Apr 26

Niese Still Key In Mets’ Rotation

In the first two games of this series, the focus for the Mets was on their stud pitchers Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, but I remain intrigued with Sunday’s starter, Jon Niese.

In the pre-Harvey years, when the Mets were forced to move from Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey – wow, I hadn’t thought of him in a long time – Niese was in the driver’s seat of their rotation. Young, left-handed, and a hard thrower with a manageable contract, Niese not only was a Mets’ leader but coveted by other teams.

NIESE: Still important to Mets. (AP)

NIESE: Still important to Mets. (AP)

However, injuries – including a partial tear of his rotator cuff – sapped the effectiveness of Sunday’s starter against the Yankees. Last winter the Mets were open to trading Niese, but at 28, he’s young enough to reverse the perception of him and increase his value to the Mets for the long-term.

And, it definitely helps that he’s healthy, which only fuels his confidence.

“I haven’t been this confident in my arm in probably three years,’’ Niese said during spring training. “I feel really good. … I feel a lot stronger. My arm feels excellent.’’

That has translated to the mound, where Niese is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA – and 1-1 with a 2.05 ERA in four starts against the Yankees. He is off to the good start he hopes will fuel a comeback season. It must keep playing out this way if Niese is thinking long-term, although the math remains in his favor.

On one hand, there’s Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz waiting at Triple-A Las Vegas to push him out of the rotation. On the other, figure on Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee not coming back next season, and we won’t see Zack Wheeler until at least July.

Also, he’s still young and hard-throwing left-hander with a manageable contract (under their control for the next two seasons). In this scenario, figure on Niese returning.

However, the Mets aren’t just interested in him just holding a roster spot, but needing him to perform as he did in his last start, Tuesday against Atlanta, when he gave up a solo homer in 6.2 innings.

They will take that tonight and every night.

Apr 22

Harvey Will Pitch With Slight Ankle Sprain

Here’s why the New York Mets – despite winning ten straight games – can make you want to beat your head against a cement wall.

The person: Matt Harvey.

The issue: An injury.

The event: Harvey went to see a doctor Wednesday afternoon for consultation on a lingering foot injury.

The diagnosis: The doctors said it was a mild left ankle sprain, but before that manager Terry Collins, who apparently received his medical degree in an online medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico, said, “he’s fine, it’s nothing.’’

Collins also said Harvey pitched with it for a month and will make his start Saturday against the Yankees. After Wednesday’s 3-2 over the Braves, Collins said he didn’t even know about it until two days ago. How is that possible? How does the manager not know his best pitcher has a sprained ankle? For him to admit that is admitting he doesn’t know what is going on with his team.

Incomprehensible.

Collins also said Harvey dismissed the idea of skipping the start. Of course he did, because Harvey is the one who makes those decisions. Collins never should have said Harvey would start prior to the exam, and even after should have said he would see later.

After the game Collins called it mild, but leg injuries are critical to a pitcher because it can alter mechanics and put stress on the arm, not a good thing for someone coming off Tommy John surgery.

How would Collins know it is “nothing?’’ It was obvious something enough to where Harvey had to see a doctor, which, whether it was his decision or somebody else’s, was the proper move.

When it comes to injuries, never trust management’s assertion “it is nothing,’’ and for projected missed time always bet the over.

And, for those who say they are long-time Mets fans, remember this is an area where management hasn’t done well. Don’t believe me?

That’s your choice, but kindly remember David Wright, Ike Davis, Johan Santana, Ryan Church, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and well, need I say more?

Apr 06

Colon Proves Mettle Again

The controversial decision to start Bartolo Colon paid off in spades as he gave up one run in six dominant innings.

While others clamored for Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom to get the start, Terry Collins opted for Colon based on leading the Mets with 15 wins and over 200 innings last season.

COLON: Threw like an ace today. (AP)

COLON: Threw like an ace today. (AP)

Colon not only justified Collins’ decision, but also served notice the 41-year-old still has something left in the tank evidenced by eight strikeouts.

“He’s a pro,” Collins said. “He knows what he’s doing. He was the right man for today’s game and he showed it.”

It was believed Colon would best be able to work under the microscope of an Opening Day start. He proved that when after the first two Nationals hitters reached, Colon got out of the inning unscathed. He also struck out Wilson Ramos with the tying run on base to end the sixth.

The Mets wanted to trade Colon over the winter, and it is believed he could still be made available at the July 31 deadline. That’s premature, but does leave the Mets with a potentially interesting dilemma.

Assuming Colon is pitching well he is certain to draw some attention. However, he’s pitching well and the Mets are in the hunt, why would they want to trade him?

The Mets signed Colon after the injury to Harvey – and is on an innings limit – and Zack Wheeler gone until at least June of 2016, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz unproven, they might be less reluctant to deal him.

 

Apr 02

Harvey Is Ready, But Are Mets?

Matt Harvey is ready. Now, what about the rest of the Mets?

Harvey, who’ll start the season’s third game in Washington, threw four scoreless innings today in a 0-0 tie with St. Louis today, and he immediately pronounced himself ready.

“I’m ready to go,” Harvey told reporters. “All the work has been put in, and it is time to just let all that loose.”

Harvey did not walk a hitter and threw 41 of 56 pitches for strikes.

“You hear stories of guys who have trouble with command coming back,” Harvey said. “That was something that I really worked on. Obviously you never know until you start facing hitters and get into a game.”

Harvey is the first of a long list of questions I posed at the start of spring training. As the Mets are in Texas to play the Rangers this weekend before heading to Washington, let’s re-visit those questions:

Q: How healthy is Harvey?

A: This is arguably the most important question of the season. Today was part of the good news. The Mets are thinking 30 starts and 190 innings. He’ll be on a 90-pitch count for the Nationals.

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring.  (AP)

HARVEY: So far healthy this spring. (AP)

Q: Who breaks camp as the leadoff hitter?

A: This remains undecided, but it appears Juan Lagares is the frontrunner based on his speed, not to mention a new four-year contract. However, Lagares must still improve his on-base percentage and reduce his strikeouts. Curtis Granderson could hit second if Daniel Murphy isn’t ready, otherwise he should be in the middle of the order.

Q: How healthy is David Wright?

A: A weak shoulder sapped Wright of his power last season, but he has had a good spring. Wright is the centerpiece of the offense. If he’s on his game, the offense could be as potent as it was in Florida.

Q: Wil Dillon Gee be traded?

A: Unbelievably, the Mets are still interested in trying to trade him. They wanted too much when they dangled him during the winter. They finally broke down this week and slotted him into the rotation.

Q: How good is Wilmer Flores?

A: Flores had a solid spring and nobody is talking about replacing him. He needs a legitimate opportunity, and that includes sticking with him even if with a poor start.

Q: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

A: Bobby Parnell and Josh Edgin will open the season on the disabled list. Jenrry Mejia will come out of spring training as the closer and Jeurys Familia as the set-up closer. The Mets will keep Rule 5 lefty Sean Gilmartin, along with lefty acquisitions Jerry Blevins and Alex Torres. Filling out the bullpen is long-man Carlos Torres and Rafael Montero.

Q: Any injuries?

A: They wouldn’t be the Mets without injuries. Zack Wheeler and Edgin are lost for the season following Tommy John surgery. Lucas Duda missed three weeks with a strained intercostal muscle, but enters the season in good shape. Granderson was hit on the leg with a pitch today and it is questionable for Opening Day. The Mets are adamant Murphy will not start the season on the disabled list. No doubt, that’s a gamble.

 

 

Apr 01

Are Mets Kidding With Long-Term Talk With Lagares And Duda?

A show of hands please, who saw this coming from the Mets? I didn’t and twice in one week no less. The Mets, who have long been noted for their conservative approach when it comes to long-term contracts, are reportedly discussing multi-year deals with Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares.

Several days after an ESPN report the Mets were considering a four-year, $31-million contract with Duda, they reportedly reached terms today with Lagares to an extension through 2019 for $23 million.

While Duda is 29 and this would likely be his biggest payday, Lagares is 26 and could have two more contracts after this one.

The contract would cover Lagares’ arbitration years and the first year when he would become free-agent eligible.

Duda hit 30 homers last year and Lagares won the Gold Glove in center field where he was credited for saving 28 runs. Offensively, he hit .281 with four homers and 47 RBI.

Is this a good idea or not?

Normally, I’??m all for locking in prospects long-term, but what about Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom – we can forget Zack Wheeler for now – to start with?

After all, I always favor the commitment to pitching first. However, before diving off the deep end, the prudent thing would be to get a larger window on both players, especially since they each have questions.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notes.