Jul 05

It’s All About Learning For Zack Wheeler; Mets Need To Let Him Be

The New York Mets claimed they didn’t want to bring up Zack Wheeler and then send him back to the minor leagues. They said he was here to stay, but the qualifier is Wheeler has to pitch worthy of sticking.

Wheeler will be making his fourth start Friday at Milwaukee, but he’s gotten progressively worse since his debut in Atlanta.

WHEELER: Leave him alone and let him learn. (AP)

WHEELER: Leave him alone and let him learn. (AP)

The issue is command, which was exacerbated by Wheeler tipping off his breaking pitches. In his second start, the Mets called for more breaking balls, and he was simply a mess in his third start when he gave up five runs in 4.2 innings against Washington.

Manager Terry Collins said his staff has been tinkering too much with Wheeler, but remember he was part of that decision making process. Pitching coach Dan Warthen doesn’t construct a game plan without Collins’ knowledge, and catcher John Buck calls pitches predicated on his pregame talks with Wheeler and the staff.

With Wheeler, the Mets have been like the man with the barbeque who is always poking at the fire. They were doing him a disservice.

Now, Collins is advocating what was written here after Wheeler’s second start, which is the rookie must go more with his fastball and use that as his foundation.

“We’ve addressed a couple of issues,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday. “Once again, I don’t like handing out scouting reports. But it’s pretty basic: One of the things I really, really, really believe in – I don’t care if it’s a guy like Zack Wheeler who is strictly a power guy, or a guy like Dillon Gee – you have to pitch to your strengths.

“You can’t always pitch to the hitters’ weaknesses. I’ve had some of the greatest pitchers that ever pitched say the same thing. … That was my whole message to Zack: Don’t get away from your strengths. Just because so-and-so can’t hit a slider doesn’t mean you can’t get him out with your fastball.’’

Collins said the tip-pitching has been corrected. That, combined with throwing more fastballs, should give us a clearer pitcher of Wheeler. We will also learn tonight how well he rebounds from adversity.

Wheeler indicated he wasn’t happy with his latest bullpen session, but there isn’t always a correlation with that and how he does in a game.

Wheeler has had time to clear his head, study film of himself and go over the scouting reports. The early book on him was an ability to focus and not let things bother him.

That includes interacting with the media, which hasn’t always been smooth. There are times when he can get short and curt, but getting acclimated with the media will come in time, as will his level of comfort on the mound.

Right now, nothing is easy for Wheeler, but that’s part of the learning curve. Wheeler isn’t Matt Harvey and the Mets must have different expectations. The Mets are banking he’ll pick it up so he doesn’t have to see the minors again.

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Jul 05

Ike Davis Promotion Imminent; Mets Have Decisions To Make

Reports are the New York Mets are about to recall first baseman Ike Davis from the minor leagues in time for Friday’s game in Milwaukee.

Davis was demoted June 10, and although his Triple-A Las Vegas numbers are good, the timing is interesting. When Zack Wheeler as in Vegas, the Mets harped on disregarding statistics because the atmosphere was conducive to hitting.

DAVIS: Hope he's gotten things ironed out.

DAVIS: Hope he’s gotten things ironed out.

Using that logic, Davis’ .293 average with seven homers, 13 RBI and .424 on-base percentage must also be looked at skeptically. Davis’ mechanics and approach were a mess when he was with the Mets, evidenced by his .161 average with 66 strikeouts in 186 at-bats.

Although Davis’ minor league average is good, he does have 18 strikeouts in 75 at-bats, which is still a high strikeout ratio. Using those numbers, the Mets must wonder if his approach is what it should be.

Las Vegas manager Wally Backman said Davis’ hitch isn’t as pronounced as it once was and he’s taking more balls to left field. They will know for sure when they see him firsthand.

If Davis goes back to his old habits, then he didn’t accomplish anything. If he doesn’t and produces, it gives the Mets’ two options, 1) they could decide they want to extend his contract, and if not, 2) they could opt to trade him.

Should the Mets decide they don’t want to bring him back and make a deal, they have a little less than four weeks before the July 31 trade deadline.

