Feb 20

I’m Liking How Mets Are Protecting Pitchers Early

The Mets are starting early this spring in protecting their young rotation. They eliminated any speculation as to what they will do with the announcement they won’t use their starters for the first five exhibition games.

They’ll still get their work in, but they’ll shave off a couple of innings they’ll work in spring training. Traditionally, each starter in the rotation should get 30 innings and work themselves up to 100 pitches by Opening Day.

“We’re addressing it just by what we do this spring,” pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters in Port St Lucie. “We will probably cut down four or five innings on almost everybody in the spring. … We’ll still try to get to where they’re close to 100 pitches to open the season.”

Warthen said the first game for a projected starter will be March 8 when the Mets play the Braves in Orlando. Warthen indicated the decision to skip the first week is a reaction to the Mets making the World Series, which necessitated the young pitchers to work an extra month. All those young arms reached career highs in innings pitched, some by as many as 60 innings as in the case with Noah Syndergaard.

Then there was Matt Harvey, who started the season projected to throw 180 innings and wound up with 216.

The Mets aren’t expecting anything less this summer.

Feb 19

Suggesting A Plan For Wright

Some time next week, David Wright will meet with Mets manager Terry Collins to devise a plan on how much their former All-Star third baseman will play this summer. It’s this year’s version of Matt Harvey‘s innings limit.

WRIGHT: What's the plan? (Getty)

WRIGHT: What’s the plan? (Getty)

How many games will Wright play this summer?

Of course, it comes down to his health and how strong he feels, but for now there’s no definitive number or plan. Wright played in only 38 games last summer, and earlier this spring GM Sandy Alderson suggested 130, but that’s only a hope.

“I have to be smart about it,” Wright told reporters Friday. “One thing I need to mature and need to become better at is being honest with how I feel on a daily basis — being able to communicate a little better than I have in the past. I’ve been very stubborn when it comes to giving an honest assessment of injuries or how I feel.”

That’s always been an issue with Wright, who has always tried to play through pain and injuries. You’ll recall several years ago when he played nearly a month with a small fracture in his back. One can only wonder the connection with that injury to his current back problems.

“If I feel good and I’m producing and it’s not hurting my back or hurting the team, then I’m going to be out there,” Wright said.

“We just have to be wise enough to know that every so often you’re going to get a day off,” Collins said. “We’ve got to do a better job of monitoring some off days. How many? How? When? Right now I can’t answer that.”

There are a multitude of things Wright and the Mets can do to keep him fresh. Among them:

* It has to begin in spring training. Part of the plan has to be limiting his innings during spring training. It could include playing mostly home games and staying away from the bus rides.

* Undoubtedly, Collins will sandwich the games he gives Wright off around off days in the schedule, which would amount to consecutive days off.

* Who is to say when Wright plays it has to be for all nine innings? If up or down by three or four runs in the seventh or later, then it should be time to give Wilmer Flores some time. Given that, I wonder if Collins will replace Wright for late-inning defense. Of course, there might be times when it backfires, but when that happens Collins can’t abandon his plan.

* Tough pitching match-ups could be avoided. I know Wright wants to be out there, but if he has a low career average against a pitcher, why send him out there for three or four fruitless at-bats?

* Be aware of the weather. Wet grounds and cold weather should be avoided whenever possible.

Wright said he needs to be more honest with himself and Collins needs to hold him to that promise. Wright is 33 years-old and is obviously not the same player. But, that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a viable and productive asset. Both he and the Mets have to be smart about things.

 

 

 

Feb 18

DeGrom: Winning World Series The Goal For Mets

How can you not like Jacob deGrom? Not only is he good at what he does, but he’s also not afraid to show us he has true “Met colors.’’

DeGROM: World Series or bust.  (GETTY)

DeGROM: World Series or bust. (GETTY)

He was the first of the Mets’ dynamic rotation to express a willingness, perhaps even an eagerness, to embrace signing a long-term contract with the team. Matt Harvey did it the other day when he showed up at camp with a $150,000 sports car, but he wasn’t the first and I have this haunting feeling it was to be politically correct.

Then deGrom openly spoke of the World Series. In my list of Mets questions posed yesterday, the first was what did they learn from the experience. If deGrom’s words are any indication, the most important thing they learned is the desire to return. And, to be clear, getting there isn’t enough.

“I think there is more expectations this year,’’ deGrom told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “We expect to make it back to the World Series and win it this time. That’s everybody’s goal here.’’

It will be a challenge, because they have never won consecutive division titles in their history. They have the guns, and it appears the yearning of making this the first time.

 

Feb 17

Mets’ Top Ten Spring Training Questions

Mets pitchers and catchers officially report today, something we’ve waited for since the final out of the World Series. Of course, most Mets – including position players – have already been in Port St. Lucie for several days, if not weeks, now.

