Feb 05

Mets’ Pitching Questions Heading Into Spring Training

With spring training less than two weeks away, the Mets have a myriad of questions they’ll hope to resolve before Opening Day. That’s six weeks to get done what hasn’t been completed all winter.

With a late push, GM Sandy Alderson added a fifth starter and has tinkered with his bullpen. The operative word there is “tinkered,’’ because there’s more hope than actual production in what he’s done.

Many of the questions, not surprisingly, are concerned with pitching. Here’s the pitching questions I’m asking:

Q: How healthy is Johan Santana, and what is his mindset in his walk year?

A: Once again, Santana didn’t complete a whole season with the Mets. This time, it wasn’t his shoulder, although he did experience some tiredness after his 134-pitch no-hitter. Santana has to know the Mets have no intention of extending his contract beyond this year, so he’s pitching to impress new suitors. In that case, he might give a little extra in his walk year. Then again, he might just coast to show he’s healthy. There’s a gradual build-up in spring training to 100 pitches so we should get an idea of how sound he is. If he’s not, the Mets might have to scramble for another starter.

Q: What is Dillon Gee’s status?

A: Gee’s 2012 was cut short because of a blood clot in his shoulder. The projection for him is as a fourth or fifth starter. Surgery removed the clot and he has been cleared. I’m curious as to his strength and stamina. Clots are serious things and Gee has probably been prescribed blood thinners to prevent them. Still, until he gets out there we won’t know for sure.

Q: Does Zack Wheeler make a statement?

A: Wheeler isn’t expected to make the rotation, but will be a call-up during the season. With concerns about Santana and Gee – and you know something else will pop up – Wheeler might be counted on sooner than expected. The Mets don’t expect Wheeler to be a full-time contributor until 2014, but that’s only a rough timetable.

Q: What is the composition of the bullpen?

A: The Mets added Pedro Feliciano, LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Atchison, and are talking to Brandon Lyon. Jose Valverde won’t happen and Frank Francisco is a $6.5 million health issue. Kind of gives you a warm, optimistic feeling doesn’t it? The bullpen is essential to any progressive step the Mets might take and currently it doesn’t seem better than last year. On a positive note, Josh Edgin and Robert Carson showed potential worth grooming and Bobby Parnell was a positive when Francisco went down at the end of the season.

Dec 02

Dickey Remains Mets’ Priority As Winter Meetings Open

They’ll start showing up today for the Winter Meetings, and when they do, the Mets will have a lot on their plate, but little hope of cleaning it.

Their first priority, now that David Wright is done, will be to extend R.A. Dickey’s contract. Dickey prefers three years, but would take two if the dollars are higher. You can bet Dickey’s agents will point to the $12-million, one-year deal the Yankees offered Andy Pettitte.

DICKEY: Do you trade a Cy Young winner?

Although Dickey is the Cy Young Award winner, he’s still only done it for one season at a high level, while Pettitte has over 200 victories and is regarded as one of the game’s best postseason pitchers.

While they are trying to re-sign Dickey, the Mets will also be exploring the trade market for him. However, considering Dickey’s age, career productivity and that many still regard the knuckleball as a gimmick pitch, the Mets might not get in return what they’d like.

Any team trading for him would likely want the chance to negotiate an extension, but their apprehensions would be the same as the Mets. Dickey’s best option might be to take the most money he can in a one-year deal – which would still set him for life – and enter the market next year.

The Mets’ next priorities are to build their outfield and bullpen, and bolster their catching.

There are four name outfielders, of which the Mets have no shot at any of them. Josh Hamilton has the greatest upside, but also the most baggage. The Rangers won’t give him a five-year plus contract, but could offer substantially less and see if he’ll turn his life around.

Continue reading

Oct 29

2012 Mets Player Review: Situational Lefties Josh Edgin And Robert Carson

 JOSH EDGIN, LHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The San Francisco Giants are World Series champions this morning in large part because of their bullpen, which included situational lefties Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares. The team they defeated, Detroit, had Phil Coke in that role. Most of the playoff teams had dependable lefthanded relievers. When the Mets went to spring training, a situational lefthander was a huge void they expected only Tim Byrdak to fill, which put them at a disadvantage. Byrdak bounced around with Kansas City, Baltimore, Detroit and Houston before finding a home with the Mets in 2011, when he appeared in 72 games and struck out 47 hitters in 37.2 innings. Meanwhile, other lefties in the Mets’ system, Josh Edgin and Robert Carson, were simply blips on their radar. Perhaps they’d get called up in an emergency or in September. Either way, neither was counted on for this season.

WHAT THEY GOT:  By his own admission, manager Terry Collins said he overworked Byrdak, who, like Pedro Feliciano before him, landed on the disabled list with arm problems. Byrdak appeared in 56 games and threw 30.2 innings. A reliever’s workload is more than innings, it is appearances, and with each appearance comes one or two times warming up in the bullpen. The Mets monitor warm-up pitches in the bullpen and knew Byrdak approached a dangerous limit. Eventually, those pitches took a toll and Byrdak was burned out. The strain was more magnified because he was the only lefthander. The Mets eventually replaced him with Carson and Edgin, both of whom performed well in spots. Edgin threw 25.2 innings in 34 games, and allowed seven of 23 inherited runners to score, a number that needs improvement. Carson has outstanding stuff, evidenced by a Sept. 12 appearance at Washington when he inherited a bases loaded-no outs situation an escaped unscathed. They lost that game, but it was arguably the Mets’ best appearance by a reliever all season. Only one of Carson’s six inherited runners scored.

LOOKING AT 2013: Admittedly, the windows of performance from Edgin and Carson are small, but both are inexpensive options for next season. As the Giants proved, having more than one lefty specialist is essential. The Mets abused Feliciano and Byrdak because they had nobody else, but having two will ease the burden, especially because they seem safe in the eighth and ninth innings with Bobby Parnell and Frank Francisco. Both will likely go into spring training with a spot on the staff. It has been a long time since the Mets had two dependable lefty relievers on the same staff.

Oct 16

Mets Cut Justin Hampson From 40-Man

Mets lefty reliever Justin Hampson has been removed from the team’s 40-man roster and has opted for free agency.

Hampson, 32, appeared in 13 games with the Mets in 2012, his first major league action since his time with the Padres in 2008.

The Mets southpaw had a seriously good season in Triple-A Buffalo where he appeared in 51 games and pitched to a 2.33 ERA while striking out 59 batters and walking just 22.

Hampson would be a solid option for many a major league bullpen, and wherever he lands in 2013, we wish him the best. He’s a class act.

The Mets are counting heavily on Josh Edgin and Robert Carson to fill the left-handed void in the bullpen next season, and with so many other bigger problems on their plate, don’t expect that to change..

Sep 20

Mets Bullpen Again An Issue

It was a horrible pitch and Josh Edgin is the first to admit it. He called the fastball Ryan Howard crushed last night “a meatball,’’ and it cost Matt Harvey a victory.

Even so, Edgin has been one of the few encouraging notes out of an otherwise negative bullpen this summer and had a streak of 16 straight scoreless appearances snapped last night. One stinker and 16 good games is a good ratio.

Discouraging about Edgin’s performance is the one thing he’s counted on to do, he didn’t, and that’s get out left-handed hitters. He walked Chase Utley and Howard went deep.

“If Josh Edgin is going to pitch in this league, he’s got to get one of those two guys out,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

Actually, both would have been better.

Overall, Edgin has been good against lefties, limiting them to a .148 average. All hitters are batting .196 against him. His 30-10 strikeouts to walks ratio is good. That’s a lot to like.

On the not-so-positive side, four of the 18 hits he’s given up have gone for homers.

A lot has gone wrong for the Mets this season, including GM Sandy Alderson’s inability to build a bullpen. The Mets overused lefty Tim Byrdak to the point where he blew out his arm, thereby giving Edgin and fellow lefty Robert Carson an opportunity.

Carson hasn’t been as effective, but had his moments, such as escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam with no inherited runners scoring recently against Washington. He has a dynamite fastball. That and being left-handed will earn him a shot next spring.

This isn’t to say the Mets’ bullpen is fixed – far from it – but they have two lefties to build around for next season. That’s more than they had last spring.

Toronto imports Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco had their moments, mostly in the first half when the Mets were 46-40, but also showed why the Blue Jays didn’t keep them. Francisco has injury problems and another year on his contract.

There’s nothing certain about the rest of the bullpen. Ramon Ramirez can’t find the plate half the time; Manny Acosta has averaged giving up over a hit and close to a run an inning; and Bobby Parnell has been inconsistent and unable to grasp the closer or set-up roles when given the opportunity.

Edgin’s blown save gave the Mets a 59-2 record when leading after eight innings, which is more than fine. However, they have 18 blown saves on the season meaning the problem has been more during the bridge innings.

Building a bullpen is a crapshoot, but essential for a team to compete. Overall, Baltimore has given up more runs than it scores but has been dominant in one-run and extra-innings games, indicative of a strong bullpen. The Pirates are fading, but kept in contention in large part because of their bullpen.

Edgin has promise, but the Mets have a lot of work to do in building their pen if they are to become competitive again. A lot.