Apr 29

Mets In Good Spot With Colon Today

It’s all about winning series at this point and for the Mets today they have another opportunity. You have to be happy Bartolo Colon is going for them today against the Marlins.

The Mets have the chance to go home to face the Nationals in a four-game series with at least a seven-game lead if they put away Miami today. It is why I called Miami a trap series. However, with how the Mets played the past two games it is clear they are focused. Dillon Gee was superb Monday and last night they came from behind to tie.

COLON: Workhorse goes today.

COLON: Workhorse goes today.

That doesn’t happen with teams looking ahead. However, I remain respectful and wary of the Nationals, who were down 9-1 Tuesday, but rallied to beat the Braves. Dying teams don’t do that, so obviously they are focused, also.

Should Colon win he will become the first Mets’ starter to go 5-0 since Pedro Martinez in 2006, not coincidentally, the last time they reached the playoffs. The franchise record is 7-0 by Frank Viola in 1990.

Colon is one of the Mets’ top story lines in April and his start in light of Zack Wheeler’s injury has more than stabilized the rotation. The Mets need another strong start from him on the eve of the Washington series.

Last night’s starter, Rafael Montero, was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, which was to be expected considering he threw 85 pitches working into the sixth and wouldn’t be available soon.

Replacing him on the roster will be left-handed reliever Jack Leathersich. Subsequently, the Mets will go back to a short bench until David Wright returns from the disabled, which could be as soon as this weekend. Leathersich is a strikeout pitcher, averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

It will be interesting to see what the Mets do when Wright returns and when they want to bring back Montero.

The Mets like having Montero around, but they also like deeper bench. Unfortunately, they can’t have both.


Apr 28

Six-Man Rotation Not Practical For Mets

For more than five innings in tonight’s 4-3 loss at Miami, the Mets were treated to a solid performance from Rafael Montero to where the idea could be floated of considering a six-man rotation.

Doing so would give everybody an additional day of rest. Specifically, the real goal would be to give Matt Harvey an additional day and ultimately preserve his workload.

While that objective is worthwhile, why do something to impact all the other starters, while the prudent option would be to stick with – but so far ignored – plan of reducing his innings on a per start basis?

The Mets could have shaved three innings off Harvey’s last start, and two the one before that, which would have given him five to play with in September.

However, could a six-man rotation work for the long term? For something that unconventional to work, it can’t be imposed a month into the season. I suggested something similar in the offseason that would have enabled the rest of the rotation to get into a routine.

At one time teams utilized four-man rotations, which ultimately were expanded to five-man rotations. With teams looking to protect their investments in young pitching, I can see them wanting to reduce the number of starts for their frontline pitchers.

The plus is it saves wear-and-tear. The downside is many rotations are already thin and this makes them thinner. Another downside is the inevitable need for relievers, which subsequently creates a thin bench like the Mets had at the start of the season.

For this to work the entire season would have to be mapped out in advance factoring in off days.

For now, the Mets could keep Montero for the bullpen until David Wright is activated, but I don’t like the idea of going into the Washington series with a short bench.

The game is constantly changing and perhaps someday a six-man rotation could come into play, but it would have to come with an expanded roster. For now, the Mets will have to do what they’ve done all year with their pitching – play it by ear.

Apr 27

Mets Escape Trap In Dramatic Fashion

Of all the Mets’ 15 wins this young season, a case can be made for tonight’s 3-1 victory in Miami as their most important. Not their most stylish, although Dillon Gee‘s performance was as good as any Mets pitcher this year. Earlier I called the series with the Marlins a “trap series” as it fell between the always heavily scrutinized series against the Yankees and that with Washington, the team the Mets are trying to unseat in the NL East.

The Mets are in a rare position and have been all season, which included an 11-game winning streak, which included 10 in a row at home. But, they haven’t fared well traditionally in the Bronx and were 4-15 last year against the Nationals. After losing two of three over the weekend, who couldn’t see the Mets looking ahead to Washington and stubbing their toes in Miami?

GEE: Magnificent. (AP)

GEE: Magnificent. (AP)

If you couldn’t, then you haven’t been paying attention to your team. Tonight was a game the Mets had lost in the past, but this team has been promising us it is a different year. And, tonight they proved it.

Miami has always been a tough place for them to play, and the Marlins had to have been stung about getting swept last week in Citi Field. The Mets had Gee going for them in an attempt to rebound from Sunday, one of their worst efforts of the year – in all phases.

With his spot in the rotation reportedly on shaky ground, Gee was magnificent and breezed through the Marlins for 7.2 innings before giving up three straight hits. Gee’s pitch-count was unbelievably low, but a case could be made for pulling him because it was the eighth inning, after all.

However, Terry Collins showed faith in Gee, who retired 15 Marlins on grounders.

“We can put to rest that Dillon Gee can’t pitch at this level,” Collins said. “There has been a lot of talk, and I feel terrible for him. He went out there tonight and showed he can do what he has done in the past.”

Then, in the ninth Juan Lagares lead off with a long fly to center Marcell Ozuna misplayed into a double. One of the early-season staples of these Mets have been their ability to take advantage of opportunities. Lucas Duda then walked, but after Michael Cuddyer flied out, Daniel Murphy homered.

“I’m just focusing on the at-bat at hand,” Murphy told reporters. “No matter what I do, I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and be hitting .290, so one at-bat at a time is all I can control.”

I had no problem not bunting Cuddyer in that situation because he’s the clean-up hitter brought here for those types of situations, and Murphy was dropped down in the order to give him more RBI opportunities.

Both decisions paid off.

As if that wasn’t enough for Murphy, he made a scintillating defensive play in the bottom of the ninth to rob Michael Morse of a hit.

Maybe that ball would have gotten by Murphy in the past, but the Mets wiggled out of the trap and continued to make us believe things could be different.

Apr 27

Nuggets From The Bronx; Beware A Trap Series With Miami

After sleeping on Sunday night, what can we make from the Mets losing two of three over the weekend to the Yankees? To listen to talk radio – which in cases like this is seldom good – absolutely nothing constructive.

Contrary to what you might have heard, or read, this morning, the Mets’ world is not falling apart. Also, what happens in the next three days in Miami is more important to the big picture than what occurred in the Bronx. The Yankees series is the interleague gimmick; the three games with the Marlins are within the division.

HARVEY: Bright spot this weekend. (AP)

HARVEY: Bright spot this weekend. (AP)

The lesson the Mets should take to Florida is when you pitch and play well, odds are you will win. When you don’t, odds are you will lose. Both Jacob deGrom and Jon Niese pitched poorly – and the Mets also had brain cramps on the bases and in the field Sunday – so what happened was to be expected. Even in the best of times, when the Mets play poorly they rarely will win.

“We had a bad night,” manager Terry Collins. “For the most part, they’ve played well.”

They have and don’t forget still own the best record in the sport. Here’s what I took from the weekend, which I won’t call lost because they weren’t destroyed and it is still only April:

* Citi Field is superior to the bandbox joke that is Yankee Stadium. Sure, excluding last week, it hasn’t always given the Mets a home field advantage, but it is a fairer field. And, along those lines, for all the bitching and moaning the Yankees will do when they eventually pay Alex Rodriguez over his PED-tainted home run totals, can we also look at the cheap homers from playing in that park? It staggers the imagination what Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle might have done in those dimensions.

* I like how Lucas Duda is playing and hope playing in Yankee Stadium won’t screw up his approach.

* I’ve not lost confidence in either deGrom or Niese, and expect both will come out strong in their next start.

* For those who believe I don’t like Matt Harvey, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While I don’t like some of the things he does and how the Mets are erratic in their handling of him, it doesn’t take from the belief he will be the real deal if he stays healthy. A true indicator of an ace is his ability to rally a team around him following a loss, which is exactly what he did Saturday. And, while I am in the corner of preserving his workload, I admire his competitive, bulldog nature on the mound. Hopefully, he’ll have a lot of opportunities to pitch in key games – and come up big – for the Mets.

* Am I the only one puzzled by Daniel Murphy’s fielding and mental lapses over the last five games? There are times he looks lost. It’s one thing to throw the ball away, but he’s making poor decisions.

* Kevin Plawecki does not look overmatched at the plate, or behind it, either. Still, it is early and needs time. Speaking of not being overmatched at the plate, the same applies to Wilmer Flores. And regarding his throwing error, if you carefully look at the replay you will notice how he didn’t step cleanly on the base as he began to throw. It is similar to a quarterback’s wobbly pass as he is hit.

* Before it is over the Mets will rely on their bullpen even more. Consequently, I’ve changed my opinion on Jenrry Mejia. If his head is screwed on straight, I can see the Mets using him again after his suspension, but barring an injury, Jeurys Familia will keep the closer job. That Bobby Parnell and Vic Black suffered setbacks in their rehab is concerning.

* It would have been fun to watch Juan Lagares play centerfield in the original Yankee Stadium where it was 463 feet to dead center.

* I like Michael Cuddyer more and more and see him developing into a veteran presence the Mets will rely on even when David Wright is ready to return.

Cuddyer called Sunday “ugly,” and “we’re going to go to Miami and play better.”

Let’s hope so. I’m not concerned the Mets lost two of three to the Yankees. What I am concerned about is the Miami series. Sandwiched between the Yankees and Nationals, there might be the tendency to overlook Miami, a place where the Mets haven’t played well in recent seasons. Call this a trap series.

The Marlins are playing better than when they were at Citi Field, which is why this series is more important to the big picture than last weekend. The Mets were due for a setback, but playoff caliber teams win against teams they should beat, including on the road.

It is important to play well in Florida and face Washington this weekend coming off a positive experience.