Jun 28

Mets’ Pitching Could Determine Role At Trade Deadline

Watching Steven Matz toy with the Marlins tonight I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been or what could be. The Mets were supposed to go deep into the playoffs this season with five starters and two reliable reserves just in case something happened.

Well, something did happen and six of those pitchers have spent some time on the disabled list.

MATZ: He's back. (AP)

MATZ: He’s back. (AP)

Matz is back and going strong, working into the seventh inning in three of his last four starts, including seven scoreless in beating the Marlins, 8-0.

Teamed with Jacob deGrom, manager Terry Collins, said the Mets have the beginnings of a strong core.

“It’s going to take pitching if we’re going to get back into this thing,’’ Collins said.

Matz was superb despite only four strikeouts as he pitched to contact.

“I let them put the ball in play,’’ Matz said. “I got a lot of groundball outs [12] and that helps me go deep into games.’’

Matz’s control was on tonight as he not only painted the corners but brushed Giancarlo Stanton off the plate, something Mets’ pitchers don’t always do.

Robert Gsellman went on the disabled list today which gives Rafael Montero another chance to stay in the rotation. Montero has made three straight strong appearances and is coming off a good start.

While the Mets are optimistic about him, they are also hoping for innings from Seth Lugo, Thursday, in Miami, plus a positive medical report on Zack Wheeler.

Even should all those things materialize, the Mets are in such a hole that catching the Nationals isn’t likely to happen, but .500 is within reach.

Perhaps more importantly – and you can decide for yourself whether it is good or bad – the Mets open the second half with ten straight at home, which could make them competitive enough to where it could decide their direction at the trade deadline.

 

May 07

The Drama Never Ends With Harvey

For once, the Mets acted quickly when it came to Matt Harvey, suspending their one-time wonder pitcher who is going from future star to supernova. The Mets suspended Harvey for three days today without pay for violating club rules. Left-hander Adam Wilk was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace Harvey and after flying all night was shelled for six runs in the Mets 7-0, one-hit, loss to the Marlins.

HARVEY: He's hiding something. (ESPN)

HARVEY: He’s hiding something. (ESPN)

Not surprisingly, neither GM Sandy Alderson nor manager Terry Collins specified why Harvey was suspended, leading us to wonder on social media. Alderson read a short announcement and did not take questions, leaving Collins alone to address the latest Mets-Harvey soap opera.

“We’ll keep it in-house, the way it’s supposed to be,” Collins said.

Except it won’t stay in-house. It never does.

The Mets obviously knew they would suspend Harvey, Saturday afternoon, but delayed in doing so to give Wilk time to fly in from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Undoubtedly, they had to wait to make the announcement less than three hours before game time in case Wilk didn’t make it on time.

The Mets waited for Harvey to come to Citi Field before telling him he was suspended and sent him home. Of course, he did not address the media.

The club did say the offending incident had nothing to do with an adult sex toy placed in Kevin Plawecki’s locker for the world to see while T.J. Rivera was being interviewed. Multiple reports had Harvey not being at the ballpark Saturday, saying he played golf and came off the course with a migraine headache and there was a miscommunication with the Mets, who disputed that account which further clouds the story.

If it were accurate it would alleviate the drama that always swirls around Harvey. The Mets mislead us before, so it would not be a surprise if it happens again. If the headache story were true, even if there was a screw up in getting the message to the Mets, there likely wouldn’t be a suspension. If the Mets bought into it, even if not true, this story would die down quickly after Harvey apologized.

The bottom line: Do you honestly believe Harvey doesn’t have the cell phone numbers of Alderson, Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez? Even if they didn’t pick up, they would have gotten the message. Even if Harvey was ill, he should have shown up, gotten looked at by the trainers, and be sent home.

Since the Mets are playing hide-and-seek with the truth, let me seek. My guess is instead of working on his pre-game routine prior to a start – shagging flies, looking at film, light throwing, or whatever – he took off for Ottawa, Canada, to watch the Rangers. That’s not a report. It is conjecture because the Mets aren’t giving us the truth.

“There are things that go on that you deal with every day that makes the job difficult, but you know it comes with the territory,” Collins said. “This is one of those. … In order to control things, you’ve sometimes got to make tough decisions.”

With Syndergaard out, Zack Wheeler trying to come back, Rafael Montero on his way out of the rotation, and Robert Gsellman erratic, would the Mets really give up a chance to go for a sweep of the Marlins over a headache?

I’m guessing no.

The greatest ability is dependability and Harvey’s teammates can’t rely on him. That the Mets said their decision was based on a compilation of things with Harvey is indicative of his repeated irresponsibility.

“We’re disappointed,” said Jose Reyes. “We are counting on him.”

“Whatever the reason happens to be, he’s not on the field,” said Curtis Granderson. “There’s a lot of guys that are on the field at this moment in time. We’ll just have to keep moving forward.”

Alderson tried desperately to trade Jay Bruce this winter, and ironically he is rapidly becoming a team spokesman.

“I don’t know if I’d use the word `frustrating,’ ” Bruce said. “There are team policies and when those aren’t followed, action has to be taken. I don’t know any of the details. I just know that Matt’s not here [Saturday].”

However, this won’t end with a simple apology to his teammates, because Harvey’s camp said a grievance would be filed with the Players Association against the Mets.

Yes, that will smooth things over.

May 06

Mets Wrap: Offense Keeps Rolling

The count is up to nine straight games in which the Mets scored at least five runs. The Mets batted around to score five runs in the first inning, then added on all night to complete an 11-3 victory over the Marlins.

GSELLMAN: Gets win. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Gets win. (AP)

The Mets moved within one game of .500, and go for the sweep with Matt Harvey starting Sunday.

And, once again, the Mets won big without the benefit of the home run, which has been their offensive identity. Tonight they got two bases-loaded walks from Michael Conforto; Asdrubal Cabrera’s RBI double; three RBI by Jay Bruce on two doubles; one RBI and hit from T.J. Rivera; and two more hits from Jose Reyes.

“Guys are taking a good approach,” Bruce said. “They are going to the plate with a plan.”

That plan is patience, said manager Terry Collins.

“It’s not going up there looking for a walk,” Collins said. “It’s looking for the pitch you can hit.”

And, if that pitch doesn’t come, then there’s nothing wrong with a walk. The Mets drew seven walks, of which two scored. The Mets also had two hit batters that scored, and another run who reached on an error. That’s five gift runs.

GSELLMAN GETS WIN: Robert Gsellman won his second straight decision despite not pitching very effectively. Gsellman gave up three runs on eight hits, no walks and two strikeouts in five innings.

Gsellman’s short stint again forced the Mets to go into their bullpen, using five relievers, Paul Sewald working the last two innings.

Collins acknowledged his bullpen faces being overworked, and said he’ll try to limit them to an inning apiece.

CESPEDES UPDATE: Alderson said Yoenis Cespedes is making progress with his left hamstring and will return to New York Monday for further tests. Alderson said the tests will hopefully ascertain why he’s susceptible to muscle pulls.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILLIE: Today marked the 86th birthday for Willie Mays, arguably the games’ greatest living player.

Mays, who broke in with the New York Giants in 1951, and after a Hall of Fame career forged mostly in San Francisco, was traded to the Mets in 1972 and played in the 1973 World Series.

Mays retired with a career .302 average, 3,283 hits, 660 homers, 1,903 RBI, 338 stolen bases and a .941 OPS.

Mays is a two-time MVP, 24-time All-Star and a 12-time Gold Glove Award winner.

UP NEXT: Matt Harvey (2-2) enters Sunday’s series finale after giving up six or more runs in consecutive starts for the first time in his career. Jose Urena (0-0) will start for the Marlins.

Apr 16

Harvey Continuing To Be Bright Spot

One of the Mets’ biggest concerns coming out of spring training is turning into one of the early season’s bright spots, which is Matt Harvey’s comeback from thoracic surgery.

HARVEY: Another positive step. (AP)

HARVEY: Another positive step. (AP)

Harvey took the loss in an emotional rollercoaster of a game today in Miami, losing 4-2 to the Marlins. The Mets’ third straight loss had them being no-hit going into the eighth inning, then rally in the ninth to tie but lose the game in the bottom of the inning.

Harvey was done by then, but his third straight strong start was extremely satisfying to the pitcher who some wondered would ever be special again.

“Being able to go against that lineup, and kind of controlling the damage for the most part, is definitely uplifting for me,” Harvey told reporters.

Harvey gave up two runs – one unearned – on seven hits with five strikeouts in six innings. He wasn’t close to dominant, but worked out of trouble several times and cranked up his fastball to 97 mph.

Early in spring training he was in the low 90s, but vowed his velocity would return. It’s not important that he throw 97 on every pitch, but reach it when he needs it to get out of trouble.

