Sep 30

How Mets Are Scrambling From Latest Injuries

Resiliency has been a Mets’ staple this season, and with the NLDS against the Dodgers eight days away, that quality figures to come into play again as a string of injuries is surfacing at a terrible time. The Mets needed to overcome injuries all season, and nothing has changed heading into October.

MATZ: Won't pitch Thursday. (AP)

MATZ: Won’t pitch Thursday. (AP)

The status of Juan Uribe with a bruised chest has been uncertain since the weekend; it has been several days for Steven Matz with back stiffness; and now, Yoenis Cespedes is day-to-day with two bruised fingers on his left hand after being hit on the left wrist with a pitch in the third inning Wednesday night.

Manager Terry Collins said Uribe might play this weekend – weather permitting – but left it open he could miss part of the NLDS. If Uribe isn’t ready, the Mets could replace him for the first round with Dilson Herrera or they could opt to carry him and gamble shorthanded.

The need for another infielder – at the cost of carrying ten pitchers instead of 11 – could be even more pronounced considering Wilmer Flores left tonight’s game with lower back stiffness. There is no projection as to the severity of the tightness, but it’s a back so it bears watching.

Also dealing with a stiff lower back is Matz, who was scratched from Thursday’s start. If Matz is held off the NLDS roster, figure Bartolo Colon going back into the rotation and the Mets adding a long reliever, preferably a left-hander, which could mean saying hello to Sean Gilmartin.

With the weather forecast poor for the weekend, the Mets could attempt to piggyback him after one the starters, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard. The forecast for Sunday is the best of the three games, but even so there’s a high chance for rain.

The Mets don’t have to set their playoff roster until next week anyway, so there’s no hurry to make an immediate decision.

As for Cespedes, he sustained bruises to his middle and ring fingers, but has almost a week to get ready. He was replaced by Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

I’d bet against Cespedes and Flores being available for Thursday’s game, which was moved up to 12:05 p.m., in hope of avoiding the rain.


Sep 27

Niese Volunteers For Bullpen; Could Be Future With Team

Figuring he wouldn’t be in the Mets’ postseason rotation, left-hander Jon Niese volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen, which is manager Terry Collins‘ primary concern for the NLDS against the Dodgers. Collins said Niese approached him ten days ago with the suggestion.

Collins said NIese’s willingness to pitch in relief typifies the attitude of his team.

NIESE: Goes to bullpen. (Getty)

NIESE: Goes to bullpen. (Getty)

“The entire clubhouse was caught up in winning,” Collins said. “They weren’??t caught up in their own stuff. They worried about doing what they thought they needed to do to help the club.”

The bullpen is the Mets’ Achilles Heel heading into the playoffs, in particular, the lack of situational left-hander. Citing an injury history and inability to get loose after his starts, Collins said he didn’t like the idea of using Steven Matz in that role. Today marked the first time the Mets addressed the idea of Matz in relief.

“It’??s one of those things where I wanted to do anything to help the team,” Niese said. “As the season progressed there at the end, there was a need down there.”

It could end up being Niese’s future with the team if he’s not traded.

A Met since 2008, Niese’s time in New York has been one of unfulfilled potential and injuries. At 28, he’s 61-61 lifetime and has two more years left on his contract. However, projecting ahead to next year, the Mets’ rotation figures to be Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matz and Zack Wheeler expected to come off the disabled list in July.

The Mets tried to trade Niese last winter, and might try again this offseason if they can can obtain a bat. In the back of GM Sandy Alderson’s mind is if Niese pans out in the bullpen, perhaps he can secure a spot there.

The plan is to use Niese in relief this week, with Logan Verrett getting his start Thursday in Philadelphia. What is undecided is where Bartolo Colon will work in the playoffs. Speculation is Colon will go to the bullpen, especially considering what Collins said Matz working in relief.

As a starter, Niese is adept at working to righties and lefty hitters. He has thrown only one relief inning during his career.


Sep 24

What’s Mets’ October Thinking On Matz?

The Mets’ magic number is down to three games following tonight’s victory in Cincinnati, but getting a step closer to the postseason for the first time since 2006 doesn’t mean they are any closer to setting Steven Matz‘s playoff role.

Matz hasn’t lost in six career starts, but hasn’t been as good as he was prior to going on the disabled list in early July. Tonight the Reds hit him for three runs on 10 hits in 5.2 innings, in which he threw 93 pitches. The damage against him would have been greater had he not struck out eight.

MATZ: How will he be used? (Getty)

MATZ: How will he be used? (Getty)

Matz has a power left arm and a bright future, but does that future include a spot in the playoff rotation? He’ll make the playoff roster, but his role hasn’t been announced. We just know he’ll be there.

I’m thinking there are four potential roles for him:

* He could be one of four starters, with the others being Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. This would leave bullpen roles for Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese.

* Because of the uncertainty surrounding Harvey with his innings, Matz could be in the rotation along with Niese or Colon, with Harvey coming out to the bullpen. This would work when Harvey would come out to start an inning.

Because of the mystery surrounding this, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets already know they might leave Harvey off the playoff roster, and in that case Matz would likely get the starting spot.

* Again, because of Harvey’s innings issue, if he is to pitch half-games in the playoffs, perhaps he could be used as the second arm in the game to pitch in short relief.

* Finally, because of injury questions with relievers Carlos Torres and Tyler Clippard, Matz could be utilized as a situational lefty or as the seventh inning specialist.

The wild card in all this is Harvey’s innings. Even without Harvey, or with him in a reduced role, the Mets have more of a need in the bullpen than in the rotation.


Sep 16

Despite Loss, Colon Deserves Spot In Playoff Rotation

Despite losing Wednesday night, Bartolo Colon deserves a spot in the Mets’ playoff rotation, ahead of Jon Niese and Steven Matz. Colon gave up three runs in 5.2 innings (one out shy of a quality start), this after four stellar starts.

Even so, he’s been far superior recently over Niese, and Matz has only made four career starts. Regardless of Colon’s record outside the NL East, I trust him him more in a crucial start over the other two.

COLON: Deserves spot in playoff  rotation. (AP)

COLON: Deserves spot in playoff rotation. (AP)

Of the three, Colon has been the best, which means screwing around with him is a bad idea.

In the interim, the Mets’ bullpen remains a question, with the lack of a left-handed reliever again an issue. It’s the seventh inning and Adrian Gonzalez is up in a critical situation and the Mets need a strikeout. Who would be the best choice to come out of the bullpen to get it?

Of the three, Matz is the one who throws consistently in the mid-90s and has the best chance of blowing away a hitter. I don’t know if Colon or Nlese has the ability to get ready quickly to enter a game.

Does Matz? I’m not sure of that either, but he’s the youngest and probably has the best chance of doing so.

To me, it’s ridiculous the Mets haven’t tried Matz out of the bullpen. The only viable reason for not doing so is because they aren’t sure they’ll have Matt Harvey for the playoffs and are thinking of Matz as his replacement.

This dilemma points us once again to the Mets not having a plan for Harvey as an issue.

At the trade deadline manager Terry Collins decreed, “if you don’t hit, you sit.” The same should apply to pitching. Colon has pitched well; he deserves to pitch in the playoff rotation.

Someday, Matz might be a playoff starter for the Mets, but this shouldn’t be the year. Colon has 14 victories, tied for the club lead. This should be his time to start.

Sep 09

Things Couldn’t Have Worked Out Better For Matt Harvey

It was Matt Harvey‘s worst outing of the season for the Mets, yet he came out smelling like roses. He’s the guy who doesn’t find loose change under his seat cushions, but $20 bills. At least so far, it has been that way.

HARVEY: Comes up golden. (Getty)

HARVEY: Comes up golden. (Getty)

We don’t know yet how much Harvey will pitch in September and his availability for the playoffs, but things are looking good for now. After four days in which he took a public relations hit for the innings flap issue after agent Scott Boras dared remind GM Sandy Alderson of the 180 innings magic number.

The print media took its shot at Harvey, but SNY continued to treat him with kid gloves as it failed to acknowledge Boras doesn’t say anything without Harvey’s knowledge. Guys, Boras is Harvey’s mouthpiece.

Harvey wants to tread lightly in September and pitch in October, but that might not be possible to his liking. However, Tuesday’s game and the completed sweep tonight gives the Mets a seven-game lead with 23 games remaining, to create a gap seemingly wide enough where missing Harvey a couple of times might be possible without creating any angst. Whether it is Logan Verrett or Steven Matz, it doesn’t matter.

The key here is Harvey got what he wanted with a limited amount of friction from the front office. Even a loss or two might not be the end of the world now. Had Harvey been beaten, he would have gotten all sorts of questions if the controversy was a distraction.

However, if Harvey only starts two more games – against the Yankees and Washington as reported – the question of how sharp he’ll be could become an issue. But for now, that’s just conjecture. For now, the Harvey issue doesn’t seem so intense.