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 15

Bartolo Colon Gets Vegas Start

The New York Mets signed Bartolo Colon as a two-year, $20-million stopgap to fill the monstrous void created by Matt Harvey’s injury.

An 18-game winner who threw 190.1 innings last season, it is hoped he will better the nine victories Harvey had last year.

COLON: Today's starter (AP).

COLON: Today’s starter (AP).

The second season was the carrot to get Colon to sign – the money didn’t hurt, either – and act as a buffer in case Harvey isn’t ready for 2015, or there is a setback with Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero.

Colon is coming off a rocky start in last Monday’s loss to Miami; he gave up three runs in the fourth inning. He called it a “meaningful’’ game and said he was pleased with his control in his first start.

Colon gets by on location and mixing speeds with his fastball and will work on that against Chicago.

“I don’t shy away from throwing what I’m going to throw normally,’’ Colon said earlier this week. “That’s my pitch. I’m a fastball pitcher. That’s what I’m going to use. I’m going to use my best pitch.’’

The current plan is for Colon to enter the season second in the rotation, but he could get the Opening Day start if Jonathon Niese isn’t ready.

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 08

Harvey Pushes Envelope Again On Twitter; Wants To Pitch This Year

Who wouldn’t like to see Matt Harvey return to the New York Mets this season? Despite words of caution from his doctors, Mets management and even opponents such as Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, Harvey seems bent on wanting to pitch this season.

This morning, Harvey used Twitter and wrote: Harvey day will happen.

HARVEY: Wants to pitch. (Getty)

HARVEY: Wants to pitch. (Getty)

Every time I hear from Harvey about wanting to pitch this year I’m not overwhelmed by excitement as much as I am apprehension as it is never good to force an injury.

Strasburg warned Harvey through the media to take his time in his rehab, and to not look too far into the future. Strasburg said to treat his rehabilitation in chunks, and measure progress not in daily increments because there will be setbacks.

Right now we’re in March and Harvey is throwing four times a week, and off flat ground – currently 20 throws at 60 feet.

The Mets have a rough timetable at best for Harvey, because they’ve accepted the possibility of setbacks. Above all, the next step is contingent on how he responds to the last one.

Meanwhile, Harvey is forecasting what he wants to happen in September, giving the impression he’s oblivious to the rigors and grind of the rehabilitation process.

There are times he appears to pay lip service to this, for example, when he threw for the first time on Feb. 22, he said: “I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s going to be a tough process [even] with how things felt today. But I’ve got to stick with it and move forward.’’

At the time, Harvey acknowledged his competitive nature and conceded, “I always wanted to push more.’’

When he does that, he fast-forwards months, making him vulnerable to pride and ego.

Don’t think it can’t happen?

Earlier this week, former Met Johan Santana, signed a minor league contract with Baltimore. It was only last spring when Santana disregarded a throwing program the Mets formatted and in a fit, responding to comments made by GM Sandy Alderson, threw off the mound and aggravated his shoulder injury.

He never threw another pitch for the Mets, but did collect all of the $137.5 million owed him.

Santana wasn’t cautious, and let his pride get the better of him. Will the same happen with Harvey? Nobody knows, including Harvey.

If the Mets lay down the law and say Harvey won’t pitch this year regardless, then that might be the thing to do. It would eliminate the risk.

Because, the way it sounds, if left unchecked Harvey might just push the envelope too far and never have the opportunity to sign a $137.5 million contract.

That would be a shame, because it would mean the career we all hope to enjoy will not have come to pass.

 

Mar 08

Mets Week In Review: Alderson Thinking 90 Wins; Davis, Duda Ailing; Syndergaard Impressive

Can you believe it, New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, declared in a staff meeting his belief his team is capable of winning 90 games this season.

Manager Terry Collins told the players they should take it as a compliment.

It’s interesting to wonder if Alderson really believes this, then what his patience level would be for Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada if they struggle as in previous years.

In addition to the issues with Davis and Tejada, the Mets have significant questions with their starting pitching, which won’t include Matt Harvey. Also, the Mets have questions about their catcher, outfield and leadoff situation.

In addition this week:

* Davis (calves) and Lucas Duda (left hamstring) were sidelined. Tejada was also shelved with a strained hamstring.

* Pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard continued to impress with two scoreless innings Monday against the Braves.

* David Wright and Daniel Murphy, who sustained strained oblique muscles in previous camps, were held out of the first week of exhibition games. They played for the first time Friday.

* Curtis Granderson homered twice in an exhibition victory Tuesday over Houston.

* Relievers Vic Black and Gonzalez Germen struggled with control.

* Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who underwent elbow surgery, said he is willing to talk with Matt Harvey about his rehab.

* Jenrry Mejia, competing for a spot in the rotation or in the bullpen, said his elbow is pain free.

* Jonathon Niese said he’s not feeling pain in his left shoulder.

* Bartolo Colon and Bobby Parnell worked in an intrasquad game Thursday and were cleared to make their exhibition debut Monday.