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.

Mar 14

Mets Lineup Against Tigers

The Mets are home to Detroit this afternoon in a game that will be seen on SNY. Here’s who’ll they’ll be watching today at Tradition Field:

Jordany Valdespin, lf

Justin Turner, 2b

Ike Davis, 1b

Marlon Byrd, dh

Mike Baxter, rf

Zach Lutz, 3b

Anthony Recker, c

Matt den Dekker, cf

Ruben Tejada, ss

Dillon Gee, rhp

LINE-UP ANALYSIS: If you examine it closely, only two players – Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada – figure to be in the Opening Day lineup. It is possible one of the three between Marlon Byrd, Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin, could also start. … I see Justin Turner and Anthony Recker making the 25-man roster as reserves. … I am pulling for Matt den Dekker to stick. … As far as the batting order goes in the regular season Tejada could hit second as easily as eighth.

NOTE: Later today I’ll post a projected everyday batting order. The word “awesome” doesn’t come immediately to mind.

 

Mar 12

In Defense Of Matt Den Dekker

Do you remember when Citi Field opened the Mets vowed they they were going to build around pitching and defense? Then, they immediately signed Jason Bay, who played well defensively, but that wasn’t the point.

Enter Matt den Dekker, who doesn’t have the inside track at making the team as the center fielder despite being the their best defensive outfielder.

DEN DEKKER: Magic glove.

DEN DEKKER: Magic glove. (AP)

Terry Collins managed arguably one of the greatest defensive center fielders in history when he had Jim Edmonds. Collins said they compared favorably in their ability to chance down fly balls in the gap with their speed, “although nobody got a jump like Jim Edmonds … it seemed like he took two steps before the ball was hit.’’

That comes from knowing the hitters and the pitch, so maybe that part of it will come to den Dekker. However, and this is the rub, he’s not even close to Edmonds at the plate and it could cost him a spot on the roster.

Den Dekker made another spectacular catch Monday when he went against the wall in left-center to rob Detroit’s Austin Jackson of extra bases. It is one of several he’s made this spring, each one seemingly more scintillating than the previous.

Den Dekker told reporters later in Lakeland he was “just doing my job,’’ but for a team lacking in offense, that’s only part of what the Mets need from him.

“If you are going to be a platoon player, you got to be able to do something off the bench in the National League, and that’s not just play defense,’’ Collins told reporters.

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Mar 11

Jordany Valdespin Making Impact

Jordany Valdespin is not an easy person to like, and especially hard to cheer for. Ask a question and he’ll often mumble an indifferent and inaudible answer.

VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)

VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)

He exudes confidence on the field, but crosses the line with a brash attitude, tendency to showboat and not always hustle. Off the field he wears a bright red baseball cap reading “JV 1.’’ He often carries himself  with an “I own the world,” persona that goes beyond confidence, so much that manager Terry Collins has warned him to tone it down a notch.

Last year, Valdespin fell out of favor with the Mets despite hitting five pinch-hit homers. He didn’t help himself in the offseason when he was suspended in winter ball. Even so, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis out with a bruised left knee and Daniel Murphy sidelined with a strained right side, Valdespin is being given every opportunity to make the roster in the outfield or as a second baseman.

Valdespin has produced, but with a caveat: He plays to his own soundtrack.

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Mar 11

Today’s Mets Lineup Vs. Tigers

Here’s today’s Mets lineup against Detroit at Lakleland.

Jordany Valdespin, 2b

Ruben Tejada, ss

Ike Davis, 1b

Lucas Duda, lf

Mike Baxter, rf

John Buck, c

Travis d’Arnaud, dh

Matt den Dekker, cf

Brandon Hicks, 3b

Jonathan Niese, lhp

LINEUP COMMENTS: The Mets are giving Valdespin every chance to make this team. His versatility helps him. He’s at second today and has played center and right this spring also. … Duda had three hits the other day against Houston. He’s in left today hitting behind Davis. I am wondering if Terry Collins will stack the two lefties during the season. … den Dekker again in center. He’s Mets’ best defensive outfielder, but they don’t know if he’ll hit enough. He has five hits, including a homer this spring.