Aug 26

Mets This Week: Watching Wheeler And Listening To Buck Offers

The New York Mets never made it over the hump en route to .500, and after being swept – better yet, mauled – by the Tigers, this week is about licking wounds and finding a positive heading into the last month.

The Mets are in serious danger of giving up third place to the Phillies, who are in for four games. But, that’s just cosmetic stuff.

WHEELER: Watching him closely. (AP)

WHEELER: Watching him closely. (AP)

The meat of the week is how they treat Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, who’ll bookend the Phillies series. Wheeler has worked into the seventh in two of his last three starts, and went over 100 pitches in his last four games.

Terry Collins has not said what Wheeler’s limit will be tonight. One thing he won’t do, with rain in the forecast, is bring him back after a delay, so theoretically they could lose Wheeler’s start after two innings.

The Mets want to limit innings for Wheeler and Harvey, but haven’t come up with a definitive plan. They have not but a cap on a game, and seem to be hoping for off-days, of which they only have two remaining.

But, one is trumped because of a double header.

Harvey said he was gassed after Saturday’s loss, which puts him and the Mets in a difficult spot: How do they limit his innings, yet at the same time try to build him up to pitch in September?

I’m interested to see if the Mets don’t push Harvey back a day into the Washington series or skip him altogether.

Jonathon Niese starts Tuesday, his fourth since coming off the disabled list with a slight tear. Niese went seven innings in his last start and six in the previous two. He struck out nine hitters in his last two starts, showing there’s nothing wrong with his shoulder.

Even so, I’d be surprised if the Mets aren’t careful with him.

Getting the ball Wednesday will be Daisuke Matsuzaka, who gets mixed reviews from his Mets’ debut. On the down side, he gave up five runs in five innings. However, he retired the last ten batters he faced, so that is five runs in two innings.

The Mets get lefties Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, tonight and Wednesday, respectively, so which lefty-hitting first baseman gets to play, Lucas Duda or Ike Davis?

One thing for certain, is we’ll continue to see plenty of Travis d’Arnaud this week, and the Mets hope, for the next few years. That means seeing less of John Buck.

Buck has been terrific this year in what the Mets asked him to do, and since he showed there’s still pop in his bat, he’s going to want to play.

So, off the field, the Mets might have to decide if they are satisfied with d’Arnaud, Anthony Recker and whomever, and try to swing a waiver deal for Buck.

Your comments are appreciated and I attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 25

Decision Time For Mets On How To Limit Matt Harvey

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HOW WILL METS LIMIT MATT HARVEY? (Getty)

How the New York Mets handle Matt Harvey the rest of the season we should know this week. Harvey admitted the effects of his workload this season are wearing him down, and with the concession Terry Collins knows there’s no more procrastinating with this issue.

Previously, Harvey said he wasn’t happy being limited, but following the loss, admitted being tired. He also said dealing with fatigue is part of the learning process. Eventually, the Mets will play meaningful games in September and October, and they will need Harvey.

“It’s a long season and you’ve got to push through it,’’ Harvey said. “Right now I’m not doing a good job of doing that, and we’ve got to figure something out.’’

Currently, Collins has three options, including: 1) pushing next Thursday’s start against Philadelphia back one day, 2) skipping his turn in the rotation completely and start him in the next turn, Sept. 3, and/or 3) stopping him at six innings period.

The problem with a strict innings cap of six is it doesn’t take into account the strain of the pitches thrown. Harvey threw 6.2 innings Saturday, but they were all grueling because of the tenacity of the pitches.

To his credit, Harvey is not using his lack of run support as an excuse. Clearly, with no runs, Harvey must bear down as he can’t risk a mistake. Saying such a thing, as true as it might be, takes a swipe at his offense, and Harvey won’t travel that road.

An extra 24 hours of rest helps minimally, but if he pitches the next day those innings still count. The best solution is to skin a turn, which takes away the opportunity at six or seven more innings.

From there, just cap his innings at five or six, and perhaps skip one more start. That should get him through the season at the prescribed innings count.

Then do the same with Zack Wheeler.

The problem with this preventative measure is it hinders developing his endurance, and it prevents nothing. Regardless of what steps take, a pitcher’s arm is a fragile thing not meant to throw a baseball with such torque and violence.

Something can always happen to a pitcher, with no guarantees of them not.

Face it, Nolan Ryan was a freak, and gone are the days when Juan Marichal threw 30 complete games in 1968. He threw 325.2 innings that season. He came back with 27 complete games the following year.

Clearly, it was a different era. Then rotations were four deep and complete games were the expected norm and not the exception. That was a mentality developed in the minor leagues and earlier.

From when Harvey first started pitching, complete games were a novelty. It’s too late to start him thinking otherwise.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 24

Fantasizing About Runs For Matt Harvey; Where Will Lucas Duda Play?

If the New York Mets are to win this weekend, today is their best chance, with Matt Harvey starting. The sad thing, is that feeling comes with the statistical backdrop of a 13-12 record in his starts this season, including the Mets going 6-10 in his last 16 starts.

HARVEY: What's he really think about his support?

HARVEY: What’s he really think about his support?

Harvey has a 2.67 ERA with a 119-to-17 strikeouts-to-walks ration in those 16 starts.

The Mets are counting Harvey’s innings, but in a match-up against Detroit’s Max Scherzer in a rematch of All-Star starters, you have to figure unless his pitch count is obscene, Terry Collins will keep sending him out there.

The Mets have given Harvey 95 runs of support in his 25 starts. By contrast, the Tigers have given Scherzer 151 runs in his 25 starts. Considering the Tigers are giving Scherzer 2.24 more runs in his starts, and the Mets have lost nine Harvey starts in which the margin of difference was two or fewer runs, we could be talking about 18 victories for their phenom.

It doesn’t work that way, but occasionally it is interesting to speculate about, especially if you’re Harvey’s agent.

NO SPOT FOR DUDA: Who knows, perhaps today’s game will be decided by Lucas Duca, who has been promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas at the expense of Mike Baxter.

Duda is hitting .308 at Triple over his last 12 starts, in which he exclusively played first base.

Of Collins’ three options – first base platoon with Ike Davis; left field platoon with Eric Young; or off the bench – first base appears the most likely place for Duda.

Davis has played better since coming up from Vegas, but not well enough to say all his issues are resolved. One of the Mets’ off-season decisions is whether to tender Davis. If they do not, he becomes a free-agent and opens a hole at first base.

Presumably, that could be filled by Duda.

Aug 09

LaTroy Hawkins Better Closer Option Than Committee

Isn’t it always the way with the New York Mets? There’s positives brewing, but something always seems to get in the way, such as Bobby Parnell’s bulging disk.

HAWKINS: Best option for closer.

HAWKINS: Best option for closer.

Once pegged to lose 100 games, the Mets are talking about .500 and finishing in second place in the NL East, but gone is Parnell, probably for the year if surgery is required.

The Mets’ bullpen has been stellar since the beginning of July, but there’s only one real choice to replace Parnell and that would be 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins instead of going with a bullpen-by-committee, which rarely works and usually ends up using guys outside of their customary roles.

Hawkins saved the last two games of the Colorado series, and has 90 saves in his career. Not great over 19 years, but it is the best the Mets have going for them right now.

Hawkins struggled early in the season, but has been consistently effective. He has experience pitching in tight games, and Terry Collins has more trust in him than in Scott Atchison or Scott Rice or Pedro Feliciano.

Even at 40, Hawkins was throwing in the mid-90s against the Rockies. He can still bring it when he has to, and averages 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and only 1.6 walks per nine innings.

Perhaps Hawkins will eventually run on fumes, but if the Mets are cognizant about not getting him up constantly, and perhaps occasionally let their set-up reliever work into the ninth if there’s a three-run lead, it could preserve him.

Collins’ bullpen has been exceptional over the past month, but now he must make a significant choice: Does he go the committee route or give his trust to Hawkins?

The thought of saving Zack Wheeler’s innings by using him in relief is not a good idea as the change in routine creates the possibility of injury. And, please, nobody mention Frank Francisco. Please.

Hawkins has pitched well and is deserving of closing until he can’t it anymore.

I don’t think there’s any doubt Hawkins has to be the closer until Parnell returns, which as of now looks to be next spring.

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

Aug 09

Mets Head West With Second Place On Their Minds

The New York Mets balked at trading Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd at the deadline, citing the desire to finish as strong as possible.

One Mets’ executive told me finishing at .500 would be defined as a successful season, one that began with many forecasting as many as 100 losses.

COLLINS and F. WILPON: Thinking about second.

COLLINS and F. WILPON: Thinking about second.

How close they come to reaching that objective will greatly be determined by this upcoming road trip.

After sweeping Colorado, the Mets begin a four-city, 11-game road trip starting tonight in Arizona. From there the Mets go to Los Angeles for a series against the Dodgers, then to San Diego and on their way home, stop in Minnesota for a make-up game layover against the Twins.

West Coast trips have often been killers to the Mets, and this one stands to be no different. There’s not an easy game on the schedule, then there’s that fun trip to Minnesota when then would be spent at the time.

“This might be, in my time here, the toughest road trip we’ve had to face,’’ manager Terry Collins said Thursday afternoon as his players packed to board a bus to the airport.

“You’ve got to face the two top teams in the National League West, who are playing very, very good, and we know San Diego has good pitching.’’

The Mets leapfrogged Philadelphia and are one game behind Washington for second place in the NL East. They are even in the loss column. Collins, who has made more than expected with little this year, has his eyes on second place, even if it doesn’t translate into the playoffs.

“I think it’d be huge,’’ Collins said. “I think it’d be an enormous lift not only for the team, because they certainly deserve everything they got, but the entire organization. Some of these young guys have come up and contributed to what we’re doing now. You got to keep battling. Right now we got 50 left. That’s still an uphill climb.’’

Sure it is, but it is better than the last three seasons when the Mets folded after the break. Finishing in second place – or at .500 – is a sign of significant progress, which will have the Mets head into winter with significantly fewer questions than in previous years.

Also, with the Mets saying they have the resources this winter, their situation might be more enticing to several free agents. You never know.

However, complicating their objective is possibly losing closer Parnell to season-ending surgery to repair a disk in his neck and David Wright on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. The Mets don’t expect Wright back during this trip.

Even so, there are no excuses. The Mets had to overcome injuries all season and must do it again as they attempt to play meaningful games in September.

Meaningful games in September? Who would have thought?

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