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

Jul 01

What Will Mets Look Like At The End Of The Month?

Welcome to July 1, which for followers of the New York Mets is the month we find out just how much they want to blow this team apart. The New York Post already reported the Mets won’t add a significant piece, such as Carlos Gonzalez, at the trade deadline.

But, you already knew that, right?

A step forward would be trying to make a run at finishing .500, but we’re not likely to see that commitment. As of now Sandy Alderson hasn’t shown us he’s will to take that leap.

PARNELL: Key trade piece.

PARNELL: Key trade piece.

The names are out there of whom the Mets might deal for draft picks and prospects: Bobby Parnell, Marlon Byrd, Daniel Murphy, Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee. They would undoubtedly draw interest from a contender as each fills a need.

Trouble is, as the Mets move forward which they claim is the direction they heading, they are the kind of players they will eventually need, also. They aren’t core players, but essential in the building process. Trade them now, and you’ll need to get similar players later.

Of course, that takes more time. Dealing them tells you the Mets are blowing up what they have now and are taking a step back. It basically tells you there will be another two or three years of wasted Matt Harvey starts.

Then, there are the key prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, the kind of young talent that could procure a Gonzalez. If the Mets deal them, they are telling us they are ready to contend now. However, if they do that they’ll  need guys such as Hefner and Parnell and Byrd.

Trouble is, the Mets are in no-man’s land. They aren’t good enough to contend now, and we really don’t know just how long it will take until they are able to contend on any level. We have no idea of what this team will look like at the end of the month.

What we do know in the building of a franchise, as they are in Pittsburgh, is go with young pitching and a young star like Andrew McCutchen. The Mets appear to have the young pitching, despite their inclination to force-feed Zack Wheeler, but their young star, David Wright, is no longer a young star.

They need a centerpiece bat like a McCutchen or a Gonzalez, but their chips are Syndergaard and Montero. Alderson has to determine if they add Gonzalez, then what other pieces do they need?

The Mets have failed miserably in their development of young hitters. There’s Wilmer Flores, but the Mets don’t have any idea where they want to play him, or the inclination of seeing if he can hit on this level. It is puzzling as to why the Mets haven’t determined where Flores fits best and just play him at that position. Have they even considered trying him at first base and seeing what they could get for Ike Davis? With Davis possibly not being tendered this winter, he’s the one guy to deal.

The player with the most upside to trade is Parnell, but if they trade for a centerpiece bat and enter contender status, won’t they need a closer?

No, they aren’t a dime a dozen. It has taken Parnell several years to become a closer, and he’s still learning. Trade him and you’d be wasting even more Harvey starts.

If they Mets don’t want to surrender their young pitching, their only chance to emulate the Pirates is to overpay for a proven bat this winter. With Johan Santana’s money coming off the books, they must spend it there, and not on replacing the holes left by trading Parnell or Byrd or Gee.

You can see where this is heading. They’ll probably deal off a few parts whose contract will expire after this season, like Byrd and Davis. Then they’ll deem themselves not ready to spend, or what is out there isn’t good enough, and not add anybody.

They will continue to spin their wheels.

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

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