Apr 17

Ruben Tejada Not Proving To Be Answer At Shortstop

Replacing Jose Reyes was never going to be easy, but with Ruben Tejada’s fielding prowess if he could hit just a little that would be acceptable to the Mets. Perhaps that should read, “former fielding prowess.’’

TEJADA: What's the problem?

TEJADA: What’s the problem?

Trouble is, he’s not hitting or fielding. He’s not even just holding his own; he’s been poor at both, actually terrible. Tejada has committed six errors in 13 games – a pace for just under 80 – and the Mets have already lost a couple of games directly attributed to his defense. It matters little if David Wright believes he’s a Gold Glove caliber shortstop. What matters is if Tejada can catch the ball, and if he does, keep it out of the stands.

Both Tejada’s glove and arm have been erratic. It was a throwing error Tuesday night that opened the door for a late-inning collapse. His throwing has been especially poor. Is Tejada going Steve Sax or Chuck Knoblauch on us?

Yes, it was cold and miserable, and yes, the pitchers needed to regroup to get the following hitters, but that doesn’t change the fact Tejada’s defense is hurting the Mets and they have little answers.

They would like to bring up Omar Quintanilla, but would need to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Wilmer Flores is on the 40-man roster, but the Mets don’t think he’s ready, otherwise a Flores-for-Tejada swap would be considered. The Mets certainly don’t want to bring up Flores to have him languish on the bench.

Neither Collins nor Tejada blamed the error totally on the weather, but both said it was a contributing factor because the cold made gripping the ball difficult. News Flash: It’s not going to get better tonight or tomorrow.

Blaming the weather might be easier to accept if Tejada hasn’t been so awful this season. What’s wrong with him? Was last year a fluke? Is there an injury we don’t know about?

Whatever the reason, his current play is unacceptable and wouldn’t be tolerated if the Mets had a ready backup. If Tejada continues at this rate and the Mets tank in the second half, perhaps they should consider force-feeding the position to Flores or go shortstop shopping in the offseason.

After all, according to the Mets they will be ready to spend and contend next season. They can’t be competitive with a hole on the left side of the infield. Will they need to add a shortstop to their list?

ON DECK:  Game preview and lineups.

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Apr 17

Sweep Exposes Mets’ Pitching Concerns; Was Mistake To Pull Laffey

Assuming Terry Collins pulled Aaron Laffey in Tuesday’s nightcap to set him up to pitch on short rest this weekend against Washington, then it was a bad move.

Collins assumed his already shaky bullpen could hold a six-run lead, but you know what happens when you assume. Especially to go to a bullpen that has given no reason to believe it could hold a lead in that park. Collins should know never to give away a game seemingly in hand to chase another.

COLLINS: Juggling bullpen.

COLLINS: Juggling bullpen.

This isn’t to say Laffey couldn’t have blown the game by himself, but with a six run lead should have been given another inning or two. Collins should realize he has an unreliable bullpen and he should stay out of it as much as possible.

Collins’ job should have been to hold onto Tuesday and let Sandy Alderson worry about finding him a pitcher for Saturday. Frankly, I believe Laffey had a better chance of holding a six run lead for two innings than coming back to beat Washington on Saturday.

What already had been Mets concerns re-emerged in the rubble of Tuesday’s double-header sweep at Colorado. A good start to the season leveled off on this road trip by the back end of the rotation that has not been picked up by the bullpen.

Theoretically, Jeremy Hefner – tonight’s starter at Colorado – and Laffey, would be whom the Mets would be looking at if they wanted an emergency starter. Problem is they are already here because of injuries to Johan Santana and Shuan Marcum. Also injured is Jenrry Mejia, who appears to have fallen off the radar.

The back end is clearly not producing and the Mets remain adamant on not bringing up Zack Wheeler, who is not ready.

However, Collin McHugh has pitched well for Triple-A Las Vegas, and he’s had limited major league success. If not him or Wheeler, Logan Verrett and Rafael Montero have each made three strong starts for Double-A Binghamton.

The bullpen is harder to patch from the minor leagues, so it figures the Mets will attempt to hold things until Frank Francisco is able to pitch. When he returns he’ll likely be in set-up and situational roles while Bobby Parnell stays the closer.

Greg Burke gave up three runs as his struggles continued. Josh Edgin, who had been effective, gave up four runs. In fairness, it is hard to be sitting and then getting up and throwing in 30-degree weather.

However, there was nothing wrong with the weather in Philadelphia, so the pen is still to be scrutinized.

Two other red flags were raised in Denver.

The first was Ruben Tejada’s throwing error in the eighth inning of the second game that helped erase the Mets’ six-run lead.

To their credit, neither Tejada nor any other Mets used the weather as an excuse, although it clearly had an impact on the game. Yes, it was difficult to throw, but Tejada’s error was his sixth in 13 games, so his fielding has been a problem.

Every time Tejada makes an error the issue on not having a quality back-up emerges. The Mets are dragging their feet on bringing up Omar Quintanillia. It is easy enough to say he’ll replace Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the active roster, but the obstacle is finding somebody to remove from the 40-man roster.

Las Vegas shortstop Wilmer Flores is on the 40-man roster, but the Mets won’t start the service-time clock on a player who isn’t ready and needs the minor league at-bats.

Another issue is Lucas Duda’s back, which tightened up Tuesday in the cold. He said he’ll play today, but there’s no guarantee.

Apr 13

Mets Notes: Frigid Temps Fire Up Mets Offense

OK, I was wrong, the Mets should play in 30-degree weather all time, where their record in those conditions is probably better than that of the Jets.

It was a wild game last night and I wouldn’t be surprised if SNY’s ratings spiked for those who tuned in to watch the train wreck of playing in Antarctica, where the only things missing were penguins and Kate Upton frolicking on top of the dugouts between innings.

I admit, the weather made me curious, but that went away when it became apparent they weren’t going to call it. Most likely they played on because the forecast for Sunday is rain all day.

Several things caught my attention last night, among them:

* How does Jon Niese feel today? When it is hard to grip the ball pitchers tend to compensate by overthrowing which taxes the arm. He said he didn’t have a good grip and his command was off. We’ll see.

* The Mets played well because they were warmed by the fire that is John Buck. He’s on a historic start. He will catch Matt Harvey this afternoon, count on it. However, if they play Sunday he should DH as to rest him while keeping his bat in the lineup.

* Speaking of lineups, Jordany Valdespin needs to play until he cools off. Never mind the left-hander today, keep him in there and give him a chance to stay in a groove. Valdespin has never been a full-time player. It’s time to find out.

* Ike Davis doesn’t have to look any further than Lucas Duda for an example of what he should be doing at the plate. Duda hasn’t been Ted Williams, but lately he’s about patience and waiting for his pitch. Take the walks, cut the strikeouts, and you’ll make the pitcher come to you. If it was easy, everybody could do it. Duda is and Davis isn’t.

* Ruben Tejada had a few gems in the field, and a play, well, not so good. However, he’s a talented glove who’ll eventually settle into a good fielding zone.

* Scott Atchison, who had a bad elbow, never should have pitched last night. He didn’t need that kind of work. Let’s keep an eye on him, too.

* David Wright entered the game in a slump and ended it hot. Still no homers, but he drove the ball and came through with runners on base. That had been missing.

* Bad news about Jose Reyes, who severely sprained his ankle and could be out for up to three months. The karma hasn’t been kind to Reyes since leaving the Mets.

The Mets played a terrific game under horrible conditions. The best sign is they kept focus and didn’t allow the conditions to beat them. It definitely was something they can build off of.

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Apr 10

Valdespin Heads Tonight’s Mets Lineup

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

VALDESPIN: Earn’s a start after a tripling and scoring on Tuesday.

The Mets will attempt to win their third consecutive series tonight in Philadelphia, but the match-up of starter Jeremy Hefner against the Phillies is not a good one for them.

Hefner took the loss in his last start against Miami, but gave the Mets a good effort, giving up a run in six innings. It was a quality start that manager Terry Collins will take every time.

What Collins can’t afford – if for no other reason than to save his bullpen – is what Hefner gave the Mets in his last start against the Phillies. Last September, Hefner lost 16-1 in a game where he gave up seven runs on six hits and a walk without recording an out. It rarely gets worse than that, simply because pitchers don’t get to stay in that long when they are that bad.

Hefner is 1-1 with a 15.95 career ERA against the Phillies. The assumption is Collins will have somebody get up in the bullpen early, but the reality is Hefner might have to take one for the team if the game gets out of hand quickly.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against the Phillies Kyle Kendrick:

Jordany Valdespin, CF: Hit .313 in spring training to earn a spot on the roster. Tripled last night to earn himself a start tonight.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Raised average to .333 by going 10-for-his-last-30, which includes a five-game hitting streak.

David Wright, 3B: Is 8-for-28, including 2-for-5 with RISP.

Ike Davis, 1B: Back in lineup tonight after resting against Cliff Lee. Has four hits this season and ten strikeouts.

John Buck, C: Hitting .393 and leads team with four homers and 14 RBI, the latter leads the NL. Has homered in consecutive games.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has seven walks, which is a most encouraging stat. Has a .452 on-base percentage, which is seventh in NL.

Mike Baxter, RF: Gets a start, but still think he deserves a chance to lead off. … Led majors with .458 average as pinch-hitter.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Is on a 5-for-26 slide to start the season. Also has four errors.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Was ninth in NL in ERA last year at 5.09.

Apr 09

Slumping Ike Davis Benched

If the Mets are to beat Cliff Lee tonight – the second Phillies’ ace in as many nights – they’ll have to do it without Ike Davis.

Davis is struggling out of the gate, hitting .148 with one homer and showing no signs of breaking out. He’s on the way of repeating last spring, which morphed into a miserable first half.

DAVIS: Haven't seen much of this lately.

DAVIS: Haven’t seen much of this lately.

“I don’t know if I can say I am better for going through that,’’ Davis said during spring training. “But, you do learn that eventually you’ll come out of it. That’s what happened to me.’’

Davis had strong second half to finish with 32 homers; that’s what gives him confidence now.

Tonight is as good a night as any to give Davis a break as he is 1-for-11 with four strikeouts in his career against Lee.

It was suggested in this column earlier today that if Terry Collins needed to adjust his lineup he might consider dropping Daniel Murphy to third and David Wright to fourth.

Instead, Collins chose to keep Murphy and Wright in their respective, two-three, slots and play Justin Turner at first base and insert hot-hitting catcher John Buck in the clean-up spot.

It is premature to say Davis is evolving into a left-handed hitting Dave Kingman, but there are signs he is not far off, such as 10 strikeouts to only four hits this year in only 27 at-bats this year. For his career, Davis has 320 strikeouts to 154 walks and 299 hits.

“I like to him home runs,’’ Davis said when asked if he considered changing his approach. “I’m going to strike out.’’

The Mets are seeking their fourth straight victory tonight behind Dillon Gee, who is coming off a masterful performance last week in a 2-1 loss to San Diego in which gave up a run on three hits in 6.1 innings.

Gee’s changeup was especially good that day, and must be so again tonight as he is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in four games against the Phillies.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Collin Cowgill, CF: Struggling at .176 with two homers and five RBI, with most of it on his Opening Day slam. Hitless in two at-bats Monday.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Has eight hits, five for extra bases. Was 5-for-16 with two doubles off Lee last year. Is riding an eight-game hitting streak in Philadelphia, going 12-for-36.

David Wright, 3B: Including two hits and an RBI Monday, has hit .413 in his last 19 games in Philadelphia.

John Buck, C: His 12 RBI is a club record through the first seven games of a season. Lifetime is a .292 hitter with three homers against Lee. Said Buck: “The key is I just feel good and I’m not trying to do too much.’’

Marlon Byrd, RF: Hitting .278, but .375 with runners in scoring position.

Lucas Duda, LF: With Davis sitting, Collins wisely chose not to move Duda, instead giving him more time to learn the outfield.

Justin Turner, 1B: Starting for Davis. Turner had three hits in his first start of the season, April 4, vs. San Diego.

Ruben Tejada, SS: In both fielding (four errors) and hitting (.211) slumps.

Dillon Gee, RHP: Has gone at least five innings in 47 of 50 career starts.

I will have another post following tonight’s game.

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