Mar 01

Arguments For John Lannan Being Fifth Starter

Current conventional wisdom has the inside track for the fifth spot in the New York Mets’ rotation belonging to Daisuke Matsuzaka, based primarily on how he finished last season in Flushing.

His competition is John Lannan and Jenrry Mejia, the latter who is coming off elbow surgery. There is sentiment for Mejia to win the job if healthy, but several arguments can be made in favor of Lannan:

* Lannan is left-handed, which would give the Mets two in their rotation. The other is Jonathon Niese, but his balky shoulder could give the Mets pause when it comes to cutting loose Lannan. If Niese isn’t ready, they will need a lefty in their rotation.

* Another consideration is age. At 29, Lannan is four years younger than Matsuzaka. Mejia is 24, but there’s still time for him to crack the rotation. In addition, Mejia has experience as a reliever, and the Mets have questions in their bullpen.

* He has a 45-58 record pitching for some pretty poor Washington teams during his seven-year career, but with a decent 4.12 ERA. Nine of those victories have been against Atlanta, but admittedly a weak 3-13 record against Philadelphia.

* In three out of four years from 2008-2011, Lannan started over 30 games and worked at least 180 innings. By contrast, Matsuzaka has only once started as many as 30 games and worked more than 170 innings during his career.

* Matsuzaka has a career 53-40 record, and seemed to correct his mechanical flaws in his final three starts in 2013 with the Mets. If Matsuzaka has indeed found his rhythm, the Mets could have a valuable trade chip while at the same time keep Lannan.

Lannan will get two innings or 30 pitches today against the Marlins.

The fifth spot remains up for grabs, but Lannan could fill the role while giving Mejia time to recover and work in the bullpen, and provide them a trade asset in Matsuzaka.

That’s a lot to consider.

Feb 28

Updating Mets’ Injuries: Niese, Parnell, Young And Colon

It’s early, but the New York Mets already have several injury issues that don’t include Jonathon Niese.

PARNELL: To throw BP Saturday (AP)

PARNELL: To throw BP Saturday (AP)

There were reports Niese might throw this weekend, but that’s premature as he said he doesn’t know when he’ll get back on the mound. That could be determined later today.

Obviously, his exhibition start Tuesday against Houston is pushed back. Niese said he doesn’t expect to miss his Opening Day start, March 31, against Washington at Citi Field.

In addition:

* Closer Bobby Parnell is scheduled to throw batting practice Saturday. It will be his first time throwing to hitters since undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Parnell was supposed to throw earlier in the week, but that was pushed back after sustaining a strained left quadriceps muscle.

Parnell’s status is considered one of the Mets’ most significant issues in spring training. If he isn’t ready to start the season, Vic Black will assume the closer role.

* Outfielder and leadoff hitter Eric Young isn’t expected to play this weekend because of a strained muscle in his side. Manager Terry Collins said the training staff wants to see Young in the field before letting him play. Collins said Sunday at the earliest, but indicated Monday or Tuesday are more likely.

* Bartolo Colon has been out with a strained calf, but is expected to throw today. He has been working out on a stationary bike.

ON DECK: Is Sandy Alderson kidding about 90 wins?


Feb 28

Jon Niese Injury Raises Questions

It was interesting to hear Jonathon Niese take responsibility for his setback, but his comments raised questions as to how the New York Mets handled his injury.

NIESE: Injury raises questions. (AP)

NIESE: Injury raises questions. (AP)

Niese’s MRI revealed scapula-muscle weakness in the back of his left shoulder.

How did this happen?

Niese missed two months last season with a rotator-cuff strain, but returned to pitch late in the year.

Before the offseason, I asked Niese his off-season plans and he said he would get a workout routine from the trainers and concentrate on strengthening his shoulder. Sounded reasonable.

Today, Niese told ESPN in Port St. Lucie he worked on the rotator cuff area, but neglected the area in the back part of the shoulder leading to an imbalance of strength and caused his shoulder blade to be tugged at an awkward angle.

Often with an arm injury a pitcher overcompensates, which leads to another problem.

“The MRI revealed that my shoulder this year is actually better than it was last year,’’ Niese said. “[Mets physician Dr. David Altchek] said everything was healed and everything was clean.

“It’s just the fact that there are little weak spots. I kind of blame that on myself. Last year, with it being the rotator cuff, this off-season that’s pretty much all I was working on. I neglected the other things. So everything was at an imbalance. That’s when I started having the shoulder-pinching issues and discomfort.’’

This leads to several questions:

* Was Niese instructed to work on that area of the shoulder and just didn’t? If so, why? Surely, he has to be smart enough not to ignore rehab instructions.

* Did the doctors not tell and show Niese how to work those muscles? One would think they would have.

* Was Niese rushed back too soon last season and developed bad habits that carried over to his off-season throwing? If so, it wouldn’t have been the first time a Met was rushed back.

* Are Niese’s mechanics the same as they were prior to the injury, and if so, why wasn’t this caught by pitching coach Dan Warthen? Everything is on tape, so it’s a wonder why it was missed if that’s the case.

* Niese said he would get a workout routine from a physical therapist, leading to speculation he wasn’t given that series of exercises. If so, why not?

The Mets have been frequently criticized for their handling of injuries. While it might be premature to make that accusation in this case, there is cause to wonder.

Feb 27

Mets Wrap: Niese MRI Negative; Syndergaard Stars

The New York Mets, a team starving for good news, received some Thursday when left-hander Jon Niese’s MRI on his left shoulder came back negative.

Niese is expected to resume throwing this weekend, but his exhibition start scheduled for Tuesday will be pushed back.

Above all else, Niese received a scare that should tell the Mets starting pitching is fragile and they should be careful before they consider dealing what they have.

In addition:

Noah Syndergaard struck out five in two innings of an intrasquad game. He’s scheduled to make his first exhibition start Monday against Atlanta.

Eric Young, who has a strained side muscle, could be held out this weekend.

Bartolo Colon could throw Friday. Colon has a strained calf muscle and spent the day working out on a stationary bike.

* General manager Sandy Alderson said 90 victories is possible, reported The New York Daily News.


Feb 27

Jon Niese MRI Is Clean; Incident A Reminder Of Pitching Fragility

The New York Mets received good news Thursday when the MRI on Jon Niese’s pitching shoulder came back clean. Most times when a pitcher complains of a dead arm as Niese did, the issue is more weakness than injury, which is the diagnosis here.

This was the best possible news for the Mets, who have plenty of issues already without having to worry about losing their No. 1 starter.

This was a scare to be sure, but what it also serves as is a reminder starting pitching is scarce, meaning they better be careful if they are considering dealing a starter, even on the minor level, for shortstop Nick Franklin.

Reportedly, Seattle is asking for starting pitching for Franklin, an infielder who became expendable with the Mariners’ signing of Robinson Cano. The Mets turned down trade overtures for Niese in the past, but this time he wasn’t on the Mariners’ wish list.

Niese was examined Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan after complaining of shoulder soreness the day after throwing batting practice. He wanted the exam for his peace of mind because he missed two months last season with a partially torn rotator cuff.

Niese will miss his first exhibition start, Tuesday against Houston, but could resume throwing this weekend.

Manager Terry Collins said Niese will be the Mets’ Opening Day starter, and didn’t back off that Wednesday.

ON DECK: Intrasquad game.