Oct 01

Looking At Mets’ Coaching Staff

Terry Collins will be back next season, but how many of his coaching. Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson are traveling with the team on the final roadtrip, and discussing the coaching staff will be one of the topics on the table.

Published reports have pitching coach Dan Warthen returning, and considering the success of the rotation for the better part of the season, that’s not surprising. However, Warthen is in charge of all the pitchers, which includes a horrid bullpen.

Also on the downside are his mixed results with Mike Pelfrey and zero results with Oliver Perez. It is premature to credit him with any of Matt Harvey’s initial success. He should get some credit for Jon Niese making a step forward this season, and as a knuckleballer, I don’t know how much credit he gets for R.A. Dickey’s season.

The bullpen is arguably the Mets’ weakest pitching link. He’s had one year to work with Frank Francisco, who has been spotty at times, and Jon Rauch, who hasn’t pitched well. He’s had several seasons to work with Bobby Parnell, who remains an enigma.

Warthen has had three starts to evaluate Jenrry Mejia and had him during spring training. After yesterday’s loss, Mejia remains uncertain in the Mets’ pitching plans, although the plan is to send him to the Arizona Fall League to work as a starter. Warthen said a few weeks ago he could still see Mejia as a reliever, so it remains to be seen whether there is a conflict between him and upper management on what to do with the prospect.

Ricky Bones, mostly a starter during his career, is the bullpen coach. His job is primarily to make sure the relievers are ready, to get them warmed up properly, to monitor their pitch counts after getting up, plus some limited work on mechanics.

If Warthen is spared, Bones might take the hit.

Also feeling heat could be hitting coach Dave Hudgens. During the first half Hudgens received raves for how his hitters worked the count and their ability to produce with two outs. Neither of those were strong suits when the offense sputtered and became a liability in the second half, especially at home, where they had a stretch of 15 straight games of scoring three runs or less.

Nobody can blame Hudgens for Jason Bay’s failures for a third straight year, plus the mostly non-season from Andres Torres. However, he’s been exposed to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, both of whom need to drastically reduce their strikeouts and increase their on-base percentages.

Davis had a miserable first half, but hit with power in the second half. He’s still mechanically flawed and gives away too many at-bats by consistently over swinging and trying to pull too much and striking out way too much. The same could be said for Duda, who had to be sent to the minor leagues during the season to work on his mechanics and approach.

Both Bones and Hudgens might be the fall guys for another losing season, although that mostly has to fall on the players. Unless the Mets are looking for scapegoats, there’s no real reason to dismiss bench coach Bob Geren, third base coach Tim Teufel and first base coach Tom Goodwin.

 

Sep 24

Time For Mejia To Put Up

I’ve been hard on the Mets for their handling of Jenrry Mejia, and rightfully so for shuffling him between a bullpen and starter’s role. I thought Jerry Manuel did him a disservice in rushing him up here two years ago to work in relief when the Mets had no bullpen depth to speak of.

All indications are his arm is fine, but it is time for some accountability for his performance, which has been spotty. In the minors he posted better numbers starting than out of the pen, but he was lit up in his start with the Mets.

Mejia opens the Mets’ final homestand tonight against the fading Pirates, and after that might get one more start before the team calls it quits for the year.

What kind of impression will Mejia leave on Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins and Dan Warthen?

As of now, when the 2013 rotation is projected, it does not include Mejia. The bullpen, well, that could be a different story. However, if the Mets project him in that role they should stick with that decision and see how it plays out. None of this failing in the bullpen in spring training and then being moved to the rotation in the minor leagues.

If it is the bullpen, it is time for Mejia to train their exclusively to get himself accustomed to the role and the demands of getting up numerous times to warm up, to entering the game with runners on base, to developing another out pitch to go along with his fastball.

The knock on Mejia working in the rotation is he hasn’t mastered his secondary pitches and doesn’t know how to set up hitters and challenge them. He also has a problem with a fastball that has plenty of velocity but not enough dip or lateral movement. Movement and not speed is the key to an overpowering fastball.

I don’t know what kind of damage was done to Mejia’s arm, and also psyche, during the juggling under Manuel. Maybe the arm injury would have occurred regardless as there’s little way of pinpointing the exact time it happened, especially if it is of a residual nature.

However, while the psyche is another issue, Mejia has to take some responsibility, also.

There’s a learning process to becoming a major league pitcher, and part of it is learning how to deal with adversity, handle pressure and act with poise. That is often the variable that ends careers. It is something Mike Pelfrey hasn’t mastered, and so too, Mejia.

Mejia can throw the hell out of the ball at times, but he hasn’t yet learned how to pitch.

 

Sep 15

Jenrry Mejia Getting His Chance

A mark of a good manager is putting his players in position to succeed. He shouldn’t force a player to do something he’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, thereby increasing the chance of failure.

That’s what Jerry Manuel did to Jenrry Mejia in 2010. With his job clearly in jeopardy and no bullpen to speak of, Manuel insisted on putting Jenrry Mejia in a relief role coming out of spring training despite no experience at it and, no definable role with the Mets.

Mejia didn’t work for long stretches and struggled when he did get in games. Eventually, he performed so poorly he was optioned out. Once in the minors, they tried him as a starter again. He was eventually injured.

He starts tonight at Milwaukee, despite his last three appearances at Triple-A Buffalo being in relief, this after a solid stretch as a starter.

You guessed it, the Mets still don’t have an idea where Mejia fits into their 2013 plans.

Mejia had dramatically more success at Triple-A Buffalo this season as a starting pitcher than working in the bullpen. He had a 2.75 ERA in ten starts and a 5.48 ERA in 16 relief outings.

His manager at Buffalo, Wally Backman, has faith in him as a reliever.

“You know what? He had never really relieved before, until he got to the big leagues for the short time [in 2010],’’ Backman said. “They sent him back to Triple-A and he started. And then he got hurt. So this year he started as a starter.

“`And [then] we put him in the bullpen. And, believe it or not, I think it was his last three outings in the bullpen, he was pretty good. Then we all of a sudden started him again. To me, he was figuring it out.’’

Mejia has it figured out in his mind as to what he wants to do and where he’s most comfortable and it is starting.

“That’s what I’m looking forward (to),’’ Mejia said. “I want to show them I want to be a starter. I can do my job like a starter.’’

Mejia said he feels more in control with his pitches starting, perhaps because at the start of the game there’s less pressure and more a margin for error than in the eighth or ninth innings.

On paper the Mets’ rotation seems set for 2013, but it must be remembered Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are coming off injuries; Jonathan Niese has a way to go before reaching his potential and might have regressed this year; and Matt Harvey is unproven over the long haul.

All those variables could open up a spot for Mejia.

Sep 14

Should Be Calm Weekend in Brew Town; Keep Duda In Left

My guess is there won’t be any retaliatory fireworks this weekend when the Mets are in Milwaukee this weekend.

When DJ Carrasco plunked Ryan Braun this spring, Terry Collins pulled David Wright from the game to protect his All-Star – over Wright’s objections – yanked Carrasco and cut him the next day. Collins then made sure of talking with Braun at the All-Star Game to smooth over any lingering animosity.

Odds are that conversation, plus bouncing Carrasco, was proof enough for the Brewers that stuff wouldn’t be tolerated by the Mets. Also, tempering the emotions this weekend is that Milwaukee is suddenly in the wild-card race.

With the games growing increasingly important, and scarce, why would the Brewers risk riling up the Mets and possibly exposing Braun to another beaning? That would be the height of stupidity.

This should be an interesting series even without the dramatics.

The Mets will start Jenrry Mejia tomorrow in his first start of the season.

After all this time, unbelievably there are some in the organization split on what his role should be. He’s had some degree of success at both in the minor leagues, but also a measure of frustration on the major league level.

They’ve stretched him out already and with Matt Harvey shut down after one more start, that would open up an opportunity for Mejia to get three starts in the final month. That should be enough for the Mets to get a clue as where they should put in during spring training.

With Johan Santana and Dillon Gee coming off injuries, Harvey in his first full season, and the uncertainty of Zach Wheeler, there will be starting opportunities next year, and with the Mets not likely to spend in the off-season, having Mejia in place in a must.

Another reason Mejia should be in the rotation is that starters are harder to come by than relievers. It seems every winter there is a closer available. The caveat with closers is they can be hit or miss, and Mets fans don’t have to go back far to recall Frank Francisco and Frankie Rodriguez. Both saved more than they blew, but both also provided anxious moments. Come to think of it, so did Billy Wagner.

One thing I’m not getting lately, unless the Mets’ intent is to showcase him in a trade, is the sudden need to see Lucas Duda again at first base. We saw plenty of him last year, and what the Mets need to find out is if he can play left field because he plays right as if it were a minefield. Duda is in left and Ike Davis back at first tonight.

The Mets like Duda’s power potential, and unless they move him, he seems destined to platoon with Jason Bay in left field. If both Duda and Bay are on the team next season, I’d rather see Bay in right field.

 

May 29

Mets Settling On Jenrry Mejia Status

Jenrry Mejia might have the best stuff in the Mets’ minor league system, and that stuff could translate into a productive, and perhaps lucrative, career as a starter. But, It won’t this year.

The problem I’ve always had with the Mets’ handling of Mejia is their indecisiveness in how to use his talented arm. That problem was brought into focus two years ago, when Jerry Manuel, desperate for help in the bullpen rushed him to the major league level as a reliever. That season they brought him north in the pen, the  demoted him as a starter when he struggled. Eventually, Mejia had Tommy John surgery.

Is there a correlation? That seems a reasonable conclusion. Even if inaccurate, it is hard to dispute the perception.

The Mets are using Mejia in their rotation on the minor league level currently, with visions of bringing him up shortly to work in the pen. I’m not crazy about the Mets repeating the scenario, but the key difference is they are working first to build up his stamina and strength first before changing his role.

Will it work? I don’t know, but this time the Mets appear to be laying the foundation first. What I don’t want to see is the Mets changing course on Mejia if there is a setback. Let him go the entire season in one role, then if a redirect is needed, make the decision in the offseason and go from there.

Mejia has an explosive, talented arm that shouldn’t be fooled with. They were burned once, but could they survive another Mejia injury?