Mar 26

Harvey Finishing Up Strong

Matt Harvey vowed his sputtering fastball would be amped up by the end of March. Well, he cranked it up to 97 mph., Sunday in easily his best start of spring training. And, coming on the heels of the news Steven Matz would miss his next start with irritation in his left elbow, the Mets were due for some positive pitching news.

Harvey also threw his slider in the upper 80s and went six innings.

HARVEY: Finishing strong. (AP)

HARVEY: Finishing strong. (AP)

“That was a big step, probably the biggest so far of the spring, and moving forward into the season,” Harvey told reporters.

Several weeks ago, I suggested the Mets consider leaving Harvey behind, but he’s improved in his last two starts, both in velocity and length. And, four strikeouts and one walk in the 8-2 victory over the Braves, was also a strong positive, so an extended spring training is a moot point.Harvey’s next start will come Friday at Citi Field against the United States Military Academy, and from there it’s back into the rotation.

Harvey’s next start will be Friday at Citi Field against the United States Military Academy, and from there it’s back into the rotation.

“I couldn’t be happier where I am now and moving forward,” Harvey said. “I feel I’m ready for a good season.”

That sound you hear isn’t the howling wind, but Mets’ fans sighing in relief.

Mar 22

Matz Hammered; Fastball Command Off

What had been a strong spring for Steven Matz following elbow surgery, turned sour Wednesday when he was routed by the Miami Marlins. The positive take on giving up five earned runs on eight hits in four innings (79 pitches) are the following: 1) his outing wasn’t injury related, 2) there wasn’t anything wrong with his fastball velocity, 3) considering he has been consistent this spring, today should go down as “one of those games,” and 4) he quickly identified his problem.

MATZ: Still has work to do. (AP)

MATZ: Still has work to do. (AP)

“I think just fastball command,” Matz told reporters. “I gave up a hit on a curveball to [Matt] den Dekker. Other than that, they were all fastballs. Spring Training is about fastball command, and I’ll keep hammering away at that.

“I was up in the zone. Last time, I was up out of the zone and had some walks. This time, [the fastballs] were up in the zone, and they were able to get their barrels to it more. I felt like mechanically, I was OK, but the ball was just up in the zone. That’s right where the bat path is, and they were able to hit them pretty hard.”

The negative take is that fastball command should usually be on this late in spring training, and if Matz doesn’t regain it in his remaining one or two starts then there could be a problem. My thinking is today was “one of those games,” and a red flag isn’t waving.

My concern with Matz is whether he’ll get enough work this spring. The conventional wisdom on a starter’s innings in spring training has usually been in the high 20s up to 30 innings. With his four innings today, Matz has 12.2 innings and assuming five in his next start that’s not even 20. Especially coming off surgery he might not be strong enough.

“I’m glad I’ve got one or two more starts before the season comes,” Matz said. “You try to not let this stuff bother you, but still. when you’re getting hit around, it’s never fun. I’ll take away something and bring it to my next start.”

 

 

Mar 11

First Base Prospect Dom Smith Optioned; Matz Sharp

Dominic Smith was sent to the minor league camp this morning, primarily to get more at-bats prior to the start of the season. Smith hasn’t had a good spring at the plate, hitting .185 with ten strikeouts in 27 at-bats, but he wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster, anyway.

Smith hit .302 last season for Double-A Binghamton and will likely be assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas

“He just needs to keep on doing what he’s been doing,” said Keith Hernandez, former Mets Gold Glove first baseman and current SNY analyst. “He’s a future Gold Glover if he plays every day. He’s so smooth.”

Offensively, according to Hernandez, Smith needs to concentrate on hitting line drives and not worry about hitting for power, as that will come.

Assuming a full, and productive, season in Triple-A, Smith could be a September call-up and could make the 25-man roster next spring as the Mets don’t figure to bring back Lucas Duda, who is scheduled to become a free agent.

GOOD START FOR MATZ: Steven Matz made a strong start in Saturday’s 6-0 loss to the Nationals, giving up one unearned run (set up by Yoenis Cespedes’ error in left) on three hits with two strikeouts in three innings.

“The big thing is fastball command, trying to establish the fastball on both sides of the plate,” Matz said as to what he was trying to work on in his second start. “Comparing myself to last year, I think I’m ahead of where I was last year.”

As of now, Matz is third or fourth in the Mets’ rotation.

EXTRA INNINGS: Erik Goeddel, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, gave up three runs in one inning. … Curtis Granderson had two hits. … Re-assigned to the minor league camp in addition to Smith were pitchers P.J. Conlon, Kevin McGowan, David Roseboom, Corey Taylor and Logan Taylor; infielders Phillip Evans and Luis Guillorme ; and outfielder Champ Stuart.

Mar 09

DeGrom Continues To Be Sharp

The early returns have been good for Jacob deGrom, who threw four shutout innings in today’s 5-5 tie with Detroit.

Coming off surgery on his elbow, deGrom has thrown six scoreless and walk-free innings in his two spring training starts. He’s clocked in the mid-90s and struck out seven.

DEGROM: Has reason to smile. (AP)

DEGROM: Has reason to smile. (AP)

Results aren’t important, at least not yet, this early in spring training. What’s most important at this stage, especially after surgery, is fastball command and deGrom has been sharp.

“I was really pleased with being able to locate all four pitches today,” deGrom told reporters in Port St. Lucie. “I think today I was able to throw that changeup where I wanted, pretty much when I wanted to.”

Of the Mets’ rotation, deGrom has been the sharpest, followed by Noah Syndergaard – but his pitch count has been high – and Steven Matz. Matt Harvey has been roughed up and Zack Wheeler starts for the first time Friday.

While deGrom has been solid in his six innings, the early returns have been mixed overall. It’s premature to say the rotation is completely healthy and ready to go, but there’s reason to be optimistic.

 

Mar 06

Despite Encouraging Signs Mets Must Be Cautious With Wheeler

Hopefully, the other shoe won’t fall for the Mets’ Zack Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two years because of elbow issues. He’s back to throwing batting practice, and Sunday clocked out at 93 mph. Most importantly, however, is he left the mound feeling no pain.

WHEELER: Take your time. (AP)

WHEELER: Take your time. (AP)

If he can stay setback free for the rest of the week, he’ll start Friday against the Braves. It seems like forever, when Wheeler and Matt Harvey stuffed the Braves in a doubleheader. Then came Tommy John surgery in 2015 and a myriad of setbacks that has Wheeler wondering.

“I kind of feel like I’m waiting for a setback, but everything is going good,” Wheeler told reporters. “I feel good about it. Everything was coming out of my hand nice today. It definitely felt better than last time.”

When the Mets see Wheeler, they envision their Golden Arms Rotation, that when healthy has the potential to be one of baseball’s best. But, they’ve never been healthy together, with Wheeler, Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom all coming off surgery. Noah Syndergaard pitched through a painful bone spur in his elbow, otherwise, there would have been five coming off the knife.

Although Wheeler said he feels good, he added he’s not there, yet.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent letting it go,” Wheeler said. “But I’m 90- to 95-percent effort, breaking off curveballs and sliders. It feels good.”

Even if he’s full strength, don’t bet on Wheeler making the Opening Day roster as the Mets are figuring a limit of 110 innings and currently have eschewed the up-and-down risk of working him out of the bullpen. So, the prudent plan would be to let him build himself up with an extended spring training, then possibly bring him up in late May or early June when the weather is warmer.

In previous seasons the Mets had Bartolo Colon to eat up innings. This year they have Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, so there’s no sense in forcing this.