Jun 20

Today’s Question: What’s Wrong With Zack Wheeler?

The ancient Greeks may have had their idea of tragedy, but they never had to stay up until 2 to watch the Mets. How does a team hit four home runs and score six runs against the sport’s best pitcher, but lose the game?

WHEELER: In trouble. (AP)

WHEELER: In trouble. (AP)

Actually, it’s very simple when your starting pitcher gives up seven runs and lasts only two innings. That’s Zack Wheeler, who lasted 1.2 innings and gave up eight runs in his previous start. That’s 15 runs in 3.2 innings.

Concerned is an understatement.

“When you’ve got that kind of stuff and you’re getting hit like [Wheeler] is getting hit, there is something wrong and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’s too good. He’s got too good of stuff.’’

But “stuff’’ is too broad a term. Stuff is more than throwing hard. It includes movement, location and command of his secondary pitches.

“Honestly, I haven’t had off-speed pitches all year, and now it’s starting to catch up to me,’’ Wheeler said. “Those guys get scouting reports and now it’s starting to catch up to me. It’s easy [for hitters] when you can’t throw off-speed for strikes and you’re just throwing fastballs.’’

And, fastballs with little movement that hang out over the plate get crushed. But, it might not be just one issue.  Wheeler’s problems can be attributed to a myriad of circumstances:

HEALTH: Wheeler said he’s fine, but Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey each said they were all right and both are on the disabled list.

Mets’ pitchers are notorious for withholding physical ailments and trying to pitch through discomfort, so it wouldn’t surprise me if something crops up with Wheeler.

HITTING A WALL: Wheeler missed the last two seasons following Tommy John surgery and a complicated healing process. It’s quite possible he’s hit a wall.

The solution for that could be to shut him down for his next start and give him time to rest.

TIPPING PITCHES: Collins said they’ll look at video in an attempt to spot any mechanical issues. While they are at it, examine the tape carefully to spot any giveaways to what’s coming.

The Dodgers’ first five hitters swung the bat like they knew the pitch.

Something isn’t right with Wheeler and the Mets’ would be wise for him to skip a start as they search for answers.

 

May 17

Today’s Question: What Version Will Mets Get From Harvey Today?

Today’s Question: Will the real Matt Harvey, or the version he claims to be step up?

Arizona was where it all began for Harvey, who struck out 11 Diamondbacks in his major league debut late in the lost season that was 2012. He had poise that day, an explosive fastball, and above all, devastating command.

HARVEY: Who is the real Harvey? (AP)

HARVEY: Who is the real Harvey? (AP)

The Mets crowed about what they had, and they had the right. Harvey finished the year at 3-5, but with a 2.73 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.

A few short months later, Harvey masked the pain in his right forearm, and when the injury was finally revealed, he, along with coaxing of ownership, let their future start in the All-Star Game.

He was brilliant that night in Citi Field, but a few weeks later the burning in his elbow needed to be cooled by Tommy John surgery. We can gloss over the pettiness in his sparring with management about whether to have surgery, went to have it, and where he should rehab.

He fought the Mets at every turn, and when he came back in 2015 he fought with them over his innings limit.

Then there was Game 5 of the World Series.

Now, Harvey goes to the mound with a 31-31 career record and more questions than answers. Harvey goes in with a three-game losing streak and suspension on his most recent resume.

“You get to the point where you don’t sit here and say, ‘I hope I get this’ and ‘I hope I get that,’ ” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You just send him out there and you hope he’s getting back to what Matt Harvey is. That’s what I’m looking for: improvement. That’s it.”

What is the real Matt Harvey? Well, on-the-field he’s been underachieving with average numbers. Off-the-field he’s still caught up with an arrogant sense of entitlement whose act is wearing thin.

He received no public support from his teammates, which is rare in a baseball clubhouse. That’s partly because he’s done nothing lately to prove to his teammates he’s worth the trouble.

That’s the heart of the matter.

 

Apr 29

Today’s Question: Can Wheeler Encore DeGrom’s Effort?

Jacob deGrom pitched like an ace last night to ease the Mets’ hemorrhaging. Today’s question is obvious: Can Zack Wheeler duplicate that effort?

WHEELER: Pressure start for him. (AP)

WHEELER: Pressure start for him. (AP)

Wheeler is 1-2 after missing the last two years following Tommy John surgery. It’s not a great record, but he is coming off a strong seven-inning performance last weekend against Washington. Wheeler gave up four runs on four hits with six strikeouts while throwing 101 pitches.

