Mar 28

Mets Have More Questions Than Days Left Before Opening Day

With four days until Opening Day, most teams have their rosters, rotation and batting order set. The Mets are not most teams.

Their three remaining exhibition games will do little to answer questions for manager Terry Collins, who undoubtedly won’t be satisfied with what he sees Monday and will be mixing and matching for weeks.

The Mets think David Wright and Daniel Murphy will be ready, this after serious doubts just days ago. How things can change so quickly is puzzling.

Also, head scratching is the decision today to play Murphy at second against Washington in his first major league game of the spring. If something happens, it will be at least two weeks on the disabled list. If they play him in a minor league game, like they are with Wright, if he were re-injured they could backdate his time on the disabled list.

If this is about facing major league pitching, why against left-hander Gio Gonzalez?

This is asking for trouble.

The original plan was to replace Wright with Justin Turner, but he has a strained left calf – could it be residual from his sprained ankle? – and seems headed for the disabled list.

With their infield concerns, conventional thinking had Omar Quintanilla making the 25-man roster as a reserve, including backup to shortstop Ruben Tejada. This idea was heightened when Brandon Hicks was optioned.

The Mets also have concern with their defense in center field. Matt den Dekker is out with a broken wrist, so they are again considering Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who entered spring training penciled in as the leadoff hitter playing center field. However, he missed most of spring training with a bruised left knee. When Nieuwenhuis wasn’t taking treatment, he was mostly striking out (11 times) in his 26 at-bats (with only two hits). Those numbers will preclude Nieuwenhuis leading off should he make the team.

What is apparent is Jordany Valdespin, who leads the Mets with 21 hits, will make the team. But, where will he play if Nieuwenhuis and Murphy are both on the Opening Day roster? It should be center, but do they really want to put Nieuwenhuis on the bench for late-inning defense when he’s hit so poorly and should be getting at-bats on the minor league level?

The batting order is also unsettled.

Valdespin, by virtue of his hot spring, should bat leadoff, and if he’s ready, Murphy would likely hit second. With the way Tejada is hitting – .080 with just four hits – there’s no way he should be at the top of the order. Put him eighth.

If Wright is ready he will bat third, followed by Ike Davis, perhaps catcher John Buck or right fielder Marlon Byrd and then left fielder Lucas Duda, who has 16 strikeouts. Assuming Wright does not play, Byrd could bat third.

Collins wants to separate lefty strikeout machines Davis and Duda. Collins could sandwich both Byrd and Buck ahead of Duda, but that would leave him at the bottom of the order with Tejada and the pitcher.

Neither scenario is appealing.

The rotation would open with Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee. Jeremy Hefner would get the fourth start and if Shaun Marcum’s neck injury isn’t better, they would bring back Niese. If Marcum goes on the disabled list as expected, it would enable Collins to carry an extra reliever, presumably Jeurys Familia.

The Mets will open with Johan Santana, Jenrry Mejia and Frank Francisco on the disabled list. Marcum could be another, and regardless of their optimism, Wright and Murphy remain possibilities.

Four days, but a lot more questions.

Mar 27

Opening Day Prospects Improve For Wright And Murphy

After repeatedly expressing doubt recently David Wright and Daniel Murphy will in the Opening Day lineup, the Mets changed course today and indicated otherwise.

Murphy, speaking on WFAN, said he expects to play. Manager Terry Collins said Murphy could play in a major league exhibition game tomorrow, which represents a huge mistake if he were injured and had to go on the disabled list.

WRIGHT: News getting better.

WRIGHT: News getting better.

If went on the DL now, he would miss five or six games because the assignment would be backdated into spring training; if he goes on the DL after playing in a major league game he would miss a minimum of two weeks.

The same applies to Wright, who will play in a minor league game tomorrow. Obviously, the Mets want to have some good news going into Monday’s Opening Day game against San Diego at Citi Field, but this seems pushing too much.

While they could still make it without playing in major league exhibition games now, this is simply not a risk worth taking.

SANTANA DL UPDATE: Johan Santana will be on the disabled list to start the season, but despite the possibility of missing up to two months, he will not go on the 60-day disabled list.

When Santana goes on the disabled list it will be retroactive into spring training and he would miss a week. Although it is expected he will be out longer, going on the 60-day disabled list means exactly what it says and he wouldn’t be available until June.

It makes no sense to guarantee him being out two months if that isn’t certain.

Placing Santana on the 60-day disabled list would open up a spot on the 40-man roster, which will be needed to accommodate LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Atchison, Marlon Byrd, Aaron Laffey and Omar Quintanilla.

However, the Mets will be listening to trade proposals for some of their minor leaguers. They might also re-assign several players to make room.

HEFNER UPDATE: Jeremy Hefner was struck on his elbow yesterday, but said he hopes to make his start in the rotation.

It hasn’t been decided if Hefner, penciled in as the fifth starter with Santana down, will start the fifth game of the season, or if the Mets will go twice with Jon Niese before going to Hefner.

Laffey could be brought up if Shaun Marcum, who has a pinched nerve in his neck, isn’t available to start the second game of the season.

FELICIANO ACCEPTS ASSIGNMENT: Calling the Mets “home,’’ lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano accepted a minor league assignment over free agency.

His reasoning is three-fold: 1) there’s a familiarity between Feliciano and the Mets, 2) there’s a greater probability of getting back to the majors with the Mets, and 3) a minor-league salary is better than nothing.

Mar 27

Don’t Force Wheeler Because Of Marcum

There are two no-brainers in place for the Mets with their latest injury news.

The first was the slam-dunk Shaun Marcum would be injured. The surprise was it happened before the team broke camp, but considering the shape he reported in, well, maybe not so much.

WHEELER: Not ready.

WHEELER: Not ready.

The second is the inevitable early clamor for the Mets to promote prospect Zack Wheeler, which should be an emphatic NO WAY.

Manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Port St. Lucie, but he has a few more days to mull it over in his mind, especially throwing Johan Santana’s name on the soon-to-be-DL list.

“There’s a reason why we sent him out,’’ Collins said. “He needs to face hitters in Triple-A.’’

Although Wheeler was impressive in his first appearance since straining his oblique muscle, too much can’t be read into that because he wasn’t facing major league hitters.

The send-off the Mets gave Wheeler was to work on his command, especially lower in the strike zone and on the corners. That includes both his fastball and breaking pitches.

GM Sandy Alderson was adamant at the start of spring training of putting Wheeler, “in a chance where he has a chance to be successful,’’ but said he’s not there, yet.

Alderson wouldn’t identify a concrete timetable, and some of it pertains to the free agent and Super Two issues. Based on service time within the first 20 days of the regular season, Wheeler would become a free agent after the 2018 season instead to 2019, and be eligible for an extra year (four instead of three) in salary arbitration.

An example of a Super Two player is the Phillies Cole Hamels, but it should be remembered he was first played in that status in 2009, the year Philadelphia went to the World Series. At last check, the Mets haven’t been over .500 since that year.

People accuse the Mets of being cheap off the time, but this is more a prudent option and an accountant’s decision. However, Alderson said if there’s a need for a player such as Wheeler or catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud they would be promoted regardless.

If Marcum isn’t ready for the season – it seems doubtful he will make Thursday’s start – the Mets will likely place him on the disabled list. It would be foolish to wait to see if he’ll be ready for the season’s second start, or even worse to push him back in the rotation.

Under those scenarios, if Marcum pitched and was re-injured, he would go on the disabled list backdated to the time of that injury and be out two-weeks. If not, he would be backdated into spring training and miss time.

Marcum sustained a pinched nerve in his neck sustained throwing in the bullpen Monday. Marcum has only broken 200 innings once during his career, and only had 124 last year.

