Aug 30

Montero Shows What Fuss Has Been All About

Tonight, my friends, is what all the fuss surrounding Rafael Montero has been about. There it was, the eighth incredible inning in Cincinnati, and Montero was still dealing.

MONTERO: Wears the crown tonight. (AP)

MONTERO: Wears the crown tonight. (AP)

He worked quickly and confidently, challenging the Reds inside with his fastball, his slider, his changeup. It was art to watch Montero change speeds and hit his spots.

Above all, Montero pitched fearlessly, changing speeds and throwing his change-up off the inside corner. If he missed, the ball would tail further inside and not fade over the middle of the plate.

“He established inside and pitched off of that,’’ said catcher Kevin Plawecki. “He’s throwing effectively inside. That’s why he’s had so much success lately.’’

Montero is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA over his last four starts, but so importantly, averaged 6.2 innings. That length has gone a long way toward earning the trust from manager Terry Collins.

“He got easy outs,’’ Collins said. “He had a lot of 1, 2, 3-pitch outs. He probably thinks he has a home in the rotation, and he should feel that way.’’

The last time the Mets farmed out Montero, Collins told him he needed to throw strikes if he was to have a future with the Mets.

Montero took that to heart.

“When I was sent down, I said to myself, `I can’t go back there. I have to make changes.’ ’’

Montero took a one-hit, shutout into the ninth. He retired the first Red – Billy Hamilton on a grounder to second. Phillip Ervin singled to center, but Collins chose to give Montero one more batter, Zack Cozart, who promptly doubled.

Joey Votto was intentionally walked to load the bases, and put the winning run on base.

Enter AJ Ramos, who struck out Adam Duvall and Scooter Gennett to end the game and give the Mets their most significant victory in months.

And to Montero, the most significant victory of his short and tumultuous career.

Aug 19

Montero Solid Again; Flores Has Superb Effort

Rafael Montero is finally showing signs of getting it. Tonight’s outing against the Marlins encored a strong six-inning effort – only two runs – against the Yankees.

MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

         MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

That’s two of at least six innings, and seven over all that he’s worked into the sixth.

Montero’s recent success stems from working inside with his fastball to set up his change-up away. Montero also worked quickly and ahead in the count, two things he failed to do in previous years when he struggled.

“He pitched in and had good movement on his fastball,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “That’s why he got so many ground balls. We’ve been preaching to him to pound the strike zone.’’

Montero has made significant improvement, enough to where he could fit into their future plans.

Working with Kevin Plawecki, who caught him at Las Vegas, Montero gave up one run on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts in six innings to win his second game and first at Citi Field, 8-1.

Montero said his sinker was working which resulted in him getting four double plays.

If all five of the Mets vaunted starters are healthy next year, Montero could be used as a long reliever.

FLORES AT THIRD: Wilmer Flores made a diving stop of a hard-hit ball by Marcell Ozuna in the first inning to possibly save a run. He also started three double-plays.

Although he’s not Graig Nettles, Flores has always played third base reasonably well. If the Mets are looking for answers for 2018, I’d like to see them finish the season with Flores at third.

Flores also hit his 15th homer, a two-run blast in the Mets’ seven-run sixth inning. Nine of those homers have come against right-handed pitching.

I’ve long been a Flores supporter, something GM Sandy Alderson is not. I want to play Flores full time, and I can see a contender wanting him.

In addition to Flores, Plawecki also hit a two-run homer, and Dominic Smith hit his first Citi Field homer. Perhaps more important than the homer was Smith drew his first career walk.

LEADOFF HITTER: Another thing to look at is their leadoff hitter. Tonight it was Brandon Nimmo, who went 1-for-4. His .380 on-base percentage definitely works in his favor.

If not Nimmo, I’d like to see Amed Rosario get a shot. With his speed, if he walks more he could be a 50-stolen base candidate. Rosario hitting first, with Nimmo second to protect him, the Mets could have something special.

However, for Rosario to be an effective leadoff hitter he must improve his on-base percentage (it’s only .256).

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets tied a franchise record by turning five double plays. … Jeurys Familia threw 25 pitches in a scoreless inning in his second rehab appearance. … Curtis Granderson went 0-for-4, but reached on an error and scored the first run in the Dodgers’ victory over Detroit. … Smith has hit safely in five of his first nine major league games. … The win was the Mets’ 54th of the season. Conversely, the Dodgers are 53 games over .500.

 

May 25

DeGrom Scratched Because Of Wet Conditions

The Mets pushed back Jacob deGrom‘s start tonight to Friday because of concerns of the wet and possibly rainy conditions at Citi Field. They don’t want deGrom taking the chance of slipping and pulling a groin or hamstring.