“Going back to spring training, I knew throwing in between starts that is was slowly creeping back,” said Harvey, whose ERA is down to 2.45. “Being able to paint the outside corner and kind of control both sides of the plate was big. When I needed to ramp up and throw a little bit harder, I was able to do that. It’s definitely a good positive.”

Harvey still has a way to go, but for now, he’s looking good.

Apr 15

DeGrom Start Wasted; Let Second Guessing Begin

Sooner or later you had to wonder when the Mets’ overworked bullpen would betray them.

It happened tonight.

Fernando Salas, working for the eighth time in 12 games, surrendered eighth-inning, back-to-back homers to Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, to power the Marlins over the Mets, 5-4, and trash another superb start from Jacob deGrom.

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

Not only has Salas been overused, it must be remembered he arrived in spring training late because of a visa issue.

Salas retired his first two batters and then walked Miguel Rojas. When a reliever walks a hitter on four straight pitches, he needs to be pulled.

Yelich is already a slugging star, and the Mets had lefties Jerry Blevins and Sean Gilmartin manager Terry Collins could have gone to in that situation. Considering how much Salas has worked lately, why did Collins keep him in the game?

“I didn’t want to go with Blevins because he has pitched in five of the last six games,” Collins testily barked to reporters.

However, Gilmartin, who was brought up after the 16-inning game Thursday for the sole purpose of pitching late in a game, was fresh.

Salas fell behind 3-and-1 before grooving a pitch Yelich couldn’t help but crush. Over-managing and stubborn to the end, Collins let Salas face Stanton.

You knew that wasn’t going to end well.

Collins said he wanted Salas to face Stanton, but what does that say about his confidence in Addison Reed and Hansel Robles?

The second-guessing of Collins began before Salas entered the game. DeGrom got off to a rocky start, giving up back-to-back homers in the second to Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna, then regrouped to retire the next 11 hitters. The Mets really needed deGrom’s effort considering how their bullpen has been taxed recently, including throwing 11.1 scoreless innings Thursday.

DeGrom gave up two runs on four hits and one walk and tied his career-high with 13 strikeouts in seven innings. He was on cruise control and had only thrown 97 pitches. He struck out his last four hitters.

“He was pitching great,” Collins said. “It’s easy to second-guess. We made a commitment to protect these guys. … If I let him stay in and he got hit you’d be asking me, `Why did I let him pitch?’ ”

That’s fair, but it comes with the territory with managing in the major leagues. DeGrom could have, but did not, throw his manager under the bus.

“Honestly, I didn’t know how many pitches I had,” deGrom said. “I thought I was out after that inning anyway.”

As far as stretching out his start, deGrom said: “The goal is to stay healthy. Salas had been doing a good job. I felt comfortable handing the ball over to the next guy.”

One of the beautiful aspects of baseball is it being ripe to second guess and discuss and debate strategy. Few basketball fans will second guess Gregg Popovich, but what baseball fan doesn’t feel comfortable scratching his head about the manager he follows?

CONFORTO DELIVERS: One of the hardest things in baseball to do is to pinch-hit, and it is even harder when all eyes are on you and you’re expected to produce in order to stay. Well, that’s exactly the case with the Mets’ Michael Conforto, who drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.

Sure, Conforto wants to start, what young player doesn’t? But, when things haven’t gone his way, he’s stayed quiet and gone about his business. Overall, he’s hitting .400 with two homers and six RBI, including 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI as a pinch-hitter.

Neil Walker lead off the seventh with a bunt single to third against Marlins starter Adam Conley, and scored on a triple by Curtis Granderson, who scored on Conforto’s deep fly to center.

Asdrubal Cabrera homered with one out in the eighth against reliever Junichi Tazawa. It marked the 11th straight game in which they homered and gave them a major league-high 22.

LOVE THOSE BUNTS: The other night it was Jay Bruce laying one down towards third against the shift. Tonight it was Walker leading off the seventh with a bunt single. Last year Collins made a big deal out of calling his team a “home run hitting team,” and that they aren’t built to manufacture runs. This year, they lead the majors with 22 homers but have shown the ability to scratch out runs.

Walker also doubled in the Mets’ first run in the first.

EXTRA INNINGS: Lefty-hitters Bruce, Lucas Duda and Conforto did not start against Conley. … All players wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. Granderson wore special spikes for the occasion that he will auction and donate to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. … Wilmer Flores made a run-saving grab of a hard hit ball down the first base line by Stanton.

HARVEY STARTS SUNDAY: Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.92) goes Sunday for the Mets against RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 7.56). Harvey is 12-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 17 career starts in April, easily his best numbers in any month.