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.

 

Apr 02

Injuries Solidify Mets’ Opening Day Roster

It would have been great had Michael Conforto made the Mets’ Opening Day roster as a starter. That was the case last season, but a blistering April quickly sputtered and for much of the season he rode the Las Vegas shuttle and bench.

The Conforto whom manager Terry Collins said last April when the left fielder was hitting well over .330 was going to the Mets’ “No. 3 hitter of the future,” appeared to open the season in the minors this winter after Yoenis Cespedes was brought back and they were unable to trade Jay Bruce.

CONFORTO: How will they give him ABs? (Getty)

CONFORTO: How will they give him ABs? (Getty)

However, when Juan Lagares – the Mets’ only natural center fielder – strained his oblique that meant Conforto would need to stick.

“I feel good. Confident,” Conforto told reporters. “It’s a different role for me starting the year, but I feel great. I’m excited about the opportunity to just get in there and hopefully influence some games late and give some guys rest and do what I can to help the team win.”

Conforto always says the right things, so won’t say what should be said. Conforto needs to play and get regular at-bats. He needs more than one token AB at the end of a game he entered as a defensive replacement.

Hopefully, Collins will come up with a rotation with Conforto, Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and yes, Cespedes. Even if the Mets plan to option Conforto when Lagares is ready is a few weeks, I hope he won’t fly to Vegas with only six or seven at-bats on his stat sheet.

An injury also cleared the way for Rafael Montero to make the Opening Day roster over Seth Lugo, and prompt one wonder whether the World Baseball Classic was the factor. Lugo, who pitched superbly for Puerto Rico in the WBC, has struggled with fatigue and soreness in his arm and then conceded he pushed himself too hard to win a spot on the staff.

Maybe none of that happens if there was no WBC this year.

I understand players want to compete for their country, but their first obligation should be to the teams that are the source of their livelihood.

The key is for the Mets to give him the time he needs to heal and regain his strength, and for Lugo to not be thinking he needs to get back to the majors right away because it is a long season.