Apr 30

Mets, Nationals Starters

Here are the starting pitchers for this weekend’s Mets-Nationals series at Citi Field:

Thursday: RHP Jacob deGrom (2-2, 2.96) vs. RHP Stephen Strasburg (1-2, 4.88), 7:10 p.m. ET

Friday: RHP Matt Harvey (4-0, 3.04) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (1-2, 1.26), 7:10 p.m. ET

Saturday: LHP Jon Niese (2-1, 2.74) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (1-2, 5.01), 7:10 p.m. ET

Sunday: RHP Dillon Gee (0-1, 4.26) vs. RHP Doug Fister (1-1, 3.28), 1:10 p.m. ET

 

Apr 30

An Open Letter To A Reader

This is in response to a reader’s comment. I wanted to take it a step further because he made several well-written comment.

An Open Letter to Bill:

My obligation is not to cheer for the Mets. It is to give my interpretation of the news and what I see. Under no circumstances do I dislike the Mets or Matt Harvey. I covered the team full time as a reporter for a main stream newspaper for several years.

I am disabled and the Mets, from ownership on down, have been very good to me in terms of still giving me information, access and keeping me in the loop. I go to the games when I can and will go more year. For that I am grateful and wish them well.

The players, coaches, manager and management have been respectful and I try to respond in similar fashion and they understand I will be critical at times.

Given that, I have no animosity or agenda regarding Harvey. My obligation is that if I see something I will respond with my honest opinion.

I’ve covered this game for a long time and have seen many pitchers not be able to come back from an injury. I don’t want to see that with Harvey, which is why  I have been hard on the innings issue. I love good pitching and want to see Harvey do well and am excited in his potential.

Thank you for for reading and the times you have commented. I hope you reconsider and keep reading and posting your comments as they are valuable to me. I welcome opinions different than mine.

That is what sports is all about. I am sorry you misinterpreted my writing as disliking the Mets and Harvey as that is not the case.

Best to you.-JD

 

Apr 28

Six-Man Rotation Not Practical For Mets

For more than five innings in tonight’s 4-3 loss at Miami, the Mets were treated to a solid performance from Rafael Montero to where the idea could be floated of considering a six-man rotation.

Doing so would give everybody an additional day of rest. Specifically, the real goal would be to give Matt Harvey an additional day and ultimately preserve his workload.

While that objective is worthwhile, why do something to impact all the other starters, while the prudent option would be to stick with – but so far ignored – plan of reducing his innings on a per start basis?

The Mets could have shaved three innings off Harvey’s last start, and two the one before that, which would have given him five to play with in September.

However, could a six-man rotation work for the long term? For something that unconventional to work, it can’t be imposed a month into the season. I suggested something similar in the offseason that would have enabled the rest of the rotation to get into a routine.

At one time teams utilized four-man rotations, which ultimately were expanded to five-man rotations. With teams looking to protect their investments in young pitching, I can see them wanting to reduce the number of starts for their frontline pitchers.

The plus is it saves wear-and-tear. The downside is many rotations are already thin and this makes them thinner. Another downside is the inevitable need for relievers, which subsequently creates a thin bench like the Mets had at the start of the season.

For this to work the entire season would have to be mapped out in advance factoring in off days.

For now, the Mets could keep Montero for the bullpen until David Wright is activated, but I don’t like the idea of going into the Washington series with a short bench.

The game is constantly changing and perhaps someday a six-man rotation could come into play, but it would have to come with an expanded roster. For now, the Mets will have to do what they’ve done all year with their pitching – play it by ear.

Apr 26

Niese Still Key In Mets’ Rotation

In the first two games of this series, the focus for the Mets was on their stud pitchers Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, but I remain intrigued with Sunday’s starter, Jon Niese.

In the pre-Harvey years, when the Mets were forced to move from Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey – wow, I hadn’t thought of him in a long time – Niese was in the driver’s seat of their rotation. Young, left-handed, and a hard thrower with a manageable contract, Niese not only was a Mets’ leader but coveted by other teams.

NIESE: Still important to Mets. (AP)

NIESE: Still important to Mets. (AP)

However, injuries – including a partial tear of his rotator cuff – sapped the effectiveness of Sunday’s starter against the Yankees. Last winter the Mets were open to trading Niese, but at 28, he’s young enough to reverse the perception of him and increase his value to the Mets for the long-term.

And, it definitely helps that he’s healthy, which only fuels his confidence.

“I haven’t been this confident in my arm in probably three years,’’ Niese said during spring training. “I feel really good. … I feel a lot stronger. My arm feels excellent.’’

That has translated to the mound, where Niese is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA – and 1-1 with a 2.05 ERA in four starts against the Yankees. He is off to the good start he hopes will fuel a comeback season. It must keep playing out this way if Niese is thinking long-term, although the math remains in his favor.

On one hand, there’s Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz waiting at Triple-A Las Vegas to push him out of the rotation. On the other, figure on Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee not coming back next season, and we won’t see Zack Wheeler until at least July.

Also, he’s still young and hard-throwing left-hander with a manageable contract (under their control for the next two seasons). In this scenario, figure on Niese returning.

However, the Mets aren’t just interested in him just holding a roster spot, but needing him to perform as he did in his last start, Tuesday against Atlanta, when he gave up a solo homer in 6.2 innings.

They will take that tonight and every night.

Apr 25

Was Harvey Showing Off For His Future Team?

As I watched Matt Harvey pitch for the Mets today against the Yankees, I couldn’t help but wonder: Was he showing off for his future bosses? I have little doubt from his body language there’s little question to the matter of showing up his current boss.

Please don’t say Harvey someday toiling for the Yankees has not crossed your mind. How could it not? It definitely must have crossed the minds of GM Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons. If you were to wager a hundred bucks with Titanbet on whether Harvey will be a Met or Yankee when he reaches free agency, seriously, who’d you bet on?

HARVEY: What is going on with him? (AP)

HARVEY: What is going on with him? (AP)

Harvey, who makes no secret he grew up in Connecticut a passionate Yankees fan, was superb in toying with his boyhood team for the better part of 8.2 innings as he gave up two runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

However, what tells me Harvey will someday be gone is: 1) his youthful affection for the Yankees, which culminated in being photographed watching Derek Jeter last season from the stands when he was on the disabled list; 2) his attraction, like a moth to a light bulb, to the New York nightlife, which always has the light shining brightest on the Yankees; 3) his agent, Scott Boras, who has a reputation of getting every last dollar, and we all know the Yankees will outspend the Mets; and 4) we’ve never heard him passionately say he wants to finish his career in a Mets’ uniform.

He had a chance today to say something about that, but passed.

And finally, Mets’ management appears to be afraid to challenge their young, stud pitcher, who consistently pushes the envelope on about every issue. He sparred with Alderson as to where he would do his rehab and the issue of wanting to pitch last season.

Despite lip service in spring training, Harvey did nothing to dispel the notion there’s a divide when he refused to give up his start last Sunday despite being ill, and pitching the last month with a sprained ankle (Collins said he didn’t know about it until the middle of last week, which is unfathomable).

Harvey flat out said he didn’t want to give up the start last week and it was obvious he did not like Collins pulling him today. Even after Collins made up his mind, Harvey fought to stay in the game. Then, as he walked into the dugout he could be seen shaking his head.

Finally, in the handshake line after the game, he shook hands with Collins, but breezed past him and didn’t acknowledge what the manager said.

“I didn’t look at the board once to see how many pitches I had,’’ Harvey said, which would make him unique as pitchers always know. “I still felt good, I still felt strong. I thanked them for letting me come out for the ninth.”

The gratitude did not sound convincing.

Collins did all he could after the game to boost up Harvey and gave the impression nothing was wrong, saying he had a limit of 105 pitches. This was despite Collins saying coming out of spring training he’d try to limit him to 90 to 95 pitches. Collins said he chose to leave Harvey in after he left the mound following the eighth inning when the pitcher said, “I want this one.”

Managers often acquiesce to such requests, but usually not those coming off Tommy John surgery.

I appreciate the difficulty of Collins’ position, but fault him and Alderson for not defining a position for Harvey prior to the season. Had they been decisive then, and don’t forget Alderson comes across as knowing it all, this wouldn’t be an issue. Because they didn’t, Harvey’s innings will come to the forefront with every start.

Since Alderson and Collins have no intent to do something definitive with Harvey’s workload, I would have appreciated them not blowing smoke saying they wanted to conserve his innings, especially that for Harvey’s second straight start they didn’t take advantage of pulling him from a blowout victory.

They could have saved two innings last Sunday and three today. That’s five innings – enough for another start – they could have saved for September. Tell me, wouldn’t you rather have Harvey save his bullets now and use them later in a pennant race?

Growing up in Connecticut, Harvey watched Jeter, Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams involved in pennant races and undoubtedly thought someday of pitching for them in the playoffs.

On this day, at least Harvey was smart enough to not let his past conflict with what’s happening around them today.

“I’m playing for the Mets, that’s who I play for,’’ Harvey said. “I’m a New York Met.’’

One almost expected to hear, “for now.’’