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.

 

Mar 27

Black Shocked He Was Demoted

Reliever Vic Black has been optioned and will begin the season in Triple-A Las Vegas, the team announced via Twitter on Wednesday.

“I didn’t see it coming, but I also couldn’t expect anything different really because what I did was struggle all spring,” Black said. “And that’s not what they’re trying to put together on the team right now. Like they said, especially starting off, you’re trying to get hot out of the gates, and I didn’t give them the best opportunity for what they were hoping. I know they were disappointed, as am I, which is part of it. But I’ll be back.”

Black, 25, has had a rough spring training and in 10 Grapefruit League games he has posted a 5.79 ERA, allowing 13 hits while walking 10 batters, in 9.1 innings pitched.

No word yet on who replaces Black in the bullpen, perhaps Gonzalez Germen, but kudos to the Mets for making a tough decision like this, as much as it must have pained them to do so.

I felt as though things were heading this way for Black the last two weeks and I spoke to one prominent Pirates blogger who told me his inconsistency with command made it easy for the Pirates to move him in the Marlon Byrd deal.

Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call for Black, and that he can work himself back to the Mets in short order. It also has the added benefit of alerting all Mets pitchers about the importance of throwing strikes.

One last thing. For years I’ve hammered the Mets on occasion for a lack of accountability. What I mean is that they demand accountability from their players, but all too often would wait months before actually addressing poor production from one of their players. In fact, Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson would usually stand at the podium and make excuses for their players rather than taking action.

Cutting Vic Black was a refreshing departure from the status quo. It showed that the word accountability actually means something again and that there would be swift action if one’s results weren’t measuring up. Good to see.

Feb 28

Mets Wrap: Drop Exhibition Opener; Ike Davis homers

The New York Mets (0-1) dropped their exhibition opener Friday, 5-4, to the Washington Nationals in Port St. Lucie.

It’s just the first game, but the Mets have to be encouraged by the performances of pitchers Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom, who each threw two perfect innings.

The Mets also got a two-run homer from Ike Davis.

Neither Montero nor deGrom are expected to make the Opening Day roster, but both could be brought up in June. Each is expected to open the season in Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Nationals scored four runs in the final three innings off several pitchers, including Gonzalez German and Jeff Walters. Gonzalez is competing for one of the Mets’ seven bullpen spots, but Walters, who saved 38 games last season for Double-A Binghamton, is expected to open in Triple-A.

We should all temper our enthusiasm for Davis, but that being said, it is better than striking out four times. Manager Terry Collins said he wants to give the struggling and often-times frustrated first baseman at least 90 at-bats in spring training.

Wilfredo Tovar left the game in the seventh inning with a right hamstring injury.

On deck: Left-hander John Lannan will start Saturday against Miami’s Kevin Slowey. The Mets will also pitch Vic Black, Scott Rice, Kyle Farnsworth and Ryan Reid.

Feb 21

Bobby Parnell Injures Quad Muscle

Closer Bobby Parnell is day-to-day with a strained quad muscle. Parnell was injured covering first base during a pitchers fielding drill Thursday.

Parnell was scheduled to throw off the mound Thursday, but pushed his session back a day to be cautious. Then came the injury.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said he didn’t believe the injury was serious.

“Everyone thinks it’s very, very mild,’’ Warthen told reporters. “He wanted to throw today.’’

Parnell, who is coming off neck surgery to repair a herniated disc, threw 35 pitches in the bullpen Tuesday, but doesn’t know when he will throw again.

It was questionable to begin with whether Parnell will be ready for the start of the season. This sets him back even further, but the team isn’t close to saying there’s a sense of urgency with him.

If Parnell isn’t ready, the Mets plan on using Vic Black as the closer. They also signed veterans Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth for bullpen depth.

 

Jan 31

Sandy Alderson: More Work To Do

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report in two weeks, the New York Mets aren’t finished adding to their spring training roster, said GM Sandy Alderson.

ALDERSON: Not done.

ALDERSON: Not done.

Speaking at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia this week, Alderson said he liked the direction the team is headed, defended his offseason spending, but insisted there’s more work to be done.

“We’re still looking for more players,’’ Alderson said. “The offseason develops over time in segments, and right now there are still a lot of players out there. The question with teams is: How much money do they have left and what are their needs?’’

Despite committing to $85 million in salaries this winter – Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young were the major signings – the Mets still have a myriad of issue.

First base, catching, shortstop, the outfield alignment, the batting order and rotation order will be determined from within, but the Mets’ primary need is the bullpen, which has been an issue since Alderson was hired.

What the Mets don’t know is whether Bobby Parnell, recovering from neck surgery, will be ready. If not Vic Black is first in line to assume the closer role, but that’s based more on his ability to throw 95 mph. than anything else.

The Mets will be looking to bolster their bullpen in the next two weeks, and during spring training as players are released from other teams. Even so, Alderson said he likes the direction the Mets are headed and his strategy is paying off.

“I like our team for a couple of reasons,’’ Alderson said. “The last three years, the strategy I have tried to articulate is threefold: acquire talent and develop talent, create more payroll flexibility – we had a lot of long-term contracts that were just not performing – and third, third, try to win as many games as you can without compromising one and two.

“Now we’ve turned a corner a little bit, and I’d say that now we want to win as many games as we can while being mindful of one and two.’’

Alderson did not define a successful season, but some in the Mets’ organization are privately saying the immediate goal is to finish .500 or better.

ON DECK: Later today, I’ll look at the Mets’ leadoff options.

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