Mar 02

No-Brainer: If Not Harvey, Colon Should Be Opening Day Starter

If the Mets are to name an Opening Day starter who isn’t Matt Harvey, there is only one logical choice and that is Bartolo Colon as he is the least likely to be overwhelmed by the circumstances.

COLON: A no-brainer.

COLON: A no-brainer.

Jon Niese has been an Opening Day starter before, but as a left hander I would slot him No. 3 to put a break in the rotation. Starting him in the first game would require too much juggling.

As for Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, neither is in what you would call in the ace category.

Ideally, they want Harvey, and personally, I think manager Terry Collins is biding his time to see how Harvey comes out of spring training before making the call. He doesn’t want to announce something today about Harvey and then having to change his mind.

I believe that is his reluctance in making an announcement on the Opening Day starter. Collins said Harvey would start one of the first five games, and he’s waiting this out to see what kind of spring he has. I would slot Colon behind Harvey, and the former wouldn’t get bent out of shape if Harvey were to be named at the last minute.

But, if he were to make an decision now, it must be Colon, who was his most reliable starter last season winning 15 games and working over 200 innings. But, Collins isn’t making a decision now, and I think it is because he’s hoping on Harvey.

ON DECK:  Mets Matters: Today’s notebook.

Feb 25

Too Early To Name Opening Day Starter

Mike Puma of The New York Post recently wrote the Mets are strongly considering going with Zack Wheeler as their Opening Day starter. While I like Puma and don’t dispute his sources, naming Wheeler, or anybody else for that matter, as the Opening Day starter now is premature and a bad idea.

Of course the media wants to know. I want to know, but considering the make-up of the Mets’ rotation it serves no purpose announcing a starter this early.

WHEELER: No reason to name his Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

WHEELER: No reason to name him Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

The Mets already said it will not be Matt Harvey, but what if that changes? It already changed from him being the home opener starter to working in of the first five games.

With six weeks remaining until Opening Day and the Mets lacking a legitimate ace such as Johan Santana or even a healthy Harvey, simply too much can happen that could change Terry Collins’ mind:

* What if Harvey has a great spring training? Surely he then would get the nod.

* What if Wheeler has a lousy spring training, or worse, is injured?

* What if one of the other starters emerges strong this spring. What then?

The Opening Day starter should be based on two things: 1) experience, and 2) merit. Wheeler, despite showing promise last year and is a cornerstone of the future, doesn’t meet either.

If he’s healthy, it should be Harvey because of his brief window of success and what he means to the franchise. If not, the best choice should be Bartolo Colon.

It is highly improbable he won’t be traded this spring, so it has to be him. He’s best equipped to handle the distractions and pressure, and last year was the Mets’ most accomplished starter winning 15 games and working over 200 innings.

Wheeler is the sexy pick, but for the best results, it should go with Colon.

But, even so, the same rules apply. It is too early and every manager should know not to make a decision until absolutely has to … and Collins has not need to make an announcement now.

ON DECK TODAY: Mets’ Matters: Today’s notebook.

Feb 21

Collins Says Mets Capable Of Playoffs

Is it genuine optimism for the New York Mets or simply unfounded wishful thinking? In the past two days, both GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins alluded to the playoffs. No guarantees, and with the qualifier, “capable of” if they execute. Hell, anybody could have told you that.

“Now we’ve just got to go play,’’ Collins told reporters Saturday in Port St. Lucie. “It’s all about execution. As we’ve seen in the past, there are teams that were world champs and the next year they’re in last place. And there are teams that were in last place that the next year they’re in the playoffs.

“If we play up to expectations and what we think are the caliber of players we have, we’ll be playing in October.’’

Collins’ thinking is based on the potential of the Mets’ pitching; the additions of Michael Cuddyer in right field and John Mayberry for the bench; and healthy returns of David Wright and Matt Harvey.

There are other issues: Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler must progress; the bullpen is seemingly sound, even without Bobby Parnell available at the start of the season; the leadoff spot is unsettled between Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson; Wilmer Flores is an unproven commodity at shortstop.

Harvey is a huge key, and Alderson acknowledged there’s nothing concrete about his innings ceiling. It was initially reported Harvey would probably miss the start of the season, but likely pitch the home opener. Collins said today Harvey would start one of the season’s first five games.

I prefer something more definitive, but it is early. Things change.

“We’ve been sitting around for four years asking everybody to be patient and even the players,” Collins said. “Well, it’s time.’’

A lot has to happen if the Mets are to reach the playoffs, let alone have their first winning season after six straight losing summers.

Sure, there’s reason to be hopeful, but the playoffs? Well, I’ve heard this before from the Mets so I’m not swallowing this hook, line and sinker.

October baseball? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Feb 16

Mets Matters: Gee Wants To Stay; Figueroa Signs

The top news of the day is Dillon Gee reported to spring training and threw off the mound. Gee, whom the Mets tried to trade in the winter, told reporters he wants to remain with the team and is willing to move to the bullpen.

He admits hearing the rumors.

“As long as I’m playing baseball, I don’t really care where it’s at,’’ Gee said. “The majority of me wants to stay here because I have all my buddies here and I think this team is going to succeed and I want to win. I want to help the team win. To me, though, as long as I’m on that mound pitching, that’s where I’ll be happy.’’

While pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Thursday, several Mets are already in camp, among them: Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Jacob deGrom, David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.

Pitchers and catchers will workout Saturday, with position players scheduled to report, Feb. 24, and the first full-squad workout to be two days later.

The Mets’ first exhibition game is against Atlanta in Orlando.

SNY MOVE OFFICIAL: Nelson Figueroa signed a contract to replace Bobby Ojeda as a studio pregame and postgame analyst for SNY.

Figueroa started 16 games for the Mets in 2008 and 2009 and went 6-11. In five years with the Mets (1986-1990) Ojeda was 51-40 with a 3.12 ERA.

Ojeda has been critical of the Mets, but the reason for the split with SNY is believed to be financial.

Feb 13

Wheeler Must-See Watch In 2015

Of all the Mets, Zack Wheeler is the one I am most curious to watch this summer. Wheeler made a strong first impression in 2013 and improved last season to 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA while working 185.1 innings in 32 starts.

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

His durability last year indicates 200-plus innings is within reach. We don’t know Wheeler’s ceiling, but our expectations are realistically high.

Wheeler averages over nine strikeouts per nine innings, but also just over four walks which is  red-flag worthy.

There’s no doubting his stuff, but his command must improve. It’s not just the walks, but consistently running deep into the count. Consequently, he only worked into the seventh just 13 times. By comparison, 41-year-old Bartolo Colon pitched into the seventh or longer 18 times.

When looking at the development of a young pitcher, innings pitched might be most important as it indicates an ability to work out of trouble to give his team a chance to win.That’s why 200 innings was important to Colon last year and to Dillon Gee the previous season.

If Wheeler can cut the four walks he gave up in half and convert them into outs, that could have pushed him into the seventh nine more times last year if not longer because it would have reduced his pitch count. As it was, he threw over 100 pitches 24 times and at least 110 in 13 games.

This is the step Wheeler must take this summer. If he can, a lot of good things can happen.