Apr 29

Mets Wrap: Bullpen Carries Mets; Wheeler Labors

With the exception of one pitch – Addison Reed’s room service fastball to Ryan Zimmerman – the Mets’ bullpen pitched large in today’s 5-3 victory over the Nationals.

The headliner, of course, was Jeurys Familia, less than 24 hours after he was pulled from a save opportunity last night, put down the Nationals in order this afternoon.

FAMILIA; Celebrates first save. (AP)

            FAMILIA: Celebrates first save. (AP)

Manager Terry Collins vowed Familia was still his closer, didn’t have anybody warming up in the ninth.

“It is very important for a lot of reasons,” Collins said of Familia’s first save of the season. “We’re excited to get him on the right track.”

The parade to Familia started with two outs in the fifth when Collins pulled starter Zack Wheeler, and for the second straight game brought in Josh Edgin to shut down one of the Nationals’ lefty sluggers.

Today he got Daniel Murphy on a fly to right with a runner on third. Edgin ended Friday’s game with the bases loaded by getting Bryce Harper on 1-2-3 double play.

Collins said Edgin’s slider has been biting.

“Confidence is big in this game and he believes he can get people out,” Collins said.

WHEELER LABORS: It wasn’t a strong start for Wheeler, and that could be one of the best things to happen for him.

Wheeler gave up two runs on five hits with four walks and four strikeouts. That’s a lot of activity over 96 pitches.

“His pitch count is one thing, but he was in trouble for the whole game,” Collins said. “He had to battle all game long and I think that’s good for hm. You have to show you can go out there and compete when you don’t have your best stuff.”

The Nationals were 2-for-11 with RISP and stranded eight runners, with six belonging to Wheeler, who kept the game in the balance.

“I wasn’t my best today,” Wheeler said. “I fell behind and threw a lot of pitches, but I made some pitches when I had to.”

INJURY UPDATES: Falling under the “I’ll Believe It When I See It,’’ category, the Mets have positive reports on Lucas Duda and Yoenis Cespedes.

GM Sandy Alderson seemed optimistic Duda (hyperextended elbow) can come off the disabled list when he’s eligible Monday. T.J. Rivera will continue to play first base until Duda is available.

Meanwhile, the Mets say Cespedes could be ready May 8, which is highly optimistic considering how he looked when he was re-injured.

Alderson said an ultrasound didn’t show significant damage and called the injury mild.

As I’ve always said, when it comes to Mets’ statements on injuries, bet the over.

Meanwhile, pitcher Steven Matz and Seth Lugo – both on the DL with elbow injuries – were scheduled to throw off the slope of the mound today. Their return dates are for late May.

In addition, Travis d’Arnaud left the game when his back stiffened up and will not play Sunday.

ANOTHER RIVERA: Rivera is making the most of his opportunity. He had three hits Friday, two more today and will stay in the lineup.

The minor league batting champion is hitting and is worthy of more playing time, even if it takes playing time from Jose Reyes (.173) and Neil Walker (.205).

The Mets have won two straight, but their offense has been relatively anemic the last two weeks.

HOT REYES: In danger of losing his job a week ago, Reyes is slowly finding his offensive groove, but not to the point where the Mets should move him back to the leadoff spot – especially with Michael Conforto as hot as he is.

In his last five games, Reyes is hitting .444 with a .525 on-base percentage, two stolen bases and two homers, including one for an insurance run in the ninth today.

Even so, Reyes is still below .200.

For as cold as they were, the after winning two straight, Collins shouldn’t monkey with what is working.

“Jose is starting to play like we know he can offensively,” Collins said. “Him getting on base is how we’re going to win games.”

Reyes will start at shortstop tomorrow to give Asdrubal Cabrera a day off.

TOMORROW’S GAME: The Mets go for the sweep Sunday behind Noah Syndergaard.

ON DECK LATER TODAY: Michael Conforto Unloads In Big Way

Mar 27

Wheeler Rocked, Lugo Rolls

The competition for the Mets’ fifth starter role took a turn Monday with a strong outing from Zack Wheeler and a poor one from Seth Lugo. Each should make one more limited appearance this spring before the Mets’ brass makes a decision as to the fifth starter.

Wheeler, who spent the better part of the past two years recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw five shutout innings and had his fastball top out at 96 in a split-squad win over Miami. Lugo, who helped save the Mets’ playoff run last spring and had pitched well in the WBC, gave up four runs in 4.1 innings in a loss to Washington.

Despite the contrasting performances, the Mets did not make an announcement as to who will be the fifth starter because it is not a clear-cut decision based on numbers.

The decision could come down to whom the Mets feel is best to handle the up-and-down rigors of working out of the pen, which is most likely Lugo. Wheeler does not have bullpen experience, while Lugo does and was brought to camp in part to pitch in relief.

Another factor with Wheeler is his proposed innings limits, initially set at 110 innings and is now up to 120 to 125. Manager Terry Collins said the other day the innings could be determined on the fly this summer. Should that really be the case, then there’s probably nothing decided, which is a reminder of the Matt Harvey innings flap in 2015.

If there really is an innings limit, the optimal decision would be to wait until May or June, when he could join the rotation and pitch on a regular routine. With a strong chance of inclement weather in April, there’s a strong chance of rainouts, delays and cold temperatures that hurt even healthy arms let alone one coming off elbow surgery.

EXTRA INNINGS: Steven Matz, who was bumped from his last start with elbow irritation, threw 55 long tosses today on flat ground. The Mets still haven’t said whether he’ll undergo a MRI. … Closer Jeurys Familia was in New York today to meet with the Commissioner’s Office regarding a suspension for his domestic violence case last October. The expectations are he’ll at least 30 games. … Outfielder Brandon Nimmo‘s chances of making the Opening Day roster have greatly reduced because he’s not making progress on his strained right hamstring. … Outfielder Juan Lagares said his strained right oblique muscle feels better.

 

 

 

Mar 27

Mets’ Remaining Issues

OK, Matt Harvey had a good start Sunday, and for now, isn’t an issue for the 2017 Mets. However, that’s not to say they don’t have questions as they enter the final week of spring training. Manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson have a lot of thinking to do in this final week of spring training:

MATZ: What's the plan? (AP)

MATZ: What’s the plan? (AP)

ROTATION: Steven Matz was shut down Monday, but will throw on flat ground. The Mets say there is no structural damage or ligament damage, yet they have no plans for a MRI. I’ll never understand that logic.

Robert Gsellman will be the fifth starter, but the Mets have the resources in Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler and Rafael Montero to fill in as Matz’s replacement. It seems the prudent option would be to put Matz on the disabled list or in an extended spring training to let him strengthen his elbow and get rid of the irritation. Rushing him back – as they have done with pitchers in the past – will only backfire.

Don’t do it.

Wheeler and Lugo will work Monday in split squad games, but the Mets remain undecided as to how to use Wheeler. Starter or reliever? Does anybody remember how they juggled Jenrry Mejia?

It was first 110 innings, now it is 120-125, and recently told reporters “we’ll worry about those innings limits in the middle of the summer.’’ You have to love a man with a plan.

BULLPEN: The names and roles have to be determined, but the Mets have the numbers. Either Lugo or Montero could be placed in the pen if they don’t go into the rotation.

Because of the up-and-down, inconsistent nature of relievers, using Wheeler in that role could be a mistake.

Hansel Robles, Josh Edgin and Sean Gilmartin figure to have worked their way into Collins’ pen. Paul Sewald has pitched well and could have won a spot.

Fernando Salas is back with the Mets following a visa issue. He pitched in the WBC, but there’s concern if got enough work.

THE OUTFIELD: Juan Lagares has a strained left oblique, but said he’s feeling better. That’s an injury that tends to linger, so the likely option is for him to open the season on the disabled list and use Michael Conforto as the center field back up.

If Conforto makes the Opening Day roster, I would hate to see him linger on the bench. He needs to get consistent at-bats and it won’t be coming off the bench, but will the Mets devise a playing rotation in the outfield with Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes? I’m not seeing it.

 

 

Feb 28

Wright Shut Down; Future In Doubt

The return of David Wright was always more about hope than reality, and unfortunately the truth nobody wants to concede reared its ugly head today with the news the often-injured third baseman has been shut down indefinitely because of his inability to throw the ball across the infield.

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

WRIGHT: Staring into dark future. (AP)

The specter of Wright not playing this year, or perhaps ever again, can’t be ignored. Manager Terry Collins said Wright’s absence doesn’t greatly impact the Mets’ playoff aspirations. Considering Wright has played less than a combined 100 games the past two season, that’s a logical conclusion.

GM Sandy Alderson, in announcing Wright’s shutdown, said the question of his retirement or the Mets buying him out, hasn’t yet been reached: “I don’t think we’re at the point where that concern is at a more heightened level. This is all part of the process of rehabilitating, and it’s taking longer than I am sure David would have hoped, and we would hope, but that is part of the process.”

For Wright, the process includes him staying in Florida working to strengthen his shoulder. He’ll also work at first base, perhaps not so much for this year, but 2018 when presumably Lucas Duda won’t be brought back. However, the truth remains we don’t know if Wright will be able to play in any role.

Financially, the Mets owe Wright $67 million on the balance of his contract, but insurance will cover $50.25 million. But, insurance can’t hit or field, or offer an element of stability and leadership in the clubhouse.

Although it has been years since Wright produced like an All-Star, but make no mistake he brought in significant stability when he came off the disabled list to join the 2015 pennant race.

Initially, Wright will be replaced by Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores in the short term, but if they are struggling and the Mets are in contention at the trade deadline, could they make a run at Todd Frazier. Would they make a play for Frazier even if Reyes is playing well?

 

 

 

Feb 26

Mets’ Shouldn’t Be Eager To Deal Bruce

It’s one thing for the Mets to force-feed first base to Jay Bruce. It’s another when the players wants to play the position. Bruce is a smart guy. He knows when Lucas Duda back barks that is an opportunity for him to get in the lineup.

BRUCE: Has value. (AP)

BRUCE: Has value. (AP)

Both Bruce and Neil Walker took grounders at first base prior to today’s 5-2 victory over Detroit, but there are no immediate plans to get him in a game. There should be because the Mets shouldn’t want to be forced to play Bruce at first with him not getting time there.

“I am going to work at it,” Bruce told reporters. “I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t to do it, so I am going to work at it.”

The Mets have a fluid situation in their outfield and at first base. Yoenis Cespedes ($27.5 million), Curtis Granderson ($15.1 million) and Bruce ($13 million). Their salaries will give them most of the playing time, but Michael Conforto is also pushing for playing time.

But, if Conforto plays, that would leave Bruce needing to play first when Duda’s back acts up. A stress fracture kept him out for most of last season and his health will always be an issue. And, for all that has been reported of GM Sandy Alderson’s intent to deal Bruce, he shouldn’t act too hastily because of Duda’s fragility.

Trading Bruce and then losing Duda to injury could be disastrous, especially with the health issues with David Wright and Walker. Duda’s back places a premium on Bruce’s value. The Mets are fortunate to have the resources if Duda misses significant time.

Manager Terry Collins liked Bruce’s workout: “It looks like he’s got the athleticism. He’s got the hands. He’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce appears up for the move and he’s hopeful of redeeming himself for last season. The Mets shouldn’t be too eager to let him get away.