Feb 21

Three Mets Players to Watch This Spring Training

COLLINS: Issues to address.

The Mets begin their first full squad workout in St. Lucie on Saturday, February 22 and for us fans there’s nothing better than watching the news filter out of the camp, knowing the first day of the season is getting ever so closer.

Spring training usually sets the benchmark for how a team will perform in the regular season. New additions show off their talent, last year’s rookies return with confidence, old-timers find ways to hang on and those recovering from injury face the uncertainty of testing out their bodies once more.

It’s a fascinating time for baseball fans, but also for those who set the MLB odds for each team and try to predict who will be the division and wild card winners. As rosters begin to take shape in the next six weeks, every team goes into Opening Day in a tie for first place. The tough part will be staying there.

For the Mets, their 2014 journey begins tomorrow. The Mets have many issues ranging from the muddled situation at first base and the yet to be contested battles for the fifth spot in the rotation and who will be the leadoff hitter. But there are three more things to watch for in spring training:

1. Bartolo Colon needs to deliver

Ever since our ace underwent Tommy John surgery late last year – ruling him out for the entirety of 2014 – many are betting and wondering who will replace the majestic Matt Harvey. All eyes will be on Bartolo Colon who was signed to a two year deal worth $20 million and has been the front office’s solution to replacing Harvey’s loss in the rotation. While we all keep our fingers crossed and hope for improved command from Zack Wheeler and the mid-season debut of the promising Noah Syndergaard, the Mets need to hit big it with Colon – Alderson’s highest paid pitcher in four years. They’ll also need to see Dillon Gee and Jon Niese look like the pitchers we saw in the second half of last season.

2. Travis d’Arnaud must step up

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fill of articles and features on framing pitches, and I’m looking forward to articles on D’Arnaud mashing pitches. TDA didn’t get his billing at top catching prospect for getting one or two extra strike call per nine innings. The rookie catcher played 31 games in the close of last season, but often showed how pressure can get to him. Yet despite his poor form that saw him finish 2013 batting .202, d’Arnaud has the capabilities to be a solid performer in the Mets roster and must prove himself in spring training. At 25-years old it’s time to show-off the offensive package we’ve been hearing about for the last four years.

3. Chris Young against RHP

I’m not worried about Curtis Granderson, we all know what he can do. But as long as Chris Young is being handed an everyday job after a season that saw him bat .200 with a .280 OBP – both lower than Juan Lagares – he’s the man under the microscope.  What scares me more about him – aside from Billy Beane casting him away and proclaiming him a platoon player – is his horrendous .225 career batting average against right handed pitching in 2,825 plate appearances. Is that sample size big enough for you? He has declined every year since 2010 except for his strikeout rate, that continues to climb. He’s pushing a promising prospect to the bench, he better pay us back in spades.

Feb 17

A Look At A Spring Training Day; On Tap For Today

The New York Mets are holding their first workouts of spring training today and could be coming off the field shortly. After all, with just pitchers and catchers, there’s not much you can do.

The pitchers are divided into two groups, with one throwing today and another tomorrow. There could be a few pitching fielding drills, but not much else, certainly not throwing to hitters.

The position players in camp will be throwing outside, but full-scale fielding drills won’t take place until later in the week. The Mets have enclosed batting cages and are hitting off tees and pitching machines. There could be batting practice from coaches, but not off any of the other pitchers.

While most position players on the major league level are already in camp, they don’t have to be in Port St. Lucie until Feb. 20, with physicals the following day.

The first full-squad workouts won’t take place until next weekend and the exhibition schedule starts Feb. 28. Until then, the days begin early with meetings, fielding drills – including pitchers – base running drills, and plenty of batting practice.

The days break up in the early afternoon, with the players spending time on the golf course or with their families.

A spring training camp is highly organized, with every player knowing where he’s supposed to be at any of the Mets’ over half-dozen fields.

Today I’ll have the following:

* Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon from a MLB.com report on several of the club’s key financial issues.

* Matt Harvey finally acknowledging he won’t pitch this year.

* Curtis Granderson on what he brings to the Mets.

* A wrap of today’s events.

 

Feb 15

The Five Questions Terry Collins Must Answer In Spring Training

Spring training is finally here, and with it comes several issues the New York Mets must address. A lot of things must break right if they are to contend for a wild-card, but manager Terry Collins has five key questions to answer if they are to have a winning season, something they haven’t had since 2008:

COLLINS: Has questions to answer.

COLLINS: Has questions to answer.

Q: WHO WILL BE THE FIFTH STARTER?

A: Ideally, it should be Jenrry Mejia, but if the Mets are thinking they could have a winning season, Collins could go with veterans John Lannan or Daisuke Matsuzaka. “I’ve always said those veterans can really get you out of the blocks,’’ Collins told reporters in Port St. Lucie Friday. “Then, when those kids are ready, they’re the ones a lot of times that bring you that extra energy, especially late in the summer.’’ Perhaps one of those kids could be the 24-year-old Mejia, but the Mets have eyes on Noah Syndergaard.

Q: WILL BOBBY PARNELL BE READY BY OPENING DAY?

A: We might not know the answer until they break camp. Parnell underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck and wasn’t supposed to throw off the mound for two weeks. However, he threw 10 pitches Friday and reported no discomfort. Of course, with a pitcher recovering from surgery, it is always the next few days that count. If healthy, Parnell is the closer. If not, Vic Black gets the first opportunity.

Q: WILL THE IKE DAVIS SAGA EVER END?

A: It sure would be nice. The Mets tried to trade Davis since October, but reportedly their asking price was too high. Davis kept tabs on the rumors and acknowledged he is surprised to be in Port St. Lucie. “The articles would say I wasn’t going to be here, so [it’s] a little bit of a shock I didn’t get traded,’’ Davis told reporters Friday. Davis goes into spring training as the projected starter and Collins said he’ll get at least 90 at-bats in hope of avoiding another slow start. The Mets haven’t said whether they’ll keep both Davis and Lucas Duda on the Opening Day roster.

Q: CAN RUBEN TEJADA BECOME THE PLAYER EXPECTED OF HIM?

A: Your guess is as good as mine. The Mets soured on Tejada last year, but after his dedication in attending a fitness camp in Michigan are prepared to let him keep his job. Collins hedged on making a formal announcement and mentioned Anthony Seratelli as a back-up infielder. The Mets also plan on giving Wilmer Flores time at shortstop, where he played in 2011. Flores is potentially a better offensive threat, so if he takes to the position it could be interesting.

Q: WHO WILL BE THE LEADOFF HITTER?

A: The answer could also finalize the outfield alignment. Collins stated a preference for Eric Young, who stole 38 bases last year, but must improve his .318 on-base percentage. Tejada, Chris Young and Daniel Murphy have been mentioned, Eric Young gives the Mets a base running threat they’ve missed since losing Jose Reyes. If Eric Young gets the job he’ll play left field. There have been whispers of moving him to second and Murphy to first. However, that would entail breakdowns by both Davis and Duda. As far as second base, Eric Young has only played 56 games at the position. It will take more than a few games in spring training to learn the position. Assuming Eric Young in left, the rest of the starting outfield would be Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, meaning Juan Lagares would probably be optioned.

ON DECK: It’s reporting day; Kyle Farnsworth talks.

Feb 13

Howie Rose And Josh Lewin To Return; Spring Training Radio Games

In what hardly constitutes a surprise, the New York Mets officially announced the return of broadcasters Howie Rose and Josh Lewin as play-by-play announcers on new flagship station, WOR 710-AM.

The following spring training games will be broadcast:

Date                            Team                                      Location                     Time

Fri. Feb. 28                 Washington Nationals            Port St. Lucie                1:10 p.m.

Sun. March 2              St. Louis Cardinals                Jupiter                           1:05 p.m.

Mon., March 3            Atlanta Braves                       Disney                          1:05 p.m.

Wed., March 5            Washington Nationals (SS)   Viera                             1:05 p.m.

Sun., March 9             Atlanta Braves                       Port St. Lucie               1:10 p.m.

Tue., March 11           St. Louis Cardinals                 Jupiter                          1:05 p.m.

Fri., March 14             Miami Marlins                        Jupiter                           7:05 p.m.

Sat., March 15            Minnesota Twins (SS)           Port St. Lucie                1:10 p.m.

Sun., March 16           St. Louis Cardinals (SS)        Jupiter                           1:05 p.m.

Mon., March 17          Miami Marlins                        Jupiter                           1:05 p.m.

Sat., March 22            Miami Marlins                        Jupiter                           1:05 p.m.

Sun,, March 23           Washington Nationals (SS)   Port St. Lucie                1:10 p.m.

Wed., March 26          Houston Astros                      Kissimmee                    6:05 p.m.

Fri., March 28             Toronto Blue Jays                  Montreal                        7:05 p.m.

Sat., March 29            Toronto Blue Jays                  Montreal                       1:05 p.m.

Jan 15

Mets’ Top Ten Questions With Spring Training A Month Away

With the New York Mets a month away from spring training in Port St. Lucie, now is a good time to look at the most pressing issues manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson must address before Opening Day.

WHO WILL BE THE FIFTH STARTER?

As of now it is Jenrry Mejia, who is coming off surgery. The Mets are looking, but their first hope is Mejia is healthy enough to open the season.

As teams select their rosters there will undoubtedly be veteran arms that are waived and become available.

Of course, there are several free agents on the market, but Alderson is looking for somebody to sign to a minor league contract, which would preclude Bronson Arroyo. Alderson expressed interest in Daisuke Matsuzaka after the season, but he wants two years.

Freddy Garcia, 37, has been discussed.

WHO IS ON FIRST?

This is a difficult time of year to make a trade as most teams are gearing up for spring training. There are some, like Milwaukee, that need a first baseman, but Alderson said there’s been no movement.

So, it looks as if Ike Davis and Lucas Duda will compete for the first base job. As they are essentially the same type of player, don’t expect them to keep both. If Davis has a hot spring more teams will show interest. Then again, if that happens the Mets might be prone to keeping him.

Should that happen, Duda could be optioned to Triple A if the Mets can’t trade him. Whatever happens, the Mets must be quick to pull the trigger on Davis if he’s not hitting. They can’t afford another year of distractions.

WHO LEADS OFF?

Their best leadoff hitter is Eric Young, but the trouble is if they keep outfielder Juan Lagares, that puts the speedy Young on the bench.

The answer to this question will also determine the composition of the outfield. If it is Lagares, he could play center with Chris Young and Curtis Granderson on the corners.

It would be counterproductive to have Lagares on the bench – he needs at-bats – so if he doesn’t start he season I think he should be sent to the minors. In that case, Eric Young would play left, Granderson center and Chris Young in right.

Young would lead off whenever he plays. If Lagares sticks, don’t expect him to lead off as he strikes out too much.

Collins left open the possibilities of Daniel Murphy or Ruben Tejada leading off.

IS BOBBY PARNELL HEALTHY?

After undergoing neck surgery, Parnell has been given clearance to resume baseball activities. However, this does not mean he will be ready to start the season. If that’s the case, Vic Black would close, but that would mean the Mets must add at least one more reliever. Signing Garcia could give them both starting and bullpen depth.

The Mets currently have four relievers outside of Black and Parnell they are counting on: Scott Rice, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia. Recently signed Ryan Reid could stick and Carlos Torres is also in the mix.

WILL ANY OF THE YOUNG ARMS STICK?

The Mets anticipate seeing Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard this summer, but not before June. That is why Alderson is looking to sign veteran to a minor league contract, which would make that pitcher easily disposable.

DOES WILMER FLORES HAVE A POSITION?

It would be waste of everybody’s time if the Mets concentrate Flores’ time at a position they have no intention of him playing at, such as third base.

Collins said Flores have improved his speed working out at the fitness camp and suggested during the Winter Meetings he might play some shortstop. That would be terrific as his bat is potentially far superior to Tejada’s. Should Flores show promise at shortstop, but doesn’t stick, he should be sent to the minors to concentrate at that position.

HOW GOOD IS TRAVIS d’ARNAUD?

He showed little in his limited window of opportunity last summer, especially at the plate. It is imperative d’Arnaud show something offensively this spring, even though results aren’t often emphasized.

His improvement must also include gaining a familiarity with the staff, although some pitchers, such as Dillon Gee, said they are comfortable working with d’Arnaud.

Collins said he has confidence in Anthony Recker as a back-up, but the Mets signed veteran Taylor Teagarden. The former Oriole, 30, has an out clause in his contract he can exercise if he’s not promoted by June 15.

HAS RUBEN TEJADA LEARNED ANYTHING?

The Mets began the offseason with shortstop a priority, but with the thinness of the market, and cost of the few – see Stephen Drew – they plan to stick with Tejada as they are encouraged by the effort he put in attending a voluntary fitness camp in Michigan.

Last year, Tejada first went on the DL, then options to Triple A Las Vegas, because the Mets weren’t happy with his production and attitude.

Collins said this winter Tejada has to learn a major league job is rare and fleeting. The manager said he’s happy with what he’s heard so far.

WHO IS ON THE BENCH?

I’ve already sent down Flores and Lagares for more work, but that probably won’t happen as the Mets’ bench is very thin. Flores could play some first base, but there is also Josh Satin who would be available.

If the Mets opt to send down Lagares, they would likely keep Matt den Dekker.

The back-up catcher will be either Recker or Teagarden, as I don’t see them keeping both.

While I am hopeful Flores can learn to play shortstop, I’m not overly optimistic and see Wilfredo Tovar sticking as Tejada’s back-up.

CAN COLLINS FIND A SET LINE-UP?

Last season the Mets had almost as many line-ups as they played games. A lot of that was because of injuries and/or a lack of production.

As of now, Collins doesn’t know his order because a decision hasn’t been made on Lagares and it is uncertain Davis will be on the team.

The leadoff position is wide open if Eric Young isn’t a starter. The job could go to Murphy or Tejada. Should Murphy lead off, I’d go with Tejada hitting second because Lagares doesn’t handle the bat will and has a propensity for striking out.

There are several assumptions, such as Murphy, David Wright and Granderson hitting 2-3-4.

Likely Davis or Duda would hit fifth. Collins could go with Chris Young to separate the lefty hitters, thereby dropping Davis or Duda to sixth.

Batting 7-8-9 would be d’Arnaud, Tejada and the pitcher.