Apr 10

Hefner Clobbered In Mets 7-3 Loss To Phillies

jeremy hefner

The Philadelphia Phillies handed the Mets their first series loss of the season tonight as they pounded the Amazins’ by a score of 7-3 in a game that featured six home runs at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

Jeremy Hefner took the hill for the Mets and and for the second night in a row a Mets starting pitcher failed to get past the third inning. Hefner struggled right from the get-go surrendering five earned runs including home runs from Chase Utley and Dominic Brown. All of his offerings were up and in the hot zone and the Phillies made him pay dearly for it.

The bullpen was forced to deliver six innings of relief for the second night in a row and once again it was a mixed bag. Josh Edgin was nearly flawless, delivering two scoreless innings and striking out four in his sixth appearance of the season with a 1.59 ERA. He won’t last long at this pace. Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell also kept the Phillies off the board. LaTroy Hawkins was nailed for a two run homer and his ERA has now ballooned to 8.59 so far this season. He’s not missing any bats and hitters are feasting on him.

Lucas Duda had a coming out party with two home runs and a double and he’s getting his mojo back. He has his average up to .308 now and look is comfortable at the plate again. Good for him…

Jordany Valdespin is an absolute stud and made Terry Collins eat his words tonight with two more spectacular catches in centerfield that were jaw-dropping grabs.

On Opening Day, when Collins was asked why Valdespin didn’t win a starting job after arguably the best performance in spring training, he responded’ “We’re very concerned about Jordany’s outfield defense.” You may want to get your eyes examined, Skip…

Valdespin was a catalyst both on the field and at the plate where he banged out three hits while batting leadoff in his first start of the season. It was the first three-hit game of his career and they were all infield singles that relied on his blazing speed.

Did someone say John Buck? Man oh man, Buck is on one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now. He is unstoppable and at this point pitchers have got to be nuts for trying to get a fastball by him. His eyes expand as big as golf balls and he makes a meal out of them.

Buck hit his fifth homer of the season, matching what all the Mets catchers combined to hit last season.  I have no idea how long this hot-streak will last, but I’m buckled in and I’m enjoying the thrill ride.

Right now, the Mets have just two reliable pitchers in the rotation and it doesn’t look like there’s any urgency to fix the backend of the rotation. That spells doom for the bullpen who may become completely gassed before the end of the month.

When that happens, it will be a struggle to avoid a 90 loss season, and even the eventual debuts of Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud won’t keep that from happening. This team is in trouble and needs some real production from David Wright who has yet to homer, and Ike Davis who looks like a butcher at the plate. It’s not time to hit the panic button yet, but it’s certainly time to start passing around the life jackets just in case.

The Mets are off tomorrow and travel to Minnesota for a three-game weekend series that begins Friday night. Collins has got a lot of thinking to do tomorrow, and he may want to start by reconsidering some of his ill-advised lineup and roster choices.

Apr 10

Mets Have Rotation Concerns; Wheeler Not Answer

The night Dillon Gee had in Philadelphia happens to all pitchers. It happened to Stephen Strasburg the other day. It will happen to Matt Harvey. It is premature to worry about Gee two starts into the season. It was not a game worthy of capital punishment.

It was a file-and-forget game.

GEE: Spent week in Philly last night. (AP)

GEE: Spent week in Philly last night. (AP)

“There’s not a whole lot to say. A terrible night,’’ Gee told reporters. “But you’ve got to move past it.’’

He’s right, so let’s move on to something worthy of concern.

With Gee’s short outing and Aaron Laffey not getting through five innings Sunday, the Mets’ bullpen has worked 4.2 and five innings in two of the last three games. That’s over the equivalent of an entire game.

The accumulation of innings by the bullpen is already a concern for manager Terry Collins as it indicates a three-fold problem: 1) the Mets have a problem with the back end of their rotation, 2) they lack a quality long man, somebody who can give them three or more innings when a game gets away early, and 3) this will eventually add up to a bullpen meltdown.

That is why Collins took Lucas Duda out of the game in a double-switch in the fourth inning. He explained the need to get two innings out of Greg Burke, and the No. 9 spot in the order was due up second the next inning.

It makes total sense.

Last night was the 51st start of Gee’s career, and he’s gone at least five innings in 47 of them, so let’s not get crazy with him. However, he’s also a No. 3 starter and the Mets need him to get out of the sixth on a consistent basis.

The difference between five and six innings over a full season – considered 34 starts – is 34 innings, or roughly four games. It adds up and if Collins is already thinking of these things, it isn’t an indication of comfort.

That’s why the Mets’ refusal to consider Aaron Harang is puzzling. Since 2005, he’s worked at least 180 innings in all but two years. Three times he’s gone over 200 innings. That’s acceptable for a No. 4 and No. 5 starter. Unless Harang has an injury we don’t know about, if he becomes a free-agent in a week (he was recently designated for assignment) the Mets should be calling him.

The Mets were fortunate to have Harvey to slot in between Gee and Laffey – caused by the off day last week – but that won’t always be the case. If Collins can maneuver it, he should separate Gee and Laffey whenever possible to avoid consecutive short days by the starters.

However, he is limited because there’s also Jeremy Hefner, who is not a proven long haul starter. With the exception of last night and Laffey, the Mets have received strong starts in every game, but that won’t last all season.

Naturally, when the topic is the Mets needing a quality starter the talk turns to Zack Wheeler. Let’s say it one more time about Wheeler: He is not ready.

Wheeler was rocky again last night as he gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in 5.1 innings and 92 pitches. For Wheeler’s stuff, 92 pitches should translate into eight or nine innings, not one out into the sixth. It doesn’t matter that three of the runs were unearned. The unearned runs indicates Wheeler strained to get out of trouble.

So, unless Wheeler proves he can get himself out of trouble, he won’t be able to get the Mets out of trouble.

ON DECK:  A look at Jeremy Hefner.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Apr 07

Zack Wheeler Very Close To Big League Debut

zack wheeler

According to Mark Hale of the New York Post, Triple-A manager Wally Backman believes Zack Wheeler is not far away from being promoted to the Mets despite his rough outing on Thursday, and drew comparisons to Matt Harvey.

“He is the same spot Matt Harvey was at last year, I would say,” Backman said of Wheeler in a phone interview with The Post Friday. “It’s a matter of command. I think it’s going to be a matter of consistency.”

“He struggled with command a little bit Thursday night. It was the first game. He was rushing a little bit. He showed signs of just dominating, and then he’d get a little bit erratic.”

Wheeler had big command issues walking three of the first six batters he faced. He was unable to complete the fourth inning after tossing 86 pitches in 3.1 innings.

Last season, Wheeler went 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA in six Triple-A starts, striking out 31 and walking 16 in 33 innings.

Apr 06

When Can We Expect To See Rafael Montero Make Mets Debut?

MiLB: JUL 12 - St. Lucie Mets at Tampa Yankees DBL Header (Game 2)

Tommy K. asks…

When do you think we’ll see Rafael Montero in Citi Field?

Joe D. replies…

Good question. The organization is very high on Montero and not too many 22-year old pitching prospects from A-Ball get invited to spring training and stick around as long as he did.

Montero needs a little work mechanically and was already working on a few things at the minor league side of camp before he was assigned to Binghamton and debuted with a dominating performance. His fastball sat at the 92-93 mph range last season, but he picked up some velocity and is now predominantly at 93-94 and can hit 95. Most likely because he’s bulked up a bit over the winter.

I would expect Montero to get bumped to Vegas once the Mets decide to promote Zack Wheeler to the majors. However, Wheeler had a rough first start on Thursday. He continues to struggle with command and his pitch count (86 pitches, 51 strikes, 3 1/3 innings) was alarming to say the least. He clearly isn’t ready just yet and needs to improve in a few areas before the Mets even consider the thought of bringing him up.

That said, Montero can still make his way to Triple-A with more performances like this past one (5.2 innings, 2 H, 0 BB, 8 K) regardless of Wheeler’s fate. I don’t think it’s out of the question to see Montero promoted to Vegas by mid-May, and he’ll certainly get a call-up in September this season if not sooner.

The domino effect to Montero getting bumped would mean a promotion to Double-A for Jake deGrom or possibly even Noah Syndergaard if he’s outperforming deGrom. One of them will be in Bingo by Memorial Day at the latest.

Check us out at MetsMerizedOnline.com.

Apr 05

Zack Wheeler Roughed Up In Vegas Debut

For those thinking Zack Wheeler will be the answer to the gaping hole in the Mets’ rotation, think again. He’s at Triple-A Las Vegas for a reason, and that being he’s not ready. Injuries to Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum will be handled without compromising Wheeler’s development.

WHEELER: Rocked last night.

WHEELER: Rocked last night.

Jeremy Hefner tonight against Miami and Aaron Laffey Sunday is what it is going to be. If they get through those starts intact, then they’ll get another.

“I don’t know what they have planned for me,’’ Wheeler told me in spring training when asked if there was a timetable for his promotion. “All I know is I have to keep working and improving.’’

Wheeler identified his growth obstacles as control and command of his secondary pitches, notably his change-up. He’s not able to consistently throw it for strikes, especially when behind in the count and hitters are sitting on a fastball.

“It’s a feel pitch,’’ Wheeler said. “It’s the toughest pitch for me to command. It takes a lot of work.’’

Wheeler, who missed time this spring with a strained oblique muscle, has reported no discomfort since he was cleared to pitch, but nonetheless hasn’t been sharp He said there’s nothing wrong physically, but remains in a mechanical funk.

In his debut last night for Las Vegas, Wheeler didn’t get a decision, but there was no hiding the difficulty in his start, as he labored through 86 pitches in 3.1 innings, giving up a run on three hits, but with three walks and a wild pitch. For the 86 pitches Wheeler threw, he should have worked into the sixth or seventh innings at least. A no-decision with 86 pitches is a wasted start.

General manager Sandy Alderson repeatedly said this spring the Mets won’t rush Wheeler. Part of sending him down for the first six weeks of the season is to give the Mets another year of control to keep him off the free-agent market for another year and delay arbitration.

“He’s not ready,’’ Alderson said. “We’re not going to bring somebody up where he would be in position to fail.’’

Wheeler had spectacular moments this spring when he overpowered hitters and impressed with his composure, but it was early so not much can be drawn from that other than optimism.

Last night is no indication of what kind of year, let alone career, is in store for Wheeler. But, the lack of command underscored he isn’t ready to dominate major league hitters. For all the talk Wheeler might have better stuff than Matt Harvey, that’s not the issue. That’s only speculation that doesn’t help either pitcher.

So, those dreaming of a Harvey, Wheeler and Jon Niese trio, keep dreaming. It’s not coming any time soon.

NOTE: I’ll be back later this afternoon with posts on Hefner/Buck working together tonight; the continuation of the 73 series; an analysis of the lineup; and a game wrap. Please drop in throughout the day. Thanks.