Aug 09

A Lot Riding On Wright’s Return

I am cautiously optimistic as I post the following: Mets third baseman and captain David Wright will start a rehab assignment Monday with Class A St. Lucie.

Knock on wood. Don’t walk under a ladder. Throw salt over your shoulder. Cross your fingers. Do whatever it takes to get him back to Flushing soon and in one piece.

WRIGHT: A lot riding on rehab. (AP)

WRIGHT: A lot riding on rehab. (AP)

After winning seven straight, the Mets have dropped their last two to the Rays to fall a scant 1.5 games ahead of Washington. I said it yesterday and will say it again, forget the wild card and go for the division. Wright will help immensely in that regard.

Of all their position players, Wright is the one the Mets can ill-afford to lose the most because of what he represents: he’s their best hitter; he’s a team leader; he’s their biggest investment; he represents the Mets past, present and future.

Yes, there’s a lot riding on this.Wright sustained a right hamstring strain Aug. 14 against Philadelphia, and while on the disabled list was subsequently diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column. After spending most of the summer in Los Angeles undergoing physical therapy, Wright just spent five straight days of baseball activity, which is throwing, fielding grounders and taking batting practice.

What happens tomorrow is what realty counts as it best proximates what he’ll hopefully be doing the remainder of the season and into October – deep into October.

“There’s not much more preparation I can do other than games,’’ Wright told reporters last week when the Mets were in Miami.

Wright’s return is critical to the Mets on a number of fronts. First, if he’s close to form, it gives the Mets’ offense a jumpstart and deepens their bench and batting order.

That’s the most immediate impact.

Secondly, it should help determine the Mets’ offseason priorities: Will they need another third baseman? Will Wright need to change positions? Will a healthy Wright decrease the chances of keeping Daniel Murphy or Kelly Johnson, and possibly Juan Uribe? If Wright can’t make it, was his extension a waste and how will it effect their future spending?

No, this won’t be just a normal roster move when Wright returns. This could be roster, and possibly, franchise defining.


May 12

Mets Matters: Syndergaard Finally Gets Ball

It’s all about Noah Syndergaard’s major league debut for the Mets tonight in Chicago. Syndergaard, 22, was 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Las Vegas.

mets-matters logoMets’ fans have waited for this since the trade that brought him here from Toronto in exchange for R.A. Dickey.

“`I’m excited to see this kid pitch, because I’m a fan,” manager Terry Collins said. “But, first and foremost, I’m the manager of this team. And I think he’s good enough to win here, or he would not be out there. This is not a show. This is not a Broadway play that we’re going to throw this kid out there and see how he sings. We know how he sings.”

To help get him acclimated to his new teammates and the major league life, Syndergaard joined the Mets Saturday in Philadelphia. That might help in ordering room service, but it will do nothing in helping him deal with major league hitters.

LAGARES OUT: Center fielder Juan Lagares will not play tonight because of what the team said is a slight strain in his right arm pit.

Lagares was injured last Tuesday while making a diving catch against Baltimore. Collins said an exam revealed no breaks or blood clots.

Lagares is on a 2-for-25 slump since the injury. Kirk Nieuwenhuis will start in center. He is 3-for-27 for the season.

EXTRA INNINGS: Reliever Buddy Carlyle left Monday’s game with spasms in his lower back. … In a rehab assignment at St. Lucie, Bobby Parnell gave up three runs in a blown save. He threw two wild pitches and his fastball was clocked at 90-92 mph. … Catcher Travis d’Arnaud was cleared to begin baseball activities. … John Mayberry Jr., is on a 3-for-29 slide to begin the season, but Collins said he would continue starting him against left-handed pitching.



May 11

Mets’ Immediate Schedule Favorable In Determining Set Lineup

Beginning tonight, the 20-11 Mets have seven straight games against the Cubs and Brewers, teams you would think they should handle before playing St. Louis a week from today. After winning their last two games in Philadelphia, asking them to win seven more in a row would be a tall order, but 4-3 or 5-2 isn’t out of the question considering how well their starting pitching has performed.

Jacob deGrom, the unknown in Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jon Niese will pitch against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, then we should get Bartolo Colon, deGrom and Syndergaard next weekend against Milwaukee. If these guys pitch to their capabilities, the Mets have to feel good about themselves over the next week.

LAGARES: How long will he stay In leadoff spot? (AP)

LAGARES: How long will he stay In leadoff spot? (AP)

When the NFL schedule comes out, you look at who your team is playing and check off games they should win or lose. Now, if you’re a fan of the New England Patriots, after you looked at their schedule, who didn’t realistically see them losing three of their first four games (Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Dallas)?

A baseball schedule is different, but this time it’s not hard to think this could be a good stretch for the Mets to right their struggling offense and pick up more ground in the NL East.

The Mets’ offense has sputtered since Travis d’Arnaud and David Wright were sidelined with injuries. The Mets lost seven of ten before seemingly rebound against Baltimore and Philadelphia (won four of five). The Mets have several offensive issues they must address.

They apparently solved one by moving Daniel Murphy to the third spot. Juan Lagares is leading off tonight with Curtis Granderson getting the night off. If Lagares does well, manager Terry Collins might keep him at the top of the order and moving Granderson to the middle of the order.

I’ve always wanted Lagares to hit leadoff if he could improve his on-base percentage, which he did during spring training. I admit I was wrong about Granderson, as his on-base percentage has been very good. However, the Mets’ haven’t hit for much power, and as Granderson’s batting average slowly rises, he might be in position to drive in more runs.

With Murphy, Lucas Duda, Michael Cuddyer and Granderson, the Mets potentially could be set in the 3-4-5-6 slots, and could strengthen themselves even further when Wright returns.

What the Mets’ 11-game winning streak did was buy time for them to endure a down stretch. They’ve had that “blip,” as Collins likes to say, now we have to see if they can build off it.


May 10

Murphy Produces Hitting Third

We can’t assume the Mets’ heretofore stagnant offense is suddenly vibrant after one game, but we can conclude Daniel Murphy should remain hitting third for the foreseeable future. The Mets are hoping Murphy’s three hits in today’s 7-4 victory over Philadelphia can jumpstart an offense that has scored three or fewer runs in 16 of their 31 games.

The offense broke through today to make Bartolo Colon the majors’ first six-game winner of the season.

MURPHY: Getting hot. (Getty)

MURPHY: Getting hot. (Getty)

Traditionally, the No. 3 hitter is a team’s best hitter with the combination of average and power, which is the injured David Wright. Lucas Duda had been hitting third, but he’s slumping and not hitting with power. That leaves the warming Murphy, who a week ago was being showcased for a possible trade to San Francisco. He’s not going anywhere now.

Manager Terry Collins opened the season with a twist by dropping Juan Lagares from leadoff to sixth in the order, and moving up Curtis Granderson to first. Wright was hitting second and Duda third. Later, when injuries took Wright and Travis d’Arnaud from the lineup, and with Duda slumping and Granderson still first, there was a lack of punch in the order.

The Mets thrived during an 11-game winning streak with solid starting pitching and timely hitting, but the offense wilted in losing seven of ten.

With no help coming from the minors or in a trade, Collins needed a spark and this could happen with Murphy. In a domino effect, Duda dropped to clean-up where he thrived last season and Michael Cuddyer moved to fifth.

Collins will have some decisions to make when Wright returns, and he’ll resume baseball activities Monday. He could move Wright to second, where he was hitting before he was injured. Subsequently, Lagares could go back to sixth, or he could hit first with Granderson moving to the middle of the order.

That’s to be determined, but Murphy in the third spot worked out today, and this week the Mets have the Cubs and Brewers, teams they are better than and should be able to handle. There’s no better time than to run with this lineup and see where it goes.



May 09

Tejada Makes Most Of Opportunity

Mets manager Terry Collins was rewarded with Saturday night’s decision to go with Ruben Tejada over Wilmer Flores at shortstop. It will be interesting to see how long Collins rides the hot hand after Tejada’s play in the 3-2 victory over Philadelphia.

Last weekend, Collins went with Tejada in consecutive games after a string of Flores’ errors. At the time I wondered if the Mets were greasing the skids for benching Flores full time. Tonight, with Jon Niese, who throws a lot of groundballs on the mound, Collins went with the better glove and the thought returned.

This time, Tejada did something to warrant staying in the lineup with two hits and starting a key double play that literally saved the game for the Mets. What Tejada did was give the Mets – for one game, at least – the type of shortstop play they expected of him when he assumed the job after Jose Reyes’ departure.

Tejada doubled lead to off the fifth and scored on an error, but in the eighth is when he earned his money. The Phillies loaded the bases with one out when Carlos Ruiz ripped a hard grounder Tejada backhanded to start an inning-ending and game-saving 6-4-3 double play.

“[Ruiz] hit the ball very hard,’’ Tejada said. “We had to, no matter what, had to make that play.’’

Considering Flores’ defensive problems, one had to think he wouldn’t have made that play and the Phillies could have at least tied the game.

The Mets’ hadn’t been happy with Tejada’s work ethic the past few years and some thought he might not have made the roster coming out of spring training, but that appears to have changed.

“It’s the hardest I’ve seen him work,’’ Collins said. “He’s kept himself ready to play. Here’s a guy who wants to get back in there.’’

Collins plans to start Tejada Sunday at second base and you wonder how much of a chance he will get.