Jun 05

Mets Matters: Is Kirk Nieuwenhuis An Upgrade?

I don’t understand all the hating of Rick Ankiel. Sure, he strikes out a lot, but he was brought here to plug a hole in the Mets’ shoddy outfield defense and hit the occasional home run. That, he’s done.

His throw in the ninth inning last night would have nailed Ryan Zimmerman at second had shortstop Omar Quintanilla been in position and stayed with the play. Had the play been made, perhaps the Mets would have won, but the point is no other outfielder’s throw would have made it close.

NIEUWENHUIS: On Mets' radar. (AP)

NIEUWENHUIS: On Mets’ radar. (AP)

I am all for playing the young players in a lost season, but Juan Lagares isn’t the answer. He has been clearly overmatched, but could get a chance against lefty Gio Gonzalez, who’ll replace Stephen Strasburg Thursday.

Terry Collins said Kirk Nieuwenhuis in back in the Mets’ thinking for a promotion, and I say, to do what? Strike out. The Mets already have enough of those hitters, including, Ankiel.

The rap on Triple-A Las Vegas is the climate makes it conducive for the long ball. That’s what Collins told Zack Wheeler, saying there would be less a premium on numbers. Using the same reasoning, why should Nieuwenhuis’ recent power surge of eight homers in 14 games – giving him ten overall – be regarded differently?

For his power, Nieuwenhuis only has 18 RBI, an indication he’s not hitting with runners in scoring position. Nieuwenhuis is still striking out at an alarming rate to prove he still doesn’t get it. He has more strikeouts (34) than hits (32) in 133 at-bats.

I don’t see where that is an upgrade.

PITCHING INJURY UPDATES: Jon Niese, who was scratched from his last start with shoulder tendinitis will throw in the bullpen this afternoon.

Niese hopes to start Saturday against Miami, but that is clearly in doubt. If his shoulder doesn’t respond, Niese could find himself on the disabled list.

Several weeks ago, Collins said back-to-back cold weather starts in Minnesota and Denver caused Niese’s back to tighten. It is possible this is a residual effect.

Also, Jeurys Familia will undergo surgery on his right elbow today to remove a bone spur.

PATRIOTIC OBLIGATION: As they always do when in Washington, the Mets will visit Walter Reed National Military Center this afternoon.

There are no reported exemptions from owner Fred Wilpon’s traditional, and urgent, request of his players.

IN TROUBLE: Cesar Puello isn’t in the major leagues, but the Double-A Binghamton outfielder is facing a suspension in the Biogenesis case now that founder Tony Bosch is willing to list names.

ON DECK: Tonight’s game.

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Jun 04

Jeremy Hefner Pitching For Rotation Spot – Again

In which direction will the streak-prone Mets go? After winning four straight against the Yankees, they turned about face and were swept by the Miami Marlins.

They are in Washington for the start of a three-game series tonight, but these aren’t the same Nationals the national media gave a bye straight into the World Series.

Bryce Harper is on the disabled list and Stephen Strasburg might soon join him, and the struggling Nationals trail Atlanta by seven games. They are vulnerable to be taken and it would have been great to imagine the edge to this series had the Mets swept Miami instead. However, even without the Nationals’ two top players, they remain a formidable opponent in the NL East.

Tonight, Jeremy Hefner (1-5, 4.74) goes against Jordan Zimmerman (8-3, 2.37). Hefner has pitched better recently than his record would indicate, but overall, he’s 1-5 for a reason, and that is he’s vulnerable to the big inning. Hefner does not have the ability to shut down an inning quickly after trouble surfaces. One run quickly becomes two, then three and then it is call in the bullpen.

Hefner is pitching to keep his job in the rotation when Zack Wheeler is promoted in the next few weeks. Hefner is third in the pecking order behind Shaun Marcum (who’s making $4 million) and Dillon Gee (who has a greater window of consistency).

Hefner claims he’s beyond worrying about his spot in the rotation, saying, “I don’t worry about it anymore.’’

Even so, the scenario still exists, and if the Mets are bent on promoting Wheeler soon, somebody will be demoted, or their spot could be altered. For example, Hefner could work in long relief and Collin McHugh could be optioned.

Here’s the lineup the Mets hope will give Hefner a fighting chance:

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Ike Davis, 1B

Jordany Valdespin, RF

Rick Ankiel, CF

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

METS MATTERS: Wright trails San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval by over 120,000 votes at third base in the All-Star balloting. The only other Met listed is Buck, who is third behind Buster Posey and Yadier Molina. … Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will be in a protective walking boot for at least another week. … The prognosis of Dr. James Andrews is Scott Atchison does not need elbow surgery. … Congratulations to Kevin Burkhardt, who’ll call NFL games this year on FOX. … If you want to read an excellent piece on Wheeler, check out ESPN’s Adam Rubin’s story here.

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Jun 01

Mets Made Right Call In Not Starting Zack Wheeler

It might sound as if I don’t want to see Zack Wheeler, but that’s not even close. I agree with the premise of bringing him up when he’s ready, with that coinciding with his Super Two status.

Bringing him up to start today in Miami in place of Jon Niese for a spot start would have been a mistake. Wheeler should be brought up the same way Matt Harvey last year, and that was to stay in the rotation.

A one-day start would not have impacted Super Two, but would have if he stayed.

Instead, Collin McHugh gets the ball and might again if Niese can’t go again. McHugh will try to get the Mets back on track after Friday night’s loss to the Marlins. The knee-jerk reaction is the Mets had a let down after winning four straight over the Yankees.

Let’s dispel that right away.

Despite Shaun Marcum’s meltdown after six strong innings, the Mets lost because they didn’t hit. They beat the Yankees in spite of their anemic offense, and they won’t take another step toward relevance until they start scoring some runs.

“I don’t think there’s any question. That’s still an issue,’’ Collins said. “We’ve had some great games. We’ve pitched some good games. We’ve gotten some big hits, which allowed us to win some games lately.’’

In that regard, there are some things about today’s Mets’ line-up that make me wonder, beginning with Omar Quintanilla as the leadoff hitter, their eighth of the season.

I keep hearing how Jordany Valdespin makes things happen. If that’s the case, why have him eighth in front of the pitcher? As long as Ike Davis is still around, he should stay eighth.

Here’s today’s lineup:

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Rick Ankiel, CF

Ike Davis, 1B

Jordany Valdespin, RF

Collin McHugh, RHP

May 31

Mets Must Do More To Stay Relevant

Shaun Marcum is pitching to extend the Mets’ winning streak to six games tonight in Miami. The Mets surprised some people this week, perhaps even the Phillies and Nationals, whom they trail by one and two games, respectively, in the lost column.

The Mets have three with the Marlins before heading to Washington. It sure would add some spice to the spring if the Mets were to close the gap on the Nationals before getting to DC.

PARNELL: Leads recent bullpen surge. (AP_

PARNELL: Leads recent bullpen surge. (AP)

They obviously became relevant to the Yankees this week, but there are several things that must happen for that relevance to carry over to the National League East.

It begins with pitching, and the Mets have been superb in not giving up a walk for three straight games. That’s something they hadn’t done since 1994, and almost incomprehensible.

The time is rapidly approaching when Zack Wheeler could be ready, but they should ride Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee – both coming off strong starts – for as long as they can. Marcum will stay in the rotation by virtue of making $4 million this year.

Mets starters are on a roll with a 2.91 ERA in over their last nine starts. The bullpen is also producing, giving up just two runs in its last 13.2 innings. The Mets bullpen has seven victories, but that can be misleading as it indicates blown saves by the middle-inning pitchers and entering the game with the starter either tied or behind.

Should the pitching continue the Mets could find themselves in an interesting summer. Stranger things have happened.

The Mets’ offense collapsed in the second half last year, and save David Wright and Daniel Murphy, there’s been little consistent production.

That must change, and fast.

Marlon Byrd came through Thursday night and Lucas Duda the night before, but more is needed from Duda and Ike Davis.

How bad has Davis been? Consider this, he has 13 RBI for the season. In contrast, Cubs pitchers have 19 in May.

Davis is batting eighth tonight and those whispers of going back to the minors are getting louder. As long as the Mets are winning, Davis is likely to stay. But, eventually he needs to get this straightened out.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against Miami starter Jacob Turner:

Omar Quintanilla, SS: The eighth Met to hit in the leadoff spot.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Has hit safely in 14 of his last 18 games, including nine doubles, two homers and 10 RBI.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting just .189  (7-37) in his last ten games.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has hit in 11 of last 13 games (.308), including game-ending run Tuesday against Mariano Rivera.

John Buck, C: Hitting .350 (14-40) with RISP.

Rick Ankiel, CF: Has two homers and seven RBI in 15 games with Mets.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has 14 RBI in 19 games in May.

Ike Davis, 1B: Hitting .141 on the road with no homers.

Shaun Marcum, RHP: Coming off 12-strikeout performance in no-decision against Braves.

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May 28

Mets Drop Ike Davis To Eighth In Order; Honor Mariano Rivera

Assuming the Mets play tonight, Ike Davis will bat in the eighth slot. Terry Collins didn’t give a good explanation for the drop in the order, simply saying he wanted to get Marlon Byrd in the game and separate his lefty hitters. Of course, he could do that without dropping Davis.

However, the only thing lower than batting eighth is Triple-A Las Vegas, but the Mets don’t want to go there, yet. Not sure what they are waiting for as the season is already rapidly fading away. The sooner they  send down Davis to work on his approach and mechanics, the sooner he has a chance to salvage this season.

Despite Davis’ insistence he needs to stay on the major league level, the only way he’ll break out of this is to go down. The pitchers are too good and the game is too quick for him at this level. Davis has proven he’s unable to hit breaking balls down and away, and until he does, that’s all he’ll get. Any pitcher who gives him anything but that should be fined.

Here’s tonight’s batting order:

Ruben Tejada, SS:  He’s hitting .206 this season at home and a blistering .185 (5-27) during the homestand.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hitting .316 with RISP. Has hit in 12 of his last 15 games. Was hitting .296 in the leadoff role, but he’s not there any longer. Don’t ask why.

David Wright, 3B: Homered and tripled Monday night. Hitting .372 with RISP and .353 lifetime vs. Hiroki Kuroda.

Lucas Duda, LF: Misplayed ball last night into triple. Hitting .333 (9-27) on the homestand.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has ten RBI to tie for the team lead with Wright for month of May.

Rick Ankiel, CF: Is 10-42 (.238) with two homers and six RBI in 12 games with Mets.

John Buck, C: Hit nine homers in April, but only two in May. Hasn’t had a multi-hit game since May 1.

Ike Davis, 1B:  Struck out three times Monday night. Hitting .155 with four homers and 11 RBI this year. Batting .114 (5-44) with RISP.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Gave up season-high four runs in last start. Is trying to go 6-0. Already has five no-decisions.

NOTE:  Bobby Parnell’s availability is doubtful for tonight. He’s worked the last two games, but there’s no report of any injury.

METS HONOR RIVERA: The Mets will honor Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera with a presentation from the NYPD. He’ll also have the unique distinction of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Curious as to who will catch it. No disrespect intended for back-up catcher Anthony Recker, but I assume it won’t be him. Perhaps Wright?

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos