Mar 27

Don’t Force Wheeler Because Of Marcum

There are two no-brainers in place for the Mets with their latest injury news.

The first was the slam-dunk Shaun Marcum would be injured. The surprise was it happened before the team broke camp, but considering the shape he reported in, well, maybe not so much.

WHEELER: Not ready.

WHEELER: Not ready.

The second is the inevitable early clamor for the Mets to promote prospect Zack Wheeler, which should be an emphatic NO WAY.

Manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Port St. Lucie, but he has a few more days to mull it over in his mind, especially throwing Johan Santana’s name on the soon-to-be-DL list.

“There’s a reason why we sent him out,’’ Collins said. “He needs to face hitters in Triple-A.’’

Although Wheeler was impressive in his first appearance since straining his oblique muscle, too much can’t be read into that because he wasn’t facing major league hitters.

The send-off the Mets gave Wheeler was to work on his command, especially lower in the strike zone and on the corners. That includes both his fastball and breaking pitches.

GM Sandy Alderson was adamant at the start of spring training of putting Wheeler, “in a chance where he has a chance to be successful,’’ but said he’s not there, yet.

Alderson wouldn’t identify a concrete timetable, and some of it pertains to the free agent and Super Two issues. Based on service time within the first 20 days of the regular season, Wheeler would become a free agent after the 2018 season instead to 2019, and be eligible for an extra year (four instead of three) in salary arbitration.

An example of a Super Two player is the Phillies Cole Hamels, but it should be remembered he was first played in that status in 2009, the year Philadelphia went to the World Series. At last check, the Mets haven’t been over .500 since that year.

People accuse the Mets of being cheap off the time, but this is more a prudent option and an accountant’s decision. However, Alderson said if there’s a need for a player such as Wheeler or catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud they would be promoted regardless.

If Marcum isn’t ready for the season – it seems doubtful he will make Thursday’s start – the Mets will likely place him on the disabled list. It would be foolish to wait to see if he’ll be ready for the season’s second start, or even worse to push him back in the rotation.

Under those scenarios, if Marcum pitched and was re-injured, he would go on the disabled list backdated to the time of that injury and be out two-weeks. If not, he would be backdated into spring training and miss time.

Marcum sustained a pinched nerve in his neck sustained throwing in the bullpen Monday. Marcum has only broken 200 innings once during his career, and only had 124 last year.

Mar 21

Shaun Marcum Added To Mets’ Injury List; Long Season Already Here

The worst-case scenario seems imminent for the Mets.

They faced a myriad of pitching questions entering spring training, including: Johan Santana’s availability after shoulder surgery; Dillon Gee coming off surgery to repair an injury to his shoulder; and injury-prone Shaun Marcum.

All three have been answered in the negative.

One would think a free agent would report to camp in shape, but Marcum didn’t and insisted a long-tossing program was what it took instead of the normal routine pitchers use in spring training.

Marcum said all he needed was four starts, and he might not even get that as he flew to New York on the off-day to have his shoulder examined.  He was diagnosed to have an impingement and received a cortisone injection.

Marcum will not make his start today against St. Louis and Jeremy Hefner will get the ball. Marcum is penciled in as the No. 2 starter, but if he isn’t ready left-hander Aaron Laffey is the likely candidate to replace him.

It will be interesting to see how the relationship develops between manager Terry Collins and Marcum if the pitcher misses several starts. Collins, who doesn’t have a contract after this season, already is dealing from a short deck and doesn’t need another injured pitcher.

While the Mets hope Marcum will miss just today, there’s no doubt they will indefinitely be without Santana, who hasn’t thrown in weeks and has no timetable to return. Forget Opening Day, the Mets might now be thinking May 1.

Think about it, it takes six weeks for a pitcher to get ready for the season with two weeks of long-toss and bullpen work prior to the games where he’ll get six starts to build up to 100 pitches. Santana has had none of that preparation. So, at age 34 he’s going to be ready in a few days? Hardly.

Meanwhile, Gee says he’s fine physically, but his last two starts have been painful to watch. Gee gave up five earned runs in last night’s 7-5 victory over Houston. Gee gave the Mets length last night, just not results. He insisted he’s had no setback and his mechanics are off. He might get two more starts to refine them.

The Mets hoped Jenrry Mejia could be a replacement for Santana and possibly evolve as a fifth starter if Marcum flamed out. However, Mejia has forearm tendinitis and isn’t close to being ready and will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

All this leads to the inevitable question of when Zack Wheeler could be called up. Wheeler is working himself back into shape after straining an oblique muscle, so it isn’t imminent. Alderson is adamant about not rushing Wheeler for two reasons, 1) to not hindering his development, and 2) to not put him on the clock for his service time, thereby delaying the arbitration and free-agent process.

The bullpen hasn’t been immune from injuries, either. Frank Francisco has not progressed following elbow surgery last December to remove a bone spur and inflammation.

Everybody’s injuries are different and there is no set formula to handle them, but you can’t help but wonder why Francisco, who did not finish the season, waited for December to have the surgery. Having it in late September or October would have given him more time for rehabilitation.

As for Santana, he took it easy over the winter after two off-seasons of rehab. Alderson said he didn’t come to camp in shape, prompting Santana to take it upon himself to throw off the mound the first week of March when it was thought he was ten days away from throwing.

The Mets pitching is currently a mess. Thankfully, everything is all right elsewhere. Oh, wait a minute. David Wright and Daniel Murphy will likely open the season on the disabled list and the outfield remains a house of cards.

It’s only March and it is already seems a long season for the Mets.

Mar 18

Matt Harvey And Travis D’Arnaud Give A Peek At What Is To Come

A few years from now, or perhaps in July, this battery could be a big deal. Matt Harvey and Travis d’Arnaud represent the Mets’ future, and today they provided a glimpse.

Harvey, already in the rotation, gave up two runs in 5.1 innings and was backed by two hits and two runs scored by d’Arnaud in a 3-2 victory today over St. Louis. In an 80-pitch effort, of which 54 were strikes, Harvey struck out six and gave up six hits. Spring training is a progression and today Harvey saw an improvement in his breaking ball.

HARVEY: A strong showing vs. Cardinals

HARVEY: A strong showing vs. Cardinals

Of course, being a perfectionist, he wasn’t totally satisfied.

“I was really happy about my curveball,’’ Harvey told reporters in Jupiter. “Unfortunately, I gave up too many hits in my mind, but overall I’m healthy and feeling good.’’

Harvey made a good impression in ten starts last year with his fastball and composure, but went into the off-season wanting to improve his breaking ball and change-up.

“The biggest thing from last year was not having my curveball,’’ Harvey said. “I threw a lot of good ones and was able to throw it in the dirt when I needed to. That’s a big pitch for me. Having that back is definitely a big plus for me.’’

Harvey has a 2.95 ERA this spring with 24 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. Over a strikeout an inning is a tremendous ratio, but he is smart enough to realize it is better to get an out on one pitch instead of three. Harvey said 200-plus innings is a goal, and to reach it he must go deep into games by keeping his pitch count down.

“I’m starting to learn that a groundball is just as good (as a strikeout),’’ Harvey said. “Going deep into a game is on my mind. If I go seven or eight innings with three strikeouts, that’s seven or eight innings.”

The Mets gave up Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to get d’Arnaud, who they regarded as the key to the deal. When speaking of the other, each said the pitcher-catcher relationship is a matter of chemistry, and so far they’ve clicked early.

“It’s a matter of working together and getting on the same page,’’ Harvey said. “In three starts with him, it’s almost like we’ve been with each other for a couple of years.’’

D’Arnaud is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas. What he liked best about Harvey today was his poise and command.

“I thought he had a tremendous day, especially with this curveball,’’ said d’Arnaud, who will be developing a working relationship with the Mets’ other pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, soon enough.

Wheeler strained a right oblique muscle, Feb. 27, and pitched for the first time since today in a minor league game.

Wheeler posted on his Twitter account: “ Felt good to get back in a game today. Tossed three innings and one hit. Felt great.’’

METS MUSINGS: Lucas Duda homered and Bobby Parnell pitched a scoreless ninth inning after giving up six runs in his previous three games. … Ruben Tejada’s miserable spring continued with an 0-for-4. He’s now on a 2-for-33 slide. … Also struggling is Brandon Hicks, who struck out three times and has 18 strikeouts in 33 at-bats.

Mar 11

Jenrry Mejia Listed On Mets Travel Squad To Lakeland

Do not read into Zack Wheeler’s demotion that the Mets think Jenrry Mejia will replace Johan Santana on the roster and in the rotation.

When I asked Terry Collins of his preparation plans for life without Santana to start the season, the name Jeremy Hefner was only one to pop out. And, without hesitation.

MEJIA: May pitch today.

MEJIA: May pitch today.

Collin McHugh, who was also demoted to the minor league camp, made spot starts last year and could be in position again if something were to develop with Hefner.

Mejia’s development this spring was hindered when he reported late because of a visa issue and was further delayed with the thyroid ailment. He is scheduled to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Pitchers start at two innings or 30 pitches and like to work up to seven innings and 100 pitches. There’s no way Mejia can build himself up to that with the time remaining in camp.

Mejia was on the travel squad this morning to Lakeland, where the Mets will play the Tigers again.

The Mets set back Mejia’s career when they rushed him to the majors as a reliever – there was no set relief role – then optioned him back to the minors as a starter at which time he injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.

Mar 10

Mets Do Right Thing In Demoting Zack Wheeler

Even without the oblique injury, Zack Wheeler would be opening the season in the minor leagues, which was always the proper decision.

Maybe he wouldn’t have been sent down today with nine others, but as spring training goes on and the need to stretch out the starters increases, Wheeler’s innings would have been reduced, something the Mets did not want to happen.

WHEELER: Heading for Vegas.

WHEELER: Heading for Vegas.

Since he is better off getting regular innings, today’s demotion was inevitable. With the oblique hampering him, there’s no sense in trying to squeeze him in. He’s better off resuming a normal routine in the minor league camp, where he’ll throw in the bullpen again before getting into a game.

There’s always the possibility of Wheeler pitching in a “B” game, but for now he’s in the right place for his development. The Mets have long been accused of rushing pitchers – see Mike Pelfrey and Jenrry Mejia – and as they are building again they can’t afford to make a similar mistake with Wheeler, regardless how he feels.

“It’s the big leagues, of course I want to be here,’’ Wheeler said. “I’m not surprised. They told me this could happen.’’

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