Mar 20

Mets’ Pitching Updates: Gee Could Be Opening Day Starter With Niese To DL

They are called “probable’’ pitchers for a reason. It’s because anything can happen, and for the Mets they frequently do.

Injuries to his shoulder and now elbow bumped Jonathon Niese from his scheduled Opening Day start, and thrust Dillon Gee into that role. However, manager Terry Collins has not shut the door on Bartolo Colon.

The current plan is for Niese to open the season on the disabled list and not pitch him until April 6, the fourth game of the season against Cincinnati at Citi Field. He received a cortisone injection Monday to treat elbow inflammation.

Based on his consistency last season and leading the staff with 199 innings pitched, Gee is deserving of the honor of starting Opening Day, March 31, against Washington at Citi Field. Gee had been penciled in start the third game of the season, also against Washington, because of his 4-2 record with a 2.72 ERA last year against the Nationals.

Gee had career highs last year in: innings (199), starts (32), complete games (two), strikeouts (142) and ERA (3.62).

The Mets’ rotation to open the season figures to be: Gee, Colon and Zack Wheeler against the Nationals, followed by Daisuke Matsuzaka, Gee and Niese against Cincinnati.

The Nationals’ projected starters in the first series will be Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman.

 

Mar 16

What Is The Plan For Jenrry Mejia?

The New York Mets have never settled on a role for Jenrry Mejia, which could be the case again this spring.

At 24, Mejia is one of those promising young arms the Mets are boasting. Coming off elbow surgery, they are treating him with kid gloves, but there have been no signs of a setback.

Most starters want to pitch 30 innings in spring training, but with only two weeks left has only worked two. He could get four today against the Cubs in Las Vegas, but won’t get close to 20, much less 30.

Originally, Mejia was to compete with Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan for the fifth-starter role. But, if building for the future is the objective for 2014, it should be Mejia because he has the greatest upside.

Without Matt Harvey, this would have been the perfect chance to develop Mejia. Instead, it is turning out to be a lost opportunity, either to use him for their rotation or showcase him for a trade.

With Mejia in the rotation, they’ll have a better idea of where they stand heading into 2015. If Matsuzaka gets those starts, they still won’t know about Mejia as a starter.

But, how about as a reliever?

The Mets tried that route without success in 2010. Then-manager Jerry Manuel, knowing his job was in severe jeopardy, wanted Mejia on the major league roster to work out of the bullpen to start that season. That was for Manuel’s interests, not Mejia’s.

However, Manuel wouldn’t use him in pressure situations, so Mejia languished without work when he could have been getting starts in the minor leagues.

Understandably, Mejia struggled and was eventually optioned to Triple-A to go back in the rotation. His arm didn’t adjust to the back-and-forth and he was eventually injured and required elbow surgery.

Entering that season, Mejia was a highly sought prospect, but his value was greatly reduced because of how he was used. The Mets couldn’t promote him as a reliever if they were afraid to use him in pressure situations. They also couldn’t promote him as a starter because they wouldn’t use him in that role, either.

After he was hurt, he missed all of 2011.

The Mets are again considering Mejia for their bullpen, but already have seven candidates without him. Just how much work would he get?

If not up here, they should use him as a starter in the minors, which is probably in their best long-term interest because that would hasten his development and possibly build his trade value.

I see him starting the season in Triple-A, but where ever he ends up, just pick a role and stick with it. In the end, I also see it never happening for Mejia with the Mets. They blew this one.

 

Mar 14

Niese Mishandles Twitter Issue

There are many conflicts Jon Niese will face in his Mets’ career, ranging from hitters, to injuries, to the weather and considerably more. Trying to take on reporters doing their jobs using Twitter is one he’ll have difficulty winning.

That is, if he even has a chance.

In the wake of pitching coach Dan Warthen’s apology for a supposed racial slur, an angry Niese told reporters to stop Tweeting from the clubhouse. I understand his angst, but as in most issues steeped in emotion, it is an uphill climb and one handled poorly by all sides.

Reporters are allowed by Major League Baseball to tweet and post blogs from the clubhouse, and in fact, I was one of the first Mets’ reporters to post blogs from the clubhouse when I started the beat in 2006.

Major League Baseball wants the information out there. That creates interest, which leads to ticket sales and television-radio ratings. It’s about money, so as much as Niese wants it, he’s fighting the bottom line.

That’s also why many of Niese’s teammates, including Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, have Twitter handles.

So, who is at fault for this flap?

It starts with Warthen, who apologized to Daisuke Matsuzaka’s interpreter, Jeff Cutler, for his comment, but unfortunately did so in front of a reporter he might not have known well, if at all.

Apologies, warranted or not, should be done in private, especially if there’s not a working knowledge of the reporter, who reportedly is from San Francisco and not on the Mets’ beat.

Also at blame is the reporter, who, according to reports either overheard the apology and/or wasn’t part of the conversation.  I don’t know the reporter, who is Chinese and offended by the comment. That’s his issue, but his sensitivities sparked this fire and now it’s a political correctness issue.

One person is upset and now the world revolves around those feelings.

Seemingly, the apology was an off-the-record comment, and therefore the reporter violated a basic tenet of the reporter-athlete relationship, which made it harder for all reporters to do their jobs.

Finally, Niese must take responsibility for how this unravels. When you’re in a crowded clubhouse, you don’t tell a group of reporters: “Stop Tweeting about our clubhouse. That —-‘s got to stop.’’

How could he not think it wasn’t going to escalate from there? There are ways to deal with the press, either by talking to reporters privately or through the media relations department.

This could have been handled better by everyone.

 

Mar 14

Questions Remain Throughout Rotation

The New York Mets had a vision entering spring training as to the makeup of their rotation. However, that’s not to say there aren’t questions. Name a starter and I’ll give you questions and issues.

The expected rotation is comprised of Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler and Daisuke Matsuzaka; none considered an “ace’’ in the traditional sense. Realistically, none would be higher than a No. 3 when their career numbers are examined.

NIESE: It starts with him. (AP)

NIESE: It starts with him. (AP)

Not really the stuff of 90-win teams.

There was to be competition for the fifth-starter role between Matsuzaka, John Lannan and Jenrry Mejia, but based on how he closed last year, Matsuzaka has the edge.

Mejia has thrown well and seems healthy enough to warrant the opportunity. That begs the question: If not now, then when?

Let’s take a look at the rotation and potential issues with each starter:

JON NIESE: He’s never won more than 13 games, and enters No. 1. Niese has a history of injuries and only twice since 2008 started as many as 30 games. He missed time last year with a rotator cuff issue, and a MRI this spring revealed weakness in his shoulder. He didn’t pitch well in his only start, and has thrown only two innings. The goal is 30 for most starters, but with three starts remaining, he won’t come close.

BARTOLO COLON: He’s 40, so there’s always the inevitable possibility of breaking down. Colon won 18 games and pitched 190.1 innings in 2013, but what are the odds of doing it again? I would say longer than an Ike Davis slump. He’s signed to a two-year contract. Breakdowns occur with 40-year old pitchers. Who is to say it won’t be this year?

DILLON GEE: He turned last season around in a May 30 start against the Yankees and finished 12-11 with 199 innings. However, he was close to being bumped from the rotation prior to that Yankee Stadium start. Gee’s career high was 13 victories in 2011. Gee is grit and guile, but is throwing hard this spring. Even so, his career numbers indicate a No. 4 starter. Assuming all works out with Matt Harvey’s recovery and the development of Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, aren’t we talking about him being out of the rotation next year?

ZACK WHEELER: He worked 100 innings last season before he was shut down. Ideally, the Mets would like to double that number. That’s a huge increase, even considering the 68.2 innings he pitched for Triple-A Las Vegas. Wheeler won seven games in 2013 and the Mets need him to double it, which is a lot. Wheeler has loads of potential, but they need proven production.

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA:  He won 15 and 18 games, respectively, his first two seasons in the majors with Boston in 2007-8, but never more than nine in the subsequent five years (2010). Pitching coach Dan Warthen got him to speed up his delivery, which lead to him closing the year with three strong starts, working at least six innings in each. That’s a small sample. What isn’t a small sample are the last five years, in which he threw more 60 innings only once.

Factoring all that, just what was Sandy Alderson thinking saying this was a 90-win potential season? Considering the fragility of Niese and Colon, Wheeler’s inexperience and Matsuzaka’s inconsistency, it isn’t hard to imagine it won’t be long before we see Mejia, Syndergaard or Rafael Montero.

ON DECK: Niese’s war on Twitter

 

Mar 13

Mets Wrap: Warthen Apologizes For Slur; Mets Beat Nationals; Matsuzaka Sharp

Pitching coach Dan Warthen apologized for a racial slur and received support from Daisuke Matsuzaka and his interpreter, Jeff Cutler.

Warthen approached Cutler in the clubhouse and apologized to Cutler, saying: “I’m sorry I called you a Chinaman yesterday.’’

Warthen said the statement was a joke, and Cutler said he was not offended. However, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, a Chinese American from San Francisco heard the apology, and was put off by it, although not hearing the context of the original comment.

Warthen and GM Sandy Alderson apologized on behalf of the club.

Neither Matsuzaka nor Cutler vilified Warthen.

“Today I was just preparing for my game, so I just spoke to him about today’s lineup and what was going on during the game,’’ Matsuzaka said through Cutler. “… I think everyone makes mistakes, and Dan has already commented on it. I don’t want to dig deeper into it or try to add to what it is.’’

Said Cutler: “Dan has already commented on it. And Sandy has talked about it. I don’t really have anything else to add to it.’’

In addition:

* Matsuzaka started in the 7-5 victory over Washington and gave up one earned run and three hits over 3 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked none to increase his grip as the projected fifth starter.

* Noah Syndergaard gave up three runs in 3.2 innings. He struck out five and acknowledged he would be sent to the minor leagues to start the season.

* Manager Terry Collins used Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom in relief. They will additional looks this spring, but neither is expected to make the Opening Day roster in the pen.

* Ruben Tejada committed his third error in six exhibition games, and after going 0-for-3, is 1-for-15.

* Ike Davis (calf injuries) and Lucas Duda (left hamstring) took batting practice and grounders. Neither ran, but Collins is hoping they can be used this weekend in DH roles.