Feb 23

Wrapping Up The Day: Exhibition Starters Announced; Flores To Get Shortstop Time

New York Mets manager Terry Collins announced the starting pitchers for the first cycle of exhibition games, beginning Friday against Washington.

Rafael Montero, John Lannan, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Noah Syndergaard and Jonathon Niese will start the first five games. The relievers weren’t announced.

In addition:

* Collins praised Wilmer Flores’ off-season conditioning and reiterated he will get a look at shortstop. Wilmer took grounders at shortstop and second Sunday.

* Collins also was complimentary of catching prospect Kevin Plawecki, especially with his off-season potential.

* David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy aren’t expected to play much during the first week of games.

* Zack Wheeler threw batting practice.

Feb 18

Wrapping Up The Day: Sandy Alderson Wants To Stay; Wilmer Flores To Play Some Shortstop

The New York Mets said the club isn’t talking to the agent for free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz. (Read more of that in earlier post today).

Also today in Port St. Lucie:

* The New York Post reported Sandy Alderson would like to remain in his position for another two to three years.

* Wilmer Flores said he feels good physically and would be anxious to returning to shortstop. Manager Terry Collins said Flores is likely to end up in the minor leagues as to get more at-bats.

* ESPN reported the Pittsburgh Pirates are monitoring Mets camp about Ike Davis.

* Collins said Cory Mazzoni will get a chance to win a spot in the bullpen.

* Collins told outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis he is not lost in the shuffle. With Curtis Granderson, Eric and Chris Young, and Juan Lagares, both Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker have been buried.

* Collins said Eric Young must increase his on-base percentage, and a possible way is to increase his bunting.

* Reliever Buddy Carlyle was signed to a minor league contract. Also signed was lefty Dana Eveland. Neither will be invited to the major league camp.

 

Feb 18

Wilmer Flores Could Be Viable Shortstop Option

The New York Mets have long touted Wilmer Flores as one of their future stars. To some degree, having Flores and Ruben Tejada made it easier to let Jose Reyes walk.

FLORES: Could get shortstop time.

FLORES: Could get shortstop time.

With Tejada coming off a bad year and striking out in the free-agent shortstop market, the Mets are considering giving Flores another chance at shortstop.

And, it’s a good idea.

The Mets drafted Flores as a shortstop, but moved him to other positions because he lacked the quickness in making the first step.

Even so, manager Terry Collins suggested at the Winter Meetings Flores might get a look at shortstop in spring training. Collins reiterated that intent after Flores’ success at a Michigan fitness camp, where he dramatically improved his quickness and speed.

With his quickness and speed improved, it makes sense to experiment with Flores. Shortstops don’t need speed. Cal Ripken wasn’t fast, but relied on quickness and positioning.

It could be the same for Flores, who suffered with ankle injuries last year.

“We did a lot of ankle exercises,’’ Flores told reporters about his work at the fitness camp. “We worked on things that we needed to work on, like speed, agility and getting stronger. I’d be happy to go again.’’

Flores played shortstop for four years in the minors, and is willing to try again.

“It’s not going to be a new position,’’ Flores said. “I’m sure I can play.’’

That confidence and Collins’ willingness to experiment are no guarantees Flores can play shortstop on the major league level.

Because the Mets are giving Tejada every chance to redeem himself, he’ll get most of the time at shortstop during spring training. The remaining time Flores gets won’t be nearly enough to show he can play the position.

However, Flores has greater offensive potential than Tejada, thereby giving the Mets a dilemma. Because the Mets need offense, it’s possible Flores could make the Opening Day roster as a role player off the bench.

Assuming Flores makes the team, he probably won’t play enough, certainly at shortstop, to make a substantial impact.

What then, is the best option?

The Mets’ options are to carry Flores as a bench player or to send him back to Triple-A. If it is the latter, it must be under the provision he only plays shortstop, and not second, third or first.

Collins suggested as much today.

“I think with what we have on the infield – you know what? – if he’s not going to get a lot of a playing time, he’s got to go play at his age,” Collins said. “Because the ceiling on his bat is too high. He’s got to go get at-bats.”

Flores needs to learn to play shortstop, and that takes repetitions. Lots of them.

Feb 18

Mets Wise To Pass On Nelson Cruz

The New York Mets insist they have no interest in “slugging’’ outfielder Nelson Cruz. Let’s hope they don’t waiver from that position.

Quotes belong around the word slugging because who really knows if he’s a genuine slugger or a chemistry project?

CRUZ: Just say no.

CRUZ: Just say no.

Cruz served a 50-game suspension for his connection in the Biogenesis case so the legitimacy of his numbers must be questioned. After four non-descript seasons totaling 22 homers, Cruz busted out to hit 33 in 2009.

Then 22, 29, 24 and 27. He never had more than 90 RBI in that five-year span. What can you make of those numbers, especially in a line-up as loaded as the Rangers?

Basically, that’s erratic power, but is it real or chemicals? And, when did he start? How long had he been using?

Whatever documents those answers were found in have not, and will not, be released by Major League Baseball. So, if you’re an owner and hear Cruz’s initial demands were as high as five years at $15 million each, you must take pause.

The Mets have been stung by burdensome, long-term, non-productive contracts over the past five years and the last thing they need is to add another to a 33-year-old.

If Cruz had no doubt about his legitimacy, he should ask for a one-year, incentive-laden deal to prove himself, but he didn’t. Why?

That question, plus Cruz’s age, questionable numbers, and contractual demands all combine to make him a risk the Mets should not take.

ON DECK:  What about Wilmer Flores at shortstop?

Feb 15

Mets Week In Review: Davis Surprised; Drew Not Coming

Although Saturday was the official reporting day for the New York Mets pitchers and catchers, most of them – including many position players – have already been in Port St. Lucie much of the week.

And, it has been a pretty eventual five days:

* In arguably the quote of the week, Ike Davis said he was “a little bit shocked,’’ he wasn’t traded. Davis goes into spring training as the starter ahead of Lucas Duda.

* General manager Sandy Alderson said it remains unlikely the Mets would sign shortstop Stephen Drew despite persistent reports to the contrary.

* Bobby Parnell threw ten pitches off the mound on Valentine’s Day, roughly two weeks ahead of schedule.

* Manager Terry Collins said he is leaning toward Jon Niese as the Opening Day starter and stated a preference for Eric Young as the leadoff hitter.

* Collins said Wilmer Flores would get some time at shortstop. He also said the shortstop starter has not been determined.

* Matt Harvey said he hopes to pitch this season, but Collins said he would not rush him.

* Alderson left the door open lefty for Jack Leathersich or Rafael Montero making the Opening Day roster in the bullpen.

* Reliever Kyle Farnsworth, now with his eighth team, said he has no illusions and will accept whatever role the Mets have in mind for him.

* Credit Bartolo Colon for telling the truth, saying he signed with the Mets because no other team would offer a second year. If his body holds up, Colon said he would pitch after his contract expires.

Note: It my intent to post a Mets Week in Review every Saturday.