Jun 26

Are Mets’ Forcing Wheeler’s Development?

Here’s what the New York Mets can make of Zack Wheeler: He still has a lot of work to do. Wheeler tripped Tuesday night, but I’m inclined to agree with Ron Darling in that it was the Mets who stuck their foot out.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

Darling, who has forgotten more pitching than most of us will ever know, said the Mets might have done Wheeler a disservice by having him go away from his fastball, which can be overpowering, and throw more of his slider.

Wheeler hasn’t refined his secondary pitches and pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters last night the Mets’ prized rookie was tipping his pitches by having a different arm angle for his breaking balls.

Wheeler said he was “bad,’’ after he gave up four runs on four hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. Surprisingly, Wheeler struck out one, but you’d think with a 95-mph. plus-fastball he would have had more. He would have had he mixed in more fastballs among his 109 pitches.

Wheeler is clearly not as far along and polished as Matt Harvey was last year at this time. He is more advanced with his fastball than his breaking balls, and that’s the pitch he should have used more often, if for no other reason it was an interleague game.

Seriously, when will Wheeler see the White Sox again? Just throw the fastball until they prove they can hit it.

Throwing unrefined breaking balls is even more risky when behind in the count, and of the 24 batters he faced, he threw only 11 first-pitch strikes.

Wheeler said he was bad. He might over stated things a bit, because the Mets have shown us a lot worse this year. Speaking of which, today is Shaun Marcum Day.

It wasn’t as if the White Sox knocked him around the park, but they were usually ahead in the count and generally had comfortable at-bats.

Unless Wheeler goes into a dive, the plan is for him to be here, and learn on the fly. That’s not the best way as the Mets have rushed him. By Wheeler’s own admission he wasn’t ready, but he’s not going to say, “no, I’ll stay in Vegas.’’ After all, there are only so many $3.99 all-you-can-eat buffets one you can enjoy.

So, as long as he’s here let him throw his fastball, then mix in a curve and go with the slider as his third pitch.

By all accounts, Wheeler is ahead of Mike Pelfrey when he first came up, and that includes his secondary pitches. Pelfrey became ineffective because he didn’t have command of his secondary pitches and hitters sat on his fastball.

Ideally, the Mets should turn Wheeler loose with his fastball and work in the other pitches gradually. Let him throw the pitch he has the most confidence in and go from there.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them.

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Jun 22

Mets Should Not Be Seduced By Davis’ Vegas Numbers

Las Vegas, I learned in grade school geography and reinforced by the movie “Casino,’’ is located in the desert, and when lost in the desert one can fall victim to a mirage. Surely, the New York Mets know this, too, and should not be seduced by the mirage of Ike Davis hitting back-to-back two-homer games.

Davis, once considered part of the Mets’ core, is in Vegas gambling he still has a major league future. He and the Mets are encouraged he’s riding a five-game hitting streak where he is 9-for-16 with four homers and seven RBI. Overall, in 11 games, he is hitting .333 with a .480 on-base percentage.

DAVIS: Not ready. (AP)

DAVIS: Not ready. (AP)

Good, but not good enough, and the Mets would be foolish to fall for the mirage Davis is now a major league hitter. Eleven games means nothing; he needs more than double that amount, perhaps triple it, to prove he’s ready.

Las Vegas manager Wally Backman talks boastfully about correcting Davis’ nasty hitch, and Mets manager Terry Collins said his reports are good in that regard.

It’s still not enough, as Davis’ problems aren’t just mechanical, but mental. His approach is wrong, and I am afraid the four homers will underscore Davis’ problem in bold.

“I am a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs,’’ Davis said this spring. “Strikeouts come with that.’’

It was a faulty answer this spring and it is just as bad now. Davis’ most impressive statistic is seven walks, but in 39 at-bats, Davis has nine strikeouts, so you tell me what he’s learned.

Davis needs to forget about pulling the ball and hitting home runs. He must concentrate on working the count, shortening his swing and using the entire field. Once he’s capable of doing that, then he’ll be putting the ball in play more and consequently his home runs and run production will increase.

That’s the approach Davis must learn, and emphasize to Backman it is something ingrained in him. If he can’t do that, then he’ll come back to the Mets and fall into the same old habits.

The Mets warned not to be discouraged by Zack Wheeler’s numbers because they are skewed by the conditions of the desert. The ball flies in the Pacific Coast League. By the same logic, shouldn’t we also consider Davis’ numbers with skepticism?

The sampling of Davis’ work is too small to make the determination he’s ready to come back. This is no time for the Mets to be fooled again.

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

Jun 21

Mets’ Jon Niese Has Rotator Cuff Tear; Injury Might Have Roots In Cold Weather Games

The bad news regarding Jonathon Niese has gotten worse – almost as bad as it can get for the New York Mets.

Niese, who left Thursday night’s game in Atlanta in the fourth inning because of pain in his left shoulder, was diagnosed with a partially torn rotator cuff. The announcement came less than an hour after manager Terry Collins was quoted as saying the injury wasn’t severe.

Collins’ comments only reinforced the understanding that under no circumstances, should the word of a Mets’ manager be taken when it comes to discussing the severity of an injury, which might have had its roots from Niese pitching in back-to-back sub-30-degree games in Minnesota and Denver.

Niese struggled after those starts and later complained of back stiffness. He later missed a start with shoulder tendinitis. What isn’t known, was how much Niese’s mechanics were altered by the cold-weather originated stiffness and if that strain eventually caused the tear.

Surgery is not immediately recommended the Mets said about an hour ago, but with this type of injury it usually is how these things end.

As was suggested earlier today, Niese was placed on the disabled list.

Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia, Mets assistant GM John Ricco said: “Hopefully, it will start healing itself and he won’t need surgery. But we’ll know more after a couple of weeks of rest. According to the doctors it’s a small-enough tear that with rest … they’re hopeful it won’t need surgery. It’s not ‘full thickness’ or a significant tear at this point.’’

If there’s no progress in that time, if the Mets wanted to add a player to their 40-man roster they could place Niese on the 60-day disabled list.

Niese recently missed a start because of tendinitis in his shoulder. Ricco said this is a new injury that didn’t show on a MRI at the time. That doesn’t mean Niese didn’t exasperate the injury by throwing with the tendinitis.

Reliever Greg Burke replaces Niese on the 25-man roster and the Mets’ rotation logjam took care of itself.

In a snarky comment, manager Collins told reporters: “You guys got your wish. There’s only five of them left.’’

It is as stupid a comment as a manager can make. No doubt Collins is frustrated, not only with his team, but also the persistent questioning of who would be bounced from the rotation.

The questioning is understandable since the Mets wanted to push things off by going to a six-man rotation. Reporters have to ask that question.

Collins’ answer implies the media wanted somebody to get hurt in order to get the answer. That’s not only absurd, but totally irresponsible.

It also won’t win Collins any points with the press if he needs the benefit of doubt when his job is on the line.

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

Jun 21

Jonathan Niese Must Go On DL

Whatever the outcome of Jonathon Niese’s shoulder exam this morning in New York, the New York Mets must place him on the disabled list. Not should, but must.

That reliever Greg Burke is on his way to Philadelphia this morning indicates they are thinking in those terms. Replacing him in the rotation isn’t an issue with the arrival of Zack Wheeler, so there’s no need to make a decision on Shaun Marcum for at least another two weeks.

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

Nice and neat, isn’t it?

While the Mets’ roster maneuvering will take care of itself, they would prefer the juggling if it meant having a healthy Niese. If this were an isolated incident it might raise a red flag. That this is Niese’s third problem this season is alarming.

Niese left Thursday night’s game during the fourth inning in Atlanta with pain in his left shoulder. Unlike Matt Harvey, who tried to pitch through back discomfort several weeks ago – he gets a pass because he’s in his first full season – Niese realized something was wrong after a few pitches and called to the dugout.

There was no hesitation with Terry Collins in pulling him. There wasn’t even that “let’s throw a few warm-up tosses and see what’s going on’’ nonsense that has burned the Mets before.

Niese was gone.

“It’s never good when you have to leave a game. But on a good note, the doctor did some tests and everything was negative,’’ Niese said of a training room exam Thursday night. “It just felt really weak. I think the tendinitis kind of flared up again. I felt some pain that [Tyler] Pastornicky at-bat.

“I threw a fastball and noticed my velocity was down. There was a lot of discomfort. I tried to pitch through it, but every pitch after that I felt some pain, so I just had to stop.’’

Of course, Niese should not have tried to throw those few extra pitches, but a player will always attempt to work through it because differentiating between normal game pain and injury is difficult. However, Niese had already missed a start because of his shoulder.

Niese said he felt good after missing that one start and gave the obligatory “we’ll see what the doctor says.’’

Not this time. This has gone on long enough.

Niese is young, he’s left-handed, he throws hard – at least he did before this – and under a manageable contract through the 2016 season. Not only that, Niese is good. He’s a foundation piece; part of the Mets’ core.

He must be protected.

ON DECK: Updating Ike Davis.

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

Jun 18

Zack Wheeler Lives Up To Hype

Zack Wheeler is here, so the New York Mets might as well get a real good look under his hood to see how the gears in his gut work.

The Mets believe they have another young star pitcher in their midst, but were on verge of watching a scoreless debut unravel. At the time, a Mets’ 6-1 victory and doubleheader sweep of the first-place Braves seemed highly unlikely.

WHEELER: Wins debut. (AP)

WHEELER: Wins debut. (AP)

The Braves had two on with one out in the sixth inning and Wheeler’s pitch count was approaching 100. The sixth was to be Wheeler’s last, but this time Terry Collins did not pull him so the rookie starter would have a “good feeling about himself.’’

No, Collins let Wheeler earn that good feeling by himself. Wheeler’s debut was already remarkably good, but he iced it by blowing away Dan Uggla for his seventh strikeout and getting Chris Johnson on a pop-up to second base.

It was a moment Wheeler will no doubt reflect on tonight before he falls asleep – if he falls asleep – and perhaps constantly before his next start.

Wheeler threw an emotional and encouraging 102 pitches, but only 55 of them were strikes, so that’s something he’ll work on. Six scoreless innings from Wheeler, giving up four hits and five walks.

Control was forecast to be an issue for Wheeler. It was in Las Vegas and was tonight, but that should be correctable over time. However, what can’t be taught are his 97 mph., fastball and composure to work out of trouble.

Wheeler walked two in the first, but got B.J. Upton on an inning-ending fielder’s choice. That inning could have gotten away from him easily.

Uggla hit a one-out double in the second, but Wheeler struck out the next two hitters.

Atlanta had runners on the corners with two outs in the third, but Wheeler retired B.J. Upton on a fly.

Wheeler never had a 1-2-3 inning, and seemed ready for another lack-of-support no-decision by a Mets’ starter, but catcher Anthony Recker hit a two-run homer, leaving the rookie starter to hope for his bullpen.

This time, the pen held and the Mets, unbelievably added tack-on runs. Couple this with Matt Harvey’s strong first-game effort and the Mets looked like a good team. They also made us greedy thinking how sweet it would have been to get the first game of the series.

The Mets had been riding this image since last season when Harvey burst into our consciousness. They were going to build around the young pitching of Harvey and Wheeler. That feeling intensified the past few days when it was imminent Wheeler would be promoted, and for one day at least, it all worked out for the Mets.

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