The backdrop to all this is Davis, at 26, has shown signs of being a power hitter with 32 homers last year. The Mets are a rebuilding team wary of finances, and might think his $3.1 million salary that would go up in arbitration, is too high.

However, whatever Davis makes in arbitration – if he becomes the player the Mets envisioned – IS NOT TOO HIGH.

I’ve been writing his salary is a factor because that’s the way it has been for the Mets. However, CEO Jeff Wilpon said the Mets have resources to add a player, and that should also apply to Davis, because for all practical purposes he hasn’t been here all year.

And, wouldn’t they want to add a 30-homer bat?

The Mets have not made any overtures of wanting to extend him, but they rarely do during a season. David Wright and Jose Reyes were exceptions in 2006.

Caught in the middle of all this is Josh Satin, who is riding a ten-game hitting streak and is batting .353. He can’t play the outfield, so it is curious if Davis’ demotion was also an attempt to showcase Satin for a trade.

While this is a transition season, there’s no law saying they have to make all their key moves in the off-season. They could be on the verge of doing something significant now.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 02

Hot Josh Satin Could Hurt Mets’ Chances Of Trading Ike Davis

The New York Mets are close to entering the dilemma stage with first baseman Ike Davis.

At the beginning of the season Davis was considered part of the Mets’ core, but for the second straight year slumped out of the gate. This time, the Mets tired of waiting for the flourish that never came and shipped him to Triple-A Las Vegas where he would presumably get “fixed,’’ by manager Wally Backman.

DAVIS: What will become of him?

DAVIS: What will become of him?

Davis was hot for a while and named Pacific Coast Player of the Week after hitting four homers in two games. That seems like a long time ago as he has cooled considerably, while at the same time his replacement, Josh Satin, is getting hot with the Mets.

After consecutive three-hit games, manager Terry Collins said Satin, “deserves some at-bats,’’ which he wouldn’t be getting if Davis was due up soon. Satin’s production puts pressure on GM Sandy Alderson about what to do about Davis’ future with the Mets.

Davis was reportedly due up at the beginning of this homestand, but the Mets balked, citing facing two left-handers each in back-to-back series against Washington and Arizona. If the Mets are reluctant to bring up Davis because of lefties, what message does that send to any prospective buyer at the trade deadline?

If Satin’s production keeps Davis down in Vegas, it also hurts whatever trade value he might have to the Mets. Davis is making $3.1 million this year and there’s a strong possibility the Mets might not tender him a contract, which is what happened last winter with Mike Pelfrey.

Pelfrey became a free-agent and signed with Minnesota, and should Davis become a free-agent there’s no way he’s coming back.

Some say Davis should be brought up to see what he could do the remaining three months of the season, but in actuality the Mets have one month if they hope to trade him by the deadline. There’s always waiver deals through August. Davis has likely already cleared waivers, but the Mets’ options lessen after July 31 as a potential trade can be blocked.

If the Mets are convinced Davis is part of their future and they’ll tender him a contract, there’s no problem. However, if they are certain they’ll cut him loose then it is imperative they do something soon. That means bringing him up and benching Satin, regardless of good the latter is playing.

If Davis is close to correcting his swing and approach away from pulling everything, he could bring value to a contender. The Yankees with Mark Teixeira out for the season are just one team in need of a first baseman.

Davis could help other teams, so if he’s not in their plans, the Mets need to act quickly as their window is closing.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 30

For Best Results Mets Need To Turn Wheeler Loose

After what happened Friday night, it was impressive how the New York Mets rebounded yesterday. While the baseball cliché is “there’s always a game tomorrow,’’ there can be a carry-over. Now, let’s see if there is one today in Zack Wheeler’s Flushing debut.

WHEELER: Turn him loose.

WHEELER: Turn him loose.

In his first two starts, Wheeler is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA. The Mets took him off the hook for what would have been a loss last Tuesday in Chicago, but they aren’t able to erase his wildness.

Foolishly, the Mets mandated Wheeler throw more breaking pitches against the White Sox. Unfortunately, he was tipping his pitches when he did.

Wheeler’s money pitch is his fastball. First things first: He should learn command of that pitch on the corners before going to his slider and curveball.

There are many – Wheeler included – who believe he’s being force-fed the major leagues. But he’s here now, so the Mets should put him in the best position to win. With their offense suspect and bullpen shaky at times, that means letting Wheeler go with his fastball.

There will be pressure on Wheeler this afternoon against the Nationals, but he’ll have third baseman David Wright available as a calming influence.

“It’s going to be one of the most enjoyable, memorable times for anybody making their home debut, especially as highly touted as Zack,’’ Wright told reporters at Citi Field yesterday. “Best advice is just enjoy it because it only happens once. Don’t go out and try to do too much. Don’t try to go out and impress. Do what’s got you to this point, and he obviously knows what he’s doing.’’

And, what got Wheeler here was his fastball.

NEWS NOT GOOD ON GEE: Dillon Gee gave the Mets six strong innings yesterday, but he did it with flexor tendinitis in his arm making the disabled list a possibility.

As most pitchers do, Gee said he’s fine.

“It actually felt pretty good lately,’’ Gee said after beating the Nationals. 5-1. “Hasn’t really been an issue.’’

Over his past six starts, Gee as limited opponents to one run in four of them.

METS MATTERS: One of the best pick-ups by the Mets has been outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is second on the team with 40 RBI. Ideally, you’d like to keep him in the hope the Mets will make a run toward respectability, but realistically he could prove valuable to a contender. … Terry Collins said Ruben Tejada has to beat out Omar Quintanilla when he comes off the disabled list. Quintanilla has played very well, and yesterday broke an 0-for-17 slide with two hits. … Jon Niese, on the disabled list with a partially torn rotator cuff, is scheduled for a follow-up MRI July 4, which could determine the need for surgery.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 28

Matt Harvey Starts Important Series For Mets

The New York Mets return home from a 7-4 road trip to face the Washington Nationals in a three-game series, with Matt Harvey going against left-hander Ross Detwiler.

The Mets are 5.5 games behind the Nationals in the standings, and four behind in the loss column. Yes, it sounds odd, perhaps premature to think, but a sweep could change the complexion of the NL East standings and maybe the Mets’ season.

HARVEY: Animated, as usual.

HARVEY: Animated, as usual.

A strong close to the first half could get them inside ten games below .500, which could bring some fun to Citi Field after the All-Star break. Too early to say playing meaningful baseball in September, but better than we thought a month ago.

Harvey, at 7-1, is an integral part of what the Mets are trying to do, and from his personal objective, a win tonight could go toward his being named a starter in the July 16 All-Star Game.

Harvey leads the NL with 112 strikeouts and MLB with opponent’s batting average (.188) and WHIP (0.88). If not for a lack of run support that has him with eight no-decisions, he might already have double-digit victories and his position as All-Star starter would be secure.

With Harvey going Friday and Zack Wheeler on Sunday, it could be and early version of the “Futures Game,’’ this weekend.

Incidentally, Wheeler is working with pitching coach Dan Warthen on not tipping his pitches. Just wondering why the Mets in his debut or at Triple-A Las Vegas didn’t pick this up earlier.

METS MATTERS: Doc Gooden will be at Citi Field tonight for a book signing. … Ruben Tejada begins a rehab assignment this weekend. Terry Collins said Tejada isn’t assured his job when he returns, claiming he has to beat out Omar Quintanilla, who has done nothing to warrant losing the starting position.

Here’s tonight’s Mets’ batting order:

Eric Young, LF: Hitting .556 (5-for-9) with RISP since joining the Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hitting .276 (16-for-58) with RISP.

David Wright, 3B: Hit .326 (14-for-43) on the trip.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has six homers in June, a career-high for him in any month.

Josh Satin, 1B: Hitting .273 while playing good defense. Is he a keeper?

John Buck, C: Is on a 2-for-24 slide.

Juan Lagares, CF: Looks as if center field job is his to lose. With his speed, I wouldn’t mind seeing him getting a chance at hitting second and dropping Murphy into a RBI position.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Takes a 0-for-13 slide into game.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Has reached the sixth inning or longer in 14 of 16 starts.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos