Apr 16

Harvey Continuing To Be Bright Spot

One of the Mets’ biggest concerns coming out of spring training is turning into one of the early season’s bright spots, which is Matt Harvey’s comeback from thoracic surgery.

HARVEY: Another positive step. (AP)

HARVEY: Another positive step. (AP)

Harvey took the loss in an emotional rollercoaster of a game today in Miami, losing 4-2 to the Marlins. The Mets’ third straight loss had them being no-hit going into the eighth inning, then rally in the ninth to tie but lose the game in the bottom of the inning.

Harvey was done by then, but his third straight strong start was extremely satisfying to the pitcher who some wondered would ever be special again.

“Being able to go against that lineup, and kind of controlling the damage for the most part, is definitely uplifting for me,” Harvey told reporters.

Harvey gave up two runs – one unearned – on seven hits with five strikeouts in six innings. He wasn’t close to dominant, but worked out of trouble several times and cranked up his fastball to 97 mph.

Early in spring training he was in the low 90s, but vowed his velocity would return. It’s not important that he throw 97 on every pitch, but reach it when he needs it to get out of trouble.

“Going back to spring training, I knew throwing in between starts that is was slowly creeping back,” said Harvey, whose ERA is down to 2.45. “Being able to paint the outside corner and kind of control both sides of the plate was big. When I needed to ramp up and throw a little bit harder, I was able to do that. It’s definitely a good positive.”

Harvey still has a way to go, but for now, he’s looking good.

Apr 15

DeGrom Start Wasted; Let Second Guessing Begin

Sooner or later you had to wonder when the Mets’ overworked bullpen would betray them.

It happened tonight.

Fernando Salas, working for the eighth time in 12 games, surrendered eighth-inning, back-to-back homers to Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, to power the Marlins over the Mets, 5-4, and trash another superb start from Jacob deGrom.

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

Not only has Salas been overused, it must be remembered he arrived in spring training late because of a visa issue.

Salas retired his first two batters and then walked Miguel Rojas. When a reliever walks a hitter on four straight pitches, he needs to be pulled.

Yelich is already a slugging star, and the Mets had lefties Jerry Blevins and Sean Gilmartin manager Terry Collins could have gone to in that situation. Considering how much Salas has worked lately, why did Collins keep him in the game?

“I didn’t want to go with Blevins because he has pitched in five of the last six games,” Collins testily barked to reporters.

However, Gilmartin, who was brought up after the 16-inning game Thursday for the sole purpose of pitching late in a game, was fresh.

Salas fell behind 3-and-1 before grooving a pitch Yelich couldn’t help but crush. Over-managing and stubborn to the end, Collins let Salas face Stanton.

You knew that wasn’t going to end well.

Collins said he wanted Salas to face Stanton, but what does that say about his confidence in Addison Reed and Hansel Robles?

The second-guessing of Collins began before Salas entered the game. DeGrom got off to a rocky start, giving up back-to-back homers in the second to Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna, then regrouped to retire the next 11 hitters. The Mets really needed deGrom’s effort considering how their bullpen has been taxed recently, including throwing 11.1 scoreless innings Thursday.

DeGrom gave up two runs on four hits and one walk and tied his career-high with 13 strikeouts in seven innings. He was on cruise control and had only thrown 97 pitches. He struck out his last four hitters.

“He was pitching great,” Collins said. “It’s easy to second-guess. We made a commitment to protect these guys. … If I let him stay in and he got hit you’d be asking me, `Why did I let him pitch?’ ”

That’s fair, but it comes with the territory with managing in the major leagues. DeGrom could have, but did not, throw his manager under the bus.

“Honestly, I didn’t know how many pitches I had,” deGrom said. “I thought I was out after that inning anyway.”

As far as stretching out his start, deGrom said: “The goal is to stay healthy. Salas had been doing a good job. I felt comfortable handing the ball over to the next guy.”

One of the beautiful aspects of baseball is it being ripe to second guess and discuss and debate strategy. Few basketball fans will second guess Gregg Popovich, but what baseball fan doesn’t feel comfortable scratching his head about the manager he follows?

CONFORTO DELIVERS: One of the hardest things in baseball to do is to pinch-hit, and it is even harder when all eyes are on you and you’re expected to produce in order to stay. Well, that’s exactly the case with the Mets’ Michael Conforto, who drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.

Sure, Conforto wants to start, what young player doesn’t? But, when things haven’t gone his way, he’s stayed quiet and gone about his business. Overall, he’s hitting .400 with two homers and six RBI, including 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI as a pinch-hitter.

Neil Walker lead off the seventh with a bunt single to third against Marlins starter Adam Conley, and scored on a triple by Curtis Granderson, who scored on Conforto’s deep fly to center.

Asdrubal Cabrera homered with one out in the eighth against reliever Junichi Tazawa. It marked the 11th straight game in which they homered and gave them a major league-high 22.

LOVE THOSE BUNTS: The other night it was Jay Bruce laying one down towards third against the shift. Tonight it was Walker leading off the seventh with a bunt single. Last year Collins made a big deal out of calling his team a “home run hitting team,” and that they aren’t built to manufacture runs. This year, they lead the majors with 22 homers but have shown the ability to scratch out runs.

Walker also doubled in the Mets’ first run in the first.

EXTRA INNINGS: Lefty-hitters Bruce, Lucas Duda and Conforto did not start against Conley. … All players wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. Granderson wore special spikes for the occasion that he will auction and donate to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. … Wilmer Flores made a run-saving grab of a hard hit ball down the first base line by Stanton.

HARVEY STARTS SUNDAY: Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.92) goes Sunday for the Mets against RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 7.56). Harvey is 12-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 17 career starts in April, easily his best numbers in any month.

 

Apr 12

Wheeler, Conforto Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

Sometime next season or the year after, Zack Wheeler and Michael Conforto will combine to lift the Mets. They did for awhile Wednesday night in Philadelphia until Hansel Robles sprayed graffiti on their near masterpiece.

i-5Wheeler, backed in large part by Conforto’s homer and Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run single, cruised into the sixth with a five-run lead. It looked as if manager Terry Collins would let him pitch out of trouble, but pulled him with two outs and the bases loaded in favor of Robles.

Collins feared the Phillies would break through and spoil Wheeler’s night and he’d suffer an emotional setback. Instead, Maikel Franco turned around Robles’ first pitch for a monster grand slam that changed the complexion of the game, but the Mets held on to win 5-4 to complete the sweep.

In winning his first game since coming off Tommy John surgery in 2014, Wheeler gave up three runs on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw the target 85 pitches, but the key was working ahead in the count with his secondary pitches. Miami hurt Wheeler in his first start – of a cold damp day – when he fell behind in the count and waited on his fastball.

Wheeler coasted into the sixth but the Phillies worked him hard to load the bases.

“I was very happy with the way he pitched tonight,” Collins told reporters of Wheeler’s start. “He threw the ball as well as he could but he ran out of gas all of a sudden.”

Pitchers usually won’t admit to getting tired, but Wheeler was stand-up. He knows the score.

“I was a little tired at the end,” Wheeler said. “It’s all about building myself up. …I had better command. That’s what I needed from my first start. It felt good to bounce back after that rough outing. I was nice to go out there and do well.  It’s a weight off my shoulders.”

Conversely, it hasn’t appeared the Mets were all that interested in building up Conforto’s at-bats. They had a huge lead, but Conforto sat until the end. Conforto was a surprise start over Curtis Granderson and responded with two hits and a walk and scored three runs.

One of those hits was an opposite-field homer to give the Mets an early 2-0 lead.

Conventional wisdom has Conforto going to the minors when Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list. He needs at-bats, but Collins would not commit to starting him Thursday in Miami.

Conforto hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time but responded with what little he has.

“I’m getting good pitches to hit and getting deep into the count,” said Conforto, who continues to refuse to get drawn into the debate on his immediate future.

Another positive note to the day was the report Matt Harvey, who strained his left hamstring Tuesday night, would be able to make his next start Sunday in Miami.

While Wheeler and Conforto were the headliners, Robles served as a reminder of one of the Mets’ biggest weaknesses, which is the bridge to the back end of the bullpen.

Apr 06

Game Wrap: Harvey, D’Arnaud Carry Mets Past Braves

GAME:  #3

SCORE: @Mets 6, Braves 2

RECORD: 2-1    RISP: 2-for-7, four LOB

HOMERS: 1 Wilmer Flores (1).

HARVEY: Big step. (AP)

HARVEY: Big step. (AP)

ANALYSIS

Perhaps the two Mets carrying the weight of the heaviest expectations for this season – Matt Harvey and Travis d’Arnaud – came up big in Thursday night’s victory over the Braves.

Harvey, whose velocity was an issue during spring training, gave up a pair of homers to Matt Kemp, but was generally superb, giving up three hits overall in 6.2 innings. Harvey’s fastball clocked between 94-97 mph., but also important was his ability to command his secondary pitches.

“Obviously, it has been a long time since I’ve gone into the seventh inning,” Harvey told reporters. “For me, the big thing for me was to pound the zone and go as deep into the game as I could.”

As for d’Arnaud, his inability to stay healthy, hit and throw out potential base-stealers has caused many to speculate as to his future with the Mets. It’s just one game, but d’Arnaud’s two-run double in the fifth put the Mets ahead to stay.

ON THE MOUND: Fernando Salas – who was working for the third straight game – struck out Dansby Swanson with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning. … It wasn’t a save situation, but Addison Reed worked a 1-2-3 ninth.

AT THE PLATE: Flores, batting cleanup, hit a two-run homer. … Jose Reyes had his first hit of the season. … Jay Bruce scored a run and walked. He’s drawn four walks in the first three games and leads the Mets in hitting with a .333 average.

IN THE FIELD: Flores played first base. … I would still like to see Michael Conforto get a start in the outfield.

EXTRA INNINGS: In a testament to screwy scheduling, the Braves are back at Citi Field again at the end of the month.

ON DECK: The Mets continue their homestand Friday against Miami with Zack Wheeler getting his first start in nearly two years.

 

Apr 05

Mets Made Right Call On Colon

The easy thing is to rip the Mets for their decision to break ties with Bartolo Colon. However, in evaluating that move the proper thing is to examine it in the context at the time it was made.

It was only a few weeks ago the Mets relished their pitching depth of having seven potential starters to fill five spots. That’s the same scenario they faced in mid-November when Colon – tonight’s starter against Jacob deGrom at Citi Field – bolted the Mets for Atlanta.

COLON: Returns tonight. (FOX Sports)

COLON: Returns tonight. (FOX Sports)

However, much has changed since then. Steven Matz (strained flexor tendon) and Seth Lugo (partial tear of ulnar collateral ligament) are on the disabled list with little chance of seeing either before June.

Also, Matt Harvey had a so-so spring (poor start/strong finish), as did Zack Wheeler. Matz, deGrom, Harvey and Wheeler are all coming off surgery, but the Mets were optimistic of healthy returns by all.

Colon would have been a terrific safety net after leading the Mets in starts (33), victories (15) and innings pitched (191.2) last season. Colon won 44 games, started 95 and compiled 588.2 innings in his three years with the Mets.

However, the Mets backed off when they considered Colon’s 43 years and the $12.5 million contract offered by the Braves. As durable as Colon had been the Mets had to be wary of the thought of how long would it last, and, of course, there was no way they would have come close to the money, or even equal the $7.25 million the Mets paid him last year.

So, cheer him tonight for what he gave the Mets, and go ahead, hope for him to go deep. But, don’t lament his departure. The Mets made the right call.