Feb 23

Here’s A Thought Why Mets Won’t Announce Set Plan For Harvey

Unquestionably, the primary focus for the Mets this spring training will be on Matt Harvey. GM Sandy Alderson said there would not be severe restrictions on Harvey, who remains on schedule and is to throw to hitters by the end of the week.

That’s encouraging, but what is puzzling is wondering if the Mets even have a concrete plan for Harvey’s first year following Tommy John surgery. There’s supposed to be an innings cap, but so far there’s no announced number, with Alderson saying he didn’t want this to become an issue over the next eight months.

HARVEY: Why won't they announce plan? (Getty)

HARVEY: Why won’t they announce plan? (Getty)

Memo to Alderson: Announced number or not, Harvey’s workload will always be an issue. Not knowing drives the media crazy and encourages it to bombard Alderson, Harvey and Terry Collins with the same questions before and after every start.

How can Alderson be that naïve about the New York press to think the issue will go away, especially as the season wears down and there is a prospect of a postseason?

First, it was thought Harvey would not pitch in the six games the Mets have on the road to open the season, but start the home opener. Now, Collins says he’ll start in the season’s first five games. How much do you want to bet he starts Opening Day and the home opener?

Alderson says the Mets have “an idea,’’ of Harvey’s limit, but not a definitive number. Harvey threw out 200, but not 215 or 220.

Alderson said Harvey will start in the postseason, but what does that mean toward the innings total?

Let’s assume the Mets get in as a wild card and run the table. That’s a potential six or seven starts; that’s at least another 40 innings. And, if they are in a race there’s no way they’ll cut him short in a game.

How does that compute? Do the Mets think 170 innings and keep adding on until their season is done? Don’t think for a second if the Mets reach the playoffs they would consider limiting him.

But, all innings count.

The ideal way is to map out a schedule that utilizes skipping one start a month, which is a possible savings of 42 innings, figuring seven innings is the magic number for a start. This can easily be done when scheduled off days are considered. And, it would not impact the rest of the rotation.

Then, Collins can pull Harvey depending on how he’s pitching that day and the tenor of the game. Those are bonus saved innings. I would hope on days Harvey doesn’t have it he’ll have a short leash.

That seems the easiest way, but the Mets won’t commit to this format. Instead, they floated the idea of sometimes earmarking a start for five innings. That’s a terrible idea because what if Harvey is throwing a gem? What if they pull him and the bullpen gives it up? That’s a backlash Collins doesn’t want to face.

This way also puts undue pressure on the team if they think they’ll have Harvey for five innings. A team must go into a game believing the starter will be with them. Plus, you would be putting the bullpen in the situation of working four innings that night. But, what if they were overused in an extra-innings game the night before? What if the next game’s starter is shelled? All of a sudden the bullpen is taxed.

The Mets’ reluctance to carve out a concrete plan for Harvey this year has nothing to do with trying to alleviate a distraction. At least not the one they think.

I believe their caution is they don’t want to risk of aggravating or annoying their temperamental pitcher, who has already in his young career has shown a willingness, if not eagerness, to spar with management.

They don’t want Harvey to become angry and create a different distraction. What they don’t understand it is better to face this now rather than have this become a lingering issue.

And, you know it will.

Feb 09

Harvey Arrives In Camp; Says All The Right Things

Matt Harvey didn’t want to see Port St. Lucie last summer during his rehab program, but now he couldn’t be happier to see the place … and answer all those questions.

Harvey reported to spring training ten days ahead of the Mets’ reporting date and was clearly anxious to put last year behind him, telling reporters today he’s excited and on schedule.

HARVEY: See you in the spring. (MLB)

HARVEY: See you in the spring. (MLB)

“I’m healthy. I’m right where I need to be, and I’m excited about getting started,’’ Harvey said this afternoon. “The big test will be once hitters get in there and facing them. I’ve been throwing [bullpen sessions], and everything is right where I want it to be. It’s an exciting spring training for me.’’

Last year, Harvey wanted to rehab in New York and not Florida, and also pushed the Mets at every turn about wanting to pitch at the end of the 2014 season.

He expressed no regrets today about how he was handled.

“Looking back on it, I think everybody made the right decision,’’ Harvey said. “I’m in a good place right now.’’

Call it an olive branch. It’s the first day and everybody is optimistic and in a good mood. No need for him to dredge up bad feelings. However, there are details to be ironed out and we’ll eventually see how harmonious things are between Harvey and the Mets.

GM Sandy Alderson is on record as saying Harvey will work with a to-be-determined innings ceiling. As of now, it appears he won’t be the Opening Day starter, but could start the home opener. That’s one missed start, but only a beginning. Will the Mets place him on the disabled list at midseason? Will they limit him to seven innings each start? Will they skip him once a month? Will he even be ready to start the season?

It would be great to have all these answers now, and hopefully this will be determined – and Harvey on board with everything – before the Mets break camp.

As for now, Harvey is saying all the right things.

“My goal is to be ready for Opening Day, regardless of what is decided,’’ Harvey said. “We haven’t really discussed anything. I don’t think anything’s set in stone.’’

The concept of an innings limit became popular in 2012 when Washington shut down Stephen Strasburg in September in his first season following Tommy John surgery and subsequently missed the playoffs. Now, it is in vogue.

Of course, right now it is premature to suggest the playoffs are even in the cards for the Mets, but this much is for certain, there will be no October for them if Harvey is re-injured.

Nov 28

Mets’ Top Five Issues Entering Spring Training

I trust you all enjoyed Thanksgiving with your families. With Christmas fast approaching, followed by the Super Bowl, it is time to forget about the Jets, Giants, Knicks and Nets, and focus on hockey and the upcoming baseball season.

The spring training countdown begins at the conclusion of the Super Bowl. With that, I’ll take a look at what I consider the Mets’ top five issues entering the season.

HARVEY: No hiding he's a key. ESPN

HARVEY: No hiding he’s a key. ESPN

If you disagree, and that’s the point of this exercise, I would be interested to hear your issues.

1. DAVID WRIGHT’S HEALTH: I touched on this the other day, and rank it first because it is the lead domino. If Wright returns to All-Star status it alleviates a lot of pressure from the offense. It takes away a potential distraction and goes a long way toward making the Mets whole.

2. MATT HARVEY’S RETURN: If not Wright, then it has to be Harvey’s return from Tommy John surgery. The Mets have to handle him with kid gloves whether he likes it or not. There will be an innings limit, which has yet to be disclosed which figures to become an issue.

3. THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BULLPEN: For as long as Sandy Alderson has been here, building the bullpen has been a major issue. With Bobby Parnell’s injury, the Mets went with a patchwork bullpen last year that saw the emergence of Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Manager Terry Collins said the job is Parnell’s when he returns, but that’s premature. Let Parnell ease into form. As of now, Mejia, Familia, Parnell and Vic Black bring a lot of heat from the sixth through ninth innings. The Mets need another lefty to complement Josh Edgin and there’s a need to bring back Carlos Torres.

4. THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF JACOB deGROM AND ZACK WHEELER The Mets claim their foundation is young pitching, which means they need an encore year from deGrom and Wheeler to pitch up to expectations. For Wheeler, that means lowering his pitch count and giving the Mets depth. It can’t all be Harvey.

5.  WILMER FLORES’  ABILITY TO TAKE TO SHORTSTOP: Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t going to land a marquee shortstop, either through trade or free agency. It is time to see if Flores can produce. This should he his shot.

 

Nov 15

Mets Matters: Figures To Be Slow Winter; Injury Updates

Speculation has Michael Cuddyer being the highlight, and probably the only light, of the New York Mets’ offseason. That means, and you’ve heard this before, it will be a relatively quiet Winter Meetings.

Yeah, there’s talk of obtaining an offensive shortstop, but GM Sandy Alderson doesn’t have the chips to pull off a major deal, nor the inclination to spend big in the free-agent market.

“At this point we’re not looking for somebody who is strictly a defensive player,’’ Alderson told reporters in Phoenix. “We’d like it to be somebody who is good on both ends. But right now we’re not looking for someone who is defense only, and we’re not thinking about settling for somebody who is defense only. Now things can change.’’

What won’t change is in order to get something you have give up something and that’s not happening soon.

What also might not change is the possibility of Stephen Drew hanging around looking for a job in January. We’ve seen that movie before and it won’t be any better the second time around.

In addition to shortstop, the Mets want a lefty reliever.

WRIGHT UPDATE: The news continues to be good for David Wright. His rehab continues to go smoothly and he’s all but out of the woods regarding possible shoulder surgery.

Wright is scheduled to begin baseball activities, which would include hitting, in early December.

“I think we are past that,’’ Alderson said about surgery. “I think everything we know about David’s shoulder is positive. I couldn’t tell you that he’s 100 percent today, but he’s substantially there.

“Any time anybody is coming back from an injury that required him to be shut down the year before, there’s some uncertainty. But right now I’m not worried about it.’’

PARNELL UPDATE: Whom the Mets are worried about is closer Bobby Parnell, who is not expected to be ready for Opening Day. Parnell is coming off Tommy John surgery.

Parnell is throwing on flat ground at 120 feet and the timetable is for him to get on the mound after Christmas.

Nov 14

Mets Bracing For Innings Showdown With Harvey

It’s getting close to spring training because the topic of limiting innings for Matt Harvey is again a topic. GM Sandy Alderson indicated as such at the GM meetings this week in Phoenix and manager Terry Collins said so Thursday during a public appearance at a food pantry.

HARVEY: Caution, caution, caution. (AP)

HARVEY: Caution, caution, caution. (AP)

It’s a no-brainer with Harvey coming off Tommy John surgery. With Harvey’s return, the Mets are pointing toward 2015 as when they believe they will be competitive. The one thing they can’t afford is to lose Harvey.

“Certainly we might skip him here and there once in a while, just to save him,’’ Collins told reporters. “That will all be explained to him and there’ll be arguments and he’ll throw a tantrum in the office but it’s all part of the job because he wants to pitch and he wants to win.’’

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That sounds good. Sounds heroic. Sounds inspiring. Sounds like a lot of nonsense.

If Harvey can’t understand the Mets’ reasoning for limiting, then he’s not as bright as he has been portrayed. Then again, pitching smarts and off-the-field smarts are two different things.

Don’t get me wrong, I like what Harvey brings to the table, but he can’t bring anything if he’s hurt. He’s already been a thorn to Alderson and Collins for how he handled his rehab and insistence of wanting to spend more time in New York instead of Florida.

He made a big deal about wanting to be with his teammates, yet went to Yankee Stadium to watch Derek Jeter. Nobody connected with the Mets says anything negative about Harvey for fear of alienating him.

Never mind that, my take is Harvey tweaking the Mets’ brass and Alderson’s often testy relationship with the pitcher’s agent, Scott Boras, says he’s a goner once he becomes a free agent.

Of course, that’s a bridge Alderson has to jump off of later. For now, it’s now to cut the innings.

The best way is to tell Harvey during spring training and making sure he understands this isn’t negotiable.

There are six months in a baseball season, so missing one start a month shouldn’t be hard to figure out. Assuming six innings a start, that’s 36 innings saved. They might also consider missing more time in April when the weather is still cold and there’s a greater chance of hurting his arm. Then, there are shaving innings in blowouts, one way or another. Put a cap on his starts at seven innings.

This shouldn’t be hard to figure out for Alderson and Collins. As for Harvey, he has to realize he’s not in charge. With only 12 major league victories, he’s hardly in position to be calling the shots.