Apr 08

Matt Harvey Against Roy Halladay; Mets Lineup

It’s too early to jump on the bandwagons of Matt Harvey and Roy Halladay, tonight’s starters in the Mets-Phillies game in Philadelphia.

Yes, Harvey is one of the Mets’ prized jewels and was tremendous in last week’s start against San Diego, and made a strong first impression last season in ten starts.

Add them up and he has 11 major league starts. He’s shown signs of poise and of being the real deal, but the Hall of Fame is a little premature.

Halladay was hammered in his first start and had a rocky spring training. But, he’s still Halladay and it is always premature to write-off a veteran of his caliber. Great pitchers, of which Halladay has been, often have a finishing kick in their careers.

Mike Mussina won his 20th in the final game of his career. Andy Pettitte and David Cone had their prime time moments. I’ll refrain from mentioning Roger Clemens.

Here’s the lineup the Mets will start behind Harvey:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Makes his first start in the leadoff slot, the fourth used by the Mets in their seventh game. Terry Collins is still searching. Had key hit Sunday and hustled into second on the throw to put himself in position to score the winning run.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Murphy is hitting the ball hard, making the argument for a shorter spring training. Has driven in six runs.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .300 with three RBI. Still searching to drive the ball as he has only one extra-base hit.

Ike Davis, 1B: Off to a slow start at .136. Wondering when he might start thinking of last year’s slow start. Has hit .175 the last two years in April.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Delivered the game-winning hit Sunday. Is 3-6 with RISP.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has team-high six walks which is his best offensive stat.

John Buck, C: Buck leads team at .400 and nine RBI.

Ruben Tejada, SS: His hustle going first-to-third Sunday set the table for ninth-inning rally.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Has three double-digit strikeout games in the first 11 career starts.




Apr 07

Aaron Laffey Gets Ball For Mets

If the Mets had a perfect world, Aaron Laffey wouldn’t start for them until June or July. That his start comes in the season’s fifth game tells you how tissue thin their rotation is.

Game six, and already the Mets are into two pitchers that weren’t in their immediate plans as Johan Santana is gone for good and Shaun Marcum is out indefinitely. Question: Who will we see first, Marcum or Zack Wheeler?

LAFFEY: As an Indian.

LAFFEY: As an Indian.

Laffey, who won four games in 16 starts for Toronto last year, was signed to a minor league free agent contract after Christmas as anticipated depth because of health concerns over Santana, Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee.

He’s starting against Miami today in place of Marcum, who is out indefinitely with neck inflammation. To make room on the roster the Mets optioned reliever Jeurys Familia to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The choice of Familia indicates the Mets are either pleased or intrigued with what they’ve seen from 14-year minor league veteran Scott Rice.

Here’s today’s Mets’ lineup against Marlins starter Jose Fernandez:

Collin Cowgill, CF: Back after not starting the last two games. Came off the bench Saturday to hit his second homer. Entered the season with only two career homers. He’s best offensive option in center.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Drove in game-winning run Saturday with triple. Hit three-run homer Friday. Is 3-4 with RISP. How many homers could he hit if he swung for power?

David Wright, 3B:  Has played in club-record 60 straight games without an error. No homers, but had three hits Saturday.

Ike Davis, 1B: Snapped 1-for-16 slide with two hits Saturday. Has seven strikeouts and only three hits; not a good ratio. Batting .158.

Mike Baxter, RF: Starting again in right after reaching base three times Saturday. Led off 12 times last year and the Mets were 7-5 in those games. So, why not put him there today?

Lucas Duda, LF: Who would have thought he’d have more walks than strikeouts? One of the most encouraging statistics so far. Hasn’t played poorly in left field.

Ruben Tejada, SS: If anybody could use a head-clearing day off it is he. Hitting .176 with four errors in five games.

Anthony Recker, C: Makes first start to give John Buck the day off. Hit .310 during spring training. Played with Athletics and Cubs last season.

Aaron Laffey, LHP: Went 4-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 22 appearances (16 starts) for Toronto last year. Has also played for Cleveland, Seattle and the Yankees.

