Jul 10

What Message Are Mets Sending With Matt Harvey Decision?

The New York Mets officially pulled the plug on Matt Harvey’s start Saturday in Pittsburgh, but did they do it for the right reasons? Was it to give his blisters a chance to heal and begin a program to limit his innings or prepare him to pitch in the All-Star Game?

Or, is it a matter of coincidence as to the timing? The Mets did not pull the plug on the All-Star Game, and if the blisters aren’t healed, they wouldn’t say if they’d keep him out of what is basically an exhibition game.

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

For the past three weeks the buzz has been not will Harvey pitch in the All-Star Game, but would he start? And, if not him, then how about Zack Wheeler after what he did today in San Francisco? Kidding, but if these guys develop as the Mets hope there will be plenty of All-Star opportunities for both, but admittedly this might the only chance to start at home.

Of course, the Mets want Harvey to start Tuesday night as it puts their franchise in the national spotlight in a positive way, and most assuredly Major League Baseball wants him to start for the TV ratings. Let’s face it, money is the great motivator, and always has been for the sport.

But, if you’re a Met player struggling to make something out of this season of lousy weather, extra innings, grueling travel, injuries and losing streaks, how good can you feel about being deprived of your best pitcher against the Pirates yet have him available for an exhibition game? Exactly what message does that send?

For his part, Harvey wants to pitch and downplays the All-Star angle.

“I don’t like not pitching,’’ Harvey told reporters in San Francisco. “But, I’d rather miss a start now then miss all of September with an innings limit. … It’s between the blister and the innings limit [as to why I’m not pitching Saturday]. My goal is to finish the whole season.’’

Harvey is on pace to pitch close to 250 innings, which won’t happen. Factoring in not starting Saturday, Harvey should start 14 more games in the second half. Six innings a game would be 84 more innings, which should put him close to 220 for the season.

After a brilliant start which includes the trappings of a national magazine cover, dating a model and posing nude in another magazine – he doesn’t need the attention of the latter, does he? – Harvey hasn’t been as sharp recently.

As good a season as Harvey has had, think of how much better it might be if not for ten no-decisions. He might have three more wins if the Mets chopped up the seven runs they gave Wheeler today over three of those no-decisions.

All Wheeler needed today was the three the Mets gave him in the first inning, but they were all appreciated.

“Any time you have a lead you can pitch to contact,’’ Wheeler said. “You feel more in control when you can throw everything for strikes.’’

That’s something Wheeler did on the first pitch to 19 of the 27 batters he faced. That’s what Harvey did a lot earlier this season. And, if Wheeler can keep it up, maybe he might pose next year.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 10

Mets Figuring Out What To Do With Matt Harvey

The New York Mets shouldn’t skip Matt Harvey’s next game if the sole motivation is to have him available to start the All-Star Game. However, if the intent is to begin a program to give his blister a chance to heal and reduce his innings in the second half, then go for it.

HARVEY: What's the plan? (AP)

HARVEY: What’s the plan? (AP)

That the decision to cut his innings coincides with the break is a fortunate bit of timing for the Mets, as Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen will have some time to structure a schedule.

“Dan and I are talking about trying to figure out how to start to cut this guy back a little bit,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday in San Francisco. “We’ll have to decide what happens on Saturday.’’

It is beginning to look as if Harvey will miss the Pirates, but it might not have come to this had he and the Mets acted sooner. Harvey said after last night’s game he’s been bothered by the blister in his last three starts and skipped his between-starts bullpen session prior to Monday.

That is incredulous.

How do the Mets not sit Harvey for one of those games, especially if in the back of their minds they are contemplating cutting his innings? Presumably, he’s been getting treatment for the blister, but if he didn’t report it to the training staff, that’s incredibly stupid on his part. If that is the case, then he didn’t learn anything when he tweaked his back earlier this season.

If he reported the blister and the Mets still ran him out there, that’s irresponsible by them.

How can this be? How can the Mets be so bent on Harvey starting the All-Star Game, yet play fast and loose with him regarding his starts for them? What is the priority?

The best way to limit innings is to skip the occasional start and not piecemeal it an inning or two at a time. This is the route the Nationals did not take last year with Stephen Strasburg.

If Harvey doesn’t pitch Saturday, and with the likelihood of him not starting the first or second game coming out of the break, that would effectively take him out of two starts in July. Finding a game each in August and September shouldn’t be difficult. If this situation is big-pictured, one missed start a month over the course of a season would be six on the year, or 28 instead of 34. That’s something to think about next year.

Meanwhile, there are currently no plans to limit Zack Wheeler’s innings, but he’s already missed time with an injury and the call-up. Plus, in his four starts with the Mets, he’s worked six innings just once, and that was his debut.

However, with Wheeler the issue isn’t innings as much as it is pitches, with his lowest being 89 in a 4.2-inning outing against Washington. This comes with him not being polished and rushed to the majors. As it turns out, the Mets need these starts from Wheeler, because they are having issues with their rotation.

Jon Niese is on the disabled list with a slight tear in his rotator cuff and at least a month away. The Mets also announced Shaun Marcum will undergo season-ending surgery to repair an artery obstruction. The surgery is similar to what Dillon Gee had last year.

Carlos Torres will replace Marcum in the rotation, but could first start in place of Harvey.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 09

Terry Collins’ Obligation With Matt Harvey Is To Mets, Not National League All-Star Team

His marketing dilemma is understood, but New York Mets manager Terry Collins would be making a mistake if he were to juggle Matt Harvey’s spot in the rotation, or even cut it short, just so his young ace can start Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

As of now Harvey’s next start would be Saturday in Pittsburgh, which would leave him enough rest to throw two innings Tuesday.

HARVEY: Another no-decision. (AP)

                     HARVEY: Another no-decision. (AP)

Collins’ first obligation is to manage the Mets and put them in position to win. That means having Harvey ready and able to pitch for the Mets and not attempt to give the Cincinnati Reds or Atlanta Braves home field in the World Series.

Isn’t tinkering with Harvey’s rest or pitch count reminiscent of letting Johan Santana throw over 130 pitches just so he could throw a no-hitter, and a tainted one, at that?

Of course, skipping Harvey’s start because of a blister on his right index finger will make this a moot point.

Then again, does it?

Collins said the blister prevented Harvey from making his between-starts bullpen session. If that was the case, Harvey entered the game with a blister, so what was he doing pitching in the first place? Did Collins start Harvey with the intent of showcasing him for National League manager Bruce Bochy? Believe me, Bochy knows enough about Harvey without Collins letting his ace audition for him.

Pitchers are fragile creatures, even physical workhorses like Harvey. The slightest thing, whether it be a bruise on the shin, or stiff neck, or blister on the finger can throw off his mechanics to the point where it can cause a serious injury to the arm.

Who is to say Harvey’s blister didn’t impact the pitch thrown to Buster Posey, which he took out of the park? Without Harvey admitting as much, there’s nothing definitive to say it did. There’s also nothing definitive to say it did not. There’s reasonable doubt.

I understand the importance of Harvey starting in the All-Star Game, not only to the Mets, but Major League Baseball. MLB wants television sets on at the start of the game so those around the country who haven’t seen him pitch will have an opportunity to see what the fuss is about.

Major League Baseball knows fans have a short attention span, and with the way pitchers are shuttled into the game, viewers aren’t going to hang around to see Harvey. Bud Selig can envision viewers channel surfing or clicking off the game. They want to see Harvey now, and Collins is doing everything he can to ensure it happens.

Even if it means the Mets lose a game now.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 08

Tim Lincecum Should Be Model To Matt Harvey

With the New York Mets in San Francisco for a three-game series, one of the obvious story lines will be Matt Harvey “auditioning’’ in front of Giants-National League manager Bruce Bochy to be the All-Star Game starter.

One of the best things about Harvey is his competitive drive, and his motivation isn’t the All-Star Game as much as it is to be the best pitcher in the sport.

LINCECUM: Harvey should be paying attention to him.

LINCECUM: Harvey should be paying attention to him.

It wasn’t too long ago his opposition tonight, Tim Lincecum, was considered the best. Not anymore. Here’s a guy who last year was relegated to the bullpen for the World Series.

