Aug 23

Things Falling Into Place For Mets

Maybe there are omens, if you believe in such things, but there is so much to like about what’s happening for the Mets, and it could be personified by Logan Verrett. Not only did the Mets get five innings from Verrett in his start for Matt Harvey, but got eight strong – with eight strikes in today’s series clinching win over the Rockies.

Things don’t often fall into place the way did for the Mets today. After a rocky first inning Verrett settled down to where you thought you were actually seeing Harvey. Funny line from Verrett, telling Harvey, “I don’t know why everybody is freaking out because everybody knows I’m a better pitcher than you.”

Not only did the Mets rest Harvey, but got a victory and their first sweep of the Rockies in Coors Field. For one day at least, Verrett made us believe this innings-saving program with Harvey might just work after all.

Conventional wisdom had the Mets sending down Verrett to Triple-A Las Vegas after the game, but he was so impressive the Mets optioned out left reliever Dario Alvarez instead. Verrett also gives manager Terry Collins a reliable choice should he need to rest Harvey again or Noah Syndergaard. As a manager, you don’t want to do a lot of searching in September.

The Mets’ bullpen – evidenced by the first two games of the Colorado series – has been shaky lately, but Verrett can offer stability.

There were other season-falling-into-place signs for the Mets this week.

All right, I thought they dragged their feet placing Lucas Duda on the disabled list, but they appear to be surviving his absence. Daniel Murphy, who supposedly can’t play defense, started a key double play. Speaking of defense, Wilmer Flores – with tears out of his eyes – is showing he can play shortstop when he has to. He saved a run, today.

And, the more I see him, the more I like Yoenis Cespedes. He made two scintillating plays in center field that undoubtedly saved a few runs. Since the Mets got him their offense has transformed into something to be feared.

I didn’t think GM Sandy Alderson had it in him, but getting Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard jumpstarted this team.

Once struggling for runs, the Mets are scoring at a rate where the pressure was lessened on Michael Conforto, and will be for David Wright when he’s activated from the disabled list Monday in Philadelphia. The Mets need Wright to be Wright, but with the way the Mets are hitting – thanks in large part to Cespedes – they can ease him back. The last thing the Mets want is for Wright to force things, and if the offense keeps producing it makes things easier for Wright.

And, with Uribe, they have a reliable option at third. Uribe, with the Latin pitchers, can be a calming influence. He was today with Hansel Robles.

The Mets are a season-high 11 games over .500 as they go to Philadelphia. However, these Phillies are a different bunch than the team the Mets have beaten up on this year.

The Mets have pitched well all season, recently started to hit and their defense is better. If Verrett can stabilize the bullpen when he’s not pitching eight strong, then the Mets could be doing more than playing meaningful games in September.

They could be playing meaningful games in October, and wouldn’t that be sweet.

 

Aug 15

Mets Would Be Foolish To Play Duda Today

The Mets haven’t posted today’s lineup yet, but let’s be clear, regardless of what Lucas Duda says, they would be foolish to play him today against the Pirates – regardless of the role.

If Duda plays and is hurt and needs to go on the DL, the clock would start ticking from today. If he sits today and tomorrow, but it is deemed he needs to go on the disabled list prior to Tuesday’s game in Baltimore, his DL stay would be back-dated to already include the four previous he missed and the next two.

It is such a no-brainer that he must sit today.

Aug 14

Wise Choice Is To Rest Duda For Pirates Series

Mets first baseman Lucas Duda will miss a fourth straight game tonight against Pittsburgh with a lumbar strain. Duda hit in the cage this afternoon and told reporters: “It feels better. I took some swings today and ran a bit. It’s moving in the right direction, that’s for sure.”

For now the plan is to rest tonight and Sunday against left-hander Jeff Locke. With the Mets off Monday, manager Terry Collins is looking at Tuesday against the Orioles. As of now, Saturday is a possibility, but the prudent decision should be to keep him out that game also for two reasons: 1) the extra day couldn’t hurt, and 2) if the Mets do decide on the DL they can back date his time.

Pittsburgh is an important series, but not as much as keeping Duda healthy. The Mets are playing well and have a 4.5-game lead on Washington. This is no time to be foolish with a key player.

 

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.