Apr 01

Matz Fails First Test

It didn’t take long for Mets manager Mickey Callaway to learn today wasn’t going to belong to Steven Matz. When a pitcher throws 26 pitches in the first inning, even if he doesn’t give up any runs, you know he won’t be long for that game.

Callaway knew it was the same old problem for Matz – fastball command.

“He struggled with his release point and couldn’t establish the fastball needed to set-up his other pitches,’’ said Callaway. “He battled himself all game. He didn’t execute his pitches. He was struggling from the get-go and couldn’t locate his fastball.’’

Callaway said Matz didn’t have confidence, but that’s now how he started the day that ended in a 5-1 loss to the Cardinals.

“I was trying to do a little too much out there. I was really smooth and easy before the game and was feeling really confident,’’ Matz said. “Then when a hitter stepped in, I was trying to make my pitches better and that’s when I get in trouble.

“I was leaving the ball up a lot and they were able to get their barrels on it. When I don’t have my fastball command that’s where it all starts for me.’’

Matz threw 73 pitches after three innings and finished with 89 pitches in four innings. He gave up three runs on four hits and three walks, including solo homers to Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong.

I’ve been saying all along that it is way too early to make any definitive judgments on anything pertaining to the Mets and that includes on Matz. However, today does raise a red flag.

With Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard the Mets have a strong front end of the rotation. But, it’s what they get from Matz and Matt Harvey that determines what will happen with the Mets this season.

EXTRA INNINGS: Juan Lagares started in center because Brandon Nimmo had flu-like symptoms and responded with three hits. Nimmo was sent home and not available. … Michael Conforto will return to New York and is scheduled to face Jason Vargas in a simulated game Monday. There is a chance Conforto could be activated from the DL as early as Thursday. … Anthony Swarzak will have his sore left oblique muscle re-examined Monday.

 

Apr 01

Mets’ Matz Has Questions To Answer

That the Mets won with Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom isn’t surprising. If Steven Matz is healthy and pitching well that would tell me more about this team. Ditto Matt Harvey tomorrow, assuming they play in the snow.

Both Syndergaard and deGrom could win 20 games this year, but the Mets aren’t going anywhere unless they get stellar production from the back end of their rotation. And wins today and tomorrow would just be a start.

Matz and Harvey have had difficulty staying healthy and productive. Matz struck out 21 in 20 innings during spring training, which is great. Any pitcher would take those numbers. However, he had a 6.30 ERA, which is damned awful.

Things haven’t worked out for Matz since his debut, which is why they got Jason Vargas.

Other thoughts on today’s game: I’m glad Wilmer Flores gets the start at first base. Once again, Mickey Callaway is living up to his word of getting Flores involved. Yoenis Cespedes continues to hit second, which I’m not hot on. I know Callaway loves him there, but I’m still a traditionalist and want my power in the 3-4-5 holes. It will take me awhile before I get used to that lineup.

 

Mar 31

Mets Wrap: Small Ball Prevails Again

The Mets hit a couple of homers, but that is the least important thing to take out of their 6-2 victory today over the Cardinals. Instead, focus on how they made things happen on the bases; how Jacob deGrom was effective despite not having his best stuff; and how Mickey Callaway will handle his stressed bullpen tomorrow.

DE GROM: Grinds it out. (AP)

DE GROM: Grinds it out. (AP)

Small ball prevails again: Callaway stressed base running in spring training and the Mets kept the pressure on all day. In the first, Jay Bruce scored from first on Todd Frazier’s two-run double, with Frazier taking third on the throw home. … Then, in the seventh, even more impressive than his homer, was Yoenis Cespedes tagging and taking third on Frazier’s shallow sacrifice fly.

There seems something different about the Mets’ offense. It’s refreshing to see their hustle and patience at the plate.

Of course, it has only been two games.

DeGrom grinds it out: Throwing 101 pitches in 5.2 innings is indicative of deGrom not having his best stuff, in particular, his change-up was off.

