Dec 17

Can Cory Mazzoni Earn A Spot In Mets’ Bullpen?

One area the New York Mets are still working on is their bullpen, but manager Terry Collins said at the Winter Meetings one option could come from within in Cory Mazzoni.

Collins said Mazzoni, who was limited to 64 innings in 12 starts because of hamstring and elbow injuries at Class AA Binghamton, could be converted to the bullpen in spring training.

Several things could determine if a switch is made will be dependent on: 1) whether the Mets are able to sign a reliever, 2) whether they obtain a reliever in a trade involving Ike Davis, 3) Bobby Parnell’s status, and 4) how seriously they believe they could contend this season.

If one of the first two variables is reached, converting Mazzoni won’t be necessary, at least not immediately. If they don’t obtain anybody and Parnell isn’t ready, then they’ll need to add somebody.

Finally, if the Mets believe they can make a run in 2014, they might not want to entrust a bullpen slot in a rookie.

Whatever they decide, they should develop Mazzoni as a reliever in spring training because they’ll eventually need another arm out of the pen this summer.

Whether this is a permanent conversion depends on how he responds if his role is changed. Working in Mazzoni’s favor is he’s a power pitcher, with 74 strikeouts in those 64 innings. He also has good command with only 19 walks.

Assuming Parnell’s readiness following neck surgery, the Mets have six pieces in their bullpen, including Vic Black (the closer if Parnell can’t go), Scott Rice, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia.

Another possibility could be Jenrry Mejia should the Mets another starter.

I would avoid that option if possible as Mejia has pitched better as a starter and is more comfortable in that role. Plus, Mejia’s development has been hindered by injuries and by bouncing around from starting and relieving roles. I’d like to see him in the area he’s best at – which is starting – and see if he can develop there.

Yes, the Mets have young pitchers in their system, but Mejia is one of them. And, the more they can develop, the better trade options they’ll have in the future.

ON DECK: You can meet Zack Wheeler and Daniel Murphy tomorrow.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 16

Issues Terry Collins Will Address In Spring Training

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has a lot on his plate these days in preparation for spring training. There are still pieces to add, but that’s GM Sandy Alderson’s job, not Collins.

COLLINS: Issues to address.

COLLINS: Issues to address.

Collins doesn’t appear to be a manager who flies by the seat of his pants. He’s likely to have a plan of players and issues he will need to address, assuming the roster doesn’t change between now and the middle of February.

Ike Davis: With Davis’ name in the news constantly regarding a possible trade, what if it doesn’t happen? If Davis is still on the roster, Collins will have to work out a plan on how to use him and how to keep him in the clubhouse circles. It will be difficult for Collins to juggle the responsibilities of managing a team and handling personalities.

Daniel Murphy: Like Davis, Murphy’s name has also been mentioned in trade talks. Usually managers won’t discuss an impending trade, but if the trade doesn’t materialize he has to keep motivating that player. Also, he needs to know how to answer the inevitable question: Will I be traded?

Ruben Tejada: Collins said at the Winter Meetings he still has faith in Tejada as his shortstop. How will he convey that, especially after the Mets made a run at Jhonny Peralta and reportedly are still in the market?

Eric Young: After going through nine leadoff hitters last season, Young won the job. Now, it appears he has lost it. Collins must formulate a plan on how he will deal with Young and keep him motivated and interested.

Wilmer Flores: This is a man without a position. If Flores makes the team, Collins must define to him a role and where he fits in.

Juan Lagares: This is a guy who needs to hit if he’s to play, and he’ll have to play to stay. Lagares strikes out way to much for his limited playing time, and Collins must impress on him the importance of pitch selection and plate patience for his development. This means potentially sacrificing results in spring training in favor of improving his plate approach.

Chris Young: Collins said he’s the Met he believes the most poised to be a surprise. What is expected of him? There can be no guessing of roles.

Travis d’Arnaud: Collins said d’Arnaud’s plate approach must improve. He’s simply not a major league hitter. If there’s a chance d’Arnaud will be sent down, it must be impressed on him it isn’t permanent and he still fits into the Mets’ plans. The last thing Collins wants to do is destroy his confidence.

Zack Wheeler: Collins said if there’s to be an innings limit on Wheeler, it will be something that would happen during the season and he won’t go into the year on the limit. Collins also knows everybody is different and the leap Matt Harvey made last year might not happen for Wheeler. Everybody’s definition of progress is also different and Collins will need to tell Wheeler what is expected.

Accountability: Last year left the impression there wasn’t accountability among some players, notably Jordany Valdespin and the length of time to send Davis to the majors. If the Mets are to make the next step the players must know they are accountable.

Plate approach: Collectively, the Mets struck out too many times and didn’t walk enough. The Mets’ offensive “gameplan’’ has to be addressed of what is acceptable and what is not. Lucas Duda took way too much heat for working the count and not driving in runs. The run production will eventually come. For any player who waits out the pitcher, he must be told it isn’t a crime.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 15

Collins Is Hopeful That Wheeler Will Toss 200 Innings

WHEELER: High hopes for him.

WHEELER: High hopes for him.

As of now, the New York Mets don’t anticipate an innings limitations on Zack Wheeler, who was shut down for his last two starts in 2013. Wheeler threw 100 innings last year and said an innings limit hasn’t been determined, and if one is later on, it won’t be until after the season starts.

“We haven’t talked about [an innings limit],’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He should get over 200 if he goes out there 30?something times.  If he does that, he would have a heck of a year. When you’re getting those kinds of innings, you’re keeping your team in games.’’

Hopefully, that thinking won’t change and the Mets will not put the shackles on Wheeler, who won’t learn how to pitch on this level unless he does so.

Pitchers today wear down when they don’t accumulate innings. If a pitcher doesn’t build up his arm, he won’t have anything in the tank when he needs it. There are times when a pitcher has to learn to pitch in the eighth and ninth innings, when he’s running on fumes, when he just has to reach down.

Wheeler had his rough moments last summer, such as when he went away from his fastball and told to work in more on his secondary pitches. When that approach was adjusted to where he could work more off his fastball, Wheeler pitched well.

Collins said he believes Wheeler’s demeanor and emotional make-up could allow him to make a jump similar to what Matt Harvey made last season before he injured. Collins said Harvey learned how to make adjustments within a game and thinks Wheeler can do likewise.

“I’m hoping he takes the Matt Harvey step,’’  Collins said. “[Wheeler] now realizes he can fix it.  He realized all he had to do was make things.  He didn’t have to overthrow.

“He’s still got that great arm if he needs it.  His command of his secondary pitches got better.  I think his confidence rose as the season went along.  Again, I think the sky is the limit for what potential this guy has.’’

Wheeler told ESPN Radio he plans on reporting to spring training around Feb. 5, which is ten days before the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 11

Mets Add Bartolo Colon

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Who knew? The New York Mets were straight with us when they said they weren’t finished as they announced the signing of Bartolo Colon today to a two-year, $20-million contract.

Just like that, the Mets addressed a massive hole in their rotation. Should the 40-year-old Colon pitch anything like he did last year with Oakland, the Mets all of a sudden must be elevated to at least wild-card contender status.

COLON: Important signing.

COLON: Important signing.

Seriously, they’ve added enough, and if their existing talent improves, the Mets can realistically be expected to be better. They didn’t add young, vibrant expensive names, but added enough talent to where they should be taken seriously.

They aren’t on a par with Washington and Atlanta for the NL East Division lead, but the additions of Curtis Granderson and Colon should be worth at least seven more victories this season, and perhaps more when Matt Harvey returns in 2015.

The Mets won 74 games last year, and reaching .500 would take at least one more victory a month, which is entirely doable. With two wild card slots, .500 or slightly better will make October possible.

Colon’s age is somewhat of a gamble, because, after all, how long can he go? Even so, he’s been an innings-eater, which is exactly what the Mets need. Colon was second in the AL in ERA at 2.65 and finished sixth in the Cy Young balloting.

The Mets’ rotation now consists of Colon, Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee. Each comes with questions:

* Colon: He can’t last forever, but has showed no signs of breaking down.

* Niese: He’s coming off shoulder surgery and has an injury history in his short career.

* Wheeler: Manager Terry Collins said Wheeler could be capable of 200 innings. That’s a little ambitious considering the leash Harvey was on last year, but if he develops as hoped the Mets will have something special.

* Gee: Pitched 199 innings last year. Can he do it again? Gee is underrated, but a valuable commodity.

Colon brings a lot to the table, including a calming, veteran presence that can only benefit Wheeler and Harvey next season.

What he also does is buy time until Noah Syndergaard is ready. The Mets still need a fifth starter, which could be Jenrry Mejia if he’s healthy, or they could force-feed Rafael Montero.

In another development, Seattle signed Corey Hart away from Milwaukee, which leaves the Brewers needing a first baseman. Yes, the Brewers have been linked to Ike Davis, but word is they want to make a run at Tampa Bay first baseman James Loney.

Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are all in the market for first basemen.

I don’t expect the Mets to deal Davis by the end of the week, but then again, nobody anticipated them landing a name starter this week.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 11

Terry Collins Said David Wright Deals With Pressure

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – David Wright told me yesterday how much Curtis Granderson will mean to the New York Mets on the field and in the clubhouse.

One thing Wright will never admit is, as team captain, whether he ever felt he was drained by being “the man’’ and if Granderson would alleviate pressure. Doing so would admit feeling the pressure. That’s something he’s never done, and won’t ever. It isn’t in his professional DNA.

WRIGHT: Handles pressure.

WRIGHT: Handles pressure.

Manager Terry Collins can read a player by looking into his eyes and watching body language. He was asked if he ever sees a sign of mental fatigue from Wright.

“The answer is no, I don’t,’’ Collins said.  “David Wright is the consummate pro.  He knows exactly what’s expected, deals with it, and he deals with it with a smile.’’

There are times when he tries to carry the Mets on his shoulders. He’s done that for years, but team leaders always fall into that trap. That’s what team leaders do.

“Does he once in a while try to be the guy?  Yes,’’ Collins said.  “But he’s supposed to because he is the guy.  That’s why I think he’s a great player.’’

When the Mets need a key hit, Wright often delivers. He has a .375 average and 1.123 OPS when the Mets win and .243 average and .700 OPS when they lose. He hits .295 with men on base and .284 with runners in scoring position. His .407 on-base percentage with runners in scoring position is indicative of teams pitching around him.

Since Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado left, Wright has been the go-to guy for the Mets in critical situations. He’s always said he relishes those situations.

“You know, when the game is on the line, you look and guys are turning to David Wright to be the guy that comes through,’’ Collins said.  “I think he handles it great.’’

Granderson, despite his propensity for striking out, hit over 80 homers in 2011-2012. When he hit 41 homers in 2011, his home-road breakdown was 21-20, so he can hit outside of Yankee Stadium. Granderson is not an easy out, so pitchers might be less reluctant to pitch around Wright, at least in theory.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos