Aug 26

Mets This Week: Watching Wheeler And Listening To Buck Offers

The New York Mets never made it over the hump en route to .500, and after being swept – better yet, mauled – by the Tigers, this week is about licking wounds and finding a positive heading into the last month.

The Mets are in serious danger of giving up third place to the Phillies, who are in for four games. But, that’s just cosmetic stuff.

WHEELER: Watching him closely. (AP)

WHEELER: Watching him closely. (AP)

The meat of the week is how they treat Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, who’ll bookend the Phillies series. Wheeler has worked into the seventh in two of his last three starts, and went over 100 pitches in his last four games.

Terry Collins has not said what Wheeler’s limit will be tonight. One thing he won’t do, with rain in the forecast, is bring him back after a delay, so theoretically they could lose Wheeler’s start after two innings.

The Mets want to limit innings for Wheeler and Harvey, but haven’t come up with a definitive plan. They have not but a cap on a game, and seem to be hoping for off-days, of which they only have two remaining.

But, one is trumped because of a double header.

Harvey said he was gassed after Saturday’s loss, which puts him and the Mets in a difficult spot: How do they limit his innings, yet at the same time try to build him up to pitch in September?

I’m interested to see if the Mets don’t push Harvey back a day into the Washington series or skip him altogether.

Jonathon Niese starts Tuesday, his fourth since coming off the disabled list with a slight tear. Niese went seven innings in his last start and six in the previous two. He struck out nine hitters in his last two starts, showing there’s nothing wrong with his shoulder.

Even so, I’d be surprised if the Mets aren’t careful with him.

Getting the ball Wednesday will be Daisuke Matsuzaka, who gets mixed reviews from his Mets’ debut. On the down side, he gave up five runs in five innings. However, he retired the last ten batters he faced, so that is five runs in two innings.

The Mets get lefties Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, tonight and Wednesday, respectively, so which lefty-hitting first baseman gets to play, Lucas Duda or Ike Davis?

One thing for certain, is we’ll continue to see plenty of Travis d’Arnaud this week, and the Mets hope, for the next few years. That means seeing less of John Buck.

Buck has been terrific this year in what the Mets asked him to do, and since he showed there’s still pop in his bat, he’s going to want to play.

So, off the field, the Mets might have to decide if they are satisfied with d’Arnaud, Anthony Recker and whomever, and try to swing a waiver deal for Buck.

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Aug 08

Dillon Gee Continues Roll; Mets’ Rotation Looks Strong For Future

Never mind Matt Harvey for a moment, but the New York Mets must be thrilled with the continued solid production from Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee. If this season is about laying the groundwork for the future, then Mejia and Gee are good signs.

GEE: Superb again Thursday. (AP)

                                  GEE: Superb again Thursday. (AP)

Assuming they continue this run for the rest of the season, the Mets could enter the winter without the need to add another starter through free agency.

The Mets have several holes they must fill, and if another starting pitcher is not one of them, there would be resources for use elsewhere.

Gee was strong again today as the Mets completed a sweep of the Colorado Rockies. He is 6-2 with a 2.42 ERA in his last 13 starts, beginning with a May 30 victory over the Yankees. He’s proven durable from last year’s surgery and should go into spring training with a spot in the rotation. Gee got off to a slow start, perhaps attributable to the surgery, but is health is no longer an issue.

Of those 13 starts, 10 are defined as quality, which is giving up three or fewer runs in six innings. As a fourth or fifth starter, the Mets can’t ask for more. Mejia has a quality outing in each of his three starts.

Gee downplayed his numbers to reporters after the game: “I don’t worry about that stuff. At the end of the year, when you look up, you see what it’s been. I try to take it day by day, and hopefully we win the games.’’

The Mets’ pitching as been strong recently, and forecasting to next year, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Gee and Mejia comprise a youthful rotation with potential. And, we haven’t even gotten to Rafael Montero.

The Mets began their season with Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum on the disabled list. Marcum is gone and Santana will never pitch again for the Mets. As bleak as that news was at the time, it turned out to be a fortunate break for the Mets.

METS MATTERS: The Mets’ catching is approaching a state of flux with John Buck to shortly leave the team for maternity leave. Buck’s wife was due to deliver several days ago. They could bring up Travis d’Arnaud for the allotted three-day period, or they could go elsewhere in their system. … Lucas Duda, on the DL with an intercostal strain, isn’t close to being recalled, and we might not see him until the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1. … Harvey, who took a liner off his knee Tuesday night, said he’s fine and his between starts routine should not be impacted. … The Mets’ bullpen has a 2.10 ERA dating back to July 1.

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

Jul 29

Could Juan Lagares And Eric Young Be A Viable One-Two?

As the enthusiasm for a strong finish by the New York Mets might have fizzled in Washington, a bright spot continues to be Juan Lagares, raising the possibility of a speedy tandem at the top of the order with Eric Young.

Of course, he needs to show more offensively, but that part of his game is improving and the power might develop as he gets stronger and learns the pitchers better. It must be remembered development also includes adjusting to the pitching when it adjusts to him.

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

Lagares’ opportunity came from the collective ineptness of the Mets’ outfield. Currently, he and Young are the only outfielders that could be considered starters heading into spring training.

Lucas Duda might end up at first if he’s still on the team; Marlon Byrd might not be re-signed; Kirk Nieuwenhuis has his moments, but they are sparse.

Lagares is outstanding defensively, and his diving catch where he lost the ball and re-caught it might be one of the best of the season by an outfielder.

The objectives over the next two months for Lagares and Young are to show GM Sandy Alderson his outfield needs aren’t so severe.

Lagares’ average is slowly rising, but his 47-to-7 strikeouts-to-walks ratio must close, and if it does his .299 on-base percentage and .699 OPS would rise. His number projected over 162 games would be 121 strikeouts, 18 walks and 39 doubles.

The number that stands out most with Lagares are 15 doubles in 175 at-bats. Give him 600 at-bats and he would be pushing 45 doubles. If his strikeouts and walk numbers improved, the Mets would have themselves a solid center fielder.

Meanwhile, despite cooling since his hot debut, Young is still a catalyst at the top of the order with a .275 average and .357 on-base percentage in 138 at-bats.

Since the rest of the season is for finding answers, I would like to see if Young and Lagares can complement each other at the top of the order. What is currently preventing that is Daniel Murphy’s ability to work the count and protect Young as a base stealer.

Should Lagares develop in that area, it might be intriguing, and could allow for Murphy to be lowered in the order to give him more favorable RBI opportunities.

That would be important to know if the Mets don’t bring back Byrd, which I see as unlikely. I figure, as with Scott Hairston after last season, the Mets won’t give the player two years.

Jul 24

Mets Matters: Jenrry Mejia Still In Plans

The New York Mets rave about their young pitching. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard. A name missing, one who was on everybody’s wish list several years ago is that of Jenrry Mejia.

The Mets misused Mejia under Jerry Manuel, bouncing him from the bullpen to the rotation. There was undue stress and a resultant injury that lead to Tommy John surgery.

MEJIA: Gets another chance. (AP)

MEJIA: Gets another chance. (AP)

Last season was a waste, but Mejia will be recalled to start one of the double-header games Friday in Washington instead of pushing Wheeler back a day.

Wheeler has been suffering with blisters, but Terry Collins said they’ve healed and the rookie had his regular throw day Tuesday.

Mejia started for Double-A Binghamton Saturday and gave up one run on three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in six innings.

Mejia’s stock has fallen severely, but if he does well and sticks, he could address two situations: If they continue to use him as a starter it might enable them to rest Jon Niese longer. If their ultimate plan is as a reliever, then he should report to camp in that role.

DUDA, d’ARNAUD UPDATES: Left fielder Lucas Duda, on the disabled list with a left intercostal strain) in on a rehab assignment for the GCL Mets. He’s still several weeks away, but when he returns he shouldn’t immediately get his left field job returned to him.

Although Eric Young has cooled, he’s still productive at times and has been instrumental in the Mets turning around their season. Also, Young has finally given the Mets a presence at the top of the order.

Regarding Travis d’Arnaud, the plan was for John Buck to keep his seat warm until he was ready to play. A fractured foot quashed that scenario and d’Arnaud might be a September call-up at best. He has just started playing rehab games.

MARCUM RELEASED: Shaun Marcum reported to training camp out of shape and was quickly injured. He left the Mets the same way and was given his unconditional release.

After several long and solid relief appearances, it was thought Marcum might get something in a trade, but Niese’s shoulder injury forced the Mets to keep him on the roster.

Had Marcum stayed, his only value to the Mets would have been to the media for Ryan Braun quotes.

METS MUSINGS: It remains to be seen if Jordany Valdespin’s temper tantrum after his demotion will force the Mets to dump him. However, Valdespin somehow fell into luck in Las Vegas as he’s gotten a chance to play with Wilmer Flores on the minor league DL with an ankle injury. I thought Valdespin was done, but he’s 10-for-25 with two homers and 13 RBI for Vegas. If he keeps that up, we’ll see him in September. … Minor league catcher Alex Machillanda is the clear-cut winner of the Idiot of the Month Award after he was busted for shoplifting in Port St. Lucie. Minor leaguers don’t get a lot of money, but there’s no justifying stealing.

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

Jul 18

Many Questions Loom For Mets In Second Half

Although the New York Mets closed the first half on an up-note, it’s too soon to say they have turned things around. The wildcard would take a near historic run, but .500 is not out of the question.

On this date in 1973, a year they went to the World Series, they were 40-50, so there is precedence. No, I have not forgotten that team had Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, but the rest of the team weren’t all shining lights, either.

It can be done. To finish .500 they have to be at least three games over each month, and they are already 8-5 in July. When it is broken down into little pieces it’s much easier to grasp.

Even so, for it to happen the following questions must be answered in the positive:

Q: Will the Mets keep the status quo and not blow up this team?

A: GM Sandy Alderson said the plan is to maintain the present team and not be sellers. Then again, he’s changed his mind before. The first ten games of the second half are key. If the Mets unravel in that span, there are no guarantees.

Q: Can Matt Harvey continue his run?

A: Harvey had a great first half highlighted by starting the All-Star Game. He also had ten no-decisions. He’s going to need more offensive and bullpen help, but there are times he’ll have to bear down even more as great pitchers find a way. But, that might be difficult if they are cutting his innings.

Q: What can they get out of Zack Wheeler?

A: He has pitched well at times since his promotion, but not as good as his 3-1 record would indicate. Wheeler needs to focus more on fastball command. That’s the first step.

Q: Can Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee continue to pitch well?

A: Arguably, they might be two of the biggest factors to the Mets showing turnaround signs. Remember, each started slowly but something clicked. Also, remember neither have pitched well for a complete season.

Q: Can Bobby Parnell keep grasping the brass ring?

A: Parnell is finally taking to the closer role. But, there are two halves. If they don’t trade him, and management said they won’t, he has to keep mixing in that fastball with his knuckle-curve.

Q: Can they stay healthy, especially in the rotation?

A: Gone are Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Shaun Marcum, three-fifths of the projected rotation entering spring training. Niese is expected back by mid-August, but the others will never play for the Mets again.

Q: What do we make of the bullpen?

A: It has been good at times, bad at times and atrocious at times. It’s been good over the past three weeks, but there’s still not an overwhelming feeling of comfort. Also, they must avoid burning out Scott Rice?

Q: Can Terry Collins avoid not driving John Buck into the ground?

A: Anthony Recker has been getting more playing time and coming up with the long ball. After a fast start Buck tailed because he was getting worn out. Tired catchers aren’t a plus. And, let’s forget about Travis d’Arnaud. This is a lost season for him.

Q: Can All-Star David Wright sustain?

A: On the field and in the clubhouse, Wright has lived up to his captain status. He is a good reason to keep watching. He might not be spectacular, but he’s more than solid. Looking at .300, 25 and 90 from him, minimum.

Q: Omar Quintanilla and Eric Young were positive surprises. Can they keep it up?

A: Quintanilla and Young replaced Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda, respectively, and frankly, neither are missed. Collins said Tejada must win back his job and Young is playing so well, Duda isn’t an option at all anymore. They’ll keep him around in the chance they lose Ike Davis.

Q: Speaking of Davis, does he have a strong second half in him?

A: It sure doesn’t look that way. They won’t get anything for Davis in a trade, and Alderson said the team is running out of patience. With a poor second half, don’t expect the Mets to tender him a contract.

Q: Who plays center field?

A: Both Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares have shown glimpses, but nothing sustainable. Nieuwenhuis is getting most of the time now.

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