Apr 04

Mets’ Bullpen Rising To Occasion

It has only been five games for the Mets, but the early returns on manager Mickey Callaway’s use of his bullpen, especially with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, have been good.

Tuesday night, Lugo relieved Matt Harvey – and two other relievers – after five innings and pitched two scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory, and today, Gsellman relieved Noah Syndergaard after four innings (92 pitches) in a 4-2 victory.

Gsellman pitched two scoreless innings in earning the victory, then was followed by single scoreless innings from Hansel Robles, AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia.

After Harvey was pulled, Ramos entered and allowed two runners to reach and got two outs before he was replaced by Jerry Blevins, who closed out the sixth. Normally, Ramos and Blevins wouldn’t have been in the game that early.

However, Callaway’s theory is to not restrict his relievers by assigned innings, but go with the best match-ups.

And, Lugo and Gsellman pitching multiple innings is something Terry Collins normally wouldn’t have done.

“Our bullpen has done a fantastic job so far this season and we have faith in them,’’ said Callaway. “Everybody is doing the right thing. We are working on the small things, like Robles for example. He went down [to minor league camp], worked on the right things and comes out today and pitches a huge inning for us. I am really proud of those guys for that.”

Robles, who I’m not a fan of, has been terrific and today struck out the side in the seventh.

It has been a good start of the season for the Mets, who at 4-1, will be in Washington for the start of a three-game series. Oh, by the way, snow is forecast for Washington this weekend.

There are a lot of reasons why the Mets collapsed last season after consecutive playoff appearances and the bullpen was as big of an explanation as any. A lot of things have to happen if they are to recover enough to be competitive. And, the bullpen has to play a big part.

So far, so good.

Mar 13

Callaway Makes Smart Opening Day Call

Based on last year’s performance, Jacob deGrom deserves to be the Opening Day starter, but it’s a credit to manager Mickey Callaway handle on things that the start goes to Noah Syndergaard.

Despite deGrom throwing in the high 90s Sunday in his first exhibition start after a two-week delay with back stiffness, Callaway saw no reason to play charades and push him. What’s the purpose, especially when Syndergaard is healthy and throwing in the 100s?

All too often the Mets pushed pitchers to be ready for the start of the season – you only have to think back to Matt Harvey last year – with disastrous results.

DeGrom will start the season’s second game against St. Louis.

“We think that’s a pretty good one and two coming out of the gate,’’ Callaway said. “We were trying to do everything we can because he earned it based on last year. It just didn’t make sense to us to try and push it, and to get him ready for Opening Day.’’

Harvey and Jason Vargas will take the next two spots in the rotation with Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman competing for the final slot.

Feb 14

Alderson Wrong Again: Mets Do Need More Pitching

Of all of baseball’s many clichés, “you can never have too much pitching,’’ which Mets GM Sandy Alderson, whom his biographer claims in one of the smartest men in the game, refuted today.

DE GROM: Leads rotation loaded with questions. (AP)

DE GROM: Leads rotation loaded with questions. (AP)

Alderson told reporters today in Port St. Lucie: “Notwithstanding many opinions to the contrary, I’m not convinced we need more pitching.’’

There aren’t many things I agree with Alderson on recently, and this certainly isn’t one of them.’’

Let’s look at the facts:

  • Every possible pitcher in the rotation and that includes Jacob deGrom early in his career has undergone some type of surgery or been placed on the disabled list.
  • Noah Syndergaard missed nearly five months last year with a torn lat muscle, and only pitched two innings after coming back from the disabled list. He reported to spring training in good shape, but we don’t know how he’ll respond to a full camp much less a full season.
  • Matt Harvey has worked only one injury-free season since 2012 and twice had season-ending surgery.
  • Lefty Steven Matz has been to the DL four times since his major league debut in 2015.
  • Zack Wheeler has started 17 games in three years.
  • Seth Lugo is trying to rebound from a partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament.
  • Robert Gsellman sustained a torn left hamstring last year and had trouble with his mechanics.

 

That’s seven possible starters and doesn’t include Rafael Montero, who has consistently labored with his command.

Jake Arrieta is the top free agent remaining, but we’d be spinning our wheels to think that will happen, and Alderson is already on record as saying the front office doesn’t want to forfeit a compensatory draft pick and a half-million dollars of international bonus pool space.

So, given the current status of the Mets’ pool of potential starters, how can Alderson responsibly say he doesn’t see how they don’t need more pitching.

 

Feb 12

Three Givens In Mets Rotation

The Mets will take five starters north, but only three are givens: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey. Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are coming off injuries and we won’t know about them until late in spring training.

DeGrom and Syndergaard – assuming healthy – are two of the best in the sport. Syndergaard missed most of last year with a torn lat muscle and early reports are he’s in great shape and not bulked up like last year.

Harvey has never lived up to his potential because of injuries, and here’s hoping in his walk year he can come close to his 2013 form.

It is entirely possible Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo could fill out the end of the rotation. Chris Flexen and Rafael Montero will also compete but could wind up in the bullpen in long relief as he’s out of minor league options.

If Matz or Wheeler is ready, it is possible Lugo could pitch out of the pen.

Nov 15

Mets’ Pitching Plan Has Questions

On the surface, the plan the Mets are currently mulling about preventing their starters from going through the order a third time makes a lot of sense. All the numbers point to a starter losing effectiveness the longer he stays in the game. They all can’t be Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber or Jacob deGrom.

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

It is common practice during the postseason, but at that time a manager has more off days in which to rest relievers and can replace the fifth starter with a long reliever in which to plug in.

“We will not allow our guys to struggle the third time through the lineup if we can avoid it,’’ Mets manager Mikey Callaway said at the General Managers Meetings. “We want them to be the best versions of themselves and have success. There are so many factors that will come into play you just can’t simply say that you are going to leave guys in until a certain point or take them out in a certain point.’’

For that plan to work during the regular season a team needs a solid rotation, a flexible bridge to work the middle innings, and a strong back end of the bullpen.

Of the three, the Mets only have the last one.

It begins with a strong starting rotation, one which means all five starters have to consistently go at least five innings, but preferably six. The Mets have deGrom and lots of issues from two through five:

Noah Syndergaard is coming off a partially torn lat muscle and only got in a couple of innings in late summer. While he is optimistic, we simply don’t know what to expect from him. Sure, it would be nice to pencil in 30 starts and 200 innings, but …

Matt Harvey did not respond well to thoracic surgery. He was rushed back and sustained a stress injury. The best thing the Mets can hope for is a strong first half to draw trade interest at the deadline. There’s no more talk about winning 20 games, winning the Cy Young or being signed to a long-term contract.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are both coming off surgery and nobody knows what to expect, let alone them averaging five innings over 30 starts.

Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rafael Montero and Chris Flexen all made starts, but none have defined roles entering spring training. If the projected rotation performs, then any of them can be slotted in to work multiple innings several times a week, but we don’t know if they can do it in back-to-back games.

These four can also be inserted into the rotation if any of the projected five starters struggle, but if not they could work out of the pen. The questions in the middle of the game and possibility of the anticipated starters breaking down is why GM Sandy Alderson traded for relievers last July.

Granted Alderson added quantity and is open to reacquiring Joe Smith and signing Bryan Shaw. But, how much is he willing to spend? Mets’ history dictates he won’t do it; four relievers making $7 million or more is just not in their DNA.

For this plan to work the Mets need all three facets of their pitching staff to perform, but there are too many questions and issues working against them.