Jan 31

No Surprises, Noah To Get Opening Day Nod

Spring training will bring about a myriad of questions the Mets must answer prior to the start of the season. Who their Opening Day starter will be is not one of them. Normally, manager Terry Collins dances around the issue like it is a State Secret although there’s little doubt.

SYNDERGAARD: Will get OD nod. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Will get OD nod. (FOX)

Not this year, as Collins told The New York Post, Noah Syndergaard will get the ball against the Braves, April 3, at Citi Field.

Syndergaard was 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA over 30 starts last season with a fastball averaging 98 mph. and a slider at 90.9 mph. And, he did it while pitching with a bone spur in his right elbow.

“He is one of our big character guys,” Collins told The Post. “He says, ‘Give me the ball,’ and he goes out and does the best he can. … He’s been fun to watch his development in such a short time.”

Syndergaard still needs to throw a complete season for the Mets, but came close last year with those 30 starts. Syndergaard also threw seven scoreless innings in the Mets’ wild-card loss to the Giants, but looked every bit the ace they believe he can be.

And, aces get the ball on Opening Day.

Jan 30

Very Curious About Matz

Of all the Mets’ young pitchers, the one I’m most curious in seeing this spring is Steven Matz. The seemingly perpetual injured left-hander made only 22 starts last season before going on the disabled list to undergo elbow surgery.

Drafted in 2009, Matz has only thrown 168 career innings, but he needs to throw at least 200 be considered an ace. He has a biting slider, but it puts excessive stress on his arm, and before he was lost he started throwing his curveball and change-up more.

He’s left-handed, which enhances his value, but he’s of little use if he can’t stay in the rotation. Matt Harvey has been lost twice to off-season surgery since 2013, but he’s as strong as a bull. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have also shown signs of being able to go long into games. But, Matz, much like Zack Wheeler, remains an unknown.

He’s the guy I expect to see manager Terry Collins attach an innings limit on before the others.

 

 

 

Jan 29

Woods’ Failure Brings To Mind Wright

Watching Tiger Woods fail to make the cut this weekend at Torrey Pines, I couldn’t help but think about David Wright’s comeback from his back issues and wonder what he’ll give the Mets this summer.

Perhaps, based on his importance to the franchise and salary, he should be given the latitude to call his own shots regarding his playing time (in the short term) and the issue of retirement (in the long term). However, in retrospect, it doesn’t matter because those things are to be determined by the stability and pain level in his back.

WRIGHT: Facing a tough year. (AP)

WRIGHT: Facing a tough year. (AP)

If he hurts, he doesn’t play; if he’s pain-free, he’ll be in there.

Of course, manager Terry Collins can’t afford to push the envelope, but must be prudent in structuring Wright’s playing time and such matters of days off and rest against certain pitchers.

However, there are a couple of things I’ve wondered about lately concerning Wright.

First, were the Mets ever serious about playing Wright at first base? I’m guessing not because there’s still a lot of crouching at first. Since the Mets don’t play in the American League where they could use the DH, probably the only other position he might be moved to is left field, where the stress on his back might be less. Then again, there would be questions about his arm strength and at age 34 and position change would be difficult.

One thing I am curious about is how much he’s considering altering his hitting style. Will he concentrate more on going to right field and less on pulling the ball to left, which creates more torque in his lower back?

Also, will he consider going to a lighter bat and concentrate on being more of a contact hitter. This would likely entail hitting second or perhaps seventh or eighth in the order.

I’m betting Wright will make the right decision because he’s always been about doing what is best for the team.

Jan 18

Could Conforto Open Season In Minors?

It was last April when manager Terry Collins said Michael Conforto was the Mets’ No. 3 hitter for the future. A year later, don’t be surprised if he opened the season with the Mets’ Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate.

I don’t like the idea, but considering the Mets’ muddled outfield situation, it isn’t farfetched, especially if they can’t trade Jay Bruce. If Bruce stays, he’ll play right with Curtis Granderson in center and Yoenis Cespedes in left.

CONFORTO: Could he open season in minors? (Getty)

CONFORTO: Could he open season in minors? (Getty)

Juan Lagares must stay to give Granderson rest in center field. Either Lagares or Granderson could give Cespedes rest if he needs a day off. Currently, the Mets aren’t ready to say they trust Conforto in center field.

If the Mets can’t trade Bruce, he must stay and play or totally lose his trade value. The Mets wouldn’t want to pay him $13 million to sit.

The Mets’ potential trade market for Bruce was dramatically sliced within the past week when Baltimore traded for Seth Smith; Toronto re-signed Jose Bautista and Philadelphia signed Michael Saunders.

Personally, I’ve always been in Conforto’s camp and opposed the Cespedes signing in part because I felt it would stunt Conforto’s growth. If the Mets kept Conforto as one of their five outfielders, he’d struggle for at-bats and playing time, notably from Lagares and Bruce.

One possibility is to keep Brandon Nimmo over Conforto, but again they’ll face the issue of one of their prime outfield prospects struggling for at-bats.

Jan 04

Wondering How Mets Will Use Flores

One Met I am curious to see how manager Terry Collins uses this year is Wilmer Flores. Collins has always run hot-and-cold with his usage of Flores, which probably stems from GM Sandy Alderson’s public knocks of the player he unsuccessfully tried to trade in 2015.

FLORES: Needs to play. (AP)

FLORES: Needs to play. (AP)

Frankly, Flores has never gotten an opportunity to play full time, and it won’t come this year. However, there is a way to get at least 500 at-bats and not greatly infringe on the playing time of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and David Wright/Jose Reyes.

The solution is simple and stems from Flores’ best attribute – other than hitting against left-handed pitching – and that’s his versatility.

He would play first one day, second the next, shortstop the third game and third base the fourth.

Doing this requires discipline on Collins’ part, a trait he has not exhibited. If Collins were to pull this off it will accomplish the following: 1) give Flores more and consistent at-bats, and 2) provide rest for the Mets’ older and injury-prone infield.

It will be well worth it to give Walker and Wright regimented rest, and it wouldn’t hurt for Cabrera and Duda, either.

The bottom line is the projected 2017 Mets’ infield could be gone after this season and they must find out what Flores can do.