The reports on Lincecum is he’s lost several mph., off this fastball, a pitch like Harvey’s that was in the high 90s, and danced and darted within the strikezone. Lincecum does not have the same dominance and there are numerous theories, including the torque and violence of his delivery has sapped him.

Whatever it is, Harvey should be paying attention, for what he’s experiencing now – from the cover of Sports Illustrated to dating a model to all the attention – is fleeting. It is the icing on the cake, but not the cake itself.

Harvey appears to have it all, which those around him say includes perspective and attitude. Harvey has nine no-decisions, including seven in games decided by three or fewer runs. Cut those in half to the positive and there shouldn’t be any debate as to whether he starts next Tuesday at Citi Field. Harvey brushes them off with a “that’s baseball,” shrug.

The one thing we haven’t seen from him is his reaction to true adversity. Not getting a few wins is one thing, but Harvey has not experienced losing his stuff, an injury or going on a long slide. He’s not experienced what every great pitcher goes through. From Sandy Koufax to Greg Maddux to Roger Clemens to Pedro Martinez; they’ve all endured getting knocked around by the fickle nature of their sport.

It has been smooth sailing so fair, but it’s never that way from beginning-to-end in a pitching career. So, when Harvey takes the mound tonight, it won’t be about starting an All-Star Game, but maintaining a star status.

Harvey won’t do it tonight because he’s too focused, but in that 24-hour reflective window of his after, he will do himself well to look at Lincecum’s career and understand the fragility of being the top dog.

Understanding it’s not all cream, but at times sour milk, is vital when it comes to being the best. What Harvey has now is the foundation for a great career, but it is something never to be taken for granted.

Nobody understands that more than Lincecum.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 05

It’s All About Learning For Zack Wheeler; Mets Need To Let Him Be

The New York Mets claimed they didn’t want to bring up Zack Wheeler and then send him back to the minor leagues. They said he was here to stay, but the qualifier is Wheeler has to pitch worthy of sticking.

Wheeler will be making his fourth start Friday at Milwaukee, but he’s gotten progressively worse since his debut in Atlanta.

WHEELER: Leave him alone and let him learn. (AP)

WHEELER: Leave him alone and let him learn. (AP)

The issue is command, which was exacerbated by Wheeler tipping off his breaking pitches. In his second start, the Mets called for more breaking balls, and he was simply a mess in his third start when he gave up five runs in 4.2 innings against Washington.

Manager Terry Collins said his staff has been tinkering too much with Wheeler, but remember he was part of that decision making process. Pitching coach Dan Warthen doesn’t construct a game plan without Collins’ knowledge, and catcher John Buck calls pitches predicated on his pregame talks with Wheeler and the staff.

With Wheeler, the Mets have been like the man with the barbeque who is always poking at the fire. They were doing him a disservice.

Now, Collins is advocating what was written here after Wheeler’s second start, which is the rookie must go more with his fastball and use that as his foundation.

“We’ve addressed a couple of issues,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday. “Once again, I don’t like handing out scouting reports. But it’s pretty basic: One of the things I really, really, really believe in – I don’t care if it’s a guy like Zack Wheeler who is strictly a power guy, or a guy like Dillon Gee – you have to pitch to your strengths.

“You can’t always pitch to the hitters’ weaknesses. I’ve had some of the greatest pitchers that ever pitched say the same thing. … That was my whole message to Zack: Don’t get away from your strengths. Just because so-and-so can’t hit a slider doesn’t mean you can’t get him out with your fastball.’’

Collins said the tip-pitching has been corrected. That, combined with throwing more fastballs, should give us a clearer pitcher of Wheeler. We will also learn tonight how well he rebounds from adversity.

Wheeler indicated he wasn’t happy with his latest bullpen session, but there isn’t always a correlation with that and how he does in a game.

Wheeler has had time to clear his head, study film of himself and go over the scouting reports. The early book on him was an ability to focus and not let things bother him.

That includes interacting with the media, which hasn’t always been smooth. There are times when he can get short and curt, but getting acclimated with the media will come in time, as will his level of comfort on the mound.

Right now, nothing is easy for Wheeler, but that’s part of the learning curve. Wheeler isn’t Matt Harvey and the Mets must have different expectations. The Mets are banking he’ll pick it up so he doesn’t have to see the minors again.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos