Aug 15

Today’s Question: Why Not Try Harvey As Reliever?

Matt Harvey passed his audition for Single-A Brooklyn in his first rehab start, working one inning for the Cyclones. Undecided is where he’ll throw next.

Here’s an idea: Since the second rehab won’t be longer than two innings, why not have him pitch in the majors out of the bullpen?

HARVEY: Why not the pen? (AP)

HARVEY: Why not the pen? (AP)

Of course, he wants to start, but with the Mets’ bullpen simply awful – I can’t bear to watch Hansel Robles anymore – give Harvey a couple of innings out of the pen.

It could work if Harvey was told in advance what day he’ll pitch. That way:

He could keep his between starts routine and avoid the up-and-down regime of a reliever because knowing when he’ll pitch in a game he can warm up at his own pace.

Besides, he might like it, and if successful, this could lengthen his career. Dave Righetti, Dennis Eckersley and all made the transition, and the latter two ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Harvey’s career to date has been injury filled and disappointing. This could be a revival for him.

The season is lost anyway, so why not try it? It wouldn’t hurt. It is out-of-the-box thinking, and isn’t that what progressive organizations do?

 

Aug 13

Mets’ Bright Spots In Lost Season

There are always a few rubies that can be found in this garbage dump of a Mets season. This year, the shiniest of the gems are Michael Conforto’s emergence of being a star and Jacob deGrom’s recovery from surgery to being an All-Star caliber starter.

The other highlights have been the production of traded Mets Jay Bruce and Addison Reed; the professionalism of Curtis Granderson; and promotions of Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith.

Once a question to even make the Opening Day roster, Conforto began the season in a pinch-hitting role, but his success, coupled with Granderson’s slow start and injuries to Yoenis Cespedes, increased his playing time and subsequently run production to the point where he made his first All-Star team.

CONFORTO: Huge bright spot. (AP)

CONFORTO: Huge bright spot. (AP)

Conforto’s two-run homer gave him his 26th of the season, but more importantly, the Mets a two-run lead in the first inning, one they never relinquished in today’s 6-2 victory over the Phillies.

Conforto hit 12 homers last season, so his home run ceiling was just a hunch. Now, with 26, you would think 35 could be within reach with 47 games remaining.

I’ve long advocated Conforto should hit third in the order, ahead of Cespedes, and hopefully manager Terry Collins will keep him there. I also like that even with the trade of Bruce, Collins is keeping Conforto in center field. If the rest of the season is about laying the foundation for 2018, then hit Conforto third and in center and leave him there – hopefully, for the next dozen years.

Conforto’s last five hits have been homers, and since the All-Star break has 12 homers with 23 RBI.

As for deGrom, he took a line drive off his pitching arm Thursday, but all indications are he’ll make his next start, Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. DeGrom is 13-5 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. The word “ace,’’ gets thrown around a lot, but it’s clear cut when talking about deGrom, who works fast, and despite an overpowering fastball, more importantly has excellent command of all of his pitches.

With Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey on the disabled list, and Steven Matz struggling and winless in over a month, deGrom has been the rotation’s workhorse

The Mets are clearly in a rebuild, salary dump mode, which is why Bruce, Reed, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker are gone, and Asdrubal Cabrera and Granderson could soon follow. Jose Reyes will stay to be Rosario’s caddy.

Bruce hit 29 homers with 75 RBI to lead the Mets, and has already made an impact with the Indians, going 5-for-12 with three RBI. You can describe Bruce, Reed, Walker and Granderson as consummate professionals.

Rosario booted a play in his debut that cost the Mets a game, but Bruce and Walker were seen in the dugout giving him counsel on what he should have done differently.

As for Granderson, he’s still being shopped, and maybe raised his value with three more hits today, including a two-run homer. He won’t be re-signed for 2018 and it is puzzling why there isn’t more interest. Granderson has four homers and nine RBI over his last ten games.

With Granderson, Bruce and the other veterans with expiring contracts assuredly not going to be here next season, the future belongs to Conforto, Rosario and Smith.

They, along with deGrom, give the Mets something to build on for next year.

 

Aug 12

Walker Is Latest Former Met

The last time the Mets nearly traded an infielder to Milwaukee produced the iconic snapshot of Wilmer Flores crying at his shortstop position. There was no such image tonight with the breaking news the Mets had traded Neil Walker to the Brewers for a player to be named later.

Tonight’s optic was a video of Walker leaving the Mets’ clubhouse in a golf cart, presumably to the team hotel to pack before flying to Milwaukee to join a pennant race.

WALKER: Another good one is gone. (AP)

                               WALKER: Another good one is gone. (AP)

By the time the Mets lost to the Phillies, 3-1, the deal had not yet been announced.

Despite playing with significant injuries – and undergoing back surgery last offseason – Walker was a consummate professional, just as Jay Bruce was, and exceeded his run production expectations since acquiring him after the 2015 season from Pittsburgh.

Walker, acquired when the Mets didn’t re-sign Daniel Murphy after his historic 2015 postseason, hit 23 homers last year in an injury-shortened 2016. After not drawing interest in the free-agent market, Walker signed a $17.2-million qualifying offer last winter.

At one point this season the Mets said they’d consider bringing back Walker, but such talk quickly died on the vine as their season slipped away.

With a glut of infielders, there was no way the Mets would bring him back, and since players-to-be-named are mostly bottom-tier prospects at best, this was nothing more than a salary dump, even with them picking up a portion of the remaining $4.7 million left on Walker’s contract.

The Mets were close to trading Walker to the Yankees at the July 31 deadline, but the latter backed out reportedly concerned with his medical records. In addition to his back surgery in the winter, Walker missed six weeks this season with a hamstring injury.

A season that began with such optimism continued to unravel for the Mets. A team many thought could return to the World Series, has rid itself of Walker, Bruce, Addison Reed and Lucas Duda, in addition to losing for long periods on the disabled list of David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud and Jeurys Familia.

Aug 11

Rosario, Smith Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

The Mets got a glimpse of their future tonight and had to like what they saw.

On a night when Dominic Smith made his major league debut, wearing the crown was Amed Rosario, who ripped three hits, including his first career homer, a game winner.

ROSARIO: Hits game-winner. (AP)

ROSARIO: Hits game-winner. (AP)

Oh, by the way, Michael Conforto hit another home run.

Rosario, who has been a major leaguer for all of 11 days, sounded like a veteran when talking about his breakout game.

“Even though I’ve had a couple of bad days lately,’’ Rosario said through an interpreter, “this helped my confidence.’’

Rosario has been a bundle of energy since his long-awaited promotion from Triple-A Las Vegas. His defense, hustle and speed have been a spark.

You don’t hear this often from a rookie with less than two weeks into his career, but Rosario said he was concerned about his slow start at the plate, in particular, his high strikeout rate. So, he has been working with hitting coach Kevin Long on trying to shorten his swing to cut down on his swing and using all parts of the field.

It worked tonight.

“He’s still very aggressive,’’ manager Terry Collins said, indicating a slow start didn’t intimidate him. “He’s played great. He listens. He’s going to be good.’’

And, he believes the same thing for Smith, who struck out on three pitches in his first at-bat, then singled to center in his second. That’s learning.

“He was nervous. It was quite easy to see,’’ Collins said. “But, he’ll be like Rosario and will calm down.’’

The Mets will still be defined by their young pitching. Jacob deGrom was superb on Thursday, but took a line drive off his pitching arm in the seventh inning and had to leave the game. He’s still expected to pitch Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.

Matt Harvey is on the disabled list, but is about to start his rehab assignment. Noah Syndergaard is also on the disabled list, as is Zack Wheeler. The Mets hope they will all return in the season’s final six weeks so they know where they stand heading into the offseason.

Then, there is Saturday’s starter, Steven Matz who has been in a downfall funk over the past month. The Mets hope to find some answers about him, also.

All of them, save deGrom, have significant questions, as do Smith and Rosario, but all have very high ceilings if they are healthy.

Then, there is All-Star Conforto, who hit his 25th homer, while batting clean-up, while playing center. Where he plays and hits in the order could change, but he has star written all over him.

So do the others.

Aug 08

Harvey Makes Progress In Rehab; Mets Beat Rangers

The Mets finally received some positive pitching news today with Matt Harveys pain-free, 20-pitch live batting practice session. Harvey’s last start was June 14, a four-inning stint against the Cubs.

HARVEY: Makes progress.  (AP)

HARVEY: Makes progress. (AP)

Live batting practice usually comes prior to a rehab assignment, so if he doesn’t feel anything tomorrow, he could make a minor-league start this weekend. Assuming all goes well, Harvey could make three or four starts before the end of the year.

“My goal is to get out there as soon as I can and get as many starts as I can,’’ Harvey told reporters. “I felt great. It was nice to get on the mound again. A little rusty at first, but at the end, I was able to get the ball down.

“My arm is moving the proper way. It was finally fun to throw a baseball again.’’

It has been a long time since Harvey had any fun pitching, perhaps the eighth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. It’s not his 4-3 record, but his 5.25 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 35 walks in 70.1 innings that has frustrated Harvey.

That, and whether he’ll ever approach the potential expected of him when he became an All-Star and cult hero in 2013. If nothing else, both Harvey and the Mets want to ascertain where he physically fits heading into the offseason.

THE GAME:  Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Travis d’Arnaud homered to give Chris Flexen his first major league victory, 5-4, over Texas tonight at Citi Field.

Flexen (1-1), in his third career start, pitched 5.2 innings and gave up three on four hits, three walks and one hit batter while striking out four. For good measure, he also registered his career hit with a fifth-inning double.

For Conforto, it was his career-high 23rd homer and sixth leading off a game.

A NEW GIG FOR IKE: Former Mets first baseman Ike Davis is trying to make it back to the majors as a situational lefty reliever in the Dodgers farm system.

Davis, 30, struck out the side his one inning of work in the Arizona League.

Davis pitched for Arizona State in college and made two scoreless relief appearances for Oakland in 2015. His fastball has been clocked at 92 mph.

EXTRA INNINGS: With their win, the Mets snapped a four-game and improved to 26-31 at home. … Conforto’s leadoff homer was the Mets’ tenth to lead the majors. …

Since the All-Star break, Conforto is batting .313 (30-96) with nine home runs and 17 RBI. … D’Arnaud’s homer was his tenth. … Neil Walker started his first career game at first. … AJ Ramos converted his first save opportunity since joining the Mets.