Apr 09

April 9.10: Chat Room, Game #4 vs. Nationals, Pelfrey’s turn.

Indicators vary, and Jerry Manuel is calling it roughly three weeks to define the good start he said the Mets need out of the gate. Losing two of three to the Marlins is too small of a window.

“Let’s see where we are over the first 20 games,” Manuel said. “That will give us a better indicator if we are off and running or whatever.”

The Mets are counting on Mike Pelfrey to pick up the Mets tonight against the Washington Nationals. That is, of course, if Pelfrey can pick up himself after working with a sports psychologist.

Pelfrey spoke recently about the mental make-up required to pitch in the major leagues, saying most everybody are equal in terms of physical talent, but the difference is the head game.

“At this level, I think every pitcher is pretty gifted,’’ Pelfrey said. “What separates guys is the mental part of the game.’’

Pelfrey’s problem has been losing focus and not mastering his secondary pitches. Pelfrey has tendency to not finish off hitters and consequently doesn’t minimize the damage and lets innings get away from him.

Apr 08

April 8.10: About Last Night – Flashback, 2009.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think back to last night was the comeback, how it was generated by good, patient at-bats. Considering how they played overall, the Mets had no business playing baseball in the tenth inning last night.

The rally was encouraging because we saw too little of that last season.

However, and you knew there would be one, last night was a reminder of last season in several ways.

First, there was the horrid starting pitching of John Maine. We heard during spring training that his shoulder was fine, and maybe it is, but there’s something definitely not right with his pitching. Ninety-two pitches is way too many for not getting out of the fifth. His location was spotty (he missed on the homer by a foot and a wild pitch set up another run) and his velocity is down.

Will Maine improve? I really don’t know. You would hope, but maybe the 15 wins in 2007 was his ceiling.

Secondly, there was the offense, which mustered only six hits. They were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine. One or two more hits and this was a win.

Finally, the bullpen gave up three runs. When your starter won’t give you five, giving up three in the pen is too many. Jenrry Mejia’s outing made you wonder if the Mets jumping the gun with him, but the performances by Sean Green and Hisanori Takahashi makes one think they might not have had a choice. Oh yeah, last night would have been perfect for Nelson Figueroa.

There was the Fernando Tatis play, which was boneheaded for sure. A reminder of how sloppy they were on the bases last night. But, you can’t hang the game on that one play. Afterall, there was no guarantee David Wright would have come through.

Of course, no guarantee he wouldn’t have, either.

Mar 28

March 28.10: Pelfrey a concern.

Of all the Mets, for me it is a toss up between Mike Pelfrey and John Maine as to whom I am most concerned about heading into the season. Oliver Perez? Not so much, as I know he’ll be inconsistent and spotty. I’m done scratching my head over Perez.

But Pelfrey and Maine – the former starts today – promise to have an upside and there have been flashes. Pelfrey’s problems have been, 1) a failure to master his secondary pitches, 2) an inability to limit the damage in an inning, and 3) a tendency to lose focus.

It all adds up to not knowing what to expect when he takes the mound.

But, at least he knows it when he speaks of the primary issue surrounding this team.

“I’ve come in from day one saying that the whole season is going to depend on us three,” Pelfrey said of himself, Maine and Perez. “And it’s true. No matter what team it is, pitching wins championships.
“Johan Santana is going to be Johan Santana. The guys vying for the fifth spot are going to be great fifth starters. The rest is on us three.”

It is only spring training, but their performance so far has done little to alleviate concern. The questions and inconsistency remains.

Mar 25

March 25.10: Wrapping up the Day.

Despite giving up two homers, there was questionable progress made by John Maine in today’s loss to St. Louis. The two homers were the only runs he allowed in five innings. Maine also walked two. Not sterling by any stretch, but better by comparison to how we’ve seen him this spring.

The Cardinals had chances, but for the most part Maine pitched out of trouble, which is a positive sign. But, he was lucky the homers – on by Albert Pujols – came with the bases empty. It hasn’t always been that way.

Maine was one inning and run less than what passes for a quality start these days. Three runs in six innings hardly represents quality, but does by today’s watered down standards. Tom Seaver would call in unacceptable.

The Mets need more from Maine, both at this stage in spring training and during his career. I’d take the two runs every time out, but the Mets need more than five innings considering his pitch count of 88. That many pitches must take him through seven innings.

Five innings won’t make it.

CARTER IMPRESSES: Omar Minaya, speaking during today’s telecast, said Chris Carter is making an impression regarding the final position spot on the roster.

“He’s a left-handed hitter with power,’’ Minaya said.

Carter flied out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, but is batting .421 with five extra-base hits.

Also in contention for that spot are Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto, neither of whom are hitting over .200.

REYES WORKS OUT: Jose Reyes worked out again today and said there were no problems.

“Today went much better,’’ Reyes told reporters. “I was a little bit sore, but it was good so far, I’ll continue to do more and hopefully I’ll be on the field as soon as possible.’’

The will take it slow with Reyes. Pushing him at this time would only risk injury to his leg and would be foolish.

Mar 18

March 18.10: What’s Jerry’s thinking about the fifth starter?

With most managers, at least those with security, their objectives are a balance between winning today and building for the future. That can’t be said for the Mets’ Jerry Manuel, who has joked about the importance of a fast start for the preservation of his job.

There’s truth in humor.

Manuel presided over the late season collapse of 2008 and full season free fall of 2009, and knows the Mets must contend, if not get to the playoffs and win a round, if he’s to return next year. Manuel’s job is on the line, and with it there’s a sense of urgency of being competitive immediately.

Given that, it stands to reason Manuel’s decisions, like that of choosing his fifth starter, will be to give him the best chance of winning now as opposing for building for the future, because quite simply, he has no guarantee of a future.

Manuel’s comments the other day that he’d like to see Hisanori Takahashi start a game this spring suggests strongly he’s being seriously considered for the fifth starter role. Takahashi has been superb in six scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out nine.

“What we have seen so far is he really has the ability to pitch and pitch with all his pitches,” Manuel said. “He probably is our sharpest pitcher right now, as far as everything hitting where he wants it to hit.”

If not Takahashi, then perhaps Fernando Nieve. Nelson Figueroa will be sent out to clear waivers, and Jon Niese, who went into spring training the favorite, will be sent out because he has options remaining.

Niese might be the fifth starter down the road, but Manuel doesn’t have the luxury of letting him learn on the job. As long as Takahashi is getting batters out, the Mets have a chance to win, and that means Manuel has a better chance to stick around.