Jul 03

A No-Hitter Watch Always On With Matt Harvey

ESPN’s Mark Simon wrote an interesting piece on what it would take for Matt Harvey to throw a no-hitter tonight for the New York Mets. I can narrow it down for you: Be on his game and be lucky.

Nobody can predict a no-hitter, but Simon is on the right track in that Harvey is one of those pitchers you can’t help but watch because of the possibility. If you want to turn away from a Harvey start – and why would you? – just wait until the first hit because you never know.

Harvey has already had three no-hit bids through six innings this season, and lost a fourth into the fifth inning.

You can’t help but think it will happen eventually, but then again there have been plenty of overpowering pitchers who never threw a no-hitter, and some non-descript arms that made history. It is such a fickle achievement, and to think Johnny Vander Meer did it in consecutive starts.

One thing to consider when Harvey starts is his pitch count. He regularly tops 100 because he’s a high-strikeout pitcher, and after Johan Santana’s 134-pitch no-hitter last year Terry Collins won’t let him get close to that number.

METS MUSINGS: While Harvey remains a workhorse, Shaun Marcum’s durability is again an issue. Marcum opened the season on the disabled list and his start Saturday in Milwaukee is in doubt because of pain and/or stiffness in his upper back. Marcum underwent a MRI Tuesday. Carlos Torres could get the ball if the 1-9 Marcum can’t go. … Jon Niese will be re-examined this week and it could be determined then if he will need season-ending surgery on his shoulder to repair a rotator cuff tear. … It has taken him until July, but Collins is finally hinting Anthony Recker might get more playing time now that John Buck is in a dreadful slump. … LaTroy Hawkins hasn’t given up an earned run in 13 appearances. … Ike Davis is hitting .268 with six homers for Triple-A Las Vegas. He was 0-for-5 Monday night. Collins said the reports he’s getting on Davis are encouraging in that his hitch isn’t as pronounced and he’s going more to the opposite field. However, Collins gave no timetable for his return. With Josh Satin doing so well and the All-Star break approaching, it might be a prudent idea to keep him in the minors until the second half. … Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are expected to start against each other in the Futures Game.

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Jul 03

Jeremy Hefner Among Group Of Mets Making 2014 Noises

The New York Mets had high expectations for Matt Harvey for this year. Jeremy Hefner was to fill out the rotation in Las Vegas, and be called up if something went wrong, like we knew it would, in Flushing.

Hefner’s break came with the expected breakdown of Johan Santana. He made the Opening Day roster, was hammered early, but eventually has become one of the Mets’ most effective pitchers with a 1.80 ERA in June. That was even better than Harvey.

HEFNER: Proving his value every fifth day. (AP)

HEFNER: Proving his value every fifth day. (AP)

A successful season for the Mets would be defined as .500, and the rest of the season should be about who will be around in 2014.

Hefner is one, as are five other players in last night’s lineup who weren’t on the Mets’ Opening Day roster: Eric Young, Josh Satin, Omar Quintanilla, Anthony Recker and Andrew Brown. There are others, too, including: Zack Wheeler, David Aardsma, Carlos Torres and Juan Lagares.

That’s eight players out of 25, roughly a third of their roster who were afterthoughts in April now on their radar. That’s a combination of making the wrong decisions coming out of spring training and having some organizational depth.

Perhaps all won’t be on the 2014 Opening Day roster, but it’s a starting point for next year, which is the essence of this summer.

A lack of run support has Hefner at 3-6, but his ERA of 3.54 is telling us a different story. With Jon Niese out, and Dillon Gee and Shaun Marcum hurting, Hefner is the No. 2 starter, one who’ll be sought out by contenders and someone the Mets would be foolish to deal.

In constructing next year’s rotation, factor in Wheeler and Hefner, and discard Marcum. Should Niese require rotator cuff surgery, which we could know this week, there will be a need to add.

After going through nine other players, the Mets seen to have found their leadoff hitter in Young, who can play the outfield and second base.

Lagares is being given every opportunity to win the center field job, which accounts for two of the outfield positions. Marlon Byrd, you figure, will either be traded or too expensive to re-sign in the off-season. If it’s the latter, that could turn into a mistake.

The Mets promised to add an outfielder, but assuming they don’t that leaves Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda competing for a spot.

Josh Satin is proving to be a viable option at first base assuming Ike Davis is either traded or leaves as a free agent. The Mets are using this month to ascertain Davis’ trade value. If they don’t deal him, there’s a good chance he won’t be tendered a contract and leaves as a free agent.

Terry Collins said Ruben Tejada must beat out Quintanilla to re-take the shortstop job. Assuming he doesn’t, Quintanilla has shown the Mets they won’t have to shop at that position.

I look at Brown as bench depth, and the same for the loser of the Quintanilla-Tejada competition.

The only other positions in question are catcher and the bullpen. The latter has recently been good, but overall is inconsistent. Torres should get a chance to compete for a job, but I don’t see LaTroy Hawkins coming back. He and Brandon Lyon can be swapped out. The same goes to Scott Rice if the Mets don’t burn him out.

Recker started last night and homered and singled, which should get him more playing time since the Mets have burned out John Buck. Travis d’Arnaud is now considered a September call-up, which might not be enough time to learn about him. So, somewhere Buck and Recker must be in the Mets’ 2014 plans somewhere.

Rarely does a season begin and end with the same roster, and the Mets are no exception. However, what they have now can morph into the foundation for next year’s roster.

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Jul 02

Mets Would Be Foolish To Deal Jeremy Hefner

Matt Harvey isn’t the only New York Mets pitcher not receiving any support from his hitters. The true measure of how well Jeremy Hefner has pitched this year isn’t found in his 2-6 record, but 3.72 ERA. Hefner has arguably been the Mets’ second most effective starter behind Harvey, which should mute any trade discussions.

HEFNER: Having understated season. (AP)

HEFNER: Having understated season. (AP)

Hefner, tonight’s starter against Arizona, was 1-1 in June with three no-decisions despite a 1.80 ERA. The Mets gave him all of nine runs for the month, including just one in his previous start, last Thursday in Denver.

Conversely, Hefner has given up 14 runs in his last four starts, with nine of them unearned, so he’s getting it on both ends. Hefner took a no-decision in the Colorado start, but didn’t go away discouraged.

“I knew that I could pitch this way,’’ Hefner said that day in Denver. “My performance is finally matching up to the expectation. This doesn’t surprise me. I know I’m capable of doing this. So it’s not a shock to me.’’

Hefner is one of the most quietly, unassuming players on the Mets, if not in all of baseball. He’s quick to assume responsibility and point the finger at himself rather than rip his teammates.

It was thought Hefner would be bounced from the rotation in the wake of Zack Wheeler’s promotion, but the Mets would be thrilled if the rookie matched Hefner’s performance.

It has also been speculated the Mets might attempt to deal Hefner at the trade deadline, but with Jon Niese injured, and he pitching better than Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee having some health issues, the Mets could regret losing him.

Here’s tonight’s lineup behind Hefner:

Eric Young, 2B: Daniel Murphy rests against LHP Patrick Corbin, so Young moves into the infield.

Juan Lagares, CF: Glad to see his speed was moved to the top of the order.

David Wright, 3B: Leads Giants Pablo Sandoval by almost 900,000 votes for All-Star start.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Nobody could have guessed 12 homers and 40 at the end of the season, let alone in the first week of July.

Josh Satin, 1B: Has consecutive three-hit games to take advantage of Ike Davis not being here.

Andrew Brown, LF: Drove in tying and winning runs last night in the 13th inning.

Anthony Recker, C: They can’t help but start him after John Buck caught 13 innings last night.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Had three hits last night and is making all the plays in the field. Has played better than Ruben Tejada at any time this year.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Has ten quality starts, second behind Matt Harvey’s 14.

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Jul 02

Resilient Mets Show Something; Josh Satin And Andrew Brown Star

No, Matt Harvey doesn’t get a partial credit for a win last night, but even so it was fun to watch the New York Mets turn aggravation to something to shout about.

They left 20 runners on base for the second time this season, but nonetheless came from behind twice to beat Arizona, 5-4 in 13 innings, before another sparse crowd at Citi Field.

BROWN: Coming through. (AP)

BROWN: Coming through. (AP)

`If you’re going to be out there that long you might as well win the game,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We were out of pitching, I can tell you that.’’

Actually, the Mets were out of everything, even using Anthony Recker as a pinch-hitter.

The Mets won largely from the contributions of three players – Josh Satin, Andrew Brown and Omar Quintanilla – and reliever David Aardsma, who weren’t on the Opening Day roster.

Factoring prominently was Satin, whom the Mets had to place on their 40-man roster to promote him when Ike Davis was finally sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Satin has been on a tear, batting .444 (12-for-27, including back-to-back three-hit games) in the last seven games.

Not to dump on Davis, but there’s no rush to bring him back with how Satin is playing.

“Josh deserves some at-bats,’’ Collins said of Satin’s increased playing time. “He’s getting some big hits. It doesn’t matter if they’re left-handed or right-handed. He’s getting big hits for us.

“I’ll tell you what: Every team has somebody that surprises you and saves you. And right now, he’s our savior `cause this guy has come up and filled a big hole for us.’’

Savior is a bit much, but he is playing well.

Down 3-0, the Mets scored single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, with Satin driving home Marlon Byrd to force extra innings.

Met killer Cody Ross homered to give Arizona a 4-3 lead, and you could imagine TV sets across the tri-state area turning off. After all, it was past midnight.

But with one out, Satin doubled to the opposite field – something we rarely see from Davis. Instead of trying to strike him out for a fourth time, the Diamondbacks intentionally walked John Buck. Enter Harvey, who bunted the runners to second and third. Quintanilla was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Brown singled to erase the sour taste of the weekend.

Quintanilla had three more hits and walked twice; Brown also delivered a sacrifice; and Aardsma pitched two innings for the win. It was the seventh time this year the Mets won in walk-off fashion.

“Walking a team off at the end – there’s no greater feeling,’’ said Satin, who unlike Harvey, is not dating a supermodel.

Even so, he had a point.

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Jun 30

Was Wheeler A Premature Promotion?


WHEELER: On an island (AP)

Can we stop pinning the greatness label on Zack Wheeler? If they hadn’t already, the New York Mets surely learned Sunday, Wheeler has a long way to go before he’s the next Matt Harvey, let alone the next Tom Seaver.

Nobody knows how Wheeler’s career will unfold, but there’s one camp believing he was rushed by the Mets. The arguments from that corner are carrying more weight after Wheeler was pounded by the Nationals in Sunday’s 13-2 rout.

Before Wheeler was brought up from Triple-A Vegas, there was the feeling of some scouts – and even a little from the phenom himself – he wasn’t ready. Contrary to the sentiments of his minor league manager, Wally Backman, Wheeler had problem with his command and secondary pitches.

Backman was wrong; Wheeler was not ready.

In his first two starts, Wheeler had problem with his command, and it surfaced in his second game he was tipping his breaking pitches. Tipping his pitches wasn’t no much the issue against the Nationals as it was simply making bad ones. The problem was again command.

“The first inning I was hitting my spots. Everything was working,’’ Wheeler told reporters after his first Citi Field start. “And then I just started leaving some balls up. I’m starting to learn the hard way you can’t get away with mistakes up here as much as you do down there.’’

Which only illustrates Backman was premature in his assessment.

Wheeler gave up four runs in the second, starting with a first-pitch homer leading off the inning by Adam LaRoche on a fastball. Jayson Werth took him deep in the third. Wheeler threw 80 pitches in 4.2 innings, a clear sign his command was nowhere to be found. He struck out five, which averaged to one an inning, but that was overshadowed by giving up five runs on six hits and two walks.

With eight runners in less than five innings, Wheeler was continually in trouble. This is not the way it is supposed to be with a phenom who has it all together.

The bottom line is Wheeler doesn’t have it all solved. By his own admission, he has a lot to learn, and he’s trying to do it all on the fly. Wheeler was rushed to the Mets, and each pitch is a test, one he is not passing.

The Mets were adamant once Wheeler was brought up that he would stay, and with injuries to Jon Niese and now possibly Dillon Gee, that’s the way it appears it is going to stay. Wheeler is now here out of necessity.

Even if the promotion might have been a mistake in the first place.

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