Jun 04

Mets Wrap: No-Names Spark Victory

If the Mets return to the World Series, they’ll get there with their young starting pitching and the power that has become their offensive trademark. However, they’ll also need what they received in Saturday’s 6-4 victory at Miami; a representative start from Bartolo Colon and important contributions by their non-descript players; those off the bench, at the bottom of the order and newcomers.

CONFORTO: Breakout signs. (AP)

CONFORTO: Breakout signs. (AP)

All came into play to support of Colon, who gave up two runs in five innings.

“We’ve said all along that we need guys to step up and pick each other up,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

With David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list, and on a day when Yoenis Cespedes was a late scratch with a sore right hip and they didn’t homer, the Mets got:

* Three more hits from Wilmer Flores, Wright’s replacement at third. He has five hits over the last two games.

* Matt Reynolds, who collected his first career RBI with a pinch-hit single in the eighth for what proved to be the game-winning hit.

* James Loney, acquired to replace Duda, had three hits, including a double in the eighth, and scored the tying run on Michael Conforto’s single hit.

* Juan Lagares made a diving backhand catch to rob Ichiro Suzuki of two RBI to end the sixth.

* Alejandro De Aza hit a two-run double iced the game in the ninth.

* Another strong relief appearance from Addison Reed.

Although the Mets didn’t homer and stranded 14 runners, they did string together 15 hits and went 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

There will be more days like Friday when they ripped three homers – something they’ve done 11 times this year – there will be more when they don’t and will need what they received today.

METS GAME WRAP

June 4, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #54          Score:  Mets 6, Marlins 4

Record: 31-23     Streak: W 2

Standings: Second, NL East, 1 game behind Washington.  Playoffs: First WC, 1.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh.

Runs: 54    Average:  3.8   Times 3 or less: 26

SUMMARY:  Reynolds, Loney and De Aza – the non-stars – backed Colon, who gave the Mets five innings despite not having his best start.

KEY MOMENT:  Lagares’ diving catch – in which he bruised his left thumb – robbed Suzuki of two RBI and possibly stave off a potential big inning.

THUMBS UP:  The struggling Conforto drove in two runs with a single and sacrifice fly. … Another strong inning from Reed, who has 12 holds. … Jim Henderson relieved Jerry Blevins to get out of the seventh. … Reynolds, Loney, Flores and De Aza combined for eight hits and four RBI. … Lagares’ defense.

THUMBS DOWN:  Kevin Plawecki failed to touch the plate on a force play. … Jeurys Familia remains an adventure in the ninth. … Hansel Robles, quick pitch or not, gave up a run on a hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Cespedes was scratched 30 minutes before the game with a sore right hip and is day-to-day. … Lagares bruised his left thumb on the catch and was unable to grip a bat. The DL is a possibility. … Jacob deGrom pinch-hit for Reed and popped out to end the ninth. The Mets had a three-run lead at the time. It begs the question of why risk an injury to a starting pitcher. Just let Reed hit.

QUOTEBOOK: “I bruised my finger a little. We’ll see how it feels [Sunday],’’ Lagares on his thumb injury.

BY THE NUMBERS:  13.1: Consecutive scoreless innings by Reed.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey (4-7) goes for the sweep Sunday against Marlins ace Jose Fernandez.

Please follow me on Twitter

Jun 03

Wright To DL; Here’s Appetizing Options To Replace Him

The anticipated is now reality and for the second straight season the Mets will place David Wright on the disabled list for an extended period. They are saying possibly six weeks, which could mean a return in late July or August, or maybe not at all this year.

WRIGHT: Who is behind him? (AP)

WRIGHT: Who is behind him? (AP)

Knowing Wright’s condition entering the season, the Mets had to have several contingency plans, including Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell – enter your scream here – or possibly moving Neil Walker to third and bringing up Dilson Herrera.

Those don’t sound appealing, but how excited are you at giving Matt Reynolds a real chance? I’m warmer to that because I want to see if Reynolds can be a viable player. Wright’s injury seems the only way he’ll get a chance.

The trade market includes getting Kelly Johnson back from the Braves – they should have re-signed him in the first place – or going after Milwaukee’s Aaron Hill, San Diego’s Yangervis Solarte or the Angels’ Yunel Escobar.

* Hill, 34, is making $12 million and is a free-agent after the season, so there won’t be a long-term commitment. He’s hitting .274 with six homers and 21 RBI.

* Solarte, 28, is making $525,500 and is arbitration eligible this winter. He’s hitting .339 with three homers and 13 RBI.

* Escobar, 33, is making $7 million this year with the Angels holding a team option of $7 million (with a $1 million buyout). He’s hitting .306 with three homers and 13 RBI.

All are serviceable and none should be too expensive.

