Mar 30

Good Games From Montero And Duda Raise Questions

Two pertinent Mets’ issues surfaced in today’s 7-1 rout of the Marlins. The most urgent is the competition for a starter’s spot between Rafael Montero and Dillon Gee. The second is the idea of giving Lucas Duda a contract extension.

DUDA: Are Mets talking long-term? (AP)

DUDA: Are Mets talking long-term? (AP)

Coming on the heels of Gee’s strong outing Sunday, Montero was equally dominating today against Miami with six scoreless innings. He gave up two hits and no walks with six strikeouts.

The assumption is Gee would get the starter job, which is what Terry Collins said after Zack Wheeler’s season-ending elbow injury. However, the Mets have dragged their feet on making an official announcement, and now there are reports they are trying again to deal Gee.

Considering the fragility of starting pitching, and clear questions surrounding their bullpen – of which Montero would be more effective – the prudent decision would be to commit to Gee in the rotation.

As for the 29-year-old Duda, there are reports of a four-year, $31-million contract. Duda is coming off a 30-homer, 92-RBI season and will make $4.2 million this year. He went deep today and drove in five runs, so you might think Duda’s agents at the Beverly Hills Sports Council will be putting in a call to GM Sandy Alderson soon.

Reportedly, Duda’s people are interested in talking this week, but don’t want to negotiate during the season. The Mets don’t operate well when under the gun like that, which is probably a good thing.

Normally, I’d be in for signing Duda long term, but you must remember he’s only had one good season. I’m not sure one good year is worth a four-year deal.

If he does it again, then sure, but the price will go up.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notebook.

Mar 15

Re-Visiting Spring Training Questions

The Mets opened spring training with ten significant questions. A month later, let’s take a look at the status of those questions to see what progress the Mets have made in answering them:

Q: How healthy is Matt Harvey?

A: This is arguably the most important question of the season. So far, indications are positive regarding Harvey’s health. The Mets still don’t know how they’ll break down Harvey’s innings or where he will slot into the rotation.

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring.  (AP)

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring. (AP)

Q: Who breaks camp as the leadoff hitter?

A: This remains undecided, but it appears Juan Lagares is the frontrunner based on his speed. However, Lagares must still improve his on-base percentage and reduce his strikeouts. Curtis Granderson had some success hitting leadoff last year, but has more value hitting in the middle of the order.

Q: How healthy is David Wright?

A: A weak shoulder sapped Wright of his power last season and it wasn’t until Saturday when he hit his first homer of the spring. Improving their offense to complement the potential of their young pitching is largely dependent of Wright.

Q: What will be the rotation order?

A: This much we know: Harvey will pitch in one of the first five games. I am not totally sold on the notion Harvey won’t be the Opening Day starter. If not Harvey, I had been thinking about Bartolo Colon, but he’s been getting hammered. So, it is now up in the air, with possibly Jacob deGrom over Jon Niese – who I would slot in the middle of the rotation – and Zack Wheeler, who is bothered by a sore shoulder.

Q: Will Dillon Gee be traded?

A: The Mets wanted too much for Gee when they dangled him during the winter. With Wheeler ailing, the need to keep Gee has been enhanced. The Mets currently are thinking of using Gee out of the bullpen.

Q: How good is Wilmer Flores?

A: Flores needs a legitimate opportunity, and that includes sticking with him even if with a poor spring training. Flores is off to a good start offensively and has committed only two errors.

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: Bobby Parnell and Josh Edgin will open the season on the disabled list. Jenrry Mejia will come out of spring training as the closer and Jeurys Familia as the set-up closer. The Mets currently have a handful of candidates to replace Edgin as the situational lefty.

Q: Will there be any additions?

A: It stands to reason the Mets will sign a free-agent lefty reliever if they are unable to trade for one. Once teams start making roster cuts there will be a flood of free agents.

Q: Who makes an impression?

A: None of the left possibilities have been impressive, which means Rafael Montero could steal a spot in the bullpen. GM Sandy Alderson said Steven Matz would not go to the bullpen to replace Edgin. Noah Syndergaard won’t make the rotation, even with Colon having a rough spring.

Q: Any injuries?

A: This is always the wild card. Edgin is lost for the season following Tommy John surgery. Lucas Duda missed three weeks with a strained intercostal muscle. And, there’s a lot left to the spring.

Feb 26

Mets Matters: Duda Out Longer Than Expected; Pitching Updates

He’s a Met and it’s an injury, so you know this isn’t the best news. Initially it was a strained oblique muscle and Lucas Duda wouldn’t be able to swing the bat for two or three days. The injury was subsequently re-diagnosed to be a strained left intercostal muscle and will be out for at least a week.

Reportedly, Duda has been dealing with the injury for a couple of weeks.

mets-matters logoHARVEY TO THROW FRIDAY: This is what we’ve been waiting for since he last pitched in August of 2013. Matt Harvey will throw to hitters for the first time Friday. Presuming he does well, he’ll make an exhibition start, March 6, against Detroit at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie.

PARNELL THROWS: Reliever Bobby Parnell threw to hitters Thursday. The batters stood in the box without swinging. Parnell told reporters: “It felt good to see some hitters in the box. It was a big step.’’

Parnell, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, will open the season on the disabled list.