They apparently don’t have similar concerns with Rafael Montero, who will start instead.

DeGrom will start the series opener Friday in Pittsburgh.

The Mets also activated shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (strained thumb) from the disabled list. To make room for Cabrera, Kevin Plawecki, who optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Cabrera will be available off the bench, with Jose Reyes playing shortstop. Here’s tonight’s lineup:

May 05

Mets Lose D’Arnaud – Again – To Disabled List

The Mets placed Travis d’Arnaud on the 10-day disabled list today with a bruised right wrist, but manager Terry Collins said he would be out longer.

“It’s a bone bruise they discovered,” Collins told reporters. “It sounds like it’s not a big deal, but we know from the past, it is a big deal. There’s no timeframe right now. … It won’t be just a 10-day DL, I don’t think.”

D'ARNAUD: Goes to DL. (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Goes to DL. (AP)

D’Arnaud – who has always had trouble staying on the field – was initially hurt, April 19, when his wrist hit Aaron Altherr’s bat on the follow-through of his throw to second.

Over the next four games he was only available as a pinch hitter. D’Arnaud returned as a starter, April 26, then aggravated the injury on Tuesday swinging at R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball.

“The swelling wouldn’t go away for the past two days, so we went and got it checked and it showed a bone bruise in my hand, and I just need time to let it heal,” said d’Arnaud, who played in just 67 games because of hand and elbow injuries in 2015, and 75 games last season.

When he plays, d’Arnaud shows offensive potential, although throwing out base runners has always been a problem.

“It’s pretty frustrating for us because we know what this guy’s potential is, and we’ve seen it,” Collins said. “It seems like just when he starts to get it going, something happens. Again, it’s not one of those three- or four-day things. It’s something that takes him out of the lineup for two weeks or three weeks. Hopefully, this doesn’t take that long.”

Rene Rivera started tonight and had two hits, including a RBI single in the Mets’ 8-7 come-from-behind victory over Miami. He had three hits in the Mets’ 20-hit explosion Wednesday in Atlanta.

Rivera is better than d’Arnaud defensively, but the more he plays the more his offensive flaws get exposed. That brings us to Kevin Plawecki, who hasn’t been able to take advantage of his opportunities. He is expected to start Saturday.

Mar 23

Mets Boast Formidable Lineup

The Mets’ batting order will vary depending on the opposing pitcher and who are the hot hitters. However, the lineup manager Terry Collins started Wednesday against the Miami Marlins is the one he’ll likely write in most days.

And, when clicking it can be very formidable.

REYES: The catalyst. (AP)

REYES: The catalyst. (AP)

Jose Reyes, 3B: With David Wright to open the season on the disabled list and Reyes playing every day, there’s no need to search for another leadoff hitter and we won’t see him in the outfield. Backup: Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: He produced in this slot last year and there’s no reason to change. He has the power to be a run- producer high in the order and bat control to advance runners. Backup: Reyes with Flores playing third that day.

Yoenis Cespedes, LF: Traditionally, your best hitter bats third. That’s Cespedes, no question. Backup: It will depend whether Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo are on the roster.

Curtis Granderson, CF: He homered twice Wednesday and if he’s hitting that’s sufficient protection for Cespedes. A potential issue is stacking two high-strikeout hitters back-to-back. Backup: The only true center fielder is Juan Lagares.

Neil Walker, 2B: I like putting a switch-hitter between Granderson and Jay Bruce. Let’s hope he shows the power he did last season. Backup: Rivera and/or Flores.

Bruce, RF: Let’s face it, there will be no immediate trade involving Bruce. And, with the $13 million they are paying him, he will play which could leave Conforto on the outs. He could open the season in the minor leagues to get consistent at-bats. Backup: If he stays, Conforto could be a factor. If not, Granderson would return to his natural position.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He’s healthy – knock on wood – for now. With the hitters immediately ahead of him, Duda should have plenty of RBI opportunities. Duda has had a good spring and has been driving the ball to the opposite field. Backup: Flores is the first option. Potential backup Bruce hasn’t gotten enough playing time at the position.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Somebody has to hit eighth. He’s had a good spring at the plate, but his throwing needs work. Backup: Rene Rivera, but we’ll see Kevin Plawecki this summer.

Collins consistently said last year’s offense was built to hit the long ball, and this season should be no different as he has four sluggers who have hit 30 homers in a season, with three of them – Granderson, Bruce and Duda – left-handed added to Cespedes. Even so, it was encouraging to hear Collins say he wanted to push the envelope offensively and manufacture runs. The flip side is those four are also capable to strike out over 100 times.

For that to happen, the Mets must strike out less and walk more and emphasize the need for making productive outs and improve their hitting with runners in scoring position.