Jul 19

Who is the real Mike Pelfrey?

PELFREY: Needs to figure it out.

We might know more about one of the Mets’ key second-half questions tonight, which is: Who is the real Mike Pelfrey?

At one time, Pelfrey was 9-1 and cruising toward the All-Star Game. All was right in his world and the Mets were making up ground on Atlanta. However, he has hit a rough five-game stretch since in which he’s gone 1-3 with a 7.52 ERA.

That’s just the beginning of the bad numbers.

In that span Pelfrey (10-4, 3.58 ERA) failed to make it out of the fifth inning in his last three starts, including going four while giving up four runs on 12 hits in his last start against the Braves.

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Jul 16

Mets Chat Room; Niese tries to halt slide.

Game #90 at Giants

Jon Niese stopper?

That’s the way it’s going to have to be tonight at San Francisco as Niese (6-3, 3.61) tries to pull the Mets out of their July funk.

After a boom in June that saw the Mets go 11 games over .500 and pull within a game of Braves, they are 4-7 for July to find themselves five games behind during a very precarious part of their schedule as this is the second game of a season-high 11-game road trip.

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Jul 15

Second-half opens with questions.

The Mets open the second half of what has been a surprising season tonight in San Francisco a team with confidence and resiliency – just four games behind Atlanta despite several questions.

Many of those questions were only partially addressed and remain to the point where they are issues.

Here’s the top five questions for the Mets entering the second half:

BELTRAN: Back tonight, but at what percent?

1. QUESTION: How healthy is this team?

ASSESSMENT: The Mets will get Carlos Beltran back tonight, but don’t know how he’ll respond to a heavy workload. For now the plan is to juggle playing time between Beltran, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur, with the latter’s time reduced the most. Beltran returns to center and the clean-up, but don’t expect him to immediately be in All-Star form.

Another pressing issue, or at least it’s turning out that way, is Jose Reyes, who strained his right oblique muscle, June 30. Reyes sat out a handful of games before the Mets foolishly let him return only to bat right-handed, even against righty pitchers. Had Reyes been placed on the disabled list originally, or continued to sit until he was 100 percent, he might be fine today.

Instead, Reyes is still ailing and considered day-to-day. The Mets are still toying with him batting right-handed exclusively and not waiting until he’s 100 percent. Reyes aggravated the injury and the Mets are pushing their luck.

Also, Mike Pelfrey, after a string of non-descript to poor starts, says he might have a dead arm, although not an injury it is physical related.

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Jul 12

Update on first-half questions.

When pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 18, I posted five key questions the Mets faced heading into the season. Let’s revisit those questions at the All-Star break.

1) Question: What is this team’s attitude?

Assessment: By all accounts, it has been superb. There is a different chemistry in the Mets clubhouse than I have previously seen. The Mets have shown a remarkable resiliency to bounce back from adversity and Sunday’s win is just another example. There have been no issues about a lack of hustle, and no finger pointing. Both Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan said the right things about the prospect of reduced playing time as Carlos Beltran is about to be activated from the disabled list. The only sour note was, surprise, Oliver Perez’s refusal to accept a minor league assignment, instead, waiting for the disabled list to leave the roster to work on his issues.

2) Question: How healthy is this team?

Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and injuries have cost Beltran and Daniel Murphy in the first half, and Jose Reyes for nearly a month. Beltran is due back to start the second half, but there’s no timetable for the return of Murphy, who reinjured his knee while on a rehab assignment. Murphy was playing second base at the time in preparation for a position change. After treating Reyes with kid gloves in the wake of his thyroid issue, the Mets rushed him back from an oblique injury, which he aggravated Saturday. There’s no telling how long he’ll be out. Luis Castillo is on the disabled list and his is another injury where the Mets tried to have him play through. Fortunately, his replacement, Ruben Tejada, has been more than filled the void. Reliever Kelvim Escobar, penciled in as a set-up man, is out for the year with a shoulder injury. The Mets are still trying to find an eighth-inning solution. Oliver Perez and John Maine are currently on the disabled list.

3) Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?

Assessment: Pelfrey made a point of saying he understood this trio represented a significant key to the Mets’ success this season. Perez and Maine are on the disabled list, but the team upgraded with R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi. Pelfrey was superb for much of the first half but has been going through a dead arm period and has been largely ineffective over his last five starts. Perez balked at a minor league assignment, but an injury was found that conveniently landed him on the disabled list. He has been sound, and somewhat effective, in his rehab assignment. Look for the Mets to activate him shortly after the break and send Takahashi back to the bullpen. There’s no timetable for Maine’s return.

4) Question: Who is fifth starter?

Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi were in the mix in the spring, but Niese won the job and has been very good since coming off the disabled list. Niese has been so good that management tabbed him untouchable when Seattle asked for him in trade discussions surrounding Cliff Lee. Figueroa is now in Philadelphia, while Nieve is in the bullpen. Takahashi replaced Perez in the rotation and pitched well at first, but clearly showed he’s more valuable in the bullpen. The Mets are searching for a fifth starter in the trade market, as there are lingering questions about Perez and Maine.

5) Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

Assessment: Jenrry Mejia went north in the pen in an undefined role, but eventually went to the minor leagues to work on being a starter, when he was injured. Losing Escobar went a large part in opening the door for Mejia, who threw hard, but never grasped the eighth-inning role. Bobby Parnell, who appeared to wash you last year, now appears to be the arm having the inside track in the eighth inning to start the second half. Ryota Igarashi was the guy at one time, but pulled a hamstring and hasn’t been the same since. He’s now in the minor leagues. Nieve and Pedro Feliciano were over worked early, and still have heavy workloads. The distribution of work should be improved when Takahashi goes back to the bullpen.

Jul 10

Mets Chat Room; Pelfrey searching for that feeling.

Game #87 vs. Braves

Win or lose this afternoon, Mike Pelfrey will have had a good first half. Much better than anybody would have anticipated considering how he was rocked during spring training.

However, today is more about heading into the break on a positive psychological note than it is pumping up his already impressive numbers.

At 10-3, and on pace for a 19-6 season, Pelfrey is having a breakthrough year, but is going through rough patch, almost a flashback to last year in his inability to minimize the damage and finish off innings, something he has done so well throughout the first half.

After a 9-1 start that unearthed his maturity, including a loss to the Yankees in late June, Pelfrey is 1-2 over his last four starts. That, in it is no big deal, but what has raised a red flag was an inability to finish and a lack of composure, which flared in Monday’s loss to Cincinnati.

Pelfrey unraveled after failing to get two calls and the result was seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, his second straight start in which he failed to get out of the fifth.

“I thought for the first time in over a year, I let my emotions get the best of me,’’ Pelfrey said in a candid admission. “That wasn’t very good on my part.’’

Not only did Pelfrey admit to that, but attributed his rough patch to a dead arm period.

“Every year, you just go through a little period where you don’t feel like the ball is coming out of your hand like it has that extra life on it,’’ Pelfrey said. “I feel like I’ve been going through that.’’

Over his last four starts Pelfrey has been tagged for 18 runs on 34 hits and eight walks. Not All-Star like at all, but also not a regression.

Pelfrey will attempt to put the brakes on his personal and the Mets’ team slide this afternoon against the Braves. Beating Atlanta for the third time in the first half would not only pull the Mets within three of the Braves but also give him a positive base from which to approach the second half.