Mar 04

Mets Today: Zack Wheeler Gets The Ball; Injury Updates

After Jonathon Niese was scratched from today’s start, the New York Mets moved up Zack Wheeler against the Houston Astros.

Wheeler was shut down last summer by a combination of a tight shoulder and innings count. All reports have him throwing well this spring.

With Matt Harvey out for the season, Wheeler will draw the bulk of the focus when it comes to the Mets’ pitching. However, Wheeler grabbed his fair of attention last summer, going 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts that spanned 100 innings.

Wheeler cited improved fundamentals as his 2014 goal, saying earlier this spring: “Just being more consistent, throwing more strikes and stuff.’’

In addition:

* Kyle Farnsworth, John Church, Vic Black, Adam Kolarek, Scott Rice and Cory Mazzoni are also scheduled to pitch.

* Ike Davis, who was scratched from yesterday’s game, is expected to play. Also expected to play is shortstop Ruben Tejada (tight left hamstring) and Eric Young (tightness in his side).

* Today’s game will be telecast by SNY.

Feb 28

Mets Wrap: Drop Exhibition Opener; Ike Davis homers

The New York Mets (0-1) dropped their exhibition opener Friday, 5-4, to the Washington Nationals in Port St. Lucie.

It’s just the first game, but the Mets have to be encouraged by the performances of pitchers Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom, who each threw two perfect innings.

The Mets also got a two-run homer from Ike Davis.

Neither Montero nor deGrom are expected to make the Opening Day roster, but both could be brought up in June. Each is expected to open the season in Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Nationals scored four runs in the final three innings off several pitchers, including Gonzalez German and Jeff Walters. Gonzalez is competing for one of the Mets’ seven bullpen spots, but Walters, who saved 38 games last season for Double-A Binghamton, is expected to open in Triple-A.

We should all temper our enthusiasm for Davis, but that being said, it is better than striking out four times. Manager Terry Collins said he wants to give the struggling and often-times frustrated first baseman at least 90 at-bats in spring training.

Wilfredo Tovar left the game in the seventh inning with a right hamstring injury.

On deck: Left-hander John Lannan will start Saturday against Miami’s Kevin Slowey. The Mets will also pitch Vic Black, Scott Rice, Kyle Farnsworth and Ryan Reid.

Feb 12

Analyzing Mets’ Bullpen After Jose Valverde Signing

For each of the past three winters New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has tried to construct a bullpen. Until Bobby Parnell showed signs of being the first reliable closer since Billy Wagner was traded to Boston in 2009 in a salary dump, it has been a ninth-inning adventure.

Francisco Rodriguez and Frank Francisco were tried, but their best days were in the rear view mirror. Alderson brought in another retread today with the signing of Jose Valverde to a minor league contract.

PARNELL: Lead domino in bullpen.

PARNELL: Lead domino in bullpen.

He’ll compete against the masses for a spot in the bullpen. Alderson said he other day the Mets had money to spend, but after striking out on Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney, he hopes to catch an encore from Valverde.

Valverde, 35, was on the top when he converted 49 of 49 opportunities in 2011 for Detroit, but spit the bit the following year in the playoffs. He had an unimpressive nine saves in 12 opportunities with a 5.59 ERA last year.

The construction of the Mets’ bullpen depends on Parnell, who saved 22 of 29 games before undergoing surgery last September to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Parnell lost 30 pounds after the surgery, but told reporters in Port St. Lucie he’s doing fine.

“Everything is feeling great, no pain,’’ Parnell said. “I mean, I haven’t done it yet, so obviously, you want to know. But we’re doing little things every day to get to that point. I’ve had no setbacks or pain or anything like that.’’

Parnell won’t be cleared for two weeks, and there is reasonable doubt he won’t be ready for the start of the season. There hasn’t been an announcement of how many innings manager Terry Collins wants to give him this spring. Normally, starters hope to get 30 innings with relievers nearly half that amount.

Vic Black, whom the Mets acquired from Pittsburgh last year in the Marlon Byrd-John Buck deal, is first in line after Parnell. Black is 25 and throws in the mid-90s, which is a lot to like.

If Black doesn’t make it, presumably Kyle Farnsworth and Valverde are next. Assuming Black pitches well and wins the closer job, Valverde and Farnsworth will compete for the set-up role, vacated when LaTroy Hawkins left as a free agent.

In large part because of Parnell’s emergence and Hawkins’ resurgence, the Mets’ bullpen finished 22nd in the majors with a 3.98 ERA in 2013. They ranked 29th and 28th in Alderson’s first two years.

Alderson has built on the cheap, but that approach would have changed had he signed Balfour or Rodney. Joel Hanrahan is available should Alderson have the urge to spend.

Truth is, you can’t have too many pitchers – starters or relievers – in the system because there are always injuries and pitching slumps. In addition, a guy like Valverde, if he shows something, could be a July trade chip.

You never know.

Outside of the 29-year-old Parnell, Farnsworth and Valverde, we’re not talking about significant experience. The rest of the pen includes Jeurys Familia, 24, who throws in the mid-90s, Gonzalez Germen, Carlos Torres, Ryan Reid, Jeff Walters and Cory Mazzoni, all whom throw from the right side.

The Mets’ left-handers are Josh Edgin and Scott Rice, the latter whom was a 32-year-old rookie last season after 14 years of knocking on the major league doors. The Mets also invited prospect lefty Jack Leathersich to compete for a spot.

That makes 13 relievers competing for seven slots.

“We’ve got a lot of good young arms that we like; they just don’t have much experience,’’ Alderson said. “Acquiring someone with some experience would give us some comfort going into Spring Training, but we don’t want to preclude some of our younger pitchers from getting a solid opportunity either.’’

How much comfort Valverde gives remains to be seen. He certainly didn’t make Jim Leyland’s job easier the past two years.

But, that’s what you get when you shop in the bargain bin.

Feb 03

Mets Still Looking For Bullpen Help; Add Kyle Farnsworth

How much money the New York Mets have left to spend during what is left of their offseason is uncertain, but as recently reported here, it is earmarked for the bullpen, specifically a closer as Bobby Parnell’s status is questionable.

FARNSWORTH: Added to pen.

FARNSWORTH: Added to pen.

Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Hanrahan have been mentioned on this site. ESPN added Kevin Gregg and Ryan Madson to the table.

Farnsworth, who has pitched for the Yankees, was signed to a minor-league deal Monday and given an invitation to spring training.

At 37, he was a combined 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA last season with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Farnsworth’s role with the Mets, assuming he makes the team, will be not as a closer but to provide depth.

Figuring Parnell will not be ready for the season, the configuration of the Mets’ bullpen will be Vic Black – the presumed closer – Farnsworth, Carlos Torres, Scott Rice, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen and Jeurys Familia.

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Dec 08

Granderson Signing Doesn’t Answer All Mets Concerns

We can no longer say the Mets won’t doing anything in the Hot Stove League. While I have been cool on Chris Young, landing Curtis Granderson gives the Mets’ offseason a warmer sense of legitimacy and that more could be coming.

General manager Sandy Alderson projects a payroll in the low-$90 million level, and even with the Granderson and Young signings, the Mets will have more to spend to reach that plateau.

There could be more flexibility if they are able to trade Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy, which would be roughly a combined $8 million they could take on.

Last month Alderson said there were a half-dozen teams interested in Davis, and even Lucas Duda fielded some inquiries, but nothing has come of that since.

The Mets’ priority remains starting pitching. Ricky Nolasco and/or Phil Hughes would have looked good in the back end of the Mets’ rotation, but both signed long-term deals totaling $73 million by the small-market Minnesota Twins. Jason Vargas got $32 million over four years from the small-market Kansas City Royals. All this could have the Mets looking harder at Bronson Arroyo, who earlier had been talking to the Twins.

With Matt Harvey gone for the season and two holes in the rotation there are a couple of certainties: 1) Jon Niese will not be traded as some had speculated, and 2) prospect Rafael Montero will not be traded, unless a major league ready starter comes in return.

The Mets also need to increase depth in their bullpen, especially considering Bobby Parnell is coming off surgery. If he’s fine, he’ll resume the closer role. If not, Vic Black will get the first shot in spring training.

The Mets also like Jeurys Familia, Gonzalez Germen and lefty Scott Rice. That’s five, meaning they’ll need to pick up one or two more arms.

Shortstop was a significant question after the season, but considering how the market developed it appears as if Ruben Tejada will have the first opportunity to reclaim his job. The Mets were hot for Jhonny Peralta, and also kicked the tires on Rafael Furcal, but they signed elsewhere. Stephen Drew is still available, but he’s priced himself out of consideration.

There is also a need for a veteran reserve catcher. Immediately coming to mind is to bring back John Buck, who was not brought back by the Pirates.

The Mets won 74 games last year, just seven games below .500. If they had Harvey, I would say they could be a .500 team with the addition of Granderson. But, he’s not here and what remains in a hole in the rotation.

No Shaun Marcum this time. Alderson needs to land quality starters if this will be a quality summer.

LATER TODAY: Would a Daniel Murphy-Brett Gardner trade make sense?

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos