Aug 02

Using Zack Wheeler Out Of The Bullpen Is A Bad Idea

There are bad ideas and really bad ideas, and the New York Mets considering using Zack Wheeler out of the bullpen falls into the latter category.

WHEELER: Leave him alone. (AP)

WHEELER: Leave him alone. (AP)

Wheeler has thrown a combined 114.1 minors-and-majors innings this season with a cutoff number at 180. With the intent of limiting his innings, manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen are mulling using Wheeler out of the bullpen.

This is a bad idea on so many levels, beginning with the up-and-down nature of a reliever. The Mets will say they will only use Wheeler at the start of an inning, but that’s no guarantee. It is still a change in routine and they must scrap this idea immediately.

The Mets’ goal of winning as many games as possible in the second half and limiting Wheeler and Matt Harvey aren’t mutually compatible. The best way to achieve their goal of making a .500 run is to not change their pitching, which has been good.

Pitchers are creatures of habit and Wheeler hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen since 2010. For the past three years, he’s worked in the routine of a starter. Bouncing from starter to reliever in the middle of a season is never a good idea. The Mets should know that by now with Jenrry Mejia, who went from reliever to starter and ended up having Tommy John surgery.

A coincidence? Perhaps, but why take the chance? Considering how the Mets handled Wheeler with kid gloves, thrusting him into a new role is counter productive. It might be different if the Mets were in a pennant race, but they are not.

Figuring ten more starts they should simply cut Wheeler at six innings a game and do not deviate under any circumstances. That would give him 174.1 innings, just under the limit. This way, it keeps Wheeler in his normal routine and eliminate the different strain on his arm caused by working in relief. A starter has a set program, but a reliever does not.

San Francisco used Tim Lincecum out of the pen last year, but he’s a veteran more capable of making the adjustment than Wheeler.

Currently, the Mets are operating with a six-man rotation, which could go back to five once Jonathan Niese comes off the disabled list. The Mets have not said they’ll continue with six when Niese returns. Doing so might not be a bad idea because it would accomplish the dual  purposes of monitoring Wheeler and Harvey, not to mention protecting Niese.

If the Mets go down to five, it would give Wheeler and Harvey additional turns. In that case, they should be skipped or pushed back a turn, which is preferable to shaving innings piecemeal..

The Mets haven’t said whether they will have an innings limit on Wheeler and Harvey next season, but if they do, they should map out their plan from the beginning than doing so mid-stream.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 14

Mets Matters: Matt Harvey On SI Cover; Collin McHugh Brought Up

When you’re fading fast and it’s not even June, you celebrate the little things. For the Mets, that would be Matt Harvey on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.

HARVEY: No jinxes please.

HARVEY: No jinxes please.

Harvey won his first four starts, but has no-decisions in his last four. He has a Major League-best 1.44 ERA and is scheduled to start Friday in Chicago against the Cubs.

ATCHISON TO DL: Reliever Scott Atchison was placed on the disabled list today with numbness in the fingers of his right hand. He experienced the same thing last season before he was diagnosed with a tear in an elbow ligament last year.

Last year, while with Boston, he rejected Tommy John surgery in favor of rest. Looks like a bad decision.

Replacing him will be Collin McHugh, who is 3-2 with a 2.74 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Las Vegas. McHugh is also capable of spot starting or working in long relief.

McHugh made eight appearances (four starts) for the Mets last season, going 0-4 with a 7.59 ERA.

METS REACH LOW FOR FOX: The Mets signed Matt Fox from York of the independent Atlantic League with plans of working him out of the Vegas rotation.

How much of a reach is this?

The thirty-year old Fox last appeared in the majors in 2010 with Boston and Minnesota. Fox was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in four starts for York.

TRAVIS d’ARNAUD UPDATE: Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, who fractured his left foot a month ago, will be re-examined Friday in New York. He is hopeful of shedding his walking boot.

Initially, the Mets projected he’d be out at least two months and that still stands.

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Mar 26

Mets’ Jenrry Mejia Shutdown With Elbow Inflamation

Jenrry Mejia

According to Jorge Castillo of The Star LedgerJenrry Mejia, who has not pitched since March 11 due to what the Mets first labeled forearm tendinitis, has been shutdown for at least six weeks due to inflammation in his elbow.

“I feel a little pain, not much,” Mejia said in Spanish. “But sometimes a little pain turns into a lot so you don’t want to force anything. It’s better to not force anything to get ready and finish the season healthy.”

Mejia said he will not throw for another two weeks, after which he will start a four-week throwing program with the end goal of making his season debut.

“I feel good knowing what I have because I was wondering,” Mejia said.

In two starts this spring, Mejia allowed five runs, four earned, in just two innings pitched. Mejia tore the mediate collateral ligament in his right elbow in May 2011 and underwent Tommy John surgery. he’s less than a year removed from his return to the mound so obviously this is a huge concern.

The news comes at amid reports that Shaun Marcum, the team’s projected No. 2 starter, will not be able to make his first start after a bullpen session was cut short yesterday due to a neck issue.

Marcum was plagued with arm woes last season and throughout his career. The Mets have already shut him down twice this spring because of arm weakness and had to give him a cortisone shot a week ago. He was to be the replacement for R.A. Dickey in the rotation.

I thought it was a risky move replacing a 200+ innings pitcher like Dickey with a pitcher who had a history like Marcum. I thought the odds of getting more than 100 innings out of Marcum were a longshot at best. And then of course you have the caliber and quality contrast on top of the durability issue.

Mar 15

Jeremy Hefner Solid Against Braves

Jeremy Hefner, the likely replacement for Johan Santana in the rotation, gave up two homers this afternoon but rebounded to strike out the last six hitters he faced in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Atlanta.

Hefner had a solid line of two runs on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in five innings.

HEFNER: Solid outing today.

HEFNER: Solid outing today.

Even so, Hefner wasn’t pleased, telling reporters he was concerned because he left the ball up in the strike zone. Hefner said he pitched with a chip on his shoulder the last two innings.

“I was less than thrilled about my performance before then,’’ Hefner said. “The ball was up, as evidenced by all the fly balls and hard-hit balls. I’m the guy that has to pound the bottom of the strike zone and get ground balls to be successful.’’

Hefner said earlier this week he will be ready to replace Santana at the start of the season but that’s my focus.

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Mar 11

Jenrry Mejia Listed On Mets Travel Squad To Lakeland

Do not read into Zack Wheeler’s demotion that the Mets think Jenrry Mejia will replace Johan Santana on the roster and in the rotation.

When I asked Terry Collins of his preparation plans for life without Santana to start the season, the name Jeremy Hefner was only one to pop out. And, without hesitation.

MEJIA: May pitch today.

MEJIA: May pitch today.

Collin McHugh, who was also demoted to the minor league camp, made spot starts last year and could be in position again if something were to develop with Hefner.

Mejia’s development this spring was hindered when he reported late because of a visa issue and was further delayed with the thyroid ailment. He is scheduled to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Pitchers start at two innings or 30 pitches and like to work up to seven innings and 100 pitches. There’s no way Mejia can build himself up to that with the time remaining in camp.

Mejia was on the travel squad this morning to Lakeland, where the Mets will play the Tigers again.

The Mets set back Mejia’s career when they rushed him to the majors as a reliever – there was no set relief role – then optioned him back to the minors as a starter at which time he injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.