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.

 

Aug 17

It’s Time For Mets To Send Matz To Minors

Can Steven Matz and the Mets finally admit something isn’t right? Can they finally admit that a side trip to Las Vegas might be just the thing to straighten him out and find something to build on for next year.

It’s now been eight starts in which Matz has alternated between so-so, bad and simply terrible. Is there a fourth category to describe tonight’s 7-5 meltdown against the Yankees?

MATZ: It's time for Vegas. (AP)

                                   MATZ: It’s time for Vegas. (AP)

In between those starts, he’s been working on drills with pitching coach Dan Warthen that will help him keep the ball down. He’s been studying video to spot any mechanical flaws.

“I’ve been trying some different stuff but it hasn’t translated,’’ Matz said. “When guys are on base I’m leaving the ball up in the zone and that’s where I’ve gotten hurt. I have to figure out what is causing that.’’

Nothing, at least not yet, has worked.

“We’ve wrung the rag dry trying to find answers that could help him,’’ said manager Terry Collins. “But, when he’s out there on the mound he has to make quality pitches. … We’ve got to find something that will work.’’

Seven runs on seven hits in 3.1 innings was the damage charged to Matz. It is the fifth time in 13 starts Matz has given up at least five runs. Since I’m listing horrible statistics, he’s also given up 12 homers in 70 innings. That includes a three-run homer to Gary Sanchez in the first. Other ugly numbers: It is the 16th time this season the Mets have given up at least three runs in the first and they have been outscored 104-84 in the opening inning.

Matz, whose first-inning ERA in 9.00, hung a 0-2 changeup over the plate to Sanchez. He is 0-6 over his last eight starts and overall fell to 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA. His problems began with a two-base throwing error to first on a ball hit back to the mound by Brett Gardner leading off the game.

“But, you have to move on,’’ said Collins. Translation: Winning pitchers must overcome.

I guess the only positives for Matz tonight are he kept Aaron Judge out of the third deck and won’t have to pitch to Giancarlo Stanton this weekend.

Matz, who spent the first two months on the disabled list recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow, also missed the 2010-11 seasons following Tommy John surgery.

Perhaps Matz is hurting again, or hit a wall in his recovery and has a dead arm and is gutting it out. Maybe he’s hiding an injury. Maybe he’s tipping his pitches, but you’d think they would have discovered it if he has been. Maybe his mechanics are all screwed up.

“I asked him if he was physically OK, but he said he is fine,’’ Collins said, shaking his head.

Matz answered every question calmly and professionally. He didn’t duck anything.

“It’s not a good feeling. I don’t want to say I’m lost,’’ Matz said. “I want to think I’m one step away from having things click.’’

The season is lost for the Mets, but it might not be totally lost for Matz. It is still possible he could work things out with a couple of starts in Las Vegas. Perhaps that’s a gamble the Mets should make.

At this point, what would it hurt?

 

Aug 07

First Impressions On Rosario After First Week

Amed Rosario has been a Met for a week. It’s premature to draw any conclusions, but it isn’t too soon to have some first impressions.

First of all, I like how this guy always hustles, especially coming out of the box. I wish Yoenis Cespedes hustled as much. I hope it’s a quality he never loses.

ROSARIO: Rough first week at plate. (AP)

ROSARIO: Rough first week at plate. (AP)

Secondly, how can you not love his range and throwing arm. That spells defense, something the Mets need to place a higher priority on for 2018.

However, as Rosario seems joined at the hip with Jose Reyes, here’s hoping he doesn’t learn some things from his mentor offensively, namely his plate discipline.

Rosario began his major league career with a four-game hitting streak – including two triples – and after six games he’s gone 4-for-22 for a .182 average. That wouldn’t be so bad, but where I hope he doesn’t take after Reyes is in the areas of on-base percentage and strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

For all his speed, Reyes has never had a great on-base percentage; it’s .284 this year and .336 for his career. Rosario’s on-base at Las Vegas was a very good .367, but he won’t replicate that on the major league level unless he employs better plate discipline. Reyes has always struck out too much, and that’s what we’re seeing so far from Rosario, who has ten strikeouts in 22 at-bats.

That’s way too many as he’s proven to be vulnerable to sliders and curveballs low-and-away.

As I said, it has only been six games, way too early to make any definitive conclusions, but just something to look at as this season progresses.

Jul 15

Rosario’s Tweets Won’t Help Him

Amed Rosario might be physically gifted, and could very well develop into a major league star. While the Mets’ impatient fan base and media might be clamoring for his promotion over GM Sandy Alderson’s judgment, this much is sure: Rosario is not emotionally ready for the major leagues.

If he were, he wouldn’t be going on social media, Twitter to be exact, literally begging for a promotion.

ROSARIO: Needs to put the phone down.

ROSARIO: Needs to put the phone down.

“On my knees and I Just want to propose to Queens — NY that is. AR = Amed is Ready #Facts #DontBeSurprisedBeReady..’’

If Rosario was really ready, he wouldn’t be pleading for a promotion. He would simply keep his mouth shut and let his playing do his talking for him.

That’s old school thinking, I know. I also know Alderson has his reasons and won’t be swayed by what the media reports or what his players may post on social media.

“We want Rosario, we want (Dominic) Smith to come up under the best possible circumstances, and right now, we think the best thing for both of them is to continue to play at Las Vegas until the situation here clarifies one way or the other,’’ Alderson said. “Either we’re back in the race and everybody’s clicking on all cylinders, or we’re not, and we make some other decisions. But right now, I just don’t think it’s the right time.’’

That doesn’t mean Alderson doesn’t believe Rosario can’t play in the major leagues, he just doesn’t think that with the Mets still going for it, there’s not a fit for him in Flushing.

Alderson is figuring he might as well ride Jose Reyes for as long as he can while knowing Rosario, who is hitting .327 for Triple-A Las Vegas, will be there when he wants him.

Jun 22

Should Mets Option Slumping Conforto?

Perhaps GM Sandy Alderson’s reluctance to promote Amed Rosario stems from observing Michael Conforto’s June Swoon. As it did last year, Conforto’s hot start turned south and taking down with it another Mets’ season.

I’ve always been in Conforto’s camp and that hasn’t changed, but something isn’t right and the slide has been dramatic.

CONFORTO: Would minor league trip help?. (AP)

CONFORTO: Would minor league trip help?. (AP)

On May 24, after a two-hit game against San Diego, Conforto was hitting .341 with a 1.149 OPS. Going into tonight’s game in Los Angeles, Conforto’s average is .278 with .949 OPS. Conforto entered June batting .314 but is hitting .167 for the month to have his average drop to .278. That’s a decent average that masks his slump. Especially alarming are 19 strikeouts in 54 at-bats.

Conforto is out of the lineup again tonight against left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. It’s easy to understand why, because as cold as he has been, Curtis Granderson has been that hot. For the second straight day, Granderson homered to lead off the game and set a club record with his 20th leadoff homer.

Manager Terry Collins hasn’t said Conforto won’t get back in, but as the Mets struggle to hang onto their season, he has to play the hottest hitters.

Both Alderson and Collins said of Conforto that he’s better off getting at-bats in the minor leagues than sitting on the bench in the majors. If Conforto doesn’t heat up, perhaps it is time to think about a trip to Las Vegas to work on his mechanics.

If the Chicago Cubs can send down Kyle Schwarber, the Mets can send down Conforto.

Alderson said when Rosario comes up to the majors it should be for good.  Ideally, the same should apply to Conforto, but after fading in each of the last two seasons following a hot start, perhaps Alderson is having second thoughts and is thinking he rushed Conforto.

It’s a thought.