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.

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Jun 18

Mets’ Harvey Not Motivated By Wheeler Promotion

Don’t buy for a second Matt Harvey’s scintillating start this afternoon had anything to do with the attention piled onto Zack Wheeler. The New York Mets have been saying one of Harvey’s signature attributes is his focus. Harvey said the same thing with his “24-hour rule,’’ in which he gives himself a day to think about his performance, good or bad.

In doing so, he’s also telling us he’s about concentration, not letting little things get to him and being single-minded in purpose. He wouldn’t be doing any of that if he used Wheeler’s promotion as a motivational tool. And, the flip side is also true in that Wheeler has enough on his mind than to attempt to equal Harvey’s performance.

The two just aren’t related. It’s a nice story, but there’s nothing to it, simply talkshow and backpage fodder.

Harvey admitted after the game he was running out of gas and probably shouldn’t have gone out for the eighth. A couple of starts ago Harvey didn’t say anything until it was too late he had tweaked his back. I appreciate Harvey’s desire to stay in the game and compete, but eventually he’ll have to trust his teammates.

Harvey has shown to be a special talent with as bright a future as any young Met pitcher, including Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, but he can’t do it alone.

Hopefully, Wheeler shows that tonight. He said he’s not a savior, but much is expected of him. Wheeler was not dominant in Triple-A, and had some physical ailments this year in a blister problem, strained oblique in spring training and missed one start with a tender shoulder. Wheeler wasn’t going to be promoted until his Super Two status was no longer an issue, but even with that no longer an issue, there’s question of him being ready.

Nobody can realistically expect Wheeler to equal Harvey’s performance. For tonight to be successful for him you’d like to see him refine his command, as his velocity won’t be an issue. You’d like to see him work out of trouble and minimize the damage when he can’t.

Oh, and one other thing, when tonight is over, let’s hope Wheeler doesn’t say it was just another game. It is not. Tonight is the first of what could the first of many in what the Mets are hoping will be a long career.

It’s not important that Wheeler becomes the second Harvey, or Gooden, or Seaver. Let’s just hope he becomes the first Zack Wheeler.

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

Jun 18

Harvey And Wheeler Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

There might be some question if Zack Wheeler is ready to assume the role of savior for the New York Mets, despite his and manager Terry Collins’ proclamations to the contrary of those lofty expectations.

With the statistical and financial numbers having been crunched, the decision is it is time to start the clock on Wheeler. The Mets don’t know who’ll be dropped from the rotation. Because of today’s doubleheader, the Mets will go at least one cycle through the rotation with six starters.

WHEELER: Future is now.

WHEELER: Future is now.

Wheeler will start the second game with Matt Harvey the opener. That pitching future the Mets have been bragging about? Well, we’ll get a glimpse today.

Ideally, the Mets don’t want to return Wheeler to the minor leagues after today. As their thinking when Harvey came up last year, they want him here to stay. Because Wheeler won’t be activated until between games, rules prohibit him of being in the dugout to watch Harvey.

That will happen soon enough.

“[It will be] a fun day,’’ Collins said this afternoon at Turner Field. “It’s a great thing for this organization and its fan base to see what the future is going to be like. We’ve got two young guys that are going to be very, very, very good.

“Pitching is the name of this game. We’re going to run two guys out there [Tuesday] that can take this organization north pretty fast.’’

Harvey has been exceptional this season, but is just 1-1 with eight no-decisions in his last ten starts. In that span Harvey has given up 19 runs. If nothing else, what Wheeler should learn quickly about pitching on the major league level is there will be times when he’ll have to do it without run support, which is what Harvey is currently experiencing.

Harvey has been successful in large part because of his composure, self-confidence and sense of worth. Harvey understands his stature and expectations of him, but hasn’t let it go to his head.

Wheeler might as well have been reciting a script given him by Harvey.

“I don’t think I’m the savior at all,’’ spoke Wheeler in a press conference Monday afternoon at Turner Field, almost a half-hour where he grew up watching Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine.

Continuing his refreshing travel down humility road, Wheeler said: “We might not be doing too well right now, but I know the talent of these guys, and hopefully we can turn it around soon. … I’m just trying to come up here and play the best that I can, help out the team any way I can.

“I know people are going to scrutinize. We aren’t doing too well right now, but hopefully we can turn it around and everybody will like us again.’’

Mets fans have liked Wheeler all spring in hope of what he might give them. Today is his first chance to deliver.

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

Jun 15

Mets’ Collins, Marcum Not Believable In Rotation Issue

It is difficult to believe either Terry Collins or Shaun Marcum regarding the New York Mets’ upcoming rotation decision to accommodate Zack Wheeler.

Whether he’s ready or not – and even he said he didn’t pitch his best at Triple-A Las Vegas – Wheeler is on his way to start the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. The Mets already bought the plane ticket; he’s coming.

MARCUM: Hammered by Cubs. (AP)

MARCUM: Hammered by Cubs. (AP)

For now, Collins said the Mets will fly with a six-man rotation, but that’s probably once or twice through. Matt Harvey isn’t cool to the idea, so guess where this will go?

If based strictly on merit, the veteran Marcum, who fell to 0-8 Friday night against the Chicago Cubs, should be the odd-man out. But, he’s making $4 million this year, which amazingly, is the fifth-highest salary in the Mets’ payroll behind Johan Santana, David Wright, John Buck and Frank Francisco. And, this  does not include the deferred money owed Jason Bay, which could drop Marcum to sixth.

Collins, operating under the belief people are idiots, downplayed the salary angle.

“When it comes down to the time to make the decision, certainly I’m not sure salary is going to have anything to do with it,’’ Collins said Friday night. “I think we’re going to take the five guys that we need to make sure are the best five to go out there.’’

Of course, salary will have something to do with it as it always does with the Mets. And, it likely won’t be Collins’ call, either.

Salary is why they kept running Bay out there every day when it was clear he had nothing. Salary is why they hung onto Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo longer than needed. Salary is why they traded Carlos Beltran for Wheeler, and one can’t yet say the Mets won that deal. Salary might be why they resisted sending down Ike Davis to the minors, a decision that might have come too late.

Salary and cutting payroll has been the essence of everything the Mets have done in the Sandy Alderson era. You’d like to believe Collins in the decision will be based on merit, but Alderson’s track record indicates otherwise.

Marcum, who has had several good moments, notably his relief appearance in last week’s 20-inning loss to the Miami Marlins, has shown a propensity of working out of the bullpen, which makes it reasonable to figure he can do that job. However, Marcum’s dwindling trade value is as a starter and taking him out of that role could make that option difficult.

Marcum said, “I really haven’t thought about it,’’ which on second thought might be the truth because he knows he’ll get his money regardless.

ON DECK:  Johan Santana visits; a reminder of a lost deal.

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

Jun 13

The Need To Extend Terry Collins’ Contract

If Terry Collins and his staff aren’t the problem as GM Sandy Alderson suggested, then why not extend their contracts through 2015, or at least, 2014? If they aren’t the issue and considered part of the solution, it would seem a prudent action if for no other reason but send a message to the players the organization has a plan.

The Mets do have a plan, don’t they?

Few things are more fragmenting to a team than a managerial search. It would be great to go into the offseason not having to worry about the manager. And, if the Mets had to search for a new manager, that would set things back.

My first choice is if the Mets believe they are headed in the right direction would be to extend Collins for two basic reasons: 1) the players have not quit on him, which is the classic sign, and 2) management has not given him enough quality players.

One can’t make a fair assessment on Collins based on the talent given him.

If you’re buying into Alderson’s opening hire comments about changing the culture and patience being needed, then Collins can’t go the first time there’s an appearance of having money to spend.

Collins was Alderson’s pick and he’s done everything asked of him. He’s even had the Mets competitive until the lack of talent wore thin.

If Collins isn’t the right guy, then neither is Alderson, who is the architect. The Mets say they are building with young pitching, and in Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, there’s potential. They are even getting good pitching from unexpected sources, such as Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner.

They rotation overcame the losses of Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, and the early hole in the back end to have pitched well. They would have more to show for their efforts if there was a bullpen and hitting. Supposedly, that’s where the freed-up money will be spent next winter, and Collins should get the chance to benefit from that spending.

If the Mets aren’t happy with the job Collins has done, then by extension they can’t be satisfied with Alderson.

There are things I don’t like about what Alderson has done, but admit part of that comes from not knowing all he knows about what’s going on behind closed doors and being impatient about wanting results.

Alderson’s draft picks haven’t produced, but how many picks are playing after three years? That must get better.

It will be interesting to see how Alderson spends this winter because his patch-quilt approach the past three years haven’t gotten it done. I understand why they went in that direction, but if what you’re telling me is true, you should have more to spend.

And, remember it not about the willingness to spend, as the Wilpons have written checks before. It is about writing them wisely. Jason Bay, Frank Francisco, Frankie Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and the list goes on, were bad baseball decisions.

Alderson’s reputation is about making smart decisions. Now, let’s see it.

So, if the Mets believe they have the right plan in place, then Alderson needs to extend Collins. And, if not, can we assume they starting over again?

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