May 03

Shaun Marcum Has Chance To Make Amends

The first impression was not a good one for Shaun Marcum, but now he has the opportunity to make amends in a big way.

MARCUM: Gets the ball tonight. (AP)

MARCUM: Gets the ball tonight. (AP)

Marcum, signed to a free-agent contract last winter, did not report to spring training in good shape and tried to convince Terry Collins he only needed four exhibition starts instead of the normal six to get ready for the season. Marcum started the season on the disabled list, and his absence became a focal point as the back end of the Mets rotation became an issue.

Marcum wasn’t sparkling in his return, but with the Mets heading into a tailspin and in a marathon game Monday night in Miami, he volunteered to pitch in relief. He lost, but If nothing else, it caught the attention of his teammates. When reporters asked David Wright about pinch-hitting despite a stiff neck, he deflected the attention to Marcum.

“I would say Shaun Marcum was a much bigger situation, because you don’t see every day starting pitchers go down to the bullpen and kind of voluntarily want to do that to try to help us out,’’ Wright said. “That’s huge. All of us know how important wins are.’’

The Mets will give the ball to Marcum tonight in a place where wins have been scarce – Turner Field in Atlanta. Should he win, that would be two important outings in a week and could smooth over the poor first impression.

Marcum (0-2) said working in relief was akin to a between-starts bullpen workout, claiming the 28 pitches he threw Monday night were close to what he would have done in the bullpen.

“The bullpen was kind of running out there toward the end,’’ Marcum told reporters this week. “I told them if they needed me I was available and I’d be more than happy to go down there and give these guys whatever I had.’’

Marcum said the neck and shoulder pain that shelved him at the start of the season has dissipated, and he’s ready for tonight.

In looking at how he lost to the Marlins, Marcum said he made the pitches he wanted, but credited the hitters. That was another positive – no excuses.

“I made some pretty good pitches, especially when I went back and looked at the video,’’ Marcum said. “I guess you just tip your hat and move on.’’

The early pitching identity of the Mets has been good outings from Matt Harvey, decent starts from Jon Niese, and not much from the back end of the rotation. Jeremy Hefner’s last two starts have been good, and Dillon Gee has been erratic. It has added up to a lot of innings from the bullpen.

The Mets snapped a six-game losing streak Wednesday, but aren’t close to righting things. With Niese and Harvey working the last two games of this series, should Marcum give them a good game tonight, it could stabilize the pitching staff.

ON DECK: I’ll have a series preview against the Braves and the continuation of the Summer of 1973 Series.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 03

Mets April Review: Matt Harvey The Bright Spot; Ike Davis Not

As it often has been with the Mets over the years, what was once good quickly and dramatically turned sour as 5-2 fell to 10-15.

The Mets rode Matt Harvey’s blistering start – they won five of his six starts – but have to be alarmed he was responsible for half their victories. Once again, the Mets fell victim to the same old vices that have crippled them for years.

The bullpen collapsed, the team went cold hitting with runners in scoring position, and they couldn’t overcome the gaping hole in the back end of their rotation and ended the month with a six-game losing streak and finished at 10-14.

DAVIS: Biggest disappointment of the month. (AP_

DAVIS: Biggest disappointment of the month. (AP)

PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Harvey was everything as advertised and yesterday was named the National League’s Pitcher of the Month, going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA. In 40.1 innings, Harvey struck out 46 while walking just 12.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH: The Mets’ biggest bat belonged to John Buck, who hit nine homers with 25 RBI. The Mets insist he wasn’t a throw-in in the R.A. Dickey trade, but with Travis d’Arnaud out for two months with a fractured foot, Buck will not be dangled soon. The pitchers swear by him.

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE MONTH: It can’t be anybody else but Ike Davis, who is on pace to strike out 196 times. Last year the Mets did not option Davis and let him work his way back to where he hit 32 homers. If this year’s start continues much longer, will they make the same decision?

SERIES OF THE MONTH: Playing in unbearable conditions, the Mets outscored the Twins in Minnesota by a combined 20-7 in winning two of three games. Harvey flirted with a no-hitter in the second game and the third was snowed out.

WORST SERIES OF THE MONTH: It would be easy to say their three losses in snowy and freezing Colorado, but that would be too easy. And, they deserve a break because of the weather. So, let’s make it the three games they were swept in Citi Field by the Phillies, April 26-28. The losses to Philadelphia comprised half their six-game losing streak. From there, the Mets lost consecutive one-run games in Miami, coughing up the lead in the ninth inning both times.

GAME OF THE MONTH: April 24, at Citi Field. The Mets couldn’t win a Harvey start, but sent the game into extra innings on David Wright’s two-out single in the ninth and Jordany Valdespin’s grand slam homer in the tenth.

WORST GAME OF THE MONTH: There were several to choose from, but let’s take Monday’s heartbreaker in Miami. Not only did they waste a Harvey start, but went 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position and blew two save opportunities in losing 4-3 in 15 innings.

METS’ APRIL BY THE NUMBERS: Buck’s nine homers and 25 RBI. … Davis’ .159 average with 29 strikeouts, which outnumbered his walks and hits combined. … Lucas Duda is second in the NL with 20 walks. … Daniel Murphy hit .350 (7-for-20) with RISP. … Wright hit .462 (12-for-26) with RISP. … The bullpen blew three save opportunities and has a 5.09 ERA. The Mets are 3-13 when the pen gives up a run. … Seven times the pen worked at least five innings, a direct reflection on the back end of the rotation. … Longest winning streak was three games and the longest losing streak was six games. … The Mets were 1-6 in one-run games. … Longest hitting streak: Eight games by Murphy. … The Mets used 22 different batting orders in 25 games for the month. … The Mets have used six different leadoff hitters. … Seven different pitchers started games, including Aaron Laffey, who started two and is no longer with the team. … The Mets hit three grand slams for the month.

QUESTIONS COMING OUT OF THE MONTH

Q: Is Matt Harvey for real?

A: Who really knows, but all indications are he is. Harvey’s numbers are impressive, but not as much as is composure and tenacity on the mound.

Q: How long will the Mets stay with Ike Davis?

A: Working in Davis’ favor is the Mets’ reluctance to move Lucas Duda to first base. Davis’ struggling also indicates how thin the Mets are in the minor leagues.

Q: Will they quit fooling around with Jordany Valdespin?

A: The Mets have used six different leadoff hitters. Also, Valdespin won two games with homers, but still languishes in a non-starting role.

Q: Is bullpen and outfield help on the way?

A: There has been some juggling and movement on the Vegas shuttle, but nothing of any substance.

Q: Zack Wheeler, how soon?

A: Wheeler is coming off his best start, but that’s not enough for the Mets to promote him. Should he have two or three like the last one, perhaps the end of the month?

THE MONTH AHEAD: The Mets snapped their losing streak May 1 with Valdespin’s homer Wednesday. The Mets are in Atlanta this weekend, a place where they have not fared well. There are few easy putts this month, as their schedule includes four games in St. Louis, three against Cincinnati and three more with the Braves at Citi Field, and four interleague games with the Yankees.

ON DECK: Later today I’ll continue my series on the 1973 World Series team, take a look at tonight’s starter and preview the Braves series.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 02

Mets Matters: Andrew Brown To Join Team; Harvey Honored

ESPN reports the Mets will promote outfielder Andrew Brown for this weekend’s series at Atlanta.

Brown’s numbers at Triple-A Las Vegas are .367 with two homers and 27 RBI. The Mets’ corresponding move could be either returning Juan Lagares or Collin Cowgill to Triple-A.

Brown played in 57 games the past two seasons with St. Louis and Colorado, where his numbers were hardly eye opening at .224 with five homers and 14 RBI.

Mets right fielders are hitting a combined .219 with one homer and 12 RBI. And, all that comes with a .288 on-base percentage.

The Mets’ anemic performance in right field has been brought into focus with the team in Atlanta and the Braves featuring Justin Upton. The Mets had a shot at Upton when Arizona shopped him over the winter, but they did not want to part with Zack Wheeler.

The Mets’ unwillingness to part with prospects and/or draft picks is also why they did not go after Braves’ free-agent Michael Bourne because they did not want to give up the compensatory draft pick.

Meanwhile, the Mets’ top-rated outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo is in Single-A and not close to being ready.

HARVEY RECOGNIZED: Matt Harvey, Sunday’s scheduled starter, was named the National League’s Pitcher of the Month for April.

Harvey is 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in six starts, with him getting no-decisions in his last two. In 40.1 innings, Harvey has 46 strikeouts and has issued 12 walks.

The last Mets pitcher to win the monthly award was R.A. Dickey in June 2012.

METS-ATLANTA ROTATION

Friday: RHP Shaun Marcum (0-2, 7.94) vs. LHP Mike Minor (3-2, 3.13), 7:30 p.m. ET.

Saturday: LHP Jonathan Niese (2-2, 3.31) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (1-0, 5.08), 7:10 p.m. ET.

Sunday: RHP Matt Harvey (4-0, 1.56) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (3-1, 3.86), 1:35 p.m. ET.

METS-BRAVES: By The Numbers

The Mets have lost their season series to the Braves in six straight years, and only once since 1997. … The Mets were 6-12 last season against the Braves, including 2-7 at Turner Field. … Overall, they are 325-400-1 against the Braves, including 140-189 in Atlanta.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 02

Not Buying Terry Collins’ Explanation; Jordany Valdespin Needs To Start

Pinch-hitting is one of the more difficult things to do in the sport. After sitting for up to two hours, you are given little time to get loose and thrust into position of trying to hit a 90-mph., fastball or nasty fall-off-the-table breaking stuff.

Few do it well, but the Mets’ Jordany Valdespin has a knack for coming through with power. His three-run homer Wednesday was his sixth in two years with the Mets. He is indeed, a unique weapon.

VALDESPIN: Must play.

VALDESPIN: Must play.

“That’s what he does,’’ manager Terry Collins said, conveniently forgetting that’s what Valdespin does because he’s rarely given opportunity to do anything else. “For some reason he loves to come off the bench. Everybody likes to play, but he loves to come off the bench when the pressure is on, the heat is on.’’

Sure, Valdespin might relish batting in the clutch, but it’s a misnomer to think that’s all he wants to do. However, as tempting as it is for Collins to want to save him for that spot, one that might not present itself for days.

Given the dismal state of the Mets’ offense, and futility of using six leadoff hitters in 25 games, Valdespin must stay at the top of the order playing center field until he proves he can’t handle the role. His temperament and demeanor sometimes more represent a NBA diva, but that’s peripheral stuff that should be back-burnered until it proves to be a detriment to the team.

Collins tried to create the ideal image for Valdespin yesterday, but came woefully short in selling his position.

“One of those things with those bench players like that, you create the scene for them,’’ Collins said. “If he’s hitting third, he doesn’t come up in that situation. If he’s hitting first, he doesn’t come up there. All of a sudden, here comes the eighth hitter in a big situation. Here he is. Now you can put him in.’’

Is that a load of garbage, or what? That’s manager-speak for what, I really don’t know.

While the clutch spot of the order might not surface until late in the game, had Valdespin started he might have had two or three chances to produce, and perhaps break open the game to where there is no clutch spot. Ever think of that, Terry?

Collins did say Valdespin sometimes changes his approach to where he’s too aggressive and goes outside himself when he plays as a starter. If that is the case, then spare us the other excuses and have him work on that part of his approach.

Collins wants it both ways and that can’t be. The problem is the Mets aren’t talented enough to where they can afford the luxury of a designated pinch-hitter. They have too many holes in their order and outfield to keep Valdespin in that role.

He needs to play, if for no other reason, to find out he can’t.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 01

Mets Lineup At Miami

Another day, another lineup for the Mets. It’s now 22 different lineups going into Game No. 26. It’s not as if Collins can’t make up his mind, but that he’s trying to juggle what little options he has remaining to him.

Ruben Tejada, SS: One of six Mets to lead off.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Back at second after hitting third and fifth. Doubled yesterday to break a 1-for-21 slide.

David Wright, 3B: Says stiff neck feels better.

John Buck, C: Hit nine homers with 25 RBI in April.

Lucas Duda, LF: On-base percentage is good; RBI total is low.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has double digit RBI.

Ike Davis, 1B: Batting seventh because he can’t go much lower.

Juan Lagares, CF: Has done little with his cup of coffee.

Dillon Gee, RHP: Tries to snap six-game losing streak.