Feb 16

Five Mets On The Hot Seat

We’re still a long way from Jonathon Niese’s first pitch of the 2014 season against Washington, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t already some New York Mets on the hot seat, broiling under the glare of expectations.

Every spring in every camp there are several players on a short-patience rope and the Mets are no exception. In my mind, there are five facing a make-or-break season, beginning with Niese:

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

Jonathon Niese: Will it ever happen for him? He was signed to a multi-year extension because he was young, left-handed and could throw hard. However, he’s never won more than 13 games in a season and has sustained a myriad of injuries, including shoulder problems last season. At 29, there’s still time, but could one of the young prospects prompt the Mets to shop him?

Ike Davis: No Mets “question list,’’ doesn’t have his name. It is last-chance time for the former hot prospect. After 32 homers in 2012, that’s the plateau the club is seeking. The Mets would take less, say 25, if his RBI production and on-base percentage were high and his strikeouts substantially cut. He either hits this year or he’s gone.

Ruben Tejada: The Mets toyed with signing Stephen Drew, but were sold on the potential of the younger and cheaper Tejada after his commitment at a Michigan fitness camp. The Mets are pointing to 2015 and Matt Harvey’s return to when they can realistically contend, and they won’t be able to do that with a hole at shortstop.

Curtis Granderson: Signed a four-year deal for big money in the hope of providing power in the outfield. I have two words: Jason Bay. Fans are smart enough to realize he won’t hit for the power he did at Yankee Stadium, but they won’t accept Bay-like numbers. Granderson represents the Mets’ promise  to improve and needs to live up to those expectations.

Chris Young: He’s probably gone after this season, but he’ll start the year with a bulls-eye on his back. With his recent numbers it is incomprehensible for him to get a $7.25 million contract. He must produce for his own peace of mind in shutting up the boos.

Feb 15

Bartolo Colon Arrives In Camp

Bartolo Colon signed with the New York Mets for the same reason most free agents go to a new team – they offered the most. At 40, Colon didn’t have many teams banging on his door. Nobody was offering $20 million over two years like the Mets.

COLON: Hired gun.

COLON: Hired gun.

“Other teams had one-year offers,’’ Colon told reporters Saturday in Port St. Lucie. “The second year really sealed the deal for me with the Mets.’’

Colon said he left it to his agent to find him a team that would be the best fit, but the fit was in the number of years and dollar amount. Yes, Colon is a mercenary, but that’s the nature of the sport.

The Mets could have had younger, more durable and potentially more productive pitchers, but they didn’t want to spend the money. This was the ultimate business relationship.

Colon, once nabbed for PED use, was 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA last year over 30 starts with Oakland, numbers he said even surprised himself. The Mets are gambling Colon has at least one more year in him to fill the void left by Matt Harvey’s injury.

The Mets don’t expect Colon to lose it overnight. As far as the second year, that’s for insurance for 2015 if the Mets’ young pitching is slow in developing.

The 265-pound Colon said he’s always pitched heavy and plans to pitch, “until my body can’t take it any more.’’

ON DECK: Wrapping up the week.

Feb 09

Mets Can’t Afford To Let Matt Harvey Rush Rehab

As spring training rapidly approaches, perhaps the New York Mets’ most interesting bid of news this week, was Matt Harvey’s statements he expects to start throwing Feb. 22, a week after pitchers and catchers report.

“They said I should be able to start throwing four months after the surgery, and that’s Feb. 22,’’ Harvey said. “|And I haven’t had any setbacks. I can’t wait. Even if it’s 10 feet, I just want to pick up a ball. As if right now, I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to do that.’’

HARVEY: Needs to not push it

HARVEY: Needs to not push it

The worry about Harvey is he’ll push the envelope. The accepted recovery time for rehab from Tommy John surgery is 12 months, which Harvey said he wants to beat.

Nonetheless, he vows not to push it.

“I completely agree that I shouldn’t come back too soon,’’ Harvey said. “I haven’t touched a baseball yet, so I don’t know how things are going to go once that happens. But if things are still progressing and it shows I’m ready to go and I get cleared, I want to be able to play.’’

There’s the rub.

The dilemma is hypothetical: What will the Mets do if they find themselves in wild-card contention in September? Will they keep him down or let him loose?

Already in his young career Harvey has tried to pitch through, and/or ignore pain. He didn’t say anything after tweaking his back and missed a start. Later, he said nothing about soreness in his forearm, which eventually led to the surgery.

Pitchers must learn to differentiate between pain and injury. Nonetheless, he must be more forthcoming in reporting pain and discomfort to the training staff. He’s not informed or trained enough to make his own diagnosis.

A pitcher’s arm is a fragile and precious thing. Harvey has a bright future and the last thing he needs to do is jeopardize it by being reckless with his health, which can be concluded by his comments about wanting to be able to pitch in September.

