Jun 30

Was Wheeler A Premature Promotion?

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WHEELER: On an island (AP)

Can we stop pinning the greatness label on Zack Wheeler? If they hadn’t already, the New York Mets surely learned Sunday, Wheeler has a long way to go before he’s the next Matt Harvey, let alone the next Tom Seaver.

Nobody knows how Wheeler’s career will unfold, but there’s one camp believing he was rushed by the Mets. The arguments from that corner are carrying more weight after Wheeler was pounded by the Nationals in Sunday’s 13-2 rout.

Before Wheeler was brought up from Triple-A Vegas, there was the feeling of some scouts – and even a little from the phenom himself – he wasn’t ready. Contrary to the sentiments of his minor league manager, Wally Backman, Wheeler had problem with his command and secondary pitches.

Backman was wrong; Wheeler was not ready.

In his first two starts, Wheeler had problem with his command, and it surfaced in his second game he was tipping his breaking pitches. Tipping his pitches wasn’t no much the issue against the Nationals as it was simply making bad ones. The problem was again command.

“The first inning I was hitting my spots. Everything was working,’’ Wheeler told reporters after his first Citi Field start. “And then I just started leaving some balls up. I’m starting to learn the hard way you can’t get away with mistakes up here as much as you do down there.’’

Which only illustrates Backman was premature in his assessment.

Wheeler gave up four runs in the second, starting with a first-pitch homer leading off the inning by Adam LaRoche on a fastball. Jayson Werth took him deep in the third. Wheeler threw 80 pitches in 4.2 innings, a clear sign his command was nowhere to be found. He struck out five, which averaged to one an inning, but that was overshadowed by giving up five runs on six hits and two walks.

With eight runners in less than five innings, Wheeler was continually in trouble. This is not the way it is supposed to be with a phenom who has it all together.

The bottom line is Wheeler doesn’t have it all solved. By his own admission, he has a lot to learn, and he’s trying to do it all on the fly. Wheeler was rushed to the Mets, and each pitch is a test, one he is not passing.

The Mets were adamant once Wheeler was brought up that he would stay, and with injuries to Jon Niese and now possibly Dillon Gee, that’s the way it appears it is going to stay. Wheeler is now here out of necessity.

Even if the promotion might have been a mistake in the first place.

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

Jun 30

For Best Results Mets Need To Turn Wheeler Loose

After what happened Friday night, it was impressive how the New York Mets rebounded yesterday. While the baseball cliché is “there’s always a game tomorrow,’’ there can be a carry-over. Now, let’s see if there is one today in Zack Wheeler’s Flushing debut.

WHEELER: Turn him loose.

WHEELER: Turn him loose.

In his first two starts, Wheeler is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA. The Mets took him off the hook for what would have been a loss last Tuesday in Chicago, but they aren’t able to erase his wildness.

Foolishly, the Mets mandated Wheeler throw more breaking pitches against the White Sox. Unfortunately, he was tipping his pitches when he did.

Wheeler’s money pitch is his fastball. First things first: He should learn command of that pitch on the corners before going to his slider and curveball.

There are many – Wheeler included – who believe he’s being force-fed the major leagues. But he’s here now, so the Mets should put him in the best position to win. With their offense suspect and bullpen shaky at times, that means letting Wheeler go with his fastball.

There will be pressure on Wheeler this afternoon against the Nationals, but he’ll have third baseman David Wright available as a calming influence.

“It’s going to be one of the most enjoyable, memorable times for anybody making their home debut, especially as highly touted as Zack,’’ Wright told reporters at Citi Field yesterday. “Best advice is just enjoy it because it only happens once. Don’t go out and try to do too much. Don’t try to go out and impress. Do what’s got you to this point, and he obviously knows what he’s doing.’’

And, what got Wheeler here was his fastball.

NEWS NOT GOOD ON GEE: Dillon Gee gave the Mets six strong innings yesterday, but he did it with flexor tendinitis in his arm making the disabled list a possibility.

