Jun 28

Matt Harvey Starts Important Series For Mets

The New York Mets return home from a 7-4 road trip to face the Washington Nationals in a three-game series, with Matt Harvey going against left-hander Ross Detwiler.

The Mets are 5.5 games behind the Nationals in the standings, and four behind in the loss column. Yes, it sounds odd, perhaps premature to think, but a sweep could change the complexion of the NL East standings and maybe the Mets’ season.

HARVEY: Animated, as usual.

HARVEY: Animated, as usual.

A strong close to the first half could get them inside ten games below .500, which could bring some fun to Citi Field after the All-Star break. Too early to say playing meaningful baseball in September, but better than we thought a month ago.

Harvey, at 7-1, is an integral part of what the Mets are trying to do, and from his personal objective, a win tonight could go toward his being named a starter in the July 16 All-Star Game.

Harvey leads the NL with 112 strikeouts and MLB with opponent’s batting average (.188) and WHIP (0.88). If not for a lack of run support that has him with eight no-decisions, he might already have double-digit victories and his position as All-Star starter would be secure.

With Harvey going Friday and Zack Wheeler on Sunday, it could be and early version of the “Futures Game,’’ this weekend.

Incidentally, Wheeler is working with pitching coach Dan Warthen on not tipping his pitches. Just wondering why the Mets in his debut or at Triple-A Las Vegas didn’t pick this up earlier.

METS MATTERS: Doc Gooden will be at Citi Field tonight for a book signing. … Ruben Tejada begins a rehab assignment this weekend. Terry Collins said Tejada isn’t assured his job when he returns, claiming he has to beat out Omar Quintanilla, who has done nothing to warrant losing the starting position.

Here’s tonight’s Mets’ batting order:

Eric Young, LF: Hitting .556 (5-for-9) with RISP since joining the Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hitting .276 (16-for-58) with RISP.

David Wright, 3B: Hit .326 (14-for-43) on the trip.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has six homers in June, a career-high for him in any month.

Josh Satin, 1B: Hitting .273 while playing good defense. Is he a keeper?

John Buck, C: Is on a 2-for-24 slide.

Juan Lagares, CF: Looks as if center field job is his to lose. With his speed, I wouldn’t mind seeing him getting a chance at hitting second and dropping Murphy into a RBI position.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Takes a 0-for-13 slide into game.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Has reached the sixth inning or longer in 14 of 16 starts.

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

Jun 26

Are Mets’ Forcing Wheeler’s Development?

Here’s what the New York Mets can make of Zack Wheeler: He still has a lot of work to do. Wheeler tripped Tuesday night, but I’m inclined to agree with Ron Darling in that it was the Mets who stuck their foot out.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

Darling, who has forgotten more pitching than most of us will ever know, said the Mets might have done Wheeler a disservice by having him go away from his fastball, which can be overpowering, and throw more of his slider.

Wheeler hasn’t refined his secondary pitches and pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters last night the Mets’ prized rookie was tipping his pitches by having a different arm angle for his breaking balls.

Wheeler said he was “bad,’’ after he gave up four runs on four hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. Surprisingly, Wheeler struck out one, but you’d think with a 95-mph. plus-fastball he would have had more. He would have had he mixed in more fastballs among his 109 pitches.

Wheeler is clearly not as far along and polished as Matt Harvey was last year at this time. He is more advanced with his fastball than his breaking balls, and that’s the pitch he should have used more often, if for no other reason it was an interleague game.

Seriously, when will Wheeler see the White Sox again? Just throw the fastball until they prove they can hit it.

Throwing unrefined breaking balls is even more risky when behind in the count, and of the 24 batters he faced, he threw only 11 first-pitch strikes.

Wheeler said he was bad. He might over stated things a bit, because the Mets have shown us a lot worse this year. Speaking of which, today is Shaun Marcum Day.

It wasn’t as if the White Sox knocked him around the park, but they were usually ahead in the count and generally had comfortable at-bats.

Unless Wheeler goes into a dive, the plan is for him to be here, and learn on the fly. That’s not the best way as the Mets have rushed him. By Wheeler’s own admission he wasn’t ready, but he’s not going to say, “no, I’ll stay in Vegas.’’ After all, there are only so many $3.99 all-you-can-eat buffets one you can enjoy.

So, as long as he’s here let him throw his fastball, then mix in a curve and go with the slider as his third pitch.

By all accounts, Wheeler is ahead of Mike Pelfrey when he first came up, and that includes his secondary pitches. Pelfrey became ineffective because he didn’t have command of his secondary pitches and hitters sat on his fastball.

Ideally, the Mets should turn Wheeler loose with his fastball and work in the other pitches gradually. Let him throw the pitch he has the most confidence in and go from there.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them.

 Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 25

Mets Matters: Wheeler Makes Second Start; Time To Rest Wright

Zack Wheeler has been in our consciousness for over a year, but has one start in our memories. He gets his second tonight for the New York Mets in Chicago against the White Sox.

Wheeler threw six, tense scoreless innings in his debut at Atlanta. However, four hits and five walks means he was in trouble most of the night. He needed those seven strikeouts.

WHEELER: Goes tonight vs. White Sox.

WHEELER: Goes tonight vs. White Sox.

Control was the concern at Triple-A Las Vegas and it is the issue tonight. It was impressive how Wheeler escaped trouble, but it is just as important to avoid it in the first place.

Wheeler outpitched his wildness with velocity, but it isn’t always going to work that way for him. Every game is a test, and tonight the Mets want to see Wheeler work the corners more and avoid the walks.

In making the inevitable comparisons to Matt Harvey, notice Harvey has shown exceptional control. That’s Wheeler’s next step.

METS DID RIGHT BY IKE: Ike Davis was named Player of the Week in the Pacific Coast League for hitting four homers in two games.

The Mets did the right thing in bringing up Zach Lutz instead of Davis when Lucas Duda was placed on the disabled list.

ESPN reports Davis might be brought back Thursday when the Mets are in Colorado. Davis has torn it up at Coors Field, but it would be a mistake to promote him in hope he’d catch lightning in a bottle.

Davis has posted good numbers in Las Vegas, but, remember the Mets telling us to disregard Wheeler’s PCL numbers because the ball flies out there? Well, shouldn’t the same apply in looking at Davis’ stats?

It was to be much more than just a mechanical adjustment with Davis; it was to be an overhaul of his hitting approach. He’s still striking out a lot, indicating there’s a lot more work to do.

TIME TO REST WRIGHT: Terry Collins said David Wright is due for a day off. Knowing Wright, he’ll resist, but if the Mets are to sit him for a game, tonight should be the night.

After a day off Monday, by sitting tonight he’ll have two straight days off. Thursday would have been an off day, but the Mets will lose it because or the make-up game in Denver. After that, the Mets won’t have another day off until July 11, which is in a road trip between San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

After the Pirates series is the All-Star break, but Wright figures to be busy then, too.

Jun 24

Mets’ Matt Harvey Should Start All-Star Game

The starting role for the All-Star Game is Matt Harvey’s for the taking. With three more starts for the New York Mets, including an audition for San Francisco and National League manager Bruce Bochy, should Harvey run the table and go into the break at 10-1 with an ERA close to 2.00, it is totally realistic.

Unless Harvey tanks, he should get the ball.

HARVEY: Should get All-Star nod, (AP)

HARVEY: Should get All-Star nod, (AP)

“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Harvey told reporters Sunday in Philadelphia. “ … Hopefully, the performance will take care of itself.’’

Meanwhile, speaking on SiriusXM, Bochy said with all things being equal, letting Harvey start in his home city could be the deal breaker. Based on record, Harvey trails Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman (10-3), St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright (10-4), Arizona’s Patrick Corbin (9-0) and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee (9-2), especially should they continue to win their remaining starts.

However, if any of them pitch on Sunday preceding the July 16 All-Star Game, they would not be able to pitch in the game. Of course, the same applies to Harvey, but Mets manager Terry Collins won’t let that happen.

Because of how well Harvey has performed, it would not be a token gesture by Bochy, but a decision based on merit. Bochy, one of the best managers in the game, understands the rarity of starting the All-Star Game in one’s home park, and would not deny Harvey the privilege if the numbers were equal.

And, from a strategic point of view, why would Bochy do anything to alienate Harvey or the Mets? Why make an enemy?

It wouldn’t make sense.

Prior to Sunday’s victory over the Phillies – Harvey only worked six innings because of rain – I wrote how other pitchers were having better statistical seasons and stand by that feeling. However, that doesn’t mean Harvey isn’t having his own special year, even if he isn’t the “best pitcher on the planet.’’

Harvey’s window is less than a full year with 26 career starts, but he’s demonstrated he definitely is a cornerstone pitcher, an ace to build around. He puts the odds in the Mets’ favor every five days, something that can’t be underestimated.

While he has his share of special numbers, what I like best about Harvey is his 24-hour rule, which is win or lose, he won’t dwell on a game for longer than a day. It demonstrates focus and his head is in the right place.

However, physically the right place for Harvey on July 16 will be on Citi Field’s mound.

It feels right.

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

Jun 21

Jonathan Niese Must Go On DL

Whatever the outcome of Jonathon Niese’s shoulder exam this morning in New York, the New York Mets must place him on the disabled list. Not should, but must.

That reliever Greg Burke is on his way to Philadelphia this morning indicates they are thinking in those terms. Replacing him in the rotation isn’t an issue with the arrival of Zack Wheeler, so there’s no need to make a decision on Shaun Marcum for at least another two weeks.

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

Nice and neat, isn’t it?

While the Mets’ roster maneuvering will take care of itself, they would prefer the juggling if it meant having a healthy Niese. If this were an isolated incident it might raise a red flag. That this is Niese’s third problem this season is alarming.

Niese left Thursday night’s game during the fourth inning in Atlanta with pain in his left shoulder. Unlike Matt Harvey, who tried to pitch through back discomfort several weeks ago – he gets a pass because he’s in his first full season – Niese realized something was wrong after a few pitches and called to the dugout.

There was no hesitation with Terry Collins in pulling him. There wasn’t even that “let’s throw a few warm-up tosses and see what’s going on’’ nonsense that has burned the Mets before.

Niese was gone.

“It’s never good when you have to leave a game. But on a good note, the doctor did some tests and everything was negative,’’ Niese said of a training room exam Thursday night. “It just felt really weak. I think the tendinitis kind of flared up again. I felt some pain that [Tyler] Pastornicky at-bat.

“I threw a fastball and noticed my velocity was down. There was a lot of discomfort. I tried to pitch through it, but every pitch after that I felt some pain, so I just had to stop.’’

Of course, Niese should not have tried to throw those few extra pitches, but a player will always attempt to work through it because differentiating between normal game pain and injury is difficult. However, Niese had already missed a start because of his shoulder.

Niese said he felt good after missing that one start and gave the obligatory “we’ll see what the doctor says.’’

Not this time. This has gone on long enough.

Niese is young, he’s left-handed, he throws hard – at least he did before this – and under a manageable contract through the 2016 season. Not only that, Niese is good. He’s a foundation piece; part of the Mets’ core.

He must be protected.

ON DECK: Updating Ike Davis.

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