Sep 18

Three Mets’ Storylines: Makeshift Starter Saves Day … Again

When the final chapter of the 2016 Mets is written, it will be about pitching. The central theme will be about those lost and those who stepped into the breach. With Jacob deGrom scratched from Sunday’s start with an elbow injury that will require season-ending surgery, Gabriel Ynoa became the latest to help keep the Mets in the center of the wild-card race.

YNOA: Makes key start. (AP)

YNOA: Makes key start. (AP)

Personally, I was disappointed manager Terry Collins didn’t give Ynoa one more batter, but it worked out for the best and the Mets went on to complete their sweep of the Minnesota Twins, 3-2, to move into the lead wild-card spot, one game ahead of San Francisco and two over the Cardinals.

Ynoa gave up four hits and struck out eight in 4.2 innings, and from there manager Terry Collins turned to his “plethora of pitchers,” to complete the sweep. Five Mets’ relievers limited the Twins to a pair of runs.

While Ynoa was done when the game was decided, his contribution was vital – and worthy of another start with deGrom for the year – he personified the overriding storyline of this season (even more than their average with RISP) of the success of their emergency starters.

With Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and deGrom lost for the year, Seth Lugo, Logan Verrett, Robert Gsellman, Ynoa and Rafael Montero – all of whom were not in the Opening Day rotation – have combined to give the Mets 25 starts (seven defined as quality) and 10 victories. Another pitcher who was supposed to be out of the rotation in early July – 43-year-old Bartolo Colon – has 14 victories in 30 starts (18 defined as quality).

That’s 24 victories in 55 starts (25 quality), which is the difference between having something to keep playing for this season and thinking about spring training.

“Hey look, somebody else has got to help,” Collins said. “When you are called upon and it’s your chance, make the most of it.”

This issue will undoubtedly be raised again in the Mets’ remaining 13 starts, as Colon is slated to get three more starts, while the Band-Aid of Lugo, Gsellman and Ynoa are anticipated getting seven more.

That was today’s main storyline with Neil Walker‘s future with the team and more injury updates the others.

WALKER WANTS TO RETURN: The Mets are where they are in the playoff hunt in large part because of Walker, who hit .282 with a career-high 23 homers and 55 RBI, before being lost for the season to undergo season-ending back surgery.

Prior to Walker’s injury, GM Sandy Alderson said he’d talk with Walker’s agent about an extension, something which obviously hasn’t happened. Walker’s leverage on the free-agent market was compromised by the surgery. That explained Walker’s interest in returning.

“This is a good fit,” Walker told reporters. “This looks good, but we don’t know what else is out there. We don’t know where teams might be coming from. The free-agent market this year is kind of weak, especially at the infield position, so you never know what good happen.”

INJURY UPDATES:  Evidently, the Mets didn’t learn from their recent experience with deGrom. Why else would Collins say today Matz could come back “with an opportunity to pitch,” at the end of the week?

Matz, who hasn’t pitched in a month because of a shoulder impingement and is coming off a 30-pitch bullpen session Saturday, could pitch Friday

When it comes to Mets’ injury news, I’ll believe it when I see it, which is why I have no faith in what Collins said.

Matz was 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA when he was sidelined. The long-term goal would be to have him a viable option to pitch in a possible postseason.

“We have no plans yet,” Collins said, almost backtracking. “Nothing’s written. Steven Matz’s name certainly will be in the mix,” Collins said. “But Steven, when he gets here, is going to be a guy with a limit in workload that he has. So to get him built up and get him where we want, I am not sure we have the starts available.”So, why

So, why float the idea in the first place?

Meanwhile, Wilmer Flores‘ sore right wrist has kept him out of the lineup since it was injured in a home-plate collision with Braves’ catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Collins took responsibility for the injury saying he should have run for Flores.

Lucas Duda started for the first time since May. He was activated from the DL Saturday after being on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back. … Yoenis Cespedes left the game in the sixth inning after feeling ill. … Walker said he’s feeling better after having surgery on a herniated disk in his neck.

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Sep 06

The Mets Should Explore Six-Man Rotation For 2017

This won’t be a popular suggestion with the Mets’ starters, but with everybody in the rotation having been shelved at one time or another with an injury – save Bartolo Colon – perhaps it might be time to consider a six-man rotation for 2017.

HARVEY: Maybe he could stay healthy in 6-man rotation. (Getty)

HARVEY: Maybe he could stay healthy in 6-man rotation. (Getty)

None of the young bucks want this, and understandably so because they’ve been raised on the five-man rotation. Change is difficult, but then again one time there was a four-man rotation. This suggestion is prompted by Rafael Montero replacing Jacob deGrom today in Cincinnati, coupled with the report the latter might miss multiple starts.

It also coincides with solid outings from Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

Matt Harvey is done for the year. So is Zack Wheeler, and nobody knows when he’ll pitch again. After all, it’s been two years now. Steven Matz, sidelined with a bone spur and an impingement in his shoulder, will try to throw in Port St. Lucie today, but his return status is basically a hope.

