Sep 21

There’s No Use Pushing Syndergaard

Sure, it would be good to see Noah Syndergaard pitch again this season for the Mets, even if it is an inning of relief. However, that one inning won’t answer any important questions. It might even raise a couple if Syndergaard were to reinjure himself.

Ideally, the Mets wanted Syndergaard to start several times and build up to perhaps a dozen to 15 innings. That might have given the Mets an idea where Syndergaard stood in his rehab, and if nothing else, alleviate his anxiety.

That’s not happening now, but it doesn’t matter because those 15 innings would have only given the Mets an idea about Syndergaard’s partially torn lat muscle, but not answered fully all his questions.

After throwing 39 pitches in a simulated game Monday, Syndergaard could be given clearance to pitch. It’s really important to Syndergaard to get out there before the season ends a week from Sunday.

“It’s a personal thing for me,” Syndergaard told reporters. “I am getting really anxious. I spent three or four months rehabbing, and if at this point they are going to shut me down, what really was the whole point of all that? I feel I worked really hard in the rehab process and I just really want to get out there and prove I can come back from that kind of injury healthy.”

What was the whole point? It’s hard to believe he really said that, but then again, he’s said a lot of crazy things lately. When Syndergaard hurt himself, by his own stubbornness in first by bulking up without consulting the Mets, and secondly, with his refusal to undergo an MRI. His injury and lost season are totally on him.

If Syndergaard doesn’t pitch again this season, he’ll go into the winter with questions, and subsequently, spring training. That makes three significant questions including Zack Wheeler (stress reaction in his arm) and Steven Matz (elbow surgery).

“There is a process to get a player ready to play the game,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “The only way we know what we are looking at all winter long is to see where we are at the end of the year, such as with two guys who can’t pitch right now, we don’t know where we are with them down the road.’’

The Mets are trying to learn what they can with Matt Harvey, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero.

That’s seven potential starters, each with a significant question. That’s what the Mets are all about these days, and pitching is supposed to be their strong suit. So, while it would be good to see Syndergaard pitch  again this year, it isn’t imperative.

Sep 20

Montero Falters Again

There was a stretch in August when Rafael Montero was one of the few Mets worth watching and it looked as if he was pitching for a 2018 rotation spot. However, September brought us back to the old Montero.

Montero struggled again in today’s 9-2 loss in Miami, and with it he’s been off in three of his last four starts.

Perhaps August earned Montero an opportunity to compete next spring, but if his final starts this season continue like his most recent, then he’ll have a short leash.

Montero isn’t challenging hitters on the inner half of the plate as he did in August, and more importantly he’s not limiting the damage and putting away innings.

Today he left after four innings, giving up five runs on seven hits boosting his ERA to 6.16 for this month.
The Montero we saw in August was worth watching. Today’s Montero, not so much.

Sep 17

Gsellman Has Positive Audition For 2018

Today, he was the good Robert Gsellman. The Mets will take every start what they got from Gsellman – one unearned run in seven innings – but unfortunately for both parties, he has only provided glimpses of today’s production every other start at best.

“Just trying to finish strong for these guys so we can have some good momentum heading into next spring,’’ Gsellman told reporters after the Mets’ 5-1 victory over the Braves. “Just trying to keep it rolling.’’

GSELLMAN: Makes 2018 statement. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Makes 2018 statement. (AP)

Gsellman, like Seth Lugo, came up at midseason in 2016 and joined an injury-ravaged rotation to pitch the Mets into the playoffs. However, because of the combination of injuries and poor performance, neither have pitched to expectations, or even to where they have defined roles heading into spring training.

Gsellman should get another two starts, and if he duplicates today’s production, he would have to be considered for a rotation spot. In addition to his line, Gsellman did two things that were positive. The first was going seven innings because length defines a starter.

The second, and this was the most important thing I took from the game, came in the seventh after a pair of Amed Rosario errors, when he pitched out of it with only one run against him. When a starter can limit damage him that late in the game when he’s getting tired, that’s about as positive as you can get.

“I thought I worked well out of it,” Gsellman said. “I tried to pick up Rosario. We all make mistakes.”

As of now, Jacob deGrom, who beat the Braves Saturday, is the only given in next season’s rotation. Noah Syndergaard’s rehab took another step backward and the Mets don’t know if he’ll get into a game this season. Matt Harvey has been hit hard in his rehab games. Harvey lost two of his three starts this month with a 12.19 ERA and 20 hits allowed.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler won’t pitch again until next spring. Rafael Montero took the loss, but pitched well Friday against the Braves.

So, in looking at next year, deGrom is the only answered question. Gsellman and Montero pitched well this weekend to make their cases for next season, but nothing definitive.

Aug 30

Montero Shows What Fuss Has Been All About

Tonight, my friends, is what all the fuss surrounding Rafael Montero has been about. There it was, the eighth incredible inning in Cincinnati, and Montero was still dealing.

MONTERO: Wears the crown tonight. (AP)

MONTERO: Wears the crown tonight. (AP)

He worked quickly and confidently, challenging the Reds inside with his fastball, his slider, his changeup. It was art to watch Montero change speeds and hit his spots.

Above all, Montero pitched fearlessly, changing speeds and throwing his change-up off the inside corner. If he missed, the ball would tail further inside and not fade over the middle of the plate.

“He established inside and pitched off of that,’’ said catcher Kevin Plawecki. “He’s throwing effectively inside. That’s why he’s had so much success lately.’’

Montero is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA over his last four starts, but so importantly, averaged 6.2 innings. That length has gone a long way toward earning the trust from manager Terry Collins.

“He got easy outs,’’ Collins said. “He had a lot of 1, 2, 3-pitch outs. He probably thinks he has a home in the rotation, and he should feel that way.’’

The last time the Mets farmed out Montero, Collins told him he needed to throw strikes if he was to have a future with the Mets.

Montero took that to heart.

“When I was sent down, I said to myself, `I can’t go back there. I have to make changes.’ ’’

Montero took a one-hit, shutout into the ninth. He retired the first Red – Billy Hamilton on a grounder to second. Phillip Ervin singled to center, but Collins chose to give Montero one more batter, Zack Cozart, who promptly doubled.

Joey Votto was intentionally walked to load the bases, and put the winning run on base.

Enter AJ Ramos, who struck out Adam Duvall and Scooter Gennett to end the game and give the Mets their most significant victory in months.

And to Montero, the most significant victory of his short and tumultuous career.

Aug 19

Montero Solid Again; Flores Has Superb Effort

Rafael Montero is finally showing signs of getting it. Tonight’s outing against the Marlins encored a strong six-inning effort – only two runs – against the Yankees.

MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

         MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

That’s two of at least six innings, and seven over all that he’s worked into the sixth.

Montero’s recent success stems from working inside with his fastball to set up his change-up away. Montero also worked quickly and ahead in the count, two things he failed to do in previous years when he struggled.

“He pitched in and had good movement on his fastball,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “That’s why he got so many ground balls. We’ve been preaching to him to pound the strike zone.’’

Montero has made significant improvement, enough to where he could fit into their future plans.

Working with Kevin Plawecki, who caught him at Las Vegas, Montero gave up one run on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts in six innings to win his second game and first at Citi Field, 8-1.

Montero said his sinker was working which resulted in him getting four double plays.

If all five of the Mets vaunted starters are healthy next year, Montero could be used as a long reliever.

FLORES AT THIRD: Wilmer Flores made a diving stop of a hard-hit ball by Marcell Ozuna in the first inning to possibly save a run. He also started three double-plays.

Although he’s not Graig Nettles, Flores has always played third base reasonably well. If the Mets are looking for answers for 2018, I’d like to see them finish the season with Flores at third.

Flores also hit his 15th homer, a two-run blast in the Mets’ seven-run sixth inning. Nine of those homers have come against right-handed pitching.

I’ve long been a Flores supporter, something GM Sandy Alderson is not. I want to play Flores full time, and I can see a contender wanting him.

In addition to Flores, Plawecki also hit a two-run homer, and Dominic Smith hit his first Citi Field homer. Perhaps more important than the homer was Smith drew his first career walk.

LEADOFF HITTER: Another thing to look at is their leadoff hitter. Tonight it was Brandon Nimmo, who went 1-for-4. His .380 on-base percentage definitely works in his favor.

If not Nimmo, I’d like to see Amed Rosario get a shot. With his speed, if he walks more he could be a 50-stolen base candidate. Rosario hitting first, with Nimmo second to protect him, the Mets could have something special.

However, for Rosario to be an effective leadoff hitter he must improve his on-base percentage (it’s only .256).

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets tied a franchise record by turning five double plays. … Jeurys Familia threw 25 pitches in a scoreless inning in his second rehab appearance. … Curtis Granderson went 0-for-4, but reached on an error and scored the first run in the Dodgers’ victory over Detroit. … Smith has hit safely in five of his first nine major league games. … The win was the Mets’ 54th of the season. Conversely, the Dodgers are 53 games over .500.