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.

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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