Mar 28

Mets’ Triple-A Rotation Takes Shape

DARIN GORSKI: Is he officially a reliever now?

DARIN GORSKI: Is he officially a reliever now?

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York took to Twitter a short while ago and began posting his projections for the Mets Triple-A roster.

Included in his Las Vegas 51′s rotation he has: Zack Wheeler, Aaron Laffey, Collin McHugh, Chris Schwinden and Carlos Torres.

A month ago I projected the rotation as follows:

  1. Zack Wheeler
  2. Collin McHugh
  3. Mark Cohoon
  4. Darin Gorski
  5. Aaron Laffey

That was what I had once I removed Mejia, who has been shutdown for at least a month, and Hefner who won a job in the Mets rotation. The biggest difference between what I project and Rubin is that he has Carlos Torres in the rotation and Darin Gorski is nowhere to be seen.

When I posted my projection back on February 21, I did speculate that both Familia and Gorski may not even make the cut and could be relegated to the bullpen because of a numbers crunch:

Jeurys Familia is looking more and more like a reliever now and even Darin Gorski is beginning to trend in that direction lately.

I’m not that surprised that Schwinden makes Rubin’s cut even though I personally saw him as a numbers casualty as well, but the Torres thing surprises me.

The Mets signed the 30-year old free agent back in November and I remember thinking at the time how confusing an addition it was – even as minor league fodder.

Last season, Torres made 31 appearances for the Colorado Rockies and posted a 5.25 ERA and 1.415 WHIP in 53 innings pitched. All of his appearances were in relief. He’s having an awful spring for the Mets, posting a 8.54 ERA in 5.1 innings with nine hits allowed and five runs. I don’t see the value in pushing aside a younger pitcher with higher upside just to give Torres a job. It makes little sense to me.

I would also think that Mark Cohoon was more deserving of a spot on the Vegas rotation, especially after his solid season in Binghamton where he posted a 3.62 ERA and 1.207 WHIP in 23 starts, 18 of them quality starts.

And while I did speculate Gorski would go to the pen, my thinking at the time was because he’d be squeezed out because of the numbers crunch and not because a determination would be made that he was finished as a starter.

If we can give Gorski another season in the rotation, I’d be all for it. I would most rather see that than to push him aside because of someone like Torres.

Update: Right after I posted this Adam Rubin DMed me and said that yes, Familia is now officially a reliever.

Mar 17

Kirk Nieuwenhuis Having Miserable Spring; Vegas Bound

With two weeks to go before Opening Day, Kirk Nieuwenhuis should be thinking about where he would live in New York rather than Las Vegas.

Nieuwenhuis, who made a strong first impression with the Mets last year, came to camp penciled in as the center fielder and first in line to win the leadoff spot. However, a hitless streak at the start of the exhibition schedule punctuated with a rash of strikeouts followed by deep bone bruise on his left knee made this a washout spring.

NIEUWENHUIS: Taking that swing to Vegas.

NIEUWENHUIS: Taking that swing to Vegas.

It should be fun for a young player competing for a starting job.

“Fun?’’ Nieuwenhuis asked. “It should have been fun, but it’s no fun spending time in the trainer’s room. It’s no fun when you can’t get onto the field. This has been a very frustrating time.’’

Nieuwenhuis was injured two weeks ago, and yesterday participated in batting practice and outfield drills. Once he runs the bases, he’ll be cleared to play, but it will be a minor league game.

Perhaps early this week Nieuwenhuis will get in a game, but Collin Cowgill has already leaped past him as well as Jordany Valdespin. Matt den Dekker also made a strong impression defensively, and still has a chance to make the team if he finishes with a hot two weeks with the bat.

Nieuwenhuis doesn’t say it, but despite his youth and inexperience, he’s smart enough to know the score. All he has to do is look at the stat sheet and compare his at-bats to Cowgill’s.

“I haven’t seen a lot of pitches,’’ Nieuwenhuis said in about as direct an admission that he’ll open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. “You need at-bats in spring training. You need repetition, and I haven’t gotten them.’’

Nieuwenhuis was brought up early last season after Andres Torres was injured and got two hits in his first game. Then he rattled off a seven-game hitting streak. Three times he had three hits in a game and at the end of April was hitting .325 with a .386 on-base percentage.

Nieuwenhuis remained productive in May – hitting .294 at the end of the month – and carried it into June and was emerging as an early Rookie of the Year candidate hitting .297 while playing a near flawless center field.

However, by the middle of the month, pitchers started figuring him out and his average plummeted. Anybody can hit fastballs, but Nieuwenhuis was having trouble with breaking balls and off-speed stuff and his strike zone widened for pitchers, who didn’t have to be so fine.

Nieuwenhuis sustained a hand injury in July and at the end of the month was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo, where he injured his foot and was lost for the remainder of the season.

At the time of his demotion, Nieuwenhuis was down to .252 with a .315 on-base percentage, and in 282 at-bats had more strikeouts (98) than hits (71).

Although general manager Sandy Alderson had his apprehensions with Nieuwenhuis, his early success last year coupled with the Mets’ wide-open outfield situation, enabled him to come to camp with a fresh start and high expectations.

“Strikeouts are acceptable to a point,’’ Alderson said. “If a player has a high on-base percentage and produces a lot of runs, you can take the strikeouts.’’

Nieuwenhuis got off to a slow start this spring with only one hit and seven strikeouts in 20 at-bats. He was quickly removed from the leadoff spot as manager Terry Collins searched for other options, including Valdespin and Cowgill.

“I know the strikeouts have been a problem,’’ Nieuwenhuis said. “I don’t want to strike out. I need to put the ball in play. Seeing pitches is very important, and you get that through repetition.’’

And, you don’t see pitches when you’re not on the field.

Sep 19

Mets Matters: Ike Davis Responds To Report; Shutting Down Matt Harvey

Not surprisingly, Ike Davis and the Mets responded to the published report the team was considering shopping him.

Davis said his myriad of batting stances is indicative of being able to accept coaching and refuted the notion he’s a late-night party guy. Also, Terry Collins said there’s nobody “in that clubhouse,’’ who can’t get traded.

Of course, the Mets would never admit to actively shopping Davis, even if it were true, as to diminish his trade value.

Davis might have countless stances but what is in question has been his approach, which was first one of patience but has regressed. Davis says he’s fine physically, which makes this a problem of concentration.

Davis is on a 142-strikeout pace, which is considerable given his production. That he’s closing in on 30 homers shows all-or-nothing results.

I like Davis, but he’s really one of the few marketable players they have and if dealing him makes him better, than so be it.

In other Mets’ items:

* Matt Harvey will make his final start of the season tonight against the Phillies. It is clear Harvey is an asset they want to protect. If protecting is something they want to do next season, then here’s hoping they have a better plan than the one the Nationals had with Stephen Strasburg.

You shouldn’t just shut down a pitcher, but taper him gradually. Perhaps slot him so he’ll miss one start a month.

With Harvey out, the Mets will start prospects Jeremy Hefner (tomorrow), and possibly Jeurys Familia and Collin McHugh. Incidentally, R.A. Dickey will make his final home start this weekend, and get starts in Atlanta and Miami the final week.

* The Mets are one more loss from a fourth straight losing season and the magic number for their postseason elimination is down to four. That’s in case you were still wondering.

* The Mets are a dismal 4-22 at Citi Field since the All-Star break and have scored three or fewer runs in their last 14 home games.

* The shortest deal a team can sign with a minor league affiliate is two years, which is what the Mets did with Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. Ideally, the Mets want a team in the Eastern Time zone, which is what they had in Buffalo and before that, Norfolk. However, those ties were cut – according to those cities – because the Mets didn’t do much to promote their affiliates. One can expect more of the same in Las Vegas as they search for another affiliate.

 

Aug 20

Mets Matters: Santana Decision And Shuffling Off From Buffalo

Sometime this afternoon we could get a clearer reading on what’s to happen with Johan Santana for the remainder of the season: Do they keep running him out there are shut him down to give him a head start on preparation for 2013?

Currently, Santana is scheduled to start Thursday against Colorado with extra rest. If he comes through, the Mets might opt to keep giving him extended rest between starts.

What we need to remember is this has been a grueling rehab for Santana coming off shoulder surgery and his arm has already exceeded what it normally goes through in a regular season. 

If Santana’s current problems are fatigue related, then shutting him down might be the prudent decision.

In other Mets’ news:

* It appears the Mets will lose ties with their Class AAA Buffalo affiliate, which is a shame as that locale makes it easier to shuttle players up and down. 

Most disappointing is Buffalo is the Mets’ third Triple-A attachment in the past decade (Norfolk, Va., and New Orleans). Las Vegas could be next.

Word is Buffalo, like Norfolk, because disenchanted from the Mets’ lack of attention or promotion to their affiliates, not to mention a poor quality of play.  Buffalo has a major league caliber stadium, so would it kill the Mets to play an exhibition game there (coming out of spring training) or even a regular season game? I would think a Mets-Pirates games would be attractive and fill the place.

Ideally, you’d like a strong relationship between the big club and its top minor league affiliate.

* The Mets open a stretch tonight of seven straight games against NL weaklings Colorado and Houston, the latter just sacked its manager. 

“Well, we’re not exactly playing great right now,’’ Terry Collins said.

The Mets follow those two series with series at Philadelphia and Miami. So, this would be the Mets’ best opportunity to get on a roll to finish over .500. That’s still what I’d like for this team.

Nov 28

Black Friday doesn’t apply to Mets

The Mets aren’t about to do any heavy lifting with their wallets today. Even if they wanted to, they wouldn’t be able to talk with the agent for closer Francisco Rodriguez. Paul Kinzer said he won’t start any heavy discussions until the winter meetings open in Las Vegas, Dec. 8.

“I’ll probably see the Mets at the winter meetings,” Kinzer said. “I don’t have anything else planned.”

The Mets have said they won’t overpay for a closer and the original speculated asking price for Rodriguez, $75-million over five years, is expected to drop. It will be interesting how high the Mets are willing to go.

There have been two significant FA signings, and both should be of interest to the Mets.

All-Star Ryan Dempster stayed with the Cubs for a $52 million, four-year contract, which could have a bearing on Oliver Perez’s deal. And lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt signed a an $8 million, two-year deal with the San Francisco Giants. For those thinking about the bullpen bridge to a closer, that should be an indicator.