Thinking outside the box, the Yankees would probably love to unload the underperforming Chase Headley, who making $13 million this year in exchange for hitting .232 with three homers and 11 RBI. However, scuttling any chance of him coming crosstown is that he’ll make $13 next year and in 2018.

Please follow me on Twitter

May 29

Loney Was Best Possible Available Option For Mets

James Loney might not have been the best player the Mets could have gotten to replace Lucas Duda at first base for the next two months, but considering how they do things he was the best possible option.

The Mets considered several internal options – including Wilmer Flores – but acted with unusual swiftness for them by getting Loney, 32, from San Diego for cash.

LONEY: Best available choice. (AP)

LONEY: Best available choice. (AP)

I would have preferred Adam LaRoche, but the speculated cost in coaxing him out of retirement from the White Sox would probably have been too high. However, I definitely prefer Loney over a mix-and-match platoon of Eric Campbell and Flores. He’s also a better option than moving Michael Conforto or David Wright to new positions.

“Loney was an immediate, obvious possibility in terms of ease of acquisition and a variety of things,” GM Sandy Alderson told reporters. “We had someone go and look at James a couple of games last week and earlier in the month. We felt this was the right move for us at the moment.

“We felt we needed another left-handed bat. James doesn’t have a lot of power. He hasn’t demonstrated that, but we’ve got that elsewhere in the lineup. He’s someone who hits from the left side, a contact hitter, doesn’t strike out a lot. He could be a nice fit for us.”

Manager Terry Collins, whose roots are in the Dodger system as are Loney’s, has known him for 15 years.

“He’ll add a nice dimension to us,” Collins said. “He’s a very good first baseman. He’s a good offensive player. He’s not necessarily a big power guy. He’s a tremendous guy in the clubhouse.”

Loney was released by the Rays this spring and had been with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in El Paso, Texas, where he was hitting .342 with two homers and 28 RBI in 158 at-bats.

Loney was to make $9.6 million this year, but because he was released by the Rays, the Mets are responsible for the pro-rated major league minimum for him.

All in all, it was the best possible deal the Mets could have made.

 

May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

Please follow me on Twitter

May 19

Collins Must Share Blame For Wright; DL Should Be Considered

In the 20-plus-years I have written about major league baseball, there are a handful of players I admire and respect as much as David Wright.

Even so, I am still objective as to what I see and it currently isn’t good. Wright was scratched Tuesday because of a sore back, and then returned to go 0-for-4 with three more strikeouts Wednesday.

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

WRIGHT: DL bound? (AP)

Wright is in persistent discomfort and needs up to two hours to get ready to play. He is not suited to pinch-hit, especially in cold weather, as he did Sunday in Colorado. Wright knows not to push it, but when asked he will play. That’s in his DNA.

Translated: Manager Terry Collins did Wright a disservice when he asked him to pinch-hit. Winning one game in mid-May isn’t as important as risking losing him for the long haul.

I know Collins wants to win, but he was wrong, selfish and shortsighted for asking Wright to pinch-hit. It isn’t the first time Collins pushed the envelope with Wright or other players. Don’t forget his panic move of labeling the eighth game of the season “must win,’’ and pushing Wright, Jim Henderson and Jeurys Familia, none of whom should have played that day.

Wright would never finger-point at his manager. The bottom line is Collins should have been smart enough to not put Wright in that position.

“I don’t know,” Wright told Newsday on whether pinch-hitting took him out of Tuesday’s lineup. “Again, it’s probably not the ideal circumstances. But this is the National League, you really don’t have that much leeway especially when you’re playing with a short bench.”

That puts the onus on the manager to pay attention to what he has available.

Wright is batting .221, which is a career-low for this point in the season. He already has 47 strikeouts in 113 at-bats, with four homers and eight RBI. He’s on pace to strike out 195 times, hit 17 homers and drive in 33 runs. His on-base percentage of .362 gives us glimpses of him still being a productive player.

“The back thing is just something that I’m going to have to get used to because it’s not changing,” Wright told reporters. “But I feel like I can play at a much higher level than I’m playing at right now.

“I think that there are certainly some things I’m having to make adjustments with as far as preparation, as far as playing schedule, that I’m going to have to get used to. But when I go take the field I expect to play much better than I am right now.”

Is Wright done?

I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows. It’s worth sticking with him to find out, but that means staying with the plan and not deviating. That’s all on the manager.

Can Wright play Thursday night? That’s up in the air. If his availability is day-to-day and Collins doesn’t know what he has on any given night, he should go on the disabled list.

Go back to the beginning. Get re-examined and concentrate on nothing but getting stronger for the next couple of weeks. And, during this time, management should have a sit-down with Collins and tell him to get with the program and stick with it.

A lot of things must happen for this to work, including the manager being smarter than he has been.