Mar 23

Mets Outfield Still A Mess; No Help Coming

For those hoping for a last minute trade or free-agent signing to give the Mets a representative outfield, there will be no meteor like event to change the obvious impression it will be a long season.

Sandy Alderson did not make a significant move over the winter to build the outfield. Instead he tinkered and went into spring training with a “hope for the best” mentality. Now, he’s telling reporters what nobody – outside the players involved – wants to hear which is the Mets are keeping a pat hand.

COWGILL: Could be in center on Opening Day

COWGILL: Could be in center on Opening Day

And, it’s not a full house.

“I think we’ve got a sense of who the five or six are who might be on the team,’’ Alderson said. “How exactly they’re used is something that we’ll talk about over the next week or so. What we have is what we’re going to have, and we’re not entirely displeased with that.’’

Doesn’t that also mean, they are not entirely pleased?

Also unsettling is outside of Lucas Duda in left field, the Mets don’t have a concrete idea of how they’ll use Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill, Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin.

That could be because they have no idea of what they are getting. Byrd is at the end of his career; Cowgill and Baxter have never been fulltime starters; and Duda is trying to learn a new position while at the same time attempting to figure out major league pitching.

Valdespin is now projected to open the season at second base because Daniel Murphy will not be ready. Murphy, down with a strained intercostal muscle, will not play in a minor league game today as hoped. Manager Terry Collins said if Murphy did not play this weekend he would open the season on the disabled list. The announcement is a formality now.

Collins has used Cowgill all over the outfield, while Byrd – perhaps having the greatest offensive upside – has played center and right. Baxter has been mostly used in right field.

The Mets’ best defensive outfielder is Matt den Dekker, but there is no indication they are considering him, citing his offense. Den Dekker has hit well recently, but not enough for the Mets’ liking. It should be noted, that neither has anybody else.

Of the group, only Duda and Baxter were on the roster last season, and Duda could very well be the only one in spring training next season if there’s development in the minor leagues or the Mets spend in the off-season as they promised.

Entering spring training, the penciled-in outfield – from left to right – was Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Baxter, with Cowgill rated No. 4. Byrd wasn’t even in camp and Valdespin was a long shot to make the team.

The acquisition of Byrd put him ahead of Baxter in right because of his offensive potential, and Valdespin hit his way onto the Mets’ radar.

There is no track record to indicate Valdespin will continue to hit and when Murphy returns he will find himself back on the bench.

What the Mets have is a handful of role players who have never performed in the role of a fulltime, productive starter.

What the Mets have is a problem.

Mar 20

Not Optimistic About Wright And Murphy Being Ready By Opening Day

Opening Day is rapidly approaching, and it doesn’t look as if either David Wright and Daniel Murphy will make it to Flushing on time.

Wright told reporters he was in the World Baseball Classic where he played at an intense level, which shouldn’t put him at a disadvantage.

“I’m in a better position than Murphy, obviously, because I’ve been playing in games and taking plenty of swings,’’ Wright told reporters this morning.

Even so, if Wright doesn’t come back before the start of the season, and there aren’t any indications he is going to, it will be two weeks of being idle. Initially, at the time of the injury GM Sandy Alderson said Wright would rest from three to five days. Today is the sixth day.

There will be rust, count on it for Wright. Even more for Murphy, who hasn’t seen a pitch this spring. Murphy had a setback when he was shut down after playing five innings on defense last Friday. Terry Collins said if Murphy isn’t playing by the weekend he will open on the disabled list.

Both players claimed Opening Day was their goal, but made no promises and said they’ll be cautious as to not be re-injured and miss even more time.

Bet on the disabled list to start the season.

Injuries have also derailed Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who bruised his left knee in early March sliding into a base. Nieuwenhuis was scheduled to play three innings in the field and bat today in a minor league game.

In looking at tonight’s line-up against Houston in Kissimmee, it is possible it could be close to the Opening Day line-up, minus Brian Bixler and probably Mike Baxter.

For Opening Day, I’m going with Marlon Byrd in right instead of center.