Mar 26

Mets’ Jenrry Mejia Shutdown With Elbow Inflamation

Jenrry Mejia

According to Jorge Castillo of The Star LedgerJenrry Mejia, who has not pitched since March 11 due to what the Mets first labeled forearm tendinitis, has been shutdown for at least six weeks due to inflammation in his elbow.

“I feel a little pain, not much,” Mejia said in Spanish. “But sometimes a little pain turns into a lot so you don’t want to force anything. It’s better to not force anything to get ready and finish the season healthy.”

Mejia said he will not throw for another two weeks, after which he will start a four-week throwing program with the end goal of making his season debut.

“I feel good knowing what I have because I was wondering,” Mejia said.

In two starts this spring, Mejia allowed five runs, four earned, in just two innings pitched. Mejia tore the mediate collateral ligament in his right elbow in May 2011 and underwent Tommy John surgery. he’s less than a year removed from his return to the mound so obviously this is a huge concern.

The news comes at amid reports that Shaun Marcum, the team’s projected No. 2 starter, will not be able to make his first start after a bullpen session was cut short yesterday due to a neck issue.

Marcum was plagued with arm woes last season and throughout his career. The Mets have already shut him down twice this spring because of arm weakness and had to give him a cortisone shot a week ago. He was to be the replacement for R.A. Dickey in the rotation.

I thought it was a risky move replacing a 200+ innings pitcher like Dickey with a pitcher who had a history like Marcum. I thought the odds of getting more than 100 innings out of Marcum were a longshot at best. And then of course you have the caliber and quality contrast on top of the durability issue.

Mar 25

Pedro Feliciano Given Minor League Alternative

With Pedro Felciano told he won’t make the Opening Day roster and LaTroy Hawkins informed he would, the Mets’ bullpen appears set.

However, by no means is that cause for celebration.

FELICIANO: Reaching out for his last chance?

FELICIANO: Reaching out for his last chance?

Barring further injury, the Mets figure to keep seven relievers despite probably needed a dozen: Bobby Parnell is the closer with Frank Francisco going on the disabled list; lefthanders Josh Edgin and Robert Carson, both of whom made positive impressions last year; set-up reliever Brandon Lyon; submariner Greg Burke and situational righties Hawkins and Scott Atchison.

Only Parnell was on last season’s Opening Day roster.

For much of last year the Mets carried two lefthanders, but manager Terry Collins was left shorthanded and indicated that wouldn’t happen again.

The Mets burned out Feliciano in his first stint with them, but after he was released by the Yankees, they brought him back as a long shot.

It was thought Feliciano had a shot, but the Mets didn’t like his low 80s readings on the radar gun and offered him a minor league position so he could build up his arm strength. This appears to be a take-it-or-leave it proposal from the Mets, who did not give him a window to hook on with another major league team first.

The Mets had no alternative but to make a decision on Feliciano, because by tomorrow they would have been obligated to pay a $100,000 roster bonus. The Mets, or course, are counting every dollar.

“They told me I’m going to Triple-A for a month and get my strength back,’’ Feliciano told reporters this morning. “I have to talk to my agent first and then see what we’re going to decide.’’

Feliciano might feel slighted, but he’s not dealing from a position of strength and doesn’t have any alternatives. Given that, his best option is to accept the assignment.

Part of his decision-making process includes news left-hander Tim Byrdak, who is attempting to come back from shoulder surgery thinks he could be ready by June.

Things are more settled in the rotation with Johan Santana opening the season on the disabled list and Jeremy Hefner taking his spot in the rotation. The Mets were briefly concerned with Shaun Marcum, who received a cortisone injection in his shoulder last week.

Marcum responded and is scheduled to make his final exhibition start Thursday.

Barring complications, Marcum will start the Mets’ second game of the season, April 3, against San Diego at Citi Field.

The Mets-Padres matchups for the first three games are: Jon Niese against Edinson Volquez on Opening Day, followed by Clayton Richard against Marcum and Matt Harvey against Jason Marquis on April 4.