Jun 21

Yup, Wheeler Is Fine … Except Goes On DL

What did I tell you about believing the injury denials from the Mets and their pitchers? Right, don’t believe a word they say. Less than 48 hours after saying there was nothing wrong with him, Mets starter Zack Wheeler was placed on the 10-day disabled list with biceps tendinitis.

WHEELER: Goes on DL. (AP)

WHEELER: Goes on DL. (AP)

“I’ve been feeling for a little while now and it has gotten a little worse,’’ Wheeler told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers. “I could miss a start or two.’’

That’s not exactly the same thing as “I feel fine.’’

An MRI showed no structural damage and GM Sandy Alderson expects Wheeler to miss one start, but that’s being optimistic. Alderson speculates Wheeler might have hit a wall after missing the last two years following Tommy John surgery.

Wheeler’s next start will go to tonight’s starter, Tyler Pill, or Rafael Montero.

Wheeler, 27, is 3-5 with a 5.29 ERA after two straight horrendous starts in which he’s given up 15 runs while working 3.2 innings. He’s worked 66.1 innings, a little more than half of what his projected innings ceiling would be.

The Mets went to a six-man rotation, in part, to protect Wheeler. An innings limit shouldn’t be an issue any longer, but the six-man rotation could be gone without Wheeler and Matt Harvey.

“Neither the starting pitching nor the relief pitching is doing very well, and that’s been true over the last week or so with the exception of Jacob deGrom,’’ Alderson said. “We’re working hard to correct it. We haven’t seen any results at this point.’’

Just the last week or so?

Jun 20

Today’s Question: What’s Wrong With Zack Wheeler?

The ancient Greeks may have had their idea of tragedy, but they never had to stay up until 2 to watch the Mets. How does a team hit four home runs and score six runs against the sport’s best pitcher, but lose the game?

WHEELER: In trouble. (AP)

WHEELER: In trouble. (AP)

Actually, it’s very simple when your starting pitcher gives up seven runs and lasts only two innings. That’s Zack Wheeler, who lasted 1.2 innings and gave up eight runs in his previous start. That’s 15 runs in 3.2 innings.

Concerned is an understatement.

“When you’ve got that kind of stuff and you’re getting hit like [Wheeler] is getting hit, there is something wrong and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’s too good. He’s got too good of stuff.’’

But “stuff’’ is too broad a term. Stuff is more than throwing hard. It includes movement, location and command of his secondary pitches.

“Honestly, I haven’t had off-speed pitches all year, and now it’s starting to catch up to me,’’ Wheeler said. “Those guys get scouting reports and now it’s starting to catch up to me. It’s easy [for hitters] when you can’t throw off-speed for strikes and you’re just throwing fastballs.’’

And, fastballs with little movement that hang out over the plate get crushed. But, it might not be just one issue.  Wheeler’s problems can be attributed to a myriad of circumstances:

HEALTH: Wheeler said he’s fine, but Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey each said they were all right and both are on the disabled list.

Mets’ pitchers are notorious for withholding physical ailments and trying to pitch through discomfort, so it wouldn’t surprise me if something crops up with Wheeler.

HITTING A WALL: Wheeler missed the last two seasons following Tommy John surgery and a complicated healing process. It’s quite possible he’s hit a wall.

The solution for that could be to shut him down for his next start and give him time to rest.

TIPPING PITCHES: Collins said they’ll look at video in an attempt to spot any mechanical issues. While they are at it, examine the tape carefully to spot any giveaways to what’s coming.

The Dodgers’ first five hitters swung the bat like they knew the pitch.

Something isn’t right with Wheeler and the Mets’ would be wise for him to skip a start as they search for answers.

 

Jun 19

Rivera And Flores Need To Play Fulltime

I don’t care where they play him, but T.J. Rivera needs to start every day. The same goes for Wilmer Flores. It doesn’t matter that neither fit into the Mets’ long-term plans heading into the season.

Manager Terry Collins said “those who hit will play,’’ and both are hitting and deserve to start, and the struggling Mets need to put their best offensive foot forward, especially against Clayton Kershaw.

RIVERA: Needs to play. (AP)

RIVERA: Needs to play. (AP)

Rivera, who had a career-high four hits Sunday, is batting second – between Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes – which theoretically should provide RBI opportunities for Cespedes and Jay Bruce.

Rivera is hitting .474 (9-for-19) since being recalled last Tuesday. The minor league batting champion hit .333 in 105 at-bats for the Mets last season and is hitting .289 this year in 117 at-bats.

That’s worthy of the chance to play full time.

“Right now, he’s one of the keys,’’ Collins said. “You got to put him in the lineup. This guy’s gonna get hits.’’

Rivera played first when he was with the Mets earlier this season when Lucas Duda was injured. He’s at third tonight.

“I just try to keep a positive mentality no matter what happens, whether it’s being sent down or not playing that day,’’ Rivera said. “I’m always looking forward to an opportunity to play. It’s not easier, but you get a little more comfortable in your at-bats, you see more [pitching] and it’s easier to react to things. The opportunity’s nice, and I’m just trying to help contribute in any way possible.’’

With Rivera at third, Flores is at first. Flores is the Mets’ leading hitter against Kershaw going 3-for-9 while Duda (1-for-11) is on the bench.

The rap on Flores has been his defense, but that’s mostly based on his play at shortstop. He’s had some yips at third, but he’s played generally well at first and hasn’t been too bad at second.

However, his best position is batter, where he’s hitting .296, with six homers and 20 RBI. He’s a lifetime .396 hitter (21-for-53) against the Dodgers. In 39 games since May 1, Flores is batting .331 (42-for-127), with eight doubles, four homers and 17 RBI.

When Cespedes was down, Flores has been the Mets’ best right-handed hitting threat.

When Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker get off the disabled list, somebody’s at-bats will dwindle, but whatever Collins does he needs to find at-bats for Rivera and Flores.

If they’re still hitting, Collins would be putting his best team on the field.

Here’s the rest of the lineup for tonight:

Conforto – CF

Rivera – 3B

Céspedes – LF

Bruce – RF

Flores – 1B

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Jose Reyes – SS

Gavin Cecchini – 2B

Zack Wheeler – RHP

 

Jun 19

Today’s Question: Is Going Against Kershaw A Reverse Lock For Mets?

Could the Mets showdown against the Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw be an example of a Reverse Lock?

KERSHAW: Smart money on him. (MLB.com)

KERSHAW: Smart money on him. (MLB.com)

A Reverse Lock is when all the stars are aligned for something to be played out one way but goes in the opposite direction.

All the stars are lined up for the Dodgers tonight. New York is struggling and Kershaw is 8-1 with a 1.49 ERA in 13 career starts against the Mets, whose hitters are batting .177 with a .245 on-base percentage against him.

In addition, Yoenis Cespedes is 0-for-9 lifetime and Lucas Duda is 1-for-11. The Mets’ leading hitter against Kershaw is Wilmer Flores at 3-for-9. Jay Bruce is 5-for-20 with two homers.

Feeling good about things?

Starting for the Mets is Zack Wheeler, who is making his first career start against the Dodgers. Wheeler is winless in his last four starts and coming off the worst start of his career, giving up eight runs in 1.2 innings last week against the Cubs.

So, if you’re into betting, why wouldn’t you place a buck or two on Kershaw tonight? That’s where all the smart money will be, making a Reverse Lock possible.

 

 

Jun 16

How Mets Derailed Harvey’s Comeback

Stuff happens, but why does it always seem to happen to the Mets? Let’s not disregard GM Sandy Alderson as a possible explanation. That’s certainly the case with Matt Harvey‘s recent trip to the disabled list for stress to his shoulder that is the cause for his tired arm.

ALDERSON: Bears responsibility for Harvey. (AP)

ALDERSON: Bears responsibility for Harvey. (AP)

When Harvey’s fastball barely touched 90 in spring training, pitching coach Dan Warthen said following thoracic outlet surgery one couldn’t expect him to be at full strength until the end of May. On March 15, I wrote if the Mets had the guts to leave Harvey off the Opening Day roster. They did not, of course, which isn’t surprising.

If Harvey wasn’t going to be full strength until May, then why was he on the Opening Day roster? Manager Terry Collins doesn’t make those decisions, Alderson does.

Perhaps there was a sense of urgency on Alderson’s part because neither Steven Matz nor Zack Wheeler were expected to be ready for the Opening Day roster. Even so, that’s not a good enough reason. Just because one player is injured and not ready it doesn’t give Alderson license to rush another player who isn’t ready.

Alderson had the authority to keep Harvey behind and chose not to. As far as Harvey goes, he’s staring at the end of his career and certainly wouldn’t rock the boat regarding his treatment.

The bottom line is that once again an issue involving Harvey was mishandled, but this time it was the Mets’ doing.