth inning of today’s 4-2 loss to Miami, when after fielding a ground ball, his left leg buckled while making a wild throw and he landed awkwardly on his right ankle.

“I think just getting up, going to make a throw, I caught my front spike on the lip of the grass,’’ Turner told reporters. “In order to try to catch my balance, all my weight went on my right foot and I turned it over.’’

Turner will know more in the morning when he wakes up and sees how much it swells up. Whether it swells or not, it will be at least a couple of days.

Brandon Hicks replaced Turner, and now Zach Lutz is next in line.

“However long it takes to get back out there, missing those days of play, sucks,’’ Turner said. “I guess the most important thing is getting back to 100 percent and getting ready for Opening Day.’’

MARCUM SOLID: In his third start of the spring, Shaun Marcum gave up two runs on five hits in four innings.

Marcum did not get off to a good start with the Mets when he told Terry Collins he needed only four starts to get ready for the season and spent the first two weeks long tossing to build up his arm.

Marcum said his mechanics feel more natural. “I feel like I’m starting to repeat them a lot more,’’ he said. “Other than that, now it’s just starting to mix in some more pitches.’’

Marcum isn’t overpowering and said his money pitch is a cutter, which he hasn’t yet refined.

PERPETUAL PEDRO:  During his first tenure with the Mets, Pedro Feliciano earned the nickname “Perpetual Pedro,’’ because it seemed as if he pitched every night.

Feliciano was re-signed by the Mets over the winter to a minor league contract in an attempt to land a spot in their patchwork bullpen.

A heart ailment sidelined Feliciano early in camp, but he has rebounded and is throwing in the mid- to low 80s. Today he worked a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts and has a real chance to make the team as the second lefty in the pen with Josh Edgin.

METS MUSINGS: Reliever Frank Francisco threw in the bullpen, but remains behind in an effort to be ready for the season. The timetable is to make at least two more bullpen sessions before throwing batting practice. That should eat up the remaining two weeks before the season, so it still appears likely he will open the season on the disabled list. … An injury also derailed Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ spring. Penciled in as the leadoff hitter in center. Nieuwenhuis bruised his left knee two weeks ago. He is participating in outfield drills and taking batting practice but needs to run the bases and play in games. … The Mets aren’t calling it a setback, but the day after playing defense in a minor league game Daniel Murphy did not play today, saying he felt stiff.