Mar 17

Little Time, Many Questions For Mets

Spring training is not just to get ready for the season, but for teams to sharpen their cliché skills. The New York Mets have used many this spring, but the prevalent one is: There’s plenty of time left.

Memo to Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins: No, there isn’t.

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

DAVIS: Still a question. (Getty)

With Opening Day two weeks away, the Mets have many decisions left; way too many for a team that could win 90 games. I bet Alderson already regrets that thought.

Here’s what’s left to decide:

FIRST BASE: Ike Davis entered spring training as the frontrunner, but because of leg injuries, neither him nor Lucas Duda has played much.

Neither will get close to 70 at-bats, much less the 90-plus Collins hoped for Davis.

They could, but I don’t see them carrying both.

Speculation is Davis will open the season on the disabled list, with Duda playing. That’s presumably because Duda is further along.

They could run Josh Satin out there, but I believe they wasted this spring to learn more about Wilmer Flores.

Collins suggested using Flores at shortstop, but he’s barely played there. He has a promising bat, but scouts say he is better equipped for second base or the corner infield positions.

Flores won’t get third because of David Wright, and last I checked first base is a corner infield position. Why couldn’t they look at Flores there? Where’s the vision?

SHORTSTOP: Publicly, they support Ruben Tejada, but almost as visible have been their efforts to land Stephen Drew and trade for Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

Neither is imminent, and the Orioles and Rays also have interest in Franklin. If they really wanted him, they should have acted weeks ago.

Shortstop remains a black hole, but I see Tejada winning the job by default because the Mets are skittish about giving Drew the money and surrendering prospects for Franklin. Anticipate Tejada as the Opening Day shortstop, with much criticism to follow.

LEADOFF HITTER: Collins prefers Eric Young, which is the best choice. However, where does that leave Juan Lagares? That’s the rub.

If Young plays, the outfield would include him, Chris Young and Curtis Granderson.

This isn’t softball, so there is no extra outfielder. For the purposes of his development, Lagares should play fulltime, either up here or in the minor leagues.

If it is here, they are wasting Eric Young. They also have no idea if Lagares can hit at this level.

One possibility is to go with Matt den Dekker or Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the extra outfielder – both can play center – and give Lagares his at-bats in Triple-A Las Vegas.

PITCHING; Both the rotation and bullpen are seemingly set, but there’s the Jenrry Mejia question: Rotation or bullpen?

If they aren’t going to use Mejia in the rotation in the majors, they should use him as a starter in Las Vegas.

Mar 11

Revisiting Mets’ Primary Spring Training Issues

On the first day of spring training, I posed five Mets manager Terry Collins needed to answer by Opening Day. Now, halfway through – 20 days remaining to be exact – it is time to revisit those questions, which haven’t been done in the positive:

Q: WHO WILL BE THE FIFTH STARTER?
A: Ideally, they wanted Jenrry Mejia but his elbow remains an issue, and there’s a chance he could open the season in the bullpen or the minor leagues. Either way, the fifth starter role isn’t imminent. Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan are candidates. Without Mejia, Matsuzaka appeared to have the inside track, and that’s likely to remain. With lefty reliever Josh Edgin sent to the minor league camp, Lannan will get time working in relief (there will be a separate post on that later today).

PARNELL: Said he'll be ready (AP)

PARNELL: Said he’ll be ready (AP)

Q: WILL BOBBY PARNELL BE READY BY OPENING DAY?
A: Parnell, recovering from neck surgery, insists he’ll be ready, but he’s only made one appearance. Collins would like to give him at least seven or eight. Assuming Parnell is ready, Vic Black will get the set-up role, but his control hasn’t been good. Veterans Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde are competing for jobs in the bullpen and both have closer experience.

Q: WILL THE IKE DAVIS SAGA EVER END?
A: Not any time soon. The Mets tried to trade Davis since October, but their asking price was too high. Davis kept tabs on the rumors and acknowledged he is surprised to be in Port St. Lucie. He began camp the projected starter, but it hasn’t been a good spring. First, he acknowledged he hid an oblique strain last year to avoid the appearance of making an excuse. The following day he ripped into the reporter who had the audacity to write what Davis said. Next was tightness in both calves, caused by too much work in the weight room. He’s currently in a walking boot. About those 90-plus at-bats Collins wanted? Not happening. He’ll likely start the season on the disabled list.

Q: CAN RUBEN TEJADA BECOME THE PLAYER EXPECTED OF HIM?
A: That doesn’t look promising, either. Tejada has a strained hamstring and his defense has not been good. He’s also not hitting. The Mets aren’t close to signing free-agent Stephen Drew or trading for Seattle’s Nick Franklin. Wilmer Flores started today at shortstop and could get more time.

Q: WHO WILL BE THE LEADOFF HITTER?
A: Collins prefers Eric Young, who missed several games with tightness in his side. Collins prefers Daniel Murphy second and Tejada – if he plays – down in the order. Currently, it appears it will come down between Eric or Chris Young. The latter, however, strikes out too much to be a successful leadoff hitter. If Eric Young gets the job, we should see Juan Lagares in the minor leagues instead of languishing on the bench.

ON DECK: Lannan in the bullpen.

Feb 26

Wrapping Up The Day: Niese Gets MRI; Starting Rotation Announced; Shortstop Unsettled

Jonathon Niese, designated to be the New York Mets’ Opening Day starter, was sent to New York for a MRI on his sore shoulder.

Niese suffered a rotator cuff injury last year, but the team said this pain was in a different area of the shoulder.

Niese’s first exhibition start was to be March 4 against Houston, but that’s not going to happen. The Mets won’t have any word on Niese’s return until after the MRI is read.

In addition:

* Niese is scheduled to the Opening Day starter against Washington, March 31. Of course, that’s contingent on how much time he will miss. He’s to be followed by Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee (also against Washington) and Zack Wheeler and the fifth starter (Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan or Jenrry Mejia (against Cincinnati). The Mets’ first two series are at home.

* Colon (tightness in his calf) and outfielder Eric Young (tightness in his side) were held out of practice today.

* General manger Sandy Alderson acknowledges Stephen Drew being a “fit’’ for the Mets at shortstop, but said he’s asking too much,

* Terry Collins said Wilmer Flores will get time at shortstop, but as of now the job belongs to Ruben Tejada.

* Outfielder Matt den Dekker is slowed by a stomach ailment.

* Mejia will oppose Gee in Thursday’s intrasquad game.

Feb 26

Alderson Weighs In On Shortstop Situation; So Far, Endorses Tejada By Default

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson danced around published reports critical of Ruben Tejada’s conditioning and steady media demands to sign Stephen Drew.

Earlier this week, The New York Post, citing unnamed sources, said despite Tejada training in the offseason at a Michigan fitness camp he didn’t look any more in shape than he did last season.

TEJADA: Holding on (Getty)

TEJADA: Holding on (Getty)

When Tejada first reported, manager Terry Collins said the shortstop, whose job is on the line this spring, looked good physically.

The off-the-record comment could have come from anywhere: from a front office official, a coach or a player. By club rule, the medical staff isn’t permitted to speak to the media.

“Look, we have probably 30 front office and coaching staff down here,’’ Alderson told the MLB Network. “There’s going to be a stray comment about players from time to time. That’s unfortunately the nature of the media in New York. It’s so pervasive that comments like that are going to be gleaned from time to time.’’

If indeed the comment came from a front office official, that could have easily been prevented if Alderson ordered his staff not to speak. It’s done all the time in all sports and provides an effective muzzle.

Alderson, who said during the winter Tejada could open the season at shortstop, still said the team is looking for improvement.

“We were happy with what Ruben did in the offseason,’’ Alderson said. “We’re hopeful that he’ll show significant improvement on the field – back to the levels he has demonstrated, so it’s not an unrealistic hope. But we continue to look at our middle-infield situation.’’

There’s no way that can be interpreted as an endorsement.

Ever since the day after the season, which ended with Tejada out with a fractured leg, there have been reports the Mets were interested in Boston free agent Stephen Drew. However, his $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox, which would cost the Mets a compensatory draft pick, was a deterrent.

Even so, the reports persisted.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Stephen Drew obviously,’’ Alderson said. “My own personal view is at this point, Stephen and his agent are reviewing the situation and perhaps looking at a strategy that prolongs this situation into the regular season or even into June.’’

Alderson didn’t say if the job would be Tejada’s until June.

Drew is currently working out in a facility in Miami owned by his agent, Scott Boras.

In the wake of Nelson Cruz signing with the Orioles – he wanted a five-year, $75-million deal, but settled for a one-year, $8-million contract – there’s been speculation Drew would reconsider.

Despite claims Drew might wait until June – when the draft pick compensation condition would be lifted after the draft – there’s been so signs Boras will back down.

“From our standpoint, look, it does appear that we would be a logical landing spot for someone like Stephen Drew,’’ Alderson said. “But, at the same time, we have to make our own, independent evaluation and cost-benefit computation and act accordingly, which is what we have done.’’

Translation: Drew remains too expensive.

The Mets are also discussing a trade with Seattle for infielder Nick Franklin, who reportedly would require pitching in return.

Whatever option the Mets choose, it is clear they are not enamored with Tejada. If by chance they can’t land somebody and Tejada keeps the job by default, he needs a big year to stay with the Mets in 2015.

ON DECK: More injuries.

Feb 25

Wrapping The Day: Ike Davis’ Motivation; Tejada Not Answer

Some people don’t get. It was reported by one Internet writer he was happy with the verbal sparring by Ike Davis with a reporter, saying it might “fire up,’’ the non-slugging first baseman.

The point is as a professional athlete Davis needs more than an argument with a writer for motivation. If Davis needs it and must use an external force for inspiration he’s in the wrong profession and the Mets have more trouble than they think.

Reportedly, the Pirates are monitoring the Mets’ camp about Davis, but are also looking at other possibilities.

In addition:

* The Mets haven’t closed the door on signing free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew or trading for Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

* Rafael Montero, Friday’s starter in the exhibition opener against Washington, threw live batting practice.

* Reserve catcher Anthony Recker told ESPN he’s in favor of the rules prohibiting catchers from blocking the plate.

* It is expected Josh Satin will play against left-handers regardless of whether Davis or Lucas Duda play first. Of course, Satin needs his at-bats, but if there’s a strict platoon at first base neither Davis nor Duda will develop into a real hitter.