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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Mets will have their first full squad workout this morning, prior to which Terry Collins will address his teams. Like I posted last night, don’t expect rah-rah. And, don’t expect the manager to use his lame-duck status as a motivator. He doesn’t work that way.
It must be an odd feeling for Collins to enter the season as a lame duck manager. Ownership and upper management are looking ahead to 2014, when Johan Santana’s contract will be off the books.
Trouble for Collins is he’s thinking about this year because there’s no guarantee of anything beyond while everybody else is thinking of the future.
Collins knows the score, but to his credit he’s not saying anything about it. Fred Wilpon and Sandy Alderson said they are pleased with the job Collins is doing and I’m wondering when that will translate into an extension.