Aug 02

Three Mets’ Storylines: Welcome Jay Bruce

The reception was cordial and polite – reserved actually, as if the crowd was guarded about their expectations – when Jay Bruce went to the plate for the first time Tuesday night in a Mets uniform. You might even say it was business as usual, because after all, the trade that brought him to New York from Cincinnati has been brewing for a long time.

“I feel like I’ve been getting traded to the Mets for over a year now,” Bruce told reporters in his introductory press conference prior to Tuesday’s 7-1 victory over the Yankees. “You never know what’s going to happen until it actually happens. Last year there was some crazy stuff during the deadline. I try not to jump to conclusions or assume anything. So I waited until I got the call.

“And when it happened, I was very, very excited.”

DE AZA: Home run swing. (AP)

DE AZA: Home run swing. (AP)

Bruce joins the Mets as the NL leader in RBI with 80 built on a .360 average with RISP. Conversely, the Mets are last in the majors with a .205 average with RISP. Bruce had an uneventful 0-for-4 as he flied out to left in the first; grounded out to first in the fourth; and struck out looking in the sixth and seventh.

It might have been jitters, but no worries on the night. The trade was the right move and the Mets will be beneficiaries soon enough.

“I know he was nervous, even though he’s an established star in the big leagues and is trying to fit in,” manager Terry Collins said.

As expected, Bruce’s first game was the primary storyline. Here are the other two.

DE AZA SHOULD GET SHOT IN CENTER: When the Mets signed Alejandro De Aza – prior to signing Yoenis Cespedes – they did so with the intent of platooning him with Juan Lagares. But, with Lagares on the DL – where Cespedes should be – why are the Mets still in a funk about who can play center field?

After a slow start and was on the brink of being released, De Aza started getting more playing time and since July is batting .342, including a two-run homer Tuesday night.

“I just want to keep working and help the team win,” De Aza said. “I’ve been working hard in the cages to shorten up my swing.”

THE MYSTERIOUS MIND OF COLLINS: Jacob deGrom was superb, but what I will take out of this game most – outside of Bruce’s debut – was Collins’ decision to pinch-hit Cespedes for De Aza in the seventh.

The Mets were up by five at the time, so why bat for the player who homered and is your best defensive center fielder? Cespedes’ RBI infield single was a moot point and foolish risk.

“I just wanted to get him an at-bat,” said Collins, as if Cespedes would forget how to hit before starting as the DH Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

“I felt a little discomfort running down the line,” Cespedes said. “But once I got back in the dugout it felt better.”

No, Cespedes didn’t get hurt, but what if he reinjured his strained quad? Why take that chance with the game seemingly out of reach?

Sometimes, Collins makes me scratch my head and wonder. Other times he makes my want to throw a shoe at the TV.

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Aug 02

Time To DL Cespedes Now

There’s no word to Yoenis Cespedes’ availability for tonight’s Mets-Yankees game at Citi Field. The belief is manager Terry Collins is saving him for the upcoming five games in American League parks where he can be used as a designated hitter.

This makes sense on the surface, but does it really?

CESPEDES: Time to sit him. (AP)

CESPEDES: Time to sit him. (AP)

I understand wanting to get his bat in the lineup, where he might run into a pitch and give the Mets a game. I get all that, but the Mets are taking an unnecessary gamble.

Suppose Cespedes makes it through the DH games without incident, then severely reinjures his right quad to the point where he needs to go on the disabled list. That means the Mets would lose the five DH days (six if you include Tuesday) where they could have back-dated the start time of a DL stint.

If they DL Cespedes now hopefully he will come back sooner – and healed.

At the time I understood wanting to wait until after the All-Star break, but Cespedes came back no better than when he was first injured. Had Cespedes been placed on the DL after the break, his quad could be a moot point. That’s water under the bridge and nothing can be done about it now, however with the addition of Jay Bruce, and Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson and Brandon Nimmo, the Mets – barring further injuries – have enough outfielders to get them through the next two weeks.

What Cespedes needs is rest, which he won’t get in a DH role. If he can’t run in the outfield, he can’t run on the bases. This day-to-day stuff is paralyzing Collins in terms of making out his lineup and in-game management. If Cespedes can’t, or won’t, play center, his value to the Mets is diminished.

Frankly, I’d rather be without Cespedes for two weeks in early August than lose him for a longer period at the end of the month or worse, in September. The Mets need to DL Cespedes now to set up for the stretch drive.

The season depends on it.

Aug 01

Three Mets’ Storylines: Bullpen Blows Game As Collins Overmanages

Blame this on the Mets’ bullpen and their continued inability to hit with RISP.

The Mets were poised for their second come-from-behind victory in as many games when Matt Reynolds hit a three-run homer in the sixth.

It wasn’t to be when Mets manager Terry Collins over-managed by bringing Jerry Blevins in to start the eighth inning instead of going with Addison Reed, who was flawless in July in hold situations, but traditionally has problems bringing him in with runners on base.

GREGORIUS: Ties game. (AP)

     GREGORIUS: Ties game. (AP)

“They are pretty frustrating,” Collins said of the bullpen meltdown. “But it’s baseball.”

The bullpen let the game get away and the 6-5 loss to the Yankees in 10 innings dropped the Mets to 54-51.

Blevins walked Brett Gardner and struck out Jacoby Ellsbury. Enter Reed, who struck out Mark Teixeira, but gave up a single to Brian McCann to put runners on the corners. After a wild pitch put pinch-runner Ronald Torryes on second, Didi Gregorius tied the game with a two-run bunt single to left.

Playing shorthanded in the bullpen, Seth Lugo relieved Jeurys Familia to start the tenth. Lugo walked Ellsbury and gave up a single to Teixeira. Pinch-hitter Ben Gamel bunted but Lugo’s throw to third was not in time. (Blame this on catcher Rene Rivera, who signaled Lugo to go to third).

You knew this was going to end badly, and it did when Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly to right.

The Mets threatened against Dellin Betances by putting runners on second and third with two outs, but Curtis Granderson was overmatched and struck out to end the game.

The Mets played shorthanded with their bullpen after trading Antonio Bastardo to Pittsburgh for Jon Niese. Part of the reason why they’ve been playing shorthanded was GM Sandy Alderson’s reluctance to make a move, and also that their Triple-A farm team is located in Las Vegas, nearly four hours away.

The other key storylines were Reynolds and word Zack Wheeler will pitch in a minor league game Saturday.

REYNOLDS’ BIG NIGHT WASTED: Reynolds doubled and hit the three-run homer as the replacement for Asdrubal Cabrera, who is expected to go on the disabled list when Jay Bruce joins the team Tuesday.

The Mets’ bullpen appears stabilized with Wilmer Flores at third, Reynolds at short, Neil Walker at second and James Loney playing first.

WHEELER TO WORK IN GAME: The Mets finally got some encouraging news Monday with news Zack Wheeler would begin a rehab assignment Saturday.

Wheeler, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, threw 23 pitches – his fastball timed at 93 mph. – in a simulated game in Port St. Lucie Tuesday.

Wheeler is now expected to join the Mets after the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1.

It’s a positive note considering all the Mets’ recent sobering injury news, with Jose Reyes and Juan Lagares going on the disabled list within the past week. Cabrera is expected to join them Tuesday.

Aug 01

Mets Get Bruce From Reds; Raises Questions

Updated to include quotes from Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins.

You can still find Brandon Nimmo with the Mets. Nimmo had been traded to Cincinnati for Jay Bruce, but that changed when he reportedly failed his physical and had to be replaced by second base prospect Dilson Herrera. Minor league lefty prospect Max Wotell was also included in the trade.

BRUCE: Running to Mets. (AP)

  BRUCE: Running to Mets. (AP)

The Mets added Herrera after the Reds found something they didn’t like with Nimmo’s physical. Nimmo had a foot injury earlier this year.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson would not confirm it was Nimmo who had the medical issue, but that’s not hard to figure out since he was pulled and Herrera was added.

The 29-year-old Bruce is expected to offer the punch that has been severely lacking, hitting .265 with 25 homers and a league-leading 80 RBI, and perhaps most importantly, a .360 average with RISP. Bruce has been on the Mets’ radar for over a year when they offered Zack Wheeler last July before landing Yoenis Cespedes.

“We haven’t had time to talk about playing time will be broken down,” Alderson said. “He’ll provide a big presence in the middle of the lineup. … One player could have a significant impact. Somebody like Jay Bruce can be a catalyst.”

Q: What is Bruce’s contractual status?

A: Bruce is in the final months of a six-year, $51 million contract, which includes a $13 million option (or $1 million buyout) for 2017. Bruce is making $12.5 million this season. Alderson said the club option was essential.

“We would not have done the deal without the extra year of control,” Alderson said. “We would not have done the deal as a rental.”

Specifically, this gives the Mets a safety net should Cespedes opt out and leave after this season.

Q: Where will Bruce play?

A: With Cespedes insisting on playing left field, Bruce could go to right field with Curtis Granderson moving to center.

Q: How does the deal impact Cespedes and Michael Conforto?

A: If there is a time to put Cespedes (strained right quad) on the disabled list it is now (actually, it should have been three weeks ago). Having Bruce gives the Mets the flexibility of placing Cespedes on the disabled list now, which is preferable to risking an injury and losing him in September. What Bruce does is offer the Mets a safety net should Cespedes opt out after this season.

As for Conforto, he’ll stay up here if Cespedes goes on the DL. However, there’s a strong chance they’ll send him back to the minors and bring him up again in September unless there’s an injury before then.

Q: What about the long-term future with Granderson?

A: It’s all fluid now as Granderson has one more year on his contract and the Mets can choose not to bring back Bruce for 2017.

Q: Does it matter that even with Bruce the Mets don’t have a conventional outfield?

A: Not in the least, simply because the Mets don’t have a conventional outfield now. Bruce will report to the Mets tomorrow. Beginning Wednesday, the Mets will have five games in American League parks (two with the Yankees and three in Detroit), where they can buy some time with Cespedes.

Unbelievably, Collins said the Mets hope Cespedes might be able to play center field by the end of the week.

Q: What is the fallout with Herrera?

A: The sticking point in getting Lucroy from the Brewers was them not wanting to give up Herrera. This could enhance their chances of keeping Neil Walker, who can opt out if he wants after the season. Of course, that could mean giving him more money. Part of the reason why Alderson let Daniel Murphy walk was in part because of Herrera. Alderson said the Mets have some infield depth for next year with Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes.

Q: Anything else?

A: Right at the deadline, the Mets reaquired Jon Niese from Pittsburgh for lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo. Niese will be used primarily out of the bullpen – “I didn’t forget the job he did last year [in relief],” Collins said – but could be slotted in if another starter needed a day of rest.

Aug 01

FLASH: Mets Land Bruce; Deal Nimmo To Reds

With roughly three hours before the trade deadline, the Mets landed left-handed hitting corner outfielder Jay Bruce from Cincinnati for prospect Brandon Nimmo and two other minor league prospects.

Bruce, 29, is hitting .265 with 25 and 80 RBI. With Yoenis Cespedes insisting on playing left field, Bruce good slot into right field with Curtis Granderson moving over to center.

The deal is predicated on players passing their physicals.