Mar 16

Alderson Answers Critical Questions About Wheeler

Mets GM Sandy Alderson answered several questions raised Monday following the announcement Zack Wheeler‘s MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow that would require Tommy John surgery and cost the highly-touted prospect this season.

Earlier today I raised several questions pertaining to the Mets handling of Wheeler’s injury. Alderson addressed most of them in a conference call this morning prior to the exhibition game against Boston in Fort Myers.

WHEELER: Done for year. (AP)

WHEELER: Done for year. (AP)

Wheeler underwent an MRI Saturday despite Alderson insisting one wasn’t needed and traveled Monday to New York to meet with Dr. David Altcheck at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Among the questions raised and subsequently answered by Alderson:

* After two MRIs in the offseason, which were negative, Alderson said another MRI wasn’t needed, but relented Saturday and ordered one. What was his reasoning? In a conference call, Alderson said he changed his mind because “the area of pain had increased in size.”

* Earlier the Mets said they weren’t concerned about discomfort in Wheeler’s elbow. Why? “We had been forewarned by the doctor that his elbow was a concern and it was going to have to be managed over the course of this season. It wasn’t clear that the ligament was involved at that time, but we understood we were going to have to manage his elbow condition over the course of the season. So when he complained of the elbow pain, it wasn’t a surprise to us.”

* Is there any good news in all this? Alderson said if there’s a positive it is that the issue will finally be addressed, as it was with Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, and hopefully this will be the end of it. Said Alderson: “It’s a blow, but at the same time we knew there would be a lot of uncertainty surrounding Zack and his elbow over the course of the season. We’re obviously not happy he won’t be with us. But if there’s a silver lining, it’s that we now have some certainty and we have a solution for this that he won’t have to manage the kind of pain that he had to manage over the course of last season. Doing that over the course of a career is simply unsustainable.”

Manager Terry Collins said Wheeler managed discomfort last season, but what isn’t known is how adamant Wheeler was in complaining of the pain. Did he fail to disclose this, something Matt Harvey did the previous year?

Both Collins and Alderson said the two MRIs in the offseason were negative, so apparently this issue resurfaced this spring. What isn’t known is whether Wheeler threw too hard, too soon.

While Alderson addressed the obvious, something for down the road is how their pitchers throw in the offseason and the start of spring training. What exactly is the monitoring process and how can the pitchers be forced to be more open in disclosing injuries and pain?

While Alderson addressed the most pressing questions, the perception is the Mets mishandled this in not immediately getting a MRI. Again, if I were a Met pitcher and felt something wrong I would immediately want it checked out.

That’s because one critical question remains unanswered: Why does this always seem to happen to the Mets?



Mar 16

Wheeler Injury Raises Questions

When it comes to the New York Mets and injuries, specifically their pitchers, never take the initial news at face value.


Wheeler facing the knife.

Wheeler facing the knife.

GM Sandy Alderson was adamant initially saying Zack Wheeler didn’t need a MRI. Manager Terry Collins, after saying Wheeler had two MRIs over the winter, indicated prior to Saturday’s start, “everybody could use a little rest.’’

The Mets finally gave into common sense and Wheeler had a MRI, which showed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow that will likely require Tommy John surgery. That rest Collins was speaking of, well, we’ll get a lot between now and next spring.

“Everybody gets MRIs today,’’ Collins told reporters. “That’s the nature of the beast. You come in with an upset stomach and they give you an MRI. And then you have an abdominal strain. It’s what you do to protect yourself.’’

So, why the delay?


Just a couple of days ago, Alderson said a MRI wasn’t necessary. Today, he told reporters: “This is what happens to pitching. You see guys going down all over the place.’’

What exactly changed his mind? Could it have been the potential of negative backlash?

I’m not blaming Alderson or Collins for Wheeler’s injury, because the right thing was done in shutting him down when he reported persistent pain. But, I am criticizing them – and Wheeler, too – for downplaying this whole thing. None of the three are doctors and Wheeler especially, since it is his arm and career, should have been concerned.

However, the perception garnered from this case follows that of how the Mets handled injuries in recent years, and that’s they don’t know what they are doing.

This raises several questions:

* Collins said Wheeler managed the discomfort last season. If that’s the case, why wasn’t he shut down and examined when he first complained of pain?

* Of course, that’s predicated on whether Wheeler reported the pain in the first place. Did he fail to disclose this, something Matt Harvey did the previous year?

* Collins said Wheeler underwent two MRIs in the offseason. Why wasn’t anything discovered at that time?

* If Wheeler was clean, as Collins said, it stands to reason he injured it at the start of camp. If so, did he throw too hard, too soon? If so, why wasn’t he monitored better? If Wheeler pushed himself, why wasn’t he more careful? How come he wasn’t smarter?

* If Wheeler did everything properly this spring, it would seem this injury was “just one of those things,’’ or it was missed in the two offseason MRIs. If it is the latter, shouldn’t the Mets go back and look at that film to see if that’s the case?

* While the surface issue is Wheeler being hurt and down for the season, underneath there are a lot of nagging questions that paint the perception something was amiss in how this was handled.