“I felt good early on,’’ deGrom said. “But, I thought I was flying open a little bit and it was tough to grip the ball. There are days when you have your best stuff and days you don’t. That’s when you have to bear down.’’

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who hit the Mets’ first homer of the season, said deGrom reached another level as evidenced by seven strikeouts.

“He didn’t have his best stuff,’’ d’Arnaud said. “But, he went out and made the pitches when he had to.’’

Not all peachy: These being the Mets, of course, there’s always a glitch. Today it was Anthony Swarzak straining his left oblique muscle, which forced Jeurys Familia to get a four-out save.

Swarzak’s answer as to the severity of the injury illustrated how new he is to the Mets: “I’m not a doctor, so I really don’t know.  We’ll see what happens. Hopefully, this is just a little scare.’’

GM Sandy Alderson never answered an injury-related question in that manner.

It’s likely Swarzak will miss several games – it would be wise not to pitch him in the chilly weather – but could end up on the disabled list.

It will be interesting to see what Callaway does Sunday if faced with a save situation. Familia threw 30 pitches today, but Callaway said early in camp he wasn’t married to having a designated closer.

Given that don’t be surprised if AJ Ramos gets the ball in the ninth.

Mar 31

No Reason To Rush Conforto

It is both good and bad news that Michael Conforto could be activated by the Mets from the disabled list. The good news is that his rehab following shoulder surgery is ahead of schedule. The bad news, of course, is this gives GM Sandy Alderson the potential to tinker with an injury.

Alderson, who snapped, “I can’t tie him down and throw him in the tube,’’ when asked last year why he didn’t force Noah Syndergaard to take an MRI, then subsequently gave the all-clear decision to start him against Washington that resulted in a torn lat muscle that scuttled last season.

Originally, the Mets and Conforto stated a May 1 return date, and April 5 beats that by over three weeks.

“That’s a decision we’ll make over the next couple of days,’’ Alderson said.

Why so soon?

Why not see what Brandon Nimmo can do over the next month? What’s the hurry?

Alderson is the man who constantly pokes at the coals on a grill. He has traditionally mishandled injuries by rushing players back. He’s done it with David Wright, Matt Harvey and Syndergaard to name a few.

Conforto said, “I’m pretty close,’’ but that’s a player itching to get back and not a doctor. He’s already playing in minor league rehab games.

I’m not a doctor, either, but as a student of Mets’ history, I’ve seen too many players rushed back from injuries and know this has the potential to end badly.

There’s nothing to be gained by bringing Conforto back next week, but plenty to lose.

Mar 30

Callaway Made Right Call With Syndergaard

While Mickey Callaway’s lineup decision continues to be analyzed – just check out today’s papers – I believe his most important one was removing Noah Syndergaard after six innings.

After throwing 85 pitches, it might have been tempting to squeeze out another inning, perhaps even two, but Callaway’s niche is pitching and he made the right call.

Syndergaard left with an 8-4 lead, and while four runs isn’t an insurmountable deficit, it certainly is large enough to warrant Callaway’s confidence in his bullpen.

With the temperatures in the high 40s and Syndergaard having to sit through the Mets taking batting practice against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez, there was a reasonable-to-good chance the pitcher could have stiffened up. And, with Syndergaard having sustained a torn lat muscle that cost him most of the 2017 season, Callaway was protecting one of his biggest assets.

“I felt like he had done his job,’’ Callaway said. “We wanted to get some of our relievers in the game, so there was no second thought there at all.’’

There shouldn’t have been.

Syndergaard, who was one of former pitching coach’s biggest supporters, had no problem with being pulled: “I think that was the right managerial decision, just because we were up by a lot.’’

As far as batting the pitcher eighth, Amed Rosario ninth and Yoenis Cespedes second, I can appreciate the logic, but I prefer Cespedes hitting in the traditional run-producing slots in the batting order.

I would do it again Saturday because it worked and you never want to mess around with success