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 26

Harvey Finishing Up Strong

Matt Harvey vowed his sputtering fastball would be amped up by the end of March. Well, he cranked it up to 97 mph., Sunday in easily his best start of spring training. And, coming on the heels of the news Steven Matz would miss his next start with irritation in his left elbow, the Mets were due for some positive pitching news.

Harvey also threw his slider in the upper 80s and went six innings.

HARVEY: Finishing strong. (AP)

HARVEY: Finishing strong. (AP)

“That was a big step, probably the biggest so far of the spring, and moving forward into the season,” Harvey told reporters.

Several weeks ago, I suggested the Mets consider leaving Harvey behind, but he’s improved in his last two starts, both in velocity and length. And, four strikeouts and one walk in the 8-2 victory over the Braves, was also a strong positive, so an extended spring training is a moot point.Harvey’s next start will come Friday at Citi Field against the United States Military Academy, and from there it’s back into the rotation.

Harvey’s next start will be Friday at Citi Field against the United States Military Academy, and from there it’s back into the rotation.

“I couldn’t be happier where I am now and moving forward,” Harvey said. “I feel I’m ready for a good season.”

That sound you hear isn’t the howling wind, but Mets’ fans sighing in relief.

Mar 24

Gsellman Frontrunner For No. 5 Starter

While there’s nothing official, it’s probably safe to assume the Mets will name Robert Gsellman their fifth starter.

There’s not much to debate after Gsellman gave up one unearned run in Thursday’s shutout loss to Washington. Gsellman reported to spring training to compete with Seth Lugo and Zack Wheeler for the No. 5, and he’s lived up to expectations with a 1.56 ERA, but in only 17.1 innings.

As for Wheeler, he hasn’t helped himself with an 8.59 ERA in three games. He certainly hasn’t worked enough to be stretched out for a rotation spot, and considering his lack of experience in the role, the Mets are reluctant to work him out of the bullpen despite their need.

However, Lugo, who pitched well for Puerto Rico in the WBC – save the championship game against the United States – does have a bullpen background and the Mets envision working in as a reliever in the middle innings.

The need for Lugo in the bullpen coupled with Wheeler’s problems forces Gsellman to the front of the line.

“I have no idea until they tell me,” Gsellman told reporters Thursday about a possible rotation spot. “So we’ll wait and see. I don’t really think about that. I just try to go out and get the job done.”

Gsellman will get one more start to cement his spot in the rotation, and it’s possible – but a likely long shot if the Mets hold to form – both he and Lugo could go in the rotation – if Matt Harvey continues to spit the bit in his final spring start.

 

Mar 21

Harvey Not There, But Better

What can we make of Matt Harvey‘s latest start, one in which he threw 74 pitches and worked into the fifth inning (4.1 innings) for the first time this spring?

HARVEY: Takes a positive step. (AP)

HARVEY: Takes a positive step. (AP)

It was easily his best outing of the spring, not only in terms of length but also velocity when he threw three straight pitches at 95 mph., to strike out James McCann – who homered off him earlier in the game – in the fourth inning.

“A guy hits a home run off of you, and you always want to get him out the next time,” Harvey told reporters to show the competitive fire that has not abandoned him as he tries to come back following thoracic outlet surgery that has sapped his velocity and hindered his command and movement.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen estimates Harvey’s velocity should return full time in May. That he hit the radar gun at 96 tops is a very good sign.

However, we can’t say certainly he is back. He remains a work in progress. Don’t forget, before he broke down last summer Harvey had trouble getting out of the fifth and sixth innings. It was as if he hit a wall. Harvey gave up three runs on seven hits in his 4.1 innings, which, by definition, is not a quality start. That he reached that far for the first time is a positive, but Harvey would be the first to say he wouldn’t be satisfied with that in the regular season.

However, 74 pitches are way too many for not getting out the fifth. It signifies hitters are fouling off a lot of pitches, meaning he wasn’t able to put them away.

“Overall, I’m excited, and I made a lot of good pitches; unfortunately, in the last inning I didn’t,” Harvey told reporters.

Catcher Kevin Plawecki said Harvey’s command drifted in the fifth inning.

“Other than that last inning, I thought he hit his locations good,” Plawecki said. “[The fastball] was coming in real good, but more importantly, his location was what [he] wanted to see. That’s ultimately what it’s about — you can throw as hard as you want, but if you aren’t spotting anything, it really doesn’t matter.”

Harvey will get two more starts and said he needs to build up his arm strength, improve his command and refine his mechanics. That’s a lot of work to do for two more starts.

As of now, I’m still inclined to leave him back for now, but hopeful he’ll turn it around.

 

Mar 14

DeGrom Ready; Mets Should Rest Ill Syndergaard

If spring training is all about getting ready for the season, it would be safe to conclude of all the Mets’ high-profile starters Jacob deGrom is the closest to being ready.

In three spring starts, he has given up one run in ten innings with 13 strikeouts, including six in four innings in today’s 2-1 victory over Houston. Now, who wouldn’t take that?

DeGROM: Ready. (AP)

DeGROM: Ready. (AP)

The best thing about deGrom today was his ability to pitch out of trouble. He walked and gave up a single to start the game, but pulled it together to strike out the side, including the last two in the high 90s.

DeGrom didn’t have his best changeup and got it done with his fastball and breaking pitches.

“You’ll have those days in spring and throughout the season,” deGrom told reporters. “So, you have to find other ways to get outs. My slider was good today and I mixed in a few curveballs.

“I’m happy with how things are going. The main thing is to stay healthy. I’m just happy that I feel good and I’m looking forward to starting the season.”

Health does not only include elbows and shoulders. It includes illness, which brings us to Noah Syndergaard, who has been struggling with bronchitis the past month and a half. Six weeks is a long time to fighting illness and this isn’t just a cold or the sniffles.

“He’s like many people, including myself, that when it gets in their lungs and they get bronchitis, it can affect you for a while,” manager Terry Collins said. “He’s fighting that. He’s been on medication. He is getting better, but he just ran out of gas.”

Syndergaard threw in the high 90s Monday, but later said he felt tired and his delivery was out of whack. He admitted it could have been because of being ill.

So, Syndergaard said being ill could have sapped his strength and Collins admitted the same. So, why don’t Collins and GM Sandy Alderson do the smart thing and sit Syndergaard for his next start if he’s still feeling lousy?

Now, Syndergaard, like any other Mets’ pitcher will fight Collins if he wants to rest him. Matt Harvey already has … several times.

But, Collins and Alderson are supposed to be the adults in the room and should be smart enough to tell their kids not to go outside and play when they are sick. And, enforce it.

If spring training is all about getting ready for the season, then shouldn’t that include not letting Syndergaard getting run down?