Mar 05

So Far, So Good For Harvey

It’s not important Matt Harvey is no longer considered to be the Mets’ ace. What is important is for him to just be part of the rotation. As of now, with Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler hurting and struggling, Harvey figures to slot in as third in the rotation.

HARVEY: Looking good. (AP)

HARVEY: Looking good. (AP)

He’s been solid in his two starts, and if he continues to pitch as well in his remaining four exhibition starts as he did in his three shutout innings in today’s 4-2 victory over Detroit, he could conceivably start the season’s second game if Jacob deGrom isn’t ready.

Harvey was throwing free and easy, and topping out in the mid-90s, something he rarely did last spring.

“You don’t want to be a weak link in such a powerful rotation,’’ Harvey told reporters today. “That’s what keeps us going, and pushing each other so hard. It’s nice to finally be part of that.’’

Harvey struck out two, walked one and gave up one in 48 pitches. Ideally, you’d like for him to throw fewer over three innings, we have to remember he’s still trying to return from thoracic outlet syndrome and arterial surgery.

Harvey might never hit 100 again, but he threw hard enough today to win, and if his changeup and slider register in the upper-80s as they did today, he could be very successful.

Most importantly for Harvey is how he’s implemented manager Mickey Callaway’s suggestion to speed up his delivery.

“This is a completely new year, like I’ve said,’’ Harvey said. “My mechanics are completely different. My arm’s completely different.’’

Let’s hope the results are.

Mar 03

Prayers For Rusty

I knew Rusty Staub wasn’t in good health since his heart attack in October 2015 on a flight home from Ireland. Now, I read in The Post where he is battling kidney failure.

He’s not responding to dialysis and that’s not good at all. When his friends are requesting prayers, it’s chilling news, as a matter, of fact.

STAUB: Prayers for Rusty.

STAUB: Prayers for Rusty.

“Fred and Jeff Wilpon have been in contact with Rusty to wish him well,’’ the Mets said in a statement. “In addition, multiple people in our organization have also been in contact with Rusty. All of us wish Rusty and his loved ones well in his courageous battle.’’

We all have our own memories of Rusty. I have two, one as a player, and one of him personally.

As a player, I always knew he was a great hitter. Not a power hitter, but a somebody you always wanted up in the clutch.

It was during the NLCS in 1973 against Cincinnati – the one with the Bud HarrelsonPete Rose brawl – but my enduring memory came in the 11th inning of Game 4 when Staub crashed into the right field wall to rob Dan Driessen of extra-bases.

Staub sustained a separated shoulder that kept him out of Game 5 of the NLCS and Game 1 of the World Series against Oakland. Despite playing in considerable pain and unable to throw, he managed to hit .423 with a homer and six RBI in the Series and needed the center fielder and/or second baseman to take his weak throws.

It was one of the most remarkable performances while playing injured in franchise history.

I always admired him for that, for his help and financial aid to first responders, plus his expertise as a wine sommelier. Oh yeah, I always liked his ribs.

But, I covered the Yankees at the time and never had an opportunity to cross paths with him. Anyway, I was at Logan Airport one day waiting to board a flight that was delayed when I looked up from my paper and noticed Staub buried in a magazine.

I walked up to him, introduced myself and told him how much I admired him for his performance in the 1973 Series. I only wanted to say hello, but he was so gracious and we wound up talking for the rest of the delay about a myriad of topics.

Of course, I had a lot of questions for him but didn’t gush over him, but he also had many for me. I’ve seen him at Shea Stadium a number of times since and he remembered and was always gracious.

One of my favorite Mets, most definitely, and he’s in my prayers. I hope he’s in yours, too.

 

Feb 28

What Is Best Case Scenario For Mets And Harvey?

Matt Harvey gets the ball today against the Braves for the first time this spring with little expectations. The only hope I have is for him to leave the mound without any health questions.

HARVEY: Makes first start today. (AP)

HARVEY: Makes first start today. (AP)

After all, if he strikes out the side twice, what will it matter? And, if he gets rocked, that won’t matter, either. Just throw the damn ball and hope for the best.

For the first time since he’s been a Met there aren’t any questions about his health or whether he should be given a long-term contract.

Barring something unforeseen, I don’t see Harvey signing a long-term extension after this season. I don’t recall any time when Harvey said, “I want to stay with the Mets.’’

Injuries, poor performance and diva tendencies have marked – and marred – Harvey’s career and turned him from future, shining star to a Supernova for the first half of 2013.

The best-case scenario for Harvey is for him to pitch well and for some over-eager or desperate team will offer him a ridiculous contract. It does happen, but if Jake Arrieta remains unsigned how does that bode well for Harvey?

His agent, Scott Boras, has the reputation of holding out for the best deal. Perhaps if Harvey pitches well, Boras might switch gears and sign a one-year deal or accept a qualifying offer in hope of getting a better offer after the 2019 season.

That might be the Mets’ best hope of retaining Harvey. If that doesn’t happen, their best chance of getting something for him is for him to pitch well and deal him at the deadline.

