Apr 30

Mets Wrap: Duda Not Ready

Whatever the Mets say regarding injuries, always take the over. Always. So, when the Mets suggested Monday as a possible return date for Lucas Duda (hyperextended left elbow), you knew that wasn’t going to happen.

DUDA: Nothing to cheer about. (AP)

DUDA: Nothing to cheer about. (AP)

After complaining of discomfort in trying to make a full extension, the Mets pushed back his return date to undecided.

In the interim, T.J. Rivera will continue to play first base. Should Duda be out for a significant period, it might force the Mets’ to reconsider bringing up prospect Dominic Smith from Triple-A Vegas.

Meanwhile, Duda’s normal back-up, Wilmer Flores, began his rehab assignment at Port St. Lucie. Since it is apparent the Mets have no inkling to have Flores as anything other than a reserve, they might as well bring up Smith.

PLAWECKI PITCHES: Manager Terry Collins raised the white flag in today’s 23-5 mauling to the Nationals when he brought in reserve catcher Kevin Plawecki after Matt Wieters’ three-run homer in the seventh off Josh Smoker.

Plawecki set the Nationals down in order on three flyouts to the wall.

However, Bryce Harper homered to lead off the eighth inning. Adam Lind added a two-run homer and Anthony Rendon also homered. For Rendon, it was his third homer of the game to give him ten RBI.

MOVING REYES: Jose Reyes was moved up to second in the order and played shortstop while Asdrubal Cabrera had the day off.

Reyes looks more comfortable playing shortstop, and with Cabrera bothered by hamstring issues, perhaps flipping them might be the way to go. Then, again Reyes committed a run-producing error in the seventh, so, who knows?

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets’ bullpen gave up 18 runs in 7.2 innings, but four of those were charged to Plawecki, followed by Sean Gilmartin (five), Fernando Salas (three) and Smoker (six). … Curtis Granderson finished April hitting .128 with six RBI.

UP NEXT: The Mets visit Atlanta’s new stadium for the start of a three-game series Monday with Robert Gsellman going against Julio Teheran.

Apr 29

Will Alderson Ever Say, `Conforto Needs To Play?’

After Michael Conforto‘s second homer today, the cynic in me couldn’t help but wonder, how will GM Sandy Alderson now try to limit his playing time? That is, of course, if Yoenis Cespedes is able to come back sooner than originally anticipated.

CONFORTO: Celebrating long ball. (AP)

CONFORTO: Celebrating long ball. (AP)

When Cespedes injured his hamstring Thursday and placed on the disabled list the following day, original reports indicated a serious injury, but today Alderson called it “mild.” Yeah, I’m buying into that diagnosis big time.

After opening the season on the bench following a hot spring, Conforto responded to his limited playing time until when the Mets’ anemic hitting forced manager Terry Collins to start him. The player last year Collins said would be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future.

That is until he went 0-for-5 a year ago Monday against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner that sent him into a downward spiral. From there, Conforto rode the Flushing-Vegas shuttle for much of last season, and when spring training started after Alderson re-signed Cespedes and was unable to trade Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson, conventional thinking had him opening in the minors.

However, Conforto kept hitting, first as a pinch-hitter and role player, until he broke into the starting lineup as a starter on April 20. Most recently he replaced Jose Reyes at the top of the order roughly a week ago. Since starting full time, Conforto has gone 11-for-30 with four homers and six RBI, and overall is batting .298 with a .386 on-base percentage, six homers and 12 RBI.

“Michael had a huge day for us and we needed it,” Collins said, “I have to salute him. When you’re not in the lineup every day you have to make the most of it. … He’s done a tremendous job in the leadoff spot. Just tremendous.”

Conforto hit a two-run homer in the fifth and solo homer in the eighth, the latter coming off lefty reliever Enny Romero. Conforto isn’t cocky, but he’s definitely not short of confidence. Despite what Alderson and Collins might worry about, Conforto has no double about his ability to hit left-handers, which is what it is going to take to stay in the lineup when Cespedes returns.

“Huge,” Conforto said when asked what kind of lift his homer off Romero gave him. “I’ve always felt I could hit lefties. No matter who is out there, I feel I can hit them. … As long as I put the work in, everything will take care of itself. I worry about what I can control and not worry about the other stuff.”

Conforto and Collins said all the right things today. What’s next would be for Alderson to finally say, “the kid has to play.”

Apr 19

Game Wrap: Bruce Hammers Phillies

First booed, and then the subject of trade rumors over the winter, Jay Bruce is now taking curtain calls.

“It shows how much respect they have for him,” manager Terry Collins said of the affection given Bruce.

BRUCE: Homers twice. (AP)

BRUCE: Homers twice. (AP)

After GM Sandy Alderson failed to deal Bruce this winter after extending Yoenis Cespedes, the frustrated Mets’ right fielder vowed he wasn’t intimidated by New York.

“He told me in spring training, `I’m the guy you traded for.’ He’s a run producer and we’re glad to have him,” Collins told reporters after Bruce’s monster game, two homers and five RBI in a 5-4 victory over the Phillies Wednesday night that snapped the Mets’ four-game losing streak.

“I don’t think any game in April is a must win, but we needed this one,” Bruce said.

Bruce’s first homer was a three-run drive off Vince Velasquez is the sixth inning to erase a 2-0 deficit. His second was a two-run drive off Edubray Ramos that broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth. Collins said prior to the game what had been missing during the Mets’ skid was power, but Bruce provided that tonight.

“We need to get it going,” Collins said. “This is something that could get us started.”

GSELLMAN ULTRA SHARP: The Mets had a chance to get it going because Robert Gsellman became their first starter to see the eighth inning this season.

“We talked before that he’s got to get us deep into to the game because our bullpen is exhausted,” Collins said.

Gsellman gave up three runs on six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in seven innings.

DUDA, d’ARNAUD HURT: First baseman Lucas Duda and catcher Travis d’Arnaud left the game with injuries and won’t play Thursday.

Duda sustained a hyperextended left elbow in the fifth inning when he reached across the baseline to field Gsellman’s throw and his arm caught runner Cesar Hernandez.

D’Arnaud was hurt two innings later when his hand struck Aaron Altherr’s bat on a throw to second.

REYES PLAYS: Despite a run-producing error and a dreadful hitting slump to start the season, Jose Reyes started as Collins promised.

“He deserves the chance to get a chance to turn things around,” Collins said. “He earned that right.”

CESPEDES BASE BLUNDER: Poor base running by Cespedes cost the Mets a run in the first inning. On first base, Cespedes took a peak over his shoulder running toward third instead of looking at the third base coach.

Doing so forced him to slow down a step and change his stride. When that happened, he had to look for the bag and missed coach Glenn Sherlock’s stop sign.

ROTATION WON’T CHANGE: There are no plans to push Thursday’s starter, Noah Syndergaard, back a day so he could start against the Nationals instead of the Phillies. It was thought Collins might push Syndergaard back after he tore a fingernail in his last start.

Apr 18

Game Wrap: Reyes’ Error, Bullpen Sinks Mets

It has been thought since spring training the Mets’ bullpen would always be their Achilles Heel that turned out to be the case in tonight’s 6-2 10-inning loss to the Phillies.

The Mets took a 2-1 lead in the first but didn’t score the rest of the night. The Mets only managed four hits all night. They went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position – Jay Bruce’s RBI single in the first – and stranded seven runners.

Meanwhile, the pen – not helped by Jose Reyes’ monumental error in the eighth – coughed up the lead, then caved in tenth with four runs against Rafael Montero.

“It’s frustrating because we’ve lost four in a row,” manager Terry Collins said. “We just didn’t make pitches when we needed to.”

ANOTHER STEP FOR WHEELER: Zack Wheeler’s pitch count remains too high for the number of innings he throws, but you can sense his progress. He gave up a run on four hits with seven strikeouts on 99 pitches spanning five innings.

Did Wheeler pitch well enough to win? Yes, if the offense had scored.

“I’ve been impressed with the way he’s handled things and kept up in the game,” Collins said.

INTERESTING LINEUP: Collins’ batting order bears watching, especially if Reyes continues to flounder. Michael Conforto started in center in place of Curtis Granderson and hit leadoff, with Reyes dropped to seventh.

With Reyes not getting on base or running, Conforto’s .417 on-base percentage is eye-popping, especially in comparison to Reyes’ .100 average and .182 on-base percentage.

Reyes doubled in four at-bats and committed a costly error in the eighth when he dropped Freddy Galvis’ pop-up.

The Phillies had runners on the corners after the error, but could have won the game in regulation had Galvis hustled and taken second.

Collins said he’ll stick with Reyes.

“He’s earned the right to get the chance to turn it around,” Collins said.

 

Apr 15

DeGrom Start Wasted; Let Second Guessing Begin

Sooner or later you had to wonder when the Mets’ overworked bullpen would betray them.

It happened tonight.

Fernando Salas, working for the eighth time in 12 games, surrendered eighth-inning, back-to-back homers to Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, to power the Marlins over the Mets, 5-4, and trash another superb start from Jacob deGrom.

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

Not only has Salas been overused, it must be remembered he arrived in spring training late because of a visa issue.

Salas retired his first two batters and then walked Miguel Rojas. When a reliever walks a hitter on four straight pitches, he needs to be pulled.

Yelich is already a slugging star, and the Mets had lefties Jerry Blevins and Sean Gilmartin manager Terry Collins could have gone to in that situation. Considering how much Salas has worked lately, why did Collins keep him in the game?

“I didn’t want to go with Blevins because he has pitched in five of the last six games,” Collins testily barked to reporters.

However, Gilmartin, who was brought up after the 16-inning game Thursday for the sole purpose of pitching late in a game, was fresh.

Salas fell behind 3-and-1 before grooving a pitch Yelich couldn’t help but crush. Over-managing and stubborn to the end, Collins let Salas face Stanton.

You knew that wasn’t going to end well.

Collins said he wanted Salas to face Stanton, but what does that say about his confidence in Addison Reed and Hansel Robles?

The second-guessing of Collins began before Salas entered the game. DeGrom got off to a rocky start, giving up back-to-back homers in the second to Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna, then regrouped to retire the next 11 hitters. The Mets really needed deGrom’s effort considering how their bullpen has been taxed recently, including throwing 11.1 scoreless innings Thursday.

DeGrom gave up two runs on four hits and one walk and tied his career-high with 13 strikeouts in seven innings. He was on cruise control and had only thrown 97 pitches. He struck out his last four hitters.

“He was pitching great,” Collins said. “It’s easy to second-guess. We made a commitment to protect these guys. … If I let him stay in and he got hit you’d be asking me, `Why did I let him pitch?’ ”

That’s fair, but it comes with the territory with managing in the major leagues. DeGrom could have, but did not, throw his manager under the bus.

“Honestly, I didn’t know how many pitches I had,” deGrom said. “I thought I was out after that inning anyway.”

As far as stretching out his start, deGrom said: “The goal is to stay healthy. Salas had been doing a good job. I felt comfortable handing the ball over to the next guy.”

One of the beautiful aspects of baseball is it being ripe to second guess and discuss and debate strategy. Few basketball fans will second guess Gregg Popovich, but what baseball fan doesn’t feel comfortable scratching his head about the manager he follows?

CONFORTO DELIVERS: One of the hardest things in baseball to do is to pinch-hit, and it is even harder when all eyes are on you and you’re expected to produce in order to stay. Well, that’s exactly the case with the Mets’ Michael Conforto, who drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.

Sure, Conforto wants to start, what young player doesn’t? But, when things haven’t gone his way, he’s stayed quiet and gone about his business. Overall, he’s hitting .400 with two homers and six RBI, including 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI as a pinch-hitter.

Neil Walker lead off the seventh with a bunt single to third against Marlins starter Adam Conley, and scored on a triple by Curtis Granderson, who scored on Conforto’s deep fly to center.

Asdrubal Cabrera homered with one out in the eighth against reliever Junichi Tazawa. It marked the 11th straight game in which they homered and gave them a major league-high 22.

LOVE THOSE BUNTS: The other night it was Jay Bruce laying one down towards third against the shift. Tonight it was Walker leading off the seventh with a bunt single. Last year Collins made a big deal out of calling his team a “home run hitting team,” and that they aren’t built to manufacture runs. This year, they lead the majors with 22 homers but have shown the ability to scratch out runs.

Walker also doubled in the Mets’ first run in the first.

EXTRA INNINGS: Lefty-hitters Bruce, Lucas Duda and Conforto did not start against Conley. … All players wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. Granderson wore special spikes for the occasion that he will auction and donate to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. … Wilmer Flores made a run-saving grab of a hard hit ball down the first base line by Stanton.

HARVEY STARTS SUNDAY: Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.92) goes Sunday for the Mets against RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 7.56). Harvey is 12-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 17 career starts in April, easily his best numbers in any month.