Feb 21

Three Mets Players to Watch This Spring Training

COLLINS: Issues to address.

The Mets begin their first full squad workout in St. Lucie on Saturday, February 22 and for us fans there’s nothing better than watching the news filter out of the camp, knowing the first day of the season is getting ever so closer.

Spring training usually sets the benchmark for how a team will perform in the regular season. New additions show off their talent, last year’s rookies return with confidence, old-timers find ways to hang on and those recovering from injury face the uncertainty of testing out their bodies once more.

It’s a fascinating time for baseball fans, but also for those who set the MLB odds for each team and try to predict who will be the division and wild card winners. As rosters begin to take shape in the next six weeks, every team goes into Opening Day in a tie for first place. The tough part will be staying there.

For the Mets, their 2014 journey begins tomorrow. The Mets have many issues ranging from the muddled situation at first base and the yet to be contested battles for the fifth spot in the rotation and who will be the leadoff hitter. But there are three more things to watch for in spring training:

1. Bartolo Colon needs to deliver

Ever since our ace underwent Tommy John surgery late last year – ruling him out for the entirety of 2014 – many are betting and wondering who will replace the majestic Matt Harvey. All eyes will be on Bartolo Colon who was signed to a two year deal worth $20 million and has been the front office’s solution to replacing Harvey’s loss in the rotation. While we all keep our fingers crossed and hope for improved command from Zack Wheeler and the mid-season debut of the promising Noah Syndergaard, the Mets need to hit big it with Colon – Alderson’s highest paid pitcher in four years. They’ll also need to see Dillon Gee and Jon Niese look like the pitchers we saw in the second half of last season.

2. Travis d’Arnaud must step up

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fill of articles and features on framing pitches, and I’m looking forward to articles on D’Arnaud mashing pitches. TDA didn’t get his billing at top catching prospect for getting one or two extra strike call per nine innings. The rookie catcher played 31 games in the close of last season, but often showed how pressure can get to him. Yet despite his poor form that saw him finish 2013 batting .202, d’Arnaud has the capabilities to be a solid performer in the Mets roster and must prove himself in spring training. At 25-years old it’s time to show-off the offensive package we’ve been hearing about for the last four years.

3. Chris Young against RHP

I’m not worried about Curtis Granderson, we all know what he can do. But as long as Chris Young is being handed an everyday job after a season that saw him bat .200 with a .280 OBP – both lower than Juan Lagares – he’s the man under the microscope.  What scares me more about him – aside from Billy Beane casting him away and proclaiming him a platoon player – is his horrendous .225 career batting average against right handed pitching in 2,825 plate appearances. Is that sample size big enough for you? He has declined every year since 2010 except for his strikeout rate, that continues to climb. He’s pushing a promising prospect to the bench, he better pay us back in spades.

Feb 20

Mets’ Matt Harvey Cleared To Throw

Filed under the category of good news for the New York Mets: Matt Harvey is cleared to throw. It’s important to know this does not accelerate his timetable and should not be construed to mean he will pitch this season.

HARVEY: Green light.

HARVEY: Green light.

Harvey, who finally relented to Tommy John surgery after initially wanting to rest, is expected to miss this season but be ready for next spring training.

The way these things progress, it first starts with a game of catch on flat ground – like you did with your dad in the backyard – with the distance gradually increasing to build up arm strength.

Eventually, leads to throwing halfway up the mound for a few sessions until reaching the rubber. The initial times on the rubber will not be at full speed. It might not be until the end of spring training before Harvey reaches that objective.

You’ll hear often the most important days are not the ones he throw, but the day after to see how his elbow responds.

Harvey expressed a desire to be with the team during the regular season opposed to the staff in Florida. While this hasn’t been decided, he will spend some time in Port St. Lucie for extended spring training and possibly minor league games.

It’s a good idea for Harvey to rehab in New York because Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson and Dan Warthen can keep an on him, not just to see how he’s progressing physically, but to be able to put the brakes on him mentally and emotionally.

Twice already in his young career – that we know of – Harvey pressed the issue when it came to dealing with pain.

First, he pitched through a tweak in his back and subsequently missed a start. Next, he tried to pitch through discomfort in his forearm that led to his elbow injury and eventual surgery.

If Harvey resists the urge to push things, he should be all right.

Feb 17

Wrapping Up The Day: Wilpon On Finances; Tejada And Syndergaard Impress

It was a busy day Monday for the Mets, who concluded their first official workout. Here’s what’s going on:

* Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said if GM Sandy Alderson thought there was a fit for free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew the Mets would have made the resources available.

* Matt Harvey has conceded missing the season.

* The Mets will wear a patch on their uniform honoring Ralph Kiner.

* Ruben Tejada reported early and manager Terry Collins was impressed by how he looked, saying: “You can tell he’s really worked hard and trimmed down. I asked him how much faster he was. He said, ‘I’ll show you.’ And I said, ‘OK, good.’ He’ll have the chance.’’

* Collins said it’s possible Jenrry Mejia could wind up in the bullpen.

* Prospect Noah Syndergaard threw 97 in his bullpen session. Said Syndergaard: “It’s kind of hard to settle down. I tried to take it easy, but I still was going pretty hard at it.’’

* Jeremy Hefner threw for the first time since having Tommy John surgery last August.

* Chris Young said he doesn’t care where he plays in the outfield, but admitted a preference to center field.

Feb 17

Mets’ Matt Harvey Doesn’t Regret Surgery Option

Matt Harvey doesn’t give in easily, but finally admitted he won’t be a part of the 2014 New York Mets as anything but a footnote.

Harvey, who recently said he wanted to pitch this season if his rehab from Tommy John surgery is complete by September, caved in Sunday and acknowledged it to be a long shot. Perhaps that his locker isn’t on `Starters Row,’ but close to the training room might have been the deciding factor.

HARVEY: Won't be an easy spring.

HARVEY: Won’t be an easy spring.

“It’s a little bit difficult of a day considering I’m starting to realize that the year is not going to go the way I wanted it to,’’ Harvey told reporters in Port St. Lucie Sunday. “But, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and the rehab is going to continue. I’m not sure when I’m going to start throwing, but hopefully in the near future.

“It’s hard seeing all the guys, seeing them put their uniforms on, and realizing that spring training is going to go a little differently this year.’’

It had to be tough emotionally for him considering the high he rode last season until injuring his elbow. He had New York in the palm of his hand, but couldn’t ignore the nagging pain in his forearm and elbow.

Initially, Harvey wanted to choose rest over surgery, but finally relented. He said he’s finally at peace with the decision.

“I needed that time to make the decision and make sure that it was the right one and the one that I wanted to go with,’’ Harvey said. “I’m happy that I did things on my own time. Mentally moving forward I think that was a big thing for me to do.’’

As of now, Harvey will miss 2014. Had he opted for rest he might have been ready, but if he later blew out his elbow he would have missed the remainder of 2014 plus 2015. Considering those options, Harvey opted to miss the least amount of time as possible.

Mets physicians will soon meet with Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery, to map out a timetable for his rehab this season and this throwing program.

“Whenever they decide I can throw, that’s their decision. I can only make sure I’m strong and flexible,’’ Harvey said. “It’s definitely tough, but I’ve come to the realization that I have to listen to them and I can’t push too much.’’

That rushing sound you hear is a sigh of relief from Mets’ management.

Harvey is a competitor with no quit. Maybe he needed this experience to understand the fragility of his career and better take care of his arm.

ON DECK: Jenrry Mejia on bullpen shuttle again?

Feb 09

Mets Can’t Afford To Let Matt Harvey Rush Rehab

As spring training rapidly approaches, perhaps the New York Mets’ most interesting bid of news this week, was Matt Harvey’s statements he expects to start throwing Feb. 22, a week after pitchers and catchers report.

“They said I should be able to start throwing four months after the surgery, and that’s Feb. 22,’’ Harvey said. “|And I haven’t had any setbacks. I can’t wait. Even if it’s 10 feet, I just want to pick up a ball. As if right now, I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to do that.’’

HARVEY: Needs to not push it

HARVEY: Needs to not push it

The worry about Harvey is he’ll push the envelope. The accepted recovery time for rehab from Tommy John surgery is 12 months, which Harvey said he wants to beat.

Nonetheless, he vows not to push it.

“I completely agree that I shouldn’t come back too soon,’’ Harvey said. “I haven’t touched a baseball yet, so I don’t know how things are going to go once that happens. But if things are still progressing and it shows I’m ready to go and I get cleared, I want to be able to play.’’

There’s the rub.

The dilemma is hypothetical: What will the Mets do if they find themselves in wild-card contention in September? Will they keep him down or let him loose?

Already in his young career Harvey has tried to pitch through, and/or ignore pain. He didn’t say anything after tweaking his back and missed a start. Later, he said nothing about soreness in his forearm, which eventually led to the surgery.

Pitchers must learn to differentiate between pain and injury. Nonetheless, he must be more forthcoming in reporting pain and discomfort to the training staff. He’s not informed or trained enough to make his own diagnosis.

A pitcher’s arm is a fragile and precious thing. Harvey has a bright future and the last thing he needs to do is jeopardize it by being reckless with his health, which can be concluded by his comments about wanting to be able to pitch in September.

Regardless of where the Mets are in the standings or how well they are playing in September, Harvey should not be allowed to pitch this year. There should be no discussion or consideration about it.

The Mets have a reputation of playing fast and loose with injuries – see David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church and Johan Santana, among others – and with their future seemingly on the upswing, don’t blow it now.

Everybody needs to be smart about this, even if it comes down to protecting Harvey from himself.