Mar 27

Black Shocked He Was Demoted

Reliever Vic Black has been optioned and will begin the season in Triple-A Las Vegas, the team announced via Twitter on Wednesday.

“I didn’t see it coming, but I also couldn’t expect anything different really because what I did was struggle all spring,” Black said. “And that’s not what they’re trying to put together on the team right now. Like they said, especially starting off, you’re trying to get hot out of the gates, and I didn’t give them the best opportunity for what they were hoping. I know they were disappointed, as am I, which is part of it. But I’ll be back.”

Black, 25, has had a rough spring training and in 10 Grapefruit League games he has posted a 5.79 ERA, allowing 13 hits while walking 10 batters, in 9.1 innings pitched.

No word yet on who replaces Black in the bullpen, perhaps Gonzalez Germen, but kudos to the Mets for making a tough decision like this, as much as it must have pained them to do so.

I felt as though things were heading this way for Black the last two weeks and I spoke to one prominent Pirates blogger who told me his inconsistency with command made it easy for the Pirates to move him in the Marlon Byrd deal.

Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call for Black, and that he can work himself back to the Mets in short order. It also has the added benefit of alerting all Mets pitchers about the importance of throwing strikes.

One last thing. For years I’ve hammered the Mets on occasion for a lack of accountability. What I mean is that they demand accountability from their players, but all too often would wait months before actually addressing poor production from one of their players. In fact, Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson would usually stand at the podium and make excuses for their players rather than taking action.

Cutting Vic Black was a refreshing departure from the status quo. It showed that the word accountability actually means something again and that there would be swift action if one’s results weren’t measuring up. Good to see.

Mar 25

Viola To Have Heart Surgery, Unable To Continue As Pitching Coach

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York is reporting that former Cy Young winner Frank Viola is scheduled to undergo open-heart surgery next Wednesday and will be unable to serve as pitching coach of the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s.

Viola, 53, had a heart issue detected during his initial spring-training physical. Viola spent the past three seasons as a Class A pitching coach for the Mets.

Ron Romanick is expected to replace Viola as the pitching coach for the Pacific Coast League team.

Very sad to hear, my thoughts and prayers go out to him.

Mar 16

What Is The Plan For Jenrry Mejia?

The New York Mets have never settled on a role for Jenrry Mejia, which could be the case again this spring.

At 24, Mejia is one of those promising young arms the Mets are boasting. Coming off elbow surgery, they are treating him with kid gloves, but there have been no signs of a setback.

Most starters want to pitch 30 innings in spring training, but with only two weeks left has only worked two. He could get four today against the Cubs in Las Vegas, but won’t get close to 20, much less 30.

Originally, Mejia was to compete with Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan for the fifth-starter role. But, if building for the future is the objective for 2014, it should be Mejia because he has the greatest upside.

Without Matt Harvey, this would have been the perfect chance to develop Mejia. Instead, it is turning out to be a lost opportunity, either to use him for their rotation or showcase him for a trade.

With Mejia in the rotation, they’ll have a better idea of where they stand heading into 2015. If Matsuzaka gets those starts, they still won’t know about Mejia as a starter.

But, how about as a reliever?

The Mets tried that route without success in 2010. Then-manager Jerry Manuel, knowing his job was in severe jeopardy, wanted Mejia on the major league roster to work out of the bullpen to start that season. That was for Manuel’s interests, not Mejia’s.

However, Manuel wouldn’t use him in pressure situations, so Mejia languished without work when he could have been getting starts in the minor leagues.

Understandably, Mejia struggled and was eventually optioned to Triple-A to go back in the rotation. His arm didn’t adjust to the back-and-forth and he was eventually injured and required elbow surgery.

Entering that season, Mejia was a highly sought prospect, but his value was greatly reduced because of how he was used. The Mets couldn’t promote him as a reliever if they were afraid to use him in pressure situations. They also couldn’t promote him as a starter because they wouldn’t use him in that role, either.

After he was hurt, he missed all of 2011.

The Mets are again considering Mejia for their bullpen, but already have seven candidates without him. Just how much work would he get?

If not up here, they should use him as a starter in the minors, which is probably in their best long-term interest because that would hasten his development and possibly build his trade value.

I see him starting the season in Triple-A, but where ever he ends up, just pick a role and stick with it. In the end, I also see it never happening for Mejia with the Mets. They blew this one.

 

Mar 15

Playing In Las Vegas A Good Idea

The New York Mets haven’t had the best working relationships with their minor league affiliates over the years, moving from Tidewater, to Norfolk, to Buffalo, and now Las Vegas.

Much of the problem, especially with Buffalo, was not doing much to promote those affiliates. The perception with Buffalo, and now Las Vegas, is those cities were merely pit stops until somebody offered a better arrangement.

It doesn’t take much of an effort for the major league team to play several exhibition games the final weekend of spring training, and in the case with Las Vegas – where the weather is good – in the middle.

The cost of air travel and hotels for the weekend is miniscule in comparison to the goodwill and opportunity for the minor league city to show off the big club. Of course, those costs are also offset by their cut of the gate.

This is the only chance for those fans to see David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud, the latter who played last year in Las Vegas. They’ll also get a chance to watch Bartolo Colon and Jenrry Mejia, who could pitch part of this season in Las Vegas.

Some of the other Mets expected to make the trip are Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, Omar Quintanilla, Jacob deGrom, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Kevin Plawecki, Anthony Seratelli and Eric Campbell. All but Quintanilla should see time in Las Vegas this summer.

Las Vegas was kind of a stretch for the Mets because they didn’t have much choice after Buffalo, as it is several time zones away, which makes last-minute moves difficult.

Buffalo was perfect because it is a city with professional sports and call-ups were easy. It’s too bad that didn’t work.

I don’t know how long they’ll stay with Las Vegas, but this was a good idea.

ON DECK: Bartolo Colon.

Feb 27

Syndergaard Stars In Intrasquad Game; Mets Shouldn’t Get Carried Away

The cheers were great, the performance was scintillating, but the New York Mets – and their often-frustrated fan base – shouldn’t get carried away and read too much into Noah Syndergaard’s performance in Thursday’s intrasquad game.

SYNDERGAARD: Big showing. (MLB.com)

SYNDERGAARD: Big showing. (MLB.com)

In Syndergaard’s first performance in the Mets’ camp, Syndergaard, throwing what manager Terry Collins calls “the hook from hell,’’ struck out five in two innings. He also gave up a run on four hits, but with no walks.

Not only was Syndergaard’s curveball working in fall-off-the-table fashion, but his 97 mph., fastball was sizzling.

“I felt pretty good out there. I kind of shocked myself a little bit,’’ Syndergaard told reporters Thursday in Port St. Lucie. “I wasn’t expecting that my first time out there.’’

Nor should the Mets expect that from him in Monday’s start against Atlanta; every time out at Triple-A Las Vegas; or when he finally is brought up in June. He’ll need time to develop into all what is expected of him.

“I didn’t think I was going to get the start, first of all,” Syndergaard said of Monday. “I’m excited, a little nervous at the same time. It’s the first time facing a real big-league lineup. I’m going to go out there and do what I can. It’s still a game. They’re still playing baseball out there.’’

Which is true, but baseball is also a game of emotions. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, despite their youth, have been able to keep their emotions in check. The Mets would like to see the same from Syndergaard.

That will be easier, of course, if he’s throwing that fastball in the upper 90s.

“How can you not like what you saw?’’ Collins said. “For heaven’s sake, I don’t know how hard he threw, but it was firm. Even in a game like this, you better get to the heater, because you don’t want to try to hit that curveball.

“Certainly everything you heard, you saw. You heard, ‘What a great arm.’ You got it. You heard, ‘He’s got a great presence,’ that he pounds the strike zone. He did that.’’

Of course, should Syndergaard cut down the Braves as he did his minor league teammates, there will be rumblings about cracking the rotation.

However, Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson should a turn a deaf ear and continue with the same plan they had last season for Wheeler.

ON DECK: Mets Wrap.