Jan 05

Mets Have Catching Concerns

Of all the New York Mets’ questions entering spring training, perhaps the most intriguing is at catcher, where an inexperienced Travis d’Arnaud is the starter without a veteran mentor.

Last year, he had John Buck. However, when d’Arnaud was injured, the job became Buck’s with young Anthony Recker as back-up. By the time d’Arnaud was ready for Citi Field, Buck was heading for Pittsburgh.

The Mets could use Buck back this year as a caddy for d’Arnaud, but manager Terry Collins said he’s comfortable with Recker as the back-up. But, it’s January, not July and the Mets aren’t riding a six-game losing streak and heading to the West Coast.

Truth is the window is small for both d’Arnaud and Recker, and we don’t know what either could do with 550 at-bats over a full season. That’s a major concern, as is both their abilities to call a game and settle a pitching staff.

Mets pitchers last year had a comfort dealing with Buck they didn’t have time to develop with d’Arnaud. Mets pitchers did have some sense of comfort with Recker, who produced more at the plate than d’Arnaud.

Teams have carried weak-hitting catchers before, but usually they had enough offense elsewhere to compensate. This Mets’ team doesn’t have that luxury.

Of the two, for a young catcher, defense and handling a staff take precedence over offense, but as a young player it is only natural d’Arnaud will fret if he’s not hitting.

The problem is the Mets don’t know what they have in d’Arnaud, either at the plate or behind it. Ditto for Recker. Those are significant concerns.

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Dec 29

Similarities Between Mets And Jets

The New York Mets and Jets entered their respective seasons wearing the dysfunctional label, and ended them with other similarities, including the decisions to keep their on-field leaders.

The Jets’ choice to keep the embattled Rex Ryan mirrored that of the Mets to keep Terry Collins. Both took terrible, underachieving teams and exceeded expectations. For awhile this summer, .500 was not out of the question until Matt Harvey’s season-ending elbow injury.

For most of their season, the Jets, pegged by many to not win more than four or five games, finished at .500 with today’s victory at Miami, and it wasn’t until recently their playoff aspirations were snuffed out.

The primary reasons for keeping Collins was because the Mets made greater than expected improvement despite numerous personnel deficiencies and because the team continually played hard for him.

The Mets’ most significant personnel weakness is offense, which is also the Jets’ Achilles Heel.

Going with a rookie quarterback, a weak offensive line, and nothing significant in the backfield or at receiver, the Jets did just enough to win half their games.

In the end, the Mets decided the team improved to the point where it didn’t want to endure another rebuilding program.

Realistically, the Jets – especially defensively – played hard for Ryan, who coached with lame-duck status a new quarterback, under a new defensive coordinator and new general manager.

The Jets could have packed it in, but despite being undermanned offensively, played with integrity to give the team something to build on.

Just like with the Mets.

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Dec 17

Can Cory Mazzoni Earn A Spot In Mets’ Bullpen?

One area the New York Mets are still working on is their bullpen, but manager Terry Collins said at the Winter Meetings one option could come from within in Cory Mazzoni.

Collins said Mazzoni, who was limited to 64 innings in 12 starts because of hamstring and elbow injuries at Class AA Binghamton, could be converted to the bullpen in spring training.

Several things could determine if a switch is made will be dependent on: 1) whether the Mets are able to sign a reliever, 2) whether they obtain a reliever in a trade involving Ike Davis, 3) Bobby Parnell’s status, and 4) how seriously they believe they could contend this season.

If one of the first two variables is reached, converting Mazzoni won’t be necessary, at least not immediately. If they don’t obtain anybody and Parnell isn’t ready, then they’ll need to add somebody.

Finally, if the Mets believe they can make a run in 2014, they might not want to entrust a bullpen slot in a rookie.

Whatever they decide, they should develop Mazzoni as a reliever in spring training because they’ll eventually need another arm out of the pen this summer.

Whether this is a permanent conversion depends on how he responds if his role is changed. Working in Mazzoni’s favor is he’s a power pitcher, with 74 strikeouts in those 64 innings. He also has good command with only 19 walks.

Assuming Parnell’s readiness following neck surgery, the Mets have six pieces in their bullpen, including Vic Black (the closer if Parnell can’t go), Scott Rice, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia.

Another possibility could be Jenrry Mejia should the Mets another starter.

I would avoid that option if possible as Mejia has pitched better as a starter and is more comfortable in that role. Plus, Mejia’s development has been hindered by injuries and by bouncing around from starting and relieving roles. I’d like to see him in the area he’s best at – which is starting – and see if he can develop there.

Yes, the Mets have young pitchers in their system, but Mejia is one of them. And, the more they can develop, the better trade options they’ll have in the future.

ON DECK: You can meet Zack Wheeler and Daniel Murphy tomorrow.

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

Dec 16

Issues Terry Collins Will Address In Spring Training

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has a lot on his plate these days in preparation for spring training. There are still pieces to add, but that’s GM Sandy Alderson’s job, not Collins.

COLLINS: Issues to address.

COLLINS: Issues to address.

Collins doesn’t appear to be a manager who flies by the seat of his pants. He’s likely to have a plan of players and issues he will need to address, assuming the roster doesn’t change between now and the middle of February.

Ike Davis: With Davis’ name in the news constantly regarding a possible trade, what if it doesn’t happen? If Davis is still on the roster, Collins will have to work out a plan on how to use him and how to keep him in the clubhouse circles. It will be difficult for Collins to juggle the responsibilities of managing a team and handling personalities.

Daniel Murphy: Like Davis, Murphy’s name has also been mentioned in trade talks. Usually managers won’t discuss an impending trade, but if the trade doesn’t materialize he has to keep motivating that player. Also, he needs to know how to answer the inevitable question: Will I be traded?

Ruben Tejada: Collins said at the Winter Meetings he still has faith in Tejada as his shortstop. How will he convey that, especially after the Mets made a run at Jhonny Peralta and reportedly are still in the market?

Eric Young: After going through nine leadoff hitters last season, Young won the job. Now, it appears he has lost it. Collins must formulate a plan on how he will deal with Young and keep him motivated and interested.

Wilmer Flores: This is a man without a position. If Flores makes the team, Collins must define to him a role and where he fits in.

Juan Lagares: This is a guy who needs to hit if he’s to play, and he’ll have to play to stay. Lagares strikes out way to much for his limited playing time, and Collins must impress on him the importance of pitch selection and plate patience for his development. This means potentially sacrificing results in spring training in favor of improving his plate approach.

Chris Young: Collins said he’s the Met he believes the most poised to be a surprise. What is expected of him? There can be no guessing of roles.

Travis d’Arnaud: Collins said d’Arnaud’s plate approach must improve. He’s simply not a major league hitter. If there’s a chance d’Arnaud will be sent down, it must be impressed on him it isn’t permanent and he still fits into the Mets’ plans. The last thing Collins wants to do is destroy his confidence.

Zack Wheeler: Collins said if there’s to be an innings limit on Wheeler, it will be something that would happen during the season and he won’t go into the year on the limit. Collins also knows everybody is different and the leap Matt Harvey made last year might not happen for Wheeler. Everybody’s definition of progress is also different and Collins will need to tell Wheeler what is expected.

Accountability: Last year left the impression there wasn’t accountability among some players, notably Jordany Valdespin and the length of time to send Davis to the majors. If the Mets are to make the next step the players must know they are accountable.

Plate approach: Collectively, the Mets struck out too many times and didn’t walk enough. The Mets’ offensive “gameplan’’ has to be addressed of what is acceptable and what is not. Lucas Duda took way too much heat for working the count and not driving in runs. The run production will eventually come. For any player who waits out the pitcher, he must be told it isn’t a crime.

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

Dec 15

Collins Is Hopeful That Wheeler Will Toss 200 Innings

WHEELER: High hopes for him.

WHEELER: High hopes for him.

As of now, the New York Mets don’t anticipate an innings limitations on Zack Wheeler, who was shut down for his last two starts in 2013. Wheeler threw 100 innings last year and said an innings limit hasn’t been determined, and if one is later on, it won’t be until after the season starts.

“We haven’t talked about [an innings limit],’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He should get over 200 if he goes out there 30?something times.  If he does that, he would have a heck of a year. When you’re getting those kinds of innings, you’re keeping your team in games.’’

Hopefully, that thinking won’t change and the Mets will not put the shackles on Wheeler, who won’t learn how to pitch on this level unless he does so. Hoping the odds at sportsbettingonline.ag say it happens. Pitchers today wear down when they don’t accumulate innings. If a pitcher doesn’t build up his arm, he won’t have anything in the tank when he needs it. There are times when a pitcher has to learn to pitch in the eighth and ninth innings, when he’s running on fumes, when he just has to reach down.

Wheeler had his rough moments last summer, such as when he went away from his fastball and told to work in more on his secondary pitches. When that approach was adjusted to where he could work more off his fastball, Wheeler pitched well.

Collins said he believes Wheeler’s demeanor and emotional make-up could allow him to make a jump similar to what Matt Harvey made last season before he injured. Collins said Harvey learned how to make adjustments within a game and thinks Wheeler can do likewise.

“I’m hoping he takes the Matt Harvey step,’’  Collins said. “[Wheeler] now realizes he can fix it.  He realized all he had to do was make things.  He didn’t have to overthrow.

“He’s still got that great arm if he needs it.  His command of his secondary pitches got better.  I think his confidence rose as the season went along.  Again, I think the sky is the limit for what potential this guy has.’’

Wheeler told ESPN Radio he plans on reporting to spring training around Feb. 5, which is ten days before the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers.

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