Numerous questions will surface between now and Opening Day, but until then I’ve come up with a list of what I consider the ten most pertinent questions heading into spring training:

Q: What did the Mets learn from the playoffs?

A: There’s some validity to having been there. The Royals benefitted from playing the Giants in the 2014 World Series. Much of it is a team learning how to pace itself down the stretch and dealing with pressure in the postseason. Both players and managers learn about themselves, and the acquired knowledge can only help.

WRIGHT: How healthy is he? (AP)

WRIGHT: How healthy is he? (AP)

Q: Who is healthy and who isn’t?

A: David Wright’s back, of course, is the most important health question. Will Terry Collins have a concrete plan for Wright regarding playing time and rest? Lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin are on the mend. The target date for Zack Wheeler to come off the disabled list is late June.

Q: Will the starters have innings limitations?

A: Matt Harvey doesn’t want to hear anything about restrictions, which comes as no surprise. Harvey threw 216 innings last season – including the playoffs – and around the same number is what the Mets are hoping. There shouldn’t be any limits on Jacob deGrom, either, but the same probably won’t apply to Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Presumably, Bartolo Colon will be the fifth starter until Wheeler is ready.

Q: What is the composition of the bullpen?

A: This is the position area of most concern. Jeurys Familia is the closer and Addison Reed gets the set-up role. If Blevins and Edgin are healthy, and Antonio Bastardo pitches to expectations, the lefty question that hindered them most of last season should be alleviated. Hansel Robles must mature as does Rafael Montero. Everybody else is a question mark. Getting back to the World Series is far from a given, but it will be more likely will a productive bullpen.

Q: Will the big bat feel any contract-related pressure?A: Hopefully, Yoenis Cespedes won’t be thinking about his opt-out clause after one year and instead will play free and easy as he did last August. Wouldn’t that be something?

Q: Will the double-play combination mesh?

A: Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are considered to be an upgrade over Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores/Ruben Tejada. Pennant winners must be strong up the middle. The Mets were lucky regarding this last year. It will take some time.

Q: Who is trying to steal center field?

A: That’s the way it appeared when Travis d’Arnaud came off the disabled list last summer. Defense up the middle includes behind the plate and d’Arnaud’s ability to combat the running game. When a runner knows he can take liberties on a catcher, it goes beyond stealing bases, which puts him into scoring position. Those are potential runs.

Q: Will the lefty power show some consistency?

A: Lucas Duda can hit eight homers in two weeks, then not go deep for a month. Curtis Granderson excelled in the leadoff slot last year and with the absence of a prototypical No. 1 hitter, he’ll need to duplicate that performance. There’s also the matter of Michael Conforto not having a falloff from last year’s strong first impression.

Q: How strong is the bench?

A: GM Sandy Alderson finally promoted Conforto and traded for Cespedes after his limited bench showed the overall weakness of the Mets’ offense. The Mets’ bench enters spring training substantially better than the 2015 version. Juan Lagares provides Gold Glove caliber late inning defense coming off the bench. Flores will sub for Wright so he should get a lot of reps at third base. He’ll also need time at first base. Alejandro De Aza gives them a left-handed bat and the ability to play all three outfield positions.

Q: Will the Mets make a deal during spring training?

A: There’s always the possibility of adding a reliever. Most likely, it would be a free-agent signing of another team’s castoff at the end as the start of the season draws closer. Barring an injury, I don’t anticipate them making any significant moves as there are no position battles.

Feb 11

Mets Should Sign DeGrom First

OK, you’ve just been named general manager of the Mets and have the task of signing one of the Mets’ young pitchers to a long term contract. Who’s your choice to sign first? Rank for me your five in the order of which you’d sign him and give me a reason for your reason.

My five are:

Jacob deGrom: He told The New York Post he would be receptive to a long-term contract, which puts him ahead of class. He’s had his health issues, but he’s also had two good years, which puts him at the top for me.

Noah Syndergaard: He’s six years from free agency, but he’s also the hardest throwing of the group and showed in the World Series that he’s not afraid.

Steven Matz: Like Syndergaard, his free agent window is down the road. I like he’s left-handed.

Matt Harvey: Why so low? For the simple reason he will probably cost the most, and by his own admission wants to test the market after the 2018 season. I can’t shake the feeling he wants to leave as he’s never said he wants to remain a Met. He should have no innings limitations this year, and could be primed for a breakout year. If he does what is already a high price will get more expensive.

Zack Wheeler: His rehab from Tommy John has been positive by all accounts and he should be ready to come off the DL in late June or early July. Before his injury there were scouts who had him ranked ahead of Harvey. The main reason why I have him behind Harvey is because he needs to put another full year in to prove he’s healthy. As with Syndergaard and Matz, his free-agent year is enough down the road – plus he has a limited resume – which doesn’t make them immediate priorities.