Mar 18

Demotion Just The Beginning For Syndergaard

So much for the speculation Jon Niese’s elbow issues would prompt the New York Mets to promote Noah Syndergaard and/or Rafael Montero to the major league roster for Opening Day.

We are aware of the financial reasoning by the Mets, who, despite a more aggressive off-season still are bound by economic handcuffs.

SYNDERGAARD: Just a start. (MLB.com)

SYNDERGAARD: Just a start. (MLB.com)

No worries, because either or both will be at Citi Field soon enough. This is technically a demotion, but in reality a watershed moment in his career.

That’s the hope of Syndergaard, who said all the right things to reporters this morning. All the right things, much like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler did in previous springs.

“I kind of knew it was coming,’’ Syndergaard said. “I think no matter how well I threw during spring training, if I struck out everybody, if I didn’t allow any runs whatsoever, I think I still was going to go over to the minor-league side regardless. There’s a business standpoint to it. And I know there’s other things I have to work on.’’

Syndergaard must refine his arsenal of pitches, including a change-up and consistency with his nasty curveball.

Also sent down were pitchers Montero, Cory Mazzoni, Ryan Reid, Joel Carreno, catcher Juan Centeno, and first basemen Brandon Allen and Matt Clark.

It was thought, as a long shot Syndergaard or Montero would be promoted in light of Niese’s elbow problems. Niese could get at least two more starts to prove his worthiness to make the Opening Day roster.

Syndergaard showed he can overpower hitters with his fastball and baffle them with the curveball manager Terry Collins calls a “hook from hell.’’ However, despite his composure, there’s the matter of learning how to set up hitters and slow the game down when he gets into trouble.

What Syndergaard most took from spring training is the knowledge he and his stuff are ready. It will only be a few months; a blip in what the Mets hope will be a long career.

“Just that my stuff can play out on the field. I mean, I can get big-league hitters out,’’ Syndergaard said of what he’ll pack in his duffle bag. “Just playing against guys I watched growing up, just being able to get them out as well.
“There’s a sense of relief just knowing that my repertoire of pitches, my demeanor on the mound, opens eyes up in the big leagues, opens eyes of the big-league hitters. It’s just a lot of confidence going into minor-league camp knowing that I had some pretty great success in big-league camp.’’

Syndergaard and Montero – who was considered for a relief role – will anchor a Triple-A Las Vegas rotation that includes Jacob deGrom, Logan Verrett, and possibly Jenrry Mejia.

The Mets don’t figure to promote Syndergaard until late June or July, delaying his arbitration eligibility by a year.

It’s a money move, plain and simple, but if Syndergaard is all that is advertised, he’ll be making plenty of money.

Mar 17

Little Time, Many Questions For Mets

Spring training is not just to get ready for the season, but for teams to sharpen their cliché skills. The New York Mets have used many this spring, but the prevalent one is: There’s plenty of time left.

Memo to Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins: No, there isn’t.

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

With Opening Day two weeks away, the Mets have many decisions left; way too many for a team that could win 90 games. I bet Alderson already regrets that thought.

Here’s what’s left to decide:

FIRST BASE: Ike Davis entered spring training as the frontrunner, but because of leg injuries, neither him nor Lucas Duda has played much.

Neither will get close to 70 at-bats, much less the 90-plus Collins hoped for Davis.

They could, but I don’t see them carrying both.

Speculation is Davis will open the season on the disabled list, with Duda playing. That’s presumably because Duda is further along.

They could run Josh Satin out there, but I believe they wasted this spring to learn more about Wilmer Flores.

Collins suggested using Flores at shortstop, but he’s barely played there. He has a promising bat, but scouts say he is better equipped for second base or the corner infield positions.

Flores won’t get third because of David Wright, and last I checked first base is a corner infield position. Why couldn’t they look at Flores there? Where’s the vision?

SHORTSTOP: Publicly, they support Ruben Tejada, but almost as visible have been their efforts to land Stephen Drew and trade for Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

Neither is imminent, and the Orioles and Rays also have interest in Franklin. If they really wanted him, they should have acted weeks ago.

Shortstop remains a black hole, but I see Tejada winning the job by default because the Mets are skittish about giving Drew the money and surrendering prospects for Franklin. Anticipate Tejada as the Opening Day shortstop, with much criticism to follow.

LEADOFF HITTER: Collins prefers Eric Young, which is the best choice. However, where does that leave Juan Lagares? That’s the rub.

If Young plays, the outfield would include him, Chris Young and Curtis Granderson.

This isn’t softball, so there is no extra outfielder. For the purposes of his development, Lagares should play fulltime, either up here or in the minor leagues.

If it is here, they are wasting Eric Young. They also have no idea if Lagares can hit at this level.

One possibility is to go with Matt den Dekker or Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the extra outfielder – both can play center – and give Lagares his at-bats in Triple-A Las Vegas.

PITCHING; Both the rotation and bullpen are seemingly set, but there’s the Jenrry Mejia question: Rotation or bullpen?

If they aren’t going to use Mejia in the rotation in the majors, they should use him as a starter in Las Vegas.

Mar 17

Game Recap: Cubs 6, Mets 3

MEJIA: Where to put him?

The Mets were defeated by the Chicago Cubs by the score of 6-3 on Sunday on Las Vegas to earn a split of their two game series.

Highlights:

Jenrry Mejia struggled in his second Grapefruit League start and allowed three runs (two earned) in 2.1 innings of work. The young right-hander allowed four hits, including a home run, and walked two while striking out one.

Rafael Montero relieved Mejia and tossed 2.2 innings, also allowing two earned runs on four hits including a home run. He walked one and struck out one.

Carlos Torres had another great outing, allowing a solo homerun in three innings of work and striking out five.

Vying for a utility outfield spot, Andrew Brown hit a two-run homer, while Zach Lutz had two hits including a solo home run.

Travis d’Arnaud was hitless again in three plate appearances and his batting average now stands at .143 in 28 at-bats.

Up Next:

The Mets take on the Miami Marlins on Monday at 1:05 PM in Jupiter, with John Lannan opposing Henderson Alvarez. The game will be broadcast on WOR 710 AM.

Mar 16

What Is The Plan For Jenrry Mejia?

The New York Mets have never settled on a role for Jenrry Mejia, which could be the case again this spring.

At 24, Mejia is one of those promising young arms the Mets are boasting. Coming off elbow surgery, they are treating him with kid gloves, but there have been no signs of a setback.

Most starters want to pitch 30 innings in spring training, but with only two weeks left has only worked two. He could get four today against the Cubs in Las Vegas, but won’t get close to 20, much less 30.

Originally, Mejia was to compete with Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan for the fifth-starter role. But, if building for the future is the objective for 2014, it should be Mejia because he has the greatest upside.

Without Matt Harvey, this would have been the perfect chance to develop Mejia. Instead, it is turning out to be a lost opportunity, either to use him for their rotation or showcase him for a trade.

With Mejia in the rotation, they’ll have a better idea of where they stand heading into 2015. If Matsuzaka gets those starts, they still won’t know about Mejia as a starter.

But, how about as a reliever?

The Mets tried that route without success in 2010. Then-manager Jerry Manuel, knowing his job was in severe jeopardy, wanted Mejia on the major league roster to work out of the bullpen to start that season. That was for Manuel’s interests, not Mejia’s.

However, Manuel wouldn’t use him in pressure situations, so Mejia languished without work when he could have been getting starts in the minor leagues.

Understandably, Mejia struggled and was eventually optioned to Triple-A to go back in the rotation. His arm didn’t adjust to the back-and-forth and he was eventually injured and required elbow surgery.

Entering that season, Mejia was a highly sought prospect, but his value was greatly reduced because of how he was used. The Mets couldn’t promote him as a reliever if they were afraid to use him in pressure situations. They also couldn’t promote him as a starter because they wouldn’t use him in that role, either.

After he was hurt, he missed all of 2011.

The Mets are again considering Mejia for their bullpen, but already have seven candidates without him. Just how much work would he get?

If not up here, they should use him as a starter in the minors, which is probably in their best long-term interest because that would hasten his development and possibly build his trade value.

I see him starting the season in Triple-A, but where ever he ends up, just pick a role and stick with it. In the end, I also see it never happening for Mejia with the Mets. They blew this one.

 

Mar 14

Mets Today: Wheeler Starts; Vegas Bound

There’s a lot to like about Zack Wheeler, who really wants the ball Opening Day for the Mets. Manager Terry Collins said if Jonathon Niese isn’t physically ready, he would decide between Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee.

Colon is the most experienced, but with no goodwill stock in the organization. Gee is deserving based on 199 innings last year, but ambivalent to the prospect. Meanwhile, Wheeler wants that game, which are points in his favor.

WHEELER: Starts tonight. (AP)

WHEELER: Starts tonight. (AP)

Also to like about Wheeler is his perfectionist nature. Despite three scoreless innings Sunday against Atlanta, Wheeler wasn’t pleased with his changeup, which will be his focus tonight against Miami.

Wheeler said at times he opens up his shoulders too early.

“Every time you get out there on the mound, it’s been a little problem for me,’’ Wheeler said. “There’s a little too much adrenaline, I guess.’’

Too much adrenaline is an argument against starting Wheeler Opening Day.

In addition:

* A group of Mets will travel to Las Vegas for split-squad games Saturday and Sunday against the Chicago Cubs. Among those expected to go are David Wright, Curtis Granderson, Travis d’Arnaud, Bobby Parnell and starters Colon and Jenrry Mejia.

* Ike Davis (calves) and Lucas Duda (left hamstring) will continue to take batting practice and field grounders at first base. It is hoped they will play in DH roles this weekend. Neither has done any running.

* No word when Wilmer Flores will get another chance to play shortstop, but with two split-squad games this weekend there could be an opportunity.