Mar 10

Mets Do Right Thing In Demoting Zack Wheeler

Even without the oblique injury, Zack Wheeler would be opening the season in the minor leagues, which was always the proper decision.

Maybe he wouldn’t have been sent down today with nine others, but as spring training goes on and the need to stretch out the starters increases, Wheeler’s innings would have been reduced, something the Mets did not want to happen.

WHEELER: Heading for Vegas.

WHEELER: Heading for Vegas.

Since he is better off getting regular innings, today’s demotion was inevitable. With the oblique hampering him, there’s no sense in trying to squeeze him in. He’s better off resuming a normal routine in the minor league camp, where he’ll throw in the bullpen again before getting into a game.

There’s always the possibility of Wheeler pitching in a “B” game, but for now he’s in the right place for his development. The Mets have long been accused of rushing pitchers – see Mike Pelfrey and Jenrry Mejia – and as they are building again they can’t afford to make a similar mistake with Wheeler, regardless how he feels.

“It’s the big leagues, of course I want to be here,’’ Wheeler said. “I’m not surprised. They told me this could happen.’’

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Mar 01

Beltran Sings Wheeler’s Praises

Carlos Beltran left the Mets for San Francisco two summers ago with the hope of playing in the World Series.

Beltran did his part, batting .323 with seven homers in 44 games with the Giants, but it wasn’t to be. Even so, Beltran believes the Mets got the better end of the deal that sent pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to New York.

“It worked out better for them,’’ Beltran recently said. “I thought we were going to go to the playoffs and it didn’t happen. But it is what it is. I took the chance of going to the team that was fighting for a playoff spot and it didn’t work out for me. But it worked out for the Mets.’’

While Beltran has a few more years left to his career, the ceiling seems unlimited for Wheeler, currently sidelined with a strained oblique muscle.

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Feb 26

Mejia Makes First Start Today; Tejada Out

Jenrry Mejia gets the ball this afternoon against Miami. As of now, Mejia will be used as a starter, but there are those in the organization who believe he’s better suited for the bullpen.

MEJIA: Gets ball today.

MEJIA: Gets ball today.

Mejia prefers to start and has performed better in that role. Maybe it is because he has time to prepare for his assignment, maybe because he has more time to warm up, maybe it is an ego thing. Whatever it is, his 2.75 ERA as a starter compared to 5.48 ERA in relief, can’t be disputed.

Why can’t they make a decision with this guy?

The Mets screwed up with Mejia in 2010, when managing for his job, Jerry Manuel rushed an unproven Mejia to the Opening Day roster as a reliever because they didn’t have a quality bullpen. Manuel was clearly thinking in the short term rather than what was in the best interest of Mejia, and the Mets, in the long term.

Closer, set-up reliever, situational pitcher; the Mets bounced him around. Eventually they optioned him out and he started in the minors. Mejia was not prepared for the up-and-down work in the bullpen, and then stretching him out in midseason, he injured his arm and underwent surgery. He did not pitch with the Mets in 2011.

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Feb 22

Things To Look For In Mets Intrasquad Game

Several things to look for in today’s Mets intrasquad game in Port St. Lucie. You don’t get answers in a game like this, but you can get a first impression or something to build on.

Here’s the players I am interested in and why:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: Leading off for Team 1. Nieuwenhuis is getting the first chance to win the leadoff job, which is definite hole.

Jordany Valdespin: Playing second base for Team 1 and batting second. Valdespin is ticketed to open the season in the minors, but that could change on how well he plays second base and how Daniel Murphy recovers from a ribcage injury.

Andrew Brown: Playing left field for Team 1. He has a chance to stick as a reserve in the Mets’ undermanned outfield.

Wilmer Flores: A top prospect playing second base for Team 2. Opportunities often come out of injuries and if Murphy’s injury is worse than expected Flores might become an option. Even so, he should see major league time this summer.

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Feb 07

Mets Must Resist Temptation With Zack Wheeler

It’s no secret the Mets have concerns in their rotation, but that doesn’t mean they should rush Zack Wheeler, regardless of how good a spring training he has.

The Mets tooker a somewhat patient approach with Matt Harvey, waited to bring him up last summer and gave him ten starts in which he showed his potential. The Mets need to do the same with Wheeler.

I still maintain the Mets rushed former first-round pick Mike Pelfrey out of necessity when he clearly wasn’t emotionally or mentally ready. Pelfrey had the physical tools, but had trouble keeping his poise and concentration, struggled with pitch selection, and couldn’t put away hitters or innings.

Harvey doesn’t have those problems and is ahead of where Pelfrey was at a similar stage of his career. Pelfrey is trying to hook on with Minnesota, while Harvey has a place in the Mets’ rotation.

Wheeler is expected to open the season in the minor leagues and pitch with the Mets later in the season. How late, depends on the health of the rotation, but remember, the Mets had injury issues last year and utilized several options before turning to Harvey.

The Mets say they are building for the future with their young pitching, but when you look at the composition of the roster – notably the outfield and bullpen – it is obvious they won’t contend this season. So, the wise thing is to go slow with Wheeler until he’s ready.

The young arm I am most interested in seeing his Jenrry Mejia, but I probably said that last spring, too. Mejia is a prime example of force-feeding a prospect to the major leagues before he was ready. Blame Jerry Manuel for that one.

Entering his last year as Mets’ manager, Manuel knew his job was hanging thin, and with a weak bullpen lobbied hard with then GM Omar Minaya to put Mejia in the bullpen when he should have been in the minors as a starter.

Even worse than taking him out of his projected role, was the Mets didn’t know how to use him in the pen. After awhile, they used him in no-pressure situations. Then it was back to the minor leagues and in the rotation, where he subsequently injured his arm.

Previously, Manuel screwed up Bobby Parnell. He was supposed to get a string of starts at the end of the 2009 season. He was rocked in September, but with the Mets going nowhere, Manuel – presumably more concerned about getting a handful of wins then protecting Parnell emotionally – yanked him from the rotation.

Parnell hasn’t started a game for the Mets since, and it hasn’t been a smooth transition for him to the bullpen.

Pelfrey is gone, Parnell is still trying to make it in the pen, and Mejia’s role is still in question. The future is bright for Harvey. Hopefully, it will be for Wheeler, too. If he’s brought along the right way.