Jun 26

Are Mets’ Forcing Wheeler’s Development?

Here’s what the New York Mets can make of Zack Wheeler: He still has a lot of work to do. Wheeler tripped Tuesday night, but I’m inclined to agree with Ron Darling in that it was the Mets who stuck their foot out.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

Darling, who has forgotten more pitching than most of us will ever know, said the Mets might have done Wheeler a disservice by having him go away from his fastball, which can be overpowering, and throw more of his slider.

Wheeler hasn’t refined his secondary pitches and pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters last night the Mets’ prized rookie was tipping his pitches by having a different arm angle for his breaking balls.

Wheeler said he was “bad,’’ after he gave up four runs on four hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. Surprisingly, Wheeler struck out one, but you’d think with a 95-mph. plus-fastball he would have had more. He would have had he mixed in more fastballs among his 109 pitches.

Wheeler is clearly not as far along and polished as Matt Harvey was last year at this time. He is more advanced with his fastball than his breaking balls, and that’s the pitch he should have used more often, if for no other reason it was an interleague game.

Seriously, when will Wheeler see the White Sox again? Just throw the fastball until they prove they can hit it.

Throwing unrefined breaking balls is even more risky when behind in the count, and of the 24 batters he faced, he threw only 11 first-pitch strikes.

Wheeler said he was bad. He might over stated things a bit, because the Mets have shown us a lot worse this year. Speaking of which, today is Shaun Marcum Day.

It wasn’t as if the White Sox knocked him around the park, but they were usually ahead in the count and generally had comfortable at-bats.

Unless Wheeler goes into a dive, the plan is for him to be here, and learn on the fly. That’s not the best way as the Mets have rushed him. By Wheeler’s own admission he wasn’t ready, but he’s not going to say, “no, I’ll stay in Vegas.’’ After all, there are only so many $3.99 all-you-can-eat buffets one you can enjoy.

So, as long as he’s here let him throw his fastball, then mix in a curve and go with the slider as his third pitch.

By all accounts, Wheeler is ahead of Mike Pelfrey when he first came up, and that includes his secondary pitches. Pelfrey became ineffective because he didn’t have command of his secondary pitches and hitters sat on his fastball.

Ideally, the Mets should turn Wheeler loose with his fastball and work in the other pitches gradually. Let him throw the pitch he has the most confidence in and go from there.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them.

 Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 21

Jonathan Niese Must Go On DL

Whatever the outcome of Jonathon Niese’s shoulder exam this morning in New York, the New York Mets must place him on the disabled list. Not should, but must.

That reliever Greg Burke is on his way to Philadelphia this morning indicates they are thinking in those terms. Replacing him in the rotation isn’t an issue with the arrival of Zack Wheeler, so there’s no need to make a decision on Shaun Marcum for at least another two weeks.

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

Nice and neat, isn’t it?

While the Mets’ roster maneuvering will take care of itself, they would prefer the juggling if it meant having a healthy Niese. If this were an isolated incident it might raise a red flag. That this is Niese’s third problem this season is alarming.

Niese left Thursday night’s game during the fourth inning in Atlanta with pain in his left shoulder. Unlike Matt Harvey, who tried to pitch through back discomfort several weeks ago – he gets a pass because he’s in his first full season – Niese realized something was wrong after a few pitches and called to the dugout.

There was no hesitation with Terry Collins in pulling him. There wasn’t even that “let’s throw a few warm-up tosses and see what’s going on’’ nonsense that has burned the Mets before.

Niese was gone.

“It’s never good when you have to leave a game. But on a good note, the doctor did some tests and everything was negative,’’ Niese said of a training room exam Thursday night. “It just felt really weak. I think the tendinitis kind of flared up again. I felt some pain that [Tyler] Pastornicky at-bat.

“I threw a fastball and noticed my velocity was down. There was a lot of discomfort. I tried to pitch through it, but every pitch after that I felt some pain, so I just had to stop.’’

Of course, Niese should not have tried to throw those few extra pitches, but a player will always attempt to work through it because differentiating between normal game pain and injury is difficult. However, Niese had already missed a start because of his shoulder.

