Feb 27

Mets Matters: Alderson Dishes On Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler And Strikeouts

mets matters

In a conference call this evening, Mets GM Sandy Alderson addressed several issues surrounding the team.

Among them:

* Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will not be allowed to block the plate.

* The leadoff spot is still up in the air and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is a candidate, still has work to do.

* If Nieuwenhuis plays fulltime he will strikeout over 100 times (he struck out 98 last year). That could give the Mets four players with over 100 strikeouts when you consider David Wright, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. While strikeouts are a concern, they are offset by an increased on-base percentage and run production.

* If the Mets are competitive this summer, he knows he will face the dilemma of trading a pitching prospect for a hitter.

* Alderson said how the Mets handled Matt Harvey last year should buy him patience from fans wanting to rush Zack Wheeler. He added there’s no sense in force-feeding a young player if he’s not ready.

These and other issues from Alderson’s conference call will be explored in greater detail in future posts.

THE GAME: If the Mets could take one positive out of this afternoon’s 12-4 waxing at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, it is that Duda broke a 0-for-7 slide with ground single.

No, they did not stop the game to give him the ball.

Seven of those outs were strikeouts. Duda finished 1-for-3 with one strikeout, so it isn’t as if he’s found it all of a sudden.

Terry Collins noticed Duda had a more compact swing on the single and fly ball to left. It was longer on the strikeout.

Duda had been spending extra time in the batting cage to work on his mechanics, and will do so again tomorrow. He’s expected to play Friday against Detroit’s Justin Verlander.

As of now, Duda is penciled in as the left fielder. The Mets like his power potential (15 homers last year), but must be concerned about his wasted at-bats. He had 120 strikeouts with only 51 walks in 459 plate appearances.

WHEELER OUT: Wheeler was scratched from today’s start with a slight strain of his right oblique. Although the Mets have not said anything, expect him to miss at least another start.

WRIGHT PLAYS: Wright returned to the lineup with two singles. He’s not scheduled to play Thursday, but is Friday against Detroit at Port St. Lucie. Wright hopes to play third instead of DH in that game. On Saturday he leaves for the World Baseball Classic.

Feb 26

Mets Matters: Mejia Rocked; Wright Captaincy

Jenrry Mejia was hammered this afternoon by Miami in his spring training debut, giving up a grand slam in a five-inning first inning in the Mets’ 7-5 loss.

MEJIA: Not a good day.

          MEJIA: Not a good day. (AP)

Mejia gave up five runs on four hits in a 30-pitch inning. Apparently, few of those pitches were effective.

Terry Collins said Mejia didn’t have the darting cut on his fastball, and suggested the problem could be attributed to having Tommy John surgery after the 2010 season. That was the year Mejia was rushed as a reliever, demoted to the minor leagues where he started, then was injured.

The Mets still don’t know Mejia’s eventual role. He’s expected to start this year, but pitching coach Dan Warthen and minor league manager Wally Backman believe he’s better suited for the bullpen. Collins admitted to that after the game.

Mejia is expected to open the season in the minor leagues unless there’s an injury in the rotation.

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Feb 25

Mets Matters: Mets Lose To Nats; Duda To Get Extra Work; Cowgill At Leadoff

Lucas Duda did not start tonight’s 6-4 exhibition game loss against Washington, and won’t be in the lineup tomorrow. Look for him Wednesday or Thursday.

In his first two games, Duda went 0-for-7 with six strikeouts, and told reporters today, “we’re not going to hit the panic just yet.’’

DUDA: Gets cage work.

DUDA: Gets cage work.

The Mets will opt for extra work in the batting cage instead.

Duda, who underwent wrist surgery in the offseason, began to swing the bat in late January rather than December, and has been limited so far this spring, and manager Terry Collins attributes that to his early problems.

This is a good tact to take with Duda, who is being heavily counted on this year to fill voids in left field and power production.

Collins said this is not a demotion and doesn’t want to embarrass Duda, and believes this is the best way to restore his confidence, which can’t be too high right about now.

As of now, Duda is penciled in as the left fielder, but center appears to be a platoon between Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill. The platoon will include the leadoff spot.

Nieuwenhuis will get the first chance to win the job, but the Mets are concerned about his high strikeouts ratio. He struck out 98 times with 25 walks in 282 at-bats. He did hit seven homers, but who knows what his power potential can be? For the amount of times he strikes out, he would need to hit a lot more homers.

Cowgill started tonight in center and at leadoff. It has only been a couple of games, but Cowgill has made a good first impression with his hustle.

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Feb 25

Harvey And D’Arnaud Not There; Duda Totally Off

The Mets tell us to look forward to 2014 and beyond, but we received a glimpse into that future Sunday when Matt Harvey pitched two innings to catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

After ten starts last summer, Harvey is already in the Mets’ rotation; for d’Arnaud, it was his first game since he injured his left knee last June.

There were several communication issues, which is to be expected from a young battery that has never worked together. The most important lesson is Harvey has the final decision on what he throws. If he doesn’t like the pitch, he calls d’Arnaud out to the mound. The bottom line is the pitcher has control over what he throws. If he’s not comfortable with the pitch it will get crushed.

Like a lot of people, d’Arnaud praised Harvey’s poise and demeanor. Harvey said he wasn’t concerned with the miscommunication, citing that they hadn’t worked together before.

Manager Terry Collins made it a point to say d’Arnaud would catch each of the Mets’ starters.

The Mets were also happy with Dillon Gee, who made his first start since surgery last season to repair a damaged artery in his shoulder. Gee threw last September, so he had a feel for his arm and expressed no worries.

Meanwhile, not having a feel for anything is Lucas Duda, who so far is 0-for-7 with six strikeouts. Not anywhere to go but up from there.

Duda’s problem is mechanical reports ESPN in that his lead foot is still too high when he begins his stride. Consequently, he’s not in hitting position and the ball gets in on him too quickly.

WEEKEND METS NOTES: Jonathan Niese gave up a run on three hits in two innings against the University of Michigan. He came out of the game saying he needed to work on getting ahead in the count more. Actually, that’s what all pitchers need to do. … Josh Edgin blew a save against Houston. … Jeurys Familia. … Collin Cowgill is making a good impression.

Feb 24

Collins Would Be Foolish To Rush Santana

Is Terry Collins serious? If he follows through on a reported plan with Johan Santana you can bet it will come back to bite the Mets. It can’t but come back to bite them.

The Mets pushed back Santana for nearly two weeks because he lacks the arm strength in his arm, yet, unbelievably, even with their history of handling injuries are trying to think of a way he’ll be ready for Opening Day, if not to start the opener at least the first time through the rotation.

COLLINS: Won't be smiling if Santana gets hurt.

COLLINS: Won’t be smiling if Santana gets hurt.

Just not smart.

Assuming Santana is back on the mound by March 15, it leaves him a little over two weeks to get ready.

The accepted spring training timetable for a starter is to take six starts to work his way up to 90 plus for a game. That way he’ll get roughly 30 innings.

Collins’ plan has Santana starting with 45 pitches and adding 15-pitch increments until he gets to at least 90 over four starts. That’s a forced workload for a young bulldog of a pitcher let alone for someone less than two years removed from shoulder surgery.

Collins took heat last summer for keeping Santana in for 134 pitches during his no-hitter. But, he generally received a pass because there were extenuating circumstances, such as the first no-hitter in franchise history and that Santana had already built up his arm by making two months worth of starts.

There will be no free pass this time should Collins push Santana and the left-hander comes away injured.

Just not a smart move.