Jul 01

Wheeler Needs To Step It Up

It’s now three early exits in a row for the Mets’ Zack Wheeler. Because today’s came in his first start coming off the disabled list, he’ll get a pass along with a no-decision in the Mets’ 7-6 victory over the Phillies.

Wheeler lasted 3.2 innings – two runs on two hits and two walks – but in that time threw 82 pitches, of which 47 were strikes. The two walks came after his own error.

WHEELER:  No pain in return from DL. (AP)

WHEELER: No pain in return from DL. (AP)

“Physically felt fine,’’ Wheeler told reporters in answering the most important question. “I struggled a little bit, of course, but I feel like I’m on the right track. I feel a little better mechanically and stuff like that.’’

Manager Terry Collins said Wheeler’s ceiling was for 90 pitches, which should be good enough for seven innings. Collins said 3.2 innings won’t cut it.

“We’ve got to get him through those [innings],’’ Collins said. “We’ve got to get him over that hump, where something like that [error] happens, we’ve got to get out of that inning right now.

“Obviously, due to the fact he hadn’t pitched for a while, he might have been a tad fatigued.’’

With the victory, the Mets have won seven of their last eight games to move to four games under .500. With the Nationals losing to St. Louis, the Mets are 8.5 games behind.  If the Mets win Sunday, they’ll be three games under .500 when they go to Washington for the start of a three-game series.

If the Mets do what they hope in Washington, they’ll officially be in a pennant race, and they’ll need Wheeler to pitch the way he did prior to his two disastrous starts – 15 runs and 3.2 total innings – before going on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis.

He knows what’s at stake.

“I wasn’t sharp before [the DL],’’ Wheeler said. “It’s three bad starts in a row and I have to pick it up. Like I said, I think I’m on the right direction right now. It really didn’t show today, but personally, I feel like I’m in the right direction. Hopefully next start I can turn it around.’’

Jun 29

Why Is Conforto Not On DL?

 Mets outfielder Michael Conforto remains sidelined with a bruised left hand from being hit by a pitch. X-Rays show no break, but he’s not playing for two reasons: 1) it hurts, 2) he doesn’t want the injury to affect his swing.

CONFORTO: Should be on DL?

CONFORTO: Should be on DL?

So, once again, the Mets are playing shorthanded. Manager Terry Collins said it could be several days. Today makes it four days and counting. So, why isn’t he on the disabled list?

Conforto conferred with Brandon Nimmo and Travis d’Arnaud, who had a similar injury and said rushing back affected their swings.

“I don’t want to have anything mess with my swing and then get away from what’s working,’’ Conforto told reporters. “It’s frustrating. When you get the good news it’s not broken, I just want to get back in there.’’

Collins concurred with that explanation.

“The worst thing you can do is try to go out there and it’s like anything else, you have a pitcher whose elbow bothers him a little bit, so he wants to change his delivery to take the pressure off his elbow and he hurts his shoulder,’’ Collins said.

“In the case of Mike, you go back in there and it hurts him to swing a certain way so he tries to alter his swing and it gets him in a bad habit that takes two weeks to fix. He’s exactly right about it. He needs to wait until he’s able to swing like he can and we’ll get him back in there.’’

All this makes sense, and with the ability of a 10-day disabled list instead of the 15-day list, and with four days already burned, what are they waiting for?

When you’re a struggling team and need all the help you can get, why have a valuable player sitting on the bench and you play shorthanded?

 

Jun 22

Should Mets Option Slumping Conforto?

Perhaps GM Sandy Alderson’s reluctance to promote Amed Rosario stems from observing Michael Conforto’s June Swoon. As it did last year, Conforto’s hot start turned south and taking down with it another Mets’ season.

I’ve always been in Conforto’s camp and that hasn’t changed, but something isn’t right and the slide has been dramatic.

CONFORTO: Would minor league trip help?. (AP)

CONFORTO: Would minor league trip help?. (AP)

On May 24, after a two-hit game against San Diego, Conforto was hitting .341 with a 1.149 OPS. Going into tonight’s game in Los Angeles, Conforto’s average is .278 with .949 OPS. Conforto entered June batting .314 but is hitting .167 for the month to have his average drop to .278. That’s a decent average that masks his slump. Especially alarming are 19 strikeouts in 54 at-bats.

Conforto is out of the lineup again tonight against left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. It’s easy to understand why, because as cold as he has been, Curtis Granderson has been that hot. For the second straight day, Granderson homered to lead off the game and set a club record with his 20th leadoff homer.

Manager Terry Collins hasn’t said Conforto won’t get back in, but as the Mets struggle to hang onto their season, he has to play the hottest hitters.

