Apr 01

Niese Sparkles; Offense Rocks In Mets’ Opening Day Rout

How appropriate.

It was overcast for much of the day, but shortly after this afternoon’s 11-2 rout of the San Diego Padres, it started to rain on Citi Field. If there could be universal laws in baseball, is it isn’t supposed to rain on Opening Day and the home team has to win.

NIESE: Scintillating start. (AP)

NIESE: Scintillating start. (AP)

Let the Padres win Wednesday night and when they return to San Diego, but today belonged to the Mets, played as complete a game as possible while their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, lost to Boston.

With the victory the Mets improved their Opening Day record to a MLB best 34-18 (.654). It’s astounding considering their overall history.

THE PITCHING: Jon Niese was superb, going 6.2 innings and giving up two runs on four hits. He also collected two hits. Niese’s wife said she wears a special pair of blue panties when he pitches. Wash them and have them ready for the weekend. Niese said he didn’t feel any added pressure of starting on Opening Day, but admitted, “the adrenalin was pumping.’’ … Niese is now the de facto ace with Johan Santana gone. “He has stepped into a role where he leads the rotation,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

WRIGHT STREAK CONTINUES: Wright said he didn’t feel anything different when he was introduced as captain, but reiterated, “I’m very proud to represent this team.’’ With a third-inning single, Wright has hit in every Opening Day since his first in 2005. Overall, he is 13-for-36 (.361) in home openers. Wright also made several sparkling plays in the field and stole two bases.

OFFENSE TAKES OFF: Today marked the fifth time the Mets scored double-digit runs on Opening Day. … The Mets scored nine runs after two outs and went 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position. … Collin Cowgill hit is first career grand slam in the seventh inning. Only Todd Hundley previously hit a slam on Opening Day. … Cowgill, Marlon Byrd and John Buck combined to go 6-for-14 with five runs scored and seven RBI. “I’m just grateful for this opportunity and want to make the most of it,’’ Cowgill said. Byrd declined to speak to reporters after the game. … Ruben Tejada doubled home the Mets’ first run. “He told me he would be ready,’’ Collins said of Tejada’s dismal spring training.

BEST STORY: The best story of the day was reliever Scott Rice’s major league debut after 14 years in the minor leagues. He pitched one scoreless innings and struck out two. Buck saved the ball from the first strikeout by throwing it into the Mets’ dugout. Rice presented the ball to his father after the game. “Maybe this will hit me later,’’ Rice said.

METS MUSINGS: The Mets held their annual Welcome Home dinner at a Manhattan hotel. … Shaun Marcum could be activated from the disabled list to start this weekend against Miami. … Matt Harvey (3-5, 2.73) will start against left-hander Clayton Richard (14-14, 3.99) Wednesday night. The Mets play Thursday afternoon and will host Miami this weekend.

Mar 08

Dillon Gee Takes Mound Today Against Detroit

They all can’t throw like Matt Harvey this time of spring.

Overpowering and arguably flawless in yesterday’s start against Miami, Harvey had one of those seamless starts pitchers rarely have in their third spring training game.

GEE: Continues comeback today.

GEE: Continues comeback today.

Dillon Gee, today’s starter against Detroit in Lakeland, has no such illusions.

“My mechanics are off,’’ Gee said. “It will be just my third start of the spring, so they are bound to be off. Spring training is for trying to figure out that kind of stuff.’’

Gee insists it is not an injury-related mechanical problem, but a matter of working off the rust that is a natural occurrence this time of year. It’s part of the process of getting ready to make 30 stars a summer.

“It’s all about location,’’ said Gee as he laced up his shoes while sitting at his locker yesterday afternoon. “Location is all about repetition early in spring training. I’m trying to refine everything.’’

As it is with Harvey and Jon Niese, Gee said mastering his change-up is the pitch he most needs to refine that will tell him if he’s ready to start the season. A change-up is thrown with the same motion as the fastball, and even though the pitcher uses the same grip, he releases the pitch with a different pressure on the ball.

“The change-up is such a feel pitch,’’ Gee said. “It takes time to feel comfortable with it. … Having good results would be good, but the important thing is to feel comfortable with all my pitches and improve my location.’’

Continue reading

Mar 05

Marcum, Hawkins And Feliciano Work Today; Waiting For Mejia Results

With Jenrry Mejia in New York for an exam, several other Mets pitching prospects – if you can call injured and aging veterans that – toiled in a “B’’ game against Miami.

Shaun Marcum, who hasn’t endeared himself to manager Terry Collins by not being in the best shape upon his arrival and 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins each worked two innings.

Marcum didn’t give up a run while Hawkins gave up one. In addition, Pedro Feliciano gave up a run in one inning.

Hawkins and Feliciano are competing for spots in the bullpen while Marcum is the projected fifth starter.

Mejia’s test results are expected to be announced tomorrow.

Mar 05

Mejia Flying To NY For Undisclosed Medical Condition

MetsGreetings from Port St. Lucie, where the Mets have the afternoon off. However, just because they are down for the day, it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything happening.

I just checked into the hotel and will hit the ground running.

They wouldn’t be the Mets if there weren’t injury news. Jenrry Mejia returned to New York this morning to have an undisclosed medical condition checked out. As with Pedro Feliciano before him, his reporting physical was red flagged.

Mejia is coming off Tommy John surgery, but there is no word yet whether the injury is to his elbow.

Mejia, who is expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, was scheduled to pitch in a “B’’ game this morning against Miami.

Also scheduled to pitch are Shaun Marcum, Felicano and LaTroy Hawkins. I’ll have those results later.

Feb 08

Something To Look Forward To From The Mets

As I watch the snow pile up outside my window, I am thinking of three of the best words in sports, “pitchers and catchers.’’

NIESE: Needs to take the next step.

                       NIESE: Needs to take the next step.

The official deadline for the Mets is Monday, but the lockers are already being filled in Port St. Lucie. I am hoping to get down there this spring and have already started looking at flights.

Most of the prognosticators have the Mets fighting the Marlins to stay out of the NL East. Many of them have them losing close to 100 games. I think they’ll finish ahead of Miami and I don’t see them losing that many games. I’d like to see .500, but I’m not ready to go there, yet.

For those thinking the worst, and as Mets fans I know you’ve all done it one time or another, I’d like to give you several things to watch for that could make this an interesting, if not exciting summer.

If you’re already writing off this season, here’s a few things to talk you down off the ledge.

The soundest road to contention is with young pitching. For those lamenting the lack of power and a weak outfield, just remember what the San Francisco Giants did in two of the past three years. Speaking of sparse outfields, was the Mets’ 2000 outfield all that good?

Hardly. It’s all starts with pitching and the Mets have three bright spots they are developing.

Jon Niese won a career-high 13 games last season and has the potential, if he stays healthy, to possibly win 17 or more. To reach that level he needs to win four more games in six months. That’s roughly one more every five weeks. That’s not that big a stretch with his stuff.

Niese had a nearly 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and 1.17 WHIP in 2012 while working 190 innings in 30 starts. If he makes four more starts over 200 innings and maybe 17 wins are possible.

The Mets jumped from habit and signed Niese to a long-term contract way before they needed to because he throws hard, is lefthanded, pitches with guile and has experienced major league success. For those reasons, any team would want him but the Mets continually say no.

Two other rising pitching stars are Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The Mets have brought along Harvey at a good pace and he started ten games last year, showing overpowering stuff and more importantly, composure beyond his years. His is the type of arm franchises are built around.

While Harvey is in the Opening Day rotation, the timetable for Wheeler is later in the summer after more time in Triple A. There’s no rush to promote Wheeler early, but we’ll see him soon enough.

We should also see catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud before the year is out, and I like the idea he’ll get a lot of time with Wheeler. The key to the R.A. Dickey trade from the Mets’ perspective, d’Arnaud has power potential, but he’s also coming off knee and back injuries.

Should he pan out then the Mets can argue success in the trade of their Cy Young Award winner.

Also something to look forward to is Ike Davis’ power. Davis, skillful around the first base bag, clubbed 32 homers last year after a bad start. He’s healthy now and two good halves could make 40 homers a realistic possibility. That’s a little over one a month. He could get that, along with more walks and fewer strikeouts, with an improved plate presence.

Then there is David Wright, who played at a MVP clip in the first half before the pressures of carrying the Mets on his back became too great a burden.

I’m looking at .300, 30 and 100 from Wright, nothing less. He rarely talks about numbers, but he’d probably say the same if pressed.

No, I don’t know how the Mets will do this year. However, if these six players can play to what is expected of them, this has a chance to be an interesting summer.