When it comes to the Mets and pitching injuries, perception is reality. Bottom line, if I were a Met pitcher and felt something in my arm, I would be concerned.

Very concerned.

NOTE:  Will update later after Alderson conference call.


Mar 11

Harvey Taking Positive Steps

What, you expected Matt Harvey to be perfect all the time? A key to the Mets’ season was perfect in his spring debut five days ago, but struggled Wednesday afternoon by against Miami.

“I felt good,’’ Harvey told reporters after his 49-pitch, 2.2-inning stint. “My body was a little sluggish, but other than that everything was fine. I’m still working on getting in the swing of going out there multiple times and multiple innings. Getting the body in shape is definitely most important now.”

HARVEY: Feeling fine. (AP)

HARVEY: Feeling fine. (AP)

Harvey topped the gun at 98-mph., in the first inning, but let the first four hitters reach in the second on three straight singles and a walk.

Former Giant Michael Morse, who singled in the second, said: “That’s Matt Harvey. He’s good. I’m pretty sure we can say he’s healthy.’’

That’s all anybody connected with the Mets wants to hear at this juncture about Harvey, who struck out two and gave up two runs. Harvey said he worked on his pitches, but said he was sluggish with his mechanics and his slider didn’t have its normal bite. But, what else can you expect in just his second start after missing 18 months?

His objectives are basic this time of year, as they should be.

“Spring training you’re obviously getting everything in gear and in shape for a season,’’ Harvey said. “So, for me, I know it’s March 11 or 12 or whatever it is. I’m still just getting back in gear and back in shape. … The idea of surgery is out of my mind. For me, it’s getting guys out and working on pitches to get ready for the season.’’

Harvey isn’t thinking about surgery and he feels no pain. If you’re the Mets, you couldn’t ask for more, and to some degree, that’s perfect.

ON DECK: Bobby Parnell has hamstring problem.

Mar 10

Mets Wrap: Matz Won’t Go To Pen; Colon Takes Loss

The Mets could have a hole in their bullpen if left reliever Josh Edgin’s elbow injury turns serious. Edgin was scheduled for a MRI Tuesday and the Mets could have the results tomorrow.

Regardless of the severity of Edgin’s injury, the Mets insist prospect Steven Matz won’t be used out of the bullpen. Matz is ticketed to open the season in the Triple-A Las Vegas rotation.

If not Matz, then who?

Dario Alvarez and Jack Leathersich are on the 40-man roster, and there’s Rule 5 Draft Pick Sean Gilmartin. There’s also non-roster invitee Scott Rice.

If I had to pick one, it would be Gilmartin because if he’s not on the Opening Day roster the Mets won’t be able to assign him to the minor leagues.

BRAVES ROUGH UP COLON: Bartolo Colon gave up three runs on five hits – including a three-run Freddie Freeman homer – in three innings in the Mets’ 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

“I was only scheduled to go three innings. I’m right on schedule,’’ Colon told reporters. “I’ve got command of all my pitches. I’m hoping to go at least four innings in my next start. Overall, I feel pretty good.’’

UP NEXT: Matt Harvey is scheduled to start Wednesday against Miami and throw up to 50 pitches in his second start of the spring. Noah Syndergaard will also pitch for the Mets.

EXTRA INNINGS: Kirk Nieuwenhuis went 0-for-1 with two walks to raise his on-base percentage to .579. He is 9-for-16 on the spring. … Buddy Carlyle threw two scoreless innings in relief.

Mar 09

Wheeler “Must See” Met

So far, Mets’ starting pitchers have done well in their exhibition starts. Zack Wheeler is up next scheduled Monday afternoon against Miami at Tradition Field (1:10 p.m., SNY). Of all Mets pitchers, Wheeler is the one I am most intrigued with as he could have the biggest upside this summer.

WHEELER: Faces Marlins today.

WHEELER: Faces Marlins today.

Coming off Tommy John surgery, Matt Harvey could have understandable issues; it would be interesting to see if 2014 Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom can have an encore season; Jon Niese can be an enigma; and Bartolo Colon is 41.

That leaves Wheeler, who was 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA last year and threw 185.1 innings. Wheeler averages nine strikeouts per nine innings, which is ace worthy. However, his four walks per nine innings is something that must be reduced – by at least half.

Depending on whom you talk with, Wheeler’s stuff might be better than Harvey’s. Command is a different issue.

Wheeler must improve his control, and doing so would enable him to work deeper into games. In 32 starts last year, Wheeler worked into the seventh only 13 times. He also reached 100 pitches 24 times and 110 pitches 13 times.

That doesn’t seem like much, but there’s an accumulative effect on the arm when you factor what he throws in the bullpen between starts; the eight warm-ups between innings; and the 50 or more warm-ups before the game.

After April he did not throw less than 100 pitches in consecutive starts. That must change to not only preserve his arm, but he could add an inning a start that would also reduce the workload of the bullpen.

There are progressions in the development from a prospect to a quality starter. Wheeler has already shown he can be overpowering. Now he must prove he can dominate with his control.

If he does that, there’s no telling how good he can become.