May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

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May 18

Will We See D’Arnaud Again?

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports Travis d’Arnaud is in California rehabbing his right shoulder with a private trainer, which makes me wonder if we’ll ever see him in a Mets’ uniform again, much less develop into an All-Star player anywhere.

His inability to stay on the field is rapidly derailing a career that has never gotten off the ground.

D'ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’Arnaud working with a private physical therapist makes me wonder why he isn’t in Port St. Lucie or in New York where he can be around team doctors and officials. When I recall the controversy of where Matt Harvey would rehab his elbow, I wonder why the double standard.

It’s a given the Mets value Harvey more than d’Arnaud, but this detachment makes me think he’ll never make it as the player they hoped he’d be and are beginning the process of cutting ties.

D’Arnaud went on the disabled list April 26 with a right rotator cuff strain, which was aggravated when he tried throwing May 7 in Port St. Lucie. GM Sandy Alderson said the pain in his shoulder subsided, but couldn’t provide a possible return date. He couldn’t even pinpoint a month.

As for the California question, Alderson said: “He’s more or less as well off out there with somebody who knows him as well as our guys would know him. Right now I can’t give you chapter and verse on exactly what his return [date] is. We have to keep in mind that sometimes when we cite chapter and verse on when he will return, we’re kidding ourselves.”

That was a fairly evasive answer, which we’ve come to expect from Alderson.

The season began with d’Arnaud the starter and Kevin Plawecki the backup. Depending on how the year progressed, one ocould be traded as a catcher with major league experience is a valuable commodity.

Plawecki has proven good defensively, in fact, Mets’ pitchers have a better ERA with him behind the plate. He offense picked up on the last road trip, but he still needs a way to go. Gone are the days when a catcher was supposed to be an offensive force – Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson and Mike Piazza – as defense is now paramount.

Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are today’s premier catchers, but Plawecki has potential. Should d’Arnaud play again this season and the debate resurface between him or Plawecki, the Mets must consider his injury history.

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May 13

Mets Wrap: Kershaw Dominates

KERSHAW: The best. (AP)

KERSHAW: The best. (AP)

The future is promising for the Mets’ core of young arms. If any of them can approach what the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw has done, they also can be called special.

Kershaw, making his 250th career start, struck out 13 Mets and gave up just three hits in Thursday night’s 5-0 blanking of the Mets.

Kershaw, now 5-1, has posted double-digit strikeouts in his last five starts. Just as important as strikeouts, if not even more vital, is he’s only walked four hitters all season.

“Walking guys is how you get in trouble,” Kershaw told reporters. “I’d rather string hits together and make them swing the bats to beat me. That’s always my mentality.

“`Fortunately, I feel like my mechanics have felt pretty solid the whole season and I’m able to repeat pitches pretty consistently.”

After watching Kershaw, one could only hope Matt Harvey – Friday’s starter in Colorado – was taking notes.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #34   Record: 21-13   Streak: L 1

Standings: Tied First, NL East

Runs: 137     Average per game: 4.3    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 14

SUMMARY:  Kershaw struck out 13 and gave up three hits, and the Dodgers scored five runs in the first two innings and coasted from there. The Mets never had as many as two runners on base in any inning.

KEY MOMENT:  For all practical purposes, the game was over with Yasmani Grandal’s three-run homer in the first.

THUMBS UP:  Two hits by Asdrubal Cabrera and a double by Curtis Granderson accounted for the offense. … Three shutout innings with three strikeouts by Sean Gilmartin.

THUMBS DOWN:  Thirteen strikeouts. … Bartolo Colon gave up five runs in five innings. … Chase Utley homered.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Wilmer Flores (hamstring) was placed on the disabled list. … Utley is 10-for-20 with a homer lifetime against Colon.

QUOTEBOOK:  “He never gives in. He doesn’t have to stay in the zone to get you out. He’s so dominant.’’ – Mets manager Terry Collins on Kershaw.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4: Times Mets have been shutout this year.

NEXT FOR METS: Harvey starts Friday at Colorado.

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May 10

Collins Gives No Confidence Vote To Conforto

Looking at the Mets’ lineup for Tuesday’s game in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but notice a glaring mistake. Perhaps it was just an oversight on manager Terry Collins’ part, but I’m not thrilled with Michael Conforto batting sixth, protected between the red hot Wilmer Flores (.170, one homer and two RBI) and the sizzling Kevin Plawecki (.229, one homer and three RBI).

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

The Mets touted Conforto as the team’s No. 3 hitter of the future when Collins moved him there in mid-April. The move, where he hit ahead of Yoenis Cespedes, jumpstarted the Mets’ offense and sparked their surge in the standings.

The Mets are 16-5 isince moving Conforto to third, which includes losing the first two games on this trip. Unquestionably, Conforto is on a significant slide, going 3-for-29 (.103) over his last eight games. Basically, that’s a bad week.

Although the Mets are facing a left-hander in Alex Wood, it should be noted he’s 1-3 with a 5.18 ERA. The message indicated a lack of confidence by Collins in Conforto, but the manager’s words flat out shout it loud.

Lefties are batting .367 this year against Wood, but the manager doesn’t think that’s relevant. Collins said batting Conforto sixth wouldn’t create pressure to perform, but he’s mistaken. There’s more pressure now.

Collins made a big deal saying Cespedes’ presence helped Conforto, but if you buy that logic, you must also accept he’s getting next to no protection between Flores and Plawecki. In addition, what must Conforto be thinking about this demotion?

As far as his reasoning for moving Conforto, Collins told reporters today: “I’d like to leave him in the three-hole if I thought he could do some damage.”

That’s another way of saying he doesn’t think he can do any damage against a pitcher with an ERA just under six. How’s that for a pat on the back?

No, I don’t like this decision. Confidence is essential in the development of a hitter, and this move screams Collins has doubts. When Collins moved Conforto, I wrote how important it was for him to stay with him during slumps. At least the first one.

If Conforto is to become the No. 3 hitter the Mets expect of him, he’ll have to endure dry stretches. So, what does Collins do? He bails at the first sign of a problem. Collins said Conforto will bat third against right-handers, but said nothing about lefties. You have to assume he won’t hit third against Clayton Kershaw.

It has only been eight games. Let Conforto work his way out of this, the same way he’s given a long leash to Matt Harvey.

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May 10

May 10, Mets’ Lineup At Dodgers

The Mets behind Jacob deGrom will be going after their fourth straight victory tonight in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. After dropping the first two games on this road trip in San Diego the Mets seem to be back on their game.

Here’s the Mets’ batting order tonight against Alex Wood.

Juan Lagares – RF: Curtis Granderson, who hit the first pitch of Monday’s game for a homer, is on the bench. Lagares is 0-for-7 on this trip.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: Is hitting .300 on the trip and .333 on the road this season. Defensively, has committed one error in 117 chances, sixth among ML shortstops.

David Wright – 3B: Is a .340 lifetime hitter against the Dodgers, including the playoffs. Of his three homers, two put the Mets in the lead.

Yoenis Cespedes – CF: Is hitting .303 with five homers and 21 RBI with RISP. Has three homers on this trip.

Wilmer Flores – 2B: Is a .403 lifetime hitter against Los Angeles, including .464 at Dodger Stadium. Hitless in ten at-bats with RISP.

Michael Conforto – LF: Did not play Monday. Is 2-for-14 on the trip. Three of his five homers have put the Mets in the lead. Is batting .333 with RISP.

Kevin Plawecki – C: Is batting .357 (5-for-14) on this trip, which began the day after Terry Collins called him out in the press for not hitting.

Eric Campbell – 1B: Replaces Lucas Duda tonight. Made his first Opening Day roster as the result of hitting .292 with a .433 on-base percentage in spring training.

DeGrom – RHP: Is coming off his first loss of the season, May 5, in San Diego. Cruised through seven scoreless innings against the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS and gutted his way through six innings in Game 5.