Sep 11

Mets Wrap: Zack Wheeler Shows Mettle In Defeat

The New York Mets believe Zack Wheeler will be an anchor in their rotation for a long time to come. He took the loss against Washington Wednesday night, but showed more than enough of the right stuff to say this is going to be a stud pitcher to build around.

Easily, the most important thing Wheeler demonstrated was poise under pressure. He pitched out of a second-and-third, one-out jam in the first; escaped a runner on second and one-out threat in the fourth; and got out of a runners on the corners with two outs problem in the seventh.

WHEELER: Dealing big time. (AP)

WHEELER: Dealing big time. (AP)

It was great to see Wheeler challenge hitters with his fastball, especially inside. And the control issues he had earlier, well, just one walk.

“This guy competes on the mound,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “With his stuff, in first inning, he did a great job getting out of that jam. I’m impressed with the way Zack Wheeler has pitched.’’

Wheeler made one bad pitch, that being a slider left over the plate Ryan Zimmerman crushed for a homer in the sixth. It was the first homer he gave up in 36 innings, remarkable for a rookie.

Vic Black, who could get a look at the closer role in spring training if Bobby Parnell hasn’t recovered from neck surgery, gave up two runs in the eighth to make it the 3-0 final.

Offensively, the Mets managed three hits as they were shut out for the second time in this series. With the loss the Mets fell a season-low 16 games below .500. It wasn’t too long ago .500 and catching the Nationals for second-place wasn’t an unrealistic goal.

Oh, by the way, with the loss the Mets were mathematically eliminated, crushing news, I know, to those who kept on dreaming.

Once again the Mets are in full swoon mode, especially offensively, in the second half. They have lost three straight, five of their last six games, and are 2-8 so far this month.

Including the Nationals Thursday, the Mets have just four games against winning teams (three with Cincinnati) the rest of the season.

Collins didn’t say the word, but he might as well called his offense clueless.

“You have to figure out what the opposing pitcher is doing to get you out,’’ Collins said. “And you have to make adjustments.’’

Clearly, the Mets aren’t making those adjustments.

Newly-acquired Aaron Harang will start for the Mets Thursday afternoon in an effort to avoid the sweep.

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Sep 10

Mets’ Matt Harvey Wants To Avoid Surgery

Matt Harvey, the New York Mets’ best story of the season before an elbow injury sidelined him until, well, who really knows when?

Not Harvey, anyway. Harvey, speaking at an appearance at a Manhattan firehouse this afternoon along with David Wright, Zack Wheeler and CEO Jeff Wilpon, is insistent of eschewing surgery.

HARVEY: Doesn't want surgery.

HARVEY: Doesn’t want surgery.

“Everything feels fine. My arm feels great,’’ Harvey said. “I’m still very optimistic about everything. But I’m not a doctor, so we’ll see what happens.’’

Harvey is scheduled for a second opinion with Dr. James Andrews next week. Harvey said his arm feels “great,’’ but then again, he hasn’t pitched since Aug. 24 against Detroit, so it should feel good.

However, that time off hasn’t healed a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. Harvey is hoping the tear will heal itself with rest, but there exists the risk of him going into next season and tearing it worse and possibly missing all of 2015.

As it is, if Harvey opts for surgery, there is a chance he could pitch at the end of next season.

“If we do go the surgery route, having it sooner so maybe I can get back in September next year if that’s an 11-month process, that’s a possibility,’’ Harvey said. “But, like I said, we haven’t gotten that far. I’m not an M.D., so I don’t really know those answers.’’

Andrews should be able to provide those answers next week. In the interim, Harvey said he’ll talk with as many people as he can, but ultimately the decision is his.

There are no guarantees with or without surgery, but the odds might be in his favor if he takes the knife.

General manager Sandy Alderson has long projected 2014 as the year the Mets could reach competitive status because the contract of Johan Santana will be off the books and the team should have the latitude to spend this winter.

Alderson said the plan, as it should be, is to plan for 2014 without Harvey, and that includes shopping for a veteran free agent in the off-season.

The Mets might consider the Yankees’ Phil Hughes, whose style might be better acclimated to the larger Citi Field than bandbox Yankee Stadium.

Hughes, battered this season, has been demoted to the bullpen.

However, he’s healthy, and at 28, is young enough to turn it around, and the Mets could provide that opportunity.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 09

Ike Davis Could Remain With Mets

ESPN reported the New York Mets would tender Ike Davis a contract for 2014, largely because not doing so would cost them a compensatory draft pick.

Davis is making $3.1 million this year, and through the CBA, can’t be offered anything higher than a 20 percent pay cut. Reportedly, the least Davis would make is $2.4 million, which isn’t bad for nine homers and 33 RBI.

The reason GM Sandy Alderson delayed sending Davis to Triple-A Las Vegas was because of the promise of a breakout second half, which, of course, never happened.

Non-tendering a contract would have meant no compensation, so what Alderson is doing is essentially buying an insurance policy, with the worst-case scenario being forced to endure another year of non-production.

In keeping Davis, the Mets would go into spring training of him and Lucas Duda competing for the first base job.

Currently, the Mets are about getting whatever they can, which is what they did in the John Buck-Marlon Byrd deal, their reasoning with Davis, and why, despite the foul taste it gave them, they recalled Frank Francisco.

Despite all accounts but Francisco’s, the Mets believed he dogged it during rehab, he was pitching in the major leagues Sunday.

It was a last ditch effort to showcase him to a contender desperate for bullpen help, even though Francisco would not be eligible for a postseason roster.

Francisco is owed $745-thousand for the remainder of the season, which isn’t much, but better than nothing.

