Feb 15

The Five Questions Terry Collins Must Answer In Spring Training

Spring training is finally here, and with it comes several issues the New York Mets must address. A lot of things must break right if they are to contend for a wild-card, but manager Terry Collins has five key questions to answer if they are to have a winning season, something they haven’t had since 2008:

COLLINS: Has questions to answer.

COLLINS: Has questions to answer.

Q: WHO WILL BE THE FIFTH STARTER?

A: Ideally, it should be Jenrry Mejia, but if the Mets are thinking they could have a winning season, Collins could go with veterans John Lannan or Daisuke Matsuzaka. “I’ve always said those veterans can really get you out of the blocks,’’ Collins told reporters in Port St. Lucie Friday. “Then, when those kids are ready, they’re the ones a lot of times that bring you that extra energy, especially late in the summer.’’ Perhaps one of those kids could be the 24-year-old Mejia, but the Mets have eyes on Noah Syndergaard.

Q: WILL BOBBY PARNELL BE READY BY OPENING DAY?

A: We might not know the answer until they break camp. Parnell underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck and wasn’t supposed to throw off the mound for two weeks. However, he threw 10 pitches Friday and reported no discomfort. Of course, with a pitcher recovering from surgery, it is always the next few days that count. If healthy, Parnell is the closer. If not, Vic Black gets the first opportunity.

Q: WILL THE IKE DAVIS SAGA EVER END?

A: It sure would be nice. The Mets tried to trade Davis since October, but reportedly their asking price was too high. Davis kept tabs on the rumors and acknowledged he is surprised to be in Port St. Lucie. “The articles would say I wasn’t going to be here, so [it’s] a little bit of a shock I didn’t get traded,’’ Davis told reporters Friday. Davis goes into spring training as the projected starter and Collins said he’ll get at least 90 at-bats in hope of avoiding another slow start. The Mets haven’t said whether they’ll keep both Davis and Lucas Duda on the Opening Day roster.

Q: CAN RUBEN TEJADA BECOME THE PLAYER EXPECTED OF HIM?

A: Your guess is as good as mine. The Mets soured on Tejada last year, but after his dedication in attending a fitness camp in Michigan are prepared to let him keep his job. Collins hedged on making a formal announcement and mentioned Anthony Seratelli as a back-up infielder. The Mets also plan on giving Wilmer Flores time at shortstop, where he played in 2011. Flores is potentially a better offensive threat, so if he takes to the position it could be interesting.

Q: WHO WILL BE THE LEADOFF HITTER?

A: The answer could also finalize the outfield alignment. Collins stated a preference for Eric Young, who stole 38 bases last year, but must improve his .318 on-base percentage. Tejada, Chris Young and Daniel Murphy have been mentioned, Eric Young gives the Mets a base running threat they’ve missed since losing Jose Reyes. If Eric Young gets the job he’ll play left field. There have been whispers of moving him to second and Murphy to first. However, that would entail breakdowns by both Davis and Duda. As far as second base, Eric Young has only played 56 games at the position. It will take more than a few games in spring training to learn the position. Assuming Eric Young in left, the rest of the starting outfield would be Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, meaning Juan Lagares would probably be optioned.

ON DECK: It’s reporting day; Kyle Farnsworth talks.

Feb 13

Mets Have Numbers, But Also Questions In Rotation

New York Mets pitchers and catchers will report to Port St. Lucie on Feb. 15 with the first workout the following day. Manager Terry Collins knows his first four starters, but the fifth is up in the air. However, regardless of how the rotation shakes out, there’s not a pitcher among them without a significant question attached to his name:

Jonathon Niese: The speculated Opening Day starter is coming off a shoulder injury and 8-8 record in 2013.

Signed through 2017 primarily because he’s left-handed, young at 27 and throws hard. Those types are always in demand, but with a lifetime 43-40 record and 3.99 ERA, he’s not exactly a budding Andy Pettitte.

Niese has never won more than 13 games or made more than 30 starts in a season, bringing into question his durability.

The significant question: Will he ever have a breakout season?

Bartolo Colon: Once nabbed for PEDs, Colon is coming off a strong 18-6 season with a 2.65 ERA last year with Oakland and signed a two-year, $20-million contract with the Mets on the last day of the Winter Meetings.

He was brought in to fill the void caused by Matt Harvey’s elbow injury and provide veteran support.

Colon, 40, has won a career 189 games with a 1.314 WHIP. The Mets will be his eighth team.

The significant question: How much does he have left?

Zack Wheeler: Some scouts say he has more potential than Harvey. We shall see.

The Mets took their time in bringing up Wheeler, 23, and he flashed promise expected. The Mets tinkered with his mechanics after reports he tipped his pitches, then told him to throw more breaking balls, but Wheeler didn’t show anything until they told him to just work off his fastball.

Wheeler was 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts before he was shut down in September after complaining of stiffness in his shoulder.

The significant question: How much will he progress in his second year?

Dillon Gee: A 12-strikeout, 7.1-inning outing at Yankee Stadium, May 30, kept Gee in the rotation and he went on to go 12-11, but more importantly work 199 innings.

Gee doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but when his command is on he usually gives the Mets five or more innings as a reliable back-end starter.

Gee’s reliability and reasonable contract could make him attractive to other teams in July. Should Noah Syndergaard or Rafael Montero be promoted in June, it could give the Mets a valuable trade chip.

The significant question: Will Gee have another 199-inning season?

Jenrry Mejia: Up and down has been the story of Mejia’s short career. Mejia’s role bounced from being a starter to an ill-fated trip to the bullpen under Jerry Manuel that eventually ended in a demotion and elbow injury.

Mejia still throws hard and is back competing as a starter. He’s coming off surgery, but has the inside track for the fifth starter role if he’s sound.

The significant question: How healthy is he?

John Lannan: He’s 29, left-handed and comes with a reasonable contract.

The Mets signed him as Mejia insurance, but he has shown signs of becoming a solid starter. From 2008-2011, he started 31, 33, 25 and 33 games respectively for some pretty bad Washington teams, and three times worked at least 180 innings.

There’s promise here, and because of his age, he’s worth keeping.

The significant question: Will he get a chance to show his durability?

Daisuke Matsuzaka: Brought in as a stop-gap following the injury to Harvey and innings ceiling on Wheeler, Matsuzaka won his last three starts and went at least six innings each time.

That was good enough for Alderson to say last October he could come back. However, nothing was done until after January.

Matsuzaka, 33, turned his season around when he accelerated his delivery.

The significant question: Were those last three starts a fluke?

Summation: Barring injury, Niese, Wheeler, Colon and Gee are givens in the rotation. If Mejia falters and Lannan pitches well, expect Mejia to start the season in the minor leagues.

So, the Mets have a balanced rotation with at least one question for each starter.

(Note: Montero, Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom were omitted because they aren’t expected to be promoted before June. I will discuss them later this spring in a prospects segment).

Feb 04

Mets’ Projected Opening Day Roster

With football season out of the way. Actually, it was over a little after 7 Sunday night, it is time to project the Mets’ Opening Day roster. I am going against conventional wisdom in I am leaving Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares off the team.

ROTATION

Jon Niese: Manager Terry Collins already designated Niese the Opening Day starter. He’s the de facto No. 1 with Matt Harvey out, which means the Mets need more from him than 8-8.

Bartolo Colon: Veteran innings-eater signed to fill void left by Harvey’s injury.

Zack Wheeler: Big things are expected in his second year.

Dillon Gee: Threw 199 innings last year, making 200-plus the goal.

Jenrry Mejia or Daisuke Matsuzaka: Mets say Mejia progressing well from elbow surgery. If he’s not ready it will be Matsuzaka.

BULLPEN

Vic Black: Assuming Bobby Parnell is not ready, Black enters the season as the closer.

Scott Rice: After knocking on the door for 14 years he was a feel-good story last year. No doubts about him making roster this spring.

Kyle Farnsworth: Recent addition to provide veteran depth.

Carlos Torres: Can work in long relief, situational or as spot starter.

Gonzalez Germen: Very impressive last season. Throws hard.

Josh Edgin: The lefty presence.

Jeurys Familia: Has high ceiling.

CATCHER

Travis d’Arnaud: Had health issues last year, but healthy now. Goes in as the starter.

Anthony Recker: Provided power off the bench. Free-agent signing Taylor Teagarden is the veteran presence who’ll likely open the season in the minors.

INFIELD

Ike Davis: Here because the Mets couldn’t trade him. They have to keep him now to see if anything is left.

Daniel Murphy: Solid hitter but with limited power.

Ruben Tejada: Getting a second chance.

David Wright: Will he reach the .300-30-100 levels again?

Josh Satin: The right-handed platoon with Davis.

Wilmer Flores: Mets need to find him a position. I’m taking him over Lucas Duda because Duda and Davis are essentially the same player. Flores can also play first, third, second and could get a shortstop look.

Omar Quintanilla: Can play second and short.

OUTFIELD

Curtis Granderson: Mets’ biggest free-agent expenditure since Jason Bay. Hopefully, with better results.

Chris Young: Still wonder about this signing.

Eric Young: Team’s fastest player and best base stealer.

Matt den Dekker: Taking him over Juan Lagares because if the latter isn’t starting he should be in the minors getting consistent at-bats. Lagares stays if he starts.

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

Jan 25

Mets Signed Daisuke Matsuzaka To Compete For Fifth Starter

After several months of speculation, the New York Mets finally did the obvious and re-sign free-agent pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to compete for the fifth spot.

He’ll go against Jenrry Mejia, recently signed left-hander John Lannan and prospects Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom.

MATSUZAKA: Competing for 5th starter role.

MATSUZAKA: Competing for 5th starter role.

Matsuzaka was signed to a minor league contract, which is what GM Sandy Alderson wanted from the outset with a veteran presence.

Once Matsuzaka, 33, straightened out his mechanics by speeding up his delivery, he closed on an upswing and finished at 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts with the Mets.

Matsuzaka had a 10.95 ERA over 12.1 innings over his first three starts with the Mets, but after working with pitching coach Dan Warthen, he had a 1.37 ERA over his final four starts.

Speculation has Matsuzaka and Lannan moving to the lead because of their experience, and to give Mejia more time in his recovery from elbow surgery and Montero and deGrom in their development.

An advantage of going with Matsuzaka out of the gate is if gets off to a strong start – and the same applies to Lannan – it enhances their ability to make a trade at the July 31 deadline.

Did the Mets improve their rotation with a substantial name such as David Price, or solid starters such as Matt Garza or Bronson Arroyo?

No, but they improved more than their cynics thought they might. They signed three starters to fill the back end of their rotation in Bartolo Colon as their fourth starter, and Lannan and Matsuzaka to compete for the fifth starter role.

Do they have a playoff rotation? Not likely, but they have a rotation that could be solid enough to make .500 possible.

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

Jan 18

Jenrry Mejia Reports To Camp

Jenrry Mejia, who represents one of the more important questions for the Mets entering spring training, reported to Port St. Lucie.

Mejia is recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow and assuming he’s sound is expected to be the fifth starter entering the season.

Mejia was 1-2 with a 2.30 ERA in five starts, but with a 27-to-4 strikeouts to walks ratio. Control had normally been Mejia’s weakness, but those numbers indicated improvement to the degree where manager Terry Collins could have confidence in him.

Mejia, 24, will compete with Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom. However, regardless of who wins the job, it could go to Noah Syndergaard after he’s promoted sometime in July after the Super 2 deadline.

DUDA FILES: First base candidate Lucas Duda and the Mets exchanged arbitration figures with the two sides a little more than a half-million apart.

Duda requested $1.9 million for hitting .223 with 15 homers and 33 RBI, while the Mets offered $1.35 million.

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