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.

Feb 23

Mets Need To Get That Winning Feeling

The question is always posed at the start of the exhibition schedule: How important is it to win during spring training?

For most teams it isn’t and history is full of examples of spring training winners who were flops during the regular season. The reverse also holds true.

But, what about the Mets, who open up today against the Washington Nationals? What are we to make if Zack Wheeler outpitches Stephen Strasburg or if the Nationals light him up?

Probably nothing, but over the next five weeks I believe it is important for the Mets to show something, if for no other reason but to get a good feeling about themselves. And, for us to get a good feeling about them.

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Feb 21

Mets Matters: Kirk Nieuwenhuis Gets Leadoff Opportunity

Several days ago I gave you my idea for the Mets’ batting order and it included Kirk Nieuwenhuis as the leadoff hitter, so I was happy to read Adam Rubin’s story he will be given first chance to win that job.

Nieuwenhuis will be the leadoff hitter for Saturday’s exhibition game against Washington.

kirkThe Mets like Nieuwenhuis’ patience – he sees over four pitches an at-bat – and he had moderate success in the role last year hitting .264 with an on-base percentage of .303.

Both numbers need to be improved, but it must be remembered he did this in his first look at major league pitching.

Before their slide Nieuwenhuis played center and hit leadoff and Terry Collins remembered: “ … when we were playing really, really well, that guy was in center field. So he deserves the right to get the first shot.’’

Nieuwenhuis can steal the occasional base, but he’s not known as a steal threat. Steals can sometimes be overrated, but fundamental base running is always in vogue. Going first-to-third, realizing when a ball will go through, and running to avoid a double play are all critical components of good base running.

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Feb 20

Mets Prospect Cesar Puello Linked To PEDs

This is a good way to get a career started. Mets outfield prospect Cesar Puello is linked to Anthony Bosch’s biogenesis clinic in South Florida, joining such luminaries as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera and former Met prospect Fernando Martinez.

In an e-mail statement, the Mets said: “Because of the ongoing investigation, we have no comment. We refer all questions to Major League Baseball.’’

Puello was injured for much of 2012 while playing for Single-A St. Lucie, and Martinez, you’ll recall, was frequently injured during his unsuccessful tenure with the Mets.

FRANCISCO TO THROW: Reliever Frank Francisco could begin throwing this weekend. He is down with elbow inflammation. If Francisco opens the season on the disabled list, which remains a distinct possibility, it could create a spot for submariner Greg Burke.

NOTEBOOK: Daniel Murphy received a cortisone injection yesterday in New York and is expected to be out seven to ten days. … If Pedro Felciano shows he has something left he could join Josh Edgin as a lefty in the bullpen. Terry Collins feels limited with only one lefty reliever. … The Mets have an intrasquad game Friday and start the exhibition schedule Saturday against Washington.

Sorry for the short post, I’ll have something else for you around noon. Have a great day.

Feb 19

Suggestions For A Mets’ Batting Order; Nieuwenhuis At The Top

Like every manager in the history of the game, I love to tinker with batting orders. So much can happen between now and Opening Day, but when it is below freezing it is as good a time as any to think of what Terry Collins’ lineup could be this summer.

Collins is on record with Ruben Tejada in the leadoff slot, but I’m suggesting a different direction.

NIEUWENHUIS: Trying him at leadoff.

NIEUWENHUIS: Trying him at leadoff.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis had limited success last season when he first arrived, but pitchers figured him out. I’d like to give Nieuwenhuis the chance to lead off because he demonstrated patience and the ability to slap the ball around and run. If he can become more disciplined he could develop into a good leadoff hitter, and since we’re thinking long-term let’s give it a try because there’s an upside with Nieuwenhuis hitting first.

Tejada would hit second because he has good bat control, knows how to work a pitcher and can bunt. All are ideal for a No. 2 hitter. Tejada can also hit-and-run and steal a base. If Tejada can do all those things, it could get a running game going with Nieuwenhuis. If Nieuwenhuis doesn’t pan out as a leadoff hitter, Tejada would go back to the top. Let’s give it a month.

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