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 17

Things To Like About Mets So Far

With a little over two weeks remaining in spring training, there’s a lot to like about how the Mets are playing, with several bright spots surfacing in today’s rout of the Cardinals.

CESPEDES: Has MVP aspirations. (AP)

CESPEDES: Has MVP aspirations. (AP)

STARTING PITCHING: If numbers were to determine the Opening Day starter, you would have to go with Jacob deGrom, who has a 0.90 ERA and 0.60 WHIP in three starts, with 13 strikeouts in 10 innings.

Noah Syndergaard, however, has a 3.52 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. And, four walks in 7.2 won’t get it done most games. Syndergaard bulked up in the offseason with the intent of getting stronger as to work deeper into games. It’s not that he’s not strong enough, but his command is off. What haunted him last year is resurfacing this spring with higher pitch counts.

Steven Matz threw 3.2 innings today, and if you add an inning in his likely two remaining starts, that won’t get him out of the fifth in his first regular season start. He’s throwing well, by so far isn’t stretched out like the Mets want him to be.

Sure, these are exhibition numbers, but also an early measure of performance. So far, none of their starters are stretched out for them to go longer than six. That becomes an issue if the bullpen is shaky, which so far is far from fine-tuned.

In the competition for the fifth starter, Zack Wheeler – who will likely stay back – his throwing hard and pain-free. The projection is roughly 110 innings, which makes him better suited to coming up in late May or June. I don’t like the idea of using him in relief now.

As for Seth Lugo, he’s pitching in the World Baseball Classic and has done well. It will be either him or Robert Gsellman who goes north in the rotation. However, with numerous off days in April, the fifth starter won’t often be used, so one could go in the bullpen.

HOT BATS: Yoenis Cespedes said he wants to be MVP and if that happens a lot of good things will happen this summer. He’s hitting .419 with five homers, but the key numbers are only two strikeouts in 31 at-bats. That kind of ratio would go a long way towards making an MVP possible.

Also hitting well are Michael Conforto (.359), Neil Walker (.313), Curtis Granderson (.323), but most importantly Travis d’Arnaud (.333) and Lucas Duda (.292 with five doubles). The pressure is on d’Arnaud to have a make-or-break season and Duda, who missed much of last year with a stress fracture in his lower back and recently received a couple on injections.

Jay Bruce and Wilmer Flores finally pushed their averages over .200, and the latter drove in six runs Friday with a grand slam and double. Flores is not going away and the Mets need to find a way of getting him regular playing time to stay ready.

Mar 15

Do Mets Have Guts To Leave Harvey Off Opening Day Roster?

The question must be posed: Does the Mets’ top brass have the stones to leave Matt Harvey off the Opening Day roster?  While it is clear Jacob deGrom is ready for the start of the season, it is also painfully obvious Harvey is not.

HARVEY: Not ready. (AP)

HARVEY: Not ready. (AP)

While exhibition numbers aren’t important, after Harvey was pasted once again today by the Marlins, it is hard to ignore his 0-3 record and 7.88 ERA. That high an ERA is hard to dismiss any time of the year.

Harvey broke into our consciousness in 2012 with near pinpoint control, supreme confidence and a fastball that regularly clocked in the high 90s. Today, an elbow and shoulder surgery later, his confidence as battered as his body, and a fastball in the low 90s, Harvey isn’t close to being the stud pitcher and cartoon superhero character Mets’ fans yearn to see again.

Earlier this spring Harvey said he had no doubt his velocity would return. He was far less optimistic today; he appeared to concede to a new chapter in his career.

“I’m not looking to throw 100 mph., again or 97 even,” Harvey told reporters. “My job is to get people out no matter what I’m throwing, and I’m looking forward to it. [The velocity] is going to be there.”

But, what will it be?

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the Mets won’t know about Harvey’s physical abilities for several months, claiming he’s guessing May.

“History says with [thorasic surgery] it’s 10 months out,” Warthen said. “That’s when you really start to feel strong. Generally, when you open a season you gain two miles per hour. If he’s playing at 94, 95, it’s a completely different story.”

But, Harvey’s throwing 92 these days at best, which means he basically must reinvent himself, which will be hard to do with another three exhibition starts remaining.

That brings us back to the original question as to whether the Mets if Harvey doesn’t immediately turn it around, would leave him back to get stronger and work on his mechanics. Considering their potential depth with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman – and possibly Zack Wheeler – that would be the prudent option.

The Mets are blessed to have the depth most teams don’t possess, so why not take advantage of it? Assuming Harvey isn’t ready in three three weeks – and that’s what Warthen is saying – it would be better to utilize that depth in April to get him ready rather that use it later if he breaks down.

Harvey won’t like it, but that’s not important. Getting him ready is.

Mar 10

Mets Get Positive Showings From Harvey And Wheeler

Optimistic was the word of the day for the Mets regarding pitchers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Despite losing both of their split-squad games Friday, the Mets had to be encouraged from what they got from Harvey and Wheeler, both of whom are recovering from surgery.

HARVEY: Another positive step. (Getty)

HARVEY: Another positive step. (Getty)

Hit in his first start, Harvey gave up only one run in their 7-6 loss to Houston. In their other game, Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two years, gave up a run in two innings in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Braves.

Harvey topped out at 92 mph., but insisted he’ll reach the upper 90s before the end of spring training.

“Definitely an improvement from the first one,” Harvey, who pitched with a stiff neck, told reporters. “I think it’s just a matter of time before things click and mechanics click, timing clicks. But I think overall it was definitely a plus. … It’s nice to go up there and throw 97 to 100 mph. or whatnot, but you need to figure out how to pitch. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a competition like that, so for me, I think it’s a matter of time.”

Velocity isn’t the issue for Harvey. It is command and movement on his pitches. It is also working in his slider and change-up, which he did today.

Harvey is approaching his recovery with the right mindset. Eventually, he’ll throw harder, but he’s right in saying there’s time and the most important thing is to get back to pitching.

Harvey is currently slotted third or fourth in the rotation, but Wheeler will likely open the season in an extended spring training. That is the presumption considering he’s on an innings limit of 110.

Wheeler, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, had a simple objective.

“As long as I came out of this healthy today, that was my No. 1 goal,” Wheeler told reporters. “I’ve been going through this for two years now, so whatever happened, happened. I got a strikeout and gave up a home run. All of that really doesn’t matter right now. I’m just glad I’m healthy right now.”