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.

Jan 27

Mets Rotation: A Difference Between Depth And Potential

There’s a distinct difference between depth and potential when it comes to the Mets’ rotation. There’s a lot to like about their potential, but you should be careful not to equate the names with depth.

Matt Harvey, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz give you nine names, but also nine questions.

Harvey: How will he respond from elbow surgery?

Colon: He’s 41 and the Mets are trying to trade him. If they do, will anybody give them the 200 innings he gave the Mets last year?

Wheeler: Will he improve his command and thereby increase his innings?

deGrom: Can he encore his Rookie of the Year season?

Gee: Will he be gone by Opening Day?

Niese: Will he live up to his expectations and stay healthy?

Montero: Can he improve what has been keeping him back, which is his control?

Syndergaard: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Matz: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Sure, the best-case scenario is to have all these answered in the positive, but that rarely happens. Hopefully, these issues can be resolved and the Mets can count on these guys to be moved in the depth category.

I asked nine questions about potential Mets’ starters for 2015. Let me ask one more: Who among you haven’t wondered the same?

Oct 13

How Mets Should Handle Matt Harvey’s Innings

Operating under the assumption Matt Harvey will be ready for spring training and subsequently the start of the season, there will undoubtedly be an innings limitation.

In theory, the Mets want him ready for a postseason push. They haven’t announced what the cap would be, but let’s figure on 175-180 innings – which is at least three starts shy of the hoped for 200.

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

So, what are their options?

The first is to do nothing and let him pitch … pitch … and pitch. Undoubtedly, that’s Harvey’s choice, but it won’t happen. Why risk another injury?

Another is to pitch him without game or innings restrictions, then cut him in September if the Mets aren’t in contention. However, if they go that route and the Mets are in the race, they would be doing a disservice to their players and fans, and actually the integrity of the game because they wouldn’t be putting their best team on the field.
That’s not ideal, and neither is the pick-and-choose method, which would be to juggle him with off days and selected starts.

Also, not preferred is to pull him if the Mets are winning late in a game. Harvey will moan about this, and his noise would be amplified if the Mets’ bullpen blew the game.

One option because of the off days in April and the high probability of bad weather is to bag that month entirely or at least the first two weeks.

On the positive, it would keep him out of the cold weather. On the negative, he would still pile up innings in extended spring training games.

Finally, and I think it is the best – it’s something the Nationals didn’t do with Stephen Strasburg – is to have their figure in mind from the start and schedule accordingly.

That would mean making a schedule for the entire season and not deviate. Rainouts would only help the Mets because it would push him back.

In this format, the Mets could schedule skip days now for Harvey and not go on the fly. In addition, they could put him a rigid innings cap, but that would irritate him and lead to an occasional blown save.

However, if the Mets and Harvey knew from the outset his cap would be seven innings both parties could plan accordingly.

Harvey wouldn’t necessarily have to pace himself and Collins would know his bullpen options before the game started. They would accept the blown save as part of the deal.

This format would require discipline from Collins and acceptance from Harvey, which would be more likely because there wouldn’t be any surprises.

Like it or not, this is the hand the Mets have been dealt and must play.

In addition, they might consider plans for Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler.

All of this proves the cliché “you can never have too much pitching.’’

As frustrating as this might be, the Mets are set up for this complicated option because they have Rafael Montero, Carlos Torres and sometime in June, Noah Syndergaard. They also have depth with Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee.

 

Sep 21

DeGrom Shines Again In Sweep Of Braves

There isn’t any doubt in my mind Jacob deGrom should be the National League’s Rookie of the Year. What he did in today’s 10-2 rout of the Braves to complete a rare sweep in Atlanta – one earned run with ten strikeouts in six innings – should seal it.

What today also might have sealed – although Terry Collins isn’t saying – is deGrom’s ledger for the season. The Mets figured 180 innings for deGrom this year and he’s at 178.2.

Collins will make a decision early this week.

“We’ll regroup here in a couple of days and decide what we’re going to do with him as far as his next start goes,’’ Collins told reporters after the game. “He’s real close to where we wanted him to get anyway on the season. We were talking from 180 to 185 was going to be max anyway. We’ll just see if he starts the next game.’’

DeGrom: Impressive again. (AP)

DeGrom: Impressive again. (AP)

Collins said he’s impressed with deGrom’s stuff, both on the mound and from within.

“I know one thing: He walked in here and he said he wanted to pitch,’’ Collins said. “He’s not sitting back saying, ‘OK, I’ll just shut her down.’ He wants to go back out there.

“That was impressive to hear. This time of year, in our situation, it would have been very easy for a lot of guys to say, ‘I’m done. I’m washed up.’ He’s not like that.’’

Collins has been impressed with the Mets’ unwillingness to pack in the season, and that’s a good reflection on him and why he’ll be back.

I have no problem with the Mets shutting down deGrom now, although it would be nice for him to take a bow at Citi Field in the season’s final weekend. The Mets are being ultra cautious, which is what to expect from them evidenced by their treatment of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.

If today was deGrom’s final start, he finished at 9-6 with a 2.63 ERA, 43 walks and 144 strikeouts. Those are definitely Rookie of the Year credentials.

Assuming deGrom is shut down, Rafael Montero would start next Saturday against Houston