Feb 17

Memo To Mets On Mejia: Just Pick A Role

The New York Mets are doing the rotation-bullpen dance again with Jenrry Mejia and who believes things will be better this time around?

After the first day of workouts in Port St. Lucie, manager Terry Collins left open the door to the bullpen shuttle. With Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan as fifth starter candidates, and the bullpen under construction with Bobby Parnell recovering from surgery, ESPN is reporting Collins is keeping an open mind on Mejia.

MEJIA: Where to put him?

MEJIA: Where to put him?

“One thing we know about him is he can pitch out of the bullpen. We’ve seen it,’’ Collins said Monday.

This debate has been going on since 2010, when Mejia, who wasn’t ready for the major leagues in any role, was force-fed the bullpen by then-manager Jerry Manuel, who entered the season knowing his job was on the line.

Mejia prefers the rotation, which is supported by his numbers, but Collins said his 2.30 ERA last year isn’t a definitive sample size. Mejia made five starts before surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow.

“There were some people in this organization who felt maybe he couldn’t be a starter because there’s such maximum effort in his delivery,’’ Collins said. “He proved them wrong, that he can go out there and start and can get you deep into a game. Now it’s, ‘What’s our best fit?’ Is it, ‘We’ve got five good guys. He’s the sixth. Do we have a spot in the bullpen for an arm like that with that kind of stuff?’ That might be a fit for him.’’

Under Manuel, Mejia started out of the bullpen, but pitched sparingly in mostly non-pressure situations. He understandably struggled and was sent down to start, but eventually hurt his elbow, needed surgery and missed the 2011 season.

At the time Mejia was one of the Mets’ most sought-after prospects, but the calls stopped because how could they promote him when they didn’t even know what role he fit best? How could the Mets talk him up as a starter if he wasn’t good enough for their rotation? How could they talk him up as a reliever if he couldn’t stay in their bullpen?

Mejia entered this off-season as the primary fifth-starter option, but the Mets obviously weren’t sold on his health as they signed Matsuzaka and Lannan, both of whom have contract clauses where they can opt out if not on the major league roster by June.

So, which is it, starter or reliever? And, if in the bullpen, what is his role?

Whatever they do, considering Mejia’s arm troubles, the best decision is to pick one and stick with it.

 

Feb 15

Bobby Parnell Could Benefit From Kyle Farnsworth’s Experience

While most New York Mets just phoned to say they were in town on Saturday’s reporting deadline, reliever Kyle Farnsworth held court, telling reporters he’ll be satisfied with any role manager Terry Collins has in mind.

When you’re 37-years-old and on your eighth team, you really don’t have much choice.

FARNSWORTH: Veteran presence.

FARNSWORTH: Veteran presence.

If healthy, Bobby Parnell closes, and Farnsworth will work in the late innings because of his experience. Same thing goes for Jose Valverde.

Speaking in classic spring training cliché, Farnsworth told reporters: “Nothing was explained. It’s still early. This is just quite a good opportunity to come here and try to help out the best way I can.’’

Helping out will also include being a sounding board for Parnell.

At one time, just like Parnell, Farnsworth touched the radar gun at 100 mph., but now his fastball is down to 92.6.

“I wish I could still do that,’’ Farnsworth said. “I don’t know – it’s just one of those things that you’re blessed to do, and you hope to be able to harness that.

“Over the years I’ve learned that you can get away with more mistakes throwing that hard. But the older you get the more you learn how to pitch. That’s where you have to mature and grow into things like that.’’

There’s not a pitcher alive who doesn’t wish he could throw 100 mph., but there’s also not a pitcher who wouldn’t say velocity is the third most important thing, behind control and movement.

Although Parnell made great strides last season, he’s still new at being a closer and boasted a 100 mph., fastball. If he’s paying attention, surely he’ll learn something from Farnsworth on how to set-up hitters and get by on guile as much as his stuff.

Farnsworth made 39 appearances last year for Tampa Bay, was released and signed with Pittsburgh and pitched in nine games with a 1.04 ERA.

Farnsworth’s experience also includes knowing what it takes to pitch in New York, having played with the Yankees.

“I experienced it in New York – press and atmosphere like that,’’ Farnsworth said. “That part is definitely not going to be new to me. I’m looking forward to it.’’

ON DECK: The Opening Day starter.

Feb 12

Analyzing Mets’ Bullpen After Jose Valverde Signing

For each of the past three winters New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has tried to construct a bullpen. Until Bobby Parnell showed signs of being the first reliable closer since Billy Wagner was traded to Boston in 2009 in a salary dump, it has been a ninth-inning adventure.

Francisco Rodriguez and Frank Francisco were tried, but their best days were in the rear view mirror. Alderson brought in another retread today with the signing of Jose Valverde to a minor league contract.

PARNELL: Lead domino in bullpen.

PARNELL: Lead domino in bullpen.

He’ll compete against the masses for a spot in the bullpen. Alderson said he other day the Mets had money to spend, but after striking out on Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney, he hopes to catch an encore from Valverde.

Valverde, 35, was on the top when he converted 49 of 49 opportunities in 2011 for Detroit, but spit the bit the following year in the playoffs. He had an unimpressive nine saves in 12 opportunities with a 5.59 ERA last year.

The construction of the Mets’ bullpen depends on Parnell, who saved 22 of 29 games before undergoing surgery last September to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Parnell lost 30 pounds after the surgery, but told reporters in Port St. Lucie he’s doing fine.

“Everything is feeling great, no pain,’’ Parnell said. “I mean, I haven’t done it yet, so obviously, you want to know. But we’re doing little things every day to get to that point. I’ve had no setbacks or pain or anything like that.’’

Parnell won’t be cleared for two weeks, and there is reasonable doubt he won’t be ready for the start of the season. There hasn’t been an announcement of how many innings manager Terry Collins wants to give him this spring. Normally, starters hope to get 30 innings with relievers nearly half that amount.

Vic Black, whom the Mets acquired from Pittsburgh last year in the Marlon Byrd-John Buck deal, is first in line after Parnell. Black is 25 and throws in the mid-90s, which is a lot to like.

If Black doesn’t make it, presumably Kyle Farnsworth and Valverde are next. Assuming Black pitches well and wins the closer job, Valverde and Farnsworth will compete for the set-up role, vacated when LaTroy Hawkins left as a free agent.

In large part because of Parnell’s emergence and Hawkins’ resurgence, the Mets’ bullpen finished 22nd in the majors with a 3.98 ERA in 2013. They ranked 29th and 28th in Alderson’s first two years.

Alderson has built on the cheap, but that approach would have changed had he signed Balfour or Rodney. Joel Hanrahan is available should Alderson have the urge to spend.

Truth is, you can’t have too many pitchers – starters or relievers – in the system because there are always injuries and pitching slumps. In addition, a guy like Valverde, if he shows something, could be a July trade chip.

You never know.

Outside of the 29-year-old Parnell, Farnsworth and Valverde, we’re not talking about significant experience. The rest of the pen includes Jeurys Familia, 24, who throws in the mid-90s, Gonzalez Germen, Carlos Torres, Ryan Reid, Jeff Walters and Cory Mazzoni, all whom throw from the right side.

The Mets’ left-handers are Josh Edgin and Scott Rice, the latter whom was a 32-year-old rookie last season after 14 years of knocking on the major league doors. The Mets also invited prospect lefty Jack Leathersich to compete for a spot.

That makes 13 relievers competing for seven slots.

“We’ve got a lot of good young arms that we like; they just don’t have much experience,’’ Alderson said. “Acquiring someone with some experience would give us some comfort going into Spring Training, but we don’t want to preclude some of our younger pitchers from getting a solid opportunity either.’’

How much comfort Valverde gives remains to be seen. He certainly didn’t make Jim Leyland’s job easier the past two years.

But, that’s what you get when you shop in the bargain bin.

Feb 03

Mets Still Looking For Bullpen Help; Add Kyle Farnsworth

How much money the New York Mets have left to spend during what is left of their offseason is uncertain, but as recently reported here, it is earmarked for the bullpen, specifically a closer as Bobby Parnell’s status is questionable.

FARNSWORTH: Added to pen.

FARNSWORTH: Added to pen.

Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Hanrahan have been mentioned on this site. ESPN added Kevin Gregg and Ryan Madson to the table.

Farnsworth, who has pitched for the Yankees, was signed to a minor-league deal Monday and given an invitation to spring training.

At 37, he was a combined 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA last season with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Farnsworth’s role with the Mets, assuming he makes the team, will be not as a closer but to provide depth.

Figuring Parnell will not be ready for the season, the configuration of the Mets’ bullpen will be Vic Black – the presumed closer – Farnsworth, Carlos Torres, Scott Rice, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen and Jeurys Familia.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 31

Sandy Alderson: More Work To Do

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report in two weeks, the New York Mets aren’t finished adding to their spring training roster, said GM Sandy Alderson.

ALDERSON: Not done.

ALDERSON: Not done.

Speaking at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia this week, Alderson said he liked the direction the team is headed, defended his offseason spending, but insisted there’s more work to be done.

“We’re still looking for more players,’’ Alderson said. “The offseason develops over time in segments, and right now there are still a lot of players out there. The question with teams is: How much money do they have left and what are their needs?’’

Despite committing to $85 million in salaries this winter – Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young were the major signings – the Mets still have a myriad of issue.

First base, catching, shortstop, the outfield alignment, the batting order and rotation order will be determined from within, but the Mets’ primary need is the bullpen, which has been an issue since Alderson was hired.

What the Mets don’t know is whether Bobby Parnell, recovering from neck surgery, will be ready. If not Vic Black is first in line to assume the closer role, but that’s based more on his ability to throw 95 mph. than anything else.

The Mets will be looking to bolster their bullpen in the next two weeks, and during spring training as players are released from other teams. Even so, Alderson said he likes the direction the Mets are headed and his strategy is paying off.

“I like our team for a couple of reasons,’’ Alderson said. “The last three years, the strategy I have tried to articulate is threefold: acquire talent and develop talent, create more payroll flexibility – we had a lot of long-term contracts that were just not performing – and third, third, try to win as many games as you can without compromising one and two.

“Now we’ve turned a corner a little bit, and I’d say that now we want to win as many games as we can while being mindful of one and two.’’

Alderson did not define a successful season, but some in the Mets’ organization are privately saying the immediate goal is to finish .500 or better.

ON DECK: Later today, I’ll look at the Mets’ leadoff options.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos