New York Mets: Bob Geren
FIRST PITCH: The Mets spend a day off in Cincinnati before getting back to work on Friday against the Reds.
Bartolo Colon (12-11, 4.01 ERA) opposes right-hander Alfredo Simon (13-9, 3.28) in the 7:10 p.m. series opener.
Thursday’s news reports:
• Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a two-run homer, then Travis d'Arnaud had a tiebreaking RBI double in the eighth and the Mets held on to beat Miami, 4-3, in Wednesday’s rubber game at Marlins Park. Jacob deGrom allowed one run in six innings in a no-decision as he further enhanced his NL Rookie of the Year candidacy. Nieuwenhuis started over Curtis Granderson, who has sat two of the past four games.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Journal, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.
• Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record advocates Las Vegas manager Wally Backman landing a major league role with the Mets for 2015. Writes Klapisch:
You couldn’t help but wonder how Sandy Alderson really felt about Wally Backman winning the Pacific Coast League’s Manager of the Year award, considering the GM has shown no intention of giving Backman a chance in New York. It’s time to reconsider this de facto blackball, and see Backman as an asset who can help the Mets ascend toward respectability.
Of course, this would require Alderson shedding his prejudice against the very trait that makes Backman unique: He’s an independent thinker with a strong personality, as old-school as it gets. Alderson is a dominant GM who values managers that act as corporate messengers.
• Andrew Keh in the Times addresses the woes of Granderson, who is batting .210 for the season and is hitless in his last 18 at-bats. Granderson said he has remained calm despite the struggles, quipping: “There’s never been a point in breaking a bat. Then I’ve got nothing to swing with the next time up.”
• Vic Black, on the DL with a herniated disk in his neck, is set to throw off a mound during Thursday’s off-day for the first time since being sidelined. Matt Harvey again will work off a mound on the off-day, but this time will simulate a pair of innings for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last October, pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters.
• D’Arnaud’s 12 passed balls are tied with San Diego’s Yasmani Grandal and Colorado’s Wilin Rosario for the major league lead. Writes Jared Diamond in the Journal on that topic:
Mets bench coach Bob Geren, a former major league catcher, estimated that as many as a third of d'Arnaud's passed balls have come as a result of an overreliance on framing the pitch. Instead of simply catching the ball, d'Arnaud has tried to pull it back toward the strike zone a split-second too quickly, only to have it glance off his glove.
"Sometimes it's so close of a pitch that I'll try to do extra to try to really get it, instead of just, 'Oh, it's OK, we'll take this ball so the runners don't advance,'" d'Arnaud said.
• Bobby Parnell, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April, plans to begin throwing off a mound after Christmas. Read more about his rehab plan in the Star-Ledger.
• L.J. Mazzilli's RBI single in the eighth lifted Las Vegas to a 5-4 win against Reno in the Pacific Coast League playoff opener.
Bronx native T.J. Rivera launched a walk-off three-run homer as Binghamton won its playoff opener against Portland, 8-5. “It's a great feeling,” Rivera told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. “All that stress kind of falls off your shoulders for a second. But, then again, there's tomorrow. You know, we've got to win three to advance. That's what our goal really is."
Savannah lost its playoff opener, 8-3. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Once reportedly poised to depart for Ottawa, Binghamton’s Eastern League club signed a lease with NYSEG stadium and committed to remain in Binghamton through 2021. A Mets official told ESPNNewYork.com earlier this year that the Mets have made a pledge to New York State officials to keep Binghamton as their Double-A home long term. The current agreement between the Mets and B-Mets runs through the 2016 season. Read more from Lynn Worthy in the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin.
• Terry Collins views Dilson Herrera as a future No. 2 hitter. Read more in Newsday.
• Mike Puma in the Post notes the Mets are mostly not shying away from using Jeurys Familia. Dan Warthen said 75-80 appearances is reasonable for the season. Familia is at 66 right now.
BIRTHDAYS: Mike Piazza turns 46. ... Luis Lopez is 44.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Should Wally Backman be a part of the 2015 Mets staff?
If the #Mets don't take back New York from the Yankees in 2015, they never will. Let's make sure that happens, Sandy.— c.a. meglio (@cher221) September 4, 2014
"We've got to start getting some offense out of our catching position, for sure," Collins said.
Overall, Mets catchers rank 27th in the majors in average (.217), 24th in on-base percentage (.282) and 26th in slugging percentage (.339). They have driven in 16 runs, better than only the Phillies (14), Royals (13) and Dodgers (11).
D'Arnaud was hitting .196 with three homers and eight RBIs in 102 at-bats before landing on the concussion DL two weeks ago.
D'Arnaud indicated the most difficult thing during his week of concussion symptoms was dealing with noise. He was on the bench with the Mets on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's official activation. D'Arnaud went 1-for-8 with a two-run homer and caught seven innings during his rehab assignment with Double-A Binghamton. His final game for the B-Mets was cut short by rain. The game was suspended in the second inning.
D'Arnaud will switch to a conventional catcher's mask (with separate skull cap) now that he's back. While the mask sits slightly farther away from his face than the hockey-goaltender mask he formerly wore, slightly reducing his peripheral vision, d'Arnaud feels the conventional style is less restrictive. He received his last two concussions while wearing the hockey mask and wants to switch things up anyway.
D'Arnaud's return incidentally gives the Mets a statistical quirk. He joins Jacob deGrom and Matt den Dekker on the active roster, making the Mets the first team in MLB history with three active players with surnames beginning with a lower-case "D."
According to research by ESPN’s Doug Kern, the Kansas City Royals had two -- first baseman Luis de los Santos and pitcher Jose de Jesus -- for two Septembers (1988 and '89).
Taking the fifth: Keith Hernandez steered clear of discussing with reporters on Thursday afternoon fired hitting coach Dave Hudgens' critical comments about the SNY analysts. It was Mex's first time assigned to a game since Hudgens did the media circuit.
Bobby O: Collins plans to start Bobby Abreu on Friday against right-hander A.J. Burnett. The manager might have used Abreu in the outfield on Thursday, too -- with Chris Young on the bench -- had Phillies starter David Buchanan's numbers made it sensible. Although Buchanan is a right-hander, righty batters hit .305 against him in nine Triple-A starts this season (versus .297 for lefty batters).
Collins noted it certainly is easier to play right field at Citizens Bank Park than at Citi Field, which makes prioritizing offense easier. The manager added that he just needs to be careful about overdoing it with Abreu.
"You've just got to be careful about wearing him down," Collins said.
Con'grad'ulations: Guy Conti, who served as the Mets' bullpen coach during the Pedro Martinez era, is back with the big-league club for the three-city road trip. Conti, 72, officially will step in when bench coach Bob Geren takes a brief leave for his son's graduation from Princeton and again when Dan Warthen takes a brief leave for his daughter's high school graduation in Oregon.
Record-setting: Barring a postponement, this series in Philly will mark the first time in franchise history the Mets play five straight days in one road city.
That prompted Collins to recall his days managing in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and Hawaii had a team, which spanned from 1961-87. Because of the extensive travel involved, visiting teams would go there for 10 games. Collins laughed that the visiting team would typically win the first two games and then lose the next eight because of the island's distractions.
The same danger presumably does not exist in Philly, although perhaps the Mets will have to avoid overdosing on cheesesteaks.
More seriously, Collins noted that hostilities can start to rage toward the end of a five-game series, especially if one side -- or batter -- is dominating the other side. So stay tuned to see if emotions stay in check come Monday's finale.
The Mets play 25 of their next 33 games on the road.
In Port St. Lucie, Dillon Gee opposes Minnesota Twins left-hander Scott Diamond at 1:10 p.m. ET (PIX/WOR).
In Las Vegas, Bartolo Colon faces the Cubs at 4:05 p.m. ET (WGN).
See the Mets’ full travel roster for the Vegas weekend here.
Saturday’s news reports:
• Scott Boras has engaged the Mets in dialogue about Stephen Drew, although how recently is open to interpretation. "The message has always been that they have interest in Stephen but they wanted to see how things went in spring training," Boras tells Anthony Rieber in Newsday. Dan Martin in the Post cites “one person close” to Drew as saying he expected the free agent ultimately to sign elsewhere. Kristie Ackert in the Daily News reports the Mets have not had contact with Boras “in recent weeks.”
• Stony Brook University product Tom Koehler blanked the Mets for five innings and Zack Wheeler surrendered a solo homer to Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the Miami Marlins beat the Mets, 1-0, Friday. Bob Geren managed the skeleton Mets team in their first night game with half the squad already having departed for Vegas.
Geren said he expected the low score given Koehler and reliever Henry Rodriguez’s flamethrowing, and given it was the Mets’ first 2014 night game. Geren, normally the bench coach and a former Oakland Athletics manager, said he was pleased with the Mets’ pitching.
Scott Rice, Jose Valverde and Jeurys Familia combined to blank the Marlins for 3 1/3 innings. Those three relievers look like sound bets to make the Opening Day roster, in a bullpen that may also include Bobby Parnell, Vic Black, Carlos Torres and John Lannan.
“I thought Valverde, he looked really good -- 93, 94 mph,” Geren said. “He had good command of his pitches. That was exciting. Scott Rice was like he always is: very consistent, good movement. And Familia pumping in there at 97 was impressive. A really good game all around for our pitching staff.”
Read more on Friday’s game at MLB.com.
• Ike Davis (calf) and Lucas Duda (hamstring) got five plate appearances apiece in A-ball games Friday while not running after making contact. They expect to repeat that DHing Saturday. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Record and MLB.com.
• The Mets sent Jacob deGrom and Jeff Walters to minor-league camp, reducing the number of players remaining to 47 (including rehabbing Matt Harvey and Jeremy Hefner). DeGrom, as well as still-in-camp Rafael Montero, could make their big-league debuts sometime this season in the bullpen. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal discusses the importance of Noah Syndergaard, and all young pitchers, working on their changeups.
• From the bloggers … With the Mets in Las Vegas, Faith and Fear in Flushing considers the odds of a 90-win season.
BIRTHDAYS: 2011 supplemental first-round pick Michael Fulmer, a right-handed pitcher raised in Oklahoma, turns 21.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Does it matter if the Mets wait until the season’s fourth game to start Zack Wheeler?
My motto this weekend is "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas." No plans to use my bed at all.— Jay Horwitz (@Jay_HorwitzPR) March 14, 2014
Wright was buzzed up and in by the first pitch he saw from hard-throwing right-hander Carlos Martinez. He ultimately grounded out to shortstop twice and also hit into a 5-4-3 double play. He received no chances at third base.
“It’s the first game,” Wright said. “Everything feels a little awkward. It doesn't help all that much that the first guy you face is throwing 97 mph.”
Murphy’s hold-your-breath moment came when he tried to break up Wright’s fourth-inning, double-play grounder. Murphy slid late and directly into Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong. Murphy then hobbled off the field but remained in the game and portrayed the issue afterward as simply a scraped right shin.
“I ran into a truck,” Murphy said. “He’s strong. I went in there to break up two, and he didn't move. I was surprised. I asked him if he was all right. It should have been the other way around.”
Asked if Murphy should be scaling back his aggressiveness in a spring training game and save such slides for the regular season, Collins said, “He only knows one way to play. And that’s why he’s a good player.”
It was a rough day for Mets fielders, with errors charged to Murphy, Ruben Tejada and Andrew Brown, among countless other misplays.
In fact, Tejada failed on three makeable plays. In the first inning, Matt Holliday’s grounder bounced off the shortstop and into the outfield for a run-scoring single charged to Daisuke Matsuzaka. Later, the Cardinals’ final run scored when Tejada failed to handle a hard smash from Wang in his vicinity. That play was scored a single.
Tejada, who had been dealing with a left-hamstring injury, was playing in his first Grapefruit League game since last Friday.
“Those are plays you've seen all those guys make before,” Collins said.
Matsuzaka and John Lannan, the primary fifth-starter contenders, each allowed two runs (one earned) in two innings. Matsuzaka surrendered six hits. Lannan surrendered three.
“There were a few unlucky hits that dropped in,” Dice-K said through his interpreter. “In general, I think I was able to accomplish what I wanted to today.”
Matsuzaka said his slider was better than his previous outing, but his location “was a little bit of a problem.”
Lannan said, “The first inning was kind of rough, second inning was a little bit better. I still have room to improve.” The southpaw was disappointed with his slider and said his fastball seemed to have less life in this appearance.
The young pitchers performed much better.
Rafael Montero was poised to pitch two perfect innings until Brown dropped the would-be final out of the sixth. An unearned run eventually scored when Wong’s smash got through Tejada.
Steven Matz, ticketed for Class A St. Lucie to open the season, allowed a single and a walk but rallied to strand both runners with three straight strikeouts in the seventh.
Jeurys Familia tossed a scoreless ninth.
Wilfredo Tovar finished the game at shortstop in his first action since suffering a hamstring injury Feb. 28.
The game included one failed replay challenge and some comedy in the clubhouse.
Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler and Jeremy Hefner were given a walkie-talkie and assigned to watch SNY in the clubhouse. They were instructed to radio to Bob Geren in the dugout if any plays ought to be challenged.
The problem? On a close call at second base in which Eric Young Jr. was called out attempting a steal, SNY never showed a replay before going to commercial. So the Mets passed on challenging. (In-season, the Mets will have several angles available immediately on a feed and will not be reliant on telecasts.)
“We didn’t miss it!” Gee playfully protested. “SNY went right to commercial.”
The Cardinals did challenge an eighth-inning call but failed to get it overturned because Flores had successfully blocked second base and applied a tag.
Collins, by the way, confirmed Flores is scheduled to start at shortstop in the next few days. The manager also wants to use Flores at third base, reasoning that if Flores is going to make the team, he needs to be able to play all the infield positions.
As for Flores’ ninth-inning RBI single during the game-tying rally, Collins said, “That’s what he’s done his whole minor league career. He drives in runs.”
What's next: Noah Syndergaard opposes the Tigers on Saturday in Lakeland.
Adam RubinFred Wilpon, a big University of Michigan baseball booster, addresses Wolverines players before Friday's game against Princeton at the Mets' complex.
Adam RubinPrinceton senior Bobby Geren, son of Mets bench coach Bob Geren, takes BP Friday. Bobby's brother Brett also plays for the Tigers.
Instant replay also will be further explained during the three-team gathering with MLB officials.
Bench coach Bob Geren, who oversees Mets catching, already has some preliminary insights.
“It’s difficult to be precise, because we don’t know exactly what the rule is going to be,” Geren said.
Geren said the difference under the new rule may be only a few inches of positioning to give the runner some access to the plate.
“Do we have to give them the entire plate, part of the plate?” Geren said. “What can a catcher do after he catches the ball? These are things that aren’t determined yet.”
Still, Geren added: “I don’t think it would be a major adjustment for the catchers either way. We’re probably talking about maybe six inches more one way or the other. And then the biggest thing is after you catch the ball, what will they be allowed or not allowed to do?
“There’s talk now, can they still leave the shin guard there? Or can they drop a knee and tag? Or do they have to tag with their glove only? Those are the things that have to be determined.”
Geren caught for parts of five seasons with the Yankees and San Diego Padres. Does he like the rule change?
“I really have mixed feelings about it, because I have some traditionalist in me. But I also understand the safety issue, where you’d hate to see anybody lose their career or hinder their career on one play,” he said. “I can definitely see both sides. I know that the rules they have in college, it sounds like it will be similar to what we might adopt. It works well there.”
Dan Warthen, Dave Hudgens and Tim Teufel, along with the rest of the staff, all are expected to return in 2014.
Pitching coach: Dan Warthen
Hitting coach: Dave Hudgens
Bench coach: Bob Geren
First base coach: Tom Goodwin
Third base coach: Tim Teufel
Bullpen coach: Ricky Bones
Sandy Alderson previously has said he expects Wally Backman to be invited to return as Triple-A Las Vegas manager.
ESPNMatt Harvey appeared on ESPN as a pitchman for Qualcomm. An appearance earlier in the day did not go very well.
FIRST PITCH: Ruben Tejada, quite literally, suffered a bad break.
Given a limited opportunity to prove he merits being the 2014 shortstop, Tejada’s audition of sorts is now over. He suffered a broken fibula in his right leg colliding with left fielder Andrew Brown while catching a pop fly in the top of the ninth during Wednesday’s 5-4 come-from-behind win against the San Francisco Giants.
Tejada, who turns 24 next month, hit .143 (3-for-21) in seven September starts after returning from a banishment to Triple-A Las Vegas. He finished the season hitting .203 overall in 208 at-bats. Sandy Alderson said it was “like pulling teeth” to get Tejada to do extra work.
By delaying Tejada’s free agency until after the 2017 season, the Mets do make Tejada marginally more marketable in a trade.
It would be no great surprise if the Mets’ Opening Day shortstop is not currently with the organization, since Omar Quintanilla is widely considered in baseball as a backup. All-Star Jhonny Peralta, currently serving a 50-game suspension related to Biogenesis, headlines the list of free agents at the position. (Nelson Cruz, another All-Star serving a 50-game suspension, also is a pending free agent, if the Mets are not averse to the Biogenesis route for adding outfield bats.)
Meanwhile, Jonathon Niese (7-7, 3.88 ERA) opposes fellow southpaw Madison Bumgarner (12-9, 2.83) in today’s 1:10 p.m. rubber game at Citi Field.
Thursday’s news reports:
• Josh Satin’s two-run single against All-Star Sergio Romo capped a four-run ninth as the Mets rallied to beat the Giants. In his major league debut, catcher Juan Centeno had two hits, including a run-scoring infield single earlier in the ninth-inning rally. The Mets, who entered the frame trailing 4-1, overcame their largest ninth-inning deficit since June 16. That day, they also had a four-run ninth, and beat the Chicago Cubs, 4-3, on Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ three-run homer.
Read game recaps in the Post, Star-Ledger and MLB.com.
• Matt Harvey publicly apologized to The Dan Patrick Show and Qualcomm on Wednesday afternoon, after his appearance that morning irked the host. Companies often pay for athletes to appear on shows, with the understanding the athlete will be given a brief opportunity to promote a product while otherwise answering topical sports questions.
When Harvey appeared with Patrick, he only wanted to talk about the wireless technology company, not his decision to forgo -- at least for now -- Tommy John surgery.
Asked about the scariness of the Tommy John surgery decision, Harvey said: “Every pitcher can relate to what’s going on. I did all of those answers yesterday. Maybe at the appropriate time we can talk about that. But obviously today’s about Qualcomm.”
Asked by an incredulous Patrick if he really did not want to talk about his elbow, Harvey added: “We can set up another call, if you’d like to, about that subject, but today we’re honoring and supporting Qualcomm.” (Watch on YouTube here.)
Presumably after getting some P.R. advice, Harvey did discuss with ESPN his decision to rehab rather than immediately undergo Tommy John surgery. Watch here.
Harvey eventually tweeted: “I’ve had a few rough outings on the mound, that was a rough outing on the radio this morning... Been an exhausting couple of days. Apologies to @DanPatrick and @Qualcomm”
The Daily News reported Harvey fired a publicist earlier this year after an ill-fated Men’s Journal article, and that this was his first time doing interviews as a paid spokesman for a company.
Read more in the Daily News, Post, Record and Newsday.
• Billy Wagner, who had Tommy John surgery while with the Mets, tells Mike Puma in the Post that Harvey is delaying the inevitable. “You can get it done now and be done with it, and the rehab is not a hard rehab,” Wagner told Puma. “… When I was rehabbing at 80 or 85 percent, I couldn’t tell anything was wrong. But as soon as I let it go a little bit, there’s a big difference.”
• Richard Sandomir in the Times writes that Tommy John surgery first is paid by workers’ compensation, with the difference covered by the team.
• Terry Collins, appearing on WFAN, cited Harvey’s determination as a reason why he may very well avoid Tommy John surgery. Said Collins: “I told one of the coaches today: I would not be afraid to have someone bet me that Matt Harvey will be the Opening Day pitcher, because I think he will be.”
Collins expects David Wright (hamstring strain) to return from the disabled list this weekend in Philly. The manager also predicted Wilmer Flores would open next season in the minors if there is no defined position for him, whereas Brown and Satin could be righty-hitting major league bench pieces in 2014.
As for Daniel Murphy, Collins said he again would expect to see him at second base next season -- “not at this moment” at first base next year. The manager did allow, though, for a scenario not currently foreseeable in which Eric Young Jr. mans second base and Murphy slides over to first base. “I don’t know what the winter is going to hold,” Collins said. Of course, that latter scenario would logically involve the departures of Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.
Collins noted the Mets will need to bring a veteran starting pitching hedge to camp, even if Harvey is OK in a rotation alongside Zack Wheeler, Niese and Dillon Gee. That veteran would compete with Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero among others and also serve as a safety net in case of an injury. Asked if it could be a re-signed Aaron Harang, Collins said: “We’ve got to have one of those [veteran-type] guys coming into camp. Who that is I don’t know yet.”
(Alderson, who not too long ago said he would look to sign a major starting pitcher, did a 180-degree turn Tuesday on that topic.)
Listen to Collins’ full interview here.
• Read more on Tejada’s fractured fibula in the Star-Ledger, Daily News and Newsday.
• Missed Jerry Seinfeld appearing on Tuesday’s Mets telecast? You can watch the highlights here.
At one point, Seinfeld -- a Mets fan -- mocks the publicity Dr. James Andrews is getting for examining Harvey on Monday in Gulf Breeze, Fla.
• Keith Olbermann scolded Major League Baseball and, to a lesser extent, the Washington Nationals over wearing “Navy” hats during batting practice, but not in-game after the shooting at the Navy Yard, blocks from the team’s ballpark.
The issue is nearly identical to the Mets -- during games on the anniversary of 9/11 -- no longer wearing the caps of New York City first-responder agencies.
