Jun 03

Rushing Cespedes Smacks Of Desperation

If it was late August and the Mets were five games behind, I might see rushing Yoenis Cespedes off the disabled list. If he could save their season and give them a realistic shot at the postseason, then, why not?

But, they are not. They aren’t even close. Before today’s game, the Mets trailed Washington by 11 games and were nine games out of the second wild card.

ALDERSON: No need to rush Cespedes. (AP)

ALDERSON: No need to rush Cespedes. (AP)

I might be inclined to push the envelope with Cespedes if it meant improving the Mets’ offense, but that’s not even their biggest weakness. The Mets never thought pitching – both starters and relievers – would be what’s holding them back.

Cespedes originally tweaked his left hamstring, April 20, against Philadelphia. The Mets originally said he would miss at least four games, but instead of placing him on the 10-day disabled list, they foolishly kept him on the active list. He missed three games, then after an off-day and rainout, rushed him back.

Cespedes played in two games, reinjured the hamstring April 27 and went on the disabled list the following day.

He hasn’t played since.

Cespedes has had two “setbacks,” including one last weekend. Even so, GM Sandy Alderson said the hope is for him to be activated when the Mets are in Texas, June 6, where he can be the designated hitter.

Manager Terry Collins said Cespedes is “making strides,’’ although the best he’s doing now is jogging.

Cespedes needs to run full speed; change speeds and direction in the outfield; and run the bases. He’s still a week away from doing those things, before he plays at least a week of minor league games.

That is, if Alderson wants to handle this the right way. Anything else is asking for trouble. Forcing Cespedes back now with so much of the season remaining is foolish.

It smacks of desperation.

Apr 27

Today’s Question: Is Anything Wrong With Syndergaard?

Because “I wanted to,” is not a good explanation from Mets manager Terry Collins for his decision to push back Noah Syndergaard for today and start Robert Gsellman last night.

SYNDERGAARD: Is something wrong with him?(AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Is something wrong with him?(AP)

That begs the question: Why?

That Collins made a fuss over an obvious issue makes me wonder what the Mets are trying to hide. If they aren’t, just answer the question.

“Because I thought Gsellman pitched well in his last start and I wanted to keep him on schedule.” “Because I wanted to take advantage of the rainout and give Syndergaard an extra day because he threw a lot of pitches in his last start.” “Because I wanted to see him go against R.A. Dickey.” “Because my psychic said it would be a good thing.”

All of these could have answered the obvious question without triggering cover-up mode.

Collins has dodged so many issues in the past that he really doesn’t merit the benefit of doubt on something as fuzzy as this.

Syndergaard gave up five runs and is coming off a season-high 114 pitches in his losing start last Thursday against Philadelphia. Maybe he was tired and needed an extra day. Maybe the bone spur that bothered him last season flared up again. Maybe this was GM Sandy Alderson’s order.

Aren’t any of you wondering the same things?

We’ll know soon enough when Syndergaard takes the ball this afternoon.

Apr 20

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Takes Responsibility For Botched Play

It is one thing to lose, but how the Mets are doing so is extremely head scratching. Their bullpen has been spotty at times, but lately it has been their lack of offense coupled with shoddy defense.

i-5Of course, if they don’t hit several home runs, they will end up wasting a strong pitching effort by one of their starters, as was the case in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Phillies at Citi Field.

The Mets committed three more errors tonight and seven for the series, and if not for Jay Bruce’s two homers Wednesday, they would have been swept at home by Philadelphia.

Instead, they lost two of three and five of their last seven, which is not the way they want to be playing with Washington coming in for three this weekend.

It is said the ball will find the inexperienced glove, but don’t blame Bruce for the mix-up at first base in the second inning that lead to three runs.

Bruce gloved Freddy Galvis’ dribbler, but his throw fell between pitcher Noah Syndergaard and second baseman Neil Walker.

Although Bruce was charged with an error, manager Terry Collins said he wasn’t to blame.

“Noah has to get over there,” Collins said. “Jay made a nice play on it.”

Syndergaard called it a freakish play, and it was, but ultimately pointed the finger at himself.

“It was a mess up from the get go,’’ Syndergaard said. “But, it is my responsibility to get over there and cover the bag.”

Another error, this time by Asdrubal Cabrera on room service double-play grounder, lead to two runs in the third.

“I can’t remember Asdrubal Cabrera missing a play like that,” lamented Collins. “The fact that we didn’t make two plays turned the tide of the game.”

Syndergaard gave them the chance to win, but Collins summed it up perfectly.

“We have to start scoring some runs,” Collins said. “We have to start playing better.”

SYNDERGAARD COMES UP EMPTY: Syndergaard was splendid in his season-high 114-pitch effort over seven innings in which he gave up five runs – two unearned – with no walks and ten strikeouts.

In four starts overall, Syndergaard has 30 strikeouts with no walks in his four starts.

“For the most part, I felt pretty good,” Syndergaard said. “I felt this was the best my mechanics have been for a long time.”

FAMILIA UNIMPRESSIVE: Jeurys Familia wasn’t effective in his first relief appearance of the season, issuing two walks in the ninth inning.

“Rusty, to say the least,”” was how Collins evaluated Familia’s outing.

