Apr 05

Wrapping up Mets Opening Day

Game #1: Mets 1, Braves 0, at Citi Field (1-0)

BY THE NUMBERS: The Mets are 33-18 in season openers, the best record in the major leagues.

SANTANA: Goes five strong. (Getty)

QUOTE BOOK: “If we pitch we can play with anybody. Our guy pitched today.’’ – manager Terry Collins on Johan Santana’s strong effort.

SANTANA IS BACK: Hopefully, that is the case. If nothing else, it was a good sign and a positive step after five scoreless innings against the Braves in his first start since Sept. 2010.

Santana gave up two hits, and another good sign was pitching out of trouble in the fifth.

Santana threw in the high 80s and he’ll be the first to admit he’s still a work in progress.

Psychologically, this was a huge game for the Santana and the Mets. Had Santana imploded it could have left a strong negative impression. There was nothing but positives today for Santana.

BULLPEN STELLAR: With no outs and a runner on third in the seventh, Tim Byrdak – who underwent knee surgery three weeks ago – entered and got out of the inning.

The Mets’ new-look bullpen threw four scoreless innings. One game, of course, but a good sign. And, who didn’t think the worse when Byrdak entered.

Frank Francisco pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

OFFENSE STAGNANT: David Wright, Josh Thole and Daniel Murphy had two hits apiece and Wright drove in the game winner. Jason Bay was hitless in three at-bats and was booed during introductions.

THE DOWNSIDE: Center fielder Andres Torres re-strained his left calf muscle and will go on the disabled list. The Mets haven’t announced who’ll they’ll bring up, but it could be Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Collins said Collins said Ruben Tejada will be the leadoff hitter.

UP NEXT: The Mets are off Friday. R.A. Dickey will start Saturday and Jon Niese will work Sunday.

Apr 02

Parnell sharp; Santana gets Opening nod.

Bobby Parnell, who had been uninspiring during his tenure with the Mets, has been scintillating this spring, enough where they could consider opening the season with him in the closer role if Frank Francisco is placed on the disabled list with a sore left knee.

PARNELL: Has had excellent spring.

While Parnell was throwing three scoreless innings at Atlanta in a spot start – because the Mets didn’t want Jon Niese to face the same team he’ll pitch against Sunday – Francisco was getting an MRI.

“Early in camp I felt a little sore in there and it went away,’’ Francisco told reporters today. “In the last three days, I felt soreness in there again, but that’s it. We’re going to take care of that. I did my workout and everything, and it felt fine, but they’re going to take a look at it.’’

 A MRI, followed by manager Terry Collins saying he was concerned about Francisco’s knee can’t be a good omen for the injury ravaged Mets.

Francisco, a Toronto castoff, was signed to a two-year, $12-million contract in the offseason. The Mets also signed another Blue Jays’ reliever, Jon Rauch, but he’s been ineffective this spring with a 7.94 ERA. Parnell, who struggled in the closer role last September, hasn’t given up a run in 12 1/3 innings during spring training.

Despite his success, I’m not so sure moving Parnell to the closer role is the way to go if Francisco’s injury is deemed short term. The Mets have bounced Parnell around in the past and he has not responded to the changing roles. Because he’s been pitching well I’d be reluctant to tinker with him.

I would reconsider that position if Francisco’s injury is determined to be long term.

Meanwhile, the Mets finally announced Johan Santana will be the Opening Day starter Thursday against the Braves. Santana would be followed in the rotation by R.A. Dickey, and Jon Niese.

 

Mar 21

Defense up the middle weak

Traditionally, winning teams are built for strength up the middle: catcher, pitching, second base and shortstop, and center field.

That’s not looking good so far for the Mets, especially with center fielder Andres Torres sidelined with a strained calf muscle.

With minor league prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis suffering with a strained oblique, manager Terry Collins will experiment with infielder Jordany Valdespin and Jason Bay in center. I can see Bay, but Valdespin is total desperation and an indictment on the Mets’ lack of depth and foresight to bolster the position.

Second base is a concern because of Daniel Murphy’s lack of experience at the position. He’s awkward around the bag and doesn’t have consistent footwork. Meanwhile, there’s no doubt about Ruben Tejada’s defensive prowess at shortstop, but there is the matter of playing a full season.

As for the pitching, both the rotation and bullpen are deep with questions and concerns. This isn’t a strikeout staff and still walks more hitters than it should. As for the bullpen, it is patchwork with no proven lefty.

Josh Thole came up with a lot of potential, especially at the plate. He’s still relatively new at the plate and it shows with his ability to call a game and block pitches. He is still far away from being proven.

 

Mar 13

Pelfrey ripped again; Tejada injured.

Mike Pelfrey said he felt he was better today against the Cardinals than in his last start. Can you imagine what would have happened if he felt worse?

Pelfrey gave up four runs on six hits – including two homers – in 4 1/3 innings this afternoon. Once again, Pelfrey’s problem was a flat sinker. One of his problems last season was a lack of movement on his pitches, and movement is far more important than velocity.

Another down note was Ruben Tejada scratched with a groin injury. He’ll miss tomorrow’s game, also.

Terry Collins got testy after learning of Tejada’s injury. I brought this up yesterday and it is worthy of another mention … the Mets need to re-evaluate their off-season and pre-game conditioning and warm-up programs.

MLB.com reported 14 of 55 Mets have been on an injury report this spring, which is roughly 25 percent, an unusually high number.

 

Mar 12

Looking at the weekend; Santana sharp again.

Obviously, the most important thing that happened this weekend was Johan Santana’s continued progress.

SANTANA: So far, so good. (AP)

Santana threw 42 pitches Sunday against Miami, but once again reiterated how he responds will tell most of the story.

Santana isn’t concerned with his velocity, and said he threw his change-up and slider more than in his first start. Barring a setback this week, his next start will be Friday against Detroit.

Terry Collins insists on saying Santana will be ready by Opening Day, but for that to happen he’ll need to build himself up to 90 pitches. There’s a long way to go.

Also this weekend:

* Jason Bay got his first hit of the spring after a 0-for-8 slide out of the gate. You’ll get no projections from me on Bay. There are no expectations.

* David Wright (rib cage) and lefty reliever Tim Byrdak (left knee) will go to New York today to be examined at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Both are expected to get cortisone injections. Two things: 1) why wasn’t this more in-dept exam be done earlier, and 2) there’s no doctors in Miami they could go to?

* If Byrdak isn’t ready by Opening Day, Garrett Olson could be a candidate for the lefty slot out of the bullpen.

* Adam Loewen and Mike Baxter are competing for a lefty-hitting reserve outfield role. Both have the ability to play center.

ON DECK: Mets’ conditioning methods must be re-evaluated in wake of upper-body injuries.