New York Mets: Alfonso Soriano

Morning Briefing: D.C. weekend looms

May, 16, 2014
May 16
5:26
AM ET
NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: After getting shut out in back-to-back games at home to split the Subway Series with the Yankees and drop two games under .500, the Mets (19-21) play a weekend series in D.C. against the beat-up Washington Nationals.

Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche all are on the disabled list for the Nats.

Jonathon Niese (2-2, 2.17 ERA) opposes right-hander Tanner Roark (2-1, 3.65) in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. series opener.

The Mets have not been shut out in three straight games since July 25-27, 1992.

Friday’s news reports:


Kathy Willens/Associated PressAlfonso Soriano chats with third-base coach Rob Thomson after producing an RBI double.


• For the first time in Subway Series history, the game ended with a 1-0 score Thursday. The lone run came on Alfonso Soriano’s two-out double in the seventh against Jacob deGrom, who had a strong major-league debut despite getting charged with the loss. David Wright’s failure to turn an inning-ending double play preceded Soriano’s shot to the left-center gap. The Mets have now been held scoreless for 20 innings. DeGrom did have a single in his first big-league plate appearance, snapping Mets pitchers’ 0-for-64 drought to open the season.

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

Travis d’Arnaud landed on the seven-day concussion DL on Thursday. He will be eligible to return Wednesday. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Journal, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.

Josh Edgin joined the Mets on Thursday, giving the club a second left-handed reliever to complement Scott Rice. Edgin took the roster spot formerly occupied by Kyle Farnsworth, who elected free agency after being dropped from the big-league roster. Sandy Alderson described cutting Farnsworth from the Mets as a combination of an economic decision and pitching evaluation.

• Jeff Wilpon indicated it is unlikely the Mets further reduce Citi Field’s dimensions, but he did not completely rule it out, columnist John Harper writes in the Daily News. “I’m not saying we wouldn’t," Wilpon told Harper, “but I don’t see any reason why we would.” Writes Harper:

Wilpon said that if GM Sandy Alderson “brings it up’’ as something he thinks could benefit the Mets, he’d consider it. He said that since the Mets brought the fences in before the 2012 season, Citi Field has played “average” with respect to home runs in other ballparks in the majors.

Since then, he believes it has played much as Shea Stadium did, but acknowledged that right-center is the one area where it remains significantly more difficult to hit home runs.

“There was more of a wind-tunnel effect to right-center at Shea,’’ Wilpon said. “If we were going to do anything here, that would be the spot.”


Adam RubinA pregame video tribute at Citi Field honored retiring Derek Jeter.


• Before his final game at Citi Field, the Mets presented retiring Derek Jeter with a subway-tile mosaic that included his No. 2 and donated $22,222.22 to the captain’s Turn 2 Foundation. Read more in the Times, Post, Daily News, Record, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.

• Terry Collins said the Mets ultimately view Jenrry Mejia as the team’s closer, but he will not have the everyday role now because he is not in the mode of pitching every day. Read more in the Journal, Newsday and Star-Ledger.

Matt Harvey excused himself as a friend became involved in a “melee” over a girl, Page 6 writes. Hours later, Harvey again was unapologetic Thursday about his love for New York nightlife. Harvey nonetheless told the Daily News there is “absolutely not” any ongoing battle with the team over his social habits. Meanwhile, in light of the suspected food poisoning with Lucas Duda, Harvey said: “Our kitchen was completely raided by the food safety people. But obviously we've been eating Shake Shack for a while,” Foxsports.com writes. Read more from Harvey in the Post and Newsday.

• Read more on deGrom’s debut in the Star-Ledger, Daily News and Newsday.

• Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post notes Sandy Alderson’s prized bounties in trades -- Zack Wheeler, d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard -- all still have a lot to prove.

• Giancarlo Alvarado earned the win in his season debut and Cesar Puello drove in two runs as Las Vegas beat El Paso, 4-3. Cory Vaughn had a walk-off homer as Binghamton beat Altoona, 3-2. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• Keith Law’s initial mock draft projects the Mets will take Hartford left-hander Sean Newcomb with the 10th overall pick.

• Columnist Phil Mushnick in the Post suggests the “bloom is off Bud’s interleague rose.”

BIRTHDAYS: Jerrod Riggan turns 40 today. ... Frank Seminara was born on this date in 1967.

TWEETS OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Should Terry Collins start Juan Lagares on Friday at Nationals Park?

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 1, Mets 0

May, 15, 2014
May 15
10:16
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Jacob deGrom had a stellar big league debut, yet with the Mets’ bats familiarly silent, the 25-year-old right-hander came away with a loss.

Alfonso Soriano’s two-out, run-scoring double to left-center against deGrom in the seventh broke a scoreless tie, and the Yankees beat the Mets 1-0 Thursday before an announced crowd of 40,133 to earn a split of the four-game Subway Series.

After producing a combined 21 runs in a pair of wins in the Bronx, the Mets (19-21) returned to Citi Field and were shut out for two straight days. Combined with consecutive shutouts May 6-7 in Miami, the Mets have been blanked four times in their past nine games.

The Mets mustered only three hits in a combined shutout effort by debuting Chase Whitley, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and David Robertson. DeGrom, a former college shortstop and .176 career minor league hitter, had one of those hits. Betances and Warren combined to strike out seven straight Mets during the sixth through eighth innings. The seven straight K's by the Mets matched a franchise record, last done Aug. 11, 2010, against the Colorado Rockies, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Robertson retired David Wright on a groundout to shortstop to strand runners on the corners and end the eighth en route to a four-out save.


Kathy Willens/Associated PressFirst-base coach Tom Goodwin congratulates Jacob deGrom after the rookie produced a hit in his first big league at-bat -- and the first hit by a Mets pitcher this season.


DeGrom’s line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. He threw 91 pitches (57 strikes).

DeGrom became the first debuting starting pitcher in franchise history to be charged with a loss in a game in which he logged at least seven innings and limited the opponent to one run.

The last debuting MLB starting pitcher to get charged with a loss in a game in which he tossed at least seven innings and limited the opponent to one run was Jimmy Haynes with the Baltimore Orioles against Boston on Sept. 13, 1995.

Pitching in a scoreless game in the seventh, deGrom had a streak of 11 straight batters retired snapped when he walked Mark Teixeira with one out. Next, with the Mets again playing an overshift against Brian McCann, the Mets attempted an inning-ending 4-5-3 double play. But Wright, attempting the turn at second base, made a low and offline throw to first base, and Lucas Duda was unable to scoop it.

With McCann safe and the inning prolonged, Soriano followed with the decisive triple.

Duda and Wright had turned a nifty 3-5-3 double play on McCann to end Monday’s game in the Bronx.

It’s a hit: In his first big league plate appearance, the former college shortstop deGrom snapped an 0-for-64 drought by Mets pitchers. That was the longest futility streak to begin a season by a pitching staff in MLB history and had tied the 1946 Cleveland Indians for the second-longest drought ever, regardless of point in the season. The 1914 Indians, who went 0-for-92, remain the record holders.

DeGrom also delivered a sacrifice bunt in his second and final plate appearance. That placed runners at second and third with two outs in the fifth against Whitley, who was making his big league debut for the Yankees. Manager Joe Girardi inserted reliever Betances to face Eric Young Jr, who grounded out to third base to strand the two baserunners as the game continued in a scoreless tie.

Farewell, Jeets: The Mets played a video tribute to retiring Derek Jeter before his 88th and final regular-season Subway Series game.

Jeter then went 0-for-4. That included sending a shot back at deGrom in the third inning with two runners aboard and one out. DeGrom snared the liner and doubled Brett Gardner off first base to escape the jam.

Jeter’s final career regular-season statistics against the Mets: .364 (131-for-360) with 13 homers and 44 RBIs. Jeter has a higher career average against only the Pittsburgh Pirates (.417 in 36 at-bats) and Colorado Rockies (.368 in 34 at-bats).

Among players with 100 career at-bats against the Mets, only Rico Carty (.380) and Don Slaught (.376) had higher averages.

Welcome back: Newly promoted Josh Edgin tossed only one pitch in his season debut. After inheriting runners on the corners and two outs in the eighth, he coaxed a flyout to left field from Jacoby Ellsbury.

What’s next: The Mets head to Washington D.C. for a weekend series against the Washington Nationals. Jonathon Niese (2-2, 2.17 ERA) opposes right-hander Tanner Roark (2-1, 3.65) in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. series opener. Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche are all on the DL for the Nats.

Rapid Reaction: Mets 9, Yankees 7

May, 12, 2014
May 12
10:44
PM ET
NEW YORK -- True New Yorkers were celebrating Monday in the Bronx.

Lucas Duda delivered a broken-bat, run-scoring single that plated Eric Campbell and evened the score, and Chris Young followed with a two-run homer later in the eighth inning as the New York Mets beat the New York Yankees 9-7 before an announced crowd of 46,517 in the Bronx.

The Mets (18-19) slugged a season-high four home runs -- by Travis d’Arnaud, Curtis Granderson, Eric Young Jr. and C.Y. They won for only the third time in their past 11 games.

Kyle Farnsworth got into a one-out jam in the ninth with runners on the corners, but Brian McCann grounded into a game-ending double play, initiated by a diving stop by Duda and turned at second base by David Wright because of the overshift.

Penned: Jenrry Mejia, reassigned to the bullpen before the game, made his 2014 relief debut and earned the win.


Christopher Pasatieri/Getty ImagesDerek Jeter and David Wright share a yuk at the end of the first inning.


Mejia inherited a runner on second with two outs in the seventh inning and the Mets trailing 7-6. He struck out Alfonso Soriano on three pitches.

Then, staked to a 9-7 lead after the Mets’ three-run eighth, Mejia allowed a leadoff single to Yangervis Solarte. Kelly Johnson followed by grounding into a double play. Brian Roberts singled, but Mejia rallied by striking out Brett Gardner.

Not his day: Bartolo Colon surrendered a second-inning grand slam to Gardner and eventually was charged with seven runs (six earned) in 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision. In his eight starts, Colon has allowed seven or more runs three times. His ERA has ballooned to 5.84.

A half-inning after Granderson slugged a game-tying two-run homer, the Yankees scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 7-4 lead. The final run charged to Colon scored when d’Arnaud threw to second base on Gardner’s steal attempt. The throw went into center field, allowing Roberts to trot home with an unearned run.

True New Yorker: Granderson received a tame mixture of boos and cheers in his return to Yankee Stadium as a visitor -- although it’s hard to tell which set of fans was offering which reaction.

The friendly confines of Yankee Stadium proved a welcome sight. Granderson launched a two-run homer in the sixth against Hiroki Kuroda that evened the score at 4.

During a pregame interview, Granderson said his “True New Yorker” statement -- made when he was introduced during the winter meetings -- was not something cooked up by marketing people to launch a campaign the Mets eventually would adopt during the 2014 season.

“It was something that I heard from people around the city,” Granderson said. “It was me repeating what I had heard, what people said.”

Granderson’s original December quote: “A lot of the people I’ve met in New York have always said that true New Yorkers are Mets fans. So I’m excited to get a chance to see them all out there.”

The Mets recently sent an email blast to fans touting that slogan with a request for them to sign a loyalty oath.

Sparkplug: E.Y. Jr., who essentially had been benched once Juan Lagares returned from the disabled list on May 1, has made the most of back-to-back starts. He has produced consecutive three-hit games and scored twice and drove in two runs Monday.

E.Y. Jr. pulled the Mets within 7-6 with a two-run homer in the seventh against Alfredo Aceves, who had been speculated as the Thursday starter in place of CC Sabathia. Right-hander Chase Whitley could make his MLB debut in Thursday’s Subway Series finale instead of Aceves.

E.Y.’s last homer came on Aug. 2, 2013.

With the Mets facing a left-hander Tuesday and the designated hitter in use, Terry Collins likely will be able to use all four of his primary outfielders, including E.Y. Jr., in the starting lineup.

Happy birthday: Ex-Yankee/Met Yogi Berra celebrated his 89th birthday at the game.

What’s next: Zack Wheeler (1-3, 4.35 ERA) opposes left-hander Vidal Nuno (1-0, 5.47) in Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. game in the Bronx.

Morning Briefing: Check-in, now checkup

February, 16, 2014
Feb 16
6:32
AM ET
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.


Adam RubinChris Young arrives at Mets camp Saturday for the first time.


FIRST PITCH: Mets pitchers and catchers take physicals on Sunday. They then engage in the first official workout of spring training on Monday morning.

A team official did not expect any players to be delayed by visa issues or otherwise.

Outfielder Chris Young was among those who arrived at the complex for the first time Saturday. Curtis Granderson and Matt Harvey are likely to address the media Sunday.

Sunday’s news reports:

Bartolo Colon, who signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets in early December, said the club was the only organization to offer him a multiyear deal.

Writes columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post, making reference to Colon’s 50-game suspension in 2012 for testing positive for abnormal testosterone levels:

As he essentially tries to replace the injured Matt Harvey, Colon brings risk -- that his unorthodox physique finally will surrender to common sense, or he will get caught using illegal performance-enhancing drugs for a second time. Colon failed a drug test in 2012, and it turned out he acquired the offending testosterone from the renowned Anthony Bosch -- demerit to Colon for apparently not following Bosch’s test-beating advice as diligently as did Alex Rodriguez.

He brings wisdom, too. The soft-spoken Colon won’t be working as Dan Warthen’s associate pitching coach. None of his new teammates will probably become great friends with him. Yet they can watch and learn from this master of movement, command and self-control.

Omar Minaya, meanwhile, reiterated to Tim Rohan in the Times he “of course” would make the June 27, 2002 trade with the Cleveland Indians again that dealt then-prospects Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore away and brought Colon to Minaya’s Montreal Expos.

Read more in the Daily News, Star-Ledger, Newsday and MLB.com.

• Steve Serby in the Post has a Q&A with Noah Syndergaard. One exchange:

Q: You wrote the word “Lion” on your glove one time.

A: Yeah, I feel like just putting your name on a glove is kinda boring, so I just put random stuff on it, like I put Lion, just to be the lion on the mound, and then I have another glove that has “Drago” written on it [after “Rocky IV” villain Ivan Drago], and my two others have “Rick Grimes”and “Heisenberg” from two of my favorite shows, “Breaking Bad” and “Walking Dead.”

• Mike Puma in the Post reports the Mets would be willing to offer Stephen Drew a one-year contract with an option, but Scott Boras’ asking price “hasn’t dropped enough recently for the Mets to consider themselves serious suitors.” Sandy Alderson has been clear in saying signing Drew is unlikely.

Kyle Farnsworth offered his thoughts about joining the Mets. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger and Newsday.

• The Mets seriously discussed trading Jose Reyes to the Texas Rangers during the 2003-04 offseason for Alfonso Soriano, but the Rangers owner halted those talks, writes Joel Sherman in the Post. It came just after Soriano was acquired from the Yankees for Alex Rodriguez.

Aaron Harang, who finished last season with the Mets, joined the Indians on a minor-league deal. Read more in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

• Phil Mushnick in the Post is unimpressed with the Mets’ $10 “UltiMet” offering.

• Marc Carig in Newsday suggests “the Mets did import some talent this offseason, but they also left several glaring holes unfilled.”

• Danny Anderson, the St. Lucie Mets clubhouse staffer whom David Wright and other players had a Super Bowl party to rally around, died of cancer Thursday, writes TCPalm.com.

From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing sorts through a slew of responses to its question regarding which Mets postseason most merits cosmetic reconstructive surgery. … John Delcos at Mets Report lists five questions Terry Collins must answer this spring.

BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets infielder Bill Pecota was born on this date in 1960.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: What will Bartolo Colon’s record and ERA be in 2014?

Series preview: Mets vs. Cubs

June, 13, 2013
6/13/13
9:53
PM ET

Getty Images/USA TODAY SportsThe Mets face (l to r) Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman and Matt Garza this weekend at Citi Field.
METS (24-37, fourth place/NL East) vs. CHICAGO CUBS (26-38, fifth place/NL Central)

Friday: RHP Shaun Marcum (0-7, 4.96) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (2-8, 5.76), 7:10 p.m. ET

Saturday: LHP Jonathon Niese (3-5, 4.24) vs. RHP Scott Feldman (5-5, 3.22), 1:10 p.m. ET

Sunday: RHP Jeremy Hefner (1-6, 4.11) vs. RHP Matt Garza (1-1, 6.26), 1:10 p.m. ET

Cubs short hops

Matt Garza is the most logical Cub to be traded before the July 31 trade deadline, ESPNChicago.com’s Bruce Levine reports. Garza drew interest last July from the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays, but any trade discussions were scuttled by an elbow injury. Since being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays before the 2011 season, Garza is 17-18 with a 3.60 ERA. Other potential trade chips include Scott Feldman and relievers Kevin Gregg and Carlos Villanueva, according to Levine.


Gene J. Puskar/Associated PressStarlin Castro is hitting .122 in June.


Garza, who made his season debut May 21 after returning from a lat injury, is coming off an outing in which he surrendered nine runs in five-plus innings against Cincinnati.

Villanueva moved to the bullpen when Garza was activated from the DL.

• Shortstop Starlin Castro was hitting .059 (2-for-34) in June before a 3-for-7 performance Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds.

• Second baseman Darwin Barney has not committed an error this season. He has a 53-game errorless streak dating to last Sept. 30. However, Barney is hitting .208 with a .283 on-base percentage this season.

• Before breaking out with 15 hits in a 6-5, 14-inning win against the Reds on Thursday afternoon, Chicago had scored 11 runs in its previous six games and had not produced more than six hits in a game since June 5. The Cubs are 3-10 against Cincinnati this season. They had lost a record 12 straight to the Reds at Wrigley Field before the series-ending victory. The Cubs’ longest losing streak against one opponent at Wrigley Field previously was 10, done three times, most recently against the Montreal Expos in 1982 and ’83.

• The Cubs acquired right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez from the Washington Nationals on Tuesday for prospect Ian Dickson. Rodriguez had been 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA in 17 relief appearances with the Nats before being designated for assignment on June 4.

• Reliever Kyuji Fujikawa underwent Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.

• The Cubs suspended Ian Stewart, who had been playing with Triple-A Iowa, because of his series of critical tweets about the organization that included imploring the club to release him. Although Stewart is in the minors, he has a $2 million salary this season.

• Left fielder Alfonso Soriano has 379 career homers, tied with Orlando Cepeda and Tony Perez for 64th all time. Next up: Albert Belle with 371.

Scott Hairston (.155, 5 HR in 83 ABs) is off to a slow start in limited playing time as a Cub. Hairston signed a two-year, $5 million deal with Chicago after waiting for a Mets offer that did not come.

• First baseman Anthony Rizzo, 23, signed a seven-year, $41 million in May that includes team options for 2020 and 2021. The guaranteed portion covers one year Rizzo otherwise would have been eligible for free agency.

Rapid Reaction: Mets 3, Cubs 2

May, 17, 2013
5/17/13
5:19
PM ET
WHAT IT MEANS: Starter Matt Harvey drove in his own damn run.

With the Mets torn between desperately needing a run and also not wanting to pull their ace for a weak and undependable bullpen, manager Terry Collins allowed Harvey to hit with two outs, Rick Ankiel at second base and the score tied in the seventh inning.

Who needed a pinch hitter?


Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
Matt Harvey's bat won the game with a two-out RBI single in the seventh.


Harvey -- with his pitch count at 92 and having retired the last 11 batters he had faced -- gave himself a one-run lead by hitting the ball through the left side of the infield for an RBI single that chased opposing starter Edwin Jackson. That proved the decisive blow as the Mets held on for a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. The Mets have won two in a row after losing six straight.

Right fielder Marlon Byrd threw out a runner at the plate in the eighth. David Wright and Daniel Murphy earlier produced solo homers.

Harvey improved to 5-0, snapping a streak of four straight no-decisions during which he posted a 1.98 ERA while the Mets scored only six runs with him on the mound.

Harvey’s final line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. He threw 106 pitches (78 strikes).

He had retired 14 straight batters, and 20 of 21, until allowing a leadoff single to Darwin Barney in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Julio Borbon then bunted Barney to second. Collins pulled Harvey and inserted heavily used left-handed reliever Scott Rice to face the lefty-hitting David DeJesus.

DeJesus singled to right field, but ex-Cub Byrd -- who had entered the previous half-inning for Jordany Valdespin -- fired a strike to the plate to throw out Barney as he attempted to score from second.

Harvey has now allowed three runs or fewer in 16 straight starts, the fifth-longest streak by a starter in franchise history. The only longer: Dwight Gooden (24 straight, 1985), Johan Santana (21, 2008-09), Tom Seaver (19, 1971-72) and Gooden (17, 1985-86).

Harvey had showed his mortality in the first inning when the Cubs jumped on his fastball. He allowed a one-out single to Starlin Castro, then a double by Anthony Rizzo that put both Cubs in scoring position.

The fielding let Harvey down after that. Shortstop Ruben Tejada ranged to his left to field a grounder from Alfonso Soriano behind the bag, but bounced the throw to first baseman Ike Davis. Davis was unable to scoop it and the ball got by him. Both runners scored as the Cubs briefly grabbed a 2-1 lead.

The official scorer officially ruled it an infield single (very generous) and an E-6 allowing Rizzo to score from second. Both runs were earned because the scorer determined that Rizzo, who otherwise would have been on third base, would have scored on Nate Schierholtz’s subsequently shallow lineout to the strong-armed Ankiel in center field.

Gooden tweeted: “Love the way @MattHarvey33 bounced back after the 1st. Sign of a great pitcher in the making”

HIT, MAN: Davis snapped an 0-for-24 skid with a two-out single in the sixth against Jackson. Davis had struck out looking and grounded into a momentum-killing 4-6-3 double play earlier in the game. Davis’ skid was the longest by a Met this season. Josh Thole had an 0-for-30 streak in 2012.

WHAT’S NEXT: Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner (0-4, 4.61 ERA) opposes righty Scott Feldman (3-3, 2.53) at 1:05 p.m. ET Saturday.

Series preview: Mets at Cubs

May, 16, 2013
5/16/13
7:26
PM ET

Getty Images
The Mets face (l to r) Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman and Travis Wood this weekend at Wrigley Field.
METS (15-23, fourth place/NL East) vs. CHICAGO CUBS (17-23, fourth place/NL Central)

Friday: RHP Matt Harvey (4-0, 1.44) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (1-5, 6.02), 2:20 p.m. ET

Saturday: RHP Jeremy Hefner (0-4, 4.61) vs. RHP Scott Feldman (3-3, 2.53), 1:05 p.m. ET

Sunday: RHP Dillon Gee (2-5, 6.13) vs. LHP Travis Wood (4-2, 2.03), 2:20 p.m. ET

Cubs short hops

Scott Hairston (.125, 3 HR in 48 ABs), whom the Mets failed to sign because they suggested he was interested in guaranteed playing time, is off to a slow start as a Cub. Hairston signed a two-year, $5 million deal with Chicago.


Reid Comptom/USA TODAY Sports
First baseman Anthony Rizzo signed a seven-year, $41 million contract this week.


• First baseman Anthony Rizzo, 23, signed a seven-year, $41 million deal this week that includes team options for 2020 and 2021. The guaranteed portion covers one year Rizzo otherwise would have been eligible for free agency.

Darwin Barney (.191, 2 HR in 89 at-bats) has started off miserably at the plate, but GM Jed Hoyer recently said publicly that the second baseman is not in danger of a demotion. Barney, who won the 2012 NL Gold Glove, did have a three-hit game Tuesday. He opened the season on the DL after cutting a kneecap in the Cubs’ final spring-training game.

Starlin Castro was installed as the leadoff hitter against lefties a week ago. Center fielder Dave Sappelt (.178) had handled that responsibility until a demotion. David DeJesus leads off against righties. Castro signed a seven-year, $60 million deal last August.

• Dale Sveum indicated he might entertain a six-man rotation when Matt Garza is activated from the DL, likely next week. More likely, Carlos Villanueva or Scott Feldman -- probably Villanueva -- will lose his rotation spot. Garza has been out since Feb. 17 with a lat strain and was expected to make his final rehab start Thursday, with Triple-A Iowa. Villanueva, who originally was signed as a longer reliever, allowed seven runs in five innings Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies.

• Third baseman Luis Valbuena returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing three games with a sprained right pinkie, which he injured sliding into third base. Valbuena was not the intended third baseman this season, but Ian Stewart has been injury-prone after re-signing for one year at $1.5 million.

• Left-hander Travis Wood is coming off an outing in which he tossed seven scoreless innings against the Rockies, which shaved his ERA to 2.03. Wood has an MLB-leading eight quality starts to open the season, matching a Cubs record set in 1919 by Hippo Vaughn in the process.

Carlos Marmol, whose three-year, $20 millon contract expires after the season, has been deposed as closer for a second straight year. Kevin Gregg, who was signed last month after being released by the Los Angeles Dodgers, began handling the role full time last Wednesday.

Marmol recently denied an internet report that he was overheard talking about wanting to get traded. “That is just not true,” he said, according to ESPNChicago.com. “I am very happy here. I always talk about how I love Chicago and I love being here. I love my teammates and everyone here. I feel bad because those words never came out of my mouth.”

Chicago reportedly could have traded Marmol to the Los Angeles Angels in November for Dan Haren, but declined the swap after getting spooked by Haren’s medical report.

Marmol actually is now third on the late-game depth chart, also behind Kyuji Fujikawa. Fujikawa, who spent the previous eight seasons as a reliever with Hanshin in Japan, was activated from the DL last week after missing nearly a month with a forearm strain.

Alfonso Soriano had a dreadful April with only two RBIs, but has been much better this month (12 RBIs in 12 games). Soriano’s $136 million contract runs through 2014. He is a trade candidate this summer. “I would like to be a part of this group, but I am a little old,” the 37-year-old Soriano told ESPNChicago.com. “I will try to have a good time playing with them now. I hope after I retire that they continue to work hard and get better.”

• The Cubs have won six of their past nine games to move out of last place. They are coming off of their first home series win since Aug. 24-26, 2012.

• Owner Tom Ricketts earlier this month threatened to move the Cubs from Wrigley Field if city does not approve changes, including outfield signs at the landmark. Rooftop clubs that look into the historic ballpark object to the potential obstruction to their views from advertising and a planned video board. A $500 million renovation of the stadium and surrounding area is planned.

Toxicology report -- bad MLB contracts

September, 25, 2012
9/25/12
8:18
AM ET

US Presswire
Vernon Wells, Juan Uribe and Chone Figgins (l to r) are among the bloated contracts around Major League Baseball.
The Mets’ first task this offseason regarding Jason Bay, and for that matter Johan Santana, likely should be to see if any team has trade interest. A swap appears unlikely, though, even discounting the no-trade clause each possesses.

After all, Bay is hitting .155 with eight homers in 187 at-bats. And he is owed $19 million next season including a 2014 buyout, making it a toxic contract.

Similarly, Santana -- despite the June 1 no-hitter -- finishes the season on the DL after allowing six-plus runs in each of his final five starts. Santana is owed $31 million next season including a ’14 buyout.

Still, if the Mets were to find another team with toxic contracts to swap, who is logical? With the help of reporters around baseball, here’s a look …

THEY’VE GOT POTENTIAL

Angels: “Oh, you've come to the right place,” our friend who covers the Angels says. “The Angels have the deadest of dead weight -- Vernon Wells. The Angels are paying Wells $21 million this year to be their fourth outfielder. They owe him $21 million more in 2013 and again in 2014.”

Blue Jays: Left fielder/first baseman Adam Lind (.240, 10 HR, 40 RBIs) is owed $5 million in 2013. With buyouts of option years, the minimum owed is $7 million. “He cleared waivers at one point this season and the Blue Jays would love to get rid of his contract -- even though it's unlikely that can happen,” a team observer said.

Braves: Second baseman Dan Uggla (.215, 19 HR, 73 RBIs) is owed $39 million over the next three seasons.

Cubs: Alfonso Soriano ($18 million apiece in 2013 and ’14) and Carlos Marmol ($9.8 million next season) are the remaining sizable contracts.

Dodgers: The Dodgers inherited Carl Crawford ($102.5 million through 2017) and Josh Beckett ($31.5 million through 2014) while acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, but both should contribute. The least-productive contract: Juan Uribe, who finally pinch hit Sunday after going unused for nearly a month. Uribe, with one year remaining, is still owed $8 million.

Mariners: Left fielder Chone Figgins (.183, 2 HR, 11 RBIs) is owed $8 million next season. Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez (.258, 4 HR, 14 RBIs) is owed $7.5 million in 2013 with a buyout of the following season. Says one observer: “Gutierrez has been hurt or sick for most of his deal and might produce if ever healthy. Figgins is literally dead weight.” Bay does live in the offseason in Seattle. And the combined $15.5 million owed to those two are close to Bay's $19 million.

Marlins: Heath Bell has two years, $18 million guaranteed remaining. He also has a $9 million option for 2015 based on games finished -- 55 the previous season or 100 combined in 2013 and '14. (The Mets have been down that route before.)

Pirates: Clint Barmes is signed for 2013 at $5.5 million. He's hitting .228/.266/.325 with eight homers.

Red Sox: John Lackey (12-12, 6.41 ERA) has two years left for a combined $30.5 million, with a 2015 club option at the major league minimum because of a preexisting elbow injury.

Twins: Nick Blackburn (4-9, 7.39 ERA) and middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka -- both relegated to the minors -- are under contract for 2013 and “practically sunken cost.” Blackburn is owed $5.5 million. Nishioka is owed $3.25 million including a 2014 buyout. The Twins likely would never trade Joe Mauer, despite him being owed $23 million annually through 2018.

Yankees: Alex Rodriguez to Flushing? Don't hold your breath. Still, A-Rod is owed $114 million over the next five seasons. Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia could emerge as bad contracts, with $90 million over four seasons and $119 million over five seasons owed, respectively.

(Read full post)

Gee better than 2011, despite record

July, 7, 2012
7/07/12
8:03
PM ET
Dillon Gee raced out to a 7-0 record in 2011, matching the fourth-best streak to open a season in Mets history. Yet Gee, despite a sub-.500 record so far this year, believes he actually is pitching better this season -- "even though the record is totally skewed," he said.


Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Dillon Gee matched a career high by tossing eight innings.


Gee dominated the Chicago Cubs for a career-high-matching eight innings on Saturday, allowing one run on seven hits without issuing a walk in a 3-1 win that improved his record to 6-7.

Terry Collins said he considered pinch-hitting for Gee to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but Gee was insistent he felt good.

"He came in and said, 'Hey, look, I feel great,'" Collins said.

That more than convinced Collins, who had Tim Byrdak warm just in case rookie Anthony Rizzo's spot came up in the eighth. It never did, since Gee tossed a 1-2-3 eighth before departing at 105 pitches.

Gee said he focused on throwing curveballs against the free-swinging Cubs, after getting away from that plan in his previous outing. He used several curveballs to rally back from a 3-0 count against Alfonso Soriano with two runners aboard in the sixth. Gee then caught Soriano off-guard and struck him out with a fastball up in the zone on the full-count offering.

"Against a team like them, they're very aggressive," Gee said. "They hit the fastball well. I just wanted to stick with the curveball."

Rapid Reaction: Mets 3, Cubs 1

July, 7, 2012
7/07/12
6:46
PM ET
WHAT IT MEANS: Jordany Valdespin and Ike Davis homered and Dillon Gee took a scoreless effort into the sixth en route to matching his longest career outing as the Mets beat the Cubs, 3-1, Saturday at Citi Field.

Given the start in left field, Valdespin homered for the second straight day and fourth time during his rookie season. The solo shot off Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija in the second opened the scoring. Davis’ two-run shot an inning later upped the Mets’ lead to three runs.

Davis’ homer was his 12th this season, tying him with Lucas Duda and Scott Hairston for the team lead. Valdespin, meanwhile, has produced 14 RBIs in his 67 at-bats. That matches Baltimore’s Steve Pearce for the most RBIs in the majors this season by players with no more than that at-bat total.

Gee held the 3-0 lead into the sixth, when he surrendered a leadoff double to Luis Valbuena and one-out RBI single to David DeJesus. Gee recovered to strand two baserunners by striking out Alfonso Soriano on a full-count offering with two outs.

Gee logged eight innings, matching his career high. He also went that distance in a June 10, 2011 victory against the Pirates. Gee will not pitch again until Game No. 3 or 4 of the second half, either July 15 in Atlanta or July 17 in Washington.

CLOSER CALL: Bobby Parnell continued his closing work with Frank Francisco on the DL. Parnell converted his second save in two chances since Francisco suffered the strained left oblique and was deactivated. Parnell did allow a leadoff double to Anthony Rizzo, snapping a string of four appearances in Francisco's absence in which he did not allow a batter to reach base.

Parnell benefited from a solid over-the-shoulder catch by Ruben Tejada retreating in shallow left field on a flare for the second out, off the bat of Bryan LaHair.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Mets (46-39) complete the first half by sending Jon Niese (7-3, 3.35 ERA) to the mound opposite on-the-trading-block right-hander Ryan Dempster (3-3, 2.11), who is returning from the disabled list. The Amazin’s can match their season high at eight games over .500 with a victory.

David Wright, R.A. Dickey and Terry Collins then head to Kansas City for the All-Star Game.

Also in K.C., right-hander Zack Wheeler and third baseman Wilmer Flores play in the Futures Game on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. The prospect showcase will be televised by ESPN2.

Series preview: Mets at Cubs

June, 25, 2012
6/25/12
9:20
AM ET

Getty Images
The Mets face (l to r) Travis Wood, Randy Wells and Jeff Samardzija at Wrigley Field.
METS (39-34, second place/NL East) vs. CHICAGO CUBS (24-48, sixth place/NL East)

Monday: LHP Johan Santana (5-3, 3.00) vs. LHP Travis Wood (1-3, 4.14), 8:05 p.m. ET

Tuesday: RHP Dillon Gee (5-5, 4.27) vs. RHP Randy Wells (1-2, 4.91), 8:05 p.m. ET

Wednesday: LHP Jon Niese (5-3, 3.75) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (5-6, 4.34), 2:20 p.m. ET

Cubs short hops

• Right-hander Matt Garza (3-6, 4.06 ERA in 14 starts) is among the most likely Cubs to be traded. Garza, 28, is earning $9.5 million this season and is under control via arbitration through 2013 before being eligible for free agency. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo lists the Braves, Tigers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Royals as potential landing spots.

• Left fielder Alfonso Soriano (.269, 14 HR, 44 RBIs) had 12 long balls in a 26-day stretch beginning May 15, but still has been the subject of fan booing. Soriano was caught standing at the plate when Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks dropped his screaming line drive in a June 16 game. “I think our fans know, because they’ve watched Sori play all year, that he’s been hustling from Opening Day on and given a great effort,” first-year president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told ESPNChicago.com in defense of Soriano. “It was an unfortunate natural reaction.”


Rick Scuteri/US Presswire
First base prospect Anthony Rizzo should make his Cubs debut during the series.


Randy Wells will make his second start for injured Ryan Dempster, whose 22-inning scoreless streak is frozen but intact because he landed on the disabled list last Monday with a tight right lat muscle. Dempster should return in plenty of time for the Cubs to trade him before the July 31 deadline. Wells allowed three runs on five hits and four walks and was pulled with his pitch count at 69 after 3 2/3 innings Wednesday against the White Sox.

Travis Wood has now drawn Justin Verlander, Jake Peavy and Santana in his past three starts. Opposite the White Sox’s Peavy in his most recent outing, Wood allowed one run on four hits in six innings to post his first victory since last Aug. 19, as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Wood, 25, was acquired in a Dec. 23 trade for Sean Marshall. He has a 2.92 ERA over his past four starts. He opened the season by making seven starts with Triple-A Iowa.

• Hyped first-base prospect Anthony Rizzo is expected to be promoted this series. Rizzo was acquired from San Diego on Jan. 6 with Zach Cates for Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na. Because he logged 68 days in the majors last season with the Padres, the 22-year-old Rizzo had to remain in the minors at least through Friday in order to delay his free agency for an extra year, until after the 2018 season. Rizzo had a rough time in the majors with San Diego last season, hitting .141 with one homer and nine RBIs in 128 at-bats.

• Rizzo’s imminent promotion should push lefty-hitting Bryan LaHair back into relatively unfamiliar right field, from first base. LaHair (.286, 13 HR, 28 RBIs) was a nine-year minor leaguer who was prepared to play in Japan this season before opting for one final stab at a major league career.

Jeff Samardzija moved into the rotation this year. Only five of his 128 major league appearances before this season had come in a starting role.

• In addition to Epstein, the Cubs’ new braintrust includes former Padres GM Jed Hoyer now serving in that role in Chicago. First-year manager Dale Sveum spent 12 seasons as a major league infielder. Sveum also managed the final 12 games of the 2008 season with the Brewers after Ned Yost was jettisoned. He rode CC Sabathia to a wild-card berth as the Mets missed out on the playoffs on the final day for a second straight season.

• With few opportunities, closer Carlos Marmol has only four saves this season. His next save will be the 100th of his career. The only other Cubs to have reached that plateau: Lee Smith (180), Bruce Sutter (133) and Randy Myers (112).

• Catcher Geovany Soto (.174, 5 HR, 8 RBIs) returned June 18 from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after missing a month.

• Shorstop Starlin Castro (.304, 6 HR, 38 RBIs), the Cubs’ lone representative at last year’s All-Star game, again has heated up. Castro drew Sveum’s attention earlier this month for repeated in-game mental lapses. He nonetheless has started all 72 games. Atlanta’s Dan Uggla is the only other major leaguer to start every game for his team this season.

• Third baseman Ian Stewart received another cortisone shot for a left wrist impingement, hoping to at least delay surgery until the offseason. He is not eligible to return from the disabled list until Thursday, after the series. Former Indian Luis Valbuena has manned third base in Stewart’s absence.

• Center fielder Tony Campana leads the majors with 24 steals, one ahead of the Dodgers’ Dee Gordon.

• The Cubs are 3-16 in games started by left-handed opposing pitcher.

Last series results

Chicago won, 2-1, at Citi Field, Sept. 9-11, 2011 (AP game recaps)

Mets 5, Cubs 4: Justin Turner doubled in the decisive run with two outs in the ninth inning. Manny Acosta had surrendered a tying single to Darwin Barney with two outs in the top half. Turner (three hits) also had a tiebreaking double in the fifth. Jason Bay doubled twice and threw out a runner at the plate. David Wright and Bay each had an RBI to help the Mets overcome an early 3-0 deficit. More

Cubs 5, Mets 4: Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run single in the top of the ninth, a half-inning after the Cubs blew a three-run lead. Jason Bay had given the Mets a 4-3 lead with a two-out, two-run single. More sloppy play by New York in the ninth on an overall rough day in the field, and another meltdown by Bobby Parnell (3-6), aided Chicago. The Cubs built an early 2-0 lead with help from two errors by Jose Reyes. David Wright made his second error and New York's fourth of the game when he couldn't handle Geovany Soto's grounder leading off the ninth. Pinch hitter Bryan LaHair doubled to put runners at second and third. Parnell then got two outs to bring up Ramirez. Terry Collins considered walking him, but opted not to put pressure on Parnell to pitch with the bases loaded. More

Cubs 10, Mets 6 (11 innings): Carlos Pena hit a go-ahead single in Chicago's six-run 11th, and the Cubs won a game that ended nearly five hours after the Mets held a touching ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Josh Stinson (0-1) walked Marlon Byrd to start the 11th and gave up a single to Bryan LaHair. Pena singled for the lead. Pinch hitter Alfonso Soriano and Darwin Barney each hit two-run doubles off Ryota Igarashi before the first out, and Geovany Soto added a sacrifice fly. New York trailed 4-1 after five innings but scored twice in the sixth off Matt Garza. The Mets tied it with an unearned run when reliever Jeff Samardzija made a bad throw. The Mets loaded the bases in the first, ninth and 10th innings but came up empty. More

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.289 9 57 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
WB. Colon 15
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187