Feb 16

Jenrry Mejia’s Role Is Set

Once he arrives in camp – which might take another week – it appears Jenrry Mejia’s spring is already laid out for him.

Barring an injury to somebody rated ahead of him, Mejia will be used as a starting pitcher and expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. This decision has nothing to do with his visa problems in leaving the Dominican Republic.

Not that they don’t need bullpen help, but this is the best course for the Mets, both in the short and long terms.

The Mets have several rotation questions, and if history is an indicator they will have a need for another starter or two this season. It is that way every summer.

And, for next year and beyond, the Mets will need another starter, as there are no plans to bring back Johan Santana.

The Mets’ projected rotation includes Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Shaun Marcum and Dillon Gee. Mejia and Zack Wheeler are next in line.

Santana and Gee are coming off injuries; Niese’s career-high is 13 victories; Harvey has ten career starts; and Marcum was a late FA pick-up. Now, you tell me that is a position of strength.

Clearly, the Mets need more starting pitching depth.

Mejia has been bounced around between the rotation and the pen, and I still maintain Jerry Manuel’s insistence of using him as an untested reliever set back his career. Through it all, Mejia’s greatest success has been as a starter, and it is the team’s obligation to put him in a position where he’s best able to succeed.

After coming off Tommy John surgery last year – and who says there’s not a connection with how he’s been handled? – Mejia’s numbers were far superior as a starter.

Mejia posted a 2.75 ERA and .245 opponents batting average as a starter compared to a 5.48 ERA and .303 opponents batting average out of the bullpen.

While it isn’t the largest sampling, it is enough to determine his comfort zone and the best place to start.

Starting pitching is expensive, and despite Fred Wilpon’s proclamation his finances are in order and the Mets will spend in the future, that’s no guarantee. What is assured, however, is the Mets don’t have the chips to deal for a starter and anybody of substance in the free-agent market will be costly. That’s another reason why grooming Mejia in this role is the prudent option because of his reasonable salary.

Mejia needs this year to fully come back from his injury and build up the strength to pitch seven plus innings every fifth day. This is the best course for both Mejia and the Mets.

Meanwhile, Mejia is working out at the Mets’ complex in the Dominican Republic and manager Terry Collins thinks it could be another week before he gets to Florida.

Feb 11

Mets Pitchers And Catchers Report Today With Several Questions

Pitchers and catchers report today in Port St. Lucie, although dozens of Mets are already in camp, which is the first encouraging sign of spring training.

As with most teams, the Mets have an array of issues and questions they must address over the next six weeks if they have hope of being competitive this season.

Gee: How healthy is he?

Gee: How healthy is he?

It begins with health and pitching, which for the Mets seem intertwined every spring. A competitive season needs a sound Johan Santana and Dillon Gee, with the Mets ideally getting 200 innings from each.

Gee is coming off surgery to remove a blood clot in his arm. He’s shown flashes, but hasn’t been projected any higher than a fourth starter. Then again, Gee has never pitched a complete season where he’s gotten over 30 starts. Obviously, if he can do that and approach 200 innings it would take strain from a makeshift bullpen.

As for Santana, this is his walk year. If he remains healthy and productive, the Mets have a chance to approach .500. However, regardless of how well he pitches the Mets will not pick up his option for 2014. Trading Santana is wishful thinking, but should they get lucky the Mets would have to assume a portion of Santana’s contract.

Complete and healthy seasons from Santana and Gee, plus the continued development of Matt Harvey will only begin to make up for the loss of R.A. Dickey, assuming, of course, he doesn’t fall back to his pre-Cy Young performance. Dickey is not the second coming of Tom Seaver, and last year was his first as a dominant pitcher. Still, it’s 20 fewer wins from the rotation.

Figuring the Mets break camp with their rotation intact, the next issue is their makeshift bullpen.

GM Sandy Alderson backtracked and Frank Francisco is the closer going in, but that’s written in pencil as he’s coming off elbow surgery. This means spring training is for the Mets to determine Francisco’s health or come up with another closer, probably Bobby Parnell or recently-signed Brandon Lyon.

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Feb 09

Ike Davis And Jon Niese Are My Indispensable Mets For 2013

Good afternoon folks. I hope you made it through the blizzard and safe today. I’m looking at almost two feet of snow. There’ve been power outages in the area and some places have nearly three feet.

I’m back on-line and looking at the Mets’ roster trying to think who might be the most important, or indispensable, players on the team.

DAVIS: Key figure in 2013

DAVIS: Key figure in 2013

When considering this, I do with the idea the Mets will not be a contender, but with a look into the future. I am looking at a starting pitcher and offensive player.

By process of elimination, I can’t choose anybody in the outfield because it is speculation as to who will be there. The names Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter are unproven so they can’t realistically be thought of as indispensible. My guess is we’ll see a lot of guys out there.

Although he’s considered the face of the Mets and by the time spring training is over could be named captain, I am also excluding David Wright. I believe Wright has already hit his ceiling, meaning he won’t eclipse his career highs in average (.325 in 2007), homers (33 in 2008), RBI (124 in 2008), on-base percentage (.416 in 2008) and OPS (.963 in 2007).

Wright will remain an important player for the duration of his contract, so I am looking for another bat and going with Ike Davis.

