Apr 02

Injuries Solidify Mets’ Opening Day Roster

It would have been great had Michael Conforto made the Mets’ Opening Day roster as a starter. That was the case last season, but a blistering April quickly sputtered and for much of the season he rode the Las Vegas shuttle and bench.

The Conforto whom manager Terry Collins said last April when the left fielder was hitting well over .330 was going to the Mets’ “No. 3 hitter of the future,” appeared to open the season in the minors this winter after Yoenis Cespedes was brought back and they were unable to trade Jay Bruce.

CONFORTO: How will they give him ABs? (Getty)

CONFORTO: How will they give him ABs? (Getty)

However, when Juan Lagares – the Mets’ only natural center fielder – strained his oblique that meant Conforto would need to stick.

“I feel good. Confident,” Conforto told reporters. “It’s a different role for me starting the year, but I feel great. I’m excited about the opportunity to just get in there and hopefully influence some games late and give some guys rest and do what I can to help the team win.”

Conforto always says the right things, so won’t say what should be said. Conforto needs to play and get regular at-bats. He needs more than one token AB at the end of a game he entered as a defensive replacement.

Hopefully, Collins will come up with a rotation with Conforto, Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and yes, Cespedes. Even if the Mets plan to option Conforto when Lagares is ready is a few weeks, I hope he won’t fly to Vegas with only six or seven at-bats on his stat sheet.

An injury also cleared the way for Rafael Montero to make the Opening Day roster over Seth Lugo, and prompt one wonder whether the World Baseball Classic was the factor. Lugo, who pitched superbly for Puerto Rico in the WBC, has struggled with fatigue and soreness in his arm and then conceded he pushed himself too hard to win a spot on the staff.

Maybe none of that happens if there was no WBC this year.

I understand players want to compete for their country, but their first obligation should be to the teams that are the source of their livelihood.

The key is for the Mets to give him the time he needs to heal and regain his strength, and for Lugo to not be thinking he needs to get back to the majors right away because it is a long season.

Mar 28

Why Is Alderson Rushing Wheeler And Matz?

Zack Wheeler insists he’s ready and Steven Matz is desperate to convince the Mets they should save a seat for him on the plane to New York at the end of the week.

MATZ: What's the rush? (AP)

MATZ: What’s the rush? (AP)

While I appreciate the competitive nature of both, the bottom line is it’s a long season and the Mets don’t have to commit to both, or either, right now, especially with there being other options.

Let’s get to Matz first. He’s coming off elbow surgery and he was shut down from his start earlier this week and could get a few innings this weekend. As it is now, Matz has thrown 12.2 innings this spring, which traditionally is not close to being enough.

What’s the rush?

As for Wheeler, he’s coming off a good start, which followed a bad one. He’s thrown 12.1 innings this spring. He’s barely worked the past two seasons following Tommy John surgery.

Again, what’s the rush?

Seth Lugo is coming off a poor outing, but for the most part had a good spring at the WBC. Rafael Montero has also had a good spring, and the Mets have three off-days in the first 24 days of April.

Wheeler and Matz are coming off surgery; the Mets have other options plus off days; neither have had a lot of work this spring; and there’s usually lousy weather in April leading to rainouts and delays.

This isn’t manager Terry Collins’ decision, it is GM Sandy Alderson’s, and rushing either would be a bad one.

While I appreciate the desire for each to want to pitch, part of that desire is fueled on emotion. However, Alderson is supposed to be the adult in the room. He’s supposed to make decisions based on logic instead.

Mar 27

Wheeler Rocked, Lugo Rolls

The competition for the Mets’ fifth starter role took a turn Monday with a strong outing from Zack Wheeler and a poor one from Seth Lugo. Each should make one more limited appearance this spring before the Mets’ brass makes a decision as to the fifth starter.

Wheeler, who spent the better part of the past two years recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw five shutout innings and had his fastball top out at 96 in a split-squad win over Miami. Lugo, who helped save the Mets’ playoff run last spring and had pitched well in the WBC, gave up four runs in 4.1 innings in a loss to Washington.

Despite the contrasting performances, the Mets did not make an announcement as to who will be the fifth starter because it is not a clear-cut decision based on numbers.

The decision could come down to whom the Mets feel is best to handle the up-and-down rigors of working out of the pen, which is most likely Lugo. Wheeler does not have bullpen experience, while Lugo does and was brought to camp in part to pitch in relief.

Another factor with Wheeler is his proposed innings limits, initially set at 110 innings and is now up to 120 to 125. Manager Terry Collins said the other day the innings could be determined on the fly this summer. Should that really be the case, then there’s probably nothing decided, which is a reminder of the Matt Harvey innings flap in 2015.

If there really is an innings limit, the optimal decision would be to wait until May or June, when he could join the rotation and pitch on a regular routine. With a strong chance of inclement weather in April, there’s a strong chance of rainouts, delays and cold temperatures that hurt even healthy arms let alone one coming off elbow surgery.

EXTRA INNINGS: Steven Matz, who was bumped from his last start with elbow irritation, threw 55 long tosses today on flat ground. The Mets still haven’t said whether he’ll undergo a MRI. … Closer Jeurys Familia was in New York today to meet with the Commissioner’s Office regarding a suspension for his domestic violence case last October. The expectations are he’ll at least 30 games. … Outfielder Brandon Nimmo‘s chances of making the Opening Day roster have greatly reduced because he’s not making progress on his strained right hamstring. … Outfielder Juan Lagares said his strained right oblique muscle feels better.

 

 

 

Mar 24

Gsellman Frontrunner For No. 5 Starter

While there’s nothing official, it’s probably safe to assume the Mets will name Robert Gsellman their fifth starter.

There’s not much to debate after Gsellman gave up one unearned run in Thursday’s shutout loss to Washington. Gsellman reported to spring training to compete with Seth Lugo and Zack Wheeler for the No. 5, and he’s lived up to expectations with a 1.56 ERA, but in only 17.1 innings.

As for Wheeler, he hasn’t helped himself with an 8.59 ERA in three games. He certainly hasn’t worked enough to be stretched out for a rotation spot, and considering his lack of experience in the role, the Mets are reluctant to work him out of the bullpen despite their need.

However, Lugo, who pitched well for Puerto Rico in the WBC – save the championship game against the United States – does have a bullpen background and the Mets envision working in as a reliever in the middle innings.

The need for Lugo in the bullpen coupled with Wheeler’s problems forces Gsellman to the front of the line.

“I have no idea until they tell me,” Gsellman told reporters Thursday about a possible rotation spot. “So we’ll wait and see. I don’t really think about that. I just try to go out and get the job done.”

Gsellman will get one more start to cement his spot in the rotation, and it’s possible – but a likely long shot if the Mets hold to form – both he and Lugo could go in the rotation – if Matt Harvey continues to spit the bit in his final spring start.

 

Mar 03

Syndergaard Impressive In Spring Debut

Another day, another 11 runs, but unquestionably today’s storyline was all about Noah Syndergaard’s first start of the spring. You don’t want to make too much of the first start of the spring, but the first impression of Syndergaard was a good one.

SYNDERGAARD: Focused. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Focused. (AP)

Syndergaard threw 20 of 29 pitches in two innings for strikes and consistently clocked in the high 90s. We all know Syndergaard throws hard, but his key pitch in today’s 11-3 mauling of Houston was a change-up that has the velocity of many pitchers’ normal fastball.

“It has the potential to be my best swing-and-miss pitch,” Syndergaard told reporters. “|It’s got a lot more deception to it. … I love throwing it. There’s nothing better to see than throwing a real wicked change-up and getting a hitter to ‘Tasmanian Devil’ into the batter’s box. It’s a good feeling.”

It probably wasn’t a bad feeling either that he was signed to an extension of $605,500 after the game.

There are a lot of things to love about Syndergaard, but what I really like about him is how he’s doing everything to make himself better. He’s a workout fiend and eschewed the World Baseball Classic to concentrate on getting ready for the season.

“I am a Met,” boasted Syndergaard. “Nobody makes it to the Hall of Fame or won a World Series playing in the WBC.”

Damn, how can you not love that?