Aug 13

Mets Need To Be Smart With Duda

That the Mets are playing well gives them some leeway when it comes to dealing with Lucas Duda’s sore back. That they aren’t running away with the division means they must be concerned. The 3.5-game lead the Mets had heading into today’s game could vanish in less than a week.

DUDA: Be smart with him. (AP)

DUDA: Be smart with him. (AP)

What the Mets can’t afford is to wait until the rosters expand Sept. 1 before deciding temporarily shutting down Duda. As much as manager Terry Collins wants Duda in the lineup this weekend against Pittsburgh, it is more important to play this thing smart.

Duda was given some medication and there’s a 24-hour window before the Mets know if it will take effect.

“The trainers and doctors feel that in another 24 hours they’ll have a better determination of if it’s going to work and how he’s going to feel,’’ Collins told reporters.

“He doesn’t feel much better today than he did yesterday. The one thing I’m not going to do is aggravate it to the point where it bothers his swing.’’

Somehow, the Mets have survived playing shorthanded this summer, but can’t keep defying the odds. If Duda is unable to play Friday against the Pirates, the prudent decision might be to shut him down on the disabled list so he’ll be available for the stretch drive.

The Mets haven’t always handled injuries wisely and forcing Duda when he’s not ready and possibly further injuring himself to where they won’t have him at the most important part of what is becoming a magical season would be foolish.


Aug 10

Cuddyer Back With A Lot To Give

Michael Cuddyer was signed to be a significant offensive piece for the Mets, but as often is the case in the twisting and winding turns of a baseball season, things changed. Cuddyer now finds himself as a role player.

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

A former All-Star and batting champion is hanging on to his career, but still has value. There could be times between now and October when lightning strikes his bat. Times when he’ll make a veteran play that means the difference between a win and loss.

While his playing times will come in drips and drabs, what defines him most – that he’s a good teammate – is what will be on display. He might pull aside a slumping player to give him a tip on that night’s pitcher. Or to calm him down, as was the case on the botched Wilmer Flores trade.

Pennants are won on talent, but what Cuddyer can offer is invaluable. There have been few playoff teams that don’t have a settling, veteran influence. To accept a change of roles with grace and class is something that can’t adequately be measured. It might turn out to be his biggest contribution to the Mets.

Make no mistake, his two-year, $21-million contract is why he’s still here, otherwise he could have been cast aside. That’s often the case with 36-year-old, non-hitting players with aching knees. He’s hitting .250 with eight homers and a .303 on-base percentage, not good in manager Terry Collins’ “hit or sit,’’ edict. Of course, it should have been that way all along, but for the longest time nobody – major league or minor league levels – was hitting.

Cuddyer’s injury opened the way for Michael Conforto, and he’s not going back down. To make room for Cuddyer, Eric Campbell – no surprise there – was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Conforto represents the Mets’ future, and because of their pitching that has been fast-tracked. Cuddyer is a veteran presence essential for a young, contending team, but his days as a starter are over, and to his credit he readily accepts his role.

“I just want to win,’’ Cuddyer said. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what’s in it for me. I want to win baseball games. Whatever the manager feels like is the best lineup to put out there, I’m all for it.’’

Cuddyer started the season in left field, but that position now belongs to Yoenis Cespedes. Cuddyer will give an occasional breather to Curtis Granderson in right field and Lucas Duda at first base.

But, no matter what he does on the field, he won’t get rattled, and as the Mets drive down the stretch, they need to see what Cuddyer still brings to the table.


Jul 16

Dozen Questions Facing Mets In Second Half

The New York Mets vowed to be competitive this season, and when the second half begins tomorrow in St. Louis they still have a chance to play for October.

Seriously, it could happen depending how the following dozen questions are answered:

HARVEY: A lot expected of him. (AP)

HARVEY: A lot expected of him. (AP)

1. Question: Will they get off to a hot start in the second half?

Answer: The Mets open the second half at St. Louis and Washington, and at home to Los Angeles. The combined record of those three teams is 155-111 (.583). They are five games over .500, and by August they could be making strides in either direction. How fast they get out of the gate will have Alderson thinking whether the Mets are in the hunt or are done for the year.

2. Question: Will GM Sandy Alderson do anything to bring in a veteran bat?

Answer: If Alderson believes the Mets are in it, what will he do? Alderson has repeatedly said the trade market is slim. We know the Mets won’t get Todd Frazier or Troy Tulowitzki. They simply don’t want to part with their young pitching; and in the case of Tulowitzki, they don’t want to take on salary; and with Frazier, they don’t want a rental. The Mets will probably, if they do anything at all, attempt to bolster their bench. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is on that bench, and who doesn’t believe Alderson isn’t thinking his three-homer game in the first-half finale has him thinking the Mets’ offensive problems could be over. Trust me, they are not.

3. Question: If Alderson gets frisky, who will get traded?

Answer: We know it won’t be Noah Syndergaard, whom teams covet. We also know Alderson wanted to deal Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon over the winter. We also know Daniel Murphy likely won’t be back next year, so in Alderson’s ideal world he’d want to get something for Murphy. However, with David Wright’s return iffy at best, the Mets need him to play third base. Niese and Bartolo could conceivably be traded, but not if the Mets are a contender.

4. Question: Who gets hurt?

Answer: It is anybody’s guess, and considering the Mets have already had over a dozen players this season on the disabled list and there’s no telling who might be next. Steven Matz will be out until probably September, and nobody knows when David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud will be activated from the disabled list.

5. Question: Will Matt Harvey pitch like an ace?

Answer: He hasn’t so far with an 8-6 first-half record. Attempts have been made to monitor his innings, but at this rate he’ll finish with over 200, which would make October dicey if they are lucky to get so far.

6. Question: What will become of the six-man rotation?

Answer: The Mets aren’t saying yet, which is par for the course considering they didn’t have a plan entering the season. Should the opt for the six-man rotation, the sixth starter will be either Logan Verrett or Dillon Gee.

7. Question: Will the young stud pitchers keep it up?

Answer: Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have been brilliant. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, deGrom, is an All-Star and Syndergaard is pitching as if he could be this year’s Rookie of Year.

8. Question: Will Lucas Duda awaken?

Answer: Two homers heading into the break were positive signs. However, he’s hit 12 overall and on pace for 22 homers and 69 RBI, which won’t get it done.

9. Question: Will Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson come close to expectations?

Answer: So far they haven’t with a combined 20 homers and 58 RBI. Either would be fortunate to have those numbers at the end of the year.

10. Question: Will Juan Lagares come close to playing up to his contract?

Answer: He’s hitting .256 with three homers and 25 RBI, and a paltry .284 on-base percentage. He has 60 strikeouts and only ten walks. He hasn’t been red hot in the field, either, with balls getting hit over his head that weren’t before, and not being able to throw consistently. So far, the first season of his four-year deal hasn’t been good.

11. Question: Will Wilmer Flores show enough at second base so that it will become his position?

Answer: The Mets didn’t want to go this route, but since they are in contention had no choice. He made some progress at shortstop, but not enough.

12. Question: Going under the assumption they won’t add a shortstop, how well will Ruben Tejada play?

Answer: He’s done all right defensively, but his offense remains weak with a .237 average and .316 on-base percentage. On a poor offensive team, he could be the weakest link.