METS MUSINGS: Among the Mets’ call-ups is 35-year-old pitcher Aaron Harang, who might get one or two starts to serve as an audition for a spring-training invite. Harang went 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA in 22 starts with Seattle. Harang will likely pitch Saturday in one of the games of the Mets’ doubleheader with Miami. … David Wright could be with the Mets this week, but he’s not ready to play. … RHP Matt Harvey will receive a second opinion this week from Dr. James Andrews on his elbow, and after which could decide on Tommy John surgery.

METS PROBABLES vs. Washington at Citi Field:

Tonight: RHP Carlos Torres (3-3, 2.89) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (9-6, 3.49), 7:10 p.m.

Tomorrow: RHP Dillon Gee (11-9, 3.53) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmerman (16-8, 3.30), 7:10 p.m.

Wednesday: RHP Zack Wheeler (7-4, 3.38) vs. RHP Dan Haren (8-13, 5.23), 7:10 p.m.

Thursday: LHP Jonathon Niese (6-7, 3.86) vs. RHP Tanner Roark (5-0, 0.94), 1:10 p.m.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 07

Mets See Good In Zack Wheeler Despite Loss; Scott Rice Season Ends

The result wasn’t what the New York Mets wanted, but overall they must be pleased with what they’ve seen from Zack Wheeler this season.

Even Friday night when he walked five in five innings in a loss at Cleveland.

WHEELER: Not a kid anymore.

WHEELER: Not a kid anymore.

I thought Wheeler might have been rushed to the major leagues because he didn’t dominate at Triple-A Las Vegas, and that idea seemed to be reinforced when his control was off early. Wheeler seemed to correct the problem, but it resurfaced against the Indians.

However, after the game he told reporters his shoulder was “flying open.’’ That he understood that flaw, no doubt pointed out by pitching coach Dan Warthen, but limited the damage are positives.

What’s next for Wheeler’s development is to not only notice a mechanical issue by himself, but also be able to correct it during the game. The great ones cannot only recognize a flaw by where their pitch went, but correct in during the at-bat.

During his first two starts, the Mets went overboard in calling his pitches – perhaps in the wake of Terry Collins getting messages Wheeler was tipping his pitches – but they quickly abandoned that plan and allowed him to use his fastball.

Although the Mets will limit his innings for the remainder of the season, Wheeler, 7-4, could get another three or four starts, and should he run the table, will have won more games than Matt Harvey.

Who would have thought that in April?

Who also would have envisioned at the time that Scott Rice would still be around?

Everybody expected big things from Harvey, but Rice was easily the Mets’ most inspirational story of the season. Harvey was the given; Rice was the underdog who made good.

The 31-year-old lefty reliever toiled for 14 years in the minor leagues before hooking on with the Mets this spring. He didn’t stick because of the state of their bullpen, but because he deserved to in leading the majors with 73 appearances.

Rice was 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA, but his most important statistic was the .174 average lefties hit off him. As a lefty specialist, that’s important. Rice walked 27 and struck out 41, and could go into spring training as the lead lefty in the pen.

Rice’s season, however, ended with the news he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia and will be out for the remainder of the season.

Even so, Rice was a good Mets’ story this summer. Maybe the best.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 06

Mets Finally See Scott Kazmir Pitch

It is September 6, do you know where your New York Mets are?

They are in Cleveland, Ohio, not on a traffic layover, but for the start of a three-game series against the playoff-minded Indians. The Mets long ago lost those aspirations.

KAZMIR: In the day.

KAZMIR: In the day.

This is nothing against Cleveland, where I spent many afternoons in that monstrous stadium watching the Indians flail into mediocrity and freeze during Browns’ games in December.

Of course, that’s when they were the real Browns, not the fake Browns who were thrashed by Denver last night. Fake Browns II will be playing Sunday.

But, that’s another issue in the tales of: “What’s Wrong With Sports?’’

This could be my last chance of the year to rail against interleague play, which I will never grasp. I loved it in spring training where at a time it was unique, but hated it with the first pitch – I don’t care if Dave Mlicki did throw a shutout against the Yankees that day – and continue to loathe it to this moment.

I’ll watch because it is the Mets, and because I don’t get to see the Indians that much anymore, but the sporting essence of the concept is wrong.

The essence of baseball is the regular season, one in which every team used to run the same race from April until October. There was no variation to the schedule, totally balanced. With interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, schedules can be measured by degree of difficulty, much like college basketball and football, the latter being the only high-end sport without a legitimate championship process.

That’s another issue.

I understand Bud Selig’s economic reasoning, but Major League Baseball is a multi-billion-dollar industry and would still be without interleague play. If interleague play had a purpose, it is gone.

Tonight the Red Sox are in the Bronx in a match-up with teeth. The only other series this weekend with a real playoff sizzle is the Pirates and Cardinals.

The other match-ups have the playoff implications of the manufactured wild-card, but save those two series the schedule is barren of playoff race games. As if the National Football League didn’t have it easy enough in its opening weekend, there’s little playoff tension for a distraction.

And, about your Mets, Scott Kazmir is the opposing attraction against Zack Wheeler. A former “pitcher of the future,’’ against a current “pitcher of the future.’’

Kazmir was dealt at the trade deadline for Victor Zambrano, in at the time was considered a controversial, then horrendous trade, from a Mets’ perspective. But, as these fade over time, the feelings softened as Kazmir’s career was derailed by injuries.

However, in a two-year span of 2007 and 2008, when the Mets’ collapsed down the stretch and were nosed from the playoffs on the season’s final day, Kazmir was winning 13 and 12 games, respectively, for Tampa Bay.

Those were the only times where it really was, “what could have been.’’

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos