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.

NEVER.

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?

UNBELIEVABLE.

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.

 

Mar 08

Mets Game Thread: Easy First For Niese

I’m anxious to see Jon Niese pitch this year for the Mets. If he lives up to the expectations – even a little bit – it will answer a lot of questions, perhaps even more than Matt Harvey.

By the way, that was a good back-handed diving stop by Wilmer Flores. I’m not sold on the notion he’s a terrible defender. With Flores, as well with Daniel Murphy, they can be better with positioning.

An easy 1-2-3 first for Niese.