Aug 17

It’s Time For Mets To Send Matz To Minors

Can Steven Matz and the Mets finally admit something isn’t right? Can they finally admit that a side trip to Las Vegas might be just the thing to straighten him out and find something to build on for next year.

It’s now been eight starts in which Matz has alternated between so-so, bad and simply terrible. Is there a fourth category to describe tonight’s 7-5 meltdown against the Yankees?

MATZ: It's time for Vegas. (AP)

                                   MATZ: It’s time for Vegas. (AP)

In between those starts, he’s been working on drills with pitching coach Dan Warthen that will help him keep the ball down. He’s been studying video to spot any mechanical flaws.

“I’ve been trying some different stuff but it hasn’t translated,’’ Matz said. “When guys are on base I’m leaving the ball up in the zone and that’s where I’ve gotten hurt. I have to figure out what is causing that.’’

Nothing, at least not yet, has worked.

“We’ve wrung the rag dry trying to find answers that could help him,’’ said manager Terry Collins. “But, when he’s out there on the mound he has to make quality pitches. … We’ve got to find something that will work.’’

Seven runs on seven hits in 3.1 innings was the damage charged to Matz. It is the fifth time in 13 starts Matz has given up at least five runs. Since I’m listing horrible statistics, he’s also given up 12 homers in 70 innings. That includes a three-run homer to Gary Sanchez in the first. Other ugly numbers: It is the 16th time this season the Mets have given up at least three runs in the first and they have been outscored 104-84 in the opening inning.

Matz, whose first-inning ERA in 9.00, hung a 0-2 changeup over the plate to Sanchez. He is 0-6 over his last eight starts and overall fell to 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA. His problems began with a two-base throwing error to first on a ball hit back to the mound by Brett Gardner leading off the game.

“But, you have to move on,’’ said Collins. Translation: Winning pitchers must overcome.

I guess the only positives for Matz tonight are he kept Aaron Judge out of the third deck and won’t have to pitch to Giancarlo Stanton this weekend.

Matz, who spent the first two months on the disabled list recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow, also missed the 2010-11 seasons following Tommy John surgery.

Perhaps Matz is hurting again, or hit a wall in his recovery and has a dead arm and is gutting it out. Maybe he’s hiding an injury. Maybe he’s tipping his pitches, but you’d think they would have discovered it if he has been. Maybe his mechanics are all screwed up.

“I asked him if he was physically OK, but he said he is fine,’’ Collins said, shaking his head.

Matz answered every question calmly and professionally. He didn’t duck anything.

“It’s not a good feeling. I don’t want to say I’m lost,’’ Matz said. “I want to think I’m one step away from having things click.’’

The season is lost for the Mets, but it might not be totally lost for Matz. It is still possible he could work things out with a couple of starts in Las Vegas. Perhaps that’s a gamble the Mets should make.

At this point, what would it hurt?

 

Mar 22

Matz Hammered; Fastball Command Off

What had been a strong spring for Steven Matz following elbow surgery, turned sour Wednesday when he was routed by the Miami Marlins. The positive take on giving up five earned runs on eight hits in four innings (79 pitches) are the following: 1) his outing wasn’t injury related, 2) there wasn’t anything wrong with his fastball velocity, 3) considering he has been consistent this spring, today should go down as “one of those games,” and 4) he quickly identified his problem.

MATZ: Still has work to do. (AP)

MATZ: Still has work to do. (AP)

“I think just fastball command,” Matz told reporters. “I gave up a hit on a curveball to [Matt] den Dekker. Other than that, they were all fastballs. Spring Training is about fastball command, and I’ll keep hammering away at that.

“I was up in the zone. Last time, I was up out of the zone and had some walks. This time, [the fastballs] were up in the zone, and they were able to get their barrels to it more. I felt like mechanically, I was OK, but the ball was just up in the zone. That’s right where the bat path is, and they were able to hit them pretty hard.”

The negative take is that fastball command should usually be on this late in spring training, and if Matz doesn’t regain it in his remaining one or two starts then there could be a problem. My thinking is today was “one of those games,” and a red flag isn’t waving.

My concern with Matz is whether he’ll get enough work this spring. The conventional wisdom on a starter’s innings in spring training has usually been in the high 20s up to 30 innings. With his four innings today, Matz has 12.2 innings and assuming five in his next start that’s not even 20. Especially coming off surgery he might not be strong enough.

“I’m glad I’ve got one or two more starts before the season comes,” Matz said. “You try to not let this stuff bother you, but still. when you’re getting hit around, it’s never fun. I’ll take away something and bring it to my next start.”

 

 

Sep 17

DeGrom Surgery Raises Old Injury Questions About Mets

Today’s news about Jacob deGrom needing season-ending elbow surgery was disappointing, but hardly surprising considering the Mets’ history with injuries. Sometimes, they mishandle things and other times they are struck down by bad luck.

This is a combination of both.

DE GROM: Out for year. (AP)

DE GROM: Out for year. (AP)

DeGrom has been out since Sept. 1 after experiencing elbow pain in a game against Miami, his third in a string of three poor starts in which he gave up a combined 16 runs on 31 hits in 14.2 innings. You’ll recall that was the game deGrom called for the trainer as he left the dugout for the clubhouse.

After that game, manager Terry Collins said he wasn’t aware of deGrom’s gesture. The pitcher said he felt fine, that he just wanted to talk with trainer Ray Ramirez and the problem was mechanical.

The injury was described the next day as inflammation in his right forearm and he was put on the disabled list.

The Mets seemed to push deGrom’s return in a way they might not have in May or June. He threw ten pitches off the mound last Saturday when the Mets were in Atlanta. DeGrom then had a 35-pitch bullpen Friday, after which Collins cleared him to start Sunday. That start will now be made by Gabriel Ynoa.

Normally, when a pitcher is on the disabled list with an elbow problem, it takes more than one bullpen session before he’s activated. There was immediate speculation the Mets were pushing deGrom. However, from the time of that session to GM Sandy Alderson’s announcement today deGrom would need surgery to repair the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow, a lot of questions were raised.

In Collins’ pre-game press briefing prior to Friday’s game – probably an hour after deGrom threw – he said: “We think he’s ready. He looked great.”

Collins also said deGrom would have a pitch count of 75, and “our intentions are to build him back up a little bit.” Building deGrom back up indicates he wasn’t ready, which Alderson acknowledged this afternoon when he said: “[deGrom] threw a bullpen yesterday, felt great, went out to shag in the outfield, threw the ball and had some pain as a result. It is unlikely he will pitch the rest of the season.”

However, Collins said today: “I watched Jake’s bullpen yesterday and it was outstanding and 15 minutes after batting practice is over he walked and said, ‘I can’t pitch.’ We certainly have no plans to have him pitch in the near future.”

Collins’ comments indicate he knew deGrom felt pain before Friday’s game. Why then, did Collins make the announcement deGrom would start? If not before the game, then why not update deGrom’s injury status after the game? If nothing else, Collins could have said they were waiting until deGrom was re-examined Saturday. Doing so eliminates the bungling angle, which is frequently an issue with the Mets on an injury.

DeGrom told reporters today there is no ligament damage, but probably scar tissue build-up from his 2010 Tommy John surgery that was rubbing against the nerve.

“I just tried to lob it into the bucket, and I guess throwing that bullpen messed with that nerve,” deGrom said. “After I threw it I said, `OK, I’ve got to say something.’ One throw, that I felt it on, and it was definitely disappointing.”

If you give the Mets benefit of doubt on this, had deGrom not felt pain on the innocent toss from the outfield, perhaps he would have Sunday, or maybe in the playoffs. It’s even possible he might not have felt anything until spring training.

That this happened now could put a crimp in the Mets’ playoff push, could be looked at in a positive light because if deGrom immediately has surgery, he should be ready for spring training.

DeGrom said he’s had numbness in his ring and pinkie fingers for several weeks, but didn’t feel pain until the Sept. 1 start. DeGrom said the span of numbness ran five or six starts, but he decided to pitch through it. At the time, Collins attributed deGrom’s performance to being fatigued. Collins said nothing about numbness.

DeGrom was obviously not “fine” as he said after the Sept. 1 game. Was deGrom – who finishes the year 7-8 with a 3.04 ERA – totally upfront with Collins or Alderson about the numbness? I don’t know. If so, were the Mets assuming the DL stint was enough time for him to overcome it?

You also have to wonder if deGrom was not totally forthcoming, why didn’t he learn from watching what the Mets went through with Matt Harvey? Another idle thought is if what happened with deGrom will give the Mets pause in trying to rush back Steven Matz?

Enough things were done and said, and enough questions raised, to indicate this wasn’t handled well by a lot of parties.

Resiliency has been a Mets’ buzzword the past two years, and now they need to show that quality more than ever.

Please follow me on Twitter

Aug 30

Matz Won’t Pitch Thursday; Is Having Surgery Now Best Option For Mets?

Let’s face it, they wouldn’t be the Mets if bad news didn’t follow the good. It has been that kind of season and appears it will continue that way with Tuesday’s announcement Steven Matz won’t make Thursday’s start with an impingement in his left shoulder.

MATZ:  Is it best to shut him down now? (AP)

MATZ: Is it best to shut him down now? (AP)

Matz said everything is structurally fine and this isn’t a surgery issue, but many Mets pitchers said the same. He’s currently on the disabled list with soreness in his left shoulder, and also has a bone spur that will require off-season surgery.

Sigh …

“[It’s] just a little irritation … it’s still bugging me a little bit,” Matz told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t quite feel like I can let it go yet. … `I felt like I was making progress, and then I threw off the mound a little bit, and I felt OK coming out of the there. And then [on Monday] I tried to throw and it was kind of barking at me a little bit again.

“For me to get on the mound and throw a bullpen and tell them I’m ready for a game would just be unrealistic in my mind.’’

Good for him.

Robert Gsellman will take Matz’s spot in the rotation, although Jacob deGrom – who was scratched Monday in favor of Rafael Montero because it was believed he was fatigued – will start Thursday against the Marlins. When the rosters are expanded Thursday the Mets will bring back Montero and can afford to go day-by-day with Matz.

But, is that the best thing for Matz?

At most, he would get four more starts, but would a better option be to shut him down completely, have the elbow surgery immediately, which would give him another full month for recovery and rehabilitation?

The obstacle to that thinking is the Mets are only 2.5 games out of the wild-card race. The playoffs are a possibility, and if the Mets get there they’ll want Matz.

But, will they really have him, and at what capacity?

Please follow me on Twitter

Aug 12

Three Mets’ Storylines: Bullpen Gives Them Chance, But Fall Short

It obviously wasn’t what the Mets wanted – their fourth straight loss to drop under .500 – but it was something they needed, which was a game in which they didn’t lie down after a terrible start.

After Thursday’s beat down to Arizona, Mets manager Terry Collins went on a four-minute rant, threatening his players with jobs and vowed, “starting [Friday] we’re going to get after it.”

VERRETT: Ripped. (AP)

VERRETT: Ripped. (AP)

It didn’t start that way as the Padres ripped starter Logan Verrett for five runs in the first inning, and took an 8-2 lead in the third before hanging on to win, 8-6, Friday night at Citi Field.

The Mets almost overcame four homers off Verrett and stayed alive because their bullpen retired 19 straight, which allowed them to climb back with Jay Bruce’s RBI single in the fifth; and RBI hits by Matt Reynolds and Ty Kelly, and Wilmer Flores’ run-scoring grounder in the sixth.

It was the first time they scored that many runs in an inning since four in the fifth inning last Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

They lost, but after the Arizona series, there was a sign of a pulse.

“I was very impressed,” Collins said of his team’s effort. “I saw a lot more energy. I saw some passion. I saw better at-bats. I was very impressed with how they went about it.”

That was the biggest thing to take from the game, with the other storylines being Verrett and Travis d’Arnaud.

VERRETT ROCKED: Verrett was mauled for five runs in the first and eight in 2.2 innings in what was considered an audition to stay in the rotation.

Verrett has had some good moments, but his last two starts haven’t been good and the pre-game speculation was if he pitched poorly he would be out of the rotation.

But, to replaced by whom?

“We’re going to make a change,” Collins said. “If his knee is OK, it will be Jon Niese.”

WE HAVE D’ARNAUD SIGHTING: Collins pinch-hit for d’Arnaud in the ninth inning leading to speculation – including by me – the Mets were cooling on him.

D’Arnaud sat Thursday but was back in the lineup Friday and went 3-for-4, including his fourth homer, and drove in two runs and scored two.

Please follow me on Twitter