Jul 12

Update on first-half questions.

When pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 18, I posted five key questions the Mets faced heading into the season. Let’s revisit those questions at the All-Star break.

1) Question: What is this team’s attitude?

Assessment: By all accounts, it has been superb. There is a different chemistry in the Mets clubhouse than I have previously seen. The Mets have shown a remarkable resiliency to bounce back from adversity and Sunday’s win is just another example. There have been no issues about a lack of hustle, and no finger pointing. Both Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan said the right things about the prospect of reduced playing time as Carlos Beltran is about to be activated from the disabled list. The only sour note was, surprise, Oliver Perez’s refusal to accept a minor league assignment, instead, waiting for the disabled list to leave the roster to work on his issues.

2) Question: How healthy is this team?

Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and injuries have cost Beltran and Daniel Murphy in the first half, and Jose Reyes for nearly a month. Beltran is due back to start the second half, but there’s no timetable for the return of Murphy, who reinjured his knee while on a rehab assignment. Murphy was playing second base at the time in preparation for a position change. After treating Reyes with kid gloves in the wake of his thyroid issue, the Mets rushed him back from an oblique injury, which he aggravated Saturday. There’s no telling how long he’ll be out. Luis Castillo is on the disabled list and his is another injury where the Mets tried to have him play through. Fortunately, his replacement, Ruben Tejada, has been more than filled the void. Reliever Kelvim Escobar, penciled in as a set-up man, is out for the year with a shoulder injury. The Mets are still trying to find an eighth-inning solution. Oliver Perez and John Maine are currently on the disabled list.

3) Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?

Assessment: Pelfrey made a point of saying he understood this trio represented a significant key to the Mets’ success this season. Perez and Maine are on the disabled list, but the team upgraded with R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi. Pelfrey was superb for much of the first half but has been going through a dead arm period and has been largely ineffective over his last five starts. Perez balked at a minor league assignment, but an injury was found that conveniently landed him on the disabled list. He has been sound, and somewhat effective, in his rehab assignment. Look for the Mets to activate him shortly after the break and send Takahashi back to the bullpen. There’s no timetable for Maine’s return.

4) Question: Who is fifth starter?

Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi were in the mix in the spring, but Niese won the job and has been very good since coming off the disabled list. Niese has been so good that management tabbed him untouchable when Seattle asked for him in trade discussions surrounding Cliff Lee. Figueroa is now in Philadelphia, while Nieve is in the bullpen. Takahashi replaced Perez in the rotation and pitched well at first, but clearly showed he’s more valuable in the bullpen. The Mets are searching for a fifth starter in the trade market, as there are lingering questions about Perez and Maine.

5) Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

Assessment: Jenrry Mejia went north in the pen in an undefined role, but eventually went to the minor leagues to work on being a starter, when he was injured. Losing Escobar went a large part in opening the door for Mejia, who threw hard, but never grasped the eighth-inning role. Bobby Parnell, who appeared to wash you last year, now appears to be the arm having the inside track in the eighth inning to start the second half. Ryota Igarashi was the guy at one time, but pulled a hamstring and hasn’t been the same since. He’s now in the minor leagues. Nieve and Pedro Feliciano were over worked early, and still have heavy workloads. The distribution of work should be improved when Takahashi goes back to the bullpen.

May 30

Mets Chat Room: Avoiding the sweep edition plus other questions.

GAME #51 at Brewers

Can you believe it?

After starting the week in scintillating fashion with a three-game shutout sweep of the Phillies, the Mets are in danger today of being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Here’s something to mull over: The Brewers had won only six home games this season, and could have half that with a victory today.

It has been a disappointing first two games, with Jerry Manuel pulling Johan Santana after eight scoreless innings Friday and Fernando Nieve spitting the bit yesterday, turning his start into nothing more than a long relief appearance.

It was infuriating to learn Manuel didn’t consult Santana on how he was feeling before yanking him. What a disrespectful thing to do to the ace of your staff.

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May 29

Mets Chat Room: It’s Nieve’s turn.

Game #50 at Brewers

The Mets will attempt to snap their road doldrums tonight in Milwaukee when Fernando Nieve (1-2, 5.09 ERA) comes out of the bullpen. It’s not as if this is new to him, as he was 3-3 with a 3.12 ERA in seven starts last year before a torn right quadriceps ended his season.

“If he does well, he will continue to get the ball,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “And if we come into a situation where we have too many starters, I think that’s all good, too.’’

The start comes after a rocky May in which had a 7.20 ERA for the month, perhaps brought on by over use. Nieve said he prefers this role.

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Mar 25

March 25.10: Niese fifth starter favorite.

It is by no means a given, but Jon Niese has emerged as the frontrunner to be the team’s fifth starter. Jerry Manuel said yesterday Niese has the inside track over Fernando Nieve, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi.

At one point this spring, I thought Takahashi was the favorite, but moved off that because he didn’t have enough innings to be sufficiently stretched out. The path of least resistance would have been to option Niese because he has options remaining, but he has pitched well enough to warrant a chance and there are other variables.

Most specifically, the sad state of the Mets’ bullpen. Niese couldn’t help out in the pen, but both Nieve as a long man and Takahashi as a left-hander fill two roles. Odd man out, as expected, is Figueroa.

Figueroa will pass through waivers then re-sign with the Mets and be pitching around June. Personally, I hope somebody claims him and he gets a chance to pitch.

Feb 24

Feb. 24.10: Wrapping up the day.

The following is an accumulation of news and notes from spring training today:

* Rod Barajas reported to camp and will wear Carlos Delgado’s No. 21.

* Japanese pitchers Ryota Igarashi and Hisanori Takahashi threw live batting practice.

* Sean Green is working on a submarine delivery. In theory it should produce a sharper sinker conducive for getting the double-play grounder.

* Pedro Feliciano is working on a cutter. The more pitches the better.

* Jerry Manuel said Fernando Nieve is versatile enough to work as a long-man, eighth-inning set-up man or starter. That’s another way of saying he has no idea on how to use him. If Jon Niese steps up, Nieve would likely be the long man.

* Good reports so far on Angel Pagan’s confidence. Pagan has no doubt he can hold center field until Carlos Beltran’s return in mid-May.