Jun 07

Mets Must Overhaul Handling Of Injuries

While introducing the Sandy Alderson Era, Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon promised a different mentality emanating from the top. The Mets would be more aggressive in obtaining talent, and perhaps just as importantly, more diligent and proactive in keeping that talent on the field.

The Mets have long been criticized for their handling of injured players, including David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Ryan Church, Pedro Martinez, Ike Davis and the list goes on.

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

Injuries haven’t been diagnosed properly, players played when they should’ve been benched or were rushed back. Players also haven’t been proactive in reporting injuries, which in the case of Matt Harvey, this likely lead to his surgery. Perhaps most bizarre was when Beltran opted to have surgery on his own.

This season has been about injuries and an 11-game winning streak. That streak is why they’re where they are considering they lead the major leagues with 12 players on the disabled list.

Eight players are gone from the Opening Day roster, and three players in the starting lineup in Sunday’s game at Arizona were injury related. There’s not a day when injuries aren’t the focal point. Injuries will dictate if the Mets make the playoffs; what, or if, they’ll make any trades; and possibly, their offseason agenda.

What should also happen is a complete overhaul of their injury protocol. From the trainers, to the team physicians, to the organization’s philosophy in handling and treating injuries, everything should be on the table for review. What they are doing now isn’t working.

Why, over the years, has there been a glut of arm injuries resulting in Tommy John surgery? Why have there been so many muscle pulls and strains? Is there a problem in the offseason training program? Are players encouraged or discouraged to report aches and pains?

Do the pitchers throw too much or not enough? Is nutrition an issue? Do the players stretch enough? Is there too much weight lifting during the season?

There’s not a constant with each injury, but something isn’t right and it must change. Teams like to say, “next man up,’’ but for the Mets it seems to be “who’s the next to go down?’’ Yes, injuries are part of the game, but for the Mets it seems to be all nine innings.

What should also be noted is playoff caliber teams need to overcome injuries and adversity, and that brings us back full circle to Wilpon and Alderson. Will ownership provide the financial resources, and does Alderson have the capabilities to fill the void?

We’re waiting.


May 29

Extra Rest Not A Factor In Harvey Loss

It is now five straight empty starts and counting for the Mets’ Matt Harvey. We can forget about the “dead arm’’ talk, because a pitcher doesn’t have a tired arm when he tops out at 98 mph., and strikes out 11.

Nonetheless, the Mets are taking precautions with Harvey by going to a six-man rotation, and naturally there is a curiosity as to how he will respond with the extra rest, and despite losing 4-3 tonight to Miami, he pitched well enough to win most starts.

HARVEY: Empty again. (AP)

HARVEY: Empty again. (AP)

After missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery, despite winning his first five decisions this season, his issues are maintaining health and refining mechanics.

“I didn’t feel like I was dead,” a clearly dejected Harvey told reporters. “I just kind of got out of my mechanics. … When you have missed a year and you go out there and battle every time, you’re finding out again what your mechanics are doing.

“For me, I think, mechanics-wise it was a lot better this time. We’ve just got to keep that going and really just stay focused on that.”

It’s a positive that he threw eight innings (105 pitches) tonight for the second time in three starts. One walk is also a positive in a bounce-back start from his four-inning, seven-run disaster last weekend in Pittsburgh that followed consecutive no-decisions in which the bullpen coughed up a 1-0 lead in the late innings.

Harvey worked with an extra day of rest and didn’t seem rusty. He was obviously strong and one walk indicated his command was good.

A fourth-inning slider catching too much of the plate that Justin Bour crushed was his biggest mistake, but had nothing to do with the extra rest. It was simply a bad pitch that could have happened anytime. Unfortunately for Harvey, anytime is always bad time when he’s not getting run support.

He responded fine with the extra day. He pitched well enough to win most starts.


May 25

Collins, Alderson Continue To Guess At Mets’ Physical Ailments

Just because we’re in a world where immediate answers are demanded, it doesn’t mean Mets manager Terry Collins is obligated to improvise with one on Matt Harvey. After Harvey’s worst major league outing Saturday in Pittsburgh, without having benefit of a medical exam, Collins suggested to reporters the pitcher might have a “dead arm.’’

While this may or not be true, I’m tired of Collins and GM Sandy Alderson throwing out guesses on possible medical issues.

HARVEY: Tired arm? (AP)

HARVEY: Tired arm? (AP)

Collins told reporters: “I have not talked to Matt yet, but it looks like he might be going through some of that dead arm stuff that sometimes happens. This might help him to have an extra day to get him back on track. He’s going to pitch Friday with five days’ rest, be ready to go.”

OK, let’s get this straight.

* Collins had not talked to Harvey.

* Harvey, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, isn’t scheduled to be examined by a doctor.

* Collins said Harvey will be “ready to go,’’ on Friday.

Harvey said after the game there’s nothing wrong with him physically, and although he hasn’t been forthright about injuries before, we have to give him benefit of doubt on this because he is coming off consecutive no-decision starts in which he held 1-0 leads late before the bullpen crashed. Harvey was brilliant, if not overpowering, in those games.

“I wasn’t locating, obviously,’’ Harvey said Saturday’s start. “My arm feels fine, my body feels fine. It was one of those days where if I tried to spin it, it was over the middle. If I tried to throw a fastball in, it was away and vice versa. It’s just a pretty terrible outing.”

So, before Collins gives us a diagnosis, let’s see what happens with Harvey after Friday’s start.

It could have been just a bad game for Harvey on Saturday. He’s entitled.

Meanwhile, the news remains dark for David Wright, who was sent to California for a consultation with Dr. Robert Watkins on his back pain and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column).

Alderson said he hopes with a “week of rest that he will be able to resume his progression.’’

However, there’s no guarantee a week will help, especially when that suggestion comes before Watkins’ diagnosis. It seems neither Collins nor Alderson have learned when it comes to Mets’ physical ailments.

I wrote the other day I wouldn’t be surprised if Wright is gone for a considerable length of time, perhaps even the rest of the season. After all, I have been around the Mets for a long time and used to bad news.


May 19

Mets’ Harvey Gets It

Kudos to Matt Harvey after the Mets’ bullpen kicked away an opportunity for his sixth victory of the season. Just as he did on the mound, he handled the post game like a pro.

Harvey failed in his third straight start for his sixth victory, and in his last two games saw the bullpen blow a 1-0 lead late. In those two games Harvey struck out 18 and threw 15 scoreless innings. He deserved better than two no decisions. He should be 7-1 now, but don’t feel sorry for him because he’ll win many more before he’s done.

HARVEY: Gets it. (AP)

HARVEY: Gets it. (AP)

There will be times when he gives it up, pitches lousy, but somehow come away with a victory. That’s the nature of the sport.

Harvey handled everything perfectly last night. He could have thrown both his hitters and bullpen under the bus, but didn’t. He chose the professional route.

You saw raw emotion when he left the mound. He’s human. He had to be disappointed, but didn’t show it in front of the cameras. Pitchers, like quarterbacks, can’t afford to wear emotions on their sleeves. Only a few can get away with it.

“Well, I think at that point, you just gotta hope we come out and score a run,” Harvey told reporters about went through his mind after the Cardinals tied the game in the ninth. “Take the win/loss out of the equation and concentrate on cheering your teammates on in the bottom half of the inning. … John Mayberry came up and got it done [in the 14th inning], and a win is a win.”

I’ve seen countless pitchers moan and complain about a lack of run support, or point their fingers at a fielder who committed and error, or the bullpen. These pitchers aren’t usually liked by their teammates. The Mets have had a few of them.

But, Harvey is different. His teammates like and respect him, not only for his talent but work ethic. Coming back from Tommy John surgery isn’t easy. He understands this is a team game and he’s one of 25. He knows there will be times when a reliever saves his hide, or a hitter overcomes a bad pitch Harvey made by mauling a couple of home runs. Or a fielder makes a great play. For example, last night Michael Cuddyer and Wilmer Flores made run-saving plays that without them, there wouldn’t have been a blown save.

That’s the nature of the sport, and in that respect, Harvey gets it.

ON DECK: May 19, Mets’ Lineup Vs. Cardinals

May 18

Mets Lucky Tonight, But Can’t Afford To Keep Wasting Harvey Starts

The Mets’ Matt Harvey missed in his third straight start to get his sixth victory tonight against St. Louis. With their offense – and some starting pitching – erratic since April 24, the night Jacob deGrom was torched at Yankee Stadium, the Mets can’t afford to waste a Harvey start.

Harvey threw at least seven scoreless innings for his second straight. It was seven last week against the Cubs and eight tonight against St. Louis. He struck out nine in each start.

HARVEY: Can't waste his starts. (AP)

HARVEY: Can’t waste his starts. (AP)

Harvey has given the Mets a winnable effort in every start. He’ll lose from time to time as he did against the Phillies, but when he comes up with an effort such as the one he had tonight and last week in Wrigley Field last week, well, you can’t throw those away.

The Mets were fortunate to come away with a 2-1 victory in 14 innings.

Part of this goes back to the unpopular debate of limiting Harvey’s innings. By how they’ve handled things so far, the Mets don’t have a definitive plan. Harvey is an incredible talent, but is also coming off Tommy John surgery. They need to be careful as to save his innings for later this year.

Against the Cubs, they pulled him early. They played it the right way tonight and let Harvey pitch the eighth. This was made possible because the defense – keyed by Wilmer Flores – pulled off inning-ending double plays in the fourth and seventh innings.

Take away those plays and Harvey would have had over 100 pitches after the seventh.

This is the year the Mets vowed they would compete, and GM Sandy Alderson has even eyed 90 victories. Given that, innings saved in April and May can later be used in September, and if they are lucky enough, possibly October.

That’s why Harvey starting – and working into the seventh – the game he had strep throat, and letting him pitch into the ninth at Yankee Stadium in a blowout win, were foolish choices because it was more important to pitch longer tonight and last week.

The Mets played it the right way with Harvey tonight. They gave him the extra inning. They handled everything correctly with their pitching. Eventually, Jeurys Familia would blow a save opportunity. They just didn’t give him enough runs.

That’s three straight Harvey starts without a victory. The Mets were fortunate tonight it didn’t bite them.