Noah Syndergaard has also been pitching with a bone spur. Matz’s bone spur will require surgery, but it isn’t known what will happen with Syndergaard.

Meanwhile, deGrom missed time early with a strained lat muscle. His velocity has dipped and after three horrible starts, he has gone from manager Terry Collins not knowing he motioned for the trainer to deGrom saying, “I’m fine,” to missing today’s game, to nobody knows.

The Mets’ rotation for the ages won’t happen this year.

Several weeks ago I wrote how the Mets should re-evaluate the handling of their pitchers. I’m calling for it again, but adding the suggestion they go to a six-man rotation.

Years ago pitchers just pitched. But, the times were different. The salaries have skyrocketed, so there’s a greater need to protect these guys. That’s a partial explanation for why the DL is used so often. What has also changed is pitchers used to throw a fastball, curveball and change-up. Today, there are sliders, sinkers, cut fastballs, all which put strain on the arm.

There’s plenty to share responsibility for Harvey being lost twice, including the player, who wasn’t always upfront. I admire his grit, but we don’t need any heroes. I don’t know if he’ll ever learn, so this might protect him for his own good.

A six-man rotation could save the starters at least a game a month, which is a savings of roughly six starts a year, or as many a 36 innings. Injuries can occur any time despite the greatest precautions, but this could improve the odds or staying healthy.

There will be the natural attrition, such as free agency, trades and injury. Colon might eventually retire. But, if the idea is to keep these guys healthy and pitching, a first step could be reducing the workload.

Some team was the pioneer going from a four-man to a five-man rotation. The Mets have the depth other teams don’t, so why can’t they be the pioneer going to six?

To make this work, it must be installed in spring training with a defined rotation. There can be no deviation, as it will throw off the rest.

If it keeps them off the disabled list, then why not? It’s better than what’s happening now.

ON DECK: Looking at tonight’s starter, Montero.

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Aug 16

Three Mets’ Storylines: Colon Rocked Hard

Bartolo Colon usually gives the Mets a chance to win. Not so Monday night in Arizona, when thanks to an error by third baseman T.J. Rivera to start the game, the Mets fell into a three-run hole they could not climb out of.

The Diamondbacks had four hits in the inning, all of them scorched.

COLON: Not his night. (AP)

COLON: Not his night. (AP)

Colon had given up single runs in his last two starts, but gave up five runs on nine hits and two walks over four innings in a 10-6 loss.

The Mets picked away at a six-run deficit, but it was just one of those nights where there seemed little doubt as to the outcome.

The only bright spots for the Mets were Travis d’Arnaud getting three hits, a homer by Neil Walker, and are you ready for this? Colon drew the first walk of his career in his 282nd plate appearance.

It was a bad night all around as the Nationals and Marlins both won.

The other main storylines pertaining to the Mets today was what would they do when Yoenis Cespedes comes off the disabled list and several injury updates.

PLAN FOR CESPEDES’ RETURN: The Mets signed Cespedes to play center field, but he’ll play left when he comes off the disabled list Friday in San Francisco. The Mets procrastinated for nearly a month before placing him on the disabled list, and although I’m not crazy about him calling the shots, it’s prudent to preserve him as much as possible.

However, if he can’t run or is limited defensively, then they should leave him on the disabled list and bring up Michael Conforto to play left.

Cespedes began a rehab assignment today in Port St. Lucie and went 0-for-3.

INJURY UPDATES: Zack Wheeler will be examined Wednesday by Dr. James Andrews. A negative exam could necessitate another Tommy John surgery. … Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday in Port St. Lucie. He’s expected to be activated Saturday. … Pitcher Logan Verrett is trying to get his demotion to Triple-A rescinded into a DL appointment. Verrett says he has a stiff neck. A MRI showed nothing significant. Walker update: Walker could leave the team Tuesday on paternity leave. He could be away for up to three days.

EXTRA INNINGS: Reports say the Mets aren’t interested in trading for Houston outfielder Carlos Gomez, who was designated for assignment. … There is also no interest in reliever Jonathan Papelbon, who was released by Washington. … The Mets announced their season-ticket prices would rise by 3.95 percent next year. … Original Met catcher Choo Choo Coleman died Monday three days shy of his 81st birthday. … Monday’s lineup featured five position players who were either not in the Opening Day lineup or on the roster.


Aug 15

Ten Things To Happen For Mets To Turn It Around

It’s a logical question: Have the Mets survived the undertow that was dragging their season out to sea After consecutive well-pitched games – and they were sterling efforts – from Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, the temptation is to say yes.

However, you know what they say about temptation.

CESPEDES: Must hit when he returns. (AP)

CESPEDES: Must hit when he returns. (AP)

It’s an oversimplification to say after winning won two straight over the weekend against San Diego – a team they should beat at home – all is right with the Mets.

Frankly, that’s not enough to be writing a check for playoff tickets. The Mets will have turned things around when the following happens:

Yoenis Cespedes returns healthy and in center field: Cespedes begins a rehab assignment today as a DH in Port St. Lucie. He’s expected back when the Mets are in San Francisco. When Cespedes comes back I don’t want to hear anything about him not playing centerfield. The Mets signed him to play center. From left to right, the outfield should be Curtis Granderson, Cespedes and Jay Bruce.

Granderson and Bruce need to hit: The Mets haven’t gotten much from Granderson all season (see 18-31 HR to RBI ratio) and Bruce hasn’t hit since coming over from the Reds. Both hitting will take pressure off Cespedes and return Alejandro De Aza to the bench.

Paging Syndergaard: Noah Syndergaard has lost four of his last five decisions, increasing speculation the bone spur is taking a toll. His pitch count limits him to around six innings, and they haven’t been effective.

Leave Flores alone: Just let Wilmer Flores play and be done with it. Give him a chance against right handed pitching because the platoon isn’t working.

RISP must improve:  Yes, we know the Mets can hit home runs, and the expectations of more will rise with Cespedes. However, they are dead last in the majors hitting with runners in scoring position. It might be too much to expect that will turn around with six weeks remaining to the season, but that’s a priority.

Cabrera’s return important: His contributions can’t be understated, and they include more than taking off the helmet of the home run hitter. Yes, there was that long stretch when he didn’t hit with RISP. However, he gave the Mets a lot of clutch hits and played solid defense in the first half.

Need Niese: Jon Niese is now the No. 5 starter. The Mets aren’t in the position where they can afford to lose every fifth game.

Run Reyes Run: The Mets signed Jose Reyes for what he can do with his speed. Yesterday it paid off when he singled, went to second on a short wild pitch and continued to third on a throw into center. He then scored on a wild pitch. Reyes isn’t going to steal 60 bases anymore, but his speed is a threat and we haven’t seen it much since he came back.

Bullpen stability: Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia have been lockdown in the eighth and ninth. Hansel Robles was going well for awhile, but lost his composure in Yankees game and really hasn’t been the same. They should get more help when the rosters expand, but for now they need Jerry Blevins and Erik Goeddel to pitch well as a bridge to Reed.

Somebody has to step up: Somebody other than Neil Walker has to step up. James Loney has done it; so has Kelly Johnson. But, there will be games down the stretch when Walker and Cespedes and Bruce don’t hit. In those games, they’ll need Flores, or T.J. Rivera, or how about one of the catchers? They’ve gotten little from Travis d’Arnaud all year.

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Aug 09

Three Mets’ Storylines: Robles Loses It For Matz

The Mets still haven’t won back-to-back games since before the All-Star break. This time, the fault goes to Hansel Robles for kicking away another winnable effort by Steven Matz.

MATZ: Effort wasted. (AP)

       MATZ: Effort wasted. (AP)

Robles threw 32 pitches – few of them good – as he gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning in the seventh of Tuesday night’s 5-3 loss to Arizona at Citi Field.

The Mets had taken a 3-2 lead in the sixth on Neil Walker’s two-run homer to give Matz a chance at the win.

However, manager Terry Collins allowed Robles to stay in the game to walk two hitters and give up three hits. The Diamondbacks also executed a double-steal It’s a close game, so it’s hard to understand Collins’ logic for leaving an ineffective reliever in the game that long.

“You saw him fall behind in some counts,” Collins said. “He had been so good. You think you have the perfect set-up. He just didn’t get it done.”

That was the main storyline of the night, with the others being Matz and injury updates.

MATZ’S EFFORT WASTED: Based on runs given up, Matz pitched well enough to win most games. Two runs in six innings should have beaten Zack Greinke.

However, those were six rough innings. He threw 28 pitches in the first inning and was nearing 50 after two innings.

“The first inning killed him,” Collins said. “After that, he settled down and pitched well.”

Here’s another question: Why would Collins allow Matz to throw 120 pitches?

Collins said he had no trepidation in letting Matz throw that many pitches. Matz didn’t have any problems, either.

“No, I felt really good,” Matz said. “I didn’t feel tired at the end. I felt strong.”

INJURY UPDATES: Yoenis Cespedes took batting practice. GM Sandy Alderson, as both he and Collins frequently do, said he expects Cespedes to be activated after the 15 days. You have heard that before, right? … The news isn’t so encouraging for shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. He hit off a tee. … Jose Reyes’ right side remains sore. He was supposed to start a rehab assignment Tuesday. … Reliever Jim Henderson, whom the Mets pushed hard too soon following his surgery, will have his rehab assignment moved from Port St. Lucie to Triple-A Las Vegas. … Zack Wheeler will stay in Port St. Lucie to make a second rehab start.

NOTES: Alderson said he will talk with Walker’s agents about an extension. … The Diamondbacks stole five bases off Mets’ pitchers. “That’s something we have to clean up,” Collins said. … Logan Verrett will stay in the rotation and start Friday. … After the game, the Mets optioned Brandon Nimmo to Las Vegas. They did not announce a corresponding move, but speculation is it could be a reliever. … Matt Harvey watched the game from the dugout. … Bartolo Colon will start Wednesday. … The Mets fell to 2.5 games behind the second wild-card.

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