Jun 21

Mets’ Jon Niese Has Rotator Cuff Tear; Injury Might Have Roots In Cold Weather Games

The bad news regarding Jonathon Niese has gotten worse – almost as bad as it can get for the New York Mets.

Niese, who left Thursday night’s game in Atlanta in the fourth inning because of pain in his left shoulder, was diagnosed with a partially torn rotator cuff. The announcement came less than an hour after manager Terry Collins was quoted as saying the injury wasn’t severe.

Collins’ comments only reinforced the understanding that under no circumstances, should the word of a Mets’ manager be taken when it comes to discussing the severity of an injury, which might have had its roots from Niese pitching in back-to-back sub-30-degree games in Minnesota and Denver.

Niese struggled after those starts and later complained of back stiffness. He later missed a start with shoulder tendinitis. What isn’t known, was how much Niese’s mechanics were altered by the cold-weather originated stiffness and if that strain eventually caused the tear.

Surgery is not immediately recommended the Mets said about an hour ago, but with this type of injury it usually is how these things end.

As was suggested earlier today, Niese was placed on the disabled list.

Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia, Mets assistant GM John Ricco said: “Hopefully, it will start healing itself and he won’t need surgery. But we’ll know more after a couple of weeks of rest. According to the doctors it’s a small-enough tear that with rest … they’re hopeful it won’t need surgery. It’s not ‘full thickness’ or a significant tear at this point.’’

If there’s no progress in that time, if the Mets wanted to add a player to their 40-man roster they could place Niese on the 60-day disabled list.

Niese recently missed a start because of tendinitis in his shoulder. Ricco said this is a new injury that didn’t show on a MRI at the time. That doesn’t mean Niese didn’t exasperate the injury by throwing with the tendinitis.

Reliever Greg Burke replaces Niese on the 25-man roster and the Mets’ rotation logjam took care of itself.

In a snarky comment, manager Collins told reporters: “You guys got your wish. There’s only five of them left.’’

It is as stupid a comment as a manager can make. No doubt Collins is frustrated, not only with his team, but also the persistent questioning of who would be bounced from the rotation.

The questioning is understandable since the Mets wanted to push things off by going to a six-man rotation. Reporters have to ask that question.

Collins’ answer implies the media wanted somebody to get hurt in order to get the answer. That’s not only absurd, but totally irresponsible.

It also won’t win Collins any points with the press if he needs the benefit of doubt when his job is on the line.

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Jun 21

Jonathan Niese Must Go On DL

Whatever the outcome of Jonathon Niese’s shoulder exam this morning in New York, the New York Mets must place him on the disabled list. Not should, but must.

That reliever Greg Burke is on his way to Philadelphia this morning indicates they are thinking in those terms. Replacing him in the rotation isn’t an issue with the arrival of Zack Wheeler, so there’s no need to make a decision on Shaun Marcum for at least another two weeks.

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

Nice and neat, isn’t it?

While the Mets’ roster maneuvering will take care of itself, they would prefer the juggling if it meant having a healthy Niese. If this were an isolated incident it might raise a red flag. That this is Niese’s third problem this season is alarming.

Niese left Thursday night’s game during the fourth inning in Atlanta with pain in his left shoulder. Unlike Matt Harvey, who tried to pitch through back discomfort several weeks ago – he gets a pass because he’s in his first full season – Niese realized something was wrong after a few pitches and called to the dugout.

There was no hesitation with Terry Collins in pulling him. There wasn’t even that “let’s throw a few warm-up tosses and see what’s going on’’ nonsense that has burned the Mets before.

Niese was gone.

“It’s never good when you have to leave a game. But on a good note, the doctor did some tests and everything was negative,’’ Niese said of a training room exam Thursday night. “It just felt really weak. I think the tendinitis kind of flared up again. I felt some pain that [Tyler] Pastornicky at-bat.

“I threw a fastball and noticed my velocity was down. There was a lot of discomfort. I tried to pitch through it, but every pitch after that I felt some pain, so I just had to stop.’’

Of course, Niese should not have tried to throw those few extra pitches, but a player will always attempt to work through it because differentiating between normal game pain and injury is difficult. However, Niese had already missed a start because of his shoulder.

Niese said he felt good after missing that one start and gave the obligatory “we’ll see what the doctor says.’’

Not this time. This has gone on long enough.

Niese is young, he’s left-handed, he throws hard – at least he did before this – and under a manageable contract through the 2016 season. Not only that, Niese is good. He’s a foundation piece; part of the Mets’ core.

He must be protected.

ON DECK: Updating Ike Davis.

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Jun 18

Zack Wheeler Lives Up To Hype

Zack Wheeler is here, so the New York Mets might as well get a real good look under his hood to see how the gears in his gut work.

The Mets believe they have another young star pitcher in their midst, but were on verge of watching a scoreless debut unravel. At the time, a Mets’ 6-1 victory and doubleheader sweep of the first-place Braves seemed highly unlikely.

WHEELER: Wins debut. (AP)

WHEELER: Wins debut. (AP)

The Braves had two on with one out in the sixth inning and Wheeler’s pitch count was approaching 100. The sixth was to be Wheeler’s last, but this time Terry Collins did not pull him so the rookie starter would have a “good feeling about himself.’’

No, Collins let Wheeler earn that good feeling by himself. Wheeler’s debut was already remarkably good, but he iced it by blowing away Dan Uggla for his seventh strikeout and getting Chris Johnson on a pop-up to second base.

It was a moment Wheeler will no doubt reflect on tonight before he falls asleep – if he falls asleep – and perhaps constantly before his next start.

Wheeler threw an emotional and encouraging 102 pitches, but only 55 of them were strikes, so that’s something he’ll work on. Six scoreless innings from Wheeler, giving up four hits and five walks.

Control was forecast to be an issue for Wheeler. It was in Las Vegas and was tonight, but that should be correctable over time. However, what can’t be taught are his 97 mph., fastball and composure to work out of trouble.

Wheeler walked two in the first, but got B.J. Upton on an inning-ending fielder’s choice. That inning could have gotten away from him easily.

Uggla hit a one-out double in the second, but Wheeler struck out the next two hitters.

Atlanta had runners on the corners with two outs in the third, but Wheeler retired B.J. Upton on a fly.

Wheeler never had a 1-2-3 inning, and seemed ready for another lack-of-support no-decision by a Mets’ starter, but catcher Anthony Recker hit a two-run homer, leaving the rookie starter to hope for his bullpen.

This time, the pen held and the Mets, unbelievably added tack-on runs. Couple this with Matt Harvey’s strong first-game effort and the Mets looked like a good team. They also made us greedy thinking how sweet it would have been to get the first game of the series.

The Mets had been riding this image since last season when Harvey burst into our consciousness. They were going to build around the young pitching of Harvey and Wheeler. That feeling intensified the past few days when it was imminent Wheeler would be promoted, and for one day at least, it all worked out for the Mets.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 18

Harvey And Wheeler Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

There might be some question if Zack Wheeler is ready to assume the role of savior for the New York Mets, despite his and manager Terry Collins’ proclamations to the contrary of those lofty expectations.

With the statistical and financial numbers having been crunched, the decision is it is time to start the clock on Wheeler. The Mets don’t know who’ll be dropped from the rotation. Because of today’s doubleheader, the Mets will go at least one cycle through the rotation with six starters.

WHEELER: Future is now.

WHEELER: Future is now.

Wheeler will start the second game with Matt Harvey the opener. That pitching future the Mets have been bragging about? Well, we’ll get a glimpse today.

Ideally, the Mets don’t want to return Wheeler to the minor leagues after today. As their thinking when Harvey came up last year, they want him here to stay. Because Wheeler won’t be activated until between games, rules prohibit him of being in the dugout to watch Harvey.

That will happen soon enough.

“[It will be] a fun day,’’ Collins said this afternoon at Turner Field. “It’s a great thing for this organization and its fan base to see what the future is going to be like. We’ve got two young guys that are going to be very, very, very good.

