Apr 06

Lineup Changes For Mets Against Marlins

Terry Collins put together an interesting lineup for this afternoon’s game against Miami Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco.

Collins promised to get starts for outfielders Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis and both are starting today, with Marlon Byrd and Collin Cowgill sitting. It the second straight game in which Cowgill is on the bench.

Somewhat surprising is John Buck  again behind the plate. The reasoning is he’s probably a better fit with Jon Niese. Anthony Recker could start Sunday.

Here’s the lineup:

Mike Baxter, RF: Gets his first start of the season, and in right field as expected. However, I didn’t expect to see him leading off.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hit a three-run homer yesterday. Still hitting second, and is doing it behind his third different leadoff hitter. With his patience, he’ll stay here for a while. Last night was his first homer; he didn’t get his first last year until June 27.

David Wright, 3B: Still looking for his first homer. Hitting .397 with six career homers and 17 RBI against Miami starter Ricky Nolasco.

Ike Davis, 1B: Is off to a miserable start and takes a 1-for-16 slide into the game. Overall is hitting .067 with one homer and two RBI. Is also hitting a dismal .167 (1-7) with runners in scoring position.

John Buck, C: Mets hottest hitter at .412, two homers and five RBI. Moved up to fifth to hit between strikeout prone Davis and Lucas Duda. For the second time this week is catching in a day game after a night game.

Lucas Duda, LF: Showed last night he’s still a weakness with the glove. He needs to hit more to compensate. Is batting .273 with one homer and three RBI. A positive so far is he’s working the count and taking some walks.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Is getting his first start of the season. That he’s not leading off indicates Mets remain wary of his high strikeout totals and low on-base percentage. To get in the starting lineup he needs to get on base.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Has three errors in four games, and should have been charged with another last night when he dropped a ball trying to make a tag on a steal attempt. Throwing error last night opened door for Marlins’ five-run seventh inning. Is hitting better than his fielding, but is only at .231.

Jon Niese, LHP: In ten career starts against the Marlins, is 2-5 with a 4.60 ERA. Is coming off a strong Opening Day performance against San Diego.

Mar 23

Mets Outfield Still A Mess; No Help Coming

For those hoping for a last minute trade or free-agent signing to give the Mets a representative outfield, there will be no meteor like event to change the obvious impression it will be a long season.

Sandy Alderson did not make a significant move over the winter to build the outfield. Instead he tinkered and went into spring training with a “hope for the best” mentality. Now, he’s telling reporters what nobody – outside the players involved – wants to hear which is the Mets are keeping a pat hand.

COWGILL: Could be in center on Opening Day

COWGILL: Could be in center on Opening Day

And, it’s not a full house.

“I think we’ve got a sense of who the five or six are who might be on the team,’’ Alderson said. “How exactly they’re used is something that we’ll talk about over the next week or so. What we have is what we’re going to have, and we’re not entirely displeased with that.’’

Doesn’t that also mean, they are not entirely pleased?

Also unsettling is outside of Lucas Duda in left field, the Mets don’t have a concrete idea of how they’ll use Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill, Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin.

That could be because they have no idea of what they are getting. Byrd is at the end of his career; Cowgill and Baxter have never been fulltime starters; and Duda is trying to learn a new position while at the same time attempting to figure out major league pitching.

Valdespin is now projected to open the season at second base because Daniel Murphy will not be ready. Murphy, down with a strained intercostal muscle, will not play in a minor league game today as hoped. Manager Terry Collins said if Murphy did not play this weekend he would open the season on the disabled list. The announcement is a formality now.

Collins has used Cowgill all over the outfield, while Byrd – perhaps having the greatest offensive upside – has played center and right. Baxter has been mostly used in right field.

The Mets’ best defensive outfielder is Matt den Dekker, but there is no indication they are considering him, citing his offense. Den Dekker has hit well recently, but not enough for the Mets’ liking. It should be noted, that neither has anybody else.

Of the group, only Duda and Baxter were on the roster last season, and Duda could very well be the only one in spring training next season if there’s development in the minor leagues or the Mets spend in the off-season as they promised.

Entering spring training, the penciled-in outfield – from left to right – was Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Baxter, with Cowgill rated No. 4. Byrd wasn’t even in camp and Valdespin was a long shot to make the team.

The acquisition of Byrd put him ahead of Baxter in right because of his offensive potential, and Valdespin hit his way onto the Mets’ radar.

There is no track record to indicate Valdespin will continue to hit and when Murphy returns he will find himself back on the bench.

What the Mets have is a handful of role players who have never performed in the role of a fulltime, productive starter.

What the Mets have is a problem.

Mar 22

Santana To Stay Back; Wright, Marcum Updates

The Mets finally confirmed the obvious and said Johan Santana won’t be on the Opening Day roster. Considering he hadn’t thrown since his look-at-me-I’m-angry stunt, March 6, there was no suspense to this move.

“He’s not where he needs to be in his long-toss program,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters in one of spring trainings’ biggest understatements. “Even if it’s next week, he’s not going to open with us. He’s going to have to get himself ready. And that’s going to certainly determine on a daily basis where he is. But we’ll be gone. I’ll have to monitor it by the phone.’’

Collins said Santana is staying in Port St. Lucie until he’s ready, which could be up to a month. Collins dodged the inevitable question of whether Santana’s stunt sabotaged his efforts to be ready.

“It’s hard to say it was a setback. I just think he wanted to prove his arm was OK, that his arm was healthy,’’ Collins said. “Instead of trying to make sure and not let all this other stuff bother him, he got angry about it.

“We needed to go back to step one again. At that particular time that was his way of making sure everybody knew his shoulder was fine, that he wasn’t hurt. It’s just that he wasn’t ready to pitch. So now we’ve got to get him ready to pitch.’’

That Collins said they had to return to step one was a roundabout way of saying it was a setback without really saying it. But, Collins, who’ll need Santana this summer, wouldn’t come out and ruffle the feathers of his lefthanded diva.

Not sounding believable, Collins said he didn’t care about the past and was only worried about the future with Santana. Collins will save it for the book to tell us what he really feels.

WRIGHT UPDATE: David Wright, who is expected to join Santana on the disabled list, began stretching and strength-building exercises.

Wright strained his intercostal muscle while at the World Baseball Classic and said he’s hopeful of being ready by Opening Day. At the time the injury was revealed last Thursday, Collins estimated Wright would be out at least a month.

With a week to go, the odds are greater of Wright being re-injured than they are of him being ready.

Should Wright be cleared for a game, it will be in a minor league to backdate him to the disabled list ten days from the end of spring training.

MARCUM UPDATE: Assuming he is ready, Shaun Marcum will pitch Thursday against Washington. Not sure this is the right move.

If Marcum pitches and is injured and has to go on the disabled list, the Mets could only backdate it to Friday and could miss up to two starts.

Marcum received a cortisone injection in his shoulder Tuesday to relieve an impingement. If he pitches in a minor league game and is injured, the Mets could retroactive the date earlier.

If everything works out for the Mets, and that’s always a huge “if’’ with them, Jon Niese will be the Opening Day starter, followed by Marcum, Matt Harvey and then Dillon Gee. They are undecided whether to come back with Niese in the fifth game of the season or use Jeremy Hefner.

TONIGHT’S LINE-UP:

Jordany Valdespin, 2b

Collin Cowgill, cf

Mike Baxter, rf

Andrew Brown, lf

Anthony Recker, c

Brandon Hicks, 1b

Omar Quintanilla, ss

Brian Bixler, 3b

Jonathan Niese, lhp

Mar 20

Not Optimistic About Wright And Murphy Being Ready By Opening Day

Opening Day is rapidly approaching, and it doesn’t look as if either David Wright and Daniel Murphy will make it to Flushing on time.

Wright told reporters he was in the World Baseball Classic where he played at an intense level, which shouldn’t put him at a disadvantage.

“I’m in a better position than Murphy, obviously, because I’ve been playing in games and taking plenty of swings,’’ Wright told reporters this morning.

Even so, if Wright doesn’t come back before the start of the season, and there aren’t any indications he is going to, it will be two weeks of being idle. Initially, at the time of the injury GM Sandy Alderson said Wright would rest from three to five days. Today is the sixth day.

There will be rust, count on it for Wright. Even more for Murphy, who hasn’t seen a pitch this spring. Murphy had a setback when he was shut down after playing five innings on defense last Friday. Terry Collins said if Murphy isn’t playing by the weekend he will open on the disabled list.

Both players claimed Opening Day was their goal, but made no promises and said they’ll be cautious as to not be re-injured and miss even more time.

Bet on the disabled list to start the season.

Injuries have also derailed Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who bruised his left knee in early March sliding into a base. Nieuwenhuis was scheduled to play three innings in the field and bat today in a minor league game.

In looking at tonight’s line-up against Houston in Kissimmee, it is possible it could be close to the Opening Day line-up, minus Brian Bixler and probably Mike Baxter.

For Opening Day, I’m going with Marlon Byrd in right instead of center.

Jordany Valdespin, 2b: He’s gone from being an outsider to likely starting at second base with Murphy out.

Collin Cowgill, cf: Looking at him as the starter in center. Could bat second as he is tonight.

Ike Davis, 1b: He isn’t a No. 3 hitter, but the best the Mets have with Wright gone.

Marlon Byrd, cf: He will be in right for the start of the season. He has been getting a lot of reps at clean up as Terry Collins wants to separate high strikeout batters Davis and Lucas Duda.

Lucas Duda, dh: Seriously, designated hitter is a natural for him. He moved from right to left because the latter is supposed to be easier. He still needs time in left, so why isn’t he there tonight?

John Buck, c: He’s the catcher until Travis d’Arnaud is ready. Should be June.

Mike Baxter, rf: Seems to have been pushed out of starter role by Byrd, who offers greater offensive upside.

Ruben Tejada, ss: It was thought he could contend for leadoff spot or No. 2, but not with the way he’s hitting now. He’ll be buried at No. 8, which gives Mets two back-to-back outs most times.

Dillon Gee, rhp: Says he needs work on his change-up.

Mar 16

Justin Turner Taking Over Third Base; Mets Lineup Against Marlins

If there was any doubt of Justin Turner making the Opening Day roster, that’s gone.

Because Turner has a greater upside offensively, he’s David Wright’s replacement at third base and will get more reps than Zach Lutz, Brandon Hicks and Brian Bixler.

He is starting and hitting second in today’s game against Miami in Port St. Lucie.

Wright was examined yesterday in New York and will return to Florida tonight and be in camp Sunday. As of now, he will be idle from three to five days, but could open the season on the disabled list.

The Mets have a history of strained intercostal and oblique muscles, including Wright missing a month last year. Daniel Murphy had one earlier this spring and has been out almost a month. Considering the history of this injury with the Mets, Terry Collins is planning not to have Wright for Opening Day.

Here’s today’s lineup and the Opening Day projection for each player:

Mike Baxter, rf:  Expected to make team and compete with Marlon Byrd for right field job. Has speed but doesn’t offer much offensively.

Justin Turner, 3b: Wright’s replacement at third base. Versatile player who is a tough out. Likes to work the count and drive up the pitch count.

Ike Davis, 1b: Safe at first. Mets looking for another 32 homers. Needs of cut down on strikeouts and improve on-base percentage. With two halves like his second half last year, 40 homers is within reach along with 100 RBI.

Marlon Byrd, cf: Veteran presence who’ll make team. Doesn’t give away outs.

Lucas Duda, lf: Starting in left. Expected to be main power source, but has to cut down on strikeouts. Needs to take the ball to the opposite field, be patient and increase his walks totals. He strikes out too much for what he gives the Mets offensively. Not Carl Yastrzemski in left field, either.

Travis d’Arnaud, c: Projected to open season in minor leagues, but to be called up after May. Coming off knee and back injuries but has been healthy so far.

Brian Bixler, 2b: Should open season in minors. Ability to play second helps him with Murphy recovering.

Omar Quintanilla, ss: Could make team as reserve infielder. Little offensive threat.

Shaun Marcum, rhp: Projected fifth starter. Mets thinking of him as innings eater, which will be imperative with Johan Santana not in the rotation.

LINEUP ANALYSIS: Turner’s ability to make contact is why he’s hitting second today, and perhaps at the start of the season. Davis moves up to third in the order with Wright out. Byrd sandwiched between Davis and Duda, two hitters with high strikeout totals.