Jul 13

No Matt Harvey Day

The New York Mets will not have their best pitcher today in Pittsburgh, instead choosing to have Matt Harvey ready for the All-Star Game Tuesday night.

Harvey sits today and probably won’t pitch until next Sunday. The Mets say they are concerned about Harvey’s two blisters and limiting his innings for the second half. Never mind lessening their chances of winning today and possibly tearing open the blisters in the exhibition game.

HARVEY: Not today.

HARVEY: Not today.

While obviously placing a premium on the All-Star Game over the Pirates, the Mets say it’s just an inning on what would be his throw day. Of course, they conveniently ignore the fact he’ll be so amped up Tuesday that his effort won’t be anything like a throw day.

With the seriousness the Mets are taking with Harvey in the All-Star Game, you’d think they’d send him back to New York early so he could rest.

In explaining shaving Harvey’s innings now over skipping starts, say in September, Terry Collins said: “We’ve got to worry about the New York Mets. And I understand the integrity of the game and all that stuff. But we’ve got to worry about Matt Harvey and the New York Mets in the long run. What are the NL East teams going to say if this guy is not pitching in September?’’

Just one big contradiction.

I’m curious as to when this idea of limiting Harvey’s innings was hatched. Didn’t they learn anything from Stephen Strasburg last season?

The best way to cut the innings is skipping one start a month. That’s six over the season and estimating at least six innings a start, that’s 36 shaved innings.

Couldn’t anybody from Sandy Alderson to Collins to pitching coach Dan Warthen figure that out earlier?

Actually, depending on whom you speak with, the issue is pitch counts instead of innings. The cutoff is presumably 100 pitches, but Harvey routinely goes 110 or more.

Speaking of pitch counts, why would you pinch-hit for Jeremy Hefner in a tie game with Jordany Valdespin when he’s only thrown 78 pitches, and with your bullpen worn down and LaTroy Hawkins not available with a sore triceps?

Valdespin hasn’t done anything lately coming off the bench, Hefner was grooving, and did I mention the bullpen has been overworked? It all added up to rookie Gonzalez Germen making his debut in extra innings.

You had to figure something bad was going to happen, which, of course, it did.

Today the Mets will go with Carlos Torres, who worked two innings in San Francisco in a blowout win when it would have been a perfect time to break in Germen.

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

Jul 12

Jeremy Hefner On Roll For Mets

There is a likeable quality to New York Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner. He’s modest and unassuming, and has been stand-up in the bad times.

However, recently it’s been good times for Hefner, Friday’s starter in Pittsburgh, who will be trying for his eighth straight strong outing. Hefner is coming off a one-run performance in seven innings last weekend in Milwaukee. Hefner has 12 quality starts, and had he any support earlier this year might have a winning record.

HEFNER: On a roll. (AP)

HEFNER: On a roll. (AP)

Roughly a month ago Hefner appeared the odd-man out in making room for Zack Wheeler, but his roster spot was preserved because of injuries to Jon Niese and Shaun Marcum.

Hefner told ESPN he knew he was vulnerable.

“I was maybe one or two bad starts from being in Las Vegas,’’ Hefner said. “So something had to change.’’

In seven starts since June 4, Hefner has a 1.64 ERA, which is better than Harvey over a similar span. He has given up two earned runs or fewer in those seven starts. The Mets have won his last five starts.

Hefner said he didn’t feel pressure in his turnaround: “It was a challenge for me. And I embraced it. And I’m doing pretty good.’’

Part of his turnaround is mechanical, in that he twists his torso to give the hitter a glance at his back. The intent was deception, but the bonus was increased velocity.

Hefner is one of the Mets’ bright spots this season. There’s some talk about him being dealt to a contender, but the Mets are better off keeping him because they don’t know if Niese will need surgery and Marcum is gone for the year.

Hefner moved up the pecking order for a promotion during spring training when it was apparent Jenrry Mejia wasn’t going to be healthy. Mejia is pitching in Double-A and is scheduled to pitch six innings Saturday. Apparently, there was no thought of bringing him up to replace Harvey that day.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup tonight behind Hefner against the Pirates’ Charlie Morton:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Ike Davis, 1B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

METS MUSINGS: Reliever Frank Francisco – remember him? – pitched one inning in a Gulf Coast League game over the weekend. He gave up an unearned run on one hit with on strikeout. Francisco is recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow. Francisco is making $6.5 million this season and is not in the Mets’ plans.

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

Jul 12

Mets Should Stay Intact And Try For Strong Second Half

Rarely does a major league roster go unchanged from Opening Day to the end of the season and the 2013 New York Mets are no exception. The roster Terry Collins will be playing with this weekend in Pittsburgh and taking into the All-Star break barely resembles that of the one that left Port St. Lucie.

WRIGHT: Not the only positive. (AP)

WRIGHT: Not the only positive. (AP)

Less than a month ago the Mets were 15 games below .500, and with a sweep of the Pirates could be five games under. Nobody expects a sweep, but nobody thought they could go 5-0-2 in their past seven road series, either.

Think about it, the Mets are playing their best ball of the season and the Pirates are cooling. It can be done. But, if not, that still leaves the Mets with two weeks before the trade deadline. Should they be buyers or sellers?

Next winter is when the Mets tell us they could be active in the free-agent market, but who wants to wait that long? History tells us the Mets came from behind in 1969 and 1973 to reach the playoffs, so why not at least be thinking along those lines now, even if the odds are long?

A Mets executive recently told me a successful season would be defined as finishing .500, which would be a 14-game improvement over 2012. That is not unrealistic and should be ownership’s commitment to its fan base. The mantra should be: There will not be a fifth straight losing season.

The Mets are where they are because:

* An All-Star first half from David Wright. Even if  he’s not hitting a lot of home runs, he’s driving the ball, getting on base, playing a strong third base and producing with runners in scoring position.

* A strong first half from Matt Harvey, who could start the All-Star Game despite ten no-decisions. With a little support, .500 would be even more realistic.

* The acquisition of Eric Young, who as the tenth option, became the leadoff hitter the Mets have sought. Young is the kind of player the Mets, if they got creative again, could add. The Giants won two of the last three World Series with mid-season acquisitions such as Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff and Angel Pagan. None were marquee players, but pushed the Giants over the top. Proof the Mets don’t have to splurge to make second-half noise.

* Marlon Byrd has become the productive outfielder the Mets have been seeking. Why trade him now? Maybe he’ll cool, who knows? But, he’s produced and there are others like him out there.

* John Buck had a monster April. After a prolonged cooling off period, Buck is hitting again. He’s also been a stabilizing influence for Harvey.

* Josh Satin gave the Mets production they lacked from Ike Davis. While Davis will get most of the playing time, the Mets can’t afford to ignore Satin. Collins said he wants to get a look at Satin at second and the outfield. He’s waffled before, but needs to see what Satin can do.

* If Ruben Tejada hadn’t been hurt, he would have been demoted to the minor leagues. Omar Quintanilla is hitting and playing the kind of shortstop the Mets hoped from Tejada, who doesn’t deserve to have his old job handed to him.

* Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee rebounded from slow starts to become reliable starters. Hefner, especially, has been terrific, even better than Harvey over the past month. There’s the temptation of dealing Hefner now with the thought this is a fluke, but why not ride him out and see what you have over a full year?

* When the Mets become serious contenders they will need a closer, so trading Bobby Parnell, as I suggested yesterday, would be counterproductive.

Yes, we’ve been here before, seduced by a good run from the Mets. However, this is a season we never expected much from them. They are giving us more than we could have envisioned despite adversity.

In each of the past four seasons the Mets have gone into the All-Star break thinking they would be sellers at the break, only to have them do nothing but let talent slip away during the winter.

This year has a different feel to it. After a miserable start, they have stabilized and are playing competitive, aggressive baseball. There are still holes, but this time management should reward its players and fan base and give us something to watch after the national attention goes away following the All-Star Game.

Stay intact and give us a reason to come out in the second half.

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

Jul 11

Mets Should Hold On Tight To Bobby Parnell

The New York Mets are finally showing signs of life to the point where their rebuilding plan could be believable. So, what should their next step be? Hmmm, according to some they should trade Bobby Parnell.

Unless they are offered a knockout package – that would include the likes of Jackie Bradley – they should hang tight to Parnell.

PARNELL: Keep him.

PARNELL: Keep him.

Because of the save rule, which needs to be modified, the save is undervalued and the stock argument is a closer can always be found.

If that is the case, tell it to the Tigers and Red Sox. Tell it to the Yankees, who, if they haven’t already, will admit to being spoiled after Mariano Rivera retires.

Dave Robertson is the one who will slide into the ninth-inning role for the Yankees next year. But, he will learn there’s a vast difference between being the set-up man and THE MAN. There’s something about the ninth inning with no safety net that changes your perspective. It’s not as simple as measuring the basket in Hoosiers and discovering “it’s 10 feet, the same as in our gym back in Hickory.’’

There’s a mentality shift in becoming a closer and not everybody can make it happen like Rivera. Ron Davis found it a lot harder being the closer than the set-up man for Goose Gossage.

The fact is closers aren’t a dime a dozen. While it seems every team has somebody with 25 or more saves, then why are so many teams still looking?

It has taken time, but Parnell is finally grasping the ninth inning role. He’s spit the bit before, but this year it’s coming together for him and the contenders are noticing.

And, like vultures circling what they perceive as a dead carcass in the Mets’ season, they are waiting for Sandy Alderson to make Parnell available.

However, there’s no longer the inevitability this will be the Mets’ fifth straight losing season. The Mets were 15 games under .500 on June 15, and were losing in the ninth inning the following day when Kirk Nieuwenhuis homered off the Chicago Cubs’ once invincible starter Carlos Marmol.

They have scrapped back to eight games under today. In that span, Matt Harvey has won two games, lost one and had two of his ten no-decisions.

Harvey’s overall year, plus Zack Wheeler’s promise have painted the picture of the Mets being relevant in 2014. Will trading Parnell push them over the top?

No, because if they deal Parnell they will put themselves in position of needing a closer. Trading Parnell tells us the gap to competitiveness is a lot wider.

What the Mets should do is nothing. They should keep Parnell, keep Marlon Byrd and keep whatever other chips they might have and try to make something out of this season.

Will they reach the playoffs? Probably not, but if management lets them play out the season we would get a clearer picture of their needs heading into the offseason.

If the Mets traded Parnell and Byrd, it would signify surrender, which could lead into a tailspin and blur how good or bad they are.

Trading Parnell, or even suggesting it, displays a loser’s mentality.

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

Jul 10

What Message Are Mets Sending With Matt Harvey Decision?

The New York Mets officially pulled the plug on Matt Harvey’s start Saturday in Pittsburgh, but did they do it for the right reasons? Was it to give his blisters a chance to heal and begin a program to limit his innings or prepare him to pitch in the All-Star Game?

Or, is it a matter of coincidence as to the timing? The Mets did not pull the plug on the All-Star Game, and if the blisters aren’t healed, they wouldn’t say if they’d keep him out of what is basically an exhibition game.

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

For the past three weeks the buzz has been not will Harvey pitch in the All-Star Game, but would he start? And, if not him, then how about Zack Wheeler after what he did today in San Francisco? Kidding, but if these guys develop as the Mets hope there will be plenty of All-Star opportunities for both, but admittedly this might the only chance to start at home.

Of course, the Mets want Harvey to start Tuesday night as it puts their franchise in the national spotlight in a positive way, and most assuredly Major League Baseball wants him to start for the TV ratings. Let’s face it, money is the great motivator, and always has been for the sport.

But, if you’re a Met player struggling to make something out of this season of lousy weather, extra innings, grueling travel, injuries and losing streaks, how good can you feel about being deprived of your best pitcher against the Pirates yet have him available for an exhibition game? Exactly what message does that send?

For his part, Harvey wants to pitch and downplays the All-Star angle.

“I don’t like not pitching,’’ Harvey told reporters in San Francisco. “But, I’d rather miss a start now then miss all of September with an innings limit. … It’s between the blister and the innings limit [as to why I’m not pitching Saturday]. My goal is to finish the whole season.’’

Harvey is on pace to pitch close to 250 innings, which won’t happen. Factoring in not starting Saturday, Harvey should start 14 more games in the second half. Six innings a game would be 84 more innings, which should put him close to 220 for the season.

After a brilliant start which includes the trappings of a national magazine cover, dating a model and posing nude in another magazine – he doesn’t need the attention of the latter, does he? – Harvey hasn’t been as sharp recently.

As good a season as Harvey has had, think of how much better it might be if not for ten no-decisions. He might have three more wins if the Mets chopped up the seven runs they gave Wheeler today over three of those no-decisions.

All Wheeler needed today was the three the Mets gave him in the first inning, but they were all appreciated.

“Any time you have a lead you can pitch to contact,’’ Wheeler said. “You feel more in control when you can throw everything for strikes.’’

That’s something Wheeler did on the first pitch to 19 of the 27 batters he faced. That’s what Harvey did a lot earlier this season. And, if Wheeler can keep it up, maybe he might pose next year.

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