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.

Oct 12

Mets Arbitration Eligibles

The following Mets are arbitration eligible. The Mets traditionally settle with their players to avoid the process.

The website MLB Trade Rumors lists what it projects will be the settle figure.

PITCHERS

Josh Edgin ($500,000): MLBTR projects $800,000. Considering that’s hardly much of a raise, if the Mets want him back this should be easy.

Jeurys Familia ($4.1 million): Projected settle figure is $8.8 million, which is a huge raise. The Mets will low-ball him, but his production is worthy of settling because he’ll win.

Matt Harvey ($4.3 million): Projected settle figure is $5.2 million, but for what?

Jacob deGrom ($600,000): Projected settle figure is $4.5 million, roughly a 700 percent raise. This should give the Mets an idea of what a long-term contract might cost them.

Addison Reed ($5.2 million): First thing I thought about when the Giants’ closer blew the last two games of their playoff series what they’d better extend him somehow because he’ll be in high demand as a closer. Projected settle figure is $11.1 million.

Jim Henderson ($507,000): Considering all those eligible, the Mets might not even offer arbitration. Projected settle figure is $1.4 million

Zack Wheeler ($546,000): See Harvey. $1 million

CATCHERS/INFIELDERS

Travis d’Arnaud ($540,000): He certainly isn’t worthy of a raise, but there’s no industry with a salary structure like baseball. Looking at their other catching options means he’ll be offered arbitration. Projected settle figure is $1.7 million

Rene Rivera ($443,000): The projected settle figure of $2.2 million is a lot for a backup.

Lucas Duda ($4.2 million): Considering the uncertainly of their other options they will probably end up paying the projected settle figure of $6.7 million.

Wilmer Flores ($520,000): He’s worthy of getting the projected settle figure of $1.9 million

OUTFIELDER

Justin Ruggiano ($180,000): They probably won’t offer arbitration and be stuck paying the projected settle figure of $1.5 million.

Please follow me on Twitter

May 19

Mets’ Harvey Gets It

Kudos to Matt Harvey after the Mets’ bullpen kicked away an opportunity for his sixth victory of the season. Just as he did on the mound, he handled the post game like a pro.

Harvey failed in his third straight start for his sixth victory, and in his last two games saw the bullpen blow a 1-0 lead late. In those two games Harvey struck out 18 and threw 15 scoreless innings. He deserved better than two no decisions. He should be 7-1 now, but don’t feel sorry for him because he’ll win many more before he’s done.

HARVEY: Gets it. (AP)

HARVEY: Gets it. (AP)

There will be times when he gives it up, pitches lousy, but somehow come away with a victory. That’s the nature of the sport.

Harvey handled everything perfectly last night. He could have thrown both his hitters and bullpen under the bus, but didn’t. He chose the professional route.

You saw raw emotion when he left the mound. He’s human. He had to be disappointed, but didn’t show it in front of the cameras. Pitchers, like quarterbacks, can’t afford to wear emotions on their sleeves. Only a few can get away with it.

“Well, I think at that point, you just gotta hope we come out and score a run,” Harvey told reporters about went through his mind after the Cardinals tied the game in the ninth. “Take the win/loss out of the equation and concentrate on cheering your teammates on in the bottom half of the inning. … John Mayberry came up and got it done [in the 14th inning], and a win is a win.”

I’ve seen countless pitchers moan and complain about a lack of run support, or point their fingers at a fielder who committed and error, or the bullpen. These pitchers aren’t usually liked by their teammates. The Mets have had a few of them.

But, Harvey is different. His teammates like and respect him, not only for his talent but work ethic. Coming back from Tommy John surgery isn’t easy. He understands this is a team game and he’s one of 25. He knows there will be times when a reliever saves his hide, or a hitter overcomes a bad pitch Harvey made by mauling a couple of home runs. Or a fielder makes a great play. For example, last night Michael Cuddyer and Wilmer Flores made run-saving plays that without them, there wouldn’t have been a blown save.

That’s the nature of the sport, and in that respect, Harvey gets it.

ON DECK: May 19, Mets’ Lineup Vs. Cardinals

Nov 20

Six-Man Rotation Won’t Happen For Mets

With the topic of cutting Matt Harvey’s innings comes the idea of a six-man rotation.

One reader threw it out there and my response was it was too bold for the Mets’ thinking. That’s part of it, but there other variables.

Baseball doesn’t change easily, and there was a time when the five-man rotation was a novelty. Six? It could happen sometime, but I don’t sense the Mets will be the trailblazers.

Here’s why I don’t think it will happen:

* Pitchers are creatures of habit, which are hard to break. They are accustomed to their present workload of starting every fifth day and adding another day would break that routine. Some might not mind, but Harvey, for one, would pitch a fit.

* Teams have made a considerable investment in their pitchers, and going to a six-man rotation would take away as many as seven starts a year. While that would be perfect for this season and Harvey, it won’t translate over the long haul. These guys want to pitch, and missing seven starts is a lot.

* The Mets have a plan for Noah Syndergaard, and it doesn’t include pitching before June and disrupting his Super Two status. Syndergaard will pitch this season, but not at the cost of moving up his arbitration year.

* The Mets are in position where things could break their way with their rotation and the last thing they want to do is make a move which would force all five starters to make an adjustment.

Six starters sounds good, but it won’t happen.

Oct 30

Free Agency Frenzy About To Begin; Mets Expected To Sit

The foul pop-up wasn’t even caught by Pablo Sandoval, when the question was already being asked: Will the Giants keep their free-agent third baseman?

Sandoval is one of several dozen players who became eligible for free-agency this morning, a list that includes Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Nelson Cruz, Hanley Ramirez, Melky Cabrera, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jonny Gomes. None of whom will likely play in Flushing this summer.

Of course, there is always Chris Young.

Michael Cuddyer has been linked to the Mets, but his asking price might be too steep to plug him into left field. He made $10.5 million last season, and I don’t see the Mets going that high. Especially since the Mets aren’t expected to add more than $10 million in payroll over the winter.

Here’s the list of free agents:

Catchers

John Buck, Angels
Ryan Doumit, Red Sox
Gerald Laird, Braves
Russell Martin, Pirates
Wil Nieves, Phillies
A.J. Pierzynski, Cardinals

Humberto Quintero, Mariners
David Ross, Red Sox
Geovany Soto, Athletics

First Basemen

Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
Corey Hart, Mariners
Lyle Overbay, Brewers

Mark Reynolds, Brewers

Second Basemen

Mark Ellis, Cardinals
Rafael Furcal, Marlins
Kelly Johnson, Orioles
Ramon Santiago, Reds

Shortstops

Clint Barmes, Pirates
Asdrubal Cabrera, Nationals
Stephen Drew, Yankees

Jed Lowrie, Athletics

John McDonald, Angels
Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers

Third Basemen

Alberto Callaspo, Athletics

Jack Hannahan, Reds
Chase Headley, Yankees
Pablo Sandoval, Giants

Outfielders

Norichika Aoki, Royals
Emilio Bonifacio, Braves
Melky Cabrera, Blue Jays
Endy Chavez, Mariners
Nelson Cruz,Orioles
Chris Denorfia, Mariners
Jonny Gomes, Athletics
Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners
Scott Hairston, Nationals
Torii Hunter, Tigers
Reed Johnson, Marlins
Ryan Ludwick, Reds
Mike Morse, Giants
Colby Rasmus, Blue Jays
Nate Schierholtz, Nationals
Ichiro Suzuki, Yankees
Josh Willingham, Royals
Chris Young, Yankees
Delmon Young, Orioles

Designated Hitters

Jason Giambi, Indians
Raul Ibanez, Royals
Victor Martinez, Tigers
Kendrys Morales, Mariners

Starting Pitchers

Scott Baker, Rangers
Chris Capuano, Yankees
Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles
Kevin Correia, Dodgers
Gavin Floyd, Braves
Jason Hammel, Athletics
Aaron Harang, Braves
Roberto Hernandez, Dodgers
Kyle Kendrick, Phillies
Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees
Jon Lester, Athletics
Colby Lewis, Rangers
Francisco Liriano, Pirates
Paul Maholm, Dodgers
Justin Masterson, Cardinals
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mets
Brandon McCarthy, Yankees
Jake Peavy, Giants
Ervin Santana, Braves
Johan Santana, Orioles
Joe Saunders, Orioles
Max Scherzer, Tigers
James Shields, Royals
Carlos Villanueva, Cubs
Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
Edinson Volquez, Pirates
Chris Young, Mariners

Right-handed relievers

Matt Albers, Astros
Burke Badenhop, Red Sox
Matt Belisle, Rockies
Jared Burton, Twins

Joba Chamberlain, Tigers
Jesse Crain, Astros
Jason Frasor, Royals
Luke Gregerson, Athletics
Kevin Gregg, Marlins
Jason Grilli, Angels
Joel Hanrahan, Tigers
Luke Hochevar, Royals
Casey Janssen, Blue Jays
Jim Johnson, Tigers
Matt Lindstrom, White Sox
Nick Masset, Rockies
Jason Motte, Cardinals
Pat Neshek, Cardinals
Chris Perez, Dodgers
David Robertson, Yankees
Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers
Sergio Romo, Giants
Tim Stauffer, Padres
Koji Uehara, Red Sox
Jose Veras, Astros
Jamey Wright, Dodgers

Left-handed relievers

Joe Beimel, Mariners
Phil Coke, Tigers
Neal Cotts, Rangers
Scott Downs, Royals
Zach Duke, Brewers
Tom Gorzelanny, Brewers
Rich Hill, Yankees
Andrew Miller, Orioles
Franklin Morales, Rockies
Joe Thatcher, Angels