“Pitching is the name of this game. We’re going to run two guys out there [Tuesday] that can take this organization north pretty fast.’’

Harvey has been exceptional this season, but is just 1-1 with eight no-decisions in his last ten starts. In that span Harvey has given up 19 runs. If nothing else, what Wheeler should learn quickly about pitching on the major league level is there will be times when he’ll have to do it without run support, which is what Harvey is currently experiencing.

Harvey has been successful in large part because of his composure, self-confidence and sense of worth. Harvey understands his stature and expectations of him, but hasn’t let it go to his head.

Wheeler might as well have been reciting a script given him by Harvey.

“I don’t think I’m the savior at all,’’ spoke Wheeler in a press conference Monday afternoon at Turner Field, almost a half-hour where he grew up watching Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine.

Continuing his refreshing travel down humility road, Wheeler said: “We might not be doing too well right now, but I know the talent of these guys, and hopefully we can turn it around soon. … I’m just trying to come up here and play the best that I can, help out the team any way I can.

“I know people are going to scrutinize. We aren’t doing too well right now, but hopefully we can turn it around and everybody will like us again.’’

Mets fans have liked Wheeler all spring in hope of what he might give them. Today is his first chance to deliver.

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Jun 17

Where Does Jordany Valdespin Fit In With Mets?

Should the New York Mets pull the plug on the Jordany Valdespin experiment, manager Terry Collins and management will be able to look in the mirror and say they tried.

They would be fooling themselves.

VALDESPIN: What is his future? (Getty)

VALDESPIN: What is his future? (Getty)

A week is clearly not enough for most players to come off the bench to make a solid statement at second base, or any other position for that matter. They might give Valdespin more time, but it won’t be a significant chance because the Mets don’t even know if they want him to play second base.

Valdespin is 3-for-23 at the plate and hasn’t been effective in the field. If second is his natural position, he’s in trouble. Then again, Daniel Murphy didn’t have a natural position and it has taken him nearly two years to get a feel for the position.

The Mets are going out of order in the Valdespin experiment. The first issue isn’t whether they think he can play second, but whether they want him in the organization in the first place. Next, is where do they envision Valdespin playing? And, who is his competition in the organization?

In the short term, it is Murphy, but if he’s their “real second baseman of the future” they never should have been playing him at first this past week. The time should have gone to first baseman Josh Satin to get an idea what they have in him.

On the minor league level, the Mets’ seventh-ranked prospect is Wilmer Flores, who is a natural third baseman. However, with David Wright signed long-term, the Mets are playing Flores at second base. Finding a place for him is a higher priority than finding a place for Valdespin.

If Flores is the second baseman of the future, it stands to reason neither is Valdespin nor Murphy – so they must be showcasing the latter. Flores could be tested at shortstop, but Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were all tall, lanky and strong shortstops, so that’s not a real argument if they want to look at Flores over Ruben Tejada.

The Mets seem to have two second base options – three if they consider moving Tejada back – ahead of Valdespin, so what exactly are they trying to find out?

They definitely can’t learn much in a week enough to showcase him in a trade, especially with his previous baggage. They have a better chance of building Valdespin’s value it they play him in the minor leagues every day for the next mont than if he played part time on the major league level.

There’s clearly room for Valdespin in the outfield; there’s room for a lot of options in the outfield.

If the Mets decide they want Valdespin a part of their future, they will eventually find him a spot if he can hit. And, save a handful of pinch-hit homers, what do they know about this guy offensively?

They know he has pop and can occasionally drive a ball.  However, from his limited 116-at-bats window the first impression is he’s undisciplined, which makes one wonder outside of his speed what are his attributes as a leadoff hitter.

Overall, Valdespin is hitting .207, but more concerning is .a 264 on-base percentage. Valdespin swings from his heels and often at breaking stuff away in the dirt. His 24 strikeouts-to-six walks ratio is alarming, and for all his speed, four steals to three times being caught is barely a wash.

I don’t know if, or where, Valdespin will fit in with the Mets two or three years from now. I don’t think the Mets know, either. Fact is, I’m not sure the Mets know where Valdespin will fit in a month from now.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos