Feb 26

Mets’ Tentative Pitching Rotation Pending Niese’s MRI

The New York Mets have their tentative pitching rotation for the first series of the season against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, pending Jonathon Niese‘s health.

Manager Terry Collins, as he’s said all along, will go with Niese on Opening Day, March 31. After a day off, the Mets will start Game 2 with Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee in Game 3.

Of course, this is predicated on health. Niese, who had rotator cuff issues last season, returned to New York today for a MRI on his sore left shoulder. Reports out of Port St. Lucie say Niese has a dead arm and the discomfort is in a different part of the shoulder.

Until the results are in, there’s no way of knowing how much time Niese will miss. Presumably, if he opens the season on the disabled list, everybody in the rotation would be moved up a day with another pitcher added.

That leaves Zack Wheeler as the fourth starter, going against Cincinnati, also at Citi Field, and the fifth starter in the season’s fifth game.

The competition for the fifth starter role appears boiled down to Daisuke MatsuzakaJohn Lannan and Jenrry Mejia. Matsuzaka, based on his performance in September for the Mets, and Mejia recovering from surgery, is the front-runner. Lannan could get the nod if neither Niese nor Mejia are available.

If he goes, this would mark the second straight season Niese was the Opening Day starter. Last season, he held San Diego to two runs on four hits in 6.2 innings in a game won, 11-2, by the Mets.

Colon, an 18-game winner last season with Oakland, figured to be the No. 2 starter. Collins also wanted to make sure Gee started in the series as he was 4-2 last season against the Nationals.

There has clamoring from fans on Internet message boards and websites endorsing Wheeler for the start, but there was no way Collins would lead frog established veterans for a young pitcher with limited experience. Also, this keeps Wheeler from the pressures of a high profile start.

Washington is expected to go with Stephen Strasburg in the opener, followed by Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez.

Feb 23

Terry Collins Announces Exhibition Starting Pitchers

New York Mets manager Terry Collins announced his rotation for the first five exhibition games Sunday morning.

Rafael Montero will get the ball for the exhibition opener this Friday against Washington at Tradition Field.

He will be followed by fifth-starter candidate John Lannan, March 1 against Miami; fifth-starter possibility Daisuke Matsuzaka, March 2 against St. Louis, at Jupiter; Noah Syndergaard, March 3 against Atlanta, at Orlando; Jonathon Niese, March 4 against Houston in Port St. Lucie.

Presumably, Zack Wheeler, who’ll throw batting practice today, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon will be next in line, but the order hasn’t been determined.

Relievers were not announced.

For the first game, the starters normally get two innings or roughly 30 pitches. The objective is to build them up to seven innings and 100 pitches.

Collins already said he is leaning towards Niese as his Opening Day starter against the Nationals.

It is unlikely Montero, who went 12-7 with a 2.78 ERA last year in 27 starts at Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas, will make the 25-man roster coming out of spring training.

ON DECK:  Could Matt Harvey Be A High Maintenance Super Nova?

 

Feb 18

Mets Putting Themselves In Good Financial Shape For Future

Over the past five seasons – all below .500 – the New York Mets were bogged down by cumbersome contracts to unproductive players. It was economic certainty, but in a bad way.

This should be the third consecutive year the Mets will have a payroll of less than $100 million. They have long pointed to 2015 as when they will put themselves in a competitive position, and are currently set up to do so with payroll flexibility through 2019.

Heading into 2015, the Mets have $54.05 million earmarked to four players: David Wright ($20 million), Curtis Granderson ($16 million), Bartolo Colon ($11 million) and Jonathon Niese ($7.05 million).

Where teams usually get bit in their payroll is during the arbitration process and the Mets will have eight players eligible: Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Ike Davis, Eric Young, Lucas Duda, Jenrry Mejia and Ruben Tejada.

Of the eight, it is possible four – Davis, Young, Duda and Tejada – could be gone, with some before the end of this season.

Only one player is scheduled to be a free agent after this year and that’s Chris Young, who nobody expects to be back.

In 2016, the Mets have $45.05 million designated for three players: Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($16 million) and Niese $9.050 million).

Their arbitration eligible list that off-season expands to 14 to leave open the possibility for a significant payroll spike. The list includes: Gee, Davis, Eric Young, Duda, Tejada, Scott Rice, Matt Harvey, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia, Anthony Recker, Andrew Brown and Carlos Torres.

By this time, there’s no telling who will still be in the organization. Harvey and possibly Gee could be given multi-year deals by then. Everybody else is up the air. It’s also questionable if Nieuwenhuis and Brown will still be around, as neither one has made serious strides in sticking around.

Their 2016 free agents will be Colon, Murphy and Parnell.

In 2017, the Mets have $35.5 million earmarked for Wright ($20 million), Granderson ($15 million) and a half-million buyout for Niese.

Their arbitration eligible players will be Duda, Tejada, Rice, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Torres. Familia, Recker and Brown, with their free agents Gee, Davis and Eric Young.

Wright ($20 million) is the only player under contract for 2018. The arbitration eligible Mets will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Torres. Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker, Wheeler and Brown. That year Granderson, Duda and Tejada will be free agents.

In 2019 they’ll owe Wright $15 million, with Torres and Wheeler the only Mets who are arbitration eligible. Potential free agents will be Rice, Harvey, Nieuwenhuis, Mejia, Edgin, Familia, Recker and Brown.

The Mets have long talked about cutting payroll costs to put themselves in position to seriously enter the free-agent market. It now appears they might actually be able to do it.

Feb 16

Five Mets On The Hot Seat

We’re still a long way from Jonathon Niese’s first pitch of the 2014 season against Washington, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t already some New York Mets on the hot seat, broiling under the glare of expectations.

Every spring in every camp there are several players on a short-patience rope and the Mets are no exception. In my mind, there are five facing a make-or-break season, beginning with Niese:

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

Jonathon Niese: Will it ever happen for him? He was signed to a multi-year extension because he was young, left-handed and could throw hard. However, he’s never won more than 13 games in a season and has sustained a myriad of injuries, including shoulder problems last season. At 29, there’s still time, but could one of the young prospects prompt the Mets to shop him?

Ike Davis: No Mets “question list,’’ doesn’t have his name. It is last-chance time for the former hot prospect. After 32 homers in 2012, that’s the plateau the club is seeking. The Mets would take less, say 25, if his RBI production and on-base percentage were high and his strikeouts substantially cut. He either hits this year or he’s gone.

Ruben Tejada: The Mets toyed with signing Stephen Drew, but were sold on the potential of the younger and cheaper Tejada after his commitment at a Michigan fitness camp. The Mets are pointing to 2015 and Matt Harvey’s return to when they can realistically contend, and they won’t be able to do that with a hole at shortstop.

Curtis Granderson: Signed a four-year deal for big money in the hope of providing power in the outfield. I have two words: Jason Bay. Fans are smart enough to realize he won’t hit for the power he did at Yankee Stadium, but they won’t accept Bay-like numbers. Granderson represents the Mets’ promise  to improve and needs to live up to those expectations.

Chris Young: He’s probably gone after this season, but he’ll start the year with a bulls-eye on his back. With his recent numbers it is incomprehensible for him to get a $7.25 million contract. He must produce for his own peace of mind in shutting up the boos.

Feb 15

Terry Collins Leaning To Jon Niese As Opening Day Starter

New York Mets manager Terry Collins reiterated his thoughts Jonathon Niese would be his Opening Day starter, as well he should according to conventional baseball wisdom.

Despite Zack Wheeler’s desire for the ball, the honor should go to Niese, last year’s starter and whom Collins called “the ace of the staff,’’ in wake of Matt Harvey’s injury. If not Niese, then it should be Dillon Gee, the Mets’ most consistent starter last year and author of 199 innings.

NIESE: Opening Day starter?

NIESE: Opening Day starter?

Barring injury, accepted baseball thinking is why Niese should start. Niese is the most experienced of the Mets’ starters – of those growing up in the organization – and having been signed to a long-term contract, the most is expected of him.

Niese’s 8-8 2013 record is mediocre, but attributable in large part because of a shoulder injury. Veterans usually get preference if for no other reason as a reward.

Bartolo Colon is obviously the staff’s most experienced starter, but has no cache within the organization to warrant the start.

As for Wheeler, he might represent the Mets’ future, but with 17 career starts and seven wins, he has a while to go.

You have to admire Wheeler’s desire to want to have that role. It shows where he wants to be in his career.

“Last year I was coming in trying to win a spot,’’ Wheeler said earlier this week. “This year I’m trying to get the Opening Day spot. … It’s nothing on those guys, on the other starters, because anybody in the starting rotation could be the Opening Day starter. But that’s just my mindset coming in – to push myself to try to get the Opening Day spot.’’

Niese probably thinks the same. At least, let’s hope he does.

ON DECK: Bartolo Colon greets media.