As most pitchers do, Gee said he’s fine.

“It actually felt pretty good lately,’’ Gee said after beating the Nationals. 5-1. “Hasn’t really been an issue.’’

Over his past six starts, Gee as limited opponents to one run in four of them.

METS MATTERS: One of the best pick-ups by the Mets has been outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is second on the team with 40 RBI. Ideally, you’d like to keep him in the hope the Mets will make a run toward respectability, but realistically he could prove valuable to a contender. … Terry Collins said Ruben Tejada has to beat out Omar Quintanilla when he comes off the disabled list. Quintanilla has played very well, and yesterday broke an 0-for-17 slide with two hits. … Jon Niese, on the disabled list with a partially torn rotator cuff, is scheduled for a follow-up MRI July 4, which could determine the need for surgery.

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

Jun 26

Are Mets’ Forcing Wheeler’s Development?

Here’s what the New York Mets can make of Zack Wheeler: He still has a lot of work to do. Wheeler tripped Tuesday night, but I’m inclined to agree with Ron Darling in that it was the Mets who stuck their foot out.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

WHEELER: White Sox know what pitch this is.

Darling, who has forgotten more pitching than most of us will ever know, said the Mets might have done Wheeler a disservice by having him go away from his fastball, which can be overpowering, and throw more of his slider.

Wheeler hasn’t refined his secondary pitches and pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters last night the Mets’ prized rookie was tipping his pitches by having a different arm angle for his breaking balls.

Wheeler said he was “bad,’’ after he gave up four runs on four hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. Surprisingly, Wheeler struck out one, but you’d think with a 95-mph. plus-fastball he would have had more. He would have had he mixed in more fastballs among his 109 pitches.

Wheeler is clearly not as far along and polished as Matt Harvey was last year at this time. He is more advanced with his fastball than his breaking balls, and that’s the pitch he should have used more often, if for no other reason it was an interleague game.

Seriously, when will Wheeler see the White Sox again? Just throw the fastball until they prove they can hit it.

Throwing unrefined breaking balls is even more risky when behind in the count, and of the 24 batters he faced, he threw only 11 first-pitch strikes.

Wheeler said he was bad. He might over stated things a bit, because the Mets have shown us a lot worse this year. Speaking of which, today is Shaun Marcum Day.

It wasn’t as if the White Sox knocked him around the park, but they were usually ahead in the count and generally had comfortable at-bats.

Unless Wheeler goes into a dive, the plan is for him to be here, and learn on the fly. That’s not the best way as the Mets have rushed him. By Wheeler’s own admission he wasn’t ready, but he’s not going to say, “no, I’ll stay in Vegas.’’ After all, there are only so many $3.99 all-you-can-eat buffets one you can enjoy.

So, as long as he’s here let him throw his fastball, then mix in a curve and go with the slider as his third pitch.

By all accounts, Wheeler is ahead of Mike Pelfrey when he first came up, and that includes his secondary pitches. Pelfrey became ineffective because he didn’t have command of his secondary pitches and hitters sat on his fastball.

Ideally, the Mets should turn Wheeler loose with his fastball and work in the other pitches gradually. Let him throw the pitch he has the most confidence in and go from there.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them.

 Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 25

Mets Matters: Wheeler Makes Second Start; Time To Rest Wright

Zack Wheeler has been in our consciousness for over a year, but has one start in our memories. He gets his second tonight for the New York Mets in Chicago against the White Sox.

Wheeler threw six, tense scoreless innings in his debut at Atlanta. However, four hits and five walks means he was in trouble most of the night. He needed those seven strikeouts.

WHEELER: Goes tonight vs. White Sox.

WHEELER: Goes tonight vs. White Sox.

Control was the concern at Triple-A Las Vegas and it is the issue tonight. It was impressive how Wheeler escaped trouble, but it is just as important to avoid it in the first place.

Wheeler outpitched his wildness with velocity, but it isn’t always going to work that way for him. Every game is a test, and tonight the Mets want to see Wheeler work the corners more and avoid the walks.

In making the inevitable comparisons to Matt Harvey, notice Harvey has shown exceptional control. That’s Wheeler’s next step.

METS DID RIGHT BY IKE: Ike Davis was named Player of the Week in the Pacific Coast League for hitting four homers in two games.

The Mets did the right thing in bringing up Zach Lutz instead of Davis when Lucas Duda was placed on the disabled list.

ESPN reports Davis might be brought back Thursday when the Mets are in Colorado. Davis has torn it up at Coors Field, but it would be a mistake to promote him in hope he’d catch lightning in a bottle.

Davis has posted good numbers in Las Vegas, but, remember the Mets telling us to disregard Wheeler’s PCL numbers because the ball flies out there? Well, shouldn’t the same apply in looking at Davis’ stats?

It was to be much more than just a mechanical adjustment with Davis; it was to be an overhaul of his hitting approach. He’s still striking out a lot, indicating there’s a lot more work to do.

TIME TO REST WRIGHT: Terry Collins said David Wright is due for a day off. Knowing Wright, he’ll resist, but if the Mets are to sit him for a game, tonight should be the night.

After a day off Monday, by sitting tonight he’ll have two straight days off. Thursday would have been an off day, but the Mets will lose it because or the make-up game in Denver. After that, the Mets won’t have another day off until July 11, which is in a road trip between San Francisco and Pittsburgh.

After the Pirates series is the All-Star break, but Wright figures to be busy then, too.

Jun 22

Mets Should Not Be Seduced By Davis’ Vegas Numbers

Las Vegas, I learned in grade school geography and reinforced by the movie “Casino,’’ is located in the desert, and when lost in the desert one can fall victim to a mirage. Surely, the New York Mets know this, too, and should not be seduced by the mirage of Ike Davis hitting back-to-back two-homer games.

Davis, once considered part of the Mets’ core, is in Vegas gambling he still has a major league future. He and the Mets are encouraged he’s riding a five-game hitting streak where he is 9-for-16 with four homers and seven RBI. Overall, in 11 games, he is hitting .333 with a .480 on-base percentage.

DAVIS: Not ready. (AP)

DAVIS: Not ready. (AP)

Good, but not good enough, and the Mets would be foolish to fall for the mirage Davis is now a major league hitter. Eleven games means nothing; he needs more than double that amount, perhaps triple it, to prove he’s ready.

Las Vegas manager Wally Backman talks boastfully about correcting Davis’ nasty hitch, and Mets manager Terry Collins said his reports are good in that regard.

It’s still not enough, as Davis’ problems aren’t just mechanical, but mental. His approach is wrong, and I am afraid the four homers will underscore Davis’ problem in bold.

“I am a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs,’’ Davis said this spring. “Strikeouts come with that.’’

It was a faulty answer this spring and it is just as bad now. Davis’ most impressive statistic is seven walks, but in 39 at-bats, Davis has nine strikeouts, so you tell me what he’s learned.

Davis needs to forget about pulling the ball and hitting home runs. He must concentrate on working the count, shortening his swing and using the entire field. Once he’s capable of doing that, then he’ll be putting the ball in play more and consequently his home runs and run production will increase.

That’s the approach Davis must learn, and emphasize to Backman it is something ingrained in him. If he can’t do that, then he’ll come back to the Mets and fall into the same old habits.

The Mets warned not to be discouraged by Zack Wheeler’s numbers because they are skewed by the conditions of the desert. The ball flies in the Pacific Coast League. By the same logic, shouldn’t we also consider Davis’ numbers with skepticism?

The sampling of Davis’ work is too small to make the determination he’s ready to come back. This is no time for the Mets to be fooled again.

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