Sep 17

Mets Wrap: Zack Wheeler Shows He Has More To Learn

Zack Wheeler didn’t take the loss for the New York Mets Tuesday night although he certainly deserved so. This was one of the few times a Mets’ starter came away with a no-decision and it turned out to be a positive for him.

Wheeler was his own worst enemy in five rocky innings as he walked six, including to the leadoff hitter in the fifth that eventually came around to score in large part because he failed to cover first base.

WHEELER: Roughed up by Giants.

WHEELER: Roughed up by Giants.

It is not how Wheeler desired to finish his first season, and certainly not what the smattering of fans at Citi Field wanted to see in an 8-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Because Wheeler is on an innings limit, he might get one more start, next Monday in Cincinnati. It is up in the air whether Wheeler will pitch in the final weekend series against Milwaukee at Citi Field.

Command was a problem for Wheeler in the minor leagues and at times this season on the major league level. This time, he had trouble locating his fastball, and with that it was all an uphill battle.

If there is something to take from Wheeler’s development it has been his ability to minimize damage and put away hitters when in trouble. That’s hard to do when you walk five in one inning, as Wheeler did in the second.

He gave up three runs that inning, but it could have been worse. Even so, Wheeler was in position to get a victory when he took the mound in the fifth. He left the inning with 107 pitches, and pitch counts have been an issue.

Control did him in, but he’ll always remember to hustle to first base.

If the Mets want to stick to Wheeler’s innings limit, that’s fine, but how about skipping him in Cincinnati and let him get a final start at Citi Field? Maybe he’ll redeem himself, and it will be one more chance for the fans to see him.

Wheeler represents the Mets’ future along with Matt Harvey, and perhaps he’ll make the same progressive jump the latter did this season.

With the competitive part of the season long since over for the Mets, their main concern is keeping Wheeler and some players who are injured from doing further damage. In that regard, the Mets are in no hurry to push David Wright.

Prior to the game, Terry Collins said Wright would not be activated for the Giants series because of overall soreness sustained in his rehab from a Grade 2 right hamstring strain.

Wright wants to play, but the prudent thing is to go with caution. Do the Mets really want their last image of Wright this season hobbling off the field after re-injuring his hamstring?

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 17

Matt Harvey Opts For Rehab Over Surgery; Mets Must Prepare To Not Have Him

The New York Mets haven’t said anything on Matt Harvey not having to undergo surgery other than it is his decision. Multiple news agencies report Harvey will opt for rehabilitation over surgery after getting a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews Monday in Alabama.

The plan is to rehab for up to two months to see how his elbow responds. After that, he’ll have another MRI, and then possibly opt for surgery at that time.

HARVEY: Taking a gamble.

HARVEY: Taking a gamble.

Whether he has surgery now or in two months, Harvey won’t be available until 2015.

Surgery, of course, has no guarantees, but neither does rehab. If I were Harvey, I’d have the surgery and be done with the issue. But, I am not, and I understand it is his decision on his career.

If he has it now, there could be a possibility of him being ready next September. Wouldn’t it be great to have him activated and help them compete for a wild card?

The risk Harvey is taking is not feeling discomfort in November, and making a decision based on that information. He will not be throwing under game conditions. So, if he’s ready to start the season, that’s great, but the gamble is he’ll stay healthy the entire season.

What if he doesn’t? What if there’s more pain and he further tears his ulnar collateral ligament? If he re-injures the elbow and has surgery next summer he would miss the rest of the 2014 season and all of 2015.

That adds another year to when he won’t be pitching.

I understand Harvey’s competitive nature and desire to pitch. It is admirable. I don’t believe he’s being selfish, but I wonder if he’s seeing the entire picture about potential lost time. Although there are no givens in surgery, the odds have greatly improved for undergoing the Tommy John procedure.

Whatever route Harvey chooses in two months the Mets must make starting pitching their priority, even over an outfield bat. Currently, the Mets are looking at their 2014 rotation consisting of Dillon Gee, the staff leader in victories; Zack Wheeler, who’ll be on an innings limit; and Jon Niese, who had his own injuries this year.

Jenrry Mejia underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow. Noah Syndergaard will not be ready to start next season and Rafael Montero is questionable. The Mets can’t count on Montero to make the team coming out of spring training.

So, that leaves two starters to find for next year. We can safely say Shaun Marcum won’t be an option.

For all the talk of adding a power hitting outfielder and the Mets’ other voids, any chance they have for a winning season is dependent on their pitching. It has been that way for 100 years, and nothing has changed.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 16

Mets Matters: Celebrate When It Is Worthy And David Wright Playing Again

The celebrating the New York Mets did Sunday will be nothing compared to what I will do once I get the kinks worked out of my server. I was down most of the weekend and still having problems. Many thanks to Joe DeCaro for his hard work in getting me online again. His efforts are most appreciated, as is his posting on my site.

The Mets are off today before starting a three-game series with the San Francisco Giants.

Just a few thoughts about the weekend series with the Marlins to get caught up:

* Sunday’s celebration was a bit much. And, the shaving cream pie has to go. When you’re in a pennant race, fine, show the joy. But, when you beat the worst team in the majors and arguably your goal is to not finish twenty games below .500, it’s a bit much.

* Dillon Gee pitched another stellar game, and although he isn’t as dominant as Matt Harvey, he has been the Mets’ most consistent pitcher this year. He would easily have 17 victories, and could be closing in on 20, if he pitched for a team that scored some runs.

* David Wright wants to play before the season is over. He has nothing to prove by doing so, and I hope he’s not taking an unnecessary risk. But, his work ethic and desire to play is something to be admired and respected. Let’s hope his teammates are taking notes.

* Several times over the weekend I heard about trading for Giancarlo Stanton. It would be great to obtain such a bat, but it’s a dream. With Harvey’s injury has put a roadblock on trading their young pitching. Plus, can you really see the Marlins trading their best talent within the division? I can’t see that happening.

* I agree with Joe wholeheartedly and don’t believe the Mets should be shopping Daniel Murphy. Yes, there are better second basemen, but Murphy has improved defensively. He’s played well enough defensively to the point where that position is not a priority. The Mets have too many other holes that must be fixed before addressing second base.

* The Mets’ bullpen has been hot and cold this season, but it has performed well in long stretches, enough to where there doesn’t have to be a total rebuilding in that area. And, I’ll say it again – bring back LaTroy Hawkins.

* Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been injured, and when he’s been healthy he hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunities. With Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker, Nieuwenhuis might be off the Mets’ radar in the future.

* For the second straight year, the Mets’ offense has stumbled in the second half. There has been no mention of replacing hitting coach Dave Hudgens, but you would think that would be considered.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 14

Lucas Duda Getting His Chance To Shine

When New York Mets manager Terry Collins railed at his listless team for not taking advantage of the opportunity to make an impression toward 2014, he had Lucas Duda in mind.

“This is his chance to play every day at first base. That’s where he likes to play,’’ Collins said last night. “We’re hoping he relaxes at the plate. He doesn’t have to worry about playing defense because he knows he can play first.’’

DUDA: Marlin mashing. (Getty)

DUDA: Marlin mashing. (Getty)

This is the third year the Mets hoped Duda would emerge as their lefty-hitting slugger, and the third time he has disappointed.

However, in Friday night’s 4-3 victory over Miami, Duda responded with a three-run homer in his chance to play with the injured Ike Davis sidelined. Duda has outperformed Davis statistically this season, hitting .236 with 13 homers, 30 RBI and a much-improved .351 on-base percentage.

Even so, Davis has the 32-homer 2012 season on his resume.

The Mets began the season with the offensive approach of patience, of working the count, waiting for and then driving your pitch. The rap on Duda was he became too selective and subsequently too passive at the plate.

But, playing in New York is about right-now production and Duda’s critics were far less patient with him than he was at the plate. While the final two weeks is about making an impression over Davis, everybody knows there will be a sense of urgency come spring training.

The experiment at the start of the year of Duda in left field – after playing right field the previous season – is over. It effectively ended when Duda went on the disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle. Duda lacks speed and range to complement his poor defensive skills, and there was no way he’d get back in the lineup after the acquisition of Eric Young.

At one time this summer there was the feeling the Mets would not tender a contract to Davis and Duda would get first base by default. However, Duda’s power output wasn’t what the Mets hoped, and when Davis showed signs of patience after his return from Triple-A, management’s thinking changed to keeping Davis and have the two battle it out in spring training.

Part of their thinking is that whoever wins, it will be an inexpensive option, and with first base covered they could fill other holes.

The Mets won’t carry two lefty first basemen, and with right-handed hitting Josh Satin available in a platoon, the loser would either go to the minors or be traded.

The homer last night is what the Mets want, but after the game Duda wouldn’t bite on reporters’ questions speculating the future.

“I’m just more concerned with winning and playing well,’’ Duda said. “Whatever they do is up to them. I’m just going to play hard, have fun, and hopefully continue to win.’’

Those comments are about playing the good soldier and saying the right thing, but what the Mets really need from his is to be aggressive and mash.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 13

Mets Wrap: LaTroy Hawkins Still Has The Right Stuff

When the New York Mets begin their annual winter task of building their bullpen, they’d be wise to consider three names instrumental in beating Miami tonight at Citi Field.

Yes, Lucas Duda gets props for a three-run homer, Jon Niese pitched into the seventh, and Andrew Brown took advantage of a rare start by hitting a mammoth home run, but the Mets might not have won without Vic Black, Pedro Feliciano and LaTroy Hawkins.

HAWKINS: Still has it. (AP)

HAWKINS: Still has it. (AP)

By definition, winning 4-3 is not a slam-dunk, but a study of perseverance and endurance. Those three carried the Mets to the end.

Hawkins has been solid all year in a set-up role, and despite his reservations, assumed the closer role when Bobby Parnell went down and excelled, picking up his ninth save with a 1-2-3 ninth highlighted by a classic punch-out of Giancarlo Stanton, who already hit two homers.

In a masterful display, Hawkins got ahead 0-and-2 with two inside fastballs. Stanton wouldn’t bite on two down-and-away sliders to even the count 2-and-2. But, fearless as usual, Hawkins blew away Stanton inside with a 94 mph. fastball.

At 40, most teams might consider Hawkins an afterthought in constructing a bullpen, but he still has the fastball plus the guile that can’t be measured by a radar gun.

Not only does he get the job done, but he’s an invaluable and calming influence to the younger relievers and in the clubhouse.

My favorite Hawkins moment came at mid-season when the Mets – including manager Terry Collins – danced around the Jordany Valdespin saga. However, Hawkins, a proud veteran, called it as he saw it and wouldn’t let the immature Valdespin off the hook.

Meanwhile, Feliciano doesn’t throw in the 90s, but is still an effective lefty specialist and last night closed the eighth by getting Christian Yelich on a grounder to second.

If used properly – which is to say sparingly and not wear him out – Feliciano is still a plus.

The Mets don’t know Parnell’s availability next year after undergoing neck surgery. They must assume they won’t have him, at least at the start.

They’ll need a closer and Black, who throws in the mid-90s, could emerge as the choice. In preparing for next season, Collins should use Black in as many pressure situations as possible.

Of course, the bullpen key for 2014 is Parnell. If healthy, the three could slot in behind him and GM Sandy Alderson’s bullpen reclamation would be halfway done.

The key to a strong bullpen is having quality starters capable of working deep into the game as Niese did last night. The fewer innings the bullpen works, the more effective.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos