Jul 17

Three Mets’ Storylines: Conforto’s Return Raises Questions

Michael Conforto is returning to the Mets and with him comes a dilemma for manager Terry Collins on how to handle his outfield. Collins said he couldn’t foresee Conforto and Brandon Nimmo playing in the same outfield. That choice was resolved with Nimmo being sent down.

Conforto, who played 16 games for Triple-A Las Vegas, but only four in right field. That could present a problem, because earlier in the day Collins said Yoenis Cespedes would play left field, which was Conforto’s position.

CONFORTO: Return raises questions. (AP)

CONFORTO: Return raises questions. (AP)

Cespedes, who misplayed a fly ball while playing center field that lead to his strained right quad, stated a preference to play left the remainder of the season, where he should have been playing all along.

Had the Mets played him in left, they could have given Conforto reps in right and center field during spring training.

When Conforto was optioned, Collins said he would return when he regained his stroke – which he did batting .344 (21-for-61) with three homers and 15 RBI – and when that happened he would play.

Where and how often are to be determined.

Since Juan Lagares has played well, presumably he’ll get most of the time in center. That would lead to speculation Conforto and Curtis Granderson – both left-handed hitters – would share right field.

However, Granderson, who homered in Sunday’ 5-0 victory over Philadelphia, has also been hot lately. What becomes of him? Granderson has one more year on his contract. If the Mets go from buyers to sellers in the next two weeks, could they shop Granderson?

Presuming Cespedes opts out after this season, the Mets’ long-range outfield figures to be Conforto, Nimmo and Lagares. However, Nimmo said he hopes to primarily play center at Las Vegas, which immediately creates speculation the Mets could be thinking about dealing Lagares at the deadline.

“I know I have a lot to work on, and I can still do that in Triple-A,” Nimmo told reporters in Philly. “I think right now they feel like Conforto can really help out the team. I think that he can, too. I hope that he’s healthy and good to go and can help this team and spur them on to a nice winning streak.”

Should Lagares be traded and Cespedes opts out, the Mets could have a significant void next season. If they keep Lagares, the Mets could be privately hoping Cespedes opts out.

Conforto’s return raises questions about the composition of the Mets’ outfield in the second half and beyond.

The Mets’ other storylines from Sunday are:

DE GROM’S BRILLIANCE: It has been an up-and-down season for Jacob deGrom, but he’s never been better than Sunday when he threw a one-hit shutout. Pitching on ten days rest after eschewing an All-Star appearance, deGrom produced the best start of his career, a one-hit, 5-0 gem.

“Every time you go out there you want to go as long as you can,” deGrom told SNY. “It was definitely fun. Hopefully, I’ll have many more.”

Everything worked for deGrom, especially his change-up, which he said was the product of improved mechanics that prevented him from flying open with his delivery. Perhaps most of all, deGrom attributed today to the rest from skipping the All-Star Game.

“Just getting a break after throwing every five days,” deGrom said. “You start to feel things and I was definitely worn out. It was needed.”

In the first half, deGrom had a stretch of 10 starts without a victory and an offense that gave him three runs in June. However, he is 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in his last three starts, walking five against 27 strikeouts over 29 innings.

POWER RESURFACES: Much was made of the Mets’ power in the first half, and they got homers from Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Granderson has one of the strangest stat lines with just 28 RBI to go along with his 16 homers. Collins said he likes Granderson batting second, which presumably is where he’ll stay. But, he’s said that before.

For Cabrera, it was his 13th homer, a two-run drive in the eighth that gave deGrom a comfortable cushion to close out the game.

 

Jun 25

Striking Similarities Between This Year And Last For Mets

The similarities between this year and last are striking and the struggling Mets can only hope the results will be the same, which would be a long jaunt into October. Last year on this date, the Mets were floundering at 37-37 and 3.5 games behind the also struggling Washington Nationals.

CESPEDES: Bad on the bases.  (Getty)

CESPEDES: Bad on the bases. (Getty)

The Mets entered Saturday’s game in Atlanta with a better record (39-33) and closer to the Nationals (three games behind) than last season, yet there is a growing sense of urgency. Things would be a lot worse if the Nationals haven’t lost seven straight games.

Last summer GM Sandy Alderson was under pressure to revive the Mets’ listless offense, which was without David Wright, by making a trade – that turned out to be for Yoenis Cespedes – and bringing up Michael Conforto.

This year, with Wright again on the disabled list, the Mets hope to jumpstart their stagnant offense by bringing back Jose Reyes – which nobody expects will have an impact similar to Cespedes – and bringing up Brandon Nimmo and sending down Conforto.

When Conforto came up last year, he made an immediate positive impression, which didn’t go away until May of this year. Manager Terry Collins said when he saw Conforto had a “deer in the headlights” look Friday night, he knew it was time to make a move. The numbers screamed the same with an average of .107 over his last 25 games.

“I think in talking with the coaching staff and the manager, we just felt that, look, this is counterproductive and what we need to do is get him to Las Vegas, get his swing back, and then hopefully get him back here within a relatively short period of time,” Alderson told reporters.

What does that mean?

As much as I want to see what Nimmo can do, I don’t like the idea of him going back down right away, because we all know he’s not here to ride the bench. I’m also not crazy about the Mets’ thinking as to Nimmo’s future. He played center at Vegas, and although Cespedes is a Gold Glove Award winning left field, Nimmo will play left and Cespedes will stay in center.

