Feb 25

Mets Matters: Syndergaard Motivated

I really like what Noah Syndergaard told reporters in Port St. Lucie about his reaction to not being called up at the end of last season.

Realistically, it wasn’t going to happen as to protect his Super Two status.

mets-matters logoAfter getting the call from GM Sandy Alderson, Syndergaard refused to sulk, but instead used it a source of motivation.

“It was kind of heartbreaking,” Syndergaard told ESPN. “I went home, let things relax a little bit, and then got back in my workout program and just enjoyed time in the offseason.

“But it was disappointing. To be in the big leagues has been my dream ever since I was a little kid. … I use it as a little extra motivation, because I don’t want to hear that phone call again.’’

Syndergaard is expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas and join the Mets in June.

Syndergaard, 22, needs to develop a secondary pitch because scouts say he relies too much on his outstanding fastball. Normally, pitchers move up to the next level when they begin dominating the competition, something he did not do evidenced by his 2014 Vegas numbers: 9-7, 4.60 ERA and 1.481 WHIP in 26 starts.

By his own admission, Syndergaard said he wasn’t ready.

“Being in Triple-A, you’ve got guys who have been in the big leagues for a number of seasons. So they can hit a fastball,’’ Syndergaard said. “Hitting is timing, and pitching is throwing off timing. If you throw three fastballs on the heart of the plate, they’re going to time one up.’’

Nobody knows how good Syndergaard will be, but he has the right idea.

HARVEY TO THROW FRIDAY: Matt Harvey’s come back from Tommy John surgery will take another step Friday when he throws to hitters for the first time.

The plan is to take batting practice, but there’s even the chance the hitters won’t even swing, but to stand at the plate to re-acclimate him to having a batter in the box.

DUDA UPDATE: Lucas Duda’s side injury has been changed from a strained oblique to a intercostal muscle. He’s not expected to resume swinging until Friday.

ON DECK TOMORROW: Among other things, I’ll project the Mets’ Opening Day roster.

Feb 24

Collins Has Reason For Saying Tejada In The Mix

After hearing most of the offseason how Wilmer Flores would be the Opening Day shortstop, even before the first full squad workout, manager Terry Collins said Ruben Tejada would compete for the job.

This isn’t about waffling, because what else could Collins say? He certainly can’t slam the door on Tejada this early.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

Collins told reporters in Port St. Lucie: “I’m not going to say that Wilmer Flores won’t be the shortstop. I’m not saying that. … All I’m saying is I’m giving this other guy a chance because I know two years ago I had some coaches on this staff, who are still here, that thought this guy was going to be an All-Star, especially offensively.’’

True enough.

In 2012, the year after Jose Reyes left, Tejada hit .289 in 114 games. The following season, Tejada didn’t report in good shape and labored at the plate and in the field hitting .202 with a .250 on-base percentage and committed eight errors in 55 games.

The Mets committed to the unproven Flores in large part to deflect from their failure to land a shortstop in the free agent or trade markets. Based on how Tejada played the last two years, they couldn’t give him the job.

Even so, the Mets could need Tejada this year, especially if Flores doesn’t pan out. And, if Flores does prove to be a keeper and the Mets want to move Tejada, they can’t have him as a disgruntled trade chip.

Collins said Tejada is in the mix because as a manager he must keep his players enthused and feeling part of the team.

Feb 23

Spring Training TV Schedule

SNY and WPIX announced their spring-training telecast schedule Monday. All of the televised Mets games will be in Port St. Lucie and begin at 1:10 p.m.

MARCH
6 Tigers, SNY
7 Braves, PIX11
8 Red Sox, PIX11
9 Marlins, SNY
12 Nationals, SNY
13 Braves, SNY
14 Nationals, PIX11
17 Marlins, SNY
19 Astros, SNY
20 Cardinals, SNY
22 Yankees, SNY
24 Astros, SNY
28 Nationals, PIX11
30 Marlins, SNY

APRIL
1 Cardinals, SNY

Feb 22

Wright’s Comeback Is Key Met Issue; Acknowledges He Must Adjust

Numerous times I’ve said the most pressing issue with the Mets is David Wright’s health – regardless of what happens with Matt Harvey.

Wright is entering the third season of an eight-year, $138-million, an award for being the face of the franchise and the promise of what he could bring to the Mets through the 2020 season. When Wright is whole, the Mets have a chance of being the same.

WRIGHT: Change in the air. (AP)

WRIGHT: Change in the air. (AP)

He had a decent 2013 season hitting .307, but injuries limited him to 112 games. A shoulder injury cut last year short and held him to eight homers and only 63 RBI. He hasn’t hit at least 25 homers with 100 RBI since 2010, and that’s the basis for him being the key issue – if he doesn’t start post real All-Star numbers then the contract becomes a burden and consequently a distraction.

That’s why what he told reporters Sunday was important. He acknowledged the need to slow it down from time to time. Only twice in the last five years has he played as many as 155 games, and even that might be too much.

“I think it is probably to the point where I have to be a little more realistic that it’s probably not in my best interest or the team’s best interest to go out there and play 162 games,’’ Wright said. “I think a good off day here and there probably can be beneficial for both me and the team.’’

But, that’s up to Terry Collins. If he left it up to Wright, he’d play. Collins must be disciplined enough to have a plan with Wright and stick to it. Usually, that means resting him the day before an off day. That’s a two-day rest.

Wright also acknowledged he must modify his game, meaning being more selective and concentrate on driving the ball in the gaps and not worrying about pulling.

“I remember our first year in Citi Field [in 2009], I think I hit 10 [homers] and I felt like I had a very productive season – and it was because of driving runs in, scoring runs,’’ Wright told reporters today in Port St. Lucie. “I don’t judge a season by how many home runs I hit. It’s more being productive, more being a middle-of-the-order-type hitter, where I’m driving in runs, scoring runs.

“The thing that bothered me last year wasn’t the lack of home runs. It was more that I just didn’t feel like I was the hitter I’m capable of being.’’

At 32, Wright’s best days are behind him, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be good ones ahead of him. After all, he has six more years, and with the Mets thinking playoffs, they can’t afford Wright being a shell of what he has been. He’s at the stage of his career when he knows he has to adjust. Professional hitters are able to do that – which is what he acknowledged this afternoon.

Wright has always been a pro, and I wouldn’t expect anything less of him now.

 

Feb 21

Collins Says Mets Capable Of Playoffs

Is it genuine optimism for the New York Mets or simply unfounded wishful thinking? In the past two days, both GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins alluded to the playoffs. No guarantees, and with the qualifier, “capable of” if they execute. Hell, anybody could have told you that.

“Now we’ve just got to go play,’’ Collins told reporters Saturday in Port St. Lucie. “It’s all about execution. As we’ve seen in the past, there are teams that were world champs and the next year they’re in last place. And there are teams that were in last place that the next year they’re in the playoffs.

“If we play up to expectations and what we think are the caliber of players we have, we’ll be playing in October.’’

Collins’ thinking is based on the potential of the Mets’ pitching; the additions of Michael Cuddyer in right field and John Mayberry for the bench; and healthy returns of David Wright and Matt Harvey.

There are other issues: Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler must progress; the bullpen is seemingly sound, even without Bobby Parnell available at the start of the season; the leadoff spot is unsettled between Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson; Wilmer Flores is an unproven commodity at shortstop.

Harvey is a huge key, and Alderson acknowledged there’s nothing concrete about his innings ceiling. It was initially reported Harvey would probably miss the start of the season, but likely pitch the home opener. Collins said today Harvey would start one of the season’s first five games.

I prefer something more definitive, but it is early. Things change.

“We’ve been sitting around for four years asking everybody to be patient and even the players,” Collins said. “Well, it’s time.’’

A lot has to happen if the Mets are to reach the playoffs, let alone have their first winning season after six straight losing summers.

Sure, there’s reason to be hopeful, but the playoffs? Well, I’ve heard this before from the Mets so I’m not swallowing this hook, line and sinker.

October baseball? I’ll believe it when I see it.