Jun 21

Jonathan Niese Must Go On DL

Whatever the outcome of Jonathon Niese’s shoulder exam this morning in New York, the New York Mets must place him on the disabled list. Not should, but must.

That reliever Greg Burke is on his way to Philadelphia this morning indicates they are thinking in those terms. Replacing him in the rotation isn’t an issue with the arrival of Zack Wheeler, so there’s no need to make a decision on Shaun Marcum for at least another two weeks.

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

NIESE: Ailing again. (AP)

Nice and neat, isn’t it?

While the Mets’ roster maneuvering will take care of itself, they would prefer the juggling if it meant having a healthy Niese. If this were an isolated incident it might raise a red flag. That this is Niese’s third problem this season is alarming.

Niese left Thursday night’s game during the fourth inning in Atlanta with pain in his left shoulder. Unlike Matt Harvey, who tried to pitch through back discomfort several weeks ago – he gets a pass because he’s in his first full season – Niese realized something was wrong after a few pitches and called to the dugout.

There was no hesitation with Terry Collins in pulling him. There wasn’t even that “let’s throw a few warm-up tosses and see what’s going on’’ nonsense that has burned the Mets before.

Niese was gone.

“It’s never good when you have to leave a game. But on a good note, the doctor did some tests and everything was negative,’’ Niese said of a training room exam Thursday night. “It just felt really weak. I think the tendinitis kind of flared up again. I felt some pain that [Tyler] Pastornicky at-bat.

“I threw a fastball and noticed my velocity was down. There was a lot of discomfort. I tried to pitch through it, but every pitch after that I felt some pain, so I just had to stop.’’

Of course, Niese should not have tried to throw those few extra pitches, but a player will always attempt to work through it because differentiating between normal game pain and injury is difficult. However, Niese had already missed a start because of his shoulder.

Niese said he felt good after missing that one start and gave the obligatory “we’ll see what the doctor says.’’

Not this time. This has gone on long enough.

Niese is young, he’s left-handed, he throws hard – at least he did before this – and under a manageable contract through the 2016 season. Not only that, Niese is good. He’s a foundation piece; part of the Mets’ core.

He must be protected.

ON DECK: Updating Ike Davis.

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

Jun 20

It Is Time Niese Prove His Worth

In all this talk about the New York Mets and their bright pitching future, Jon Niese has been overlooked. His upside has not been projected as high as that of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, but it was lofty enough at one time for the Mets to give him a long-term deal.

The Mets eschewed numerous trade overtures for him, instead opting to keep him as a building block because he’s a hard-throwing left-hander who experienced success and has a controllable contract.

However, he’s overlooked for a reason.

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

The Mets extended Niese’s contract with the expectation he’d lift them in games like tonight in Atlanta, where he’d be the difference between a winning and losing series. There’s not a high degree of confidence in him tonight.

After winning a career-high 13 games last year, Niese has not progressed. Yes, a case can be made to explain his 3-6 record because of a lack of run support, but there’s that sticky matter of a 4.15 ERA.

Niese pitched in consecutive sub-30 degree games in Minnesota and Denver and came away with stiffness in his back. No doubt, that is a contributing factor to his mediocre numbers, but what about his 1.57 WHIP?

In only four of his last ten starts has he gone into the seventh inning or further. The Mets have lost eight of those starts, and Niese has one victory in that span to his ledger.

One could argue Niese’s ERA is attributable in large part to giving up seven and eight runs in consecutive starts, but you could counter that by saying staff anchors must find away to minimize the damage, something Niese has yet to master.

This year Harvey, despite his limited experience, has proven more adept at escaping big innings than Niese. What Wheeler showed three times Tuesday night was something the Mets needed from Niese last weekend against the Cubs.

When the Mets had Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, Niese was projected as a No. 3 starter. Through attrition, he entered the season No. 1 and pitched like it in his first two starts.

Since then, he has been outpitched by Harvey consistently, and Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner over the past month. Currently, based on merit, Niese’s performance is indicative of a fifth starter at best, which is where he would be if the Mets dropped Shaun Marcum from the rotation.

I would still hold onto Niese for the same reasons: being a hard-throwing left-hander with a reasonable contract. There’s reason to believe there’s an upside to Niese, but he must start to outpitch his paltry support and perform to his expectations. He has to pitch better than his team, as all good pitchers must.

The Mets signed Niese to a long-term deal because they believed they could build around him. It is time Niese lives up to that faith.

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

Jun 20

Mets Should Trade Shaun Marcum; Others Also Available

Seriously now, these are the New York Mets. Did anybody really expect the euphoria of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler to include Shaun Marcum?

Marcum is now 0-9 after Wednesday night and it seems ludicrous to keep him in the rotation, especially when Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner have pitched well.

MARCUM: After giving up homer last night. (AP)

MARCUM: After giving up homer last night. (AP)

Two strong relief outings suggest he could survive in that role, but is that the best option for the Mets? Marcum is giving the Mets around five innings a start and his strikeout totals have been decent. Most importantly, his neck and back issues seem to be over.

Marcum’s value to the Mets isn’t as a fifth, or sixth, starter, but as a trade chip to a contender. Much of his record can be passed off as from a lack of support, and with a reasonable $4 million salary – to any contender – the time is right to try to move him now.

He has some value in the trade market, but it won’t be any higher than it is now. Maybe they can get a mid-level prospect for him, which is better than the alternative of getting nothing when he leaves after the season.

Perhaps they can get more if they package him in a trade with others. Let’s see, whom else can the Mets trade?

John Buck:  Initially, he could have been had if Travis d’Arnaud hadn’t been injured. Buck has a connection with the young pitchers that is valuable and nobody can say with any certainty when d’Arnaud will be healthy, and how well he could play when he does. KEEP HIM.

Ike Davis: Is having a miserable year, but there’s always a team that believes he can be fixed with a change of scenery. The Mets are paying him over $3 million to strike out. As with Mike Pelfrey, they can opt to non-tender him and he’d walk and they’d get nothing. DEAL HIM.

Daniel Murphy: One of the few Mets who is hitting. I have this feeling the Mets believe they could do better. Prospect Wilmer Flores will have to play eventually. Murphy would have value to a contender as a second baseman, DH and first baseman. DEAL HIM.

Omar Quintanilla: Trouble is, if they deal him who would play shortstop with Ruben Tejada injured? Does it matter? They’ll find somebody, and if nothing else, could give time to a younger player. Question: Where does he fit into their future plans? Right. DEAL HIM.

Lucas Duda: Playing first now, where he’s more comfortable than left field. If they can move Davis, Duda could move over for the long haul. Isn’t the real decision here, Duda or Davis? KEEP HIM.

Marlon Byrd: One of the few Mets who is hitting, and is showing power. He’s like Scott Hairston was last year. Mets held onto Hairston and got nothing. Will they give Byrd more than a year this winter? Not likely. They can get something for him. DEAL HIM.

Jordany Valdespin: Didn’t grasp opportunity to be a starter at second base. Mets aren’t crazy about him and hard to envision him in their future. DEAL HIM.

LaTroy Hawkins: Veteran relievers are always in demand by contenders. He’s not coming back. DEAL HIM.

Justin Turner: On DL now but is a versatile infielder that does not give away at-bats. Could fill a need. DEAL HIM.

Some of the above, I’d like to keep, but you have to be realistic. If they can’t be projected to be in the organization beyond this season, why not see what they can get? The Mets aren’t going anywhere, so they might as well start preparing for 2014.

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

Jun 19

Mets Should Enjoy Harvey And Wheeler For Now; Let Future Take Care Of Itself

Nobody can say with any certainty how the careers of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler will unfold. We’ve been bombarded with the comparisons to Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden for both.

Hell, Gooden even tweeted late last night about their future. Imagine how Twitter might have blown up if it was around when he played?

WHEELER: Enjoy him now. (AP)

WHEELER: Enjoy him now. (AP)

Will they live up to the expectations and follow Seaver into stardom, or they flame out as Gooden did?

Harvey was dominatingly spectacular in winning for the first time in over a month to break a long string of no-decisions. Wheeler, as anticipated, had control problems, but pitched out of three significant jams in six scoreless innings.

Since the trade of Carlos Beltran for Wheeler, the Mets have promised a bright future built on pitching. Throw in Jon Niese, and with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero in the minors, and it didn’t have the feel the Mets selling us a bill of goods.

We got that feeling by watching their inaction at the trade deadline and in the free-agent market.

The Mets gave us reason to believe things might be improving with a 7-4 start and after beating the Yankees four straight. This morning, following Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ game-winning homer Sunday with Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep and there’s that rise in optimism again.

The starting pitching, with Johan Santana gone and the back end of the rotation horrid early in the season, has been remarkably good the past month. The bullpen, defense and especially the hitting have dragged them down.

Yes, the game is about pitching, but a team still needs to score some runs. The Mets finally did that yesterday, and they did it in a place, and against a rotation, that has made their lives miserable over the years.

It would be easy to get carried away about yesterday and say the Mets have turned the corner. But, we can’t go there because they have quickly faded and disappointed before.

In the big picture, we don’t know what will happen with Harvey and Wheeler. But, let’s not even think of it.

Let’s just enjoy them now and watch their journey.

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

Jun 18

Zack Wheeler Lives Up To Hype

Zack Wheeler is here, so the New York Mets might as well get a real good look under his hood to see how the gears in his gut work.

The Mets believe they have another young star pitcher in their midst, but were on verge of watching a scoreless debut unravel. At the time, a Mets’ 6-1 victory and doubleheader sweep of the first-place Braves seemed highly unlikely.

WHEELER: Wins debut. (AP)

WHEELER: Wins debut. (AP)

The Braves had two on with one out in the sixth inning and Wheeler’s pitch count was approaching 100. The sixth was to be Wheeler’s last, but this time Terry Collins did not pull him so the rookie starter would have a “good feeling about himself.’’

No, Collins let Wheeler earn that good feeling by himself. Wheeler’s debut was already remarkably good, but he iced it by blowing away Dan Uggla for his seventh strikeout and getting Chris Johnson on a pop-up to second base.

It was a moment Wheeler will no doubt reflect on tonight before he falls asleep – if he falls asleep – and perhaps constantly before his next start.

Wheeler threw an emotional and encouraging 102 pitches, but only 55 of them were strikes, so that’s something he’ll work on. Six scoreless innings from Wheeler, giving up four hits and five walks.

Control was forecast to be an issue for Wheeler. It was in Las Vegas and was tonight, but that should be correctable over time. However, what can’t be taught are his 97 mph., fastball and composure to work out of trouble.

Wheeler walked two in the first, but got B.J. Upton on an inning-ending fielder’s choice. That inning could have gotten away from him easily.

Uggla hit a one-out double in the second, but Wheeler struck out the next two hitters.

Atlanta had runners on the corners with two outs in the third, but Wheeler retired B.J. Upton on a fly.

Wheeler never had a 1-2-3 inning, and seemed ready for another lack-of-support no-decision by a Mets’ starter, but catcher Anthony Recker hit a two-run homer, leaving the rookie starter to hope for his bullpen.

This time, the pen held and the Mets, unbelievably added tack-on runs. Couple this with Matt Harvey’s strong first-game effort and the Mets looked like a good team. They also made us greedy thinking how sweet it would have been to get the first game of the series.

The Mets had been riding this image since last season when Harvey burst into our consciousness. They were going to build around the young pitching of Harvey and Wheeler. That feeling intensified the past few days when it was imminent Wheeler would be promoted, and for one day at least, it all worked out for the Mets.

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