Feb 07

Mets Matters: Johan Santana, Michael Bourn And Notebook

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JOHAN SANTANA PENCILED IN FOR OPENING DAY

Manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Port St. Lucie he expects Johan Santana to be ready for the start of the season and penciled him in to be the Opening Day starter, April 1, against San Diego at Citi Field. A healthy Santana is a no-brainer.

The Mets deny overworking Santana in his 134-pitch no-hitter, June 1, but there can be no denying his 8.27 ERA in his following ten starts, which included a career-high six-game losing streak.

He was shut down with lower-back inflammation in August. Collins attributed that to fatigue. Whether it was or not, it was another physical ailment for Santana, who is in his walk year. Santana will make $25 million this year and not expected to be brought back in 2014.

There’s little doubt if Santana is able he would be the ball. If not, look for Jon Niese, a 13-game winner last  year, to get the honor. Incidentally, Toronto already named R.A. Dickey as its Opening Day starter.

Nothing new with Bourn: MLB is not yielding on its position the CBA is clear the first 10 picks are protected and not the 10 worst records. The Mets were leapfrogged by Pittsburgh because the Pirates were unable to sign their 2012 pick.

The dispute is expected to go to arbitration to be resolved before the Mets make an offer to Bourn. The Mets’ stance is they shouldn’t be penalized because the Pirates failed in signing their pick, which is a plausible argument.

As of now, the Mets seem poised to using a largely inexperienced outfield, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center, flanked by Lucas Duda and Mike Baxter.

Mets Notes: The Mets are close to completing a deal for reliever Brandon Lyon, pending a physical. … The Mets’ spring training home is back to being called Tradition Field after being referred to as the non-catchy Digital Domain Park the last three years. That company is having financial troubles and is no longer able to sponsor the stadium. … Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Monday, but ESPN reports there’s already a full house. Early arrivals include: David Wright – who always shows ahead of schedule – Duda, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, Baxter, Bobby Parnell and Nieuwenhuis. Ruben Tejada, who drew Collins’ wrath last spring when he didn’t show early is due in Saturday. That, of course, depends on the storm expected to slam the East Coast starting tomorrow morning and continuing until Saturday.

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.

Jan 25

Mets Get Shaun Marcum; More Work To Do

Seven down, 13 more to go. That’s the math if you’re thinking signing Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal will replace R. A. Dickey’s production in the rotation.

Marcum was 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 21 starts last year with Milwaukee, good enough to be a reliable fifth starter. Dickey, of course, one year wonder or not, was an ace who won the Cy Young Award.

To make up the remaining 13 victories, the Mets need three more each from Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Even so, it still puts the Mets 14 games below .500.

Once Marcum passes his physical and the ink dries on the contract, the Mets avoid being the only team not to have signed a free agent this offseason.

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Jan 22

From Santana To Wright To Davis,Things We’d Like To See Happen For The Mets

There are a lot of things I want to see happen for the 2013 Mets, such as making the playoffs. However, in the hope of being realistic, let’s talk about some of the things that would be good to see happen.

Perhaps if several of these happen, there might be some fun at Citi Field.

TRADING JOHAN SANTANA: Don’t get me wrong, I like Santana. I really do. I’d like nothing more than for him to remain healthy and regain his status as an elite pitcher and guide the Mets into October. But, let’s face it, even if Santana were to have a strong season the Mets don’t have enough pieces and will buy him out after this season. Given that, I’d settle on him being healthy and productive in the first half and the Mets being able to deal him to a contender. They’ll have to pick up some of the contract, but if they could swing a trade getting something is better than having him walk after the year with a $5.5 million buyout.

NIESE: Pitch like a No. 1

JON NIESE TAKING THE NEXT STEP:  Niese is the Mets’ ace despite a career-high 13 victories. There’s a lot to like about his future, but even more to like if he wins north of 15 games and gets to the next level.

DILLON GEE PITCHES LIKE A NO. 3: Gee enters spring training recovering from an aneurism. The doctors say he’s ready to go, but can anybody say how he’ll do? Gee has been impressive in spots, but no more than a No. 5 starter. He needs to step up his game.

MATT HARVEY LIVES THE HYPE:  He’s had ten starts, not enough to pencil him in for the Cy Young Award. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain pitched dominating baseball early in their careers, can Harvey do the same?

BOBBY PARNELL BECOMES A PITCHER: There’s no doubting Parnell’s stuff, but he needs to improve his command, secondary pitches and learn how to challenge hitters with that fastball. The Mets can’t count on Frank Francisco to stay healthy and be a reliable closer. If not him, it has to be Parnell.

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Jan 18

Santana Wants To Pitch In WBC

I understand Johan Santana’s desire to represent his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. And, not because I’m not crazy about the whole WBC concept.

The Mets have been burned by players being injured in the WBC before – Oliver Perez – and who is to say the fragile Santana won’t come up lame?

Santana is currently on the WBC’s injury-disqualified list because he ended last year on the disabled list, not having pitched after Aug. 17 because of lower back problems. Even so, he wants to push this through.

Santana made his full complement of starts, 34, in 2008, his first season with the Mets, but hasn’t done so since. He didn’t pitch in 2011 following shoulder surgery and made only 21 starts (117 innings) last year.

For this, he has been paid over $100 million and will make $31 million this season (including a $5.5 million buyout for 2014).  For this, he won just 46 games for the Mets and only once game them at least 200 innings.

For Santana to be declared eligible the WBC must clear him physically and then be insured so the Mets aren’t stuck with the entire bill if he does get injured. Privately, Santana getting hurt in the WBC and the Mets not being stuck with his entire salary would be a plus.

SANTANA: Should stay away from WBC this spring.

I realize in today’s world this is an outdated thought, but considering all he has made and stands to make from the Mets, and considering a healthy Santana could make going to Citi Field a good thing this summer – if not for the remote trade possibility – I would have hoped Santana would show the Mets some loyalty.

They made Santana rich beyond his wildest dreams, but never pitched one playoff game for them.

Santana is a smart guy and knows the Mets won’t pick up his option for 2014, but one would hope he’d be smart enough not to risk anything in the WBC. Since he won’t be thinking he owes the Mets to be at his physical peak, if nothing else he should be thinking about staying healthy for somebody else in 2014.

After all, this is all about him.