Mar 15

Mets’ second base job still in the air

With two weeks remaining before Opening Day, Luis Hernandez is gaining ground on the second base job.

However, it is premature to say he’s the guy. Rarely are up-in-the-air roster decisions made with this much time remaining in camp. There’s still Brad Emaus and Daniel Murphy, Luis Castillo and Justin Turner.

Turner, because of remaining options will be sent down. That’s logical. Castillo has turned off Terry Collins, but the manager might not have the final decision, especially with a $6 million commitment. Castillo has been playing well offensively, so there’s the outside chance they’ll hold onto him and hope to make an in-season deal. The Mets don’t want to swallow $6 million.

Murphy is having trouble turning the double-play and Emaus is having a slow spring. Still, as a Rule 5 player the Mets do see some potential. What they must decide on is if he fits beyond this season should he stick.

I still think the Murphy-Emaus platoon has a chance, but I’m beginning to wane a little on that stance. What I do know, is Hernandez, despite a solid spring, isn’t running away from things and there’s still time.

Outside of it not being Ruben Tejada, nothing is concrete at second base.

 

Mar 10

Let’s see Duda in right

Assuming Carlos Beltran isn’t available to the Mets by Opening Day, replacing him shouldn’t equal the dilemma CBS will have in replacing Charlie Sheen on “Two and a Half Men.”

DUDA: Let's see what he has.

Both of Beltran’s knees are aching and he’s down for the week. Maybe he’ll come back next week; maybe he won’t.

So, who will the Mets use to replace the aching outfielder with a huge $18.5 million contract?

Veteran bench players Scott Hairston and Willie Harris can be plugged in and won’t embarrass the ball club. But, will they carry it? History says no, because afterall, they are role players. Their job is to temporarily fill a hole.

I want to see what Lucas Duda can bring to the table. Duda was a September call-up who started slow but closed hot. While Hairston and Harris could be somewhere else next season, or who knows, maybe even dealt in July to a contender, Duda could have a future with this team.

Duda is strong – he had four homers last year – so there’s power potential. He didn’t sparkle defensively and can only get better. Duda is off to a good start this spring and homered yesterday. We know what Hairston and Harris can do; Duda is an unknown.

However, for a team not expected to do anything this year, what’s the harm in giving him an audition?

 

Mar 06

Pelfrey ahead of last year’s pace

Last spring at this time Mike Pelfrey was struggling and there was talk – statistically speaking, it was rightfully so – he should open the season in the minor leagues refining his secondary pitches and learning to pitch with poise and guile.

PELFREY: Learning all the time.

Last spring at this time, Pelfrey wasn’t worried.

“I was working on things,” Pelfrey said, notably his sinker. “I knew I had time.”

He’s not ready for his Opening Day assignment – then again, who is a week into March? – but there’s no sense of urgency or concern this year after giving up one earned run on four hits in three innings yesterday against Atlanta in his second spring start.

Pelfrey is pleased with his early mechanics, saying the ball is coming out of his hand with ease and fluidity. He also has a sense of confidence knowing he has a rotation slot sewed up, which is not not to be confused with a sense of complacency.

“I’m confident in my abilities, but I still have things I need to work on,” Pelfrey said before the start of camp. “The thing I need to do is be more consistent.”

Defined, Pelfrey said consistency is for him to not get away from his fastball and lose his focus as he did during a horrid five-game stretch in July in which he gave up 24 runs on a combined 42 hits and 13 walks with only ten strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings. He had a dreadful 10.02 ERA and in three starts failed to make it out of the fifth.

That he rebounded in August with a 1.82 ERA was indicative of his growing maturity. Take away July and with a little more offensive support and better bullpen and Pelfrey could have won 20 games in 2010.

“I really think so,’’ Pelfrey said. “I was able to put that month (July) behind me and not let if ruin the entire season. I learned to not get away from my fastball. That was very important.”

With Johan Santana gone for at least the first half of the season, Pelfrey has assumed the role of ace. This is his time.





Jan 26

Santana not throwing

Despite being cleared to begin his post-op throwing program, Johan Santana hasn’t begun, yet. It is premature to say this is a setback.

General manager Sandy Alderson said last month he expects Santana to be throwing before the start of spring training, but wouldn’t specify a date. He did say Opening Day was out and the expectation was for the second half.

When we see Santana could very well depend on how well the Mets are playing by the All-Star break. If the team is playing poorly and opts to rebuild by dealing Carlos Beltran, then there’s no sense in rushing Santana.

If the Mets are competing and have realistic wild-card aspirations, then it isn’t hard to envision there might be some pressure – probably self-imposed by Santana – to come back.

Either way, the clock on Santana’s return won’t start until he starts throwing and he hasn’t yet started long-tossing.

Jan 10

Do you still have faith in the Mets?

There have been countless lost seasons in this franchise’s history, many of them gone before pitchers and catchers report in February. This is looking like another one of those years.

The Mets only did minor tweaking this winter and are no better now than they were when the season ended. They are putting their stock in the season in the hopes of Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran staying healthy, the continued development of Mike Pelfrey and some of their younger players, and encore seasons from RA Dickey and Angel Pagan.

In short, they are hoping everything breaks right, and even if it does, there are two holes in the rotation and a weak bullpen.

Still, the Mets are asking you to believe, with perhaps our biggest wish is for them to get rid of Oliver Perez before Opening Day.

As I look at the drifting snow and feel the cold, the warmth I usually feel this time of year because of spring training has slipped away like me on the ice this morning. Spring training is a time for optimism and hope, but this year realistic hope is around .500 at best. But, we knew this with the hiring of Sandy Alderson, who told us there would be no big spending this winter and he hoped the team would be competitive. That probably means a lot of close games before losing in the late innings.

Still, we follow the Mets because they are our team and are woven deep into our lives. We still love them like the gangly younger brother that embarrasses us. We are loyal to them because we know loyalty is about acceptance and we believe things will improve next year.

As we are distracted by football, we try to envision the snow gone, the grass green and lush and baseball occupying our spring nights. And, somewhere there is the hope this could be a fun summer regardless how it looks on paper now.