Sep 16

Met On The Mound: Colon Keeps On Going

Bartolo Colon, 43, was supposed to be in the Mets’ bullpen by early July, replaced by the much younger and harder throwing Zack Wheeler. However, for the third straight season Colon, who’ll start tonight against Minnesota at Citi Field, will exceed expectations.

COLON: Tonight's starter. (FOX Sports)

COLON: Tonight’s starter. (FOX Sports)

At 13-7 with a 3.27 ERA Colon is tied with Noah Syndergaard for the team lead in victories. Colon has registered a quality start (three runs in six innings) in seven of his last eight starts, and has 17 overall.

The greatest ability is dependability, and for the $7.25 million the Mets are playing Colon this season, already he has worked at least six innings 18 times and has given up three runs or less 24 times.

In his last start, Sept. 10, at Atlanta, Colon gave up three runs on four hits and one walk and didn’t have a decision.

After tonight, Colon’s spot in the rotation is scheduled to come up three more times, including the last game of the year, Oct. 2, at Philadelphia.

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Sep 14

Three Mets’ Storylines: Gsellman Hope For Future, And Present

The Mets got all they could have hoped for this afternoon – and season – from Robert Gsellman. The Mets’ rookie, who along with Seth Lugo kept them in the wild-card race and was again superb Wednesday afternoon.

GSELLMAN: Hope for future, and present. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Hope for future, and present. (AP)

Gsellman threw 5.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts, but couldn’t overcome his anemic offense in the 1-0 loss to the Washington Nationals.

“We didn’t lose any ground,” was manager Terry Collins’ backwards logic because the National League’s wild-card race remained stagnant because both St. Louis and San Francisco also lost.

“I thought he threw the ball very well,” Collins said. “He threw strikes. He had the sinker working and had worked both sides. He didn’t have anything to work with.”

Gsellman and Lugo weren’t on the Mets’ radar entering the season, but have kept them afloat with Jacob deGrom (forearm) and Steven Matz (shoulder) went on the disabled list.

Their performances should give the Mets a sense of comfort heading into the offseason and next year, but it is somewhat limited considering the myriad of pitching questions they’ll have this winter:

* How well will Matt Harvey recover from his shoulder surgery?

* As well as Lugo and Gsellman have pitched, has their window been open enough to give the Mets a definitive idea of what they can expect in 2017, and in what roles?

* How well will Matz recover from his expected elbow surgery?

* Will Noah Syndergaard’s bone spur require surgery, and if so, how will he recover?

* With all this in mind, will they bring back Bartolo Colon?

While the Mets’ pitching questions for 2017 was a storyline, the others today were their anemic offense and Wilmer Flores’ injury.

ANEMIC OFFENSE: Three hits won’t cut it most games and it didn’t today.

After back-to-back singles from Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera to open the game against Tanner Roarck, the Mets eventually loaded the bases but came away empty.

The Mets’ only other hit was Jay Bruce’s single in the sixth. He was erased on a double-play and the Mets didn’t have another runner the rest of the game.

FLORES HURTING: Flores hasn’t played since injured in a home plate collision Saturday in Atlanta. Collins assumed responsibility for not running for Flores.

Flores said what is keeping him out isn’t his neck or head, but his right wrist.

“My wrist is bothering me,” Flores said. “I can’t swing the bat. The neck is fine. I could play with the neck. It’s just the wrist.”

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Sep 12

Met On The Mound: Montero Pitching For Spot On Playoff Roster

I’m not crazy about the Mets having to start Rafael Montero tonight in Washington, but I’m glad they have an experienced arm to turn to and manager Terry Collins isn’t forced to alter his rotation by flipping him with Noah Syndergaard.

MONTERO: Pitching for playoff spot. (AP)

MONTERO: Pitching for playoff spot. (AP)

It’s a smart move on Collins’ part not to toy with Syndergaard, who is showing signs of regaining his command after a stretch where he was bothered by a bone spur and poor command.

The Mets have been fortunate to win both of Montero’s starts despite his wildness. Collins likes that Montero throws hard – ten walks in 9.1 innings – but said command is the central issue.

Command will be a deciding factor if the Mets get down to making a playoff roster. Montero has the experience and is capable of giving the Mets innings. Montero must show tonight and in possibly two remaining starts that his control won’t be a liability.

The Mets have no choice but to stick with Montero for now because both Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are now throwing off flat ground. They are likely two weeks away.

So for now, Montero has his immediate destiny in his hands. The Mets won’t have five starters on their playoff roster, and unlike last season, unless Matz and deGrom return, Bartolo Colon won’t work out of the bullpen.

I never imagined I would write that with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman ahead of him – and barring no returns from the DL – Montero has tonight and possibly two other starts later to make the impression he belongs.

Yes, there’s always next year, but Montero has a chance to pitch in the playoffs this season and these opportunities don’t come often.

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Sep 06

The Mets Should Explore Six-Man Rotation For 2017

This won’t be a popular suggestion with the Mets’ starters, but with everybody in the rotation having been shelved at one time or another with an injury – save Bartolo Colon – perhaps it might be time to consider a six-man rotation for 2017.

HARVEY: Maybe he could stay healthy in 6-man rotation. (Getty)

HARVEY: Maybe he could stay healthy in 6-man rotation. (Getty)

None of the young bucks want this, and understandably so because they’ve been raised on the five-man rotation. Change is difficult, but then again one time there was a four-man rotation. This suggestion is prompted by Rafael Montero replacing Jacob deGrom today in Cincinnati, coupled with the report the latter might miss multiple starts.

It also coincides with solid outings from Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

Matt Harvey is done for the year. So is Zack Wheeler, and nobody knows when he’ll pitch again. After all, it’s been two years now. Steven Matz, sidelined with a bone spur and an impingement in his shoulder, will try to throw in Port St. Lucie today, but his return status is basically a hope.

Noah Syndergaard has also been pitching with a bone spur. Matz’s bone spur will require surgery, but it isn’t known what will happen with Syndergaard.

Meanwhile, deGrom missed time early with a strained lat muscle. His velocity has dipped and after three horrible starts, he has gone from manager Terry Collins not knowing he motioned for the trainer to deGrom saying, “I’m fine,” to missing today’s game, to nobody knows.

The Mets’ rotation for the ages won’t happen this year.

Several weeks ago I wrote how the Mets should re-evaluate the handling of their pitchers. I’m calling for it again, but adding the suggestion they go to a six-man rotation.

Years ago pitchers just pitched. But, the times were different. The salaries have skyrocketed, so there’s a greater need to protect these guys. That’s a partial explanation for why the DL is used so often. What has also changed is pitchers used to throw a fastball, curveball and change-up. Today, there are sliders, sinkers, cut fastballs, all which put strain on the arm.

There’s plenty to share responsibility for Harvey being lost twice, including the player, who wasn’t always upfront. I admire his grit, but we don’t need any heroes. I don’t know if he’ll ever learn, so this might protect him for his own good.

A six-man rotation could save the starters at least a game a month, which is a savings of roughly six starts a year, or as many a 36 innings. Injuries can occur any time despite the greatest precautions, but this could improve the odds or staying healthy.

There will be the natural attrition, such as free agency, trades and injury. Colon might eventually retire. But, if the idea is to keep these guys healthy and pitching, a first step could be reducing the workload.

Some team was the pioneer going from a four-man to a five-man rotation. The Mets have the depth other teams don’t, so why can’t they be the pioneer going to six?

To make this work, it must be installed in spring training with a defined rotation. There can be no deviation, as it will throw off the rest.

If it keeps them off the disabled list, then why not? It’s better than what’s happening now.

ON DECK: Looking at tonight’s starter, Montero.

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Sep 05

Three Mets’ Storylines: The Importance Of Colon

To a player, every year is an audition for the next, and here’s hoping the Mets are taking copious notes on Bartolo Colon. With how well he’s pitched, how ravaged the rotation has been, and the uncertainty of Zack Wheeler’s future, it should be a given re-signing Colon is a priority.

It doesn’t matter he’s 43, or can’t throw his fastball through a wall, or the ceiling of their younger pitchers, Colon knows how to pitch. Colon knows what he has, or more importantly, what he doesn’t possess.

COLON: Bring him back. (AP)

COLON: Bring him back. (AP)

“We had a man on the mound,” manager Terry Collins said. “Nothing fazes him. He gave us what he always does, which is quality innings. He’s an amazing guy.

