Apr 29

Will Alderson Ever Say, `Conforto Needs To Play?’

After Michael Conforto‘s second homer today, the cynic in me couldn’t help but wonder, how will GM Sandy Alderson now try to limit his playing time? That is, of course, if Yoenis Cespedes is able to come back sooner than originally anticipated.

CONFORTO: Celebrating long ball. (AP)

CONFORTO: Celebrating long ball. (AP)

When Cespedes injured his hamstring Thursday and placed on the disabled list the following day, original reports indicated a serious injury, but today Alderson called it “mild.” Yeah, I’m buying into that diagnosis big time.

After opening the season on the bench following a hot spring, Conforto responded to his limited playing time until when the Mets’ anemic hitting forced manager Terry Collins to start him. The player last year Collins said would be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future.

That is until he went 0-for-5 a year ago Monday against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner that sent him into a downward spiral. From there, Conforto rode the Flushing-Vegas shuttle for much of last season, and when spring training started after Alderson re-signed Cespedes and was unable to trade Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson, conventional thinking had him opening in the minors.

However, Conforto kept hitting, first as a pinch-hitter and role player, until he broke into the starting lineup as a starter on April 20. Most recently he replaced Jose Reyes at the top of the order roughly a week ago. Since starting full time, Conforto has gone 11-for-30 with four homers and six RBI, and overall is batting .298 with a .386 on-base percentage, six homers and 12 RBI.

“Michael had a huge day for us and we needed it,” Collins said, “I have to salute him. When you’re not in the lineup every day you have to make the most of it. … He’s done a tremendous job in the leadoff spot. Just tremendous.”

Conforto hit a two-run homer in the fifth and solo homer in the eighth, the latter coming off lefty reliever Enny Romero. Conforto isn’t cocky, but he’s definitely not short of confidence. Despite what Alderson and Collins might worry about, Conforto has no double about his ability to hit left-handers, which is what it is going to take to stay in the lineup when Cespedes returns.

“Huge,” Conforto said when asked what kind of lift his homer off Romero gave him. “I’ve always felt I could hit lefties. No matter who is out there, I feel I can hit them. … As long as I put the work in, everything will take care of itself. I worry about what I can control and not worry about the other stuff.”

Conforto and Collins said all the right things today. What’s next would be for Alderson to finally say, “the kid has to play.”

Apr 08

Reyes Sits Tonight

Five games into the season and Mets manager Terry Collins is juggling his lineup. Tonight, Collins sits third baseman Jose Reyes‘ 1-for-18 start.

Undoubtedly, Reyes endured longer dry spells, but he looked terrible Friday night. He’s looked horrible all season.

REYES: Sitting vs. Fish. (AP)

REYES: Sitting vs. Fish. (AP)

Even so, Reyes said it is premature for him to panicI don’t want to put pressure on myself going to the film like, ‘Oh, what am I doing wrong?’ ” Reyes told reporters. “Sometimes, you have to give credit to the pitcher. They’ve pitched me tough. Sooner or later it’s going to change.”

Curtis Granderson and Wilmer Flores will replace Reyes at the top of the order and third base, respectively. I have no problems with sitting Reyes tonight, but I’m not crazy about what Collins is considering next for Reyes.

Collins said he’s looking to spell another slumping Met, Granderson, in center field with Reyes. The issue is to get a right-handed bat in the lineup. Meanwhile, Michael Conforto – who had a pinch-hit single Friday –  has all of two at-bats. It was last April when Collins forecasted him as the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future and said he would hit against left-handed pitching.

Evidently, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, just as it appears Conforto won’t be playing in the near future. As I, and others feared, Conforto will languish on the bench until Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list.

The Mets’ lack of a right-handed hitting outfielder smacks of two things: 1) Collins’ and GM Sandy Alderson’s marriage to the righty-lefty dynamics, and 2) Alderson’s inability to construct a team with a right-handed bat.

If Alderson had Babe Ruth he’d sit hit him against a lefty, and does this mean Lagares is the only acceptable right-handed outfield bat?

The bottom line: Conforto will never learn to hit lefty pitching until he gets the chance. You would think the game’s smartest general manager, would figure that out.

 

Apr 02

Injuries Solidify Mets’ Opening Day Roster

It would have been great had Michael Conforto made the Mets’ Opening Day roster as a starter. That was the case last season, but a blistering April quickly sputtered and for much of the season he rode the Las Vegas shuttle and bench.

The Conforto whom manager Terry Collins said last April when the left fielder was hitting well over .330 was going to the Mets’ “No. 3 hitter of the future,” appeared to open the season in the minors this winter after Yoenis Cespedes was brought back and they were unable to trade Jay Bruce.

CONFORTO: How will they give him ABs? (Getty)

CONFORTO: How will they give him ABs? (Getty)

However, when Juan Lagares – the Mets’ only natural center fielder – strained his oblique that meant Conforto would need to stick.

“I feel good. Confident,” Conforto told reporters. “It’s a different role for me starting the year, but I feel great. I’m excited about the opportunity to just get in there and hopefully influence some games late and give some guys rest and do what I can to help the team win.”

Conforto always says the right things, so won’t say what should be said. Conforto needs to play and get regular at-bats. He needs more than one token AB at the end of a game he entered as a defensive replacement.

Hopefully, Collins will come up with a rotation with Conforto, Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and yes, Cespedes. Even if the Mets plan to option Conforto when Lagares is ready is a few weeks, I hope he won’t fly to Vegas with only six or seven at-bats on his stat sheet.

An injury also cleared the way for Rafael Montero to make the Opening Day roster over Seth Lugo, and prompt one wonder whether the World Baseball Classic was the factor. Lugo, who pitched superbly for Puerto Rico in the WBC, has struggled with fatigue and soreness in his arm and then conceded he pushed himself too hard to win a spot on the staff.

Maybe none of that happens if there was no WBC this year.

I understand players want to compete for their country, but their first obligation should be to the teams that are the source of their livelihood.

The key is for the Mets to give him the time he needs to heal and regain his strength, and for Lugo to not be thinking he needs to get back to the majors right away because it is a long season.

Feb 09

Three Compelling Mets This Summer

We’re four days from Mets pitchers and catchers reporting in Port St. Lucie. Considering there’s a foot of snow on the ground, the wind is howling and temps are in the 20s, that’s a comforting thought. What’s not so comforting, however, is the potential future of these three Mets after this season.

WRIGHT: Facing pivotal year. (ABC)

WRIGHT: Facing pivotal year. (ABC)

David Wright: Reports are positive, but we’ll never know until the season begins. And, we don’t even have to get deep into the season before knowing some answers. Wright hasn’t played in a combined 100 games over the past two years because of back issues. Hopefully, Wright will bounce back. If he does, what’s to become of Jose Reyes. And, if Wright does play and Reyes’ time is reduced, what becomes of the leadoff hitter? However, if injuries sideline Wright again, there will be whispers – likely loud ones – of whether he should retire.

Matt Harvey: Twice since 2013 Harvey had a season cut short with an arm injury that required surgery. He’s been throwing and said he’s ready. That doesn’t mean he’s ready for 30 starts and 200-plus innings, which is the benchmark for a healthy starter. Harvey has a lifetime 29-28 record and will be a free-agent after the 2018 season. If he wants the big money as he suggested late in the 2015 season, he’d better start living up to his potential. If Harvey is healthy and has a strong year, his market value will undoubtedly increase, and with it possible trade rumors. With the Mets having a myriad of issues and assuming the rest of their rotation is healthy, it would be easier to trade Harvey,

Michael Conforto: Manager Terry Collins projected him to be the Mets’ No.3 hitter for the next ten years, but sputtered after a hot start and rode the Vegas shuttle. When Jay Bruce‘s option was picked up and Yoenis Cespedes re-signed, Conforto is without a spot. Bruce, Conforto and Curtis Granderson gives the Mets three left-handed hitters. Maybe that might work one night against Max Scherzer, but let’s face it, Cespedes will play most every night. And, with Juan Lagares the only true center fielder, Conforto is fifth on the outfield depth chart. With at-bats figuring to be scarce, could Conforto be ticketed for the minor leagues, or even possibly dangled as trade bait?

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 25

Mets Name Bruce Starter In Right; What Becomes Of Conforto?

It became clear nearly a month ago Jay Bruce would not be traded and would make the Opening Day roster. The no-brainer now has been realized with The New York Post and several other media outlets reported Bruce would be the starter in right field. What else did you expect? The Mets weren’t going to pay him $13 million to sit on the bench.

“Obviously, the market for certain players, certain free agents and therefore trade has been slow at best, nonexistent at worst,” GM Sandy Alderson told reporters about the lukewarm-to-cold market for Bruce. What Alderson neglected to say, however, is a major reason for the sluggish market for Bruce was when the general manager announced his intention to deal him if Yoenis Cespedes returned.

CONFORTO: Could he open season in minors? (Getty)

CONFORTO: Could he open season in minors? (Getty)

There have been several reports stating manager Terry Collins will try to fit four outfielders – Bruce, Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto – into three slots. That’s not accurate. The fourth outfielder is Juan Lagares being the fourth outfield and not Conforto.

With Granderson to move to center, the Mets need an accomplished player to play center, and that’s Lagares, who won a Gold Glove at the position. It’s inconceivable, if not flat out irresponsible, to go into the season without an accomplished center fielder.

So, where does that leave Conforto?

I’m thinking there are four options regarding Conforto:

FIFTH OUTFIELDER: They could carry him as the fifth outfielder, a role that would give Conforto limited at-bats. Conforto, whom Collins anointed the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future, needs regular at-bats.

TRADE HIM: I’m sure you could get something substantial for him, including a reliever, but this is the worst option to me. Long after Bruce and Cespedes are gone, Conforto could be whistling line drives all over Citi Field.

DEFINITIVE PLAYING FORMAT: Rotating Conforto to spell Cespedes, Granderson and Bruce at least once a week could give Conforto up to three games a week, which is doable. Collins could have done the same last year with Wilmer Flores in the infield, but couldn’t manage the juggling. I can’t see Collins doing this successfully with Conforto in the outfield.

MINOR LEAGUES: I hate to say it, but I’m thinking it is more likely Conforto will wind up in Las Vegas. It’s the option that will give Conforto the most at-bats and playing time.