Sep 27

Niese Volunteers For Bullpen; Could Be Future With Team

Figuring he wouldn’t be in the Mets’ postseason rotation, left-hander Jon Niese volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen, which is manager Terry Collins‘ primary concern for the NLDS against the Dodgers. Collins said Niese approached him ten days ago with the suggestion.

Collins said NIese’s willingness to pitch in relief typifies the attitude of his team.

NIESE: Goes to bullpen. (Getty)

NIESE: Goes to bullpen. (Getty)

“The entire clubhouse was caught up in winning,” Collins said. “They weren’??t caught up in their own stuff. They worried about doing what they thought they needed to do to help the club.”

The bullpen is the Mets’ Achilles Heel heading into the playoffs, in particular, the lack of situational left-hander. Citing an injury history and inability to get loose after his starts, Collins said he didn’t like the idea of using Steven Matz in that role. Today marked the first time the Mets addressed the idea of Matz in relief.

“It’??s one of those things where I wanted to do anything to help the team,” Niese said. “As the season progressed there at the end, there was a need down there.”

It could end up being Niese’s future with the team if he’s not traded.

A Met since 2008, Niese’s time in New York has been one of unfulfilled potential and injuries. At 28, he’s 61-61 lifetime and has two more years left on his contract. However, projecting ahead to next year, the Mets’ rotation figures to be Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matz and Zack Wheeler expected to come off the disabled list in July.

The Mets tried to trade Niese last winter, and might try again this offseason if they can can obtain a bat. In the back of GM Sandy Alderson’s mind is if Niese pans out in the bullpen, perhaps he can secure a spot there.

The plan is to use Niese in relief this week, with Logan Verrett getting his start Thursday in Philadelphia. What is undecided is where Bartolo Colon will work in the playoffs. Speculation is Colon will go to the bullpen, especially considering what Collins said Matz working in relief.

As a starter, Niese is adept at working to righties and lefty hitters. He has thrown only one relief inning during his career.


Sep 20

Robles Gives Glimpse Of Harvey Limits Nightmare

The horror Mets’ fans envision when it comes to Matt Harvey‘s innings limits surfaced in a disturbing way tonight. Harvey cruised for five scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out seven, before giving way to Hansel Robles.

Robles pitched two thirds of an inning and was hammered for five runs by the Yankees. It was the obvious fear whenever Harvey leaves the game.

Of course, there were boos, directed at Robles, at manager Terry Collins for pulling Harvey, for GM Sandy Alderson who didn’t have a definitive plan entering the season, and, at Harvey, who resisted any rest suggestions this summer.

HARVEY: Goes five tonight. (Getty)

HARVEY: Goes five tonight. (Getty)

We’ve been over this several times and the basic criticism is the Mets wanted to limit Harvey’s workload, but Alderson, Harvey, Dr. James Andrews and agent Scott Boras failed to come up with a workable plan.

Boras, Harvey and Andrews had their idea of a limit (180 innings total) and Alderson had his idea (around 190 for the regular season plus the playoffs).

The disconnect between the sides is wide, but the primary finger must be pointed at Alderson, who as the Mets’ chief executive, failed to come up with a concrete plan or stand up to his diva pitcher.

According to the recent, quickly thrown together plan, Harvey was to go five tonight and presumably five in his next two games, and with his playoff workload undetermined.

Barring another historic collapse, the Mets should make the playoffs, but what if there’s a repeat of tonight next month against the Dodgers? In the playoffs, don’t you want to see Harvey go six, or seven, or even eight innings?

Of course you do, and so would Harvey’s teammates. However, the Mets won’t make that commitment and that’s aggravating to all concerned.


Sep 09

Things Couldn’t Have Worked Out Better For Matt Harvey

It was Matt Harvey‘s worst outing of the season for the Mets, yet he came out smelling like roses. He’s the guy who doesn’t find loose change under his seat cushions, but $20 bills. At least so far, it has been that way.

HARVEY: Comes up golden. (Getty)

HARVEY: Comes up golden. (Getty)

We don’t know yet how much Harvey will pitch in September and his availability for the playoffs, but things are looking good for now. After four days in which he took a public relations hit for the innings flap issue after agent Scott Boras dared remind GM Sandy Alderson of the 180 innings magic number.

The print media took its shot at Harvey, but SNY continued to treat him with kid gloves as it failed to acknowledge Boras doesn’t say anything without Harvey’s knowledge. Guys, Boras is Harvey’s mouthpiece.

Harvey wants to tread lightly in September and pitch in October, but that might not be possible to his liking. However, Tuesday’s game and the completed sweep tonight gives the Mets a seven-game lead with 23 games remaining, to create a gap seemingly wide enough where missing Harvey a couple of times might be possible without creating any angst. Whether it is Logan Verrett or Steven Matz, it doesn’t matter.

