Feb 21

Three Mets Players to Watch This Spring Training

COLLINS: Issues to address.

The Mets begin their first full squad workout in St. Lucie on Saturday, February 22 and for us fans there’s nothing better than watching the news filter out of the camp, knowing the first day of the season is getting ever so closer.

Spring training usually sets the benchmark for how a team will perform in the regular season. New additions show off their talent, last year’s rookies return with confidence, old-timers find ways to hang on and those recovering from injury face the uncertainty of testing out their bodies once more.

It’s a fascinating time for baseball fans, but also for those who set the MLB odds for each team and try to predict who will be the division and wild card winners. As rosters begin to take shape in the next six weeks, every team goes into Opening Day in a tie for first place. The tough part will be staying there.

For the Mets, their 2014 journey begins tomorrow. The Mets have many issues ranging from the muddled situation at first base and the yet to be contested battles for the fifth spot in the rotation and who will be the leadoff hitter. But there are three more things to watch for in spring training:

1. Bartolo Colon needs to deliver

Ever since our ace underwent Tommy John surgery late last year – ruling him out for the entirety of 2014 – many are betting and wondering who will replace the majestic Matt Harvey. All eyes will be on Bartolo Colon who was signed to a two year deal worth $20 million and has been the front office’s solution to replacing Harvey’s loss in the rotation. While we all keep our fingers crossed and hope for improved command from Zack Wheeler and the mid-season debut of the promising Noah Syndergaard, the Mets need to hit big it with Colon – Alderson’s highest paid pitcher in four years. They’ll also need to see Dillon Gee and Jon Niese look like the pitchers we saw in the second half of last season.

2. Travis d’Arnaud must step up

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fill of articles and features on framing pitches, and I’m looking forward to articles on D’Arnaud mashing pitches. TDA didn’t get his billing at top catching prospect for getting one or two extra strike call per nine innings. The rookie catcher played 31 games in the close of last season, but often showed how pressure can get to him. Yet despite his poor form that saw him finish 2013 batting .202, d’Arnaud has the capabilities to be a solid performer in the Mets roster and must prove himself in spring training. At 25-years old it’s time to show-off the offensive package we’ve been hearing about for the last four years.

3. Chris Young against RHP

I’m not worried about Curtis Granderson, we all know what he can do. But as long as Chris Young is being handed an everyday job after a season that saw him bat .200 with a .280 OBP – both lower than Juan Lagares – he’s the man under the microscope.  What scares me more about him – aside from Billy Beane casting him away and proclaiming him a platoon player – is his horrendous .225 career batting average against right handed pitching in 2,825 plate appearances. Is that sample size big enough for you? He has declined every year since 2010 except for his strikeout rate, that continues to climb. He’s pushing a promising prospect to the bench, he better pay us back in spades.

Feb 20

Wrapping The Day: Harvey Cleared; Parnell Takes It Slow

Unquestionably, the most important item coming out of the New York Mets’ spring training camp in Port St. Lucie was the news recovering pitcher Matt Harvey was cleared to throw.

“[Dr. David Altchek] said everything was fine and basically that I can start throwing,’’ Harvey told reporters today. “So I don’t know exactly which date that is, but in the next couple of days. That was obviously good news for me.’’

Harvey acknowledged he can’t afford to rush his rehab, and spoke specifically with Altchek about that issue.

In addition:

* Closer Bobby Parnell is taking it slowly in his rehab (Harvey, please take note). Parnell was supposed to throw off the mound today, but pushed it back until tomorrow.

* Manager Terry Collins said reliever Jeurys Familia has the stuff to be a closer. However, does he have the command and mental make-up?

* ESPN reported the Mets are monitoring the Seattle Mariners about shortstop Nick Franklin. Mets’ back-up shortstop Omar Quintanilla reported to camp.

* Position players will have their physicals Friday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Saturday.

Feb 20

Mets’ Matt Harvey Cleared To Throw

Filed under the category of good news for the New York Mets: Matt Harvey is cleared to throw. It’s important to know this does not accelerate his timetable and should not be construed to mean he will pitch this season.

HARVEY: Green light.

HARVEY: Green light.

Harvey, who finally relented to Tommy John surgery after initially wanting to rest, is expected to miss this season but be ready for next spring training.

The way these things progress, it first starts with a game of catch on flat ground – like you did with your dad in the backyard – with the distance gradually increasing to build up arm strength.

Eventually, leads to throwing halfway up the mound for a few sessions until reaching the rubber. The initial times on the rubber will not be at full speed. It might not be until the end of spring training before Harvey reaches that objective.

You’ll hear often the most important days are not the ones he throw, but the day after to see how his elbow responds.

Harvey expressed a desire to be with the team during the regular season opposed to the staff in Florida. While this hasn’t been decided, he will spend some time in Port St. Lucie for extended spring training and possibly minor league games.

It’s a good idea for Harvey to rehab in New York because Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson and Dan Warthen can keep an on him, not just to see how he’s progressing physically, but to be able to put the brakes on him mentally and emotionally.

Twice already in his young career – that we know of – Harvey pressed the issue when it came to dealing with pain.

First, he pitched through a tweak in his back and subsequently missed a start. Next, he tried to pitch through discomfort in his forearm that led to his elbow injury and eventual surgery.

If Harvey resists the urge to push things, he should be all right.

Feb 19

Wrapping Up The Day: Front Office Silent On Alderson; Market Still Open For Ike Davis

Neither Fred Wilpon nor Sandy Alderson was in a talking mood when the topic of the general manager’s future was raised today in Port St. Lucie.

Wilpon wouldn’t say if he would address the media during spring training while Alderson simply said he has another year on his contract and no control over his future.

According to a published report, Alderson is interested in staying on another two or three years.

Elsewhere in camp:

* The trade market for Ike Davis remains open with both Pittsburgh and Baltimore monitoring Mets’ camp.

* Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 50 pitches in a bullpen session and said he is anxious to face hitters.

* Matt Harvey prefers to rehab in New York with the team during the season and not in Port St. Lucie. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Mets can’t force him to stay in Florida.

* Assistant general manager Paul DePodesta forecasts a 155 innings limit for Noah Syndergaard.

* Position players are scheduled to report Thursday. Also on Thursday, Mets coaches will attend a meeting with officials of the Cardinals and Marlins on the rule of catchers not being allowed to block the plate.

 

Feb 18

Mets’ Zack Wheeler Likes Low Profile

One of the highlights for the New York Mets last season was a double-header sweep of Atlanta anchored by future aces Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.

If you weren’t reading about Harvey last summer you were reading about Wheeler. This spring most of the ink is going to Noah Syndergaard, whom the Mets expect will be in the major leagues in June.

WHEELER: That night in Atlanta.

WHEELER: That night in Atlanta.

“That’s fine with me,’’ Wheeler told reporters Tuesday in Port St. Lucie when asked about the spotlight being on Syndergaard. “I don’t have to have all the attention.’’

Actually, in Wheeler’s perfect world, he would rather have little, if any. Wheeler is extremely quiet and shy, and if given the choice, he’d rather not talk if he didn’t have to.

Wheeler was 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA last season in 17 starts. Manager Terry Collins doesn’t presently see an innings limit on Wheeler, and believes his composure and natural stuff will enable him to progress.

Collins said at the Winter Meetings Harvey showed he could make adjustments on the run and thinks Wheeler has that same capability.

Wheeler was matter-of-fact when asked today what he needs to do to improve: “Just being more consistent, throwing more strikes and stuff.’’

Ask any veteran pitcher and he’d say the same thing. That’s one of the things the Mets like about Wheeler.