Apr 07

Early Impressions Of Mets Have Been Good

It’s always fun to examine the first impressions of a new season.

For example, it is safe to say John Buck will not finish with 292 RBI. However, you might get interesting odds if you believe the 4-2 Mets will continue their pace and outplay the 2-4 Yankees.

That being said, the measuring stick for success or failure is their starting pitching. If they get innings it keeps them in games and the bullpen off the mound.

DAVIS: Some anguish there/

DAVIS: Some anguish there

There’s absolutely no way the starters will continue with a 1.41 ERA, but if the front end of Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee produce, and they get something from the back end, they’ll remain competitive.

However, if the starters run into stretches where they are batted around, it exposes the bullpen, which has been tested and performed well twice and poorly twice.

The most important start of the season was Jeremy Hefner as a replacement for Johan Santana. Currently, he’s the fourth starter, and Sunday’s starter, Aaron Laffey, is the fifth. A week in and already the Mets have two holes in the rotation. I have no expectations of Shaun Marcum.

The bullpen was on Saturday and Sunday. Scott Rice is a good story, but there’s a reason he’s bounced around. This is a make-or-break year for Bobby Parnell. I have confidence in Josh Edgin, but little in LaTroy Hawkins. Scott Atchison was superb Sunday.

GM Sandy Alderson has spent two years trying to build a bullpen and he might have to do it again.

Alderson is adamant about not rushing Zack Wheeler, and evidenced by him getting hit hard last week, that’s the smart call. However, it’s easy to say that now, but let’s see what happens if the back end of the rotation becomes a black hole.

One thing for certain is the injured Jenrry Mejia isn’t in the plan – as a starter or reliever. The way the Mets jerked him around might have irreparably damaged his career.

Offensively, two things always jump out: 1) their high propensity for striking out, and 2) long stretches of not hitting with runners in scoring position. Both have already come into play.

They’ve homered in each game, but that won’t continue, although the potential for greater power production is realistic.

Buck has been the best story, but let’s be honest, if he continues to be good and the Mets fade, teams will be calling for him by the July 31 trade deadline. By that time, Travis d’Arnaud could be here. In a perfect world, the Mets would continue to play well and d’Arnaud could be Buck’s caddy for half the season.

David Wright had three hits Saturday to break out of a dry stretch, but has yet to homer. He’s hit 30 before, but if he doesn’t and still drives in runs and has a high OPS, we shouldn’t worry about him. Wright has the same number of strikeouts as walks (4), which in today’s game is acceptable. As long as he has a high on-base percentage (.455 now), there’s no reason for concern.

The guy I wonder about is Ike Davis, who had two hits Saturday to get out of a 1-for-16 slide. Davis, with one homer, has a tendency to go into prolonged slumps. The red flag with him is he has more than twice as many strikeouts (7) to hits (3) and a .273 on-base percentage. Davis had a miserable first half last season and you must consider if his slow start is making him wonder.

So far, the most encouraging sign about Lucas Duda is he has more walks than strikeouts and a .500 on-base percentage. He’s staying within himself and if he continues to be selective, he’ll get his pitch to hit.

Daniel Murphy, despite not having much of spring training, is driving the ball. Murphy is strong, and I wonder if he concentrated more on turning on the pitch if he’d hit for more power. Wade Boggs always said he could hit a lot of home runs if he wanted. The same went with Tony Gwynn. Murphy isn’t in either class, but is a contact hitter.

If there’s been one disappointment it has been Ruben Tejada, who’s especially struggling with the glove.

The major offensive concern was the outfield, but so far it hasn’t been a problem. Collin Cowgill has hit for power, Duda has been on base and Marlon Byrd has been hitting. Mike Baxter reached base three times Saturday and should get a longer look in the leadoff spot, as that remains unsettled.

The Mets are playing better than expected, but the same cracks that haunted them in the past are still evident. After a week, yes, there is the potential for a long summer. But, also the potential for some fun.

Apr 06

Lineup Changes For Mets Against Marlins

Terry Collins put together an interesting lineup for this afternoon’s game against Miami Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco.

Collins promised to get starts for outfielders Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis and both are starting today, with Marlon Byrd and Collin Cowgill sitting. It the second straight game in which Cowgill is on the bench.

