Mar 31

Mets Matters: Niese Sharp And Other Good Things

A lot of good things happened to the Mets in today’s 2-0 victory over Washington.

* Jon Niese, who is facing a pivotal season in his career, threw six scoreless innings.

* The Mets have been searching all spring for a left specialist, and Jerry Blevins, acquired Monday from the Nationals for outfielder Matt den Dekker, struck out Bryce Harper.

mets-matters logo* Ruben Tejada, whom the Mets apparently don’t want to use at second base, had his 12th RBI of the spring in 19 games.

* John Mayberry Jr., earmarked for a bench role, had three hits, including his fourth homer. He’s batting .426 in spring training.

* The Mets, now 18-11 including 5-1 against the Nationals, have won 12 of their last 15 games.

* Lucas Duda had his fourth straight hit against left-handed pitching with a single against Gio Gonzalez.

* Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin threw 1.2 scoreless innings to earn the save.

ALVAREZ OPTIONED: Less than 24 hours after picking up lefty relievers Blevins and Alex Torres, Dario Alvarez was optioned to the minor league camp.

He appeared in ten games this spring and compiled a 4.91 ERA.

The plan is for him to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Mets host St. Louis with Bartolo Colon (0-2, 7.71 ERA) going against Carlos Martinez.

Mar 31

Niese Facing Pivotal Season

Jon Niese continued the Mets’ run of strong starting pitching with six scoreless innings Tuesday against St. Louis. The Mets haven’t said where, but Niese will likely be slotted fourth in their rotation, meaning he’ll pitch in the second series at Atlanta.

Niese, who gave up four hits and struck out three in a 2-0 victory over the Nationals, had been trying to correct a striding flaw in his mechanics. He noticed his landing (right) leg was not falling directly toward the plate, but toward first base. Consequently, Niese has been throwing across his body, which placed stress on his left shoulder causing it to tire. Such a strain could cause damage to the shoulder, perhaps leading to surgery.

NIESE: Big year for him. (AP)

NIESE: Big year for him. (AP)

“I’ve been working on my mechanics in between starts and in the bullpen,” Niese told reporters. “It feels good now. It makes my arm feel a lot stronger, and with a little bit better command as well.

“I’m striding probably a foot further toward home plate. It’s good. I’m using my legs, using my body to do the pitching instead of just trying to muscle it up there with my arm.”

This is a pivotal season for Niese, who has two years remaining on a five-year, $25.27-million contract. Niese was a hot commodity then as a young, hard-throwing left-hander with a manageable contract.

However, since a 13-9 season in 30 starts (190.1 innings) in 2012, Niese’s stock has nosedived. He’s gone 17-18 and made only 54 of a potential 68 starts.

In their growing disenchantment, the Mets tried to trade Niese over the winter, but their asking price was too high. Niese could also be expendable this winter, especially if Steven Matz is brought up and shows potential.

The Mets gambled, and to date lost on Niese. But, he’s only 28 so there’s still time for him to cash his potential check.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notebook.

 

Mar 12

Mets Unhappy With Lefty Relievers

Both GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins lamented the Mets’ lefty situation in the bullpen. However, the criticism was more directed at the pitchers not performing than it was as Alderson for not being in more talent.

COLLINS: Concerned. (AP)

COLLINS: Concerned. (AP)

Let’s face it, Josh Edgin is likely to have Tommy John surgery, which means somebody from the foursome of Dario Alvarez, Sean Gilmartin, Jack Leathersich and Scott Rice must to emerge. Currently they have a combined 15.43 ERA.

“Yeah, I’m disappointed,’’ Collins told reporters today in Port St. Lucie. “Here’s a chance. You come to the major league spring training and all you want is a chance. Now, with our guy down, if I’m left-handed I’m looking in the mirror and deciding what do I need to do to get that job, because it’s out there.’’

Alvarez stunk it up in today’s 11-9 victory over Washington. The Mets had taken an 11-4 lead with nine runs in the eighth, but Alvarez gave up four of the five Nationals’ runs in the ninth.

BOX SCORE

Rice gave up five runs the previous day and couldn’t get out of his inning; Leathersich has five walks in 1.2 innings; and Gilmartin has given up three runs in two innings.

Alderson explained his offseason approach by saying he wanted the competition to come from within and Andrew Miller and Zack Duke were out of their price range.

Alderson again reiterated not using Steven Matz in relief because of his upside as a starter.

Mar 05

Mets Matters: Colon Perfect In Loss To Nats

Bartolo Colon was perfect in his first exhibition start, retiring all six hitters in the Mets’ 5-4 loss Thursday to the Nationals.

“I felt pretty good today, but I’m not quite there yet – season-ready,’’ Colon told reporters. “I didn’t throw everything I needed to throw. It was my first time facing batters. But I was pretty happy with what I did. I had good control of all of my pitches.’’

mets-matters logoColon will next pitch Tuesday against minor league hitters. He is expected to throw over three innings.

At 41 entering the season, Colon said his goal is to exceed 200 innings for the second straight year.

METS MUST IMPROVE VS. NATS: Mets manager Terry Collins gives the edge to Washington’s rotation to that of his own team, “maybe because of experience.’’

If the Mets are to be competitive this year they must improve head-to-head against the Nationals.

“We can’t go 5-14 next year. You can’t,’’ Collins told reporters. “You’ve got to play better. … I think now our bullpen has settled down a little bit and I think we’re in a little bit better shape.’’

NEXT UP: The Mets host Detroit Friday at 1:10 p.m., with Matt Harvey getting the start. It will be his first game since Aug. 24, 2013. Noah Syndergaard will follow Harvey. … The sons of murdered NYPD officer Rafael Ramos will be the batboys.

Mar 05

Wheeler Responds To Nats’ Harper

I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler, and from Bryce Harper, either. Sure, the Nationals’ outfielder was giddy about his team getting Max Scherzer and why shouldn’t he?

WHEELER: Responds to Harper.

WHEELER: Responds to Harper.

“To be able to have a guy like Scherzer come in? I just started laughing,’’ Harper told reporters. “I was like, ‘Where’s my ring?’ You know what I mean? It’s stupid. It’s absolutely stupid how good our staff is.’’

I would have hoped he’d have that confidence in his team.

As for Wheeler, it wasn’t exactly talking smack according to professional wrestling or NBA standards, but the soft-spoken Met had something to say.

“I guarantee you we all saw what Bryce Harper said,’’ Wheeler told the New York Daily News. “He said, ‘give me my ring… we’re going to make it hard for him to get that ring, I’ll guarantee you that.’’

Wheeler isn’t a braggart, but I was glad to see him exhibit some spine. I wouldn’t want to have seen anything less from him.

It’s good he’s thinking that way, but if the Mets are to challenge Washington, much less compete in the NL East, they must do better than going 4-15 against the Nationals.

ON DECK: Daniel Murphy to go on ESPN to tell his side.