Matt Harvey gets the ball today against the Houston Astros of the American League at Kissimmee. That just sounds odd. The Mets and Astros were born in 1962 to the National League. (There will be a separate post on that later). For them to be in the AL West doesn’t look right.
Harvey is the Mets’ prized prospect and made a strong first impression during ten starts last year. Not only does he have the physical tools and the stuff, but he showed a willingness to challenge hitters and showed a composure beyond his years.
HARVEY: Goes today vs. Houston (AP)
Travis d’Arnaud will make the trip, as will outfielders Collin Cowgill and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team will stay back to play the University of Michigan, Fred Wilpon’s alma mater.
Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee will pitch in that game. For Gee, it will be his first game since undergoing surgery last summer to repair an artery in his pitching shoulder. Gee began throwing last September and said he doesn’t have any concerns.
David Wright has the day off. He will play in three more exhibition games before leaving for the World Baseball Classic next Saturday.
The question is always posed at the start of the exhibition schedule: How important is it to win during spring training?
For most teams it isn’t and history is full of examples of spring training winners who were flops during the regular season. The reverse also holds true.
But, what about the Mets, who open up today against the Washington Nationals? What are we to make if Zack Wheeler outpitches Stephen Strasburg or if the Nationals light him up?
Probably nothing, but over the next five weeks I believe it is important for the Mets to show something, if for no other reason but to get a good feeling about themselves. And, for us to get a good feeling about them.
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.
Several days ago I gave you my idea for the Mets’ batting order and it included Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the leadoff hitter, so I was happy to read Adam Rubin’s story he will be given first chance to win that job.
Nieuwenhuis will be the leadoff hitter for Saturday’s exhibition game against Washington.
The Mets like Nieuwenhuis’ patience – he sees over four pitches an at-bat – and he had moderate success in the role last year hitting .264 with an on-base percentage of .303.
Both numbers need to be improved, but it must be remembered he did this in his first look at major league pitching.
Before their slide Nieuwenhuis played center and hit leadoff and Terry Collins remembered: “ … when we were playing really, really well, that guy was in center field. So he deserves the right to get the first shot.’’
Nieuwenhuis can steal the occasional base, but he’s not known as a steal threat. Steals can sometimes be overrated, but fundamental base running is always in vogue. Going first-to-third, realizing when a ball will go through, and running to avoid a double play are all critical components of good base running.
Do you realize the two highest paid Mets outfielders are players no longer with the team?
That’s right; Jason Bay and Bobby Bonilla will make more this year than the Mets’ current outfield of Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, Collin Cowgill and Marlon Byrd.
BONILLA: Will be cashing Mets checks for a long time.
The Mets made both decisions to get out of bad situations and maintain cost certainty, but in this case it came back to bite them. The first thing a financial advisor tells you is previous success is not a guarantee of future success. The Mets didn’t consider that advice.
Add the $3 million buyout to what the Mets owed Bay (including interest) and it comes to $21 million, paid out in a lump sum and deferred payments over the next several years. The deal also made Bay a free agent and he signed with Seattle. That gave Bay the chance to collect from two teams. Nice deal for him.
The Mets liked the arrangement because the Bay signing was a bust and this freed money for GM Sandy Alderson.
As for Bonilla, the Mets wanted to release him prior to the 2000 season, but didn’t want to eat the $5.9 million on his contract. Instead, the Mets agreed to a 25-year, $29.8 million deferred plan that pays Bonilla nearly $1.2 million annually. Including his pension, income from the Players Association and whatever investments he owns, Bonilla has a great retirement package. Oh, I forgot, there’s also social security.