Aug 11

Six-Man Rotation Might Benefit Mets And Jon Niese

Jon Niese will make his first start for the New York Mets in nearly two months this afternoon today in Phoenix. It is arguably one of the most important starts by a Met starter this season.

Those made by Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler generated more excitement, but for future planning, this is hugely important because it dictates their off-season objectives.

NIESE: What's he thinking?

NIESE: What’s he thinking?

Niese lasted just 3.1 innings in his last start, June 20, at Atlanta, after which it was discovered he had a partially-torn rotator cuff. He went on the disabled list two days later. Niese passed all the medical tests, so it is assumed he’s good to go.

The Mets need to test Niese with kid gloves for the remainder of the season, and figuring no further complications it would streamline the Mets’ off-season shopping list.

If Niese is reinjured, don’t expect an early return next year, and assume they will attempt to add another starter this winter. They could go again with Jeremy Hefner, who has hit the skids since the All-Star break, or they could add another solution like Shaun Marcum.

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention.

Niese gave up three runs on eight hits in that start against the Braves, with five strikeouts and no walks. The most important number is where he landed on the pain meter, which was pretty high.

With Niese’s return to the rotation, the Mets will continue with a six-man starter, which under these circumstances is a prudent move for several reasons: 1) it protects Niese; 2) it lengthens the time between Hefner starts; and 3) it allows the Mets to reduce the starts, and thereby innings, of Harvey and Wheeler.

Most importantly, it will give the Mets an understanding of where Niese stands physically and their off-season needs while protecting him. That’s their most important pitching objective for now, even more than reducing Harvey’s and Wheeler’s innings.

Nobody knows whether the Mets will need to reduce Harvey and Wheeler next season, but assuming they will, this experience can only help them in developing a between-starts routine.

In four games against Arizona, Niese is 1-2 with a 6.85 ERA, including an 11-5 loss last July. However, those numbers aren’t as important as the simple fact Niese is starting another game this season.

For those thinking the Mets have nothing to play for or learn the remainder of the season, guess again.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 27

Shouldn’t Players Association Assume Some Responsibility In Cause Of Niese Injury?

Jon Niese is in the second season of a five-year, $25.5 million contract with the New York Mets. He can thank the MLB Players Association.

Regardless of how this shoulder injury plays out, Niese will collect every penny, again thanks to the MLBPA.

However, MLBPA should also bear some responsibility for the injury in the first place.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

For years, the MLBPA’s priority in dealing with the owners in labor talks centered around money and protecting players in disciplinary and PED cases. Unfortunately, such things as interleague play, which contributed to issues as scheduling and playing conditions has been ignored.

The norm in MLB these days is the absurdity of teams playing in frigid conditions in April, traveling cross-country for one-game make-ups and waiting out four-hour rain delays. The owners are making huge financial commitments to these players, yet have them play in conditions that contribute to injuries.

It’s like owning a high-end sports car, yet leaving it out in the rain and snow. Makes little sense.

Because the MLBPA hasn’t emphasized these areas in collective bargaining, management has rammed through such things as the circumstances of having the Mets playing back-to-back series in snowy and frigid Minneapolis and Denver.

“I think it beat up his body,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Denver. “ I think he had to work extra hard. It’s freezing cold. … He’s the only guy who is really starting to get warm when he’s on the mound.

“Everyone else is standing out there. He and the catcher are really the only two guys with continual movement. When he’d come in, he’d get so chilled between innings, it was tough to go back out there and get loose. So now he had to work even harder to keep himself warm. I just think it took a beating on him.’’

Niese struggled in his subsequent starts and missed one after complaining of back stiffness and soreness. With every pitch Niese placed more stress on his body. As a pitcher, the brunt of it lands on the shoulder.

Sure, it is possible his rotator cuff tear has been an accumulation of all the pitches he’s thrown, but it also is likely pitching in the cold exasperated the stress and contributed to the injury.

Somebody has to play in those games, but the Mets, with reasonable, limited-greed scheduling, shouldn’t have been there.

Major League Baseball is trying to squeeze too much into the schedule and too much out of its players, and has been given carte blanche by the Players Association, which is content to bypass playing conditions for a bigger piece of the pie.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 21

Mets’ Jon Niese Has Rotator Cuff Tear; Injury Might Have Roots In Cold Weather Games

The bad news regarding Jonathon Niese has gotten worse – almost as bad as it can get for the New York Mets.

Niese, who left Thursday night’s game in Atlanta in the fourth inning because of pain in his left shoulder, was diagnosed with a partially torn rotator cuff. The announcement came less than an hour after manager Terry Collins was quoted as saying the injury wasn’t severe.

Collins’ comments only reinforced the understanding that under no circumstances, should the word of a Mets’ manager be taken when it comes to discussing the severity of an injury, which might have had its roots from Niese pitching in back-to-back sub-30-degree games in Minnesota and Denver.

Niese struggled after those starts and later complained of back stiffness. He later missed a start with shoulder tendinitis. What isn’t known, was how much Niese’s mechanics were altered by the cold-weather originated stiffness and if that strain eventually caused the tear.

Surgery is not immediately recommended the Mets said about an hour ago, but with this type of injury it usually is how these things end.

As was suggested earlier today, Niese was placed on the disabled list.

Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia, Mets assistant GM John Ricco said: “Hopefully, it will start healing itself and he won’t need surgery. But we’ll know more after a couple of weeks of rest. According to the doctors it’s a small-enough tear that with rest … they’re hopeful it won’t need surgery. It’s not ‘full thickness’ or a significant tear at this point.’’

If there’s no progress in that time, if the Mets wanted to add a player to their 40-man roster they could place Niese on the 60-day disabled list.

Niese recently missed a start because of tendinitis in his shoulder. Ricco said this is a new injury that didn’t show on a MRI at the time. That doesn’t mean Niese didn’t exasperate the injury by throwing with the tendinitis.

Reliever Greg Burke replaces Niese on the 25-man roster and the Mets’ rotation logjam took care of itself.

In a snarky comment, manager Collins told reporters: “You guys got your wish. There’s only five of them left.’’

It is as stupid a comment as a manager can make. No doubt Collins is frustrated, not only with his team, but also the persistent questioning of who would be bounced from the rotation.

The questioning is understandable since the Mets wanted to push things off by going to a six-man rotation. Reporters have to ask that question.

Collins’ answer implies the media wanted somebody to get hurt in order to get the answer. That’s not only absurd, but totally irresponsible.

It also won’t win Collins any points with the press if he needs the benefit of doubt when his job is on the line.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 21

Jonathan Niese Must Go On DL

Whatever the outcome of Jonathon Niese’s shoulder exam this morning in New York, the New York Mets must place him on the disabled list. Not should, but must.

That reliever Greg Burke is on his way to Philadelphia this morning indicates they are thinking in those terms. Replacing him in the rotation isn’t an issue with the arrival of Zack Wheeler, so there’s no need to make a decision on Shaun Marcum for at least another two weeks.

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

Nice and neat, isn’t it?

While the Mets’ roster maneuvering will take care of itself, they would prefer the juggling if it meant having a healthy Niese. If this were an isolated incident it might raise a red flag. That this is Niese’s third problem this season is alarming.

Niese left Thursday night’s game during the fourth inning in Atlanta with pain in his left shoulder. Unlike Matt Harvey, who tried to pitch through back discomfort several weeks ago – he gets a pass because he’s in his first full season – Niese realized something was wrong after a few pitches and called to the dugout.

There was no hesitation with Terry Collins in pulling him. There wasn’t even that “let’s throw a few warm-up tosses and see what’s going on’’ nonsense that has burned the Mets before.

Niese was gone.

“It’s never good when you have to leave a game. But on a good note, the doctor did some tests and everything was negative,’’ Niese said of a training room exam Thursday night. “It just felt really weak. I think the tendinitis kind of flared up again. I felt some pain that [Tyler] Pastornicky at-bat.

“I threw a fastball and noticed my velocity was down. There was a lot of discomfort. I tried to pitch through it, but every pitch after that I felt some pain, so I just had to stop.’’

Of course, Niese should not have tried to throw those few extra pitches, but a player will always attempt to work through it because differentiating between normal game pain and injury is difficult. However, Niese had already missed a start because of his shoulder.

Niese said he felt good after missing that one start and gave the obligatory “we’ll see what the doctor says.’’

Not this time. This has gone on long enough.

Niese is young, he’s left-handed, he throws hard – at least he did before this – and under a manageable contract through the 2016 season. Not only that, Niese is good. He’s a foundation piece; part of the Mets’ core.

He must be protected.

ON DECK: Updating Ike Davis.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 16

Terry Collins Questions Resolve Of Mets

There are roughly six weeks left of relevance in the season for the New York Mets. That takes into consideration the All-Star Game – Citi Field’s one chance to shine in the national spotlight – and past the trade deadline when we learn what Mets are rescued from the dark abyss of losing and brought into the shining light of a pennant race.

In praising Jon Niese’s spotty, yet gritty effort in another Mets’ loss Saturday to the Chicago Cubs, manager Terry Collins indirectly threw the rest of his team under the effort bus.

COLLINS: Alone with haunting thoughts? (Getty)

COLLINS: Alone with haunting thoughts? (Getty)

“Jon Niese didn’t have his good stuff,’’ an exasperated Collins told reporters. “He battled through six innings. He didn’t want to come out of the game. That’s what I want.’’

Huh?

“I want guys who don’t want to come out of the game,’’ Collins continued. “I want guys that say, ‘I care enough, as much as you do, that I want to stay in the game.’ We get more guys like that, we’ll win more baseball games.’’

Niese did not pitch well, but gutted into the sixth inning. It wasn’t a quality effort, but a starter must persevere. Collins praised Niese, but in doing so said he doesn’t have enough players with that resolve. He didn’t say players have quit, but read between the lines.

There must be players not named David Wright or Matt Harvey wondering if the manager was talking about them.

It’s also a dig at general manager Sandy Alderson for not getting him those players. And, in going full circle, it can be interpreted an indictment of himself; that he and his staff aren’t doing enough to motivate his players.

I wrote after the Ike Davis demotion if management believed it was heading in the right direction Collins should get an extension to avoid lame duck status. But, after what he said, you can’t help but think the manager believes this team lacks more than talent and is in deeper than just a hitting slump.

In one part of the clubhouse Wright held court and admitted it is tiring trying to come up with new answers to old questions. Wright spoke of guys needing to dig deep and use whatever motivators necessary to finish strong.

Finishing the season? Doesn’t that sound a lot like getting it over with?

Wright is captain for a reason, but it is time he takes off the gloves. It is time he takes this team by the scruff of the neck and shake it awake. It isn’t time to be a politician and say the right things. It is time to lead, and if it means being unpopular, than so be it.

Motivation? How about this being their jobs? How about pride? How about being a professional? How about manning up?

“A lot these guys are going to be part of the future,’’ said Wright. I know what he is getting at there, but if I hear the word “future,’’ pertaining to the Mets one more time I will scream.

Does anybody else remember the late football coach George Allen? Allen, in filling his roster with veterans, coined the phrase, “the future is now.’’

But, what about now?

The Mets won’t win now, but they can play hard now. They can play smart now. They can hustle now. They can give us a reason to watch now. They can earn their money now.

So, quit the crap and play ball. And, as for Collins – quit whining about what you don’t have and kick the group you do have in its collective butt.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos