Feb 27

Wheeler Must Remember He’s Not Harvey

The longest journey begins with a single step and the Mets’ Zack Wheeler took his first today with ten throws off the front of the mound. It was his first time throwing off an incline since he underwent Tommy John surgery, last March 25.

“As small as it was, it’s a big milestone,” Wheeler told reporters. “Even if it was like seven throws off the front of the mound, it’s still feet on the dirt, getting back off the slope a little bit. It might be small, but it’s big for me.”

WHEELER: Takes important step. (Getty)

WHEELER: Takes important step. (Getty)

The most important words from that thought are, “for me.”

The target date for Wheeler’s return is July 1, which is roughly 15 months, the same as it was for Matt Harvey. While the Mets’ plan for Wheeler is the duplicate of Harvey’s, Wheeler must remember he’s not Harvey.

What worked for Harvey might not work for Wheeler. Harvey had a longer than normal rehab, but Wheeler’s could be even longer. He has a different body type than Harvey. Although they had the same surgery, perhaps their injuries weren’t identical.

Everybody’s body is different and the recovery process is unique. Fortunately, Wheeler appears to have grasped that concept: “Well, everybody is different in their comebacks. I know Steven Matz had some problems coming back. And Harv and Jacob deGrom, they did pretty well coming back. So it’s a process. It’s different with everybody. Everybody reacts differently to the surgery.”

He says that now, but let’s hope he remembers it in June if his recovery has a setback or two. And, if he’s not back by early July, well, that’s fine, also. The most important thing is Wheeler eventually pitches again without pain.

Whenever that is.

Feb 26

Hypothetical Terry Collins Address To Mets

By all accounts, Mets’ manager Terry Collins‘ address to his players today was positive with him stressing the expectations will be higher this season and they should embrace being the hunted. Using that information, I’ve put together a hypothetical speech Collins should have said to his team this morning prior to their first full-squad workout in Port St. Lucie.

“Good morning, gentlemen. It’s great to see all of you. Of course, most of you have been here now for several days, which tells me a lot. It tells me how serious you are about the work ahead of us, which it get back to the World Series and win it this time.

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

“I know we all remember how great it felt after we clinched in Cincinnati, and after we beat the Dodgers and Cubs. I also know how bad we all felt after we lost the World Series. I’m sure you thought about it during the winter. I want you to carry that feeling with you this summer and use it to your advantage.

“Yes, last year was great. But, last year is also last year. Last year doesn’t guarantee us anything this year. Washington will be better. The Cubs are better. The Giants are better. St. Louis is good. The Dodgers and Pirates are good. Nobody will hand us anything. We have to earn anything we get, and that begins with us taking care of our business.

“The media will say David Wright and Matt Harvey are the leaders of this team, and they will right … but only a point. To me, a leader isn’t just a player who produces in a big spot, but somebody whose teammates can rely on at all times. A leader is somebody who does his job. That means keeping your head in the game and keeping your focus at all times.

“It means knowing what to do in the field before the pitch is thrown. It means not giving away at-bats. When we weren’t hitting last year it was mostly because we gave away too many at-bats. We have to do a better job of moving up runners, we have to be more aggressive on the bases and we have to take advantage of opportunities when we get them. Remember, nobody will give us anything.

“It’s a long season and we’re going to need everybody at one time or another. So, when your name is called you have to be ready to play.

“Last season taught us a lot of things. It taught us how great winning can feel. It also told us how bad losing can feel. Above all else, last year taught us how difficult winning can be and we’ll need everybody if we’re going to achieve what we want to do.”

Collins isn’t a rah-rah type, so there wasn’t any “win it for the Gipper,” emotion. So, all this is what he might have said to his team. Collins isn’t one to single players out in a team meeting. He’ll likely meet with his players individually. Hopefully, he’ll stress to Wright the need for him to be honest about how he feels and not fight him about rest.

And, along those lines, and you knew I would get to this eventually, in speaking to Harvey they would have to relive that ninth inning of Game 5. I hope Collins made Harvey understand he went against his better judgment when he let back out for the ninth inning. But, Collins let Harvey stay in the game because he trusted him.

That being said, I hope Collins made it known Harvey would have to regain that trust. And, that would start with Harvey not fighting his decisions when it comes to taking him out of a game.


Feb 24

Wright, Collins Talk Playing Time

Mets manager Terry Collins met with David Wright today to begin discussing limiting his playing time during spring training and the season. Not surprisingly, a definitive games number was not reached.

WRIGHT: Talks limits with Collins. (AP)

WRIGHT: Talks limits with Collins. (AP)

It will begin by limiting his exhibition at-bats and time in the batting cage. During the season, Wright could sit in an afternoon game after a night game. However, there was no mention in sitting him in a game before, or after, an off day.

“It went great because he’s David Wright,” Collins told reporters.“It was all about the scheduling. It was all about what needed to take place before he’s in games. And David obviously was on board with it.”

GM Sandy Alderson set a target of 130 games for Wright, who missed four months last year with spinal stenosis, but that won’t appear to be the case.

“As much as I’ve tried to be in the lineup as much as possible, I think that I understand it’s probably best for me and best for the team where I get some rest because of the condition of my back,” Wright said. “I like to play. I think Terry is just trying to be proactive. And he’s trying to look out for me and look out for the long term.

“I felt like we did a good job last year, toward the end of the year, spacing out rest. I think this is going to be a little different because you’re starting in February rather than only having to worry about a couple of months doing this. So I think he just wants to get out in front of it and be a little bit more proactive and maybe help me look out for myself.”

Of that was Wright talking so you know he’s not going to complain. That’s just not his style. But, these are the Mets we’re talking about, and I bet you thought of Matt Harvey and his innings limit last year. I sure did. I just hope this was just the beginning and there will be further talks and this won’t be forgotten.

Wright’s health is too important.


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.