Feb 26

Mets’ Tentative Pitching Rotation Pending Niese’s MRI

The New York Mets have their tentative pitching rotation for the first series of the season against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, pending Jonathon Niese‘s health.

Manager Terry Collins, as he’s said all along, will go with Niese on Opening Day, March 31. After a day off, the Mets will start Game 2 with Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee in Game 3.

Of course, this is predicated on health. Niese, who had rotator cuff issues last season, returned to New York today for a MRI on his sore left shoulder. Reports out of Port St. Lucie say Niese has a dead arm and the discomfort is in a different part of the shoulder.

Until the results are in, there’s no way of knowing how much time Niese will miss. Presumably, if he opens the season on the disabled list, everybody in the rotation would be moved up a day with another pitcher added.

That leaves Zack Wheeler as the fourth starter, going against Cincinnati, also at Citi Field, and the fifth starter in the season’s fifth game.

The competition for the fifth starter role appears boiled down to Daisuke MatsuzakaJohn Lannan and Jenrry Mejia. Matsuzaka, based on his performance in September for the Mets, and Mejia recovering from surgery, is the front-runner. Lannan could get the nod if neither Niese nor Mejia are available.

If he goes, this would mark the second straight season Niese was the Opening Day starter. Last season, he held San Diego to two runs on four hits in 6.2 innings in a game won, 11-2, by the Mets.

Colon, an 18-game winner last season with Oakland, figured to be the No. 2 starter. Collins also wanted to make sure Gee started in the series as he was 4-2 last season against the Nationals.

There has clamoring from fans on Internet message boards and websites endorsing Wheeler for the start, but there was no way Collins would lead frog established veterans for a young pitcher with limited experience. Also, this keeps Wheeler from the pressures of a high profile start.

Washington is expected to go with Stephen Strasburg in the opener, followed by Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez.

Feb 24

Looking At Mets’ Position Battles

The New York Mets begin their exhibition season this week, and with it will come the renewed focus on the club’s position battles and roster issues.

LANNAN: To compete for No. 5 starter role.

LANNAN: To compete for No. 5 starter role.

Let’s take a quick look:

FIFTH STARTER: John Lannan, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia are in line. Matsuzaka is considered the front-runner because of his performance at the end of last year and the desire not to rush Mejia, who is coming off elbow surgery. An argument in Lannan’s favor is it would give the Mets two left-handers in the rotation.

THE BULLPEN: The configuration of the bullpen is contingent on Bobby Parnell’s recovery from neck surgery. The Mets figure to carry seven relievers, including Vic Black, Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Rice. That leaves Carlos Torres, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen, Jeurys Familia, Jeff Walters and Ryan Reid competing for two spots. This will provide the most competition. If Parnell isn’t ready, Black will close and the Mets will take another reliever.

FIRST BASE: Ike Davis or Lucas Duda? The Mets were unable to deal Davis, who reportedly concealed an oblique injury, and Sunday sparred with reporters about the story’s accuracy. None of this makes Davis look good. Both could stick on the Opening Day roster because the Mets have an April series at Anaheim and Duda could be the DH.

OUTFIELD: Does Juan Lagares stick or not? Defensively, he should start in center, but his offense is poor. Will they give him his at-bats in the minor leagues – which would also resolve the question at leadoff – or force-feed him in the majors?

 

Feb 18

Mets Putting Themselves In Good Financial Shape For Future

Over the past five seasons – all below .500 – the New York Mets were bogged down by cumbersome contracts to unproductive players. It was economic certainty, but in a bad way.

This should be the third consecutive year the Mets will have a payroll of less than $100 million. They have long pointed to 2015 as when they will put themselves in a competitive position, and are currently set up to do so with payroll flexibility through 2019.

Heading into 2015, the Mets have $54.05 million earmarked to four players: David Wright ($20 million), Curtis Granderson ($16 million), Bartolo Colon ($11 million) and Jonathon Niese ($7.05 million).

Where teams usually get bit in their payroll is during the arbitration process and the Mets will have eight players eligible: Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Ike Davis, Eric Young, Lucas Duda, Jenrry Mejia and Ruben Tejada.

Of the eight, it is possible four – Davis, Young, Duda and Tejada – could be gone, with some before the end of this season.

Only one player is scheduled to be a free agent after this year and that’s Chris Young, who nobody expects to be back.

In 2016, the Mets have $45.05 million designated for three players: Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($16 million) and Niese $9.050 million).

Their arbitration eligible list that off-season expands to 14 to leave open the possibility for a significant payroll spike. The list includes: Gee, Davis, Eric Young, Duda, Tejada, Scott Rice, Matt Harvey, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Anthony Recker, Andrew Brown and Carlos Torres.

By this time, there’s no telling who will still be in the organization. Harvey and possibly Gee could be given multi-year deals by then. Everybody else is up the air. It’s also questionable if Nieuwenhuis and Brown will still be around, as neither one has made serious strides in sticking around.

Their 2016 free agents will be Colon, Murphy and Parnell.

In 2017, the Mets have $35.5 million earmarked for Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($15 million) and a half-million buyout for Niese.

Their arbitration eligible players will be Duda, Tejada, Rice, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Torres. Familia, Recker and Brown, with their free agents Gee, Davis and Eric Young.

Wright ($20 million) is the only player under contract for 2018. The arbitration eligible Mets will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Torres. Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker, Wheeler and Brown. That year Granderson, Duda and Tejada will be free agents.

In 2019 they’ll owe Wright $15 million, with Torres and Wheeler the only Mets who are arbitration eligible. Potential free agents will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker and Brown.

The Mets have long talked about cutting payroll costs to put themselves in position to seriously enter the free-agent market. It now appears they might actually be able to do it.

Feb 17

Wrapping Up The Day: Wilpon On Finances; Tejada And Syndergaard Impress

It was a busy day Monday for the Mets, who concluded their first official workout. Here’s what’s going on:

* Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said if GM Sandy Alderson thought there was a fit for free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew the Mets would have made the resources available.

* Matt Harvey has conceded missing the season.

* The Mets will wear a patch on their uniform honoring Ralph Kiner.

* Ruben Tejada reported early and manager Terry Collins was impressed by how he looked, saying: “You can tell he’s really worked hard and trimmed down. I asked him how much faster he was. He said, ‘I’ll show you.’ And I said, ‘OK, good.’ He’ll have the chance.’’

* Collins said it’s possible Jenrry Mejia could wind up in the bullpen.

* Prospect Noah Syndergaard threw 97 in his bullpen session. Said Syndergaard: “It’s kind of hard to settle down. I tried to take it easy, but I still was going pretty hard at it.’’

* Jeremy Hefner threw for the first time since having Tommy John surgery last August.

* Chris Young said he doesn’t care where he plays in the outfield, but admitted a preference to center field.

Feb 17

Memo To Mets On Mejia: Just Pick A Role

The New York Mets are doing the rotation-bullpen dance again with Jenrry Mejia and who believes things will be better this time around?

After the first day of workouts in Port St. Lucie, manager Terry Collins left open the door to the bullpen shuttle. With Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan as fifth starter candidates, and the bullpen under construction with Bobby Parnell recovering from surgery, ESPN is reporting Collins is keeping an open mind on Mejia.

MEJIA: Where to put him?

MEJIA: Where to put him?

“One thing we know about him is he can pitch out of the bullpen. We’ve seen it,’’ Collins said Monday.

This debate has been going on since 2010, when Mejia, who wasn’t ready for the major leagues in any role, was force-fed the bullpen by then-manager Jerry Manuel, who entered the season knowing his job was on the line.

Mejia prefers the rotation, which is supported by his numbers, but Collins said his 2.30 ERA last year isn’t a definitive sample size. Mejia made five starts before surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow.

“There were some people in this organization who felt maybe he couldn’t be a starter because there’s such maximum effort in his delivery,’’ Collins said. “He proved them wrong, that he can go out there and start and can get you deep into a game. Now it’s, ‘What’s our best fit?’ Is it, ‘We’ve got five good guys. He’s the sixth. Do we have a spot in the bullpen for an arm like that with that kind of stuff?’ That might be a fit for him.’’

Under Manuel, Mejia started out of the bullpen, but pitched sparingly in mostly non-pressure situations. He understandably struggled and was sent down to start, but eventually hurt his elbow, needed surgery and missed the 2011 season.

At the time Mejia was one of the Mets’ most sought-after prospects, but the calls stopped because how could they promote him when they didn’t even know what role he fit best? How could the Mets talk him up as a starter if he wasn’t good enough for their rotation? How could they talk him up as a reliever if he couldn’t stay in their bullpen?

Mejia entered this off-season as the primary fifth-starter option, but the Mets obviously weren’t sold on his health as they signed Matsuzaka and Lannan, both of whom have contract clauses where they can opt out if not on the major league roster by June.

So, which is it, starter or reliever? And, if in the bullpen, what is his role?

Whatever they do, considering Mejia’s arm troubles, the best decision is to pick one and stick with it.