EARLY SPRING ROTATION SET: Manager Terry Collins named his early exhibition rotation:

Dillon Gee and Jon Velasquez, (March 4); Bartolo Colon and Gabriel Ynoa, (March 5); Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, (March 6); Jacob deGrom, Matt Bowman, Steven Matz and Rafael Montero, (March 7 split squad game).

ON DECK: I will preview Harvey’s throw day tomorrow morning.

Feb 25

Bullpen Close To Being Set; Would Include Gee

For the first time in his tenure as Mets’ general manager, Sandy Alderson has his bullpen close to being intact heading into spring training. And, with his rotation set, the Mets have a sense of pitching comfort they haven’t had since 2006, the last time they made the playoffs.

This is good news.

Gee: Ticketed for pen.

Gee: Ticketed for pen.

It is paramount a team have a strong bullpen if it remotely has the chance of being a contender. I like the make-up of this pen as it is loaded with hard-throwing arms, even with Bobby Parnell not available until May.

Without Parnell, the Mets have a strong idea of the relievers they’ll take north. Ideally, they want another left-hander to go with Josh Edgin, but if that doesn’t materialize they likely would carry Dillon Gee.

With the uncertainty of Matt Harvey coming back from Tommy John surgery, and if history is an indicator, and the likelihood of getting short starts from Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, there will be a need for a spot starter and long reliever as innings would need to be filled.

That’s three spots in the rotation that would call for Gee and Carlos Torres, and why Rafael Montero would be left out. There’s a strong possibility the pen would accumulate innings early in the season.

Montero us unproven working consistently out of the bullpen and should be to Triple-A Las Vegas until he would be needed, which is a possibility considering the Mets are shopping Gee and Bartolo Colon.

“You’re asking somebody to do something at the major league level that he hasn’t done very much of. And it’s important that we get out of the gate,’’ Collins told reporters about Montero. “Knowing that Bobby is going to be ready probably in the first part of May, I’m not sure where Raffy would fit in that bullpen coming out of spring training.

“If Dillon is there, we’ve only got one more spot left, and you might go with a little more experienced guy at the start of the season.’’

Joining Edgin, Gee and Torres are Jenrry Mejia as the closer replacing Parnell, followed by Jeurys Familia and Vic Black. That leaves one more. Scott Rice, perhaps?

In a perfect world, Familia would be the eighth-inning set-up man with Black available for the seventh if the starter can’t go that far.

Of course, that’s in a perfect world.

ON DECK: Don’t name an Opening Day starter now.

 

Feb 15

Top Ten Mets’ Questions Entering Spring Training

The New York Mets open spring training this week with ten key questions that must be answered in the positive to justify the optimism surrounding this team.

Of course, several questions are pitching oriented, beginning with the obvious:

Q: How healthy is Matt Harvey?

A: This is the most important question of the season. The Mets still don’t know how they’ll break down Harvey’s innings, but we should have a good sense by the time they break camp. Harvey claims to be healthy, but there is still the matter of throwing to hitters.

LAGARES: Pegged for leadoff. (AP)

LAGARES: Pegged for leadoff. (AP)

Q: Who breaks camp as the leadoff hitter?

A: Juan Lagares has the speed, but lacks the on-base percentage. Curtis Granderson was used there last season, but has more value hitting in the middle of the order.

Q: How healthy is David Wright?

A: A bum shoulder sapped Wright of his power last season. A healthy Wright answers a lot of questions. The expectations of the Mets are dependent on their young pitching and a boost from their offense, and that’s about Wright.

Q: What will be the rotation order?

A: With Harvey reportedly not starting until the seventh game of the season, I’m thinking Bartolo Colon will be the Opening Day starter followed by Zack Wheeler, then Jon Niese and Jacob deGrom. With an off day thrown in that should leave Harvey to start the April 13 home opener against Philadelphia.

Q: Will Dillon Gee be traded?

A: They’ve been trying to trade him all winter, but probably wanted too much. That’s usually the way it is with the Mets. Gee is the sixth starter, but they won’t go with a six-man rotation. They could use him in long relief or send him to the minors.

Q: How good is Wilmer Flores?

A: The one thing I don’t want to see is Flores losing his job with an off spring. He needs a legitimate opportunity, and that includes sticking with him even if he has a poor spring training. Manager Terry Collins has to convey confidence in his shortstop.

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: That depends on the health of Bobby Parnell. As it is, he’s not expected back until a month into the season. That means Jenrry Mejia should be the closer coming out of spring training with Jeurys Familia the likely set-up reliever. The Mets will probably carry seven relievers, but how many will be left-handed?

Q: Will there be any additions?

A: The Mets’ biggest off-season acquisition was outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who’ll start in right field, with Granderson playing left. They also picked up John Mayberry for their bench. If everybody stays healthy, there is no reason to add anybody. Of course, at the end of spring training there is always a flood of available players who have been released.

Q: Who makes an impression?

A: Does Rafael Montero steal a spot? Will Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard leave a mark for later in the summer? Will Eric Campbell win a spot on the bench? For a team with six straight losing seasons, the Mets don’t have many issues with their starting position players. The main issues are with the bench and batting order.

Q: Any injuries?

A: This is always the wild card. Something could always happen, and if it does will the Mets have the depth to overcome? What must happen is for the Mets not to push the envelope with Harvey and Wright. It’s a long season.