Series preview: Mets vs. Marlins

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
7:30
AM ET

Getty ImagesBefore heading into the All-Star break, the Mets are due to face the Marlins' Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler and Brad Hand.
METS (42-50, fourth place/NL East) vs. MIAMI MARLINS (44-47, third place/NL East)

Friday: RHP Zack Wheeler (4-8, 4.07) vs. RHP Henderson Alvarez (6-3, 2.27), 7:10 p.m. ET

Saturday: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-3, 3.32) vs. RHP Tom Koehler (6-7, 3.98), 4:10 p.m. ET

Sunday: RHP Jacob deGrom (2-5, 3.38) vs. LHP Brad Hand (0-1, 5.09), 1:10 p.m. ET

Marlins short hops

• Outfielder Marcell Ozuna has hit safely in 15 straight games, during which he has produced a .368 average (21-for-57) with three homers and eight RBIs. The hitting streak is one shy of matching his career high, produced last season. Ozuna’s two-run homer against Addison Reed in the ninth inning on Tuesday gave Miami a 2-1 win at Arizona.

Of course, Ozuna had two outfield assists in the final two innings on June 20, during the last series against the Mets, in order to preserve a Miami win. He became the third player in Marlins history with two outfield assists at the plate in the same game, joining Joe Orsulak and Emilio Bonifacio. Like Orsulak, both of Ozuna’s throws did not require a relay.

The 23-year-old Ozuna has 15 homers and 51 RBIs in 326 at-bats this season.

• Closer Steve Cishek blew only his third save in 23 chances Wednesday at Arizona. The Diamondbacks scored three runs in the bottom of the 10th, capped by Paul Goldschmidt’s two-run double, in a 4-3 walk-off win. It marked the first time in Cishek’s career that he failed to record at least one out in a save situation.


Associated Press, Getty ImagesChristian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton form a standout young triumvirate for the Marlins in the outfield.


Giancarlo Stanton went hitless in 11 at-bats in the D-backs series and is 3-for-24 on the Marlins’ current road trip. Stanton is the lone Marlins All-Star selection, despite strong candidacies from right-hander Henderson Alvarez and third baseman Casey McGehee. Stanton finished fourth in fan balloting in the outfield at 3,753,961 votes. He missed a chance to start by finishing 305,785 votes behind No. 3 Yasiel Puig.

Despite his recent slump, Stanton still leads the National League with 21 homers and 63 RBIs. His 4.9 WAR is second in the NL, trailing only Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki (5.7).

• Alvarez produced three hits Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals. He is a career .269 hitter, with one homer and seven RBIs in 67 at-bats. On the mound, Alvarez is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA since May 22. He has allowed only one home run during that nine-start span -- a solo shot by Kolten Wong on Sunday.

The Marlins have won Alvarez’s last 10 starts, a franchise record. The previous record? The Marlins won nine straight starts by Chris Hammond back in 1993, their inaugural season, when they finished 64-98 overall.

Alvarez’s 2.27 ERA ranks fourth in the league, trailing only St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright (1.79), Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto (2.03) and L.A.’s Josh Beckett (2.26).

• McGehee’s 112 hits are tied for the NL lead with the Mets’ Daniel Murphy and Giants’ Hunter Pence. The lone player in Marlins history to lead the league in hits at the All-Star break was Luis Castillo in 2002. McGehee and Stanton are the first Marlins teammates with 100 hits apiece before the All-Star break since Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu in 2008.

After spending last year in Japan, the 31-year-old McGehee is hitting .320 with one homer and 53 RBIs in 350 at-bats this season. His 52 RBIs as a third baseman already are the most by a Marlin at that position since Cantu finished ’08 with 70.

• Left-hander Brad Hand has made two starts since getting activated from the disabled list and entering the rotation July 3. He is winless in his past 14 appearances as a starter, the third-longest active streak in the majors, despite allowing only one unearned run in 6 1/3 innings on Tuesday at Arizona. His last win as a starter came July 7, 2011 against the Houston Astros.

Hand, who mostly has been ineffective while serving in long relief this season, had landed on the DL with a right ankle sprain.

• Two days after Hand returned from the DL, rookie Andrew Heaney was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans. Heaney had limited the Mets to one run in six innings in his major league debut on June 19, but had allowed 14 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings over his next three starts.

• Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (right triceps strain) returned from the disabled list on Sunday.

• Left fielder Christian Yelich is batting .356 (16-for-45) with one homer and five RBIs in 10 games since returning from the disabled list, where he had landed with a lower-back strain.

• After getting reinjured during the last Mets series, Rafael Furcal landed on the DL on June 22 with a left hamstring strain. Derek Dietrich initially took over at second base, but he landed on the DL on July 4 with a right wrist strain. Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas since have started at the position.

Morning Briefing: Now don't stumble!

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
5:37
AM ET

Marc Serota/Getty ImagesMiami's Jose Fernandez (left) is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the Marlins have won the last 10 games started by Henderson Alvarez (right).
NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: The Mets portray themselves as still part of the NL East race.

If they want to validate a series win against the Atlanta Braves, then they better head into the All-Star break strongly by taking care of business against the Miami Marlins, too.

Zack Wheeler (4-8, 4.07 ERA) opposes right-hander Henderson Alvarez (6-3, 2.27) in Friday’s 7:10 p.m. series opener. The Marlins have won Alvarez’s past 10 starts. He is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA since May 22.

Friday’s news reports:

Bartolo Colon allowed a pair of first-inning runs and that proved enough as the Atlanta Braves snapped the Mets’ season-high four-game winning streak with a 3-1 win Thursday at Citi Field. The Mets fell short of claiming their first four-game sweep against Atlanta in 25 years.

Colon has allowed 18 first-inning runs, trailing only Philadelphia’s Kyle Kendrick (23) in the majors this season. The total matches the most allowed by a Mets pitcher before the All-Star break in the past 40 years, according to STATS. Dwight Gooden in 1993 and Paul Wilson in 1996 also surrendered 18 first-inning runs.

Opponents are hitting .363 against Colon in the first inning this season, compared with .246 the remainder of his outings.

After limiting the Mets to one run in seven innings Thursday, Aaron Harang -- who finished last season with the Amazin’s -- now has held his former club to two runs and six hits in 20 innings this season.

With 70 games remaining, the Mets (42-50) trail the co-division-leading Braves and Nationals by eight games.

Read game recaps in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record, Times, Journal and at MLB.com.

• Columnist George Willis in the Post takes the position that it is best to trade Colon this month. Writes Willis:

Trading Colon and what’s left on his two-year contract worth $20 million should be a no-brainer, but now that the Mets fancy themselves as a contender, general manager Sandy Alderson might decide to wait until they have no chance of making the postseason or wait until a team becomes desperate enough to make him an offer for Colon that he can’t refuse.

Clearly, Collins seems reluctant to move one of his more dependable starters, especially now that Jon Niese is on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. Collins is not only battling to get into a pennant race, but also is trying to keep his job and probably isn’t concerned about the young prospects a Colon trade might bring in return.


Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY SportsFirst-round pick Michael Conforto appears headed to Brooklyn, pending a physical.


• First-round pick Michael Conforto’s long-awaited deal with the Mets is complete pending a physical, a source told ESPNNewYork.com. Conforto, who receives a $2.97 million signing bonus, is expected to be assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones. The outfielder was a two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year at Oregon State.

• The heavy dependence on a handful of core relievers may be using up all of their bullets and leave the Mets in trouble down the stretch. This week, Jeurys Familia's velocity sagged in one outing. Then he had trouble loosening up for his next appearance, although the fastball zip returned. Writes Jared Diamond in the Journal about the relief workload:

Entering Thursday's series finale against the Atlanta Braves, Familia had appeared in 35 games since May 1, the most of any pitcher during that span. He worked more than one inning in 10 of those outings, giving him 46 total innings on the year -- fourth-most among National League relievers. (Famila threw 19 2/3 innings between the majors and minors in 2013 as he recovered from elbow surgery.)

Even more alarming, the leader in that category also plays for the Mets: Carlos Torres, the 31-year-old righty who entered Thursday with 57 1/3 innings out of the bullpen, the most of any reliever in baseball.

David Wright’s jersey is the eighth-most popular in the majors in terms of sales via MLB.com since Opening Day.

• Lloyd Carroll at Latino Sports reviews Sandy Alderson’s press conference from earlier this homestand.

• The Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka has a partially torn UCL in his pitching elbow, but will try to rehab rather than undergo Tommy John surgery. That should sound familiar to Mets fans, who watched Matt Harvey deliberate for two months before ultimately undergoing the procedure. Of course, all partial ligament tears are not created equal, and Tanaka’s tear reportedly is considered small. Read about Harvey’s advice for Tanaka in the Post, Star-Ledger, Newsday and at MLB.com.

• Although Terry Collins pinch-hit for Ruben Tejada in the eighth inning -- leading Eric Campbell to play his first major league inning at shortstop in the ninth -- Tejada has been producing, Michael J. Fensom writes in the Star-Ledger.

• Colon batted eighth for the first time in his career, Mike Puma noted in the Post. Colon ended up coming to the plate, and striking out, with two runners aboard to end the second inning. Previously, Collins had only used pitchers Jacob deGrom and Jonathon Niese in the No. 8 slot (three times apiece).

• Starter Tyler Pill allowed four runs in the fifth inning in his Triple-A debut on Thursday, but Las Vegas already had staked him to a seven-run lead by that point en route to a 9-4 win against Reno. Brandon Allen homered and produced five RBIs in the 51s win. Travis Taijeron had a three-run homer and Darrell Ceciliani and Xorge Carrillo each had two hits and two RBIs as Binghamton beat Portland, 13-3.

John Lannan allowed one run in 4 1/3 innings, but St. Lucie lost at Bradenton, 4-1. Ricky Knapp was credited with a rain-shortened, seven-inning complete game as Savannah beat Charleston, 4-1. Starter Yoan Gonzalez allowed three runs (two earned) in four innings as Kingsport lost to Elizabethton, 4-2.

Casey Meisner allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings as Brooklyn lost at State College, 4-1. Kevin Canelon allowed two runs in the 12th inning as the GCL Mets lost to the GCL Nats, 7-5. Dash Winningham had two extra-base hits and two RBIs in the defeat.

Read the full minor-league recap here.

• Citi Field is hosting the “Bacon and Beer Classic” on July 26, while the Mets are on the road. Read more here.

• Evan Drellich in the Houston Chronicle writes that the Houston Astros and Nationals are making progress toward becoming spring-training neighbors of the Mets in a shared complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., come 2017.

• Right-hander Kevin McGowan, the Mets’ 13th-round pick in 2013 out of Franklin Pierce University, is featured in The Telegraph of Nashua, N.H.

From the bloggers … Blogging Mets says the Mets must find a way to keep Campbell in the lineup.

BIRTHDAYS: Blaine Boyer turns 33 today. … Minor-league right-hander Greg Peavey is 26. … 11th-round pick Connor Buchmann is 21. ... Donne Wall was born on this date in 1967.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Can the Mets actually make a run in the NL East?

Minors 7.10.14: Allen, den Dekker dominate

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
1:28
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LAS VEGAS 9, RENO 4: Left fielder Brandon Allen hit his 11th home run of the season and drove in five runs for the 51s. Allen and Matt den Dekker each had three of the 12 Las Vegas hits. Starter Tyler Pill allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings, but the 51s bullpen was much better. Gonzalez Germen, just sent down on Tuesday, pitched two scoreless innings with five strikeouts. Box

BINGHAMTON 13, PORTLAND 3: Designated hitter Travis Taijeron hit a three-run home run and a run-scoring single for the B-Mets, who completed a four-game sweep. Center fielder Darrell Ceciliani tripled and singled. Starter Steven Matz allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings. Box

BRADENTON 4, ST. LUCIE 1: John Lannan allowed one run in 4 1/3 innings to lower his ERA to 7.50. L.J. Mazzilli had two hits and drove in a run for the Mets, who committed six errors and were swept in the three-game series in Bradenton. Box

SAVANNAH 4, CHARLESTON 1 (8 inn.): Ricky Knapp allowed one run in seven innings to give the Sand Gnats a rain-shortened win. Third baseman Cole Frenzel went 3-for-3, while catcher Colton Plaia had a two-run single. Box

ELIZABETHTON 4, KINGSPORT 2: Third baseman Pedro Perez hit a two-run home run in the top of the first, but that was it for the Mets. Starter Yoan Gonzalez allowed three runs in four innings and took the loss. Box

STATE COLLEGE 4, BROOKLYN 1: Tyler Moore and Tomas Nido had the only two hits for the Cyclones. Starter Casey Meisner gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings. Box

GCL NATIONALS 6, GCL METS 4: Starter Audry German allowed six runs in 5 2/3 innings. Designated hitter Darryl Knight had two of the Mets' six hits and drove in two runs. Box

First still the worst for Bartolo Colon

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
11:44
PM ET
videoNEW YORK -- Bartolo Colon has been pitching in the major leagues for 17 years. He knows how to make it through the first inning.

So what the heck has been going on for the past month?

Colon's career ERA in the first inning is 3.80, which is actually better than his overall career ERA (3.95).

Fine, but Colon's first-inning ERA over his past five starts is 19.80. What makes it especially puzzling is that Colon's ERA after the first inning in those same five starts is 1.13.

[+] EnlargeBartolo Colon
Elsa/Getty ImagesBartolo Colon's first-inning ERA over his last five starts is 19.80.
So yeah, there's something going on here, something that the New York Mets aren't ignoring, especially after two first-inning runs cost Colon again in a 3-1 Thursday night loss to the Atlanta Braves.

The Mets had Colon throw longer than normal in the bullpen before this one. Colon said it helped -- except that he went out to the mound and allowed a single to Andrelton Simmons, a double to Freddie Freeman and a single to Jason Heyward.

Just like that, two runs. Just like that, a deficit that the Mets never did overcome, ending their chances at a four-game sweep of the Braves.

"I don't know what it is," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We certainly have searched and searched and searched and haven't fixed it. We'll keep working."

Freeman's first-inning double was the only extra-base hit that Colon allowed in eight innings Thursday. He allowed the Braves just one run and seven hits in seven innings after the first.

"Eight innings, three runs, if you want to look at it as a whole, he did a great job," catcher Travis d'Arnaud said.

That's true, and if the Mets had kept hitting the way they had earlier in the week, perhaps we wouldn't be writing about this right now. But with a 19.80 ERA in the first and a 1.13 ERA after the first (and with 18 first-inning runs for the season, the second-most in the majors), the Mets themselves would still be working to figure out what's wrong.

"I just know that in the first inning, he threw more pitches over the heart of the plate," d'Arnaud said. "After that, he threw more pitches on the edges of the plate."

Colon lowered his ERA for the season to 3.99. He has pitched well enough that if the Mets want to trade him, they would likely find teams interested (although it didn't appear there were any scouts at Citi Field who were specifically there to watch him).

For now, though, the Mets are still holding to the idea that they can force their way back into contention, even though they're eight games under .500 and eight games behind both the Braves and the Washington Nationals.

Colon hasn't been the problem. But Colon's recent first-inning performances haven't helped.

Rapid Reaction: Braves 3, Mets 1

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
10:03
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NEW YORK -- Three out of four is not bad.

Understandably, the New York Mets wanted more. They hoped for more. Perhaps they even needed more, if you believe they can still make it back into contention in the National League East.

What they got this week was three straight wins over the Atlanta Braves, and then a loss in the series finale Thursday night at Citi Field. Bartolo Colon had his usual first-inning hiccup, and also his usual fine recovery after the first. But the Mets couldn't come back against Aaron Harang and the Braves' bullpen.

So the Mets still haven't swept a series against the Braves since July 20-23, 1989, so long ago that it came against a 97-loss Braves team -- four years before Chipper Jones began his 19-year Braves career.

Failing in the first: This first-inning thing is really getting crazy for Colon. He has now allowed first-inning runs in five consecutive starts, including two on Thursday against the Braves.

But it's crazier than that. Over the last five starts, Colon has allowed 11 first-inning runs -- and only four runs after the first (including one on Thursday).

For the season, Colon has allowed 18 first-inning runs in 18 starts. Only Kyle Kendrick of the Philadelphia Phillies has allowed more first-inning runs this year, with 23.

That guy again? This Freddie Freeman thing isn't real good for the Mets, either. The Braves first baseman had two more big hits against Colon, a first-inning double and a third-inning single. Freeman has 12 extra-base hits and 21 RBIs in his past 19 games against the Mets.

That guy again? Part II: Then there's the Aaron Harang thing. The Mets had just one run on four hits in seven innings against Harang on Thursday night. They have just two runs on six hits in 20 innings against Harang in three games this season.

Who's that at short? For the first time since the Mets went to a roster with no real backup shortstop on June 25, Collins pinch hit for Ruben Tejada in the eighth inning Thursday. Pinch hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis struck out to strand the tying runs on base, and Eric Campbell went out to play shortstop for the first time in his big-league career.

Campbell's only prior pro experience at short was two games this year at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Starting with the ninth: Mets manager Terry Collins went back to his pitcher-bats-eighth lineup, using it for the first time on a night Colon started because he wanted to use Eric Young Jr. as the ninth-place hitter against Harang.

It worked -- and it didn't.

It didn't work in the second inning, when Juan Lagares' two-out double was wasted because Colon came up and made the final out. But it did work in the third, when Young led off with a single and eventually scored on a David Wright single.

Challenging the Braves: For the third time in the series and the fifth time this season against the Braves, Collins used the replay system to overturn a call. This time, he got Jason Heyward called out on an eighth-inning play at first base, after umpire Todd Tichenor signaled safe.

While Collins has been right on five of his six challenges against Atlanta, he has succeeded on just four of 13 challenges against the rest of the league.

What's next: The Mets open their final series before the All-Star break with a Friday night (7:10 p.m. ET) game at Citi Field against the Miami Marlins. Zack Wheeler (4-8, 4.07), who threw a three-hit shutout against the Marlins last month in Miami, faces Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez (6-3, 2.27).

Collins: Mets can be contenders

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
6:41
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NEW YORK -- Even with a four-game winning streak, the New York Mets are seven games under .500. Even with three straight wins against the team that began the week leading the National League East, the Mets are eight games out of first place.

There's no doubt they look much more presentable than they did. It's still extremely hard to make the case that they can be a contender.

Terry Collins made it.

"I know what our record is," the Mets manager said Thursday afternoon. "I know what it looks like, what the perception is, that we're not very good.

"I disagree with it."

Collins said that in conversations with his coaching staff, he brought up the Mets' upcoming schedule, which includes a stretch where the Mets will play 22 of 35 games within the NL East.

"We've got a lot of games left in our division," Collins said. "A lot."

The Mets began play Thursday in fourth place, just two games ahead of the last-place Philadelphia Phillies and with the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins ahead of them.

Because the Braves and Nationals have had up and down seasons, there's a perception that the division could be more open than many expected.

For that to include the Mets, though, they'll have to show that their recent success is something more than the type of hot streak every team experiences.

"All the things we've been saying for the last three months are true," Collins said. "We've been one hit away. Now we're hitting balls that we didn't hit a month ago."

Familia feels good: A day after Collins said he saw a "red flag" in reliever Jeurys Familia's need for extra time warming up, Familia said Thursday that he's fine.

"I'm ready today, ready to pitch," Familia said.

Colon bats eighth: Collins gets agitated when asked about batting the pitcher eighth, but it was a legitimate question Thursday when he did it for the first time on a day that Bartolo Colon was starting. Colon is particularly overmatched at the plate.

But Collins' explanation for batting Colon eighth on Thursday made sense. He wanted to play Eric Young Jr., who is 5-for-9 with four walks against Braves starter Aaron Harang, and he didn't want to mess with the top of his batting order, which has been working.

"If you're going to play E.Y., you've got to either lead him off or bat him ninth," Collins said.

So Young batted ninth, and that left Colon to bat eighth.

D'Arnaud bats fifth: Collins had Travis d'Arnaud batting fifth for the first time this season (he hit there three times last year), a tribute to the way d'Arnaud has looked since returning from Triple-A Las Vegas.

"If he keeps hitting, he'll be hitting third in another week," Collins joked.

Thursday's Mets-Braves lineups

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
4:07
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Here are the lineups as the Mets aim for their first four-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves since 1989 on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. at Citi Field.

Bartolo Colon bats eighth for the first time.

Mets
Curtis Granderson, rf
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Lucas Duda, 1b
Travis d'Arnaud, c
Juan Lagares, cf
Ruben Tejada, ss
Colon, rhp
Eric Young Jr., lf

Braves
B.J. Upton, cf
Andrelton Simmons, ss
Freddie Freeman,1b
Justin Upton, lf
Jason Heyward, rf
Tommy La Stella, 2b
Christian Bethancourt, c
Ramiro Pena, 3b
Aaron Harang, rhp

Wright jersey among most popular in MLB

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
10:37
AM ET
NEW YORK -- David Wright jerseys are among the most popular in baseball, according to sales rankings released by MLB.com based on merchandise sold through that web site since Opening Day.

1. Derek Jeter, Yankees
2. Buster Posey, Giants
3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
4. David Ortiz, Red Sox
5. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
6. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
7. Mike Trout, Angels
8. Wright, Mets
9. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
10. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
11. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
12. Freddie Freeman, Braves
13. Robinson Cano, Mariners
14. Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees
15. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
16. Manny Machado, Orioles
17. Bryce Harper, Nationals
18. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers
19. Tim Lincecum, Giants
20. Yu Darvish, Rangers
video

Need a Friday spot starter fix? Zack Wheeler is your guy.

Conforto deal to be complete after physical

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
9:36
AM ET

Steve Conner/Icon SMIOregon State outfielder Michael Conforto should be a Met after completing a physical.


NEW YORK -- First-round pick Michael Conforto officially will be a Met assuming he passes a physical, a source familiar with the process confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com.

The sides had agreed to the $2,970,800 salary, which MLB recommended for the 10th overall pick, weeks ago.

Conforto is the two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year.

He hit .345 with seven homers and 56 RBIs in 203 at-bats with Oregon State during his junior season and produced a .504 on-base percentage. He set a single-season school record with 55 walks.

Conforto is likely to be assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones.

What would it take to get Bartolo Colon? 

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
9:00
AM ET
Bartolo ColonBrad Penner/USA TODAY SportsBartolo Colon could prove to be a useful cog for a contending team aiming for the playoffs.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Bartolo Colon | RHP | New York Mets

Possible destinations: Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, New York Yankees


Miami Marlins

Why? Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill and general manager Dan Jennings both told me on separate occasions this past week that owner Jeffrey Loria is committed to contending and winning this year, and is prepared to provide the financial backing necessary for trades. Hill characterized his relationship with Jennings as a partner, and both have been told if they find a good baseball deal to bring it to Loria and he will approve it. This includes the David Price sweepstakes if he’s traded. They’ve also told me that starting pitching, not second base, is their top priority.

Therefore, based on who's available, Colon -- who's signed through next season and not just a rental -- would be a good target. Colon would provide leadership for their young pitchers and more important increase their chances of staying in the pennant race all season.

Who? A package of right-handed pitcher Nick Wittgren and outfielder Austin Dean would be fair value.

Will it happen?

Morning Briefing: Brooms ready

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
6:00
AM ET
NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: Now they go for a sweep.

Already, the New York Mets have won the first three games in a series with the Atlanta Braves that manager Terry Collins labeled as "huge." Now the Mets have a chance at a four-game sweep, their first since they took all four games from the New York Yankees in the 2013 Subway Series and their first against the Braves since July 1989 (when the Mets' winning pitchers were Bob Ojeda, Ron Darling, Rick Aguilera and David Cone).

The Mets' starting pitcher tonight is Bartolo Colon (8-7, 4.04), who in 1989 was still four years from signing his first professional contract. Right-hander Aaron Harang (8-6, 3.67) starts for the Braves.

Thursday's news reports:

Dillon Gee made a successful and impressive return from the disabled list, pitching into the eighth inning in the Mets' 4-1 win over the Braves. Read game stories in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Star Ledger, Record and MLB.com.

Lucas Duda had another big hit Wednesday, and he's gone a long way to making the Mets believe they chose the right first baseman. Columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post says the only question now is what took them (and Duda) so long. Jim Baumbach in Newsday points out that while Duda is thriving, Ike Davis is in a deep slump with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

From the bloggers ... Faith and Fear says time flies when you're having Mets.

BIRTHDAYS: Bob Bailor, who was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1983 for Sid Fernandez, turns 63 today ... Larry Burright, who played 44 games with the Mets in 1963-64, turns 77.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU'RE UP: How many more wins would it take for you to believe in the Mets (or do you already)?

What a difference for d'Arnaud

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
11:55
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Travis d'Arnaud's heat map has a vastly different look
Travis d’Arnaud continues to look like a different hitter since his recall from Triple-A Las Vegas.

d’Arnaud added another home run to his ledger and is now 15-for-50 (.300) with three home runs in 13 games, raising his batting average from .180 to .213.

“What we’re seeing right now is everything we heard [about him],” said manager Terry Collins after Wednesday’s win. “He’s got tremendous hand strength. The bat speed is still there. The power is still there. Whatever adjustments he made [in Las Vegas] have been huge.”

d’Arnaud now stands closer to home plate then he was prior to his demotion, allowing him to reach the outside pitches he’d done little against earlier this season.

The chart on the right shows d’Arnaud’s improvement in that regard.

d’Arnaud has been more aggressive at the plate, both inside and outside the strike zone, with his swing rate at 46 percent before his recall and 53 percent since his return.

Though d’Arnaud’s pitch-catching has been a little shaky all season (he entered the day with the 26th most innings caught, but the 11th-most times behind the plate for a wild pitch), he’s continued to excel at making sure his pitchers get called strikes, particularly in the lower-third of the strike zone.

Case in point the last two days when d’Arnaud got strikes on all 14 of 15 pitches that Jacob deGrom and Dillon Gee threw to the bottom part of the zone, that were taken by Braves hitters.

The average major-league catcher gets strikes called on 75 percent of pitches to that lower-third area. D’Arnaud’s rate this season is 85 percent, third-best among those catchers with at least 50 games played this season.

Minors 7.9.14: Montero returns

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
11:50
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RENO 15, LAS VEGAS 4: Starter Darin Gorski allowed eight runs and didn't make it out of the third inning in a late game. Gorski gave up two home runs, including one to Mark Trumbo, who is on a rehab assignment from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Omar Quintanilla pitched the final inning for the 51s. He allowed two runs on three hits and a walk. Box

BINGHAMTON 6, PORTLAND 1; BINGHAMTON 1, PORTLAND 0: Angel Cuan pitched five scoreless innings in the B-Mets' Game 1 win. First baseman Brian Burgamy and third baseman Dustin Lawley hit home runs. Second baseman Dilson Herrera had a two-run single. Gabriel Ynoa threw a seven-inning complete-game shutout in Game 2, allowing four hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in just his second Double-A start. Rylan Sandoval's second-inning single brought home the only run of the game. Herrera's hitting streak ended at 11 games. Box 1, Box 2

BRADENTON 6, ST. LUCIE 3: Starting pitcher Kevin McGowan allowed four runs in six innings, and while three of the runs were unearned, that was because McGowan committed an error himself on a bunt attempt. Catcher Cam Maron had two of the Mets' eight hits, but also one of the Mets' three errors. Box

AUGUSTA 7, SAVANNAH 1: Starter Logan Taylor allowed five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings, and the Sand Gnats were held to five hits. Matt Oberste had one of the hits, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. Victor Cruzado scored the only Savannah run on a third-inning groundout by Yeixon Ruiz. Box

BROOKLYN 4, STATE COLLEGE 0: Scarlyn Reyes combined with four relievers on a nine-hit shutout. Left fielder Joe Tuschak was the Cyclones' hitting star, with a run-scoring single and a home run. Michael Bernal drove in the other two runs with a third-inning triple. Box

ELIZABETHTON 5, KINGSPORT 2: First baseman Pedro Perez had two doubles and a single for the Mets. Luis Ortega and Jean Rodriguez had two hits apiece. Starter Gaby Almonte went six innings and allowed five runs (four earned). Box

GCL CARDINALS 2, GCL METS 1 (5 inn.): Rafael Montero, who has been on the disabled list at Triple-A Las Vegas, allowed two runs on five hits in four innings. Right fielder Enmanuel Zabala drove in the only Mets run in a game shortened by rain. Box

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.297 7 37 55
OTHER LEADERS
HRC. Granderson 14
RBIL. Duda 46
RD. Murphy 55
OPSL. Duda .835
WB. Colon 8
ERAJ. Niese 2.96
SOZ. Wheeler 99