MLB has licensing agreements and does not grant in-game waivers for unauthorized caps it cannot market. The Nats did not even bother to ask about wearing the Navy caps in-game this time, Olbermann suggested, because MLB’s policy is clearly established and inflexible.
Nats manager Davey Johnson responded about Olbermann (via @JamesWagnerWP): “He’s not high on my list.”
• Wheeler is at 168 2/3 innings between the majors and minors this season, and the Mets likely want to cap the rookie at no more than 180 innings. So Collins said Wednesday it is unresolved whether Wheeler’s final start will be Monday in Cincinnati, or he also will appear in the regular-season finale the following Sunday at Citi Field against the Milwaukee Brewers as part of a continued six-man rotation. Mike Piazza will be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame that day. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Travis d’Arnaud could return to the lineup today after missing a game. D’Arnaud was struck by a foul ball in the right shoulder off the bat of Hunter Pence on Tuesday. D’Arnaud has repeatedly gotten hit in the head of late as well, primarily from backswings.
"It’s more than I’ve ever seen, and it’s a little bit concerning," Mets bench coach Bob Geren told Jorge Castillo in the Star-Ledger about the beating d’Arnaud is taking.
Geren told Marc Carig in Newsday there is a “conundrum” because typically you move closer to the plate when getting hit by too many foul balls and farther away from the plate if you’re getting by backswings. And d’Arnaud is a victim of both.
Read more in the Record.
• Justin Turner (hamstring) is not ready to do baseball activities. Frank Francisco (hand) also is not ready to return.
• Howard Megdal at Capital New York finds Alderson’s unwillingness to speak about the team’s 2014 payroll troubling.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing would like Howie Rose to reunite with Gary Cohen on the season’s final day.
BIRTHDAYS: Left-hander Randall K. Myers turns 51.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Does Ruben Tejada deserve to be a part of the 2014 Mets?
I like when money makes a difference but don't make you different— Dominic Smith (@TheRealSmith22) September 19, 2013
So Mets coaches will have their work cut out for them during spring training, trying to get an entirely new catching corps introduced to the pitching staff.
Four newcomers are expected to occupy the highest catching slots in the organization. The most likely scenario has ex-Marlin John Buck starting the season as the Mets’ primary catcher, with waiver claim Anthony Recker as his backup. Highly regarded prospect Travis d’Arnaud would get the primary April duty at Triple-A Las Vegas, backed up by former Oakland catcher Landon Powell.
“It will be a fun spring training,” said bench coach Bob Geren, who doubles as the team’s catching instructor. “There will be a little bit of a learning curve. They’ll have to learn our pitchers.
“Dan Warthen does a really nice job of that with game preparation and letting everybody know what guys throw. We had good meetings last year in spring training. We talked in pitchers-and-catchers meetings what each guy on the staff has -- ranking the order of control, order of dominance. Last year it was to get guys to call better games. They were kind of inexperienced. It’s going to be the same method this year. Experienced or not, they have to learn a whole new staff.
“We’ll have a little longer this year because we start earlier [because of the World Baseball Classic]. It will all get done. And you’ll get good catching this year. That’s for sure. And in the future.”
Why does d’Arnaud likely start at Las Vegas? From a pure baseball standpoint, he probably needs more seasoning. His inaugural season in Triple-A last year ended June 25 with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
It makes even more sense from a long-term standpoint.
By spending the first 20 days in the minors, d’Arnaud’s free-agency eligibility would be delayed from after the 2018 season until after the 2019 season since he would not be credited with a full year of major league service this year.
Keeping d’Arnaud in the minors could keep his future salary down, too.
If d’Arnaud remained in the minors until, say, June, he would avoid becoming a “Super Two” after the 2015 season and save the Mets substantial money.
Ike Davis, because he was called up in April of his rookie year, this offseason was among the top 22 percent of players with two-plus years of MLB service time. So Davis is arbitration eligible a year earlier -- and for four years instead of the standard three. He just settled for $3.125 million. Had Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis done a better job at the start of the 2010 season with the Mets at first base and Davis’ promotion been delayed a couple of months, Davis now would be making a lot closer to $500,000 because he would not have qualified for arbitration.
As for d’Arnaud, Geren says he received a scouting report from Don Wakamatsu, Geren’s former bench coach in Oakland, who has served as the catching instructor for the Blue Jays.
“I talked to ‘Wak’ a lot about Travis, and I spoke to Travis,” Geren said. “He’s going to be a good one. He’s going to be quality on both sides of the ball -- offense and defense. He’s smart, a hard worker, tough. He wants to learn, wants to work. And he has the ability. When you have the ability and the desire, that’s a pretty good combination. I’ve just seen him on video, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Geren offers these breakdowns on the projected Opening Day major leaguers:
“John Buck is an All-Star [in 2010]. He’s got a great arm. He’s got power. He’s got obviously some ability to call a game, some leadership, some experience.
“Anthony Recker is another guy we had in Oakland, who I’ve known for a long time. They asked me about him, and I spoke highly of him, too. He’s a real strong offensive player with a lot of power. His catching has improved a lot over the last couple of years. I’m actually anxious to see him play, because I haven’t seen him catch in a couple of years, and I’ve heard that he’s made pretty good improvements there.”
Tonight, R.A. Dickey bids for his 21st win and makes his final case for the Cy Young Award. Dickey opposes rookie right-hander Jacob Turner at 7:10 p.m. Only three other pitchers in franchise history have reached the 21-win plateau. Tom Seaver had 25 wins in 1969, 22 in 1975 and 21 in 1972. Dwight Gooden had 24 in 1985. Jerry Koosman had 21 in 1976.
Tuesday's news reports:
Dan Warthen and the rest of the coaching staff will return in 2013.
• Connecticut native Adam Greenberg, who was struck in the head with a pitch in his lone major league plate appearance -- on July 9, 2005 -- and subsequently developed vertigo will pinch hit for the Marlins today. He likely will face Dickey in the middle innings. The Mets will treat him like any other major league hitter.
Fred Van Dusen, the only other player in major league history to be hit with a pitch in his lone major league plate appearance and never play the field, will be on hand and throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Writes Clark Spencer in the Miami Herald about Van Dusen attending:
Van Dusen couldn’t be happier. “It’s a good human-interest story,’’ said Van Dusen, who has never met Greenberg or spoken with him. “It’s a positive thing, and a lot of people who don’t understand baseball, they’ll applaud it greatly."
Van Dusen was 18 when he was called up by the Philadelphia Phillies late in the 1955 season. Now 75, retired and living in Tennessee, Van Dusen said he spent about a month on the Phillies bench before he was finally given a chance to play. It was on Sept. 11 of that season, in the ninth inning of a game against the Milwaukee Braves, that Van Dusen was sent in to pinch-hit. On the fourth pitch of the at bat, and with Milwaukee’s Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews looking on from the field for the Braves, Van Dusen was hit by a Humberto Robinson pitch. Van Dusen took his base and was left standing at first when the inning ended. Though considered to be a top prospect, Van Dusen would not play again in another major-league game.
Read more on Greenberg in the Post.
• It appears highly unlikely Mike Pelfrey will return in 2013, but Terry Collins and Warthen wouldn't mind having him back -- as a back end of the bullpen option, perhaps. Pelfrey, who underwent Tommy John surgery on May 1, has to be cut loose in December. Otherwise, the Mets would have to pay him at least 80 percent of this year's $5.6875 million salary. Once a free agent, Pelfrey would be free to sign anywhere. And agent Scott Boras likely would try to place Pelfrey with a team to start on a one-year contract with a reasonable base salary (maybe $2 million) and performance-based incentives.
• Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon joined the team in Miami along with other Mets executives, including Sandy Alderson and assistant GM John Ricco. The group will begin to solidify an offseason plan.
• Warthen said the key to Dickey (20-6, 2.69 ERA) taking another leap forward this season was learning how to control the knuckleball up in the zone and using up-and-down movement in addition to side-to-side.
R.A. Dickey bids for his 21st win tonight.
“It wasn’t really an idea as much as we kind of stumbled upon it in Pittsburgh (May 22),” Dickey said about commanding the pitch up in the zone. “I figured out a mechanism to be able to keep it elevated and still take spin off of it. At least I thought I had, and was anxious to work on it in my bullpens subsequent to that outing.
“Sure enough, it seemed like we had identified something that I could do to change the elevation consistently when I wanted to. The thing about a knuckleball is a lot of times you’ll try things and it’ll do the opposite. It’s just the nature of that pitch from time to time. So when you find a way to do something and you can consistently do it with that, then you’ve found something good. From that moment on I really worked hard on it.”
Read more on Dickey's Cy Young bid in the Record.
• The proposed Major League Soccer stadium at Flushing Meadows Corona Park adjacent to Citi Field, which would house an expansion team, has community opposition. Writes Clare Trapasso in the Daily News:
Major League Soccer officials previously said they were looking to build a 25,000-seat stadium on eight acres at the Fountains of Industry site in the park. That estimate later ballooned to up to 13 acres. But officials insisted that they are committed to finding replacement park land. “We are in the process of starting conversations with community leaders to identify parcels,” MLS spokeswoman Risa Heller said in a statement. “MLS is also committed to replacing and upgrading existing community soccer fields as well.”
TRIVIA: Of the 11 ballparks that opened since 2001, Marlins Park this season has produced the worst attendance. Which new ballpark did it displace with that distinction?
Monday's answer: Jose Reyes entered the final series leading the Marlins in steals with 38, but not by much. Emilio Bonifacio swiped 30 before his season ended Aug. 21 with a right knee injury.
The Mets' entire coaching staff will return for 2013, including (l to r) pitching coach Dan Warthen, hitting coach Dave Hudgens and third base coach Tim Teufel.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen is the longest-tenured member of the staff, having ascended from Triple-A when Willie Randolph as well as Rick Peterson were axed in the 3 a.m. ET firing back in 2008. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens is completing his second season. Bench coach Bob Geren, third base coach Tim Teufel, first base coach Tom Goodwin and bullpen coach Ricky Bones all are concluding their first year on the staff.
Among NL teams, the Mets offensively enter the final three games ranked 11th in runs scored (641), 10th in batting average (.249) and 13th in homers (134). Pitching-wise, they are 11th in ERA at 4.11 -- although the starters rank seventh (3.85) and the relievers rank 16th/last (4.67).
Wally Backman, who managed at Triple-A this past season, said no role has yet been presented to him for 2013.
"I like this organization. I'd like to finish my career in this organization," Warthen said. "I'm very happy where we are as far as our young arms coming up. I think there's a great deal of future -- a good future. ... With the [Zack] Wheelers and some of the guys we're seeing right now, I think that we have a very bright future. And I'm glad to be a part of that. ... [Matt] Harvey pitched better here than he did in the minor leagues. So I think there's some very positive, wonderful things happening here.
"I'm anxious to see a little more of Zack Wheeler. I've only seen him go to the mound and compete one time in my life up close and live. Whether it was [outgoing Triple-A pitching coach Mark] Brewer or [pitching coordinator Ron] Romanick, they say that this kid's arm is even better than Harvey's. [Jeurys] Familia, I've been so excited to see him pitch. He's made a lot of rookie, or very young, mistakes or nervous mistakes. But the stuff that comes out of his hand is electric to me -- it's 95, 96 with movement, a very easy, relaxed motion. So you see a huge future in that.
"Along with [R.A.] Dickey and hopefully [Johan] Santana coming back, and [Dillon] Gee coming back healthy, I think we have a chance to be a very solid pitching organization for a number of years to come."
WHAT IT MEANS: R.A. Dickey notched his 16th victory and the Mets snapped a six-game losing streak with a 3-1 win against the lowly Houston Astros on Saturday afternoon at Citi Field.
R.A. Dickey reacts to coaxing a double play from pinch hitter Steve Pearce in the fifth after facing a bases-loaded, one-out jam.
Jon Rauch, Josh Edgin and Frank Francisco preserved the one-run lead for the final six outs.
Dickey retired 10 straight batters to open game, until Fernando Martinez singled to right field.
The knuckleballer was staked to a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Astros left-hander Fernando Abad and catcher Jason Castro clumsily collided on Dickey's swinging bunt and Ronny Cedeño scored.
Dickey overcame the biggest threat against him a half-inning later. With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, Dickey coaxed pinch hitter Steve Pearce into a 6-4-3 double play, with Cedeño withstanding a hard slide by Brian Bogusevic at second base while turning the twin-killing.
Justin Turner -- starting for a second straight day, this time at first base -- staked the Mets to a 2-0 lead with a solo homer in the sixth against reliever Mickey Storey. It was Turner's first long ball since Aug. 6, 2011, during a two-homer game against Atlanta's Tommy Hanson. Turner had gone 263 at-bats between homers. (Side note: Turner's iPod, attached to speakers, blared cover versions of "Wonderwall" continuously for an hour in the clubhouse pregame.)
Dickey uncorked a run-scoring wild pitch in the top of the seventh and departed in the bottom half of the inning for pinch hitter Jordany Valdespin with his pitch count at 86 and the Mets leading 2-1.
The Mets posted their third run in the eighth when Jason Bay snapped an 0-for-14 drought with an RBI single. The Mets had failed to exceed two runs in seven straight games, their longest such drought since 1982.
ACCOUNTABILITY: Ruben Tejada received a visit from trainer Ray Ramirez at shortstop after fielding a grounder on a sharp hop in the fourth inning. When he batted an inning later and popped out, Tejada did not run to first base with much intensity. That seemingly warranted a lecture in the corner of the dugout from bench coach Bob Geren. Tejada then disappeared down the tunnel that leads to the clubhouse. When he returned in view, David Wright spoke with the shortstop.
HEAVY LOAD: Edgin potentially risks overuse, like predecessors Pedro Feliciano and Tim Byrdak. Collins inserted the rookie southpaw with two outs in the eighth to face the lefty-hitting ex-Met Martinez with the bases empty, rather than have Rauch finish the inning. It was Edgin's sixth appearance in seven days.
WHAT'S NEXT: Jeremy Hefner, whose wife, Sarah, gave birth to the couple's second child Wednesday in Oklahoma, has returned from paternity leave and gets the start Sunday at 1:10 p.m. Hefner (2-5, 5.11 ERA) opposes Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell (10-9, 4.04).
Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press
Carlos Quentin dislodged the baseball from Josh Thole in the seventh inning, in the pivotal play of Friday's game.
"I just didn't get my free hand on the ball," Thole said. "When I was reaching for it, as I was getting to the ball, I got hit. At least you want to have the ball in your bare hand inside the glove. I always prepare to get hit -- and if they slide, they slide. It makes it easier. That's how you draw the play up. Outfielder hits the cut man. The cut man throws a one-hopper to me. You couldn't have drawn it up any better. I've just got to get my bare hand on the ball."
Said bench coach Bob Geren, a former major league catcher for five seasons: "I just watched it. He was in the right position. The ball just popped out. It looked like he did everything right. He caught the ball. He tried to secure it with two hands, and right about when he hit him. More times than not he won't drop the ball. He had time. The way he hit him, he hit him at the perfect angle. All the force went on the glove. And I watched it like 10 times. It's an unfortunate break. You're taught to try to knock the ball loose as a runner. They both did exactly what they're supposed to do. The ball just popped out."
Said R.A. Dickey: "It stings a little bit because we should have won that game, not because of any groove that I'm in. We have to win games like this. We have to compete to have a shot at working our way back into this thing. I didn't execute a pitch or two, but we had some funny plays, too. Regardless, it's a game that I think everybody in here thought we should have won."
Parnell, working with a two-run cushion, allowed both to score, on RBI singles by Michael Bourn and Martin Prado. He then surrendered an RBI single to Jason Heyward past a diving Ronny Cedeño at shortstop as the Braves rallied for an 8-7 win with a three-run eighth.
Geren had removed Ruben Tejada at shortstop for Cedeño on the double-switch on which Parnell was inserted.
Parnell suffered his first blown save in three chances in Frank Francisco's absence with an oblique injury that recently had a setback.
The last five-plus-out save by a Met remains by Francisco Rodriguez against the Phillies on Aug. 7, 2010.
The Mets fell to 46-42.
MEN IN BLUE: A reversed call in the fifth inning opened the door for the Braves to take a 5-3 lead.
Left fielder Jordany Valdespin initially was ruled to have caught a fifth-inning fly ball off the bat of Heyward. Runner Martin Prado, who had believed the ball bounced and proceeded toward second base, was doubled off first to end the inning.
However, after huddling, the umpires reversed the call -- correctly, since the ball actually had short-hopped the sliding Valdespin. Not wanting to penalize Prado for accurately seeing the ball drop, even though he was tagged out, Prado was placed on second base, while Heyward was awarded first base.
After Collins argued, and was ejected for the second time this season, Dickey retired Chipper Jones on a groundball for the second out as both runners advanced. Freddie Freeman followed with a tiebreaking two-run double to right-center.
Dickey, who departed for a pinch hitter the following half-inning, has now allowed five earned runs apiece in three of his past four starts. His lone two outings this season in which he failed to complete six innings have come at Turner Field.
Collins’ other ejection this season came April 11 against Washington, by Larry Vanover while disputing the strike zone.
Valdespin actually was in the middle of two disputed calls in the fifth. Leading off the top half of that inning, he incorrectly was ruled out by first base ump C.B. Bucknor. On a bunt play, Valdespin actually had beaten right-hander Tommy Hanson’s throw to first.
CHARMED: Dickey departed trailing 5-3, but ended up in a position to win a half-inning later. Justin Turner, who pinch hit for Dickey, as well as Tejada and Valdespin delivered RBI singles as the Mets took a 6-5 lead in the sixth. Tejada added another run-scoring single in the eighth for a two-run cushion.
The eighth-inning comeback instead resulted in a no-decision.
Since losing in rainy Atlanta on April 18, Dickey nonetheless has won 10 straight decisions, trailing only a streak of 16 winning decisions by Tom Seaver that spanned the 1969 and ’70 seasons, and a 14-decision winning streak by Dwight Gooden in 1985.
Dickey has failed to complete six innings only twice this season -- both times at Turner Field.
Knuckleball predecessor Phil Niekro attended Saturday's game.
INSIDE EDGE: Josh Edgin made his second major league appearance, and had resounding success while protecting a 6-5 lead. The rookie left-hander struck out three in the frame. The lone batter who reached, Matt Diaz, came on a semi-intentional walk. In two appearances, Edgin has now struck out five of the six lefty hitters he has faced. The other, Freeman, doubled Friday.
WHAT’S NEXT: Johan Santana’s first start of the second half, delayed to rest a cranky right ankle, is on tap as the Mets try to avoid the sweep. Santana opposes Ben Sheets, who is making his first major league start in two years, in Sunday's 1:35 p.m. finale. Shortstop Paul Janish, acquired from Reds during Saturday’s game for right-hander Todd Redmond, is likely to make his Braves debut.
Courtesy of Brooklyn Cyclones
Matt Bowman studied Tim Lincecum's delivery and tried to incorporate some of the San Francisco Giant's mechanics into his own delivery.
That is no coincidence, according to the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Bowman, who made his professional debut with the Brooklyn Cyclones on Friday by striking out five in two scoreless relief innings.
“I’ve definitely heard it before. It’s definitely a fair comparison,” said Bowman, who made his second Cyclones appearance Tuesday, allowing a run in two innings while earning his first pro win. “I’ve watched him pitch, and I’ve studied a little bit of what he does mechanically. I sort of look at him as almost a template for a smaller guy who’s flexible and somewhat athletic creating a lot of velocity with not a lot of weight behind the ball. I’ve certainly looked at his mechanics and tried to take little parts of it and incorporate it into my motion. I am certainly not trying to do exactly what he does.”
Bowman was named honorable mention All-Ivy League both as a pitcher and as a shortstop during his junior season. He indicated it was a no-brainer to turn pro. He plans to complete his Princeton education and earn an economics degree by taking fall classes this year and in 2013. He expects to be given the year and a half to write his senior thesis, following the same plan as another former Princeton baseball player, Danny Barnes (Blue Jays, 35th round in 2010).
“It seems to basically be the best of both worlds,” Bowman said about playing pro ball and getting the Princeton degree.
Bowman’s junior thesis involved interviewing members of the Phillies organization about their ticket sales and analyzing StubHub data.
“Basically I was trying to make comparisons and see if they could adapt a new ticket-pricing scheme to maximize their revenue,” Bowman said.
Bowman has not met Chris Young, another Princeton product. But a teammate of Bowman’s at Princeton who grew up in Texas down the block from Young, and who used to regularly throw with the Met back home, has passed along Young’s phone number. Bowman figures he will reach out at some point this season, which particularly makes sense since he is nearby in Brooklyn.
Bowman has met Mets bench coach Bob Geren, who has ties to Princeton as well. Geren’s sons Bobby and Brett also play for the Ivy League school. They both have catching experience, although Bowman pitched to Sam Mulroy, a 33rd-round draft pick of the Angels, at Princeton this season.
After being drafted by the Mets but before signing, Bowman -- a Chevy Chase, Md., native -- visited Nationals Park when the Mets were playing in D.C. Geren gave Bowman a tour of the visitors’ clubhouse and introduced him to players.
“He’s been very nice to me,” Bowman said about Geren.
DePodesta suggested that Bowman concentrating on pitching should benefit him as a pro.
“He’s very athletic, a very good strike thrower,” DePodesta said after the draft. “At our workout he actually was up to 95 mph, but pitching mainly 93-94 with plus life on his fastball. We like the athletic package and think he has some upside there when he concentrates on pitching full time. … He was a guy ever since he came to our workout that we’ve targeted. We were just trying to figure out the best time to call his name. He’s a guy we were pretty intent on taking somewhere.”
LOOK FOR PART II OF THE FARM REPORT AT NOON, WITH ORGANIZATIONAL STATISTICAL LEADERS AND PLAYER NOTES.
Adam Rubin’s farm report appears Wednesdays during the regular season