Dec 14

Harvey Optimistic, But Fingers Crossed

When it comes to Matt Harvey proclamations, I’ll believe it when I see it. How can it be any other way for the Mets’ “it’s always something” former All-Star? Harvey, who underwent season-ending surgery for the second time in three years last season, said he’s optimistic about his return from surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome.

HARVEY: So far so good. (AP)

HARVEY: So far so good. (AP)

It’s a complicated procedure because it entailed removing a rib on his right side to relieve pressure on nerves connecting between the neck and shoulder. The ailment caused a lack of feeling in his pitching hand and subsequently cut off circulation that made his hand feeling cold.

Talking to reporters at a Mets’ charity function in Queens, Harvey expressed optimism.

“I’d like to think so,” Harvey said about making a strong rebound season. “Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball. The way things are feeling now, the way the body feels, I’m feeling great.”

Harvey said he’s feeling warmth in his hand and the tingling sensation is gone.

Harvey was struggling at 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts before his season abruptly ended. In one respect the diagnosis was a positive, because after each lackluster start there was the second-guessing the 216 innings he threw in 2015 after coming off Tommy John surgery had drained him.

There are no problems so far, said Harvey.

“The ball is coming out really good right now, especially for December,” he said. “I’m feeling great. My workouts are going well. I’m just looking forward to getting down to spring training and having a good time. … Obviously being healthy through spring training and getting to the season and continuing to be healthy through the season is a big plus for me and something I’m looking forward to doing.

“As far as the offseason goes, I’m right where I want to be.”

We’ve heard this before about Harvey and we all know him being where he wants to be in December isn’t the issue.

The Mets didn’t have a definitive innings plan for Harvey in 2015, and so far there’s been no mention of a plan for Harvey. Or for Jacob deGrom, who is also coming off surgery. Or for Steven Matz, who is also coming back from surgery.

 

Oct 24

Should Injuries Shelve Long-Term Talks With Mets Pitchers?

For the past two years, signing the Mets’ young pitchers to long-term contracts seemed a paramount issue. Whom should they sign first, and for how much? Could they afford to sign two? In their wildest dreams, could they keep them all?

HARVEY: What's his market value now? (Getty)

HARVEY: What’s his market value now? (Getty)

With four pitchers coming off surgery, such talk now is but a whisper. We’re not hearing too much these days about Matt Harvey – who had shoulder surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome – leaving after the 2018 season for the Yankees or anybody else for that matter.

Steven Matz had surgery to repair bone spurs in his left elbow and Jacob deGrom, who had Tommy John surgery, is recovering from a second surgery to treat a nerve issue in his elbow. Then there is Zack Wheeler, who had Tommy John surgery and was supposed to ready by July but we didn’t see him all summer and nobody can say for sure when we will.

We won’t know for sure how they are until the spring, but the recovery forecast is looking good for the Mets’ surgically-repaired pitchers as doctors are telling the team they should be ready for the season. Even so, the Mets are likely to handle them all with kid gloves which is why they are interested in bringing back Bartolo Colon and draw relief with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

The Mets have seven young arms – plus Colon – but we’re no longer hearing talk about contract extensions. Whom should they sign first? Can they afford to sign two or three at a time? Who should they trade to plug holes elsewhere?

However, with Harvey, Matz, deGrom and Wheeler, what’s their trade value? Will teams risk dealing high-level prospects for damaged goods? Certainly, the Mets can’t command as much should they explore trading.

Conventional wisdom has the Mets backing off long-term contract talks as to avoid signing somebody who might not win, or even pitch for them. While their potential might be high, their proven production is not.

Then again, it wouldn’t hurt for the Mets to explore extensions now when their market value might not be as high as it could be in two or three years. It’s a gamble worth considering.

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Sep 27

Matz Done For Year; What Took So Long?

It wasn’t too long ago the Mets boasted having the best young staff in the sport, one that would return them to the World Series. With the postseason a week away – with no assurances of them getting there – four of the five are done for the season because of surgery.

MATZ:  To have surgery. (AP)

   MATZ: To have surgery. (AP)

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported today – later confirmed by several media outlets – Steven Matz will be shut down for the remainder of the season to undergo surgery almost immediately on a bone spur in his left elbow. Matz is also down with an impingement in his shoulder, but surgery is not planned for that injury.

What took Matz so long to elect to have surgery? The 25-year-old Matz has had the spur for much of the season, with GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins insisting it was a “pain tolerance issue” and he couldn’t risk further injury.

However, it hasn’t been addressed whether the shoulder impingement irritating the rotator cuff was caused by an altering of Matz’s mechanics caused by the pain in his elbow. It’s worth exploring, especially considering the Mets’ history of handling injuries.

Matz hasn’t pitched since mid-August. Surgery should have been performed then, and possibly on his shoulder, also, to give him the maximum time for recovery and rehab. The current timetable is a three-month recovery period, which means he won’t pick up a ball until January.

Will he really have enough time? Had this been done a month or two ago, there wouldn’t be any doubt.

I would have thought with Matt Harvey out for the year (to remove a rib and alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome) and Zack Wheeler (ulnar nerve in elbow) that to hedge their bets they would have encouraged Matz to have the surgery weeks ago – at least when the shoulder issue surfaced. Instead, the last six weeks have been squandered.

Making this even more disturbing is Jacob deGrom had surgery last week to repair the ulnar nerve in his elbow. Also, Noah Syndergaard has been bothered by an elbow bone spur issue for several months. The Mets are saying surgery isn’t planned for him, but wouldn’t they want to get it addressed sooner than later?

With the others easing their way back next spring, the last thing the Mets would want is surgery for Syndergaard.

Fortunately for the Mets, they remain in the race because of Bartolo Colon, who has been pitching with a foot injury (he left Monday’s game after 2.1 innings), and the Band-Aid of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

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Aug 01

Three Mets’ Storylines: Bullpen Blows Game As Collins Overmanages

Blame this on the Mets’ bullpen and their continued inability to hit with RISP.

The Mets were poised for their second come-from-behind victory in as many games when Matt Reynolds hit a three-run homer in the sixth.

It wasn’t to be when Mets manager Terry Collins over-managed by bringing Jerry Blevins in to start the eighth inning instead of going with Addison Reed, who was flawless in July in hold situations, but traditionally has problems bringing him in with runners on base.

GREGORIUS: Ties game. (AP)

     GREGORIUS: Ties game. (AP)

“They are pretty frustrating,” Collins said of the bullpen meltdown. “But it’s baseball.”

The bullpen let the game get away and the 6-5 loss to the Yankees in 10 innings dropped the Mets to 54-51.

Blevins walked Brett Gardner and struck out Jacoby Ellsbury. Enter Reed, who struck out Mark Teixeira, but gave up a single to Brian McCann to put runners on the corners. After a wild pitch put pinch-runner Ronald Torryes on second, Didi Gregorius tied the game with a two-run bunt single to left.

Playing shorthanded in the bullpen, Seth Lugo relieved Jeurys Familia to start the tenth. Lugo walked Ellsbury and gave up a single to Teixeira. Pinch-hitter Ben Gamel bunted but Lugo’s throw to third was not in time. (Blame this on catcher Rene Rivera, who signaled Lugo to go to third).

You knew this was going to end badly, and it did when Starlin Castro hit a sacrifice fly to right.

The Mets threatened against Dellin Betances by putting runners on second and third with two outs, but Curtis Granderson was overmatched and struck out to end the game.

The Mets played shorthanded with their bullpen after trading Antonio Bastardo to Pittsburgh for Jon Niese. Part of the reason why they’ve been playing shorthanded was GM Sandy Alderson’s reluctance to make a move, and also that their Triple-A farm team is located in Las Vegas, nearly four hours away.

The other key storylines were Reynolds and word Zack Wheeler will pitch in a minor league game Saturday.

REYNOLDS’ BIG NIGHT WASTED: Reynolds doubled and hit the three-run homer as the replacement for Asdrubal Cabrera, who is expected to go on the disabled list when Jay Bruce joins the team Tuesday.

The Mets’ bullpen appears stabilized with Wilmer Flores at third, Reynolds at short, Neil Walker at second and James Loney playing first.

WHEELER TO WORK IN GAME: The Mets finally got some encouraging news Monday with news Zack Wheeler would begin a rehab assignment Saturday.

Wheeler, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, threw 23 pitches – his fastball timed at 93 mph. – in a simulated game in Port St. Lucie Tuesday.

Wheeler is now expected to join the Mets after the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1.

It’s a positive note considering all the Mets’ recent sobering injury news, with Jose Reyes and Juan Lagares going on the disabled list within the past week. Cabrera is expected to join them Tuesday.

Jul 13

Mets Must Overhaul Pitching Protocols

 

UPDATED

The only one of the Mets starters not currently waving a health red flag is the one whose roots are not in the organization – Bartolo Colon. To be fair, Colon had health issues earlier in his career and a PED history, but he’s clean now and save a ball hit off his thumb has been fine.

Colon, at 43, has been a source of stability on the mound since joining the Mets, but his greatest contribution might be the suggestion to Noah Syndergaard, whose 23-year-old arm suddenly lost its steam, to back off his between-starts throwing.

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets' pitching problems. (Getty)

HARVEY: Symbolizes Mets’ pitching problems. (Getty)

When Syndergaard told Bob Klapisch, one the most knowledgeable baseball writers I know, his arm felt “like there are parachutes attached to it,”  there was the image of swimming against the current.

Syndergaard is pitching through a bone spur in his elbow. Syndergaard experienced a sudden five-mph., drop off his fastball in his last start against the Nationals, similar to turning an oscillating fan from high to medium. Every pitch was a change-up.

Matt Harvey, who at 27, is out for the season following shoulder surgery; the second time in four years the knife cut him out of the rotation. Jacob deGrom was given a chance to be on the National League All-Star team but told manager Terry Collins he was too tired. The word he used was “beat.”

He’s only 28.

Then there’s Steven Matz. He had Tommy John surgery before he was 25, and like Syndergaard is pitching with a painful bone spur.

Finally, there’s Zack Wheeler, who at 26, also experienced Tommy John surgery. He was supposed to come off the disabled list in late June and send Colon to the bullpen. Then it was July, then after the All-Star break. Now, it is mid-August.

I’m waiting for the announcement he will not pitch this year.

Realistically, nobody expected all these guys to blossom into 20-game winners at once. However, also realistically, nobody expected them all to break down all at once, which is closer to happening than one might think.

Is this a coincidence or something deeper?

I would love to see the Mets get back to the World Series. However, I would rather they not make the playoffs, even have a losing season, if it meant seeing each of these guys healthy. For that to happen, the Mets need a serious and comprehensive plan. And remember, wishing is not a plan.

The first step is to recognize how they’ve handled things in the past. The second step is to recognize it hasn’t worked.

I’ve been on the record and will not back off saying they mishandled Harvey from the outset of his arm problems in 2013. It should be noted Harvey back then, and today contributes to his own problems.

Syndergaard won’t pitch until the Mets are in Chicago next week. They’ll ease him back in the rotation, which is a wise decision. Not so wise is their inexplicable decision not to schedule a new MRI. The Mets are going on a previous set taken several weeks before the Washington meltdown.

Just stupid.

GM Sandy Alderson said of Syndergaard and Matz their bone spurs is a matter of pain tolerance. More than once they’ve said the pitchers – the keys to the Mets’ future – couldn’t risk further injury.

Wrong answer.

There are no guarantees when it comes to injuries. The only guarantee is if you continually do something wrong and it doesn’t work, it won’t get better.

The Mets have the possibility to have a great pitching staff, but that’s all it is now – potential. It will remain potential unless the Mets do a complete overhaul in how they handle their pitchers.

From throwing between starts, to pitch counts, to days off, to dealing with pain and discomfort, to a myriad of other things, there must be a complete change. There should be uniformity in policy and procedure from the rookie league to Citi Field.

I don’t know if these Mets will develop into a staff for the ages or fizzle out like the Oakland staff under Billy Martin. Both could happen.

Something is wrong and priority one for the Mets is to find out what it is and fix it.

I don’t care about what happens this year, it’s probably too late, anyway. I care about what happens in the years to come.