Mar 21

Mets Matters: How Rotation Should Be Handled In First Week

It shouldn’t be all that hard for the Mets to figure out what to do with their starting rotation in the first week of the season. Should it?

This much we already know: 1) Matt Harvey will get the opener, Sunday night, April 3, in Kansas City, 2) Jacob deGrom‘s wife is scheduled to give birth to the couple’s first child, April 5, which could be deGrom’s game, and 3) the Mets have, unbelievably, three days off in the first week.

Let’s first start with deGrom, who struck out five in four scoreless innings Monday against Miami. It’s very possible deGrom might not be in Kansas City and with his wife for the second game of the season. And, if his arm is there, his mind likely won’t be.

mets-matters logoSo, why not just tell deGrom right now to be with his wife and give the Game 2 start to Noah Syndergaard? It seems to me that would settle things down.

Manager Terry Collins said Monday Syndergaard would pitch in the season’s second game, but it could be in relief of deGrom. “Piggy-backing is the term, but it they are going to do it, make it with Steven Matz or Bartolo Colon. And, whomever is not used then pitch him in relief of deGrom for Opening Day at Citi Field, Friday.

The way things are looking now, it appears the starters won’t get much more than six innings in their first game.

DEGROM NOT BRINGING HEAT:  DeGrom has pitched statistically well this spring (0.90 ERA) but his fastball isn’t where he wants it, and that’s usually the first pitch he’ll command in spring training. DeGrom was clocked around 95 mph., last year, but was 91-93 Monday.

“I feel like it will come,” deGrom told reporters. “I’m getting everything back in line mechanics-wise, everything will be there. It’s spring training. I’m not worried about it all.”

DeGrom’s fall off in velocity raises the question that in the Mets’ effort in protecting their pitchers and cutting them back early this spring, that perhaps they didn’t give them enough work to build up their strength and stamina.

AROUND THE HORN:  David Wright was hitless in three at-bats and played five innings at third base. “This is just, for me, a normal spring-training build-up now,” Wright told reporters. “There’s nothing really out of the ordinary. I know it took a little while to get going, but we’re going now. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just like a normal spring.” … Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who hasn’t played since March 10 with a strained left knee, should be available as a DH this week. … Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud will make the cross-state trip to Tampa for Tuesday’s game against the Yankees. Matz will start for the Mets.

 

Mar 10

Syndergaard Makes Us Wonder How High His Ceiling Can Be

It was just Noah Syndergaard‘s first exhibition start for the Mets, but you can’t help but wonder what his upside could be. Could it be higher than that of Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom? Syndergaard gave us a glimpse last year, but every time he takes the mound he has us wanting more.

SYNDERGAARD: How high is the ceiling? (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: How high is the ceiling? (AP)

“There’s always a debate about who’s going to be the best,” Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters. “This kid’s got a chance to be the guy.”

Harvey and deGrom breezed in their exhibition starts. Syndergaard put down the first eight Cardinals, gave up a hit, then got out of the third without a run. Syndergaard cruised.

Perhaps the reason for our attraction or interest in Syndergaard is how hard he throws. He was sitting on 98 mph. consistently today. When he really lets it loose, he’s over 100 mph. Harvey and deGrom put it in the high 90s, but 100 is a special number for a pitcher.

That’s Nolan Ryan territory, and he dominated until his 40s before his arm gave out.

“I felt great out there,” Syndergaard told reporters. “It’s just nice getting out there and getting your feet wet. I was a little amped up. It’s been a long wait to get on the mound, and to be able to get out there and compete. But, overall, l I think it was a pretty solid performance. There are a few things I’d like to continue to work on, just to make the game easier than it can be.”

The caveat, of course, is staying healthy. Harvey, deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler have all had Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard thinks about the same happening to him – a lot.

“I’ve thought about it quite a bit,” Syndergaard said. “But, I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level.”

And, a healthy Syndergaard makes us wonder just how high that level can be.

 

Mar 05

Understanding Lack Of Urgency In Signing Pitchers

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said there haven’t been any talks with their young rotation for long-term contracts, but added that doesn’t mean there can’t be negotiations later in spring training. But, if it doesn’t happen this spring there shouldn’t be a cause for great concern.

DeGROM: It's just business (GETTY)

DeGROM: It’s just business (GETTY)

I’ve long liked the idea of the Mets signing their young pitchers to long-term contracts. My thinking is the price will eventually increase so it makes sense to lock them up early for the sake of cost certainty. It makes sense, but I can also understand why Alderson hasn’t been more aggressive in that area.

It starts with a sense of urgency, and frankly there is none. Matt Harvey won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season. Jacob deGrom won’t be eligible until 2020, which is four years away, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz until 2021.

“I think that’s something that everyone needs to keep in mind,” Alderson told reporters. “There seems to be a fixation on some of our players and the brevity or length of their time with the Mets. I all of these cases, they’re going to be with us for a while. From that standpoint, is there urgency? From our standpoint, is there urgency?”

There’s time to do something and yes the price can increase. Conversely, there’s always the possibility of injuries and underperforming. That’s always the chance you take when you sign players to long-term contracts.

On the flip side, the Mets are taking a chance of alienating these pitchers if they continue to do things as they did with deGrom. Until a player becomes arbitration eligible, a team can assign a player his salary, which is what the Mets did when they issued him a $607,000 contract.

The conventional wisdom is the team holds the hammer early in a player’s career, and the athlete puts the screws to the team later on. If a team plays hardball all the time, it could come back to bite them.

For now, deGrom told reporters all is well with the team.

“That’s the business side of the game,” deGrom said. “That’s why I hired my agents. I feel like I have some of the best in the business. It was a business decision that we decided to make. We have great respect for the Mets and the system that they have, and I feel like I have a great relationship with them.

“As I’ve said before, I love playing here. And I want to be in this uniform for a long time. It was just a decision based on the business side of the game.”

It’s also the business side when the player takes it to the team in the arbitration and free-agent process.

Mar 02

Collins: “Time To Get To Work”

So far it has been all fun and giggles for the Mets in the early days of spring training, but with the exhibition schedule to begin Thursday against the Nationals, manager Terry Collins said it’s time to get serious.

His timing was right. It shows he has his fingers on the pulse of his team.

COLLINS: Time to get to work.  (AP)

COLLINS: Time to get to work. (AP)

Six straight days of showing up in camp with a different car by Yoenis Cespedes is one thing. It’s his money and he can do what he wants with it. Then there was Cespedes shelling out $7,000 for a prize pig. Again, it’s his money and if he throws a BBQ for his teammates, well, that’s more team bonding.

The kicker came when Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard rode horses into camp yesterday. That was the kicker for Collins, who thought there might have been too much fooling around, if not a little bit of recklessness because after all, either one of those guys could have fallen off and gotten hurt.

“The fun time is over,” Collins told reporters. “It’s time to finally get ready for baseball.”

As far as Cespedes, Collins doesn’t have a problem with him having fun for now.

“He does his drills,” Collins said. “He works hard. He’s getting ready to play. He’s having a little fun for the time being. But, like I said, it’s time to get ready for baseball now.”

Feb 20

I’m Liking How Mets Are Protecting Pitchers Early

The Mets are starting early this spring in protecting their young rotation. They eliminated any speculation as to what they will do with the announcement they won’t use their starters for the first five exhibition games.

They’ll still get their work in, but they’ll shave off a couple of innings they’ll work in spring training. Traditionally, each starter in the rotation should get 30 innings and work themselves up to 100 pitches by Opening Day.

“We’re addressing it just by what we do this spring,” pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters in Port St Lucie. “We will probably cut down four or five innings on almost everybody in the spring. … We’ll still try to get to where they’re close to 100 pitches to open the season.”

Warthen said the first game for a projected starter will be March 8 when the Mets play the Braves in Orlando. Warthen indicated the decision to skip the first week is a reaction to the Mets making the World Series, which necessitated the young pitchers to work an extra month. All those young arms reached career highs in innings pitched, some by as many as 60 innings as in the case with Noah Syndergaard.

Then there was Matt Harvey, who started the season projected to throw 180 innings and wound up with 216.

The Mets aren’t expecting anything less this summer.