Feb 17

Johan Santana Has A Good Throw Day

The highlight of the day in Mets’ camp was Johan Santana’s first mound session of the spring; 20 pain-free pitches in chilly Port St. Lucie.

“This is my first time in a while, but it was fine,” Santana told reporters in Florida, where the weather has been brisk and rainy. “I don’t think it was my best or anything, but it’s Day 1. You’ve got to start at some point.

“Today was a beginning for me. … You always worry about how you feel and everything, but at the same time I was just trying to get my job done and not trying to overdo things out there.’’

Not surprisingly, the Mets’ plan is to treat Santana with kid gloves. He needs to throw again and pitch batting practice before getting into an exhibition game. Usually the first exhibition is 30 pitches or two innings, and there’s no reason to think the Mets would deviate. Normally, pitchers make six starts and up to 30 innings during spring training.

The Mets are scheduled to pay Santana $31 million this year, including a $5.5 million option. A $25 million option for 2014 kicks in if he throws 215 innings this summer, and there’s no way the Mets will let him approach that figure.

The Mets are in a difficult position because they need to move on from Santana’s contract, yet at the same time if he were healthy and productive it gives them a chance to have a competitive season. Ideally, the Mets would like to deal him, but the innings clause applies to any team that trades for him and that would make him more than just a rental.

Santana didn’t pitch in 2011 as he was rehabbing from shoulder surgery. His first season with the Mets in 2008 was his only one with the team where he made all 34 starts. He ended last season on the disabled list with lower back inflammation.

In looking at the Santana trade, it is clear the Mets overpaid, both in terms of prospects – although none panned out to have successful major league careers – and obviously in terms of salary. In looking at a trade, one must also consider the circumstances at the time.

In 2008, the Mets were coming off a historic season in which their bullpen collapsed and they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. The previous season they lost the NLCS in seven games to St. Louis. In both seasons their pitching was suspect and a workhorse was needed.

Both the Yankees and Boston were after him, but pulled out when Minnesota’s asking price was deemed to high. Then GM Omar Minaya said Santana fell back to them and he did because there was no other competition.

Feb 17

Delcos Sunday Column: Wright Being The Mets’ Jeter

As usual, David Wright was attempting to be modest when he downplayed owner Fred Wilpon’s comments this week that he “is the Mets’ Derek Jeter.’’

Statistically, there’s not a comparison, in that Jeter has over 3,000 hits and five World Series rings and is a slam dunk Hall of Famer if he didn’t play another game. Unquestionably, he’s in on the first ballot. There’s no denying is greatness as a player.

As for Wright, he hits for more power, but will have to turn it on for the remainder of his contract if he’s to catch Jeter in a number of statistical categories.

As a clutch player, Jeter has few peers.

Defensively, both are good at their positions. Both can run.

Of course, Jeter has played longer and with a better team, so his numbers would be superior.

However, Wilpon wasn’t talking about statistics. Wilpon was referring to the intangibles both bring to their respective teams. These are qualities that can’t be measured.

Jeter is the Yankees’ captain and I expect Terry Collins to make a similar appointment to Wright, although neither needs an official designation to know they are the leaders of their teams.

When something happens in baseball or with their teams, both are sought after as being the player spokesman. Writers know articles with quotes from Wright and Jeter seem to be more authoritative. When you want the temperature of the Mets, one talks to Wright. When you want it of the Yankees, Jeter is the guy.

Both are players the younger guys look up, and both have no problems calling out somebody who doesn’t hustle or makes a mistake. When a pitcher needs calming down, you’ll see both go to the mound.

Both are the respective faces of their teams. Both are their current identities. Unquestionably, both are the players the fans pay to see.

Both have the intangibles you can see and feel, but there is no statistical measure.

And, you can’t imagine either in another team’s uniform. That’s why free agency never really applied to either. Despite his coy references, you knew Jeter wasn’t going anywhere.

And, despite the Mets’ economic crunch, I never had the feeling Wright would leave on his own. Jeter will retire a Yankee and go to the Hall of Fame. Wright will retire a Met, and if he finishes the second half of his career like the first half, he too, should see Cooperstown.

That’s what Wilpon meant.

Feb 16

Mets To Have Platoons In Center And Right

Maybe the Mets will find somebody who is released at the end of spring training, but for now the Mets are looking at platoons in center and right field.

Center will feature Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill, and right field has Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter.

Former Cardinal and Rockie Andrew Brown will also get a chance to compete.

None of these candidates, if they played fulltime, could be expected to hit the 20 home runs Scott Hairston did last season.

Any outfield power will come from Lucas Duda. Manager Terry Collins said he’s strong enough to hit 40 homers, but he can’t be projected to hit that many, or even.

Let him hit 20 first.

Feb 16

I Don’t Get Jordany Valdespin

Maybe it is me, but I don’t think I will ever understand Jordany Valdespin. At one time I wanted him to get a chance and wonder why he wasn’t. Now, it is clear. The guy’s elevator doesn’t go to the top and he ranks low on the charm and responsibility meters.

When asked by reporters today in Port St. Lucie to explain why his Twitter account had a photo of himself wearing a Marlins cap, he lamely said it was taken by his cousin who put up the picture.

“Things happen,” Valdespin said. “My cousin put that picture over here. I don’t have any information about that. When I see that picture, everything happened, and I said, ‘What the —-?’ But I had a big problem with my family about that. So that’s not my fault.’’

Yes, it is his fault. On two counts. One, for wearing the Marlins’ cap in the first place in public, and two, for giving a relative access to your social media account. Evidently, the photo was online long enough for people to notice.

Continue reading

Feb 16

Jenrry Mejia’s Role Is Set

Once he arrives in camp – which might take another week – it appears Jenrry Mejia’s spring is already laid out for him.

Barring an injury to somebody rated ahead of him, Mejia will be used as a starting pitcher and expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. This decision has nothing to do with his visa problems in leaving the Dominican Republic.

Not that they don’t need bullpen help, but this is the best course for the Mets, both in the short and long terms.

The Mets have several rotation questions, and if history is an indicator they will have a need for another starter or two this season. It is that way every summer.

And, for next year and beyond, the Mets will need another starter, as there are no plans to bring back Johan Santana.

The Mets’ projected rotation includes Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee. Mejia and Zack Wheeler are next in line.

Santana and Gee are coming off injuries; Niese’s career-high is 13 victories; Harvey has ten career starts; and Marcum was a late FA pick-up. Now, you tell me that is a position of strength.

Clearly, the Mets need more starting pitching depth.

Mejia has been bounced around between the rotation and the pen, and I still maintain Jerry Manuel’s insistence of using him as an untested reliever set back his career. Through it all, Mejia’s greatest success has been as a starter, and it is the team’s obligation to put him in a position where he’s best able to succeed.

After coming off Tommy John surgery last year – and who says there’s not a connection with how he’s been handled? – Mejia’s numbers were far superior as a starter.

Mejia posted a 2.75 ERA and .245 opponents batting average as a starter compared to a 5.48 ERA and .303 opponents batting average out of the bullpen.

While it isn’t the largest sampling, it is enough to determine his comfort zone and the best place to start.

Starting pitching is expensive, and despite Fred Wilpon’s proclamation his finances are in order and the Mets will spend in the future, that’s no guarantee. What is assured, however, is the Mets don’t have the chips to deal for a starter and anybody of substance in the free-agent market will be costly. That’s another reason why grooming Mejia in this role is the prudent option because of his reasonable salary.

Mejia needs this year to fully come back from his injury and build up the strength to pitch seven plus innings every fifth day. This is the best course for both Mejia and the Mets.

Meanwhile, Mejia is working out at the Mets’ complex in the Dominican Republic and manager Terry Collins thinks it could be another week before he gets to Florida.