Sep 05

Three Mets’ Storylines: The Importance Of Colon

To a player, every year is an audition for the next, and here’s hoping the Mets are taking copious notes on Bartolo Colon. With how well he’s pitched, how ravaged the rotation has been, and the uncertainty of Zack Wheeler’s future, it should be a given re-signing Colon is a priority.

It doesn’t matter he’s 43, or can’t throw his fastball through a wall, or the ceiling of their younger pitchers, Colon knows how to pitch. Colon knows what he has, or more importantly, what he doesn’t possess.

COLON: Bring him back. (AP)

COLON: Bring him back. (AP)

“We had a man on the mound,” manager Terry Collins said. “Nothing fazes him. He gave us what he always does, which is quality innings. He’s an amazing guy.

“Every fifth day he takes the baseball. You don’t have to worry about pitch counts. You don’t have to worry about innings. All he does is make pitches.”

But, none of those pitches were more important than in the third and sixth innings when the Reds had a runner on third with no outs, and twice came away empty. That enabled the half-asleep Mets’ offense time to wake up with three tack-on runs to beat the Reds, 5-0, on Labor Day.

With the victory, the Mets kept heat on St. Louis for the second wild-card and moved to six-games over .500 (72-66), a level they hadn’t been since the night of July 27 when they lost to the Cardinals as Jeurys Familia blew his first save of the season.

The Mets, save Colon, who flew in Sunday afternoon, were dog tired after playing a night game and flying in well past midnight. The Mets were asking Colon to carry them, which he has done now for three seasons.

On Aug. 19, the Mets fell two games below .500 with a loss in San Francisco. Colon beat the Giants the next day to jumpstart the Mets on a stretch where they have won 12 of their next 16 games.

During that stretch, Colon won three games at a time when the Mets lost Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom from the rotation.

Colon gave up five hits and a walk in six scoreless innings to raise his record to a team-high 13-7 with a 3.22 ERA. Colon does it by keeping the Reds off balance by working quickly and staying ahead in the count with a fastball that didn’t stray much over 90 mph.

While Noah Syndergaard throws in the high 90s and sometimes touches triple digits, and deGrom raises red flags when his fastball drops to 91 mph., Colon remains a testament to the pitching tenants of location and movement over velocity.

It’s something the vaunted Mets youthful rotation should learn from, as well as they could from how often to throw between starts. In essence, he’s an active pitching coach.

“If you don’t learn stuff watching him pitch, you’re wasting your time,” Collins said.

For as well as Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman pitched as spot starters, here’s hoping the Mets aren’t seduced by their success and don’t assume Matt Harvey, deGrom and Matz will return without incident. And, for not pitching for the last two years, the Mets can’t assume anything with Wheeler.

However, for the bargain basement cost of $7.25 million, Colon leads the rotation in wins (13), starts (28) and innings pitched (164.2).

Colon doesn’t fit the prototype, but all he does is come through and that’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

REYNOLDS RAKES: While everybody was tired, probably nobody was more drained than Matt Reynolds, who flew all night from Salt Lake City and arrived a few hours before game time.

Reynolds caught the red-eye from Salt Lake City to catch a connection in Boston before heading to Cincinnati. And, it didn’t help he was seated next to one of those obnoxious fliers who insist on talking non-stop.

Reynolds drove in two runs on three hits, including a homer, to lead an offense that rested Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Reyes, Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera (he appeared as a pinch-hitter and singled).

“I just wanted to go out there and play and have fun,’’ Reynolds told SNY. “I didn’t try to put too much pressure on myself.”

Reynolds said a key was an adjustment he made in Triple-A to move closer to the plate, which forced him to shorten his swing.

BULLPEN STRONG AGAIN: Before this season is over, the Mets’ bullpen will throw a pile of innings, perhaps too many for Collins’ liking.

Collins was able to rest Addison Reed and Familia, who were both used in a non-save situation the night before.

Collins got an inning from the recently-and-frequently abused Hansel Robles; two-thirds of an inning from Jerry Blevins; and 1.1 innings from the recently acquired Fernando Salas.

BRUCE RETURNS HOME: Cincinnati will always be home to Jay Bruce, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his return to Great American Ballpark.

The Reds honored Bruce prior to the game with a video tribute and made a donation to his foundation that supports children with development disabilities.

“It was good. It was a bit odd,” said Bruce. “The Reds took the time to welcome me back. It was what I expected out of this organization. They treated me great the whole time I was here.”

EXTRA INNINGS: Kelly Johnson hit his tenth homer. In looking ahead, the Mets need to seriously consider bringing back Johnson, who doesn’t appear ready to retire. … Wilmer Flores had an interesting day, getting thrown out at second trying to stretch a single and at third attempting to stretch a double. I admit, I was hoping to see him try for an inside-the-park homer. C’mon, admit it, so were you. … The shutout was the Mets’ 11th of the year.

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Aug 01

Mets Get Bruce From Reds; Raises Questions

Updated to include quotes from Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins.

You can still find Brandon Nimmo with the Mets. Nimmo had been traded to Cincinnati for Jay Bruce, but that changed when he reportedly failed his physical and had to be replaced by second base prospect Dilson Herrera. Minor league lefty prospect Max Wotell was also included in the trade.

BRUCE: Running to Mets. (AP)

  BRUCE: Running to Mets. (AP)

The Mets added Herrera after the Reds found something they didn’t like with Nimmo’s physical. Nimmo had a foot injury earlier this year.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson would not confirm it was Nimmo who had the medical issue, but that’s not hard to figure out since he was pulled and Herrera was added.

The 29-year-old Bruce is expected to offer the punch that has been severely lacking, hitting .265 with 25 homers and a league-leading 80 RBI, and perhaps most importantly, a .360 average with RISP. Bruce has been on the Mets’ radar for over a year when they offered Zack Wheeler last July before landing Yoenis Cespedes.

“We haven’t had time to talk about playing time will be broken down,” Alderson said. “He’ll provide a big presence in the middle of the lineup. … One player could have a significant impact. Somebody like Jay Bruce can be a catalyst.”

Q: What is Bruce’s contractual status?

A: Bruce is in the final months of a six-year, $51 million contract, which includes a $13 million option (or $1 million buyout) for 2017. Bruce is making $12.5 million this season. Alderson said the club option was essential.

“We would not have done the deal without the extra year of control,” Alderson said. “We would not have done the deal as a rental.”

Specifically, this gives the Mets a safety net should Cespedes opt out and leave after this season.

Q: Where will Bruce play?

A: With Cespedes insisting on playing left field, Bruce could go to right field with Curtis Granderson moving to center.

Q: How does the deal impact Cespedes and Michael Conforto?

A: If there is a time to put Cespedes (strained right quad) on the disabled list it is now (actually, it should have been three weeks ago). Having Bruce gives the Mets the flexibility of placing Cespedes on the disabled list now, which is preferable to risking an injury and losing him in September. What Bruce does is offer the Mets a safety net should Cespedes opt out after this season.

As for Conforto, he’ll stay up here if Cespedes goes on the DL. However, there’s a strong chance they’ll send him back to the minors and bring him up again in September unless there’s an injury before then.

Q: What about the long-term future with Granderson?

A: It’s all fluid now as Granderson has one more year on his contract and the Mets can choose not to bring back Bruce for 2017.

Q: Does it matter that even with Bruce the Mets don’t have a conventional outfield?

A: Not in the least, simply because the Mets don’t have a conventional outfield now. Bruce will report to the Mets tomorrow. Beginning Wednesday, the Mets will have five games in American League parks (two with the Yankees and three in Detroit), where they can buy some time with Cespedes.

Unbelievably, Collins said the Mets hope Cespedes might be able to play center field by the end of the week.

Q: What is the fallout with Herrera?

A: The sticking point in getting Lucroy from the Brewers was them not wanting to give up Herrera. This could enhance their chances of keeping Neil Walker, who can opt out if he wants after the season. Of course, that could mean giving him more money. Part of the reason why Alderson let Daniel Murphy walk was in part because of Herrera. Alderson said the Mets have some infield depth for next year with Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes.

Q: Anything else?

A: Right at the deadline, the Mets reaquired Jon Niese from Pittsburgh for lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo. Niese will be used primarily out of the bullpen – “I didn’t forget the job he did last year [in relief],” Collins said – but could be slotted in if another starter needed a day of rest.

Aug 01

Bruce To Mets Heating Up

The Mets got into the Jay Bruce talks rather late, but multiple reports have emerged as them being a front-runner to add the left-handed hitting corner outfielder from Cincinnati. Going to the Reds would be prospects, possibly including outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who had quickly become a Citi Field favorite, or infield prospect Dilson Herrera.

Bruce is in the final months of a six-year, $51-million contract that includes a club option of $13 million ($1 million buyout for 2017). He’s currently making $12.5 million this year.

I like Bruce, and liked him last year when the Mets offered Zack Wheeler for him before landing Yoenis Cespedes. However, if the Mets’ intention is to use him solely as a rental, I would pass and keep Nimmo or Herrera.

I think the playoffs are slipping away and they need more than Bruce to push them in.

Also talking with Cincinnati are the Giants and Rangers. The Dodgers were in it earlier, but those talks stalled.

Aug 01

Mets Still Talking …

As the trade deadline rapidly approaches, the Mets remain in “buy mode” and as of this morning were still talking with Cincinnati about left-handed hitting corner outfielder Jay Bruce and Milwaukee about catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Both players have manageable contracts, no-trade clauses that don’t include the Mets and would help their listless offense. They might not help in the way Yoenis Cespedes did last season, but would improve what we’ve been seeing for the better part of three months.

BRUCE: Still hope. (AP)

     BRUCE: Still hope. (AP)

As as far as Lucroy is concerned, those talks might have fizzled by now. The last offer on the table for Lucroy was catcher Travis d’Arnaud and either minor league infielder Dilson Herrera or outfielder Brandon Nimmo (but not both).

However, the Brewers backed off when they appeared to trade Lucroy to Cleveland. Only after Lucroy turned down the trade, were talks revisited. At that time the Brewers might have asked for both Nimmo and Herrera, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

If the Brewers trade Lucroy, it most likely appears it will be to Texas.

As for Bruce, the Mets talked with Cincinnati about him last season before landing Cespedes (they were willing to give up Zack Wheeler). The Mets face competition for Bruce from the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. Detroit and the Rangers have also engaged the Reds.

Interestingly, both Bruce and Lucroy could be free-agents this winter if the teams they are with do not pick up their club options for 2017. Of course, by that time the playoffs would have come and gone.

With nothing imminent in terms of obtaining a bat, the Mets are still interested in adding bullpen depth and have been linked to Joe Smith (a former Met now with the Angels) and Jim Johnson (Braves).

Whomever the Mets land, the top priority seems to be a player who is not under contract for next season, which kind of says it all.

 

 

 

Jun 30

Mets Get Resilient Effort When They Need It Most

They wouldn’t be the Mets if things were easy. Last year they reached the World Series because of their young arms, a hot month from Yoenis Cespedes, but perhaps most of all, with their resiliency. They overcame injuries and dreadful two-month team hitting slump to find themselves standing at the end.

With those arms, reaching the playoffs this year would be a formality. It sure looked that way with a sizzling April. However, they’ve played sub-.500 baseball the past two months, and after being swept out of Washington, not many gave much for their chances this weekend against the hot Cubs, especially with Steven Matz starting with a painful bone spur in his valuable left elbow.

NIMMO: Scores game-winner. (AP)

NIMMO: Scores game-winner. (AP)

I thought Matz shouldn’t have started, and despite working into the sixth, I’m not yielding on that sentiment. We’ll see how he feels Friday and the days beyond. I really hope I am wrong. The Mets gambled and won when they pushed the envelope with Matz, who overcame a two-run first to throw 104 painful pitches in a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Cubs.

The Mets had to win, because at the same time Matz was ducking a John Lackey fastball to his head, Cespedes was reaching the third deck at Citi Field, and Brandon Nimmo was thrilling us with a timely hit and baserunning, the Nationals were bludgeoning the Reds.

After losing three straight to the Nationals – and five of seven overall – the Mets entered this series realistically needing to win at least three of four games to stay within binocular distance in the NL East. Make that telescopic distance if the Cubs swept the Mets and Nationals did the same to Cincinnati.

Come Friday morning, Panic City is still a couple of exits away.

“I don’t know yet,” manager Terry Collins told reporters as to the magnitude of the victory. “It sure came at the right time. It was a real impressive win.”

It was impressive because outside of Cespedes Home Run Derby type of blast, the Mets did the basic, dirty things they did last year and what they must do in the second half.

It began with Matz, who fell behind 2-0 in the first on a Kris Bryant homer, but gutted his way into the sixth.

“I felt good,” Matz said about his much-talked-about elbow. “I was able to pitch without any issues. I was able to keep us close. I’m happy with how things turned out. I’d say it’s a little relief.”

Down 3-0, the Mets started their comeback – something they did with frequency in 2015 – with Cespedes’ 466-foot drive into the upper deck in the sixth.

“It was a 2-0 pitch,” Cespedes said. “The plan was to swing, and swing hard.”

It woke up Citi Field like a hard slap to the face.

The Mets finally got to Lackey with Travis d’Arnaud‘s one-out single in the seventh that brought in Joel Peralta. Alejandro De Aza, vilified in Washington, pinch-hit for reliever Erik Goeddel and walked. Nimmo, whose exuberance has been a lift, singled home a run after an intense nine-pitch at-bat.

“I was trying to keep things simple,” Nimmo said. “I wanted to be short and get the ball on the barrel.”

The Mets have often been criticized for not being aggressive on the bases, but Nimmo drew a wild throw from Cubs second baseman Javier Baez off Neil Walker‘s chopper and scored when the ball got by the third baseman Bryant.

Of course, there couldn’t be a 1-2-3 ninth. That would be too easy.

The Cubs put runners at second and third with no outs against Jeurys Familia. An intentional walk loaded the bases, but Bryant and Willson Contreras couldn’t resist Familia’s sinker and struck out. With a little discipline, the Cubs would’ve had two bases-loaded walks. Baez then popped out to end the game and for one night at least, we got a reminder of the resiliency this team can still muster.