Jul 13

Mets Must Overhaul Pitching Protocols

 

UPDATED

The only one of the Mets starters not currently waving a health red flag is the one whose roots are not in the organization – Bartolo Colon. To be fair, Colon had health issues earlier in his career and a PED history, but he’s clean now and save a ball hit off his thumb has been fine.

Colon, at 43, has been a source of stability on the mound since joining the Mets, but his greatest contribution might be the suggestion to Noah Syndergaard, whose 23-year-old arm suddenly lost its steam, to back off his between-starts throwing.

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets' pitching problems. (Getty)

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets’ pitching problems. (Getty)

When Syndergaard told Bob Klapisch, one the most knowledgeable baseball writers I know, his arm felt “like there are parachutes attached to it,”  there was the image of swimming against the current.

Syndergaard is pitching through a bone spur in his elbow. Syndergaard experienced a sudden five-mph., drop off his fastball in his last start against the Nationals, similar to turning an oscillating fan from high to medium. Every pitch was a change-up.

Matt Harvey, who at 27, is out for the season following shoulder surgery; the second time in four years the knife cut him out of the rotation. Jacob deGrom was given a chance to be on the National League All-Star team but told manager Terry Collins he was too tired. The word he used was “beat.”

He’s only 28.

Then there’s Steven Matz. He had Tommy John surgery before he was 25, and like Syndergaard is pitching with a painful bone spur.

Finally, there’s Zack Wheeler, who at 26, also experienced Tommy John surgery. He was supposed to come off the disabled list in late June and send Colon to the bullpen. Then it was July, then after the All-Star break. Now, it is mid-August.

I’m waiting for the announcement he will not pitch this year.

Realistically, nobody expected all these guys to blossom into 20-game winners at once. However, also realistically, nobody expected them all to break down all at once, which is closer to happening than one might think.

Is this a coincidence or something deeper?

I would love to see the Mets get back to the World Series. However, I would rather they not make the playoffs, even have a losing season, if it meant seeing each of these guys healthy. For that to happen, the Mets need a serious and comprehensive plan. And remember, wishing is not a plan.

The first step is to recognize how they’ve handled things in the past. The second step is to recognize it hasn’t worked.

I’ve been on the record and will not back off saying they mishandled Harvey from the outset of his arm problems in 2013. It should be noted Harvey back then, and today contributes to his own problems.

Syndergaard won’t pitch until the Mets are in Chicago next week. They’ll ease him back in the rotation, which is a wise decision. Not so wise is their inexplicable decision not to schedule a new MRI. The Mets are going on a previous set taken several weeks before the Washington meltdown.

Just stupid.

GM Sandy Alderson said of Syndergaard and Matz their bone spurs is a matter of pain tolerance. More than once they’ve said the pitchers – the keys to the Mets’ future – couldn’t risk further injury.

Wrong answer.

There are no guarantees when it comes to injuries. The only guarantee is if you continually do something wrong and it doesn’t work, it won’t get better.

The Mets have the possibility to have a great pitching staff, but that’s all it is now – potential. It will remain potential unless the Mets do a complete overhaul in how they handle their pitchers.

From throwing between starts, to pitch counts, to days off, to dealing with pain and discomfort, to a myriad of other things, there must be a complete change. There should be uniformity in policy and procedure from the rookie league to Citi Field.

I don’t know if these Mets will develop into a staff for the ages or fizzle out like the Oakland staff under Billy Martin. Both could happen.

Something is wrong and priority one for the Mets is to find out what it is and fix it.

I don’t care about what happens this year, it’s probably too late, anyway. I care about what happens in the years to come.

 

Jul 08

Three Mets’ Storylines: More Injuries

What was that line in Bull Durham? “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And, sometimes it rains.” However, on this night for the Mets, it didn’t rain long or hard enough.

The Mets lost 3-1 Friday to the Washington Nationals, but that was just the game. On a day the Mets lost Matt Harvey to season-ending shoulder surgery they lost a lot more during the game.

SYNDERGAARD: When will we see him again? (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: When will we see him again? (AP)

I covered Harvey earlier today, so the top three Mets storylines tonight are: 1) Noah Syndergaard leaving with an arm injury, 2) Yoenis Cespedes leaving with a strained quad muscle, and 3) Jose Reyes’ reluctance to run.

SYNDERGAARD LEAVES WITH ARM INJURY: Syndergaard, who has been bothered by a bone spur in his elbow, and whom manager Terry Collins would pitch in the All-Star Game, left in the fifth inning with what the Mets called “arm fatigue.”

Collins told reporters: “He just said his arm went dead. It got tired on him. … “He tells me there’s nothing wrong. He’s just tired.”

Collins said Syndergaard will not pitch in the All-Star Game. He also said “as of now,’’ there’s no correlation between this and the bone spur.

His velocity was down and he winced with his last pitch. Doesn’t a wince denote pain? If he couldn’t feel anything in his arm, that’s not a dead arm.

“I didn’t have anything on pitches,” Syndergaard told reporters. “I knew something wasn’t right.”

Twice already this season Syndergaard complained of discomfort in his pitching elbow and underwent a MRI. He said he didn’t think a third MRI is necessary.

Wanna bet?

CESPEDES HAS QUAD INJURY: The Mets’ All-Star outfielder left after three innings with a strained right quad while chasing Daniel Murphy’s double.

Cespedes leaped to catch the carom off the wall and landed awkwardly. What the good folks at SNY didn’t say was he didn’t play the ball properly and was too close to the wall.

Collins said he might have to do without him for a couple of games, which should also put him out of the All-Star Game.

“`I’m running out of things to say and we’re running out of bodies,” said Collins, who indicated the Mets will play shorthanded for the rest of the series.

REYES DOESN’T RUN: The Mets had runners on the corners with no outs, with Reyes on first. Or, should I say, anchored on first?

He didn’t try to steal to get the tying run into scoring position. He didn’t run to stay out of the inning-ending double play.

SNY’s analysis ranged from the wet turf, to being rusty to not being confident, yet, to run. None are good explanations.

Reyes is here for his speed and provide a spark. If he’s rusty, what’s the point? The day before he was activated Collins said Reyes wasn’t ready, and several days prior to that the player said he didn’t want to come back until he was 100 percent.

Evidently he is not, despite the homer Thursday. Evidently, if the manager and player said Reyes wasn’t ready, then did management force this move just to sell a few tickets against the Marlins?

 

May 12

Are Mets On Verge Of Blunder With Matz?

When it comes to the Mets and injuries ALWAYS bet the over.

The latest is Steven Matz‘s sore forearm and the Mets’ apparent lack of urgency to do something. When will these people learn? Will they ever learn?

MATZ: Hello. Anybody home. (AP)

MATZ: Hello. Anybody home. (AP)

Matz pitched six quality innings against the Dodgers Monday, but needed 98 pitches to do so. That’s way too many and could explain – in part – why he’ll miss Saturday’s start in Colorado.

After the game, Matz said he pitched with a sore forearm, which he evidently hid from manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen. It was obvious with the pitch count Matz was having some trouble.

“It was pretty sore,” Matz told reporters. “I was still able to throw, but it was enough concern for me to say something to the trainers and just kind of tell them what was going on. Before I see the doctors, they just want to play it safe.”

Presumably, had Matz said something to the trainers during the game they would have said something to Collins. You would like to think so, anyway.

Matz has already had Tommy John surgery. Shouldn’t he be smart enough to say something when he’s hurting? The Mets don’t need any heroes; they need healthy arms.

Then, there is the Mets’ puzzling response or lack of a substantive one. Matt Harvey pitched through a sore forearm in 2013 and look what happened to him. Don’t these guys talk to each other?

Stephen Strasburg signed a $175-million contract this week. If Matz keeps pitching as he has, someday he could earn that kind of deal. However, if he keeps making foolish decisions with his arm, his value might not be more than $1.75.

Matz won’t pitch Saturday and will be replaced by Logan Verrett. Matz didn’t throw Wednesday, but could try to throw today. The Mets are in Los Angeles, which has hundreds of accomplished orthopedic specialists. Couldn’t the Mets – through the Dodgers – arranged for an exam and MRI? How hard would that have been?

Reportedly, Matz won’t be examined until the Mets return home Monday. I understand back-dating to place a player on the disabled list, but the Mets constantly delay making these appointments.

Why?

It shows a haphazard, lazy response. GM Sandy Alderson isn’t, but that’s the perception. When Alderson was hired, COO Jeff Wilpon promised an overhaul would be made of the Mets’ medical practices.

From Jose Reyes to David Wright, from Carlos Beltran to Ryan Church, from Ike Davis to Harvey, the Mets have misdiagnosed and mishandled numerous injuries.

If nothing else, why didn’t they learn from Matz last year, when a strained lat muscle landed him on the disabled list for a couple of months?

Collins said – and apparently with a straight face – the Mets are being cautious with Matz because of last year. Matz felt discomfort after his major league debut, yet made his next start. Then came the disabled list.

“Last year I tried to pitch through it and ended up missing two months,” Matz told reporters. “So it’s better to play it safe and give it the rest when I need it.”

Rest plus anti-inflammatories, which is another way of saying, “take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”

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Apr 09

Mets Should Do The Smart Thing And Skip DeGrom

We have long been aware of the Mets’ hit-and-miss nature in their handling of injuries. They could be on the verge of making another mistake as manager Terry Collins said Jacob deGrom‘s next start is up in the air. He told reporters today no MRI is planned for deGrom’s tight right lat muscle.

DeGROM: Needs to skip next start. (AP)

DeGROM: Needs to skip next start. (AP)

DeGrom wasn’t in a talkative mood this afternoon with reporters, but the word it is still very sore.

Collins said if deGrom doesn’t show substantial improvement and throw his between-starts bullpen Sunday, he would likely be scratched from Wednesday’s start against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.

Who hasn’t heard this refrain from the Mets about one of their injured players? They did it with Matt Harvey in 2013 and last season with Steven Matz. Neither one of those gambles turned out well. They’ve also mishandled injuries with David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church and many others.

It’s cold today and will probably be likewise Wednesday. DeGrom complained of back tightness in spring training. None of the Mets’ starters worked significant innings this spring. Plus, they have other options available.

DeGrom is a vital key to whatever success the Mets have this year. What could be their possible reasoning in not wanting deGrom get an MRI? You would think they would want to know as much about deGrom’s injury as possible.

If tonight’s game gets bagged, Collins could push his starters back a day. But, why don’t they do the smart thing and just say now they will skip deGrom until the injury risk is greatly reduced? Injuries can always happen, but what’s the point of pushing the envelope on this?

They should just say they are resting deGrom and do the right thing now.

Why is that such a hard thing for them to figure out?

ON DECK: Mets Game Wrap: Game #4 vs. Phillies.

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Mar 11

Mets’ Depth Will Come To Play Early

Depth was to be a Mets’ strong point this year, and it will come into play a lot earlier than anticipated with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera expected to miss the start of the season with a strained patella tendon in his left knee. Ruben Tejada, who lost his job after Cabrera was acquired and recently has been the subject of trade rumors to St. Louis, is starting again.

TEJADA: Back in line up. (AP)

TEJADA: Back in line up. (AP)

“[Cabrera] may not be ready for opening day, and that’s one of the reasons we have the depth on our roster that we have now,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters Friday. “If he’s ready in three or four weeks, it’s essentially the first week of the season and we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

Cabrera was in New York Friday at the Hospital of Special Surgery to receive a platelet-rich plasma injection. He was injured Thursday when he was running the bases and didn’t slide.

“I was running – with the fly ball  to second, and thinking slide,” Cabrera said. “I saw the bad throw, so I tried to stay up. I felt something in my knee. It’s sore right now.”

With Cabrera in the first season of a two-year, 8.5-million contract, the Mets hoped to unload Tejada – who will make $3 million in 2016 – for a prospect before losing him to free-agency next winter.

Timing is everything, and right now it isn’t good for Cabrera. It’s better for Tejada, and it could be good in the long run for the Mets. When Cabrera returns – and there are no setbacks – and if Tejada plays well and proves his leg is sound, it could enhance his trade value.