But, if Harvey is healthy, pitching lights out and the Mets are a contender, they should keep him and go for the brass ring.

That’s the best case scenario for both parties.

Feb 27

Is Syndergaard Flaunting His Thordom?

We’re a week into spring training and already the Mets have a long list of nagging injuries. There’s no reason to be immediately concerned because it’s early in camp.

However, something I find more concerning is Noah Syndergaard topping 100 mph. in 11 of 22 pitches. Then he gave a shirtless interview. Flaunting his Thordom?

SYNDERGAARD: Radar gun waves red flag. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Radar gun waves flag. (AP)

Manager Mickey Callawaywhose resume highlights pitching – already cautioned Syndergaard about overthrowing and doing too much too soon.

We already know Syndergaard can throw 100 mph. And, we already know Syndergaard likes to do this his way, evidenced by him bulking up last winter and then tearing his lat muscle trying to blow away Bryce Harper.

“My heart might have been beating a little fast when I saw 100, 101,’’ Callaway told reporters. “But I look more at the delivery and if he’s trying to overthrow. He wasn’t doing any of that.’’

But, Syndergaard has to overthrow just once to re-injure himself.

It’s not unreasonable to wonder if Syndergaard didn’t learn from last season, and like Matt Harvey seems to be caught up in his comic book superhero persona.

I don’t want to get overwhelmed by negative thoughts this early in camp, but Mets’ history tells me Callaway would be better served by keeping a close eye on Syndergaard.

Also, concerning is Jacob deGrom, who is bothered with stiffness in his lower back. DeGrom threw today, but the Mets haven’t scheduled his next start. Callaway said today he’s not sure deGrom will be strong enough to be the Opening Day starter. We’ll know more in a week or so.

You had to figure Yoenis Cespedes’ name would pop up sooner or later on the Mets’ spring training injury list. I didn’t expect it would happen this soon.

Cespedes, who admitted to not throwing over the winter, has a sore right shoulder and is listed day-to-day.

“It gets like this because I spent the whole offseason without throwing a ball,’’ Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I am used to that so there’s no reason to be concerned.’’

It’s not unusual for a player who hasn’t thrown to come down with a sore shoulder early in camp. However, it is unusual for a player not to throw at all in the offseason.

The most serious injury is Dominic Smith’s strained right quad – an injury usually associated with Cespedes – but he’s not expected to even make the Opening Day roster.

Other injuries are Juan Lagares, who is day-to-day with a strained left hamstring, and Jay Bruce has plantar fasciitis.

The only injury that could be alarming is deGrom’s simply because it is a back and he’s their best pitcher.

However, if the Mets proceed cautiously, it’s early enough in camp for them to overcome.

 

Feb 23

Callaway Benches Smith; Shows Who Is Boss

Today wasn’t just a milestone day for new Mets manager Mickey Callaway simply because it was his first game, it was in that he firmly established who is in charge.

From the moment he was introduced, Callaway stressed accountability and responsibility.

It wasn’t always that way under Terry Collins, who, in all fairness, didn’t get support from GM Sandy Alderson. Obviously, Alderson wouldn’t undercut Callaway over Dominic Smith, but it was encouraging to see the rookie manager pull the prospect from the starting lineup after he showed up late to a team meeting.

Callaway doesn’t have many rules, but being on time is one of them. It’s not all that hard to show up on time, and it is head scratching for someone trying to make the roster being late for the first game of the year.

Players supposed to show up for an 8:45 a.m., meeting and Smith was late. Maybe he overslept, maybe he got stuck in traffic, maybe he didn’t set his alarm properly. Whatever the reason, it didn’t fly with Callaway, nor should it.

Smith is a professional, and while he might have a lot to learn about playing the game, he should already know how to set an alarm clock.

Perhaps it would have been more impressive if it was Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard – all who tested the limits under Collins – but Callaway wouldn’t wilt in his first disciplinary test.

Good for him.

To his credit, Smith made no excuses, was contrite and admitted he was wrong.

“I shouldn’t be cutting it close like that,’’ Smith told reporters. “I’m a professional. This is my job. This is my career. It’s my livelihood. I felt like I definitely let them down today.

“He asked me what I thought the decision should be and I agreed with him. That’s the only way it should be. They shouldn’t give me a pass or whatever. They shouldn’t give anybody a pass. That’s what he’s been preaching since Day 1 – accountability. You got to be accountable for yourself, your actions.’’

Yes, it was only a Triple-A prospect. It wasn’t Cespedes, who is erratic in his hustle and blew off treatment of a quad injury to play golf; it wasn’t Harvey, who blew off a game last year nursing a hangover; and it wasn’t Syndergaard, who refused to take an MRI and subsequently tore a lat muscle last April which basically cost the Mets their season.

Some might ask why this is a big deal, that what difference does a few minutes make.

It’s because being late shows a lack of discipline. It shows a lack of respect for the rules and your teammates. It’s because little things can grow into bad habits that can cost a team games if left unchecked.

Basically, it’s learning how to win, something the Mets don’t know how to do.