Apr 26

Niese Still Key In Mets’ Rotation

In the first two games of this series, the focus for the Mets was on their stud pitchers Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, but I remain intrigued with Sunday’s starter, Jon Niese.

In the pre-Harvey years, when the Mets were forced to move from Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey – wow, I hadn’t thought of him in a long time – Niese was in the driver’s seat of their rotation. Young, left-handed, and a hard thrower with a manageable contract, Niese not only was a Mets’ leader but coveted by other teams.

NIESE: Still important to Mets. (AP)

NIESE: Still important to Mets. (AP)

However, injuries – including a partial tear of his rotator cuff – sapped the effectiveness of Sunday’s starter against the Yankees. Last winter the Mets were open to trading Niese, but at 28, he’s young enough to reverse the perception of him and increase his value to the Mets for the long-term.

And, it definitely helps that he’s healthy, which only fuels his confidence.

“I haven’t been this confident in my arm in probably three years,’’ Niese said during spring training. “I feel really good. … I feel a lot stronger. My arm feels excellent.’’

That has translated to the mound, where Niese is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA – and 1-1 with a 2.05 ERA in four starts against the Yankees. He is off to the good start he hopes will fuel a comeback season. It must keep playing out this way if Niese is thinking long-term, although the math remains in his favor.

On one hand, there’s Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz waiting at Triple-A Las Vegas to push him out of the rotation. On the other, figure on Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee not coming back next season, and we won’t see Zack Wheeler until at least July.

Also, he’s still young and hard-throwing left-hander with a manageable contract (under their control for the next two seasons). In this scenario, figure on Niese returning.

However, the Mets aren’t just interested in him just holding a roster spot, but needing him to perform as he did in his last start, Tuesday against Atlanta, when he gave up a solo homer in 6.2 innings.

They will take that tonight and every night.

Apr 06

Colon Proves Mettle Again

The controversial decision to start Bartolo Colon paid off in spades as he gave up one run in six dominant innings.

While others clamored for Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom to get the start, Terry Collins opted for Colon based on leading the Mets with 15 wins and over 200 innings last season.

COLON: Threw like an ace today. (AP)

COLON: Threw like an ace today. (AP)

Colon not only justified Collins’ decision, but also served notice the 41-year-old still has something left in the tank evidenced by eight strikeouts.

“He’s a pro,” Collins said. “He knows what he’s doing. He was the right man for today’s game and he showed it.”

It was believed Colon would best be able to work under the microscope of an Opening Day start. He proved that when after the first two Nationals hitters reached, Colon got out of the inning unscathed. He also struck out Wilson Ramos with the tying run on base to end the sixth.

The Mets wanted to trade Colon over the winter, and it is believed he could still be made available at the July 31 deadline. That’s premature, but does leave the Mets with a potentially interesting dilemma.

Assuming Colon is pitching well he is certain to draw some attention. However, he’s pitching well and the Mets are in the hunt, why would they want to trade him?

The Mets signed Colon after the injury to Harvey – and is on an innings limit – and Zack Wheeler gone until at least June of 2016, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz unproven, they might be less reluctant to deal him.

 

Mar 31

Niese Facing Pivotal Season

Jon Niese continued the Mets’ run of strong starting pitching with six scoreless innings Tuesday against St. Louis. The Mets haven’t said where, but Niese will likely be slotted fourth in their rotation, meaning he’ll pitch in the second series at Atlanta.

Niese, who gave up four hits and struck out three in a 2-0 victory over the Nationals, had been trying to correct a striding flaw in his mechanics. He noticed his landing (right) leg was not falling directly toward the plate, but toward first base. Consequently, Niese has been throwing across his body, which placed stress on his left shoulder causing it to tire. Such a strain could cause damage to the shoulder, perhaps leading to surgery.

NIESE: Big year for him. (AP)

NIESE: Big year for him. (AP)

“I’ve been working on my mechanics in between starts and in the bullpen,” Niese told reporters. “It feels good now. It makes my arm feel a lot stronger, and with a little bit better command as well.

“I’m striding probably a foot further toward home plate. It’s good. I’m using my legs, using my body to do the pitching instead of just trying to muscle it up there with my arm.”

This is a pivotal season for Niese, who has two years remaining on a five-year, $25.27-million contract. Niese was a hot commodity then as a young, hard-throwing left-hander with a manageable contract.

However, since a 13-9 season in 30 starts (190.1 innings) in 2012, Niese’s stock has nosedived. He’s gone 17-18 and made only 54 of a potential 68 starts.

In their growing disenchantment, the Mets tried to trade Niese over the winter, but their asking price was too high. Niese could also be expendable this winter, especially if Steven Matz is brought up and shows potential.

The Mets gambled, and to date lost on Niese. But, he’s only 28 so there’s still time for him to cash his potential check.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notebook.

 

Mar 20

Mets Matters: Murphy Could Go On DL; Syndergaard Optioned

The hits keep coming for the Mets, who could start the season with Daniel Murphy on the disabled list with a pulled right hamstring. The initial prognosis was tightness in the hamstring, but after a MRI the injury was called a pulled muscle.

When will GM Sandy Alderson ever learn not to label an injury until all the exams are completed? First Wheeler, then Murphy, then Josh Edgin, then Vic Black … one day it is one thing and the next it is something else, usually worse.

mets mattersAnd, let’s not forget Bobby Parnell, who has been pushed back again, this time from today until tomorrow.

“He’ll be out a week or so, maybe a little longer,’’ Alderson told reporters about Murphy’s injury. “Hamstrings take longer than people want to admit.’’

Alderson also said today either prospect Matt Reynolds or Danny Muno could make the roster coming out of spring training if Murphy is placed on the disabled list.

SYNDERGAARD OPTIONED: If a player on the 40-man roster is still camp by then end of today and is injured, he is entitled to major league service time if the injury extends into the start of the season.

Given that, it is easy to understand why Noah Syndergaard, who took a baseball off his left ankle Thursday – while playing catch of all things – was optioned to the minor league camp.

Syndergaard had X-rays taken and Alderson said the prospect is “more or less fine,’’ which means this is was purely done for long-range economic reasons.

ALDERSON ENDORSES FLORES: Murphy’s injury will not forced the Mets to move Wilmer Flores to second base and use Ruben Tejada at shortstop.

“Wilmer is the shortstop. Wilmer is the shortstop,’’ Alderson said. “It’s taken us this long to convince you guys that Wilmer is the shortstop.’’

EXTRA INNINGS: Bartolo Colon, who gave up two runs on six hits in 4.2 innings in Friday’s 5-4 victory over St. Louis, is currently lined up to be the Opening Day starter. … Steven Matz is scheduled to start Saturday.

Mar 17

DeGrom Sparkling In Win

Jacob deGrom was sparkling once again, giving up one hit in five scoreless innings with six strikeouts in Tuesday’s 6-4 victory over Miami in Port St. Lucie. DeGrom gave up a single to the first batter he faced, and then retired 14 straight hitters.

Steven Matz pitched a scoreless sixth, but relievers Scott Rice, Eric Goeddel and Jeurys Familia gave it up with four runs in two innings.

Jenrry Mejia pitched a scoreless ninth.

Kevin Plawecki hit a solo homer and Johnny Monell hit a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth for the game-winner.

ON DECK:  Sandy Alderson denies mishandling of Zack Wheeler‘s injury,