Jordany Valdespin, 2b: He’s gone from being an outsider to likely starting at second base with Murphy out.

Collin Cowgill, cf: Looking at him as the starter in center. Could bat second as he is tonight.

Ike Davis, 1b: He isn’t a No. 3 hitter, but the best the Mets have with Wright gone.

Marlon Byrd, cf: He will be in right for the start of the season. He has been getting a lot of reps at clean up as Terry Collins wants to separate high strikeout batters Davis and Lucas Duda.

Lucas Duda, dh: Seriously, designated hitter is a natural for him. He moved from right to left because the latter is supposed to be easier. He still needs time in left, so why isn’t he there tonight?

John Buck, c: He’s the catcher until Travis d’Arnaud is ready. Should be June.

Mike Baxter, rf: Seems to have been pushed out of starter role by Byrd, who offers greater offensive upside.

Ruben Tejada, ss: It was thought he could contend for leadoff spot or No. 2, but not with the way he’s hitting now. He’ll be buried at No. 8, which gives Mets two back-to-back outs most times.

Dillon Gee, rhp: Says he needs work on his change-up.

Mar 20

Over Half Mets’ Payroll Could Be On DL Opening Day

According to the Mets’ timetable, today could greatly determine the make-up of their Opening Day roster and line-up, which probably won’t resemble anything you imagined a month ago.

Not even close.

WRIGHT: Will we know more today?

WRIGHT: Will we know more today?

The Mets hope to know more today of the status of third baseman David Wright and second baseman Daniel Murphy, both of whom have strained intercostal muscles. If reports are negative, it could give the Mets four prominent players – totaling nearly half their payroll – on the disabled list to open the season.

Combined, the salaries of left-hander Johan Santana ($31 million with the $5.5 million buyout is included), Wright ($11 million), closer Frank Francisco ($6.5 million) and Murphy ($2.95 million) amount to $51.95 million. The Mets’ 2013 payroll is yet to be determined, but assuming $100 million, that’s over half the roster’s payroll on the disabled list.

When Wright was pulled from the World Baseball Classic last Thursday with what was later diagnosed as a strained left intercostal muscle, GM Sandy Alderson said Wright would rest from three to five days.

Yesterday was the fifth day, and we should know more today on what’s next for Wright, who hasn’t made any promises regarding Opening Day.

“That’s looking to predict the future, and I can’t do that,’’ Wright told reporters when he returned to Port S. Lucie. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel … I’ll tell you that’s my goal.’’

When first informed of Wright’s injury, manager Terry Collins, citing Murphy’s injury this year and Wright’s strained side last year, projected the All-Star could be out at least a month.

Murphy strained his right intercostal muscle early in camp and played five innings of defense in a minor league game last weekend, but has been held out since because of continued stiffness.

Collins said he hopes Murphy will be ready today, but if he’s not by this weekend the disabled list was the probability.

MURPHY: Must play soon.

MURPHY: Must play soon.

“If he’s not back in a game, you’re down to seven days,’’ Collins said. “That’s not a lot of time to get somebody who hasn’t done anything all spring to get him ready.’’

Assuming that scenario, Justin Turner – currently suffering a sprained right ankle – and Jordany Valdespin will likely play third and second, respectively.

Meanwhile, there’s been little progress with Santana, down with shoulder fatigue, and Francisco, who has a persistent stinging feeling in his elbow after throwing. It has been a foregone conclusion for weeks now that both will be placed on the disabled list, and neither is expected to be with the Mets next season.

After spending the better part of the last two years rehabbing his surgically-repaired shoulder, Santana lightened up his off-season routine and consequently wasn’t in prime condition when he reported to camp. The Mets called him on that which annoyed Santana and prompted him – in an effort to quell criticism – to throw off the mound on March 3 without notifying Collins.

At the time, Santana hadn’t thrown in over a week and wasn’t supposed to throw for another week. Even so, Collins hoped Santana would be ready for the season. That won’t happen now as Collins said last weekend Santana wasn’t close to throwing again.

Why the Mets haven’t officially announced Santana will go on the disabled list is anybody’s guess, but Collins said Jon Niese would replace him as the Opening Day starter and Jeremy Hefner will take his place on the roster and then take his spot in the rotation.

Collins also said Bobby Parnell will take Francisco’s role as he closer. Francisco threw off the mound Saturday and reported feeling pain.

An injury also impacted center field, as a bruised left knee sidelined Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who’ll open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. Nieuwenhuis’ injury opened a spot for Collin Cowgill to be the starter.

Cowgill could lead off and play center in a line-up that might also include Lucas Duda and Marlon Byrd in the outfield; an infield – from first to third – of Ike Davis, Valdespin, Ruben Tejada and Murphy; with John Buck behind the plate and Niese on the mound.

Bet you didn’t see this coming.

Mar 16

Justin Turner Taking Over Third Base; Mets Lineup Against Marlins

If there was any doubt of Justin Turner making the Opening Day roster, that’s gone.

Because Turner has a greater upside offensively, he’s David Wright’s replacement at third base and will get more reps than Zach Lutz, Brandon Hicks and Brian Bixler.

He is starting and hitting second in today’s game against Miami in Port St. Lucie.

Wright was examined yesterday in New York and will return to Florida tonight and be in camp Sunday. As of now, he will be idle from three to five days, but could open the season on the disabled list.

The Mets have a history of strained intercostal and oblique muscles, including Wright missing a month last year. Daniel Murphy had one earlier this spring and has been out almost a month. Considering the history of this injury with the Mets, Terry Collins is planning not to have Wright for Opening Day.

Here’s today’s lineup and the Opening Day projection for each player:

Mike Baxter, rf:  Expected to make team and compete with Marlon Byrd for right field job. Has speed but doesn’t offer much offensively.

Justin Turner, 3b: Wright’s replacement at third base. Versatile player who is a tough out. Likes to work the count and drive up the pitch count.

Ike Davis, 1b: Safe at first. Mets looking for another 32 homers. Needs of cut down on strikeouts and improve on-base percentage. With two halves like his second half last year, 40 homers is within reach along with 100 RBI.

Marlon Byrd, cf: Veteran presence who’ll make team. Doesn’t give away outs.

Lucas Duda, lf: Starting in left. Expected to be main power source, but has to cut down on strikeouts. Needs to take the ball to the opposite field, be patient and increase his walks totals. He strikes out too much for what he gives the Mets offensively. Not Carl Yastrzemski in left field, either.

Travis d’Arnaud, c: Projected to open season in minor leagues, but to be called up after May. Coming off knee and back injuries but has been healthy so far.

Brian Bixler, 2b: Should open season in minors. Ability to play second helps him with Murphy recovering.

Omar Quintanilla, ss: Could make team as reserve infielder. Little offensive threat.

Shaun Marcum, rhp: Projected fifth starter. Mets thinking of him as innings eater, which will be imperative with Johan Santana not in the rotation.

LINEUP ANALYSIS: Turner’s ability to make contact is why he’s hitting second today, and perhaps at the start of the season. Davis moves up to third in the order with Wright out. Byrd sandwiched between Davis and Duda, two hitters with high strikeout totals.

Mar 14

Mets Lineup Against Tigers

The Mets are home to Detroit this afternoon in a game that will be seen on SNY. Here’s who’ll they’ll be watching today at Tradition Field:

Jordany Valdespin, lf

Justin Turner, 2b

Ike Davis, 1b

Marlon Byrd, dh

Mike Baxter, rf

Zach Lutz, 3b

Anthony Recker, c

Matt den Dekker, cf

Ruben Tejada, ss

Dillon Gee, rhp

LINE-UP ANALYSIS: If you examine it closely, only two players – Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada – figure to be in the Opening Day lineup. It is possible one of the three between Marlon Byrd, Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin, could also start. … I see Justin Turner and Anthony Recker making the 25-man roster as reserves. … I am pulling for Matt den Dekker to stick. … As far as the batting order goes in the regular season Tejada could hit second as easily as eighth.

NOTE: Later today I’ll post a projected everyday batting order. The word “awesome” doesn’t come immediately to mind.