The key here is Harvey got what he wanted with a limited amount of friction from the front office. Even a loss or two might not be the end of the world now. Had Harvey been beaten, he would have gotten all sorts of questions if the controversy was a distraction.

However, if Harvey only starts two more games – against the Yankees and Washington as reported – the question of how sharp he’ll be could become an issue. But for now, that’s just conjecture. For now, the Harvey issue doesn’t seem so intense.



Aug 28

Second Part Of Harvey Gamble Plays Out Friday

Well, the Mets gave Matt Harvey his rest, 12 days to be exact, and it will be interesting to see how he responds tonight against Boston. Harvey missing a start was a two-part gamble. First, there was skipping him in favor of Logan Verrett. The second part is seeing how he would do on extended rest.

HARVEY: Plenty of rest tonight. (AP)

HARVEY: Plenty of rest tonight. (AP)

Harvey has been vocal about his preference working in a conventional five-man rotation where he works on four days rest. He was especially agitated when he lost to the Dodgers in Los Angeles, July 4, while working on eight days rest. On July 20, on nine days rest, he lost in Washington.

Harvey is 1-1 on seven days rest; 6-3 on six days rest; and 3-1 on five days rest. That’s seven losses for Harvey when not working on conventional rest.

When pitchers get too much rest they have a tendency to be overly strong and often overthrow and have a lack of command. You hear it all the time with sinkerball pitchers that they leave the ball up when too strong and need to be a little tired.

As bad as the Red Sox are, they can still hit and the Mets don’t need is for Harvey to be walking hitters in front of guys like David Ortiz.

Harvey has thrown 154 innings this season and including tonight is on schedule to make eight more starts on conventional rest. Assuming he goes seven innings in those games, that’s 56 more or 210 for the season. Using those numbers and how many innings they wanted for him, that leaves zero for the playoffs.

That obviously won’t work.

The Mets’ options are to skip him one or two more times; or severely limit his innings in September. But, with the Mets’ porous bullpen and need to win games – including six more with the Nationals – that’s not a good choice, either.

As the Mets calculate his potential innings for the playoffs, they must figure them through the World Series. They certainly aren’t going to calculate his playoff starts for just the first round. In doing that, the Mets must figure at least six more starts, which is two starts for every playoff round. Of course, they could figure sweeping each round, but this run already has a large dose of fantasy.

The Mets have done a decent job giving Harvey his rest, but not so much limiting his innings. Have I mentioned this before? It goes to not having a concrete program.

Aug 27

Matz Should Be Lefty Bullpen Solution

I’m throwing this out there, but perhaps the Mets’ lefty bullpen void could be filled by Steven Matz. I know GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins rejected that notion in spring training, but that was a long time ago and now we’re looking at the Mets as serious playoff contenders with one severe weakness – lack of a lefty reliever.

Instead of diving into the six-man rotation when Matz returns, why not give that spot start to Logan Verrett or somebody else and use Matz as a situational lefty – one batter only – coming out of the pen? I wouldn’t mind seeing him come into face Bryce Harper or Mark Teixeira or Jason Heyward or any other lefty masher.

It is outside-the-box thinking, but that’s what the Mets need right now.

MATZ: Would be interesting pen option. (Getty)

MATZ: Would be interesting pen option. (Getty)

With the way Bartolo Colon pitched last night, and Verrett in Colorado, there’s not a sense of urgency to insert Matz into the rotation. Once the rosters are expanded Sept. 1, Matz will be included, but so should another minor league pitcher in case they want to sit Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard. Who knows? Maybe they could even bring back Dillon Gee for an encore start.

Meanwhile, there’s a gaping hole in the bullpen, especially from the left side.

I get it, you don’t want to screw with Matz, but there’s nothing wrong with his arm. And, if the intent is to limit him to one key batter it shouldn’t be a problem. Say the Mets are playing the Nationals and it is the fifth inning. Collins can look up at that multi-million dollar scoreboard in Citi Field, or have one of his coaches tell him Harper is two innings away.

That’s when you get Matz to warm up so he’s not rushing. It could be like a normal between-starts bullpen session. And, if he doesn’t need to face Harper, then he sits back down. All he did was get a little exercise.

I know the Mets don’t want to do that, but it is something they should consider. Matz isn’t made of china or paper mache. This won’t kill him. A lot of major league starters have gone into the bullpen and done well. I know this is force feeding him into a new role, but damn it, the Mets are fighting for the playoffs and have a glaring need. It is a need they are unlikely to fill with a trade in the next four days.

If you look at the Mets’ rotation, should they make the playoffs they’ll carry four starters, and Matz won’t be one of them. The playoff rotation would include Harvey, Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Jon Niese. Colon will undoubtedly be bumped. And, I don’t figure them using Matz out of the bullpen for the playoffs if they haven’t used him there in September.

So, what’s he going to get, one or two starts at the most in September? Maybe three? What good would that do?

He has the potential to help the Mets more out of the pen and that’s where he should go.