Jun 18

Zack Wheeler Lives Up To Hype

Zack Wheeler is here, so the New York Mets might as well get a real good look under his hood to see how the gears in his gut work.

The Mets believe they have another young star pitcher in their midst, but were on verge of watching a scoreless debut unravel. At the time, a Mets’ 6-1 victory and doubleheader sweep of the first-place Braves seemed highly unlikely.

WHEELER: Wins debut. (AP)

WHEELER: Wins debut. (AP)

The Braves had two on with one out in the sixth inning and Wheeler’s pitch count was approaching 100. The sixth was to be Wheeler’s last, but this time Terry Collins did not pull him so the rookie starter would have a “good feeling about himself.’’

No, Collins let Wheeler earn that good feeling by himself. Wheeler’s debut was already remarkably good, but he iced it by blowing away Dan Uggla for his seventh strikeout and getting Chris Johnson on a pop-up to second base.

It was a moment Wheeler will no doubt reflect on tonight before he falls asleep – if he falls asleep – and perhaps constantly before his next start.

Wheeler threw an emotional and encouraging 102 pitches, but only 55 of them were strikes, so that’s something he’ll work on. Six scoreless innings from Wheeler, giving up four hits and five walks.

Control was forecast to be an issue for Wheeler. It was in Las Vegas and was tonight, but that should be correctable over time. However, what can’t be taught are his 97 mph., fastball and composure to work out of trouble.

Wheeler walked two in the first, but got B.J. Upton on an inning-ending fielder’s choice. That inning could have gotten away from him easily.

Uggla hit a one-out double in the second, but Wheeler struck out the next two hitters.

Atlanta had runners on the corners with two outs in the third, but Wheeler retired B.J. Upton on a fly.

Wheeler never had a 1-2-3 inning, and seemed ready for another lack-of-support no-decision by a Mets’ starter, but catcher Anthony Recker hit a two-run homer, leaving the rookie starter to hope for his bullpen.

This time, the pen held and the Mets, unbelievably added tack-on runs. Couple this with Matt Harvey’s strong first-game effort and the Mets looked like a good team. They also made us greedy thinking how sweet it would have been to get the first game of the series.

The Mets had been riding this image since last season when Harvey burst into our consciousness. They were going to build around the young pitching of Harvey and Wheeler. That feeling intensified the past few days when it was imminent Wheeler would be promoted, and for one day at least, it all worked out for the Mets.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 12

Mets Remain Stuck After Ike Davis Demotion; Doing Daniel Murphy Wrong

At least the Mets had one issue resolved Tuesday night, and that is who to demote from the rotation when Zack Wheeler is brought up. That will be Jeremy Hefner, who gave up five unearned runs.

The Mets are determined to bring up Wheeler despite questions of him not being ready because they desperately want a diversion to this already lost season. Hefner and Dillon Gee have pitched too well recently to lose their spot in the rotation, but that is irrelevant.

MURPHY: Doing him wrong.

MURPHY: Doing him wrong.

Last night’s enduring image was Daniel Murphy’s error. After two years of Murphy trying to learn second base, the Mets moved him back to first base when Ike Davis was sent down. Sandy Alderson’s sterling reasoning: To see what Jordany Valdespin can give them at second base and leadoff.

For the Mets’ myriad of questions, Valdespin isn’t much an answer to any of them. But, it makes sense using Metsian logic to make things difficult for a decent, hard working, productive guy in Murphy to placate a headache such as Valdespin. Am I being unfair to Valdespin? Perhaps, but has he really earned the benefit of doubt?

Why fool around with one of their more productive players in Murphy at first when they just brought up first baseman Josh Satin to replace Davis? What’s Satin doing here if he’s not going to play?

As far as trying to learn about Valdespin, that’s what spring training was about. And, what is the correlation between batting leadoff and playing second? If the Mets want to learn about Valdespin hitting leadoff they’ve had plenty of opportunities.

As far as Davis is concerned, he was 0-for-3 last night at Las Vegas, after which he declined to talk to reporters who traveled 2,500 miles to see him. He’s lucky people still care about what he does.

Davis said he’s in Las Vegas to work on his swing, which is only partially correct. He’s also there to work on his plate presence and approach that is abundantly flawed. If Davis believes going to Las Vegas is only to work on mechanics he will never get out of this funk.

Hitting is first mental, then physical, something Davis does not recognize or chooses to ignore. The Mets waited far too long to demote Davis and are not waiting long enough to promote Wheeler.

That does make me curious about one thing. Will Davis still be in Las Vegas by the time they send back Wheeler?

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

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.