Feb 07

Mets Must Resist Temptation With Zack Wheeler

It’s no secret the Mets have concerns in their rotation, but that doesn’t mean they should rush Zack Wheeler, regardless of how good a spring training he has.

The Mets tooker a somewhat patient approach with Matt Harvey, waited to bring him up last summer and gave him ten starts in which he showed his potential. The Mets need to do the same with Wheeler.

I still maintain the Mets rushed former first-round pick Mike Pelfrey out of necessity when he clearly wasn’t emotionally or mentally ready. Pelfrey had the physical tools, but had trouble keeping his poise and concentration, struggled with pitch selection, and couldn’t put away hitters or innings.

Harvey doesn’t have those problems and is ahead of where Pelfrey was at a similar stage of his career. Pelfrey is trying to hook on with Minnesota, while Harvey has a place in the Mets’ rotation.

Wheeler is expected to open the season in the minor leagues and pitch with the Mets later in the season. How late, depends on the health of the rotation, but remember, the Mets had injury issues last year and utilized several options before turning to Harvey.

The Mets say they are building for the future with their young pitching, but when you look at the composition of the roster – notably the outfield and bullpen – it is obvious they won’t contend this season. So, the wise thing is to go slow with Wheeler until he’s ready.

The young arm I am most interested in seeing his Jenrry Mejia, but I probably said that last spring, too. Mejia is a prime example of force-feeding a prospect to the major leagues before he was ready. Blame Jerry Manuel for that one.

Entering his last year as Mets’ manager, Manuel knew his job was hanging thin, and with a weak bullpen lobbied hard with then GM Omar Minaya to put Mejia in the bullpen when he should have been in the minors as a starter.

Even worse than taking him out of his projected role, was the Mets didn’t know how to use him in the pen. After awhile, they used him in no-pressure situations. Then it was back to the minor leagues and in the rotation, where he subsequently injured his arm.

Previously, Manuel screwed up Bobby Parnell. He was supposed to get a string of starts at the end of the 2009 season. He was rocked in September, but with the Mets going nowhere, Manuel – presumably more concerned about getting a handful of wins then protecting Parnell emotionally – yanked him from the rotation.

Parnell hasn’t started a game for the Mets since, and it hasn’t been a smooth transition for him to the bullpen.

Pelfrey is gone, Parnell is still trying to make it in the pen, and Mejia’s role is still in question. The future is bright for Harvey. Hopefully, it will be for Wheeler, too. If he’s brought along the right way.

Feb 01

Report: Mets Considering Valverde As Closer

Maybe Sandy Alderson believes the Mets might be ready to compete this year.

That was my first impression – perhaps wishful thinking – after reading an ESPN report they are considering signing former Detroit closer Jose Valverde to replace Frank Francisco. No problems there. Actually, I have no problem with anybody replacing Francisco, who was a bad signing.

Valverde saved 35 games last year for the Tigers before unraveling and was replaced in the postseason by a committee pen. Valverde’s agent is Scott Boras, but the Mets say they need this on their terms, with a reported $4 million base plus incentives. Valverde earned $9 million last year, but with how he finished nobody will bite on that figure.

With spring training less than two weeks away – my, where did the winter go? – Valverde falls under the category of beggars can’t be choosers. If he’s signed and does well, he can try the market again. There are always a multitude of relievers every winter.

Reportedly, the Mets thought of asking Roy Oswalt to convert to closer like John Smoltz, but he was cool to the idea. He might have second thoughts if he doesn’t get any offers. Actually, if the Mets are in a spending mode, why not invite Oswalt and give him a minor league contract to start? They signed Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal as the fifth starter, but does anybody believe the Mets will make it through the season with only five starters? Not happening.

As Alderson attempts to build a bullpen at the last minute, he should not consider bringing back Francisco Rodriguez, who punched his girlfriend’s father at Citi Field, hurt himself and was traded to Milwaukee. The Mets don’t need that headache.

Evidently, this does not bode well for Bobby Parnell’s future with the Mets. He’s had several chances but spit the bit. It was thought he could get another chance if Francisco – who was injured at the end of last season – faltered again.

Parnell pitched well in place of Francisco, but there was admittedly no pressure on him. If Alderson thought the Mets could not be competitive this year, it would have been the perfect opportunity to force-feed the role to Parnell. If I’m Parnell, I’d be wanting to leave town.

By adding Valverde, Alderson believes the Mets could make something of the summer, but even with an improved bullpen there remains an enormous hole in the outfield, a thin bench and several questions in the rotation.

Jan 22

From Santana To Wright To Davis,Things We’d Like To See Happen For The Mets

There are a lot of things I want to see happen for the 2013 Mets, such as making the playoffs. However, in the hope of being realistic, let’s talk about some of the things that would be good to see happen.

Perhaps if several of these happen, there might be some fun at Citi Field.

TRADING JOHAN SANTANA: Don’t get me wrong, I like Santana. I really do. I’d like nothing more than for him to remain healthy and regain his status as an elite pitcher and guide the Mets into October. But, let’s face it, even if Santana were to have a strong season the Mets don’t have enough pieces and will buy him out after this season. Given that, I’d settle on him being healthy and productive in the first half and the Mets being able to deal him to a contender. They’ll have to pick up some of the contract, but if they could swing a trade getting something is better than having him walk after the year with a $5.5 million buyout.

NIESE: Pitch like a No. 1

JON NIESE TAKING THE NEXT STEP:  Niese is the Mets’ ace despite a career-high 13 victories. There’s a lot to like about his future, but even more to like if he wins north of 15 games and gets to the next level.

DILLON GEE PITCHES LIKE A NO. 3: Gee enters spring training recovering from an aneurism. The doctors say he’s ready to go, but can anybody say how he’ll do? Gee has been impressive in spots, but no more than a No. 5 starter. He needs to step up his game.

MATT HARVEY LIVES THE HYPE:  He’s had ten starts, not enough to pencil him in for the Cy Young Award. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain pitched dominating baseball early in their careers, can Harvey do the same?

BOBBY PARNELL BECOMES A PITCHER: There’s no doubting Parnell’s stuff, but he needs to improve his command, secondary pitches and learn how to challenge hitters with that fastball. The Mets can’t count on Frank Francisco to stay healthy and be a reliable closer. If not him, it has to be Parnell.

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Dec 07

Mets Need Breakout Years From Davis, Duda, Niese And Others

DAVIS: Mets need breakout year from him. (Getty)

Let’s assume for a moment – and this isn’t much of a reach – the Mets don’t do anything for the remainder of the winter. How then, can the Mets be competitive if another assumption that R.A. Dickey won’t be back?

A lot of things must happen, beginning with David Wright regaining his power stroke. If he does, and Johan Santana has a good year, that’s only the beginning. So much else has to happen in terms of their young players having breakout seasons. It could happen. It has before.

JOSH THOLE: I won’t be going out on a limb if I said Thole would again be the starting catcher. As much as there’s talk of the Mets needing a catcher, they have more pressing needs, such as the bullpen and outfield. Those areas must be addressed first. Thole made a good first impression hitting .321 in 2009 with his bat control, ability to work a count and go to the opposite field. Maybe he was corrupted by watching others with no plate presence, but his average has declined every year since and he provides no power. Even worse, has been his defense. If the Mets are to open their wallets after 2013 – that’s what they tell us so it must be true – they will address catching so this is Thole’s last chance.

IKE DAVIS: Davis was a beast in the second half and finished with 32 homers. He must learn to put two halves together, and it begins by being more selective at the plate. His power production could soar if he cuts his strikeouts and increases his walks. Davis can be dangerous, but has too many holes in his swing and goes into long stretches where he tries to pull everything. Since the Mets are void of power, any trade talk involving Davis is ridiculous.

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Nov 01

2012 Mets Player Review: Toronto Imports Jon Rauch And Frank Francisco

FRANK FRANCISCO, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS:  The Mets thought they plugged two serious bullpen holes with the signings of Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, both of whom pitched effectively at times for Toronto in 2011. The two combined for 107 appearances, so the Mets knew they were getting some reliability. However, obviously overlooked by the Mets were the reasons why they weren’t brought back by the Blue Jays in the first place. Francisco walked 18 and gave up seven homers in 50.2 innings. And, he did it for $4 million. Rauch gave up 11 homers in 52 innings. In Rauch, the Mets had to deal with a pitcher who didn’t pitch after Sept. 2, 2011, with a knee injury. And, he did so at the bargain rate of $3.5 million. The Blue Jays decided they could get mediocre production for less. Meanwhile, the Mets decided to give Francisco and Rauch $5.5 million and $3.5 million, respectively.  For that kind of money, the Mets had a right to expect holes would be filled. With the Mets no longer sold on Bobby Parnell at the time, they envisioned Rauch in the set-up role and Francisco as the closer.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: It was hit and miss all season for both. Rauch got off to a good start going 3-0 with three holds and a 2.53 ERA in April, but was 0-4 with a 5.56 ERA in May. Rauch was strong in July and August, but was hammered in September, giving up four homers in nine innings. For the season, Rauch had a decent 1.22 WHIP, but also blew four saves and gave up seven homers. Francisco was strong at the start of the season when the Mets’ bullpen was decent, but struggled in the second half, went on the disabled list and ended the season with a strained side muscle watching Parnell close for much of September. Francisco saved 23 games, which any closer should get by accident. Francisco averaged 14.5 base runners per nine innings (10 hits and 4.5 walks), so he was always in trouble. A 5.53 ERA says the same thing.

LOOKING AT 2013: Francisco will be back simply because he is signed for $6.5 million. His is a contract the Mets would love to scuttle, but he’ll be back in the closer role. Rauch was erratic to the point where the Mets won’t be inclined to bring him back as they know they can get similar production for less money on the free-agent market.

NEXT: Josh Thole