Somewhat surprising is John Buck  again behind the plate. The reasoning is he’s probably a better fit with Jon Niese. Anthony Recker could start Sunday.

Here’s the lineup:

Mike Baxter, RF: Gets his first start of the season, and in right field as expected. However, I didn’t expect to see him leading off.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hit a three-run homer yesterday. Still hitting second, and is doing it behind his third different leadoff hitter. With his patience, he’ll stay here for a while. Last night was his first homer; he didn’t get his first last year until June 27.

David Wright, 3B: Still looking for his first homer. Hitting .397 with six career homers and 17 RBI against Miami starter Ricky Nolasco.

Ike Davis, 1B: Is off to a miserable start and takes a 1-for-16 slide into the game. Overall is hitting .067 with one homer and two RBI. Is also hitting a dismal .167 (1-7) with runners in scoring position.

John Buck, C: Mets hottest hitter at .412, two homers and five RBI. Moved up to fifth to hit between strikeout prone Davis and Lucas Duda. For the second time this week is catching in a day game after a night game.

Lucas Duda, LF: Showed last night he’s still a weakness with the glove. He needs to hit more to compensate. Is batting .273 with one homer and three RBI. A positive so far is he’s working the count and taking some walks.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Is getting his first start of the season. That he’s not leading off indicates Mets remain wary of his high strikeout totals and low on-base percentage. To get in the starting lineup he needs to get on base.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Has three errors in four games, and should have been charged with another last night when he dropped a ball trying to make a tag on a steal attempt. Throwing error last night opened door for Marlins’ five-run seventh inning. Is hitting better than his fielding, but is only at .231.

Jon Niese, LHP: In ten career starts against the Marlins, is 2-5 with a 4.60 ERA. Is coming off a strong Opening Day performance against San Diego.

Apr 05

Mets’ Jeremy Hefner Starts Against Marlins In Statement Game

John Buck started prepping Jeremy Hefner on tonight’s start with Miami hours ago. He started by meeting with Hefner and pitching coach Dan Warthen about how to pitch the Marlins’ hitters, of which Hefner saw this spring.

“How much that will help, I don’t know,’’ Hefner said. “I do know some things about them … and, they know some things about me.’’

HEFNER: Has an opportunity.

HEFNER: Has an opportunity.

After meeting with Warthen, Buck and Hefner will sit down and go over the signs and tonight’s game plan.

“I don’t want to put something down and have him be totally surprised by it,’’ Buck said. “We want to be thinking along the same lines.’’

What Buck is most interested in seeing from Hefner is how he reacts under pressure.

“That’s when you really get to know a pitcher,’’ Buck said. “It takes time.’’

Hefner will attempt to give the Mets a fourth straight strong start, following the efforts of Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee against San Diego.

The Mets know Hefner from last season when he went 4-7 with a 5.09 ERA with them after injuries to Johan Santana and Gee. Hefner is getting another chance to stick in the rotation as a replacement for Santana, who is out for the season following shoulder surgery.

Is this a chance to show manager Terry Collins he deserves to stay in the rotation?

“No,’’ Hefner bluntly said. “All it means if I pitch well is that I may get another chance to pitch again in five days. If I pitch well then, I might get another chance to pitch in five days. There are no guarantees. Even if I pitch a no-hitter that doesn’t guarantee me a spot in the rotation for the rest of the year.’’

The following is tonight’s lineup for the Mets against Marlins’ starter Alex Sanabia:

Jordany Valdespin, CF: Collin Cowgill, who has struggled since his Opening Day grand slam get the night off.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: With Justin Turner getting three hits yesterday, this could be considered a surprise.

David Wright, 3B: Looking for his first homer.

Ike Davis, 1B: One game he strikes out four times; the next he homers. The production must go up.

Marlon Byrd, CF: A strong start to the season. How long will it go for the 35-year-old?

Lucas Duda, LF: His power potential could still be rattling around in the upper deck.

John Buck, C: Has a calming influence on the pitchers. Homered yesterday.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Has a chance to make a statement for staying in the rotation.