Mar 01

Mets’ Outfield Remains Muddled

After a handful of games, this much is certain about the Mets’ porous outfield situation: Nothing has been settled.

We know Lucas Duda is expected to play left field, but center field and right field are open. Wide open, it seems.

Going into spring training, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill were penciled in as a platoon in center, while veteran Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter were going to be a right field platoon.

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

“The outfield is definitely a question mark, collectively,’’ Sandy Alderson said. “I think we’ve liked what we’ve seen from Cowgill. I don’t think that (Andrew) Brown and (Jamie) Hoffman have had much of an opportunity to play at this point.

“Nieuwenhuis, (Matt) den Dekker, still have some work to do offensively. Marlon Byrd is what he is (which hardly qualifies as an endorsement. Mike Baxter is certainly in that mix- expect him to be on that team.’’

Nieuwenhuis if off to a horrible 0-for-12 start with six strikeouts, and both Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin have outperformed him offensively. Nieuwenhuis was given the first opportunity to with the leadoff spot because of his speed, but he’s shown nothing in that regard. Last night, he batted fifth.

Den Dekker has a great glove, but Jim Edmonds comparisons quickly end when his bat is mentioned.

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Feb 27

Mets Matters: Alderson Dishes On Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler And Strikeouts

mets matters

In a conference call this evening, Mets GM Sandy Alderson addressed several issues surrounding the team.

Among them:

* Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will not be allowed to block the plate.

* The leadoff spot is still up in the air and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is a candidate, still has work to do.

* If Nieuwenhuis plays fulltime he will strikeout over 100 times (he struck out 98 last year). That could give the Mets four players with over 100 strikeouts when you consider David Wright, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. While strikeouts are a concern, they are offset by an increased on-base percentage and run production.

* If the Mets are competitive this summer, he knows he will face the dilemma of trading a pitching prospect for a hitter.

* Alderson said how the Mets handled Matt Harvey last year should buy him patience from fans wanting to rush Zack Wheeler. He added there’s no sense in force-feeding a young player if he’s not ready.

These and other issues from Alderson’s conference call will be explored in greater detail in future posts.

THE GAME: If the Mets could take one positive out of this afternoon’s 12-4 waxing at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, it is that Duda broke a 0-for-7 slide with ground single.

No, they did not stop the game to give him the ball.

Seven of those outs were strikeouts. Duda finished 1-for-3 with one strikeout, so it isn’t as if he’s found it all of a sudden.

Terry Collins noticed Duda had a more compact swing on the single and fly ball to left. It was longer on the strikeout.

Duda had been spending extra time in the batting cage to work on his mechanics, and will do so again tomorrow. He’s expected to play Friday against Detroit’s Justin Verlander.

As of now, Duda is penciled in as the left fielder. The Mets like his power potential (15 homers last year), but must be concerned about his wasted at-bats. He had 120 strikeouts with only 51 walks in 459 plate appearances.

WHEELER OUT: Wheeler was scratched from today’s start with a slight strain of his right oblique. Although the Mets have not said anything, expect him to miss at least another start.

WRIGHT PLAYS: Wright returned to the lineup with two singles. He’s not scheduled to play Thursday, but is Friday against Detroit at Port St. Lucie. Wright hopes to play third instead of DH in that game. On Saturday he leaves for the World Baseball Classic.

Feb 26

Mejia Makes First Start Today; Tejada Out

Jenrry Mejia gets the ball this afternoon against Miami. As of now, Mejia will be used as a starter, but there are those in the organization who believe he’s better suited for the bullpen.

MEJIA: Gets ball today.

MEJIA: Gets ball today.

Mejia prefers to start and has performed better in that role. Maybe it is because he has time to prepare for his assignment, maybe because he has more time to warm up, maybe it is an ego thing. Whatever it is, his 2.75 ERA as a starter compared to 5.48 ERA in relief, can’t be disputed.

Why can’t they make a decision with this guy?

The Mets screwed up with Mejia in 2010, when managing for his job, Jerry Manuel rushed an unproven Mejia to the Opening Day roster as a reliever because they didn’t have a quality bullpen. Manuel was clearly thinking in the short term rather than what was in the best interest of Mejia, and the Mets, in the long term.

Closer, set-up reliever, situational pitcher; the Mets bounced him around. Eventually they optioned him out and he started in the minors. Mejia was not prepared for the up-and-down work in the bullpen, and then stretching him out in midseason, he injured his arm and underwent surgery. He did not pitch with the Mets in 2011.

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Feb 25

Harvey And D’Arnaud Not There; Duda Totally Off

The Mets tell us to look forward to 2014 and beyond, but we received a glimpse into that future Sunday when Matt Harvey pitched two innings to catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

After ten starts last summer, Harvey is already in the Mets’ rotation; for d’Arnaud, it was his first game since he injured his left knee last June.

There were several communication issues, which is to be expected from a young battery that has never worked together. The most important lesson is Harvey has the final decision on what he throws. If he doesn’t like the pitch, he calls d’Arnaud out to the mound. The bottom line is the pitcher has control over what he throws. If he’s not comfortable with the pitch it will get crushed.

Like a lot of people, d’Arnaud praised Harvey’s poise and demeanor. Harvey said he wasn’t concerned with the miscommunication, citing that they hadn’t worked together before.

Manager Terry Collins made it a point to say d’Arnaud would catch each of the Mets’ starters.

The Mets were also happy with Dillon Gee, who made his first start since surgery last season to repair a damaged artery in his shoulder. Gee threw last September, so he had a feel for his arm and expressed no worries.

Meanwhile, not having a feel for anything is Lucas Duda, who so far is 0-for-7 with six strikeouts. Not anywhere to go but up from there.

Duda’s problem is mechanical reports ESPN in that his lead foot is still too high when he begins his stride. Consequently, he’s not in hitting position and the ball gets in on him too quickly.

WEEKEND METS NOTES: Jonathan Niese gave up a run on three hits in two innings against the University of Michigan. He came out of the game saying he needed to work on getting ahead in the count more. Actually, that’s what all pitchers need to do. … Josh Edgin blew a save against Houston. … Jeurys Familia. … Collin Cowgill is making a good impression.

Feb 23

Mets Lineup Against Washington; Notebook

Here’s today’s lineup and some thoughts about it for the Mets’ exhibition opener against Washington:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf

Ruben Tejada, ss

David Wright, 3b

Ike Davis, 1b

Marlon Byrd, rf

Lucas Duda, lf

John Buck, c

Justin Turner, 2b

Jordany Valdespin, dh

Shaun Marcum, rhp

LINEUP THOUGHTS: Zack Wheeler, Cory Mazzoni, Jeurys Familia and Darin Gorski will also pitch for the Mets. I like that Wheeler pitching in relief. Yes, it’s only an exhibition game, but there are still nerves involved. No sense adding extra pressure. … Marcum should get two innings or roughly 30 pitches to start. He’s the projected fifth starter. … The first four in the batting order are as I suggested several days ago. Notice how Terry Collins separated Ike Davis and Lucas Duda with Marlon Byrd. It’s important to separate the two strikeout machines. … The spring training objectives is for starting pitchers to make six starts and compile 30 innings. Hitters need around 50 to 60 at-bats.

METS NOTEBOOK: First baseman Rhyne Hughes was signed to a minor league contract and will report to the minor league camp. Hughes hit 13 with 56 RBI in 266 at-bats for the Double-A Bowie. … Jenrry Mejia is in camp, delayed over a week with a visa issue.