Regardless of where the Mets are in the standings or how well they are playing in September, Harvey should not be allowed to pitch this year. There should be no discussion or consideration about it.

The Mets have a reputation of playing fast and loose with injuries – see David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church and Johan Santana, among others – and with their future seemingly on the upswing, don’t blow it now.

Everybody needs to be smart about this, even if it comes down to protecting Harvey from himself.

 

Jan 26

Not Worth Risk To Push Matt Harvey’s Return

According to several published reports, Matt Harvey said he’s aiming to return at the end of the season, which would be a foolish decision by the New York Mets.

One might argue an advantage to having Harvey pitch in 2014 is it gives the Mets an opportunity to see where he stands in his recovery, but it’s a stretch because there’s no doubt he’s in their 2015 plans.

HARVEY: Don't rush him.

HARVEY: Don’t rush him.

Harvey is a given for 2015, but if there’s any doubt, that’s why Bartolo Colon received a two-year deal. Colon’s presence, coupled with the anticipated development of Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard, gives the Mets flexibility in when to bring back their ace.

The normal recovery time from Tommy John surgery is a year. If the Mets really wanted Harvey back for 2015, they should have scheduled surgery immediately after the injury, but instead they messed around with the idea of Harvey resting in the hope in coming back for spring training and pitching this year.

That was a pipe dream and most people knew it, but the Mets opted to placate Harvey’s whims, which could have been disastrous had he been ready for the season but re-injured his elbow.

“When you see stories of guys coming back in 10 months, I’m going to think, ‘Hey, I can come back in nine,’ ’’ Harvey told reporters recently at an event in Boston. “Unfortunately, I don’t make those decisions. I can’t throw the uniform on and go back on the mound without the permission of higher-ups.

“That’s my personality –  I always want to be out there. Like I’ve said all along, I’m not a doctor, so I don’t have those answers. But of course I want to get back on the mound.’’

As much as Harvey wants to pitch this season, he said he doesn’t regret changing his mind about having surgery.

Early in his young career, Harvey has already established a reputation for pushing the envelope when it comes to his health. He said nothing after tweaking his back and ended up missing a start. He was again quiet when he developed tightness in his forearm, which led to the elbow injury and then surgery..

Then, there was his insistence in not having surgery and taking the resting route in an effort to be ready for spring training. GM Sandy Alderson said he wasn’t going to push Harvey toward the knife, but later acknowledged a sense of relief when he relented to surgery.

There will come a time this summer after a string of minor league starts when Harvey will be asked how he feels. He’ll undoubtedly say he feels good and there will be a buzz about bringing him back for a handful of starts.

The buzz would grow exceptionally loud if the Mets were over .500 and/or close to a wild card slot. In short: the better the Mets, the louder the buzz.

The Mets would be wise to ignore the buzz, as nothing can be gained by rushing back Harvey. The odds would be long – even if Harvey were to pitch in September– of getting into the playoffs. They are even longer without him, and to rush his return is foolish.

The Mets have waited a long time to return to the playoffs, but a little longer won’t kill them. Pushing the envelope on Harvey and having him getting hurt again would be devastating.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 22

What Can Mets Expect From Zack Wheeler?

What exactly should the New York Mets realistically expect from Zack Wheeler this summer?

He was 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts last year, and to double the victories would be a good progression especially if his starts were doubled to 34. What is unfair would be to think he’s have a Matt Harvey type season, one in which he captured the imagination of the city and made the All-Star team.

WHEELER: What can we expect?

WHEELER: What can we expect?

I’m not in agreement with those who debunk the traditional pitching statistics of victories and ERA, which have been fair measuring sticks for over 100 years. Just because something has been a staple for a century-plus does not make it outdated or obsolete.

Victories mean games won, and isn’t that the objective of the sport – to win games? I realize the game has changed and pitchers don’t throw complete games anymore, but even with limited innings, getting a “W’’ means you kept your team in the game. How is that not important?

If Wheeler can increase his victories by one a month, that’s six over the course of the season, and 13 total for the year. I’d take that for starters.

An ERA measures runs allowed, which is vastly more important for a starter, because even a few runs over a short number of innings greatly inflates a reliever’s ERA.

If Wheeler duplicates last year’s ERA, especially with an increase over last season’s 100 innings it would be more than acceptable. Manager Terry Collins suggested during the Winter Meetings 200 innings for Wheeler isn’t out of the question, but an innings limit hasn’t been ruled out.

What Harvey accomplished last year prior to his injury was exceptional, but that was his achievement, not Wheeler’s. Wheeler is unique in his own right and to say he’ll be just as dominant is unfair.

For now, I just don’t want to see a regression, just some improvement to suggest he’s heading in the right direction.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos