Feb 27

The Mets’ Ambivalence Towards Ruben Tejada Opens Door For Flores

Of all the young New York Mets, the one I am most interested in seeing is Wilmer Flores, especially at shortstop. While Ruben Tejada is the starter by default, Flores has a legitimate shot with a strong spring to grab a job.

FLORES: Has opportunity to earn job (Getty)

FLORES: Has opportunity to earn job (Getty)

As the Mets monitor Stephen Drew’s interest and Seattle for Nick Franklin’s availability, it is clear they aren’t sold on Tejada. That makes it no better time than now for Flores to surface.

As team officials continue to portray Tejada as the most likely starter on Opening Day, they acknowledge those two other possibilities and are showing a declining enthusiasm for the incumbent.

A hot spring from Flores could make things interesting if the Mets don’t make an acquisition, especially if he shows something defensively.

The rap on Flores is he doesn’t have the first-step quickness in moving laterally. He also doesn’t have a lot of speed, but shortstops don’t have to be fast. Flores attended the same Michigan fitness camp as Tejada and reports are he improved his straight-ahead speed and lateral quickness.

However, for the offensively-challenged Mets, Flores’ upside is greater than Tejada’s. Flores drove in 13 runs in 27 games last season, which projected over a 162-game schedule is 78 RBI. In contrast, Tejada’s 162-game average is a mere 40.

In addition, as a spray hitter, Tejada’s career on-base percentage is only .323 and his 162-game average is 87 strikeouts.

Flores played shortstop in the minors until 2011, but because of the range issue, the Mets started playing him at third, second and first. All this begs the question: With all the ways prospects are measured, couldn’t they have figured out his range limitations?

Flores’ value to the Mets would be to show something at shortstop, because he is a man without a position and despite his supposed offensive abilities, never hit more than 18 homers (2012) in the minors.

His best season was at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2013 when he hit .321 with a .357 on-base percentage, 15 homers and 86 RBI.

As the Mets consider Drew and Franklin – neither is imminent – this is the perfect time for Flores to make a statement.

Although Flores has experienced every position in the infield, shortstop is the one with the most potential for a breakthrough. Barring injuries, he won’t supplant David Wright at third or Daniel Murphy at second this year.

Who knows what could happen at first base? I floated the idea last year they might cut loose both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda and go with Flores at first base.

That’s not imminent, either.

 

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.

 

Feb 25

Mets Still Unsettled At Shortstop; Not Thrilled With Ruben Tejada

It’s not hard to figure out the New York Mets aren’t thrilled with the prospect of entering the season with Ruben Tejada as their shortstop. Despite off-season assertions from GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins they would be happy with Tejada, there are events to the contrary.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

Despite praise for Tejada’s participation in an off-season fitness camp in Michigan, there have been reports he’s not exactly buff. This can’t please Collins, who has already called out Tejada on his work ethic.

Perhaps, the most damning stories have been the reports from outside camp, beginning with the incessant drum beating to sign Stephen Drew coupled with Alderson’s reluctance to draw the line on the subject.

Either the Mets want Drew or they don’t. “Most unlikely [we will sign him],’’ as Alderson says, leaves open the door. That’s definitely not good news for Tejada and leaves the impression the Mets don’t know what they are doing.

For those scoring at home, Alderson entered the off-season with upgrading shortstop and first base as priorities and did neither. Funny, in the first week of full-squad workouts both are in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Next are reports the Mets are interested in Seattle’s Nick Franklin, which tells us Drew’s asking price remains high, and it goes beyond the compensatory draft pick as an obstacle.

Just as they were with Ike Davis, the Mets’ ambivalence in addressing possible Tejada replacements indicate there’s little desire to keep him if there’s an affordable alternative.

As for Drew, his agent Scott Boras, has him working out in a facility he set up outside of Miami. The sticking point is the compensatory draft pick and there have been reports Drew could stay out until after the June amateur draft when that condition is removed.

Hopefully, the Mets will have a shortstop they are happy with by then.

ON DECK:  Have to like what Buck Showalter did.