Jul 10

What Message Are Mets Sending With Matt Harvey Decision?

The New York Mets officially pulled the plug on Matt Harvey’s start Saturday in Pittsburgh, but did they do it for the right reasons? Was it to give his blisters a chance to heal and begin a program to limit his innings or prepare him to pitch in the All-Star Game?

Or, is it a matter of coincidence as to the timing? The Mets did not pull the plug on the All-Star Game, and if the blisters aren’t healed, they wouldn’t say if they’d keep him out of what is basically an exhibition game.

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

For the past three weeks the buzz has been not will Harvey pitch in the All-Star Game, but would he start? And, if not him, then how about Zack Wheeler after what he did today in San Francisco? Kidding, but if these guys develop as the Mets hope there will be plenty of All-Star opportunities for both, but admittedly this might the only chance to start at home.

Of course, the Mets want Harvey to start Tuesday night as it puts their franchise in the national spotlight in a positive way, and most assuredly Major League Baseball wants him to start for the TV ratings. Let’s face it, money is the great motivator, and always has been for the sport.

But, if you’re a Met player struggling to make something out of this season of lousy weather, extra innings, grueling travel, injuries and losing streaks, how good can you feel about being deprived of your best pitcher against the Pirates yet have him available for an exhibition game? Exactly what message does that send?

For his part, Harvey wants to pitch and downplays the All-Star angle.

“I don’t like not pitching,’’ Harvey told reporters in San Francisco. “But, I’d rather miss a start now then miss all of September with an innings limit. … It’s between the blister and the innings limit [as to why I’m not pitching Saturday]. My goal is to finish the whole season.’’

Harvey is on pace to pitch close to 250 innings, which won’t happen. Factoring in not starting Saturday, Harvey should start 14 more games in the second half. Six innings a game would be 84 more innings, which should put him close to 220 for the season.

After a brilliant start which includes the trappings of a national magazine cover, dating a model and posing nude in another magazine – he doesn’t need the attention of the latter, does he? – Harvey hasn’t been as sharp recently.

As good a season as Harvey has had, think of how much better it might be if not for ten no-decisions. He might have three more wins if the Mets chopped up the seven runs they gave Wheeler today over three of those no-decisions.

All Wheeler needed today was the three the Mets gave him in the first inning, but they were all appreciated.

“Any time you have a lead you can pitch to contact,’’ Wheeler said. “You feel more in control when you can throw everything for strikes.’’

That’s something Wheeler did on the first pitch to 19 of the 27 batters he faced. That’s what Harvey did a lot earlier this season. And, if Wheeler can keep it up, maybe he might pose next year.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 10

Mets Figuring Out What To Do With Matt Harvey

The New York Mets shouldn’t skip Matt Harvey’s next game if the sole motivation is to have him available to start the All-Star Game. However, if the intent is to begin a program to give his blister a chance to heal and reduce his innings in the second half, then go for it.

HARVEY: What's the plan? (AP)

HARVEY: What’s the plan? (AP)

That the decision to cut his innings coincides with the break is a fortunate bit of timing for the Mets, as Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen will have some time to structure a schedule.

“Dan and I are talking about trying to figure out how to start to cut this guy back a little bit,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday in San Francisco. “We’ll have to decide what happens on Saturday.’’

It is beginning to look as if Harvey will miss the Pirates, but it might not have come to this had he and the Mets acted sooner. Harvey said after last night’s game he’s been bothered by the blister in his last three starts and skipped his between-starts bullpen session prior to Monday.

That is incredulous.

How do the Mets not sit Harvey for one of those games, especially if in the back of their minds they are contemplating cutting his innings? Presumably, he’s been getting treatment for the blister, but if he didn’t report it to the training staff, that’s incredibly stupid on his part. If that is the case, then he didn’t learn anything when he tweaked his back earlier this season.

If he reported the blister and the Mets still ran him out there, that’s irresponsible by them.

How can this be? How can the Mets be so bent on Harvey starting the All-Star Game, yet play fast and loose with him regarding his starts for them? What is the priority?

The best way to limit innings is to skip the occasional start and not piecemeal it an inning or two at a time. This is the route the Nationals did not take last year with Stephen Strasburg.

If Harvey doesn’t pitch Saturday, and with the likelihood of him not starting the first or second game coming out of the break, that would effectively take him out of two starts in July. Finding a game each in August and September shouldn’t be difficult. If this situation is big-pictured, one missed start a month over the course of a season would be six on the year, or 28 instead of 34. That’s something to think about next year.

Meanwhile, there are currently no plans to limit Zack Wheeler’s innings, but he’s already missed time with an injury and the call-up. Plus, in his four starts with the Mets, he’s worked six innings just once, and that was his debut.

However, with Wheeler the issue isn’t innings as much as it is pitches, with his lowest being 89 in a 4.2-inning outing against Washington. This comes with him not being polished and rushed to the majors. As it turns out, the Mets need these starts from Wheeler, because they are having issues with their rotation.

Jon Niese is on the disabled list with a slight tear in his rotator cuff and at least a month away. The Mets also announced Shaun Marcum will undergo season-ending surgery to repair an artery obstruction. The surgery is similar to what Dillon Gee had last year.

Carlos Torres will replace Marcum in the rotation, but could first start in place of Harvey.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 06

Ike Davis And Zack Wheeler Bounce Back; Mets Have Decision On Josh Satin

Ike Davis and Zack Wheeler, two key, but struggling players for the New York Mets, came up big Friday night in Milwaukee. In his return from the minors, Davis had three hits, while Wheeler, who was hit hard in his previous start, settled down by throwing more fastballs.

They didn’t have great nights, but most importantly persevered. Davis still had his hitch, but it wasn’t as pronounced. He was quieter at the plate, saying he was “calming everything down.’’

WHEELER: Gets second win. (AP)

WHEELER: Gets second win. (AP)

Wheeler remains a project, but his confidence had to get a boost because he completed five innings and didn’t get overwhelmed by a two-run first. He was especially impressive getting out of a bases-loaded jam in his final inning.

Pitchers aren’t just measured when the mow down an offense, but when they escape trouble. It’s a long process from phenom to dominance, and that will come by reducing his pitch count. He threw 98 in five innings, with only 56 going for strikes.

That will change in time, and hopefully, unlike Davis, he can make the corrections without going to the minors.

Rather than lament his demotion, Davis said all the right things, such that he learned while he was down there and worked hard.

“It’s still not fun to see .160 or whatever is on the scoreboard,’’ Davis told reporters last night at Miller Park. “But I’ve got a lot of time and I can make things up in a hurry. … Leaving on a bad note and coming back on a good note, it’s nice. Hopefully I can continue this and make up some ground.’’

Davis also had praise for his replacement, Josh Satin, who is carrying a ten-game hitting streak.

The Mets have decisions to make on Davis and Satin, notably, which one of them is their future? Davis is making $3.1 million this year, which will increase in 2014. The Mets must decide if they want to tender him a contract or let him become a free agent, or even if they want to trade him. Satin hit well enough to draw interest should the Mets dangle him.

Manager Terry Collins said it is not an option to platoon Davis and Satin, and he will try to keep the latter relevant. Satin, who is hitting .353, was performing because of regular at-bats. It doesn’t look as if he’ll get them now.

Collins said Satin will hit against some lefties, and could also get time at third, second and in the outfield.

“You don’t do what Josh Satin did and then, all of a sudden, go sit on the bench. That’s not going to work,’’ Collins pledged. “I’m going to try to figure out how to get him in there, where to play him.’’

We shall see.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 05

It’s All About Learning For Zack Wheeler; Mets Need To Let Him Be

The New York Mets claimed they didn’t want to bring up Zack Wheeler and then send him back to the minor leagues. They said he was here to stay, but the qualifier is Wheeler has to pitch worthy of sticking.

Wheeler will be making his fourth start Friday at Milwaukee, but he’s gotten progressively worse since his debut in Atlanta.

WHEELER: Leave him alone and let him learn. (AP)

WHEELER: Leave him alone and let him learn. (AP)

The issue is command, which was exacerbated by Wheeler tipping off his breaking pitches. In his second start, the Mets called for more breaking balls, and he was simply a mess in his third start when he gave up five runs in 4.2 innings against Washington.

Manager Terry Collins said his staff has been tinkering too much with Wheeler, but remember he was part of that decision making process. Pitching coach Dan Warthen doesn’t construct a game plan without Collins’ knowledge, and catcher John Buck calls pitches predicated on his pregame talks with Wheeler and the staff.

With Wheeler, the Mets have been like the man with the barbeque who is always poking at the fire. They were doing him a disservice.

Now, Collins is advocating what was written here after Wheeler’s second start, which is the rookie must go more with his fastball and use that as his foundation.

“We’ve addressed a couple of issues,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday. “Once again, I don’t like handing out scouting reports. But it’s pretty basic: One of the things I really, really, really believe in – I don’t care if it’s a guy like Zack Wheeler who is strictly a power guy, or a guy like Dillon Gee – you have to pitch to your strengths.

“You can’t always pitch to the hitters’ weaknesses. I’ve had some of the greatest pitchers that ever pitched say the same thing. … That was my whole message to Zack: Don’t get away from your strengths. Just because so-and-so can’t hit a slider doesn’t mean you can’t get him out with your fastball.’’

Collins said the tip-pitching has been corrected. That, combined with throwing more fastballs, should give us a clearer pitcher of Wheeler. We will also learn tonight how well he rebounds from adversity.

Wheeler indicated he wasn’t happy with his latest bullpen session, but there isn’t always a correlation with that and how he does in a game.

Wheeler has had time to clear his head, study film of himself and go over the scouting reports. The early book on him was an ability to focus and not let things bother him.

That includes interacting with the media, which hasn’t always been smooth. There are times when he can get short and curt, but getting acclimated with the media will come in time, as will his level of comfort on the mound.

Right now, nothing is easy for Wheeler, but that’s part of the learning curve. Wheeler isn’t Matt Harvey and the Mets must have different expectations. The Mets are banking he’ll pick it up so he doesn’t have to see the minors again.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 05

Ike Davis Promotion Imminent; Mets Have Decisions To Make

Reports are the New York Mets are about to recall first baseman Ike Davis from the minor leagues in time for Friday’s game in Milwaukee.

Davis was demoted June 10, and although his Triple-A Las Vegas numbers are good, the timing is interesting. When Zack Wheeler as in Vegas, the Mets harped on disregarding statistics because the atmosphere was conducive to hitting.

DAVIS: Hope he's gotten things ironed out.

DAVIS: Hope he’s gotten things ironed out.

Using that logic, Davis’ .293 average with seven homers, 13 RBI and .424 on-base percentage must also be looked at skeptically. Davis’ mechanics and approach were a mess when he was with the Mets, evidenced by his .161 average with 66 strikeouts in 186 at-bats.

Although Davis’ minor league average is good, he does have 18 strikeouts in 75 at-bats, which is still a high strikeout ratio. Using those numbers, the Mets must wonder if his approach is what it should be.

Las Vegas manager Wally Backman said Davis’ hitch isn’t as pronounced as it once was and he’s taking more balls to left field. They will know for sure when they see him firsthand.

If Davis goes back to his old habits, then he didn’t accomplish anything. If he doesn’t and produces, it gives the Mets’ two options, 1) they could decide they want to extend his contract, and if not, 2) they could opt to trade him.

Should the Mets decide they don’t want to bring him back and make a deal, they have a little less than four weeks before the July 31 trade deadline.

The backdrop to all this is Davis, at 26, has shown signs of being a power hitter with 32 homers last year. The Mets are a rebuilding team wary of finances, and might think his $3.1 million salary that would go up in arbitration, is too high.

However, whatever Davis makes in arbitration – if he becomes the player the Mets envisioned – IS NOT TOO HIGH.

I’ve been writing his salary is a factor because that’s the way it has been for the Mets. However, CEO Jeff Wilpon said the Mets have resources to add a player, and that should also apply to Davis, because for all practical purposes he hasn’t been here all year.

And, wouldn’t they want to add a 30-homer bat?

The Mets have not made any overtures of wanting to extend him, but they rarely do during a season. David Wright and Jose Reyes were exceptions in 2006.

Caught in the middle of all this is Josh Satin, who is riding a ten-game hitting streak and is batting .353. He can’t play the outfield, so it is curious if Davis’ demotion was also an attempt to showcase Satin for a trade.

While this is a transition season, there’s no law saying they have to make all their key moves in the off-season. They could be on the verge of doing something significant now.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos