Mar 02

Mets Matters: Johan Santana Doubtful For Opening Day; Lucas Duda Breaks Out

It is not surprising that GM Sandy Alderson indicated today it is “less and less likely,’’ Johan Santana

would be ready for Opening Day.

mets mattersAlderson attributed that to Santana not being in good shape when he reported to spring training because he didn’t go through his normal off-season routine after extensive rehabbing the previous two winters.

“From my standpoint, his arm is fine, as far as we know,’’ Alderson told reporters. “Was he ready to pitch when he came into camp? No. Even he may have been a little surprised by that.

“So that leaves us where we are today. And where we are today is getting him ready to pitch as soon as we possibly can. We haven’t rule out Opening Day, although given when we think he might get on the mound, it becomes less and less likely. We haven’t given up on that notion yet. And we’ll see where it takes us.’’

The Mets are kidding themselves in thinking Santana has a chance to make the Opening Day start because he hasn’t thrown off the mound since Feb. 19.

Jonathan Niese will start if Santana opens the season on the disabled list. In that scenario, ESPN reports the earliest Santana could start would be the sixth game of the season.

Also expected to open the season on the disabled list is closer Frank Francisco, meaning Bobby Parnell will get that opportunity.

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Mar 02

Jonathan Niese Next In Line For Opening Day Start

Jonathan Niese, whom I called the Mets’ most significant starter at the opening of training camp, threw three scoreless innings Friday against Detroit.

A key for Niese will be how he controls his change-up.

Niese, incidentally, will be the Opening Day starter if Johan Santana can’t go. I say book it. No way would Terry Collins send Matt Harvey out there just ten starts into his career.

Harvey will get the ball his afternoon against Miami.

As far as pitching assignments go, figure Bobby Parnell as the closer because Frank Francisco, who is down with a sore elbow, will likely not be ready.

AROUND THE HORN: David Wright leaves today for the World Baseball Classic. (I’ll have something on the WBC later today). … Lucas Duda was a scratch yesterday because of a medical issue. The Mets are saying it is minor. … Daniel Murphy has started hitting off a tee. He’s nine days away from playing in a game.

Mar 01

Sandy Alderson On Evaluating Terry Collins

General manager Sandy Alderson stopped short of saying manager Terry Collins’ job was secure, but in a conference call this week, left the impression he will be judged with a broad paintbrush.

COLLINS: He's smiling now.

COLLINS: He’s smiling now.

As GM, Alderson’s job description entails building for the future, while his lame duck manager has nothing guaranteed beyond this season.

That doesn’t mean the two perspectives can’t co-exist.

Collins’ extension will be assured if the Mets have a winning season, but even if they don’t – very possible considering their holes – he could be back in the dugout in 2014, when the spending is supposed to begin.

“Well I think there are two things upon which a manager is evaluated,’’ Alderson said. “One is wins and losses, and the other is the improvement of the players on the team. And regardless of whether you have a veteran-dominated team or a younger team, players have to improve.

“And more importantly, they have to be motivated to improve, and that’s really partly where the manager comes in. I think that Terry will be evaluated on both of those bases, with the understanding that the wins and losses are not an absolute – to some extent they are relative to the talent that we have.’’

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Feb 27

Mets Matters: Alderson Dishes On Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler And Strikeouts

mets matters

In a conference call this evening, Mets GM Sandy Alderson addressed several issues surrounding the team.

Among them:

* Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will not be allowed to block the plate.

* The leadoff spot is still up in the air and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is a candidate, still has work to do.

* If Nieuwenhuis plays fulltime he will strikeout over 100 times (he struck out 98 last year). That could give the Mets four players with over 100 strikeouts when you consider David Wright, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. While strikeouts are a concern, they are offset by an increased on-base percentage and run production.

* If the Mets are competitive this summer, he knows he will face the dilemma of trading a pitching prospect for a hitter.

* Alderson said how the Mets handled Matt Harvey last year should buy him patience from fans wanting to rush Zack Wheeler. He added there’s no sense in force-feeding a young player if he’s not ready.

These and other issues from Alderson’s conference call will be explored in greater detail in future posts.

THE GAME: If the Mets could take one positive out of this afternoon’s 12-4 waxing at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, it is that Duda broke a 0-for-7 slide with ground single.

No, they did not stop the game to give him the ball.

Seven of those outs were strikeouts. Duda finished 1-for-3 with one strikeout, so it isn’t as if he’s found it all of a sudden.

Terry Collins noticed Duda had a more compact swing on the single and fly ball to left. It was longer on the strikeout.

Duda had been spending extra time in the batting cage to work on his mechanics, and will do so again tomorrow. He’s expected to play Friday against Detroit’s Justin Verlander.

As of now, Duda is penciled in as the left fielder. The Mets like his power potential (15 homers last year), but must be concerned about his wasted at-bats. He had 120 strikeouts with only 51 walks in 459 plate appearances.

WHEELER OUT: Wheeler was scratched from today’s start with a slight strain of his right oblique. Although the Mets have not said anything, expect him to miss at least another start.

WRIGHT PLAYS: Wright returned to the lineup with two singles. He’s not scheduled to play Thursday, but is Friday against Detroit at Port St. Lucie. Wright hopes to play third instead of DH in that game. On Saturday he leaves for the World Baseball Classic.

Feb 25

Harvey And D’Arnaud Not There; Duda Totally Off

The Mets tell us to look forward to 2014 and beyond, but we received a glimpse into that future Sunday when Matt Harvey pitched two innings to catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

After ten starts last summer, Harvey is already in the Mets’ rotation; for d’Arnaud, it was his first game since he injured his left knee last June.

There were several communication issues, which is to be expected from a young battery that has never worked together. The most important lesson is Harvey has the final decision on what he throws. If he doesn’t like the pitch, he calls d’Arnaud out to the mound. The bottom line is the pitcher has control over what he throws. If he’s not comfortable with the pitch it will get crushed.

Like a lot of people, d’Arnaud praised Harvey’s poise and demeanor. Harvey said he wasn’t concerned with the miscommunication, citing that they hadn’t worked together before.

Manager Terry Collins made it a point to say d’Arnaud would catch each of the Mets’ starters.

The Mets were also happy with Dillon Gee, who made his first start since surgery last season to repair a damaged artery in his shoulder. Gee threw last September, so he had a feel for his arm and expressed no worries.

Meanwhile, not having a feel for anything is Lucas Duda, who so far is 0-for-7 with six strikeouts. Not anywhere to go but up from there.

Duda’s problem is mechanical reports ESPN in that his lead foot is still too high when he begins his stride. Consequently, he’s not in hitting position and the ball gets in on him too quickly.

WEEKEND METS NOTES: Jonathan Niese gave up a run on three hits in two innings against the University of Michigan. He came out of the game saying he needed to work on getting ahead in the count more. Actually, that’s what all pitchers need to do. … Josh Edgin blew a save against Houston. … Jeurys Familia. … Collin Cowgill is making a good impression.