Apr 13

April 13.10: A troubled team heads on the road.

It wasn’t too long ago that it was March and the Mets were telling everybody who was asking that spring training records and statistics mean nothing.

Well, the games and numbers count now, and the Mets are 2-4, losing consecutive series to the Marlins and Nationals, teams they should at least be beating at home.

Pitching will decide this season and already the winter concerns resurfaced during the first week. Mike Pelfrey pitched better, but he’s had moments like that before and then regressed. For Pelfrey to be lit up in his next start, Thursday night in Colorado, wouldn’t be a surprise.

John Maine did not pitch well in his first start and neither did Oliver Perez. While Maine goes tonight against the Rockies, look for the Mets to skip Perez to keep Johan Santana on regular rest.

Jon Niese was strong in his start, but still lost – primarily because the offense is still in Port St. Lucie – and Santana has had both a good and bad outing.

The pitching has not been good with an average of just under five a game. Everybody has been wild and no starter has made it past the sixth inning, and everybody save Pelfrey has an ERA over 4.50.

Is there help on the horizon? Nope, and let’s not even think about trading for Cincinnati’s Aaron Harang, who is due $25 million over the next two years. Despite the talk on the call-in shows, Bronson Arroyo is not available.

Let’s face it, any pitcher of substance would, 1) be not be offered, and 2) if he were would cost a lot in prospects.

Help, quality help, isn’t coming. These guys have to pick it up for themselves.

If they don’t the bullpen will be quick to fall.

Without the bullpen, the Mets are 1-5 and there would be more wailing than wondering. Even so, a trend of recent seasons has returned, and that is an over reliance on the pen. At this rate, before you know it, the innings will have piled up and we’ll be talking about the holes in the bullpen.

Fernando Nieve has the hot arm and he’s been in four of six games already. With how Jerry Manuel has used the pen before, it won’t be long before Nieve is burned out.

Some of the pitching problems would be offset if the team was hitting, but it is third worst in the National League at .245, and .189 with runners in scoring position.

All of the losses can be traced to their inability to hit with runners in scoring position.

It’s too early to panic, but not too early to recognize a trend and how the Mets aren’t headed on a good path.

And, that path takes them into Colorado and St. Louis this week, two of the more difficult venues to play in the National League. Those aren’t places where a team gets well.

Apr 10

April 10.10: Chat Room, Game #5 vs. Nationals: Trying to build on a win.

For the first time in nearly a year, the Mets will have Jose Reyes back on the top of the lineup. The Mets were 51-75 during the time Reyes was out with a severe hamstring injury.

“Nobody wants to get hurt,” Reyes said. “I’m happy to be back and playing baseball. It was tough being away.”

Gone, at least for today, is the thought of Reyes batting third. Maybe later this summer, but for now the Mets are just happy to have him back at shortstop.

Another story line this afternoon is Oliver Perez’s first start since last August. Perez, who underwent knee surgery in the offseason, came into camp in excellent condition. So far, during spring training it has not translated into success.

The Mets are coming off a well-rounded 8-2 victory last night over Washington, a game which featured a strong start by Mike Pelfrey and four homers.

Apr 09

April 9.10: Mike Pelfrey stopper?

Mike Pelfrey stopper? That will be the scenario tonight when the sluggish out-of-the-gate Mets give the ball to the struggling Pelfrey at Citi Field.

After taking a positive step in 2008 when he went 13-11 with a 3.72 ERA, the No. 2 starter Pelfrey took two steps back last season.

Pelfrey went 4-0 with a 4.89 ERA in his first six starts last season, but didn’t win consecutive games in his next 25 starts. He barely won period, going 6-12 with a 5.06 ERA.

“I had a really, really bad year — not what you look for from a No. 2 starter,’’ Pelfrey said. “But I’m better for it now. It was tough struggling every fifth day. But now I feel good, I feel comfortable. I know I’m prepared to have the kind of season they expect from me.’’

If Pelfrey doesn’t turn it around this season the Mets will have to take a serious look at his future with the team. Is he somebody who just won’t make it, or should they get what they can for him.

Pelfrey’s primary problem is he loses focus and often has a difficult time putting away hitters and minimizing the damage in an inning. He’ll lose his command and get up in the zone making him vulnerable to the home run.

He’s not off to a good start this year having been dropped from second to fourth in the rotation after a 0-4 start with a 6.15 ERA in spring training.

The Nationals aren’t exactly cake for Pelfrey. He’s 3-5 with a 3.93 ERA in 12 starts against Washington.

The Nationals are one of the few teams the Mets have had recent success against, winning nine of their last 11 home games, including 7-2 last season.

If you haven’t already, vote in the current poll.

Apr 08

April 8.10: About Last Night – Flashback, 2009.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think back to last night was the comeback, how it was generated by good, patient at-bats. Considering how they played overall, the Mets had no business playing baseball in the tenth inning last night.

The rally was encouraging because we saw too little of that last season.

However, and you knew there would be one, last night was a reminder of last season in several ways.

First, there was the horrid starting pitching of John Maine. We heard during spring training that his shoulder was fine, and maybe it is, but there’s something definitely not right with his pitching. Ninety-two pitches is way too many for not getting out of the fifth. His location was spotty (he missed on the homer by a foot and a wild pitch set up another run) and his velocity is down.

Will Maine improve? I really don’t know. You would hope, but maybe the 15 wins in 2007 was his ceiling.

Secondly, there was the offense, which mustered only six hits. They were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine. One or two more hits and this was a win.

Finally, the bullpen gave up three runs. When your starter won’t give you five, giving up three in the pen is too many. Jenrry Mejia’s outing made you wonder if the Mets jumping the gun with him, but the performances by Sean Green and Hisanori Takahashi makes one think they might not have had a choice. Oh yeah, last night would have been perfect for Nelson Figueroa.

There was the Fernando Tatis play, which was boneheaded for sure. A reminder of how sloppy they were on the bases last night. But, you can’t hang the game on that one play. Afterall, there was no guarantee David Wright would have come through.

Of course, no guarantee he wouldn’t have, either.

Apr 07

April 7.10: Maine says he’s fine; gets start tonight.

There was a time when John Maine was considered a throw-in from Baltimore in the Kris/Anna Benson trade, but his strong showing at the end of the 2006 season and 15 wins in 2007 gave hope he could evolve into a dependable No. 2 starter.

“No. 2, that’s just a number,’’ Maine said. “I just need to get out there, stay healthy and I believe I’ll be fine.’’

Maine had shoulder surgery at the end of the 2008 season and admitted this spring that he rushed himself back last year contributing to his arm problems.

“I learned a lesson,’’ he said.

At 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA in spring training, it’s hard to defend Maine’s performance other than saying the numbers don’t count and he was working on things. Pitching with a migraine and stomach virus, Maine gave up four runs on six hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings in his exhibition finale against Washington.

(NOTE: Part of juggling the rotation was to avoid the Nationals getting another look at Maine so quickly).

Maine brushed off his performance, saying: “My arm feels fine. Shoulder feels good. That’s the top priority.’’

The numbers haven’t been there, but Maine insists he’s not worried and he’s throwing the ball better than anytime after the 2007 season. He said the ball is just flowing out of his hand.

“I think the last time it came out easy without trying to really force anything was spring training 2008,” Maine said. “I might have been throwing a little harder then, but it’s coming out good.’’