“Every fifth day he takes the baseball. You don’t have to worry about pitch counts. You don’t have to worry about innings. All he does is make pitches.”

But, none of those pitches were more important than in the third and sixth innings when the Reds had a runner on third with no outs, and twice came away empty. That enabled the half-asleep Mets’ offense time to wake up with three tack-on runs to beat the Reds, 5-0, on Labor Day.

With the victory, the Mets kept heat on St. Louis for the second wild-card and moved to six-games over .500 (72-66), a level they hadn’t been since the night of July 27 when they lost to the Cardinals as Jeurys Familia blew his first save of the season.

The Mets, save Colon, who flew in Sunday afternoon, were dog tired after playing a night game and flying in well past midnight. The Mets were asking Colon to carry them, which he has done now for three seasons.

On Aug. 19, the Mets fell two games below .500 with a loss in San Francisco. Colon beat the Giants the next day to jumpstart the Mets on a stretch where they have won 12 of their next 16 games.

During that stretch, Colon won three games at a time when the Mets lost Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom from the rotation.

Colon gave up five hits and a walk in six scoreless innings to raise his record to a team-high 13-7 with a 3.22 ERA. Colon does it by keeping the Reds off balance by working quickly and staying ahead in the count with a fastball that didn’t stray much over 90 mph.

While Noah Syndergaard throws in the high 90s and sometimes touches triple digits, and deGrom raises red flags when his fastball drops to 91 mph., Colon remains a testament to the pitching tenants of location and movement over velocity.

It’s something the vaunted Mets youthful rotation should learn from, as well as they could from how often to throw between starts. In essence, he’s an active pitching coach.

“If you don’t learn stuff watching him pitch, you’re wasting your time,” Collins said.

For as well as Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman pitched as spot starters, here’s hoping the Mets aren’t seduced by their success and don’t assume Matt Harvey, deGrom and Matz will return without incident. And, for not pitching for the last two years, the Mets can’t assume anything with Wheeler.

However, for the bargain basement cost of $7.25 million, Colon leads the rotation in wins (13), starts (28) and innings pitched (164.2).

Colon doesn’t fit the prototype, but all he does is come through and that’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

REYNOLDS RAKES: While everybody was tired, probably nobody was more drained than Matt Reynolds, who flew all night from Salt Lake City and arrived a few hours before game time.

Reynolds caught the red-eye from Salt Lake City to catch a connection in Boston before heading to Cincinnati. And, it didn’t help he was seated next to one of those obnoxious fliers who insist on talking non-stop.

Reynolds drove in two runs on three hits, including a homer, to lead an offense that rested Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Reyes, Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera (he appeared as a pinch-hitter and singled).

“I just wanted to go out there and play and have fun,’’ Reynolds told SNY. “I didn’t try to put too much pressure on myself.”

Reynolds said a key was an adjustment he made in Triple-A to move closer to the plate, which forced him to shorten his swing.

BULLPEN STRONG AGAIN: Before this season is over, the Mets’ bullpen will throw a pile of innings, perhaps too many for Collins’ liking.

Collins was able to rest Addison Reed and Familia, who were both used in a non-save situation the night before.

Collins got an inning from the recently-and-frequently abused Hansel Robles; two-thirds of an inning from Jerry Blevins; and 1.1 innings from the recently acquired Fernando Salas.

BRUCE RETURNS HOME: Cincinnati will always be home to Jay Bruce, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his return to Great American Ballpark.

The Reds honored Bruce prior to the game with a video tribute and made a donation to his foundation that supports children with development disabilities.

“It was good. It was a bit odd,” said Bruce. “The Reds took the time to welcome me back. It was what I expected out of this organization. They treated me great the whole time I was here.”

EXTRA INNINGS: Kelly Johnson hit his tenth homer. In looking ahead, the Mets need to seriously consider bringing back Johnson, who doesn’t appear ready to retire. … Wilmer Flores had an interesting day, getting thrown out at second trying to stretch a single and at third attempting to stretch a double. I admit, I was hoping to see him try for an inside-the-park homer. C’mon, admit it, so were you. … The shutout was the Mets’ 11th of the year.

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