Collins said Familia needs the work, which is why he left him in to throw 30 pitches. Collins said Familia should be ready for Friday.

CESPEDES INJURED: The Mets’ injury woes continued when Yoenis Cespedes left the game in the fifth inning with a left hamstring cramp while running the bases. He was replaced by Juan Lagares and Michael Conforto moved to left.

“Anytime you talk about hamstrings it is a concern,” Collins said. “When you have a hamstring with his body (tightly muscled), it is a concern.”

Cespedes will have a MRI Friday.

Don’t forget, Cespedes took over a month to recover from a strained quad last season, so I wouldn’t bet on seeing him Friday night against the Nationals.

INJURY UPDATES: Lucas Duda, who sustained a hyperextended left elbow the night before did not play. … Travis d’Arnaud, who sustained a contusion to his throwing hand, appeared as a pinch-hitter. … Wilmer Flores was unavailable with an infection in his knee.

“Our training room is starting to fill up and we don’t need that,” Collins said.

NATS UP NEXT: Jacob deGrom starts Friday night against Washington.

Apr 12

Wheeler, Conforto Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

Sometime next season or the year after, Zack Wheeler and Michael Conforto will combine to lift the Mets. They did for awhile Wednesday night in Philadelphia until Hansel Robles sprayed graffiti on their near masterpiece.

i-5Wheeler, backed in large part by Conforto’s homer and Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run single, cruised into the sixth with a five-run lead. It looked as if manager Terry Collins would let him pitch out of trouble, but pulled him with two outs and the bases loaded in favor of Robles.

Collins feared the Phillies would break through and spoil Wheeler’s night and he’d suffer an emotional setback. Instead, Maikel Franco turned around Robles’ first pitch for a monster grand slam that changed the complexion of the game, but the Mets held on to win 5-4 to complete the sweep.

In winning his first game since coming off Tommy John surgery in 2014, Wheeler gave up three runs on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw the target 85 pitches, but the key was working ahead in the count with his secondary pitches. Miami hurt Wheeler in his first start – of a cold damp day – when he fell behind in the count and waited on his fastball.

Wheeler coasted into the sixth but the Phillies worked him hard to load the bases.

“I was very happy with the way he pitched tonight,” Collins told reporters of Wheeler’s start. “He threw the ball as well as he could but he ran out of gas all of a sudden.”

Pitchers usually won’t admit to getting tired, but Wheeler was stand-up. He knows the score.

“I was a little tired at the end,” Wheeler said. “It’s all about building myself up. …I had better command. That’s what I needed from my first start. It felt good to bounce back after that rough outing. I was nice to go out there and do well.  It’s a weight off my shoulders.”

Conversely, it hasn’t appeared the Mets were all that interested in building up Conforto’s at-bats. They had a huge lead, but Conforto sat until the end. Conforto was a surprise start over Curtis Granderson and responded with two hits and a walk and scored three runs.

One of those hits was an opposite-field homer to give the Mets an early 2-0 lead.

Conventional wisdom has Conforto going to the minors when Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list. He needs at-bats, but Collins would not commit to starting him Thursday in Miami.

Conforto hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time but responded with what little he has.

“I’m getting good pitches to hit and getting deep into the count,” said Conforto, who continues to refuse to get drawn into the debate on his immediate future.

Another positive note to the day was the report Matt Harvey, who strained his left hamstring Tuesday night, would be able to make his next start Sunday in Miami.

While Wheeler and Conforto were the headliners, Robles served as a reminder of one of the Mets’ biggest weaknesses, which is the bridge to the back end of the bullpen.

Apr 10

Signs Point To Monster Year For Syndergaard

If Noah Syndergaard keeps pitching like this, there really isn’t any reason – other than Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner – why he can’t win a Cy Young Award.

SYNDERGAARD: Dominates. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Dominates. (AP)

Seriously, giving up two runs – one unearned thanks to a Yoenis Cespedes error – in seven innings will get it done most times. Syndergaard struck out nine and only threw 103 pitches. A knock against Syndergaard was a high pitch count and runners stealing on him at will. He’s been economical in both starts and the base paths have been quiet.

“I feel good with all my pitches right now,” Syndergaard said. “Slider, changeup, curveball, it doesn’t matter the count. I feel like I can throw them in any scenario.”

Syndergaard didn’t mention his fastball, but he had that, also, in the high 90s with command (no walks). He must maintain his command as it is far more important than velocity. If he can do that, and keep the stolen bases to a minimum, he can be dominant.

Most any hitter can crush a 99 mph. fastball if he’s looking for it, say on a 3-1 pitch, but it is so much harder when the pitcher is ahead in the count and doesn’t have to throw a fastball down the middle. So far, Syndergaard has been ahead in the count and can throw whatever he wants, and those pitches have been dancing and darting in the zone.

If the bone spur that nagged him last season stays quiet and he avoids injury, who is to say he can’t have a monster year?

The Mets found their home run bats with Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce going deep, but what was really impressive was manufacturing three runs in the first inning without the homer. It is always to a pitcher’s advantage to work with a lead.

Conforto also walked with the bases loaded, but he’ll sit Monday night in Philadelphia.