Mar 02

Jonathan Niese Next In Line For Opening Day Start

Jonathan Niese, whom I called the Mets’ most significant starter at the opening of training camp, threw three scoreless innings Friday against Detroit.

A key for Niese will be how he controls his change-up.

Niese, incidentally, will be the Opening Day starter if Johan Santana can’t go. I say book it. No way would Terry Collins send Matt Harvey out there just ten starts into his career.

Harvey will get the ball his afternoon against Miami.

As far as pitching assignments go, figure Bobby Parnell as the closer because Frank Francisco, who is down with a sore elbow, will likely not be ready.

AROUND THE HORN: David Wright leaves today for the World Baseball Classic. (I’ll have something on the WBC later today). … Lucas Duda was a scratch yesterday because of a medical issue. The Mets are saying it is minor. … Daniel Murphy has started hitting off a tee. He’s nine days away from playing in a game.

Mar 01

Sandy Alderson On Evaluating Terry Collins

General manager Sandy Alderson stopped short of saying manager Terry Collins’ job was secure, but in a conference call this week, left the impression he will be judged with a broad paintbrush.

COLLINS: He's smiling now.

COLLINS: He’s smiling now.

As GM, Alderson’s job description entails building for the future, while his lame duck manager has nothing guaranteed beyond this season.

That doesn’t mean the two perspectives can’t co-exist.

Collins’ extension will be assured if the Mets have a winning season, but even if they don’t – very possible considering their holes – he could be back in the dugout in 2014, when the spending is supposed to begin.

“Well I think there are two things upon which a manager is evaluated,’’ Alderson said. “One is wins and losses, and the other is the improvement of the players on the team. And regardless of whether you have a veteran-dominated team or a younger team, players have to improve.

“And more importantly, they have to be motivated to improve, and that’s really partly where the manager comes in. I think that Terry will be evaluated on both of those bases, with the understanding that the wins and losses are not an absolute – to some extent they are relative to the talent that we have.’’

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Feb 28

Valdespin Off To Hot Start

GM Sandy Alderson said not to discount Jordany Valdespin as a potential leadoff hitter. Valdespin had two singles in that role in last night’s 4-4 tie with Washington.

Valdespin played second base last night and will get a chance to play the outfield. There is a chance Valdespin could make the roster at second if Daniel Murphy isn’t ready.

Murphy will be out for another week to ten days with a strained muscle in his right side.

Valdespin made a bad impression with the Mets last year because of his lack of hustle, and compounded that by being suspended in winter ball. He’s been the good soldier so far this spring.

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Feb 28

Mets Announce Tentative Timetable For Wheeler

If history taught us anything, it is to not rely on a Mets manager for an injury diagnosis.

So, forgive me if I don’t totally buy into Terry Collins’ declaration of Zack Wheeler’s right oblique strain “is not that bad.’’

Of course, somebody else’s injuries usually aren’t.

Wheeler already missed one start, and the Mets’ current plans have him missing at least one more. The thinking is he’ll have a bullpen session Tuesday and get in a game in three more days. Of course, that’s all predicated on Wheeler coming out of the bullpen with no tightness or pain.

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Feb 28

Injury Updates: Wheeler, Santana, Feliciano And Murphy

When it comes to pitching injuries, always bet the over.

Despite Zack Wheeler saying he would be all right to make his next start, his strained right oblique muscle – classified as mild – will keep him sidelined.

The Mets haven’t determined when Wheeler will throw again, but these things usually have several steps, including long tossing, throwing off the mound and perhaps a batting practice session. Add a day of rest between each step, so do the math.

Sandy Alderson said last night in a conference call there’s no sense rushing Wheeler if he’s not ready, that it is counterproductive. He meant in all areas, and if there’s a physical question Wheeler will sit.

Manager Terry Collins said last year at this time pitchers were throwing batting practice. This year, the Mets have already played a handful of games thanks to the accelerated scheduling because of the World Baseball Classic.

Players are creatures of habit, and that includes offseason preparation. Not being exposed to spring training with the WBC, perhaps Wheeler wasn’t physically ready for his program.

This has always been a concern, that players would be susceptible, especially pitchers, to injury.

SANTANA UPDATE: Assuming no setbacks, the timetable for Johan Santana is to throw off a mound Friday, pitch batting practice or in a “B’’ game Tuesday, then in an exhibition game March 10 or 11.

MURPHY UPDATE: Daniel Murphy, down with a strained intercostal muscle in his right side, is a week to ten days away from playing in a game. That’s pretty much what the Mets said when he was injured several days ago.

FELICIANO UPDATE:  Pedro Feliciano has been cleared to resume throwing, but will keep wearing the heart.

NOTE: I will have several more posts throughout the day.