Jul 06

Three Mets’ Storylines: Harvey Injury Overshadows DeGrom

What many speculated all season finally surfaced in a bad way after Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over Miami with the news Matt Harvey was placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder discomfort. Harvey will be examined by Dr. Robert Thompson in St. Louis on Thursday. He’s the same surgeon who operated on Dillon Gee several years to remove a blood clot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Harvey has a similar issue, but that’s a good place to start.

HARVEY: DL bound. (AP)

HARVEY: DL bound. (AP)

All season, including after his poor performance Monday against the Marlins, Harvey, GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins insisted there was nothing physically wrong with him.

Considering that, this issue might have surfaced Monday when he gave up 11 hits.

However, Harvey said he wasn’t comfortable with his mechanics, but never complained about pain.

All indications from the Mets are this came out of nowhere, but then again Harvey hasn’t always been totally upfront about his arm. He’s also been stubborn about having things his way ranging from not being open about his initial injury in 2013; to resisting surgery; to where he would rehab; his innings limits last year; to coming out of games.

Of course, today’s DL move again raises questions of Harvey’s workload of 216 innings last season after missing 2104 with Tommy John surgery. The Mets didn’t have a definitive innings last year, which his agent Scott Boras didn’t let us forget.

Also to be revisited was how the Mets reduced his spring training workload. This is something Collins attributed to Harvey’s slow start. Don’t forget, as that bad start dragged on, the Mets gave Harvey the options of sorting things out either on the DL or in Port St. Lucie.

He declined both.

The Mets didn’t handle Harvey well last year, and today’s news makes you wonder whether they are handling the bone spur problems with Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz wisely.

Harvey’s injury, plus the questions surrounding Syndergaard and Matz – not to mention Zack Wheeler’s setback – reinforces the importance of what Jacob deGrom gave the Mets Wednesday.

DeGrom is 5-4 and has won two straight following ten consecutive winless starts.

The Mets were to ride all their young arms to a return to the World Series, but all of their starters – outside of Bartolo Colon – have had, or currently have significant health concerns. That’s why deGrom’s seven strong innings – two runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts – was the key storyline for the Mets until Harvey rocked their world.

First deGrom, then Harvey, and today’s final storyline was how to divvy up playing time between Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores, both of whom had two hits.

A couple of days ago I suggested a simple plan how to keep Flores in the lineup despite the addition of Reyes, which is to put him in a rotation system along with Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and James Loney.

Foolproof actually, but apparently not Collins proof. When asked about splitting time between Reyes – who doubled twice – and Flores – who for the second time this homestand homered twice – during the Nationals series, said: “Look, it’s going to be hard to get both guys in there at the same time. One of them is going to have to sit.”

Why?

When the Mets slumped last year, Collins said if a player didn’t hit he would sit. What’s wrong with that approach now?

Cabrera, Walker and Loney all will need to rest. However, I’m afraid Collins is going to let Flores cool off on the bench.

Jul 03

A Master Plan For Flores

FLORES: A plan for him. (AP)

FLORES: A plan for him. (AP)

As they were with Daniel Murphy, the Mets never seem pleased with Wilmer Flores, who carved a place in club lore last July when he was brought to tears on the field after thinking he had been traded to Milwaukee.

A couple of days later, he hit a walk-off homer to beat the Nationals to jumpstart the Mets’ pennant push. Perhaps the Mets’ 2016 pennant push began with this weekend’s four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field, capped off by today’s 14-3 rout in which Flores tied a franchise record – Edgardo Alfonzo – with six hits, including two homers.

Yeah, six-for-six. Riding a 0-for-14 slide entering the game, there was a school of thought Flores might get sent down when Jose Reyes is brought up.

“Players aren’t naive,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “They read the papers. They know what’s going on. I don’t think there’s any question he hasn’t heard Reyes is coming.”

What’s going on is Flores is on the cusp of losing his job as the Mets, in search of an offensive spark, reached into their past. And, outside of a wild few days last summer, the Mets’ past didn’t include Flores.

A starter for much of last season in the second half at shortstop, Flores started this year on the bench following the winter acquisitions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Theoretically, Flores was to serve as the back-up at third for David Wright and first for Lucas Duda.

Flores assumed the starter’s role at third when Wright went down, but now the Mets seemed poised to replace him with a player who has never played third. Reyes is coming, make no mistake, but what should be done with Flores?

Under no circumstances should they option him to Triple-A to make room for Reyes, an idea Keith Hernandez floated on SNY. First of all, there are no assurances Reyes will take to third. They should also not relegate him full time to the bench.

“It’s experience and reps. you have to get him out there,” Collins said to give the impression Flores’ best position is batter. “You have to get him 500 at-bats. In order to have an idea of what a player is capable of doing you have to play him.”

There’s the rub. One of the things I find annoying about Collins is how he uses his bench. All too often he’ll ride his starters while the role players collect rust, which seemed to be the case with Flores before Wright was hurt. There never seemed to be a regular resting format for Wright. There was no third-to-first rotation with Flores to start the season as he sat in ten games and only had 28 at-bats in April.

Flores was on a 0-for-14 skid before Sunday’s once-in-a-lifetime game.

“I thought I was swinging the bat well, I just wasn’t lucky,” was how Flores described his mini-slump, and of his turnaround, added, “I was looking to be aggressive.”

Whatever the Mets had in mind for Flores, he’s always been the good soldier. Genuinely hurt last year when he thought he had been traded, he seemed annoyed when the Reyes issue was raised Sunday.

“It’s not my choice,” Flores curtly said. “I’m here to play.”

But where?

Like a six-year-old child who ignores his favorite toy when presented with a new one, I fear Collins might bury Flores on the bench.

Collins has proven he doesn’t always follow through with a plan. From batting Juan Lagares leadoff last season to starting the year with Curtis Granderson hitting first; to an innings limit for Matt Harvey; to juggling his lineup; to how to handle Michael Conforto, Collins is quick to abandon a plan.

I get it, Reyes will play third base, but Flores must be used. He should start at least four games a week to keep his bat sharp. One game at third, one at shortstop, one at second and one at first. Have him be a super sub on a regular rotation. If the Mets make a run, Collins can’t afford to drive Cabrera and Walker into the ground, and James Loney needs a breather at first.

Flores is hitting and the Mets must keep it that way.

Jul 01

What’s Mets’ Thinking About Wright?

David Wright is back at Citi Field after undergoing neck surgery and said he doesn’t expect to play again this season, but expects to return next year … and be again a viable player.

WRIGHT: What's next? (AP)

WRIGHT: What’s next? (AP)

“I’m going to be out for an extended period of time,” Wright told reporters Friday in his first public comments since undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured disk in his neck. “But I plan on coming back and being the player that I feel like I’m capable of being.”

Dr. Robert Watkins removed the damaged disk and fragments putting pressure on Wright’s spinal cord. Wright said Watkins was adamant about surgery because of fear of permanent damage.

When Wright is able to return next season is unknown. The way he spoke Friday of his concerns of losing his balance or being bumped underscores how this year is out.

Despite his optimism, and considering his recent injury history, nothing can be assumed with Wright. James Loney, who drove in three runs with a homer and double Friday, threw the Mets a lifeline in replacing Lucas Duda. The Mets haven’t been as fortunate with a replacement for Wright.

Wilmer Flores has been serviceable so far, and there is always the hope Jose Reyes will give the Mets an offensive spark, but can he play the position?

It would have been advantageous to see Wright this year as to get a feel for what he can do and what their offseason needs might be. This season will end for the Mets not knowing about Wright’s ability to play third base, or anywhere else, for that matter.

They might be forced to consider signing, or trading for, a third baseman this winter.

Of course, the hope is Wright will return in 2017 and be a productive player.

Jun 28

June 28, Mets Lineup At Washington

The Mets’ “most important” stretch of games continue tonight in Washington with Matt Harvey (4-9) attempting to get himself and his team right against the Nationals.
Here’s the Mets’ batting order against Lucas Giolito, who’ll be making his major league debut. Don’t think for a moment the Mets can coast because first timers often give them a hard time.
Tonight, I’ll pose a question about each player.
Curtis Granderson – RF: If Granderson will be dropped when Jose Reyes is brought up, why not do it now?
Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: I like Cabrera hitting second, but with Granderson struggling leading off, why not move him to the top spot?
Yoenis Cespedes – CF: One day he’s hurting, the next he’s not. Which is it today?
Neil Walker – 2B: Where did the power go?
James Loney – 1B: Don’t you think they should hold onto Loney even after Lucas Duda returns?
Wilmer Flores – 3B: Why do the Mets keep feeling the need to replace him when he’s been consistent since replacing David Wright?
Brandon Nimmo – LF: He has speed, so would it hurt to give him a shot at the top of the order?
Travis d’Arnaud – C: Wasn’t Rene Rivera to get a chance catching Harvey, too?
Harvey – RHP: Well big boy, are you ready?
Jun 27

Mets Matters: Matz Hurting; Lineup At Nats

If the Mets aren’t sure whether Steven Matz should make Wednesday’s start in Washington because of elbow soreness, then maybe he shouldn’t. That’s especially necessary if the ESPN report is true he’s had elbow soreness in at least three of his last eight starts.

The most recent diagnosis, as reported by ESPN, is Matz has a bone spur.

I always react on the conservative side when it comes to pitcher’s injuries, primarily because the interests of the team and players sometimes differ. Sometimes greatly.

Matz has already had arm problems, so why push it? Noah Syndergaard has complained of elbow soreness twice already this season, including after his last start. I’m already on record saying the Mets are pushing him tonight.

No structural damage was found when Matz was examined, but he’s still saying he feels uncomfortable.

Pitchers always want to pitch, that’s in their DNA. It is to be expected. They are also not to be believed when they say they are fine.

As I’ve said before, caution is the way to go with pitcher’s arms.

NEXT STEP FOR REYES:  After Monday’s game for Class A Brooklyn, Jose Reyes‘ climb back to the majors next step will be to go to Class AA Binghamton. How long he plays there remains to be seen. Also to be determined is if he’ll remain there or go to Class AAA Las Vegas before joining the Mets.

The Mets are saying a week to ten days, which means he could rejoin the team for the second series with the Nationals at Citi Field.

TONIGHT’S LINEUP

Curtis Granderson – RF: Expect Granderson to be dropped in the order when Reyes returns. Hitting .109 (5-46) with RISP.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: Is a career .257 hitter (9-35) lifetime vs. Nationals. Has six hits in six games against Washington this year.

Yoenis Cespedes – CF: Is hot again, hitting .350 (21-60) over his last 16 games. Playing with sore hip and ankle. Is batting .327 with four homers in 14 games vs. Nationals since joining Mets.

Neil Walker – 2B: Lifetime .301 hitter (43-143) vs. Washington. His 14 homers are tied for second with Detroit’s Ian Kinsler in the majors for a second baseman behind Seattle’s Robinson Cano.

James Loney – 1B: Has reached base in 21 of the 24 games he’s played with the Mets. Loney Is batting .294 (5-17) with RISP. Has more than adequately filled in for Lucas Duda.

Wilmer Flores – 3B: Is batting .308 (20-65) since replacing David Wright at third base, yet he’s the one the Mets want to replace.

Brandon Nimmo – LF: Went 0-4 with a strikeout in his debut Sunday. Was the Mets’ first-round selection in the 2011 draft.

Travis d’Arnaud – C: Is a lifetime .333 hitter (15-45) lifetime at Washington. Hit .317 in 11 rehab games after going on DL with sore rotator cuff.

Noah Syndergaard – RHP: Pitched seven scoreless innings vs. Nationals, May 17. Is 2-0 with 1.33 ERA in four starts lifetime vs. Nationals.