Aug 09

A Lot Riding On Wright’s Return

I am cautiously optimistic as I post the following: Mets third baseman and captain David Wright will start a rehab assignment Monday with Class A St. Lucie.

Knock on wood. Don’t walk under a ladder. Throw salt over your shoulder. Cross your fingers. Do whatever it takes to get him back to Flushing soon and in one piece.

WRIGHT: A lot riding on rehab. (AP)

WRIGHT: A lot riding on rehab. (AP)

After winning seven straight, the Mets have dropped their last two to the Rays to fall a scant 1.5 games ahead of Washington. I said it yesterday and will say it again, forget the wild card and go for the division. Wright will help immensely in that regard.

Of all their position players, Wright is the one the Mets can ill-afford to lose the most because of what he represents: he’s their best hitter; he’s a team leader; he’s their biggest investment; he represents the Mets past, present and future.

Yes, there’s a lot riding on this.Wright sustained a right hamstring strain Aug. 14 against Philadelphia, and while on the disabled list was subsequently diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column. After spending most of the summer in Los Angeles undergoing physical therapy, Wright just spent five straight days of baseball activity, which is throwing, fielding grounders and taking batting practice.

What happens tomorrow is what realty counts as it best proximates what he’ll hopefully be doing the remainder of the season and into October – deep into October.

“There’s not much more preparation I can do other than games,’’ Wright told reporters last week when the Mets were in Miami.

Wright’s return is critical to the Mets on a number of fronts. First, if he’s close to form, it gives the Mets’ offense a jumpstart and deepens their bench and batting order.

That’s the most immediate impact.

Secondly, it should help determine the Mets’ offseason priorities: Will they need another third baseman? Will Wright need to change positions? Will a healthy Wright decrease the chances of keeping Daniel Murphy or Kelly Johnson, and possibly Juan Uribe? If Wright can’t make it, was his extension a waste and how will it effect their future spending?

No, this won’t be just a normal roster move when Wright returns. This could be roster, and possibly, franchise defining.

 

Aug 05

If They Want Him, Mets Must Act Quickly On Cespedes

Conventional wisdom says Yoenis Cespedes is a two-month rental for the Mets, with hopefully an October extension. Nobody expected GM Sandy Alderson to get him, much less keep him long-term.

However, Cespedes said he’d like to stay. Maybe it is gamesmanship on his part, but assuming he means it and he has the warm-and-fuzzies for the Mets, now is the time for the full-court press.

CESPEDES: It's now or never. (AP)

CESPEDES: It’s now or never. (AP)

If the Mets want him, Alderson must strike hard and fast. Signing Cespedes will give the Mets a jumpstart to their Christmas shopping.

“This is something I can’t control,’’ Cespedes told reporters Tuesday in Miami, conveniently overlooking the fact if he’s set on staying he can if they want him. “I don’t know what the front office is thinking about. But with what I see so far, I would love for everything to work out and stay as a Met for a long, long time, because I like the atmosphere.’’

Cespedes has a contract clause stating the Mets must release him before the free-agency period begins if they don’t want to sign him. This means is if he’s released after Aug. 31, he can’t re-sign with them until May 15, 2015. That means they sign him now or kiss him goodbye.

The Mets could fool around and say they want to re-sign him, but renege. They could do with him what they did with Jose Reyes.

That would tick off a lot of people.

Jun 10

Giants Light Up Dark Knight

Another game, another bunch of homers hit – no, make that crushed – off the Mets’ Matt Harvey.

The Giants looked comfortable in slugging three homers off Harvey and ripping him for seven runs. It was the second time in four starts he was blistered for seven runs.

HARVEY: Ripped again. (AP)

HARVEY: Ripped again. (AP)

Harvey (now 6-4 with a 3.62 ERA) has given up 12 homers and 24 extra-base hits overall in 12 starts. After Harvey was rocked for 11 runs in consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Miami, manager Terry Collins suggested the problem was a dead arm.

Harvey quickly dismissed that stock theory for when a pitcher gets torched a couple of times, which made sense because he was clocked in the mid-90s and including the Marlins game, threw over 100 pitches in back-to-back starts.

So, what’s the problem? Why has Harvey given up eight homers in his last four starts, after giving up eight homers in his previous 26?

First, consider Wednesday was Harvey’s 48th career start, which puts him in the equivalent of his second full season, which is when the real learning takes place. And, don’t forget, the hitters are learning, too.

We also must remember he’s coming off Tommy John surgery and perhaps his arm isn’t what he would want. His breaking pitches, in particular his slider, don’t have the same bite they had in 2013 when he was an All-Star and achieved cult status.

We must also look at his walks. He’s only walked 14, which is a great stat, but it also means his pitches are usually in the strike zone. Although he still throws hard, Harvey must recognize he can’t get by simply throwing heat. It also suggests his pitches, although thrown hard, don’t have the darting movement needed.

Knowing Harvey’s control is exceptional; hitters don’t hang around to fall behind in the count. Harvey has given up three homers on the first pitch (overall hitters are batting .450 off him on the first pitch). He’s also given up five homers after being behind 1-0 in the count.

So, it isn’t just one thing, but several contributing factors to why hitters are lighting up the “Dark Knight.’’

 

Jun 04

Harvey Must Carry Mets

Well, if you want to be called “The Dark Knight,’’ and aspire to be ace of the Mets, then Matt Harvey needed to come up as big as he did in Thursday night’s 6-2 win in Arizona.

The Mets, who limped through May and who are on their way to a June swoon, are looking for Harvey to grab them by the scruff on the neck and shake them awake. Harvey did so, giving up two runs in seven innings with nine strikeouts.

HARVEY: Needs to carry Mets. (Getty)

HARVEY: Needs to carry Mets. (Getty)

Harvey, who entered the game winless in his previous five starts, will be followed by Jon Niese Friday and Bartolo Colon Saturday and Jacob deGrom Sunday. Niese has struggled and Colon has won eight games – seriously, how long will this keep rolling? – so, without a Harvey victory, this had the makings of a dismal trip.

Then San Francisco comes to town next week.

The bullpen choked away back-to-back 1-0 leads by Harvey, but in his last two games he had given up 11 runs – including three homers – in 12 innings. He gave up two more tonight, so that could be a cause of bubbling concern.

Manager Terry Collins theorized of a dead arm, which Harvey rebuffed by clocking in at the high 90s. More to the point, Harvey had looked less than ordinary in his last two starts, and when that happens the Mets look rather ordinary. Actually, worse that ordinary.

“I didn’t feel like I was dead,’’ said Harvey, who struck out 11 in his last start, a one-run loss to Miami. “I felt like I was coming out of my mechanics.’’

In addition to mechanics, and the blown saves by the bullpen, the Mets’ offense has given Harvey all of seven runs in his previous six games. The Mets gave Harvey nothing through the first five innings, then broke it open after he left the game. Each one of his 106 pitches had meaning.

However, when you’re supposed to be the “Dark Knight,’’ there are going to be games when you have to carry your team.

May 29

Extra Rest Not A Factor In Harvey Loss

It is now five straight empty starts and counting for the Mets’ Matt Harvey. We can forget about the “dead arm’’ talk, because a pitcher doesn’t have a tired arm when he tops out at 98 mph., and strikes out 11.

Nonetheless, the Mets are taking precautions with Harvey by going to a six-man rotation, and naturally there is a curiosity as to how he will respond with the extra rest, and despite losing 4-3 tonight to Miami, he pitched well enough to win most starts.

HARVEY: Empty again. (AP)

HARVEY: Empty again. (AP)

After missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery, despite winning his first five decisions this season, his issues are maintaining health and refining mechanics.

“I didn’t feel like I was dead,” a clearly dejected Harvey told reporters. “I just kind of got out of my mechanics. … When you have missed a year and you go out there and battle every time, you’re finding out again what your mechanics are doing.

“For me, I think, mechanics-wise it was a lot better this time. We’ve just got to keep that going and really just stay focused on that.”

It’s a positive that he threw eight innings (105 pitches) tonight for the second time in three starts. One walk is also a positive in a bounce-back start from his four-inning, seven-run disaster last weekend in Pittsburgh that followed consecutive no-decisions in which the bullpen coughed up a 1-0 lead in the late innings.

Harvey worked with an extra day of rest and didn’t seem rusty. He was obviously strong and one walk indicated his command was good.

A fourth-inning slider catching too much of the plate that Justin Bour crushed was his biggest mistake, but had nothing to do with the extra rest. It was simply a bad pitch that could have happened anytime. Unfortunately for Harvey, anytime is always bad time when he’s not getting run support.

He responded fine with the extra day. He pitched well enough to win most starts.