Both Alderson and Collins said of Conforto that he’s better off getting at-bats in the minor leagues than sitting on the bench in the majors. If Conforto doesn’t heat up, perhaps it is time to think about a trip to Las Vegas to work on his mechanics.

If the Chicago Cubs can send down Kyle Schwarber, the Mets can send down Conforto.

Alderson said when Rosario comes up to the majors it should be for good.  Ideally, the same should apply to Conforto, but after fading in each of the last two seasons following a hot start, perhaps Alderson is having second thoughts and is thinking he rushed Conforto.

It’s a thought.

 

Jun 19

Rivera And Flores Need To Play Fulltime

I don’t care where they play him, but T.J. Rivera needs to start every day. The same goes for Wilmer Flores. It doesn’t matter that neither fit into the Mets’ long-term plans heading into the season.

Manager Terry Collins said “those who hit will play,’’ and both are hitting and deserve to start, and the struggling Mets need to put their best offensive foot forward, especially against Clayton Kershaw.

RIVERA: Needs to play. (AP)

RIVERA: Needs to play. (AP)

Rivera, who had a career-high four hits Sunday, is batting second – between Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes – which theoretically should provide RBI opportunities for Cespedes and Jay Bruce.

Rivera is hitting .474 (9-for-19) since being recalled last Tuesday. The minor league batting champion hit .333 in 105 at-bats for the Mets last season and is hitting .289 this year in 117 at-bats.

That’s worthy of the chance to play full time.

“Right now, he’s one of the keys,’’ Collins said. “You got to put him in the lineup. This guy’s gonna get hits.’’

Rivera played first when he was with the Mets earlier this season when Lucas Duda was injured. He’s at third tonight.

“I just try to keep a positive mentality no matter what happens, whether it’s being sent down or not playing that day,’’ Rivera said. “I’m always looking forward to an opportunity to play. It’s not easier, but you get a little more comfortable in your at-bats, you see more [pitching] and it’s easier to react to things. The opportunity’s nice, and I’m just trying to help contribute in any way possible.’’

With Rivera at third, Flores is at first. Flores is the Mets’ leading hitter against Kershaw going 3-for-9 while Duda (1-for-11) is on the bench.

The rap on Flores has been his defense, but that’s mostly based on his play at shortstop. He’s had some yips at third, but he’s played generally well at first and hasn’t been too bad at second.

However, his best position is batter, where he’s hitting .296, with six homers and 20 RBI. He’s a lifetime .396 hitter (21-for-53) against the Dodgers. In 39 games since May 1, Flores is batting .331 (42-for-127), with eight doubles, four homers and 17 RBI.

When Cespedes was down, Flores has been the Mets’ best right-handed hitting threat.

When Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker get off the disabled list, somebody’s at-bats will dwindle, but whatever Collins does he needs to find at-bats for Rivera and Flores.

If they’re still hitting, Collins would be putting his best team on the field.

Here’s the rest of the lineup for tonight:

Conforto – CF

Rivera – 3B

Céspedes – LF

Bruce – RF

Flores – 1B

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Jose Reyes – SS

Gavin Cecchini – 2B

Zack Wheeler – RHP

 

Jun 16

How Mets Derailed Harvey’s Comeback

Stuff happens, but why does it always seem to happen to the Mets? Let’s not disregard GM Sandy Alderson as a possible explanation. That’s certainly the case with Matt Harvey‘s recent trip to the disabled list for stress to his shoulder that is the cause for his tired arm.

ALDERSON: Bears responsibility for Harvey. (AP)

ALDERSON: Bears responsibility for Harvey. (AP)

When Harvey’s fastball barely touched 90 in spring training, pitching coach Dan Warthen said following thoracic outlet surgery one couldn’t expect him to be at full strength until the end of May. On March 15, I wrote if the Mets had the guts to leave Harvey off the Opening Day roster. They did not, of course, which isn’t surprising.

If Harvey wasn’t going to be full strength until May, then why was he on the Opening Day roster? Manager Terry Collins doesn’t make those decisions, Alderson does.

Perhaps there was a sense of urgency on Alderson’s part because neither Steven Matz nor Zack Wheeler were expected to be ready for the Opening Day roster. Even so, that’s not a good enough reason. Just because one player is injured and not ready it doesn’t give Alderson license to rush another player who isn’t ready.

Alderson had the authority to keep Harvey behind and chose not to. As far as Harvey goes, he’s staring at the end of his career and certainly wouldn’t rock the boat regarding his treatment.

The bottom line is that once again an issue involving Harvey was mishandled, but this time it was the Mets’ doing.