Nimmo, after traveling most of the night – which only reinforces the notion the Mets need their Triple-A team to be closer – was on the bench tonight and is expected to start Sunday.

Speaking of playing out of position, Reyes is expected to play third and possibly some center, where he’s never played before on this level. At one time Reyes was a prolific base stealer who was stellar at shortstop. Those days are gone.

“Do we expect him to win the National League battle title this year the way he did in 2011? No,” Alderson said. “Has he lost a step maybe? Is he the premier shortstop that he once was? It doesn’t really matter – he’s not going to play shortstop. So we’ve taken all of those things into account. We think he can help us. You know, from a motivational standpoint, I don’t think we would be able to find a player who is more determined, more highly motivated to perform than Jose is today.”

The motivation comes in Reyes’ desire to save his career after a domestic violence incident that landed him a 50-game suspension.

“He understands the mistake he made and has taken responsibility for it,” Alderson said. “But at the same time, he doesn’t deserve to be ostracized.”

While Reyes isn’t the same player he once was, it’s a safe bet he’s still better on the bases than Cespedes, who was picked off first Friday night without diving back which resulted in a twisted ankle. And Saturday he dogged it and was thrown out at second going in standing up.

Both were mind cramps, which is also similar to 2015. However, if Cespedes gets the benefit of doubt and was injured and couldn’t slide, he shouldn’t have been in the lineup.

That’s on Collins and Alderson.

 

Apr 26

Mets Place D’Arnaud On DL

Injuries are always a wild card, and for Travis d’Arnaud the issue has always been keeping him on the field. They won’t have him for at least two weeks when the Mets placed him on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right rotator cuff.

The Reds ran wild on d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard Monday night with five stolen bases. Afterwards, he refused to blame his inability to throw on his shoulder. His inability to throw was one of the Mets’ prevailing issues entering the season.

Now they’ll get a chance to see what Kevin Plawecki can give them with uninterrupted playing time.

Replacing d’Arnaud on the roster will be Las Vegas catcher Rene Rivera.

Rivera, 32, will be available for tonight’s game. He started 87 games last year with Tampa Bay and threw out 23 of 63 base runners.

Mar 03

Not Worried About Montero’s Rough Day

Rafael Montero got hammered Thursday afternoon, but no worries he wasn’t going to beat out Sean Gilmartin or Logan Verrett for a spot in the Mets’ bullpen anyway. Montero has always been ticketed as a starter at Triple-A Las Vegas barring an injury.

MONTERO: Rough day. (AP)

MONTERO: Rough day. (AP)

Montero gave up four runs on four hits and two walks in a 39-pitch first inning in the Mets’ 9-4 loss to Washington.

It didn’t matter that the first five Nationals reached base. What mattered was Montero, who was on the DL from April 30 through the remainder of the season with a bad shoulder, is healthy. Whether he starts at Vegas or works out the bullpen in Flushing, he can’t do either if he’s not healthy.

“I think it’s just key for me to be healthy right now. I’m happy with that,” Montero told reporters. “And, I’m really just looking at it as just the first time going out. Hopefully, everything will go better going forward.”

Part of the essence of spring training is what Montero went through today, and that’s a player coming back from an injury. Montero will pitch numerous more times this spring, perhaps compiling as many as 20 innings. But, regardless of how well he performs, unless somebody gets hurt, Montero will end up in Las Vegas.

When he gets there he should be used in a starting role, because he could end up in that position with the Mets if Zack Wheeler has a setback in his rehab. Should that be the case, his innings needs to be stretched out.

So, what happened Thursday has to be looked at as one of those things. Nothing seems to be going to imminently happen to Montero.

The same can’t be said for Yoenis Cespedes‘ pig.

Jun 28

Matz Makes It All Right For One Day

Quality start doesn’t even begin to describe what Steven Matz gave the Mets today at Citi Field in his major league debut. His pitching, power and poise highlighted a 7-2 victory over Cincinnati. He also broke up a double play and started one after fielding a hard comebacker to the mound.

“He was as good as advertised,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He was ready for this. It was time. … He was ready to show he belonged.’’

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

Matz was making his major league debut five years removed from Tommy John surgery; after the Mets toyed with the decision to bring him up; and, after more than a three-hour delay so the Mets could finish a 2-1 victory over the Reds in a completion of suspension game.

“The more time I had, the more the anxiety went away,’’ said Matz, a sign of his composure.

His composure also surfaced when his first pitch of the game was something out of “Bull Durham,’’ a fastball to the backstop. On his fifth pitch, Tony Phillips hit a replay-reviewed homer.

Matz set the Reds down in order in the second and then, using Las Vegas teammate Matt Reynolds’ bat, ripped a two-run double. He would later hit a hit-and-run single and two-run single.

All the while, he toyed with the Reds on the mound, giving up two runs – Todd Frazier also hit a solo homer – on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

Matz went further in his debut than Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler went in theirs.

While Harvey grew up rooting for the Yankees, Matz’s childhood passion growing up on Long Island was the Mets and spent many nights at Shea Stadium. Of course, the Mets want to play on that emotional attachment and as the team struggled through the past month there was a growing groundswell for his promotion. And, for the Mets, it was to attract more than the 130 family and friend he could sometimes hear from the stands.

There’s speculation the Mets promoted Matz to divert frustrated their fan base from their recent plunge in the NL East standings and a woeful offensive slide. That’s for another day, as this one was to enjoy a glimpse into a promising future.

However, while it was gray at Citi Field, there was a glimmer of sunlight, and he wore No. 32.