Apr 30

Jeremy Hefner Tries To Stop Mets’ Slide

Jeremy Hefner: Streak stopper.

Some clairvoyant on television said this morning, “the Mets have lost five straight for the first time this season.’’  He’s probably right, but that’s an awful assumption.

All streaks must end somewhere, and while Matt Harvey didn’t stop the slide last night, the Mets will ask Hefner to do it tonight.

Hefner, who hasn’t been consistently good this season, is coming off a solid start in which he gave up a run in seven innings, April 25, against the Dodgers.

The Mets, losers of five straight and nine of their last 12 games, will need Hefner to contain two horrible statistics: he’s walked at least three in each of his last three starts, and he’s given up seven homers in 21 innings

A big Ouch! on that last number.

“It bugged me a little more than I let on,’’ Hefner said of the homers allowed after the Dodger start. “If I’m successful, I’m getting groundballs. … So that’s something I’ve still got to work on.’’

A case can be made Hefner saved his job last week against the Dodgers, but then again, just whom do the Mets have to replace him? They won’t bring up Zack Wheeler before he’s ready, and he’s not close.

Hefner was thrust into the rotation when Johan Santana went down, but he’s become a mainstay. Hefner matter-of-factly says his objective with each game is to give the Mets a quality start, which is three runs given up in six innings, something he’s done twice in four starts.

The offense has to shoulder some of the blame for the Mets being 0-4 in Hefner’s starts as it has given him eight runs in 20 innings.

Hefner is what he is, and that’s a fifth starter. His outpitched his job description in his last start, but he’s not living up to his stated goal of six innings.

The bullpen worked 9.1 innings last night, and with the short turnaround before Wednesday afternoon’s game, the Mets need six from Hefner tonight. His job would be a little easier if the Mets scored some runs, too.

Just saying.

Apr 30

David Wright Questionable For Tonight

The bad news about the Mets keeps getting worse. David Wright, who was supposed to rest his stiff neck last night, was used as a pinch-hitter and now he’s questionable for tonight’s game at Miami,

While it is conjecture Wright might have done something to aggravate his condition, the question can’t help be asked. Seriously, is winning a game in April worth losing Wright for a period of time? That’s the perception today and considering the Mets’ history in handling injuries, it is warranted.

WRIGHT: Questionable for tonight vs. Marlins.

WRIGHT: Questionable for tonight vs. Marlins.

The Mets played fast and loose with injuries to Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church, Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana and Wright in the past several times only to have it come back to bite them. Perhaps I am being an alarmist, but following the Mets does that to a person.

“I would say it’s better now than it was when I woke up this morning, which is a good thing,’’ Wright told reporters in Miami after the Mets’ 15-inning loss to the Marlins. “So I think the treatment that I got on it during the day helped and was beneficial. I’ll wake up tomorrow and see how it feels. I’d like to play as soon as possible, so we’ll see.’’

That the Mets used Wright when they didn’t only indicates the panic mode the team – and manager Terry Collins? – must be in with their losing streak now at five.

The Mets’ heretofore lousy bullpen blew two leads last night. Sure, it is semantics to say Shaun Marcum is a reliever, but he was used in that role. First Bobby Parnell, who had been the Mets’ only reliable reliever, and then Marcum.

Blame the pen if you want, but the Mets went 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position and left 14 runners.

Compounding matters, the Mets not only wasted numerous opportunities to win the game, but squandered a Matt Harvey outing, one in which he threw 121 pitches to boot.

The Mets can’t afford to waste games pitched by Harvey and Jon Niese, but that’s what they’ve done the last two times through the rotation with them, winning only Harvey’s no-decision last Wednesday against the Dodgers.

While not as bad as it was for a month stretch last summer, the Mets’ offense is in tatters.

* Ike Davis struck out three more times last night and is on pace to fan 196 times this season. That’s more than once a game. He has more strikeouts (29) than walks (12) and hits (13) combined, and there are no signs of him breaking out of his funk.

* Speaking of funks, after hitting over .300 for most of April, Daniel Murphy is on a 5-for-31 slide (.161 average with only one walk in that span).

* Wright’s on-base percentage is up, but needs to produce more than two homers and 19 RBI.

* Overall, the Mets have scored just ten runs in their last five games, and on the season have scored four or fewer runs in 13 of 25 games. They are averaging 8.5 strikeouts per game.

 

Apr 28

Niese In Must-Win Start For Mets

Managers have tried for over a century, but there is no prescription drug capable of curing sick pitching. And, it’s not as if sick pitching is like the flu where it will go away in a couple of weeks.

Sick pitching doesn’t go away easily, so it wasn’t as simple as dispatching Josh Edgin to the minor leagues. Robert Carson was disappointed in being sent down to the minor leagues to start the season, but not nearly as disappointed as the Mets were in seeing him come back again.

Yesterday was the Mets’ latest pitching calamity – both the miserable start from Shaun Marcum and Carson’s five-run relief bombing – as they lost for the eighth time in 11 games.

With the exception of days Matt Harvey pitches, the Mets are rarely getting length from their starters, and on the occasions they do, they get nothing from their offense. It’s a nice symmetry for losing teams, of which the Mets are again proving to be.

That’s why today is as must-win-a-game as a team can have for April. With the major league worst 5.28 bullpen ERA, the Mets desperately need innings from Jon Niese, who is pitching with a bruised right ankle sustained last Tuesday.

That he is even pitching in indicative of the Mets’ desperation. Niese only had a light throw day since taking a hard comebacker off his ankle. Many teams would have him skip a turn to make sure he is all right, but not the Mets.

The Mets have few options other than to let Niese go back out there. Desperation is their route, and it is imperative Niese gets them through the sixth inning.

“Our starters have to get us deeper in the game,” manager Terry Collins said. “We’re using guys in the fifth and sixth innings that should be pitching the seventh and eighth.’’

Or at worst, in the minor leagues.

Apr 25

Are Mets Marketing Harvey Too Much, Too Soon?

While approaching Citi Field last night one couldn’t help but notice the monstrous digital image of Matt Harvey on a video board outside the stadium with the screaming caption, “Harvey-licious.’’

When logging onto the Mets’ website there was an advertisement plugging Harvey T-Shirts. And, all of this is for a guy who was starting just his 15th major league game.

HARVEY: Mets marketing a rock star. (AP)

HARVEY: Mets marketing a rock star. (AP)

I am waiting for the Mets to put him on a banner outside the stadium, joining the likes of Keith Hernandez and David Wright; Ed Kranepool and Bud Harrelson; Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack.

Make no mistake, Harvey is a good Met, but not yet a great one. There is plenty of time for him to reach that distinction.

“I don’t get caught up in the marketing angle,’’ manager Terry Collins said when asked if this is too much, too soon, much the way it was last winter for the Knicks and Lin-sanity.

“I don’t thing he gets caught up in it, either. Let’s ride the wave. This guy is ready.’’

He might have been ready last night, but clearly was not sharp against the Los Angeles Dodgers despite the relaxed definition of a quality start. The no-decision indicates Harvey still has growing to do, but does not diminish what he’s already achieved.

“I didn’t like it,’’ Harvey said of his performance in Wednesday night’s 7-3, 10-inning victory. “Tonight was about winning, and we did that. … I have work to do.’’

That humility is why the Mets believe they have something special. Technically, it was a quality start – three runs given up in six innings – but Harvey knows he has to do better than 90 pitches. He knows that many pitches should get him to, if not through, the eighth inning.

History is full of powerful young arms that captured the imagination of not only their fan base, but also those across the nation. Look at Tom Seaver, Vida Blue, Mark Fydrych, Fernando Valenzuela, Ron Guidry, Dwight Gooden and Stephen Strasburg.

The Mets are banking on Harvey to join this prestigious list. Last night won’t remove him from consideration and won’t stop the rumblings of him possibly starting the All-Star Game at Citi Field in July.

The Mets are riding the Harvey wave, but there is an underlying fear is the attention could be too much this early. The expectations of Harvey increase with each start, of which last night’s was nationally telecast by ESPN.

It has been a long time since the Mets had a pitcher of Harvey’s marketability. Gooden perhaps nearly 30 years ago? Or Seaver? No other homegrown Met arm comes immediately to mind.

Gooden was such a long time ago, so you can’t blame the organization for being excited about having somebody this charismatic to promote. As much as Collins raves about Harvey’s demeanor and composure, a case can be made for going overboard. All this attention is a lot to absorb.

The Mets made sure to handle Harvey with kid gloves before bringing him up, so why push things now?

Let him concentrate on pitching first and not being a rock star.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Apr 21

Zack Wheeler: Not Ready For Primetime

Baseball 101: Regardless of the level of play, if a pitcher walks too many batters he will be beaten.

It is a baseball fundamental understood by everybody, with the exception of those insisting the Mets bring up Zack Wheeler, who walked six hitters in his last start.

WHEELER: Not ready.

WHEELER: Not ready.

The clamoring is getting louder in the wake of the Mets’ continued problems with the back end of their rotation. Maybe Dillon Gee, he of the 0-3 record and 8.36 ERA, will get it going Sunday against Washington. But, also struggling are Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey, both of whom were hit hard Saturday by the Nationals.

David Wright was correct in saying if the Mets score five runs off Gio Gonzalez they should win, but the combined efforts of Hefner and Laffey made that impossible. Hefner has given up seven homers in 14 innings, with two of them coming Saturday. Laffey gave up three runs in 2/3 of an inning out of the bullpen.

The Mets are hoping for Shaun Marcum’s return, or could give Triple-A starter Collin McHugh a spot start because it won’t, and shouldn’t, go to Wheeler.

The six walks Wheeler gave up trump any radio host’s rant of, “I want to see what he can do.’’ Well, we know what he can do, and that’s walk hitters and get shelled. Hey, the Mets are getting that now.

Do they really need to see one of their prized prospects get routed up here? The Mets took their time with Matt Harvey and should do the same with Wheeler.

And, let’s hear no more about the Mets being cheap because they want to keep him away from the free-agent market another year. That is not the issue. Wheeler is simply not ready for the major leagues, a fact Collins reiterated Saturday.

“That’s a red flag and I don’t want to see walks from those guys,’’ Collins said. “I told Zack in spring training, you’re going to pitch in a tough place [the Pacific Coast League] and I was in that league for 12 years, I know how hard that league is to pitch in.’’

Collins said he would talk to Las Vegas manager Wally Backman about Wheeler. There are times statistics aren’t defining in evaluating performances in the minor leagues. Walks, however, are telling on any level. Overall, in four starts, Wheeler has walked 12 in 18.1 innings. On top of that, he’s given up 20 hits.

“Ten hits, I can understand,’’ Collins said. “But six walks, he’s better than that.’’

He needs to show it.