After the Mets’ 7-5 victory Friday night, to keep the momentum going they need to win at least twice in this series and preferably sweep. If they lose the next two they’ll trail the Nationals by 8.5 games. There’s plenty of time to make that up, but two losses would mean giving away the momentum created by deGrom.

The Mets have long waited for their dream five-man rotation of Noah Syndergaard, deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Wheeler to dominate. However, the five have never gone one cycle in that rotation. That might not come until next year as when Matz is ready to come off the disabled list, Wheeler’s innings limit might sit him.

Mar 27

Wheeler Rocked, Lugo Rolls

The competition for the Mets’ fifth starter role took a turn Monday with a strong outing from Zack Wheeler and a poor one from Seth Lugo. Each should make one more limited appearance this spring before the Mets’ brass makes a decision as to the fifth starter.

Wheeler, who spent the better part of the past two years recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw five shutout innings and had his fastball top out at 96 in a split-squad win over Miami. Lugo, who helped save the Mets’ playoff run last spring and had pitched well in the WBC, gave up four runs in 4.1 innings in a loss to Washington.

Despite the contrasting performances, the Mets did not make an announcement as to who will be the fifth starter because it is not a clear-cut decision based on numbers.

The decision could come down to whom the Mets feel is best to handle the up-and-down rigors of working out of the pen, which is most likely Lugo. Wheeler does not have bullpen experience, while Lugo does and was brought to camp in part to pitch in relief.

Another factor with Wheeler is his proposed innings limits, initially set at 110 innings and is now up to 120 to 125. Manager Terry Collins said the other day the innings could be determined on the fly this summer. Should that really be the case, then there’s probably nothing decided, which is a reminder of the Matt Harvey innings flap in 2015.

If there really is an innings limit, the optimal decision would be to wait until May or June, when he could join the rotation and pitch on a regular routine. With a strong chance of inclement weather in April, there’s a strong chance of rainouts, delays and cold temperatures that hurt even healthy arms let alone one coming off elbow surgery.

EXTRA INNINGS: Steven Matz, who was bumped from his last start with elbow irritation, threw 55 long tosses today on flat ground. The Mets still haven’t said whether he’ll undergo a MRI. … Closer Jeurys Familia was in New York today to meet with the Commissioner’s Office regarding a suspension for his domestic violence case last October. The expectations are he’ll at least 30 games. … Outfielder Brandon Nimmo‘s chances of making the Opening Day roster have greatly reduced because he’s not making progress on his strained right hamstring. … Outfielder Juan Lagares said his strained right oblique muscle feels better.

 

 

 

Mar 10

Mets Get Positive Showings From Harvey And Wheeler

Optimistic was the word of the day for the Mets regarding pitchers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Despite losing both of their split-squad games Friday, the Mets had to be encouraged from what they got from Harvey and Wheeler, both of whom are recovering from surgery.

HARVEY: Another positive step. (Getty)

HARVEY: Another positive step. (Getty)

Hit in his first start, Harvey gave up only one run in their 7-6 loss to Houston. In their other game, Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two years, gave up a run in two innings in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Braves.

Harvey topped out at 92 mph., but insisted he’ll reach the upper 90s before the end of spring training.

“Definitely an improvement from the first one,” Harvey, who pitched with a stiff neck, told reporters. “I think it’s just a matter of time before things click and mechanics click, timing clicks. But I think overall it was definitely a plus. … It’s nice to go up there and throw 97 to 100 mph. or whatnot, but you need to figure out how to pitch. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a competition like that, so for me, I think it’s a matter of time.”

Velocity isn’t the issue for Harvey. It is command and movement on his pitches. It is also working in his slider and change-up, which he did today.

Harvey is approaching his recovery with the right mindset. Eventually, he’ll throw harder, but he’s right in saying there’s time and the most important thing is to get back to pitching.

Harvey is currently slotted third or fourth in the rotation, but Wheeler will likely open the season in an extended spring training. That is the presumption considering he’s on an innings limit of 110.

Wheeler, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, had a simple objective.

“As long as I came out of this healthy today, that was my No. 1 goal,” Wheeler told reporters. “I’ve been going through this for two years now, so whatever happened, happened. I got a strikeout and gave up a home run. All of that really doesn’t matter right now. I’m just glad I’m healthy right now.”