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Feb 08

Something To Look Forward To From The Mets

As I watch the snow pile up outside my window, I am thinking of three of the best words in sports, “pitchers and catchers.’’

NIESE: Needs to take the next step.

                       NIESE: Needs to take the next step.

The official deadline for the Mets is Monday, but the lockers are already being filled in Port St. Lucie. I am hoping to get down there this spring and have already started looking at flights.

Most of the prognosticators have the Mets fighting the Marlins to stay out of the NL East. Many of them have them losing close to 100 games. I think they’ll finish ahead of Miami and I don’t see them losing that many games. I’d like to see .500, but I’m not ready to go there, yet.

For those thinking the worst, and as Mets fans I know you’ve all done it one time or another, I’d like to give you several things to watch for that could make this an interesting, if not exciting summer.

If you’re already writing off this season, here’s a few things to talk you down off the ledge.

The soundest road to contention is with young pitching. For those lamenting the lack of power and a weak outfield, just remember what the San Francisco Giants did in two of the past three years. Speaking of sparse outfields, was the Mets’ 2000 outfield all that good?

Hardly. It’s all starts with pitching and the Mets have three bright spots they are developing.

Jon Niese won a career-high 13 games last season and has the potential, if he stays healthy, to possibly win 17 or more. To reach that level he needs to win four more games in six months. That’s roughly one more every five weeks. That’s not that big a stretch with his stuff.

Niese had a nearly 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and 1.17 WHIP in 2012 while working 190 innings in 30 starts. If he makes four more starts over 200 innings and maybe 17 wins are possible.

The Mets jumped from habit and signed Niese to a long-term contract way before they needed to because he throws hard, is lefthanded, pitches with guile and has experienced major league success. For those reasons, any team would want him but the Mets continually say no.

Two other rising pitching stars are Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The Mets have brought along Harvey at a good pace and he started ten games last year, showing overpowering stuff and more importantly, composure beyond his years. His is the type of arm franchises are built around.

While Harvey is in the Opening Day rotation, the timetable for Wheeler is later in the summer after more time in Triple A. There’s no rush to promote Wheeler early, but we’ll see him soon enough.

We should also see catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud before the year is out, and I like the idea he’ll get a lot of time with Wheeler. The key to the R.A. Dickey trade from the Mets’ perspective, d’Arnaud has power potential, but he’s also coming off knee and back injuries.

Should he pan out then the Mets can argue success in the trade of their Cy Young Award winner.

Also something to look forward to is Ike Davis’ power. Davis, skillful around the first base bag, clubbed 32 homers last year after a bad start. He’s healthy now and two good halves could make 40 homers a realistic possibility. That’s a little over one a month. He could get that, along with more walks and fewer strikeouts, with an improved plate presence.

Then there is David Wright, who played at a MVP clip in the first half before the pressures of carrying the Mets on his back became too great a burden.

I’m looking at .300, 30 and 100 from Wright, nothing less. He rarely talks about numbers, but he’d probably say the same if pressed.

No, I don’t know how the Mets will do this year. However, if these six players can play to what is expected of them, this has a chance to be an interesting summer.

Feb 07

Mets Matters: Johan Santana, Michael Bourn And Notebook

Santana13

JOHAN SANTANA PENCILED IN FOR OPENING DAY

Manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Port St. Lucie he expects Johan Santana to be ready for the start of the season and penciled him in to be the Opening Day starter, April 1, against San Diego at Citi Field. A healthy Santana is a no-brainer.

The Mets deny overworking Santana in his 134-pitch no-hitter, June 1, but there can be no denying his 8.27 ERA in his following ten starts, which included a career-high six-game losing streak.

He was shut down with lower-back inflammation in August. Collins attributed that to fatigue. Whether it was or not, it was another physical ailment for Santana, who is in his walk year. Santana will make $25 million this year and not expected to be brought back in 2014.

There’s little doubt if Santana is able he would be the ball. If not, look for Jon Niese, a 13-game winner last  year, to get the honor. Incidentally, Toronto already named R.A. Dickey as its Opening Day starter.

Nothing new with Bourn: MLB is not yielding on its position the CBA is clear the first 10 picks are protected and not the 10 worst records. The Mets were leapfrogged by Pittsburgh because the Pirates were unable to sign their 2012 pick.

The dispute is expected to go to arbitration to be resolved before the Mets make an offer to Bourn. The Mets’ stance is they shouldn’t be penalized because the Pirates failed in signing their pick, which is a plausible argument.

As of now, the Mets seem poised to using a largely inexperienced outfield, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center, flanked by Lucas Duda and Mike Baxter.

Mets Notes: The Mets are close to completing a deal for reliever Brandon Lyon, pending a physical. … The Mets’ spring training home is back to being called Tradition Field after being referred to as the non-catchy Digital Domain Park the last three years. That company is having financial troubles and is no longer able to sponsor the stadium. … Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Monday, but ESPN reports there’s already a full house. Early arrivals include: David Wright – who always shows ahead of schedule – Duda, Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, Baxter, Bobby Parnell and Nieuwenhuis. Ruben Tejada, who drew Collins’ wrath last spring when he didn’t show early is due in Saturday. That, of course, depends on the storm expected to slam the East Coast starting tomorrow morning and continuing until Saturday.