Niese said he felt good after missing that one start and gave the obligatory “we’ll see what the doctor says.’’

Not this time. This has gone on long enough.

Niese is young, he’s left-handed, he throws hard – at least he did before this – and under a manageable contract through the 2016 season. Not only that, Niese is good. He’s a foundation piece; part of the Mets’ core.

He must be protected.

ON DECK: Updating Ike Davis.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 20

It Is Time Niese Prove His Worth

In all this talk about the New York Mets and their bright pitching future, Jon Niese has been overlooked. His upside has not been projected as high as that of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, but it was lofty enough at one time for the Mets to give him a long-term deal.

The Mets eschewed numerous trade overtures for him, instead opting to keep him as a building block because he’s a hard-throwing left-hander who experienced success and has a controllable contract.

However, he’s overlooked for a reason.

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

The Mets extended Niese’s contract with the expectation he’d lift them in games like tonight in Atlanta, where he’d be the difference between a winning and losing series. There’s not a high degree of confidence in him tonight.

After winning a career-high 13 games last year, Niese has not progressed. Yes, a case can be made to explain his 3-6 record because of a lack of run support, but there’s that sticky matter of a 4.15 ERA.

Niese pitched in consecutive sub-30 degree games in Minnesota and Denver and came away with stiffness in his back. No doubt, that is a contributing factor to his mediocre numbers, but what about his 1.57 WHIP?

In only four of his last ten starts has he gone into the seventh inning or further. The Mets have lost eight of those starts, and Niese has one victory in that span to his ledger.

One could argue Niese’s ERA is attributable in large part to giving up seven and eight runs in consecutive starts, but you could counter that by saying staff anchors must find away to minimize the damage, something Niese has yet to master.

This year Harvey, despite his limited experience, has proven more adept at escaping big innings than Niese. What Wheeler showed three times Tuesday night was something the Mets needed from Niese last weekend against the Cubs.

When the Mets had Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, Niese was projected as a No. 3 starter. Through attrition, he entered the season No. 1 and pitched like it in his first two starts.

Since then, he has been outpitched by Harvey consistently, and Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner over the past month. Currently, based on merit, Niese’s performance is indicative of a fifth starter at best, which is where he would be if the Mets dropped Shaun Marcum from the rotation.

I would still hold onto Niese for the same reasons: being a hard-throwing left-hander with a reasonable contract. There’s reason to believe there’s an upside to Niese, but he must start to outpitch his paltry support and perform to his expectations. He has to pitch better than his team, as all good pitchers must.

The Mets signed Niese to a long-term deal because they believed they could build around him. It is time Niese lives up to that faith.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 20

Mets Should Trade Shaun Marcum; Others Also Available

Seriously now, these are the New York Mets. Did anybody really expect the euphoria of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler to include Shaun Marcum?

Marcum is now 0-9 after Wednesday night and it seems ludicrous to keep him in the rotation, especially when Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner have pitched well.

MARCUM: After giving up homer last night. (AP)

MARCUM: After giving up homer last night. (AP)

Two strong relief outings suggest he could survive in that role, but is that the best option for the Mets? Marcum is giving the Mets around five innings a start and his strikeout totals have been decent. Most importantly, his neck and back issues seem to be over.

Marcum’s value to the Mets isn’t as a fifth, or sixth, starter, but as a trade chip to a contender. Much of his record can be passed off as from a lack of support, and with a reasonable $4 million salary – to any contender – the time is right to try to move him now.

He has some value in the trade market, but it won’t be any higher than it is now. Maybe they can get a mid-level prospect for him, which is better than the alternative of getting nothing when he leaves after the season.

Perhaps they can get more if they package him in a trade with others. Let’s see, whom else can the Mets trade?

John Buck:  Initially, he could have been had if Travis d’Arnaud hadn’t been injured. Buck has a connection with the young pitchers that is valuable and nobody can say with any certainty when d’Arnaud will be healthy, and how well he could play when he does. KEEP HIM.

Ike Davis: Is having a miserable year, but there’s always a team that believes he can be fixed with a change of scenery. The Mets are paying him over $3 million to strike out. As with Mike Pelfrey, they can opt to non-tender him and he’d walk and they’d get nothing. DEAL HIM.

Daniel Murphy: One of the few Mets who is hitting. I have this feeling the Mets believe they could do better. Prospect Wilmer Flores will have to play eventually. Murphy would have value to a contender as a second baseman, DH and first baseman. DEAL HIM.

Omar Quintanilla: Trouble is, if they deal him who would play shortstop with Ruben Tejada injured? Does it matter? They’ll find somebody, and if nothing else, could give time to a younger player. Question: Where does he fit into their future plans? Right. DEAL HIM.

Lucas Duda: Playing first now, where he’s more comfortable than left field. If they can move Davis, Duda could move over for the long haul. Isn’t the real decision here, Duda or Davis? KEEP HIM.

Marlon Byrd: One of the few Mets who is hitting, and is showing power. He’s like Scott Hairston was last year. Mets held onto Hairston and got nothing. Will they give Byrd more than a year this winter? Not likely. They can get something for him. DEAL HIM.

Jordany Valdespin: Didn’t grasp opportunity to be a starter at second base. Mets aren’t crazy about him and hard to envision him in their future. DEAL HIM.

LaTroy Hawkins: Veteran relievers are always in demand by contenders. He’s not coming back. DEAL HIM.

Justin Turner: On DL now but is a versatile infielder that does not give away at-bats. Could fill a need. DEAL HIM.

Some of the above, I’d like to keep, but you have to be realistic. If they can’t be projected to be in the organization beyond this season, why not see what they can get? The Mets aren’t going anywhere, so they might as well start preparing for 2014.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 15

Mets’ Collins, Marcum Not Believable In Rotation Issue

It is difficult to believe either Terry Collins or Shaun Marcum regarding the New York Mets’ upcoming rotation decision to accommodate Zack Wheeler.

Whether he’s ready or not – and even he said he didn’t pitch his best at Triple-A Las Vegas – Wheeler is on his way to start the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. The Mets already bought the plane ticket; he’s coming.

MARCUM: Hammered by Cubs. (AP)

MARCUM: Hammered by Cubs. (AP)

For now, Collins said the Mets will fly with a six-man rotation, but that’s probably once or twice through. Matt Harvey isn’t cool to the idea, so guess where this will go?

If based strictly on merit, the veteran Marcum, who fell to 0-8 Friday night against the Chicago Cubs, should be the odd-man out. But, he’s making $4 million this year, which amazingly, is the fifth-highest salary in the Mets’ payroll behind Johan Santana, David Wright, John Buck and Frank Francisco. And, this  does not include the deferred money owed Jason Bay, which could drop Marcum to sixth.

Collins, operating under the belief people are idiots, downplayed the salary angle.

“When it comes down to the time to make the decision, certainly I’m not sure salary is going to have anything to do with it,’’ Collins said Friday night. “I think we’re going to take the five guys that we need to make sure are the best five to go out there.’’

Of course, salary will have something to do with it as it always does with the Mets. And, it likely won’t be Collins’ call, either.

Salary is why they kept running Bay out there every day when it was clear he had nothing. Salary is why they hung onto Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo longer than needed. Salary is why they traded Carlos Beltran for Wheeler, and one can’t yet say the Mets won that deal. Salary might be why they resisted sending down Ike Davis to the minors, a decision that might have come too late.

Salary and cutting payroll has been the essence of everything the Mets have done in the Sandy Alderson era. You’d like to believe Collins in the decision will be based on merit, but Alderson’s track record indicates otherwise.

Marcum, who has had several good moments, notably his relief appearance in last week’s 20-inning loss to the Miami Marlins, has shown a propensity of working out of the bullpen, which makes it reasonable to figure he can do that job. However, Marcum’s dwindling trade value is as a starter and taking him out of that role could make that option difficult.

Marcum said, “I really haven’t thought about it,’’ which on second thought might be the truth because he knows he’ll get his money regardless.

ON DECK:  Johan Santana visits; a reminder of a lost deal.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos