New York Mets: Daisuke Matsuzaka

Rapid Reaction: Mariners 5, Mets 2

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
1:03
AM ET
SEATTLE -- The Mets’ first game in the Pacific Northwest in nine years felt as pleasant as a space needle to the gut.

Jonathon Niese had the longest active streak in the majors of starts allowing three earned runs or fewer snapped and the Mets lost to the Seattle Mariners, 5-2, in Monday’s series opener at Safeco Field.

The Mets (46-53) have lost three of four since play resumed following the All-Star break. They have dropped back into fourth place and now trail the first-place Washington Nationals by nine games in the National League East.

The Amazin's have scored four runs in their last 33 innings.

In his first action since returning from the disabled list, Niese allowed four earned runs on 11 hits and two walks in six innings. That snapped a string of 21 straight starts allowing three earned runs or fewer, which matched the second-longest streak in franchise history. Dwight Gooden holds the franchise record with 29 straight starts of three earned runs or fewer, spanning 1984 and ’85.

Niese last had pitched July 4 -- and that was only a dozen pitches, because he was struck in the lower back with a line drive and departed. Niese officially was on the DL with a left shoulder strain.

He threw 93 pitches and flashed his normal velocity on Monday.

Happy anniversary: David Wright went 2-for-5 on the 10th anniversary of his July 21, 2004 major league debut. Wright’s two-out RBI single in the third pulled the Mets even at 1.

Robbed: After singling in his first two at-bats, Travis d'Arnaud appeared poised to pull the Mets within 4-2 in the sixth. However, left fielder Dustin Ackley reached over the wall and pulled back a would-be solo homer from d’Arnaud against reliever Dominic Leone.

Ouch: Mariners starter Roenis Elias limited the Mets to one run in 5 1/3 innings. He then departed with an escort from the trainer with what was announced as left forearm cramping.

Relief worker: Daisuke Matsuzaka, bounced from the rotation with Niese’s return, made his first relief appearance since June 17. Matsuzaka entered with two outs and a runner on second base in the seventh and retired Stefen Romero on a foul pop-out. Matsuzaka then surrendered an RBI double to Ackley in the eighth as Seattle upped its lead to 5-2.

What’s next: Jacob deGrom (3-5, 3.18 ERA) makes his opening start of the second half. DeGrom opposes right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (1-4, 4.58) at 10:10 p.m. ET.

Morning Briefing: Wright's 10th anniversary

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
5:01
AM ET

Keith Torrie/Getty ImagesDavid Wright made his major league debut in this July 21, 2004 game against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium. He went 0-for-4.
SAN DIEGO

FIRST PITCH: The captain celebrates an anniversary on Monday.

David Wright made his major league debut on July 21, 2004 against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium, ending a revolving door at third base for the franchise.

The Mets’ lineup that day?

Jose Reyes, 2b
Kazuo Matsui, ss
Ty Wigginton, 1b
Cliff Floyd, lf
Richard Hidalgo, rf
Mike Cameron, cf
Wright, 3b
Vance Wilson, c
Jae Weong Seo, rhp

Wright had been drafted by the organization three years earlier with a compensatory pick (38th overall) for losing Mike Hampton as a free agent to the Colorado Rockies.

The Mets open an interleague series on Monday in Seattle at 10:10 p.m. ET. Jonathon Niese (5-4, 2.96 ERA) returns from the disabled list to face Cuban rookie left-hander Roenis Elias (7-8, 4.54).

The Amazin’s lone other trip to Safeco Field came in 2005.

The Mariners staff includes ex-Mets Howard Johnson, Chris Woodward and Jason Phillips.

Read the Mets-Mariners series preview here.

Monday’s news reports:

Odrisamer Despaigne held the Mets hitless until Daniel Murphy produced a two-out double in the eighth. The Mets tied the score that inning on Wright’s RBI single. However, the Amazin’s lost, 2-1, in walk-off fashion when Josh Edgin stumbled on a chopper off the bat of Seth Smith and could not complete the out at first base in time. Zack Wheeler limited his opponent to one run and logged at least six innings for the fourth straight start. The Mets dropped eight games back in the NL East.

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

• Read more on Wheeler in the Post.

• With Niese (shoulder strain) coming off the disabled list, Daisuke Matsuzaka is relocating to the bullpen and Buddy Carlyle was designated for assignment. Read more at MLB.com and in the Daily News.

• Although the Mets are receptive to trading Bartolo Colon, the buzz in San Diego was that no scouts were specifically there to see the veteran righty on Friday, signaling limited interest. Writes Mike Puma in the Post:

According to a source, as of Sunday the Mets had not yet received even a nibble on the 41-year-old right-hander, who is expendable because of the club’s starting-pitching depth. Over his last four starts, Colon is 0-3 with a 5.88 ERA. That comes after a strong June in which Colon helped carry the Mets rotation by going 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA.

• Columnist Michael Powell in the Times takes the Mets’ temperature.

Wilmer Flores extended his hitting streak to 21 games and Rafael Montero allowed one run in four innings in his return to Triple-A following a left oblique strain, but Las Vegas lost to Salt Lake, 3-0. Brian Burgamy had two homers and Dustin Lawley also went deep in Binghamton’s 5-2 win against Trenton. John Gant took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and Savannah ultimately swept Lexington in a doubleheader. Corey Oswalt tossed seven scoreless innings as Brooklyn blanked Williamsport, 6-0. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• There are no plans to promote Flores to the majors anytime soon, Terry Collins said. Read more in the Star-Ledger and Newsday.

Bobby Abreu is expected to serve as the designated hitter for the final two games in Seattle.

BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets player and manager Mike Cubbage turns 64. He currently is a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays ... Mike Bordick is 49.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Have the Mets eroded your optimism with their performance in San Diego?

Niese returning; Matsuzaka headed to pen

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
2:14
PM ET

Getty ImagesJon Niese's return means Daisuke Matsuzaka is headed to the bullpen.
SAN DIEGO -- Jonathon Niese is poised to return from the disabled list on Monday to face the Seattle Mariners, Terry Collins confirmed Sunday.

The manager added that Daisuke Matsuzaka is now a reliever, although he will be on standby Monday in case Niese has an issue in his first game action since a 12-pitch effort on July 4. Niese officially has been on the DL with a left shoulder strain. The Fourth of July start separately was shortened by getting struck with a line drive in the lower back.

Matsuzaka opened the season in the bullpen, marking the first time in his career in that role. He has a 2.22 ERA and opponents are hitting only .145 in 17 relief appearances this season. Still, he has walked 19 in 24 1/3 innings in that role.

Collins met with Matsuzaka on Sunday morning to inform him of the decision. Matsuzaka is 2-3 with a 4.24 ERA in nine starts in 2014.

“I don’t feel it’s something to comment on. I’m just going to pitch where I’m told and it’s done,” Matsuzaka said through an interpreter in his lone remark about the reassignment.

Perhaps acknowledging at least a slight possibility that Bartolo Colon could be traded and Matsuzaka could reenter the rotation, Collins said: “I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you what’s going to happen in the next five or six days. I really don’t know. But, as of right now, he’s going to go to the bullpen. He did a great job for us there. He pitched very well as a starter. I said, ‘You fill a lot of holes for us.’ … I think he brings a real useful piece to our pitching staff.”

The Mets will need to make a roster move Monday to active Niese. Buddy Carlyle would appear most vulnerable.

Morning Briefing: Still rolling

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
5:41
AM ET
SAN DIEGO

FIRST PITCH: The Mets did not cool off during the break.

Now winners of nine of their past 11, they have climbed to four games under .500.

They try to keep the momentum going Saturday, with Dillon Gee (4-1, 2.56 ERA) opposing right-hander Tyson Ross (7-10, 2.85) at 8:40 p.m. ET.

Saturday’s news reports:

Travis d'Arnaud continued his solid production since returning from Las Vegas. Playing at the site of his major league debut last August, the rookie catcher finished 3-for-5 and drove in the tiebreaking run against Joaquin Benoit in the ninth as the Mets beat the Padres, 5-4, Friday at Petco Park. The Mets gained a game on the Washington Nationals, but remained seven games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves.

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

• Sandy Alderson said pregame that not much had transpired so far in terms of trade conversations with other teams. The GM also indicated that he did not intend to rent a player who would be a free agent at season’s end. Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger, Record and Newsday.

Jenrry Mejia pulled a Mark Messier and guaranteed to SNY the Mets are making the playoffs … or something like that.

“We’re gonna make it because we believe in ourselves,” Mejia told the network, via the Post. “We’ll be ready, and we’re gonna make the playoffs. We’re gonna be there.”

• Daisuke Matsuaka is headed to the bullpen, although the Mets do not intend to use him there Saturday or Sunday. They first want to be 100 percent sure Jonathon Niese will be able to come off the disabled list on Monday to face the Seattle Mariners. Niese threw a bullpen session Friday at Petco Park and pronounced himself ready for that assignment in Seattle. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Newsday, Record and Daily News.

• Top prospect Noah Syndergaard returned from a save in the All-Star Game and proceeded to allow seven runs in five innings on Thursday for Las Vegas at Salt Lake. Syndergaard now has a 5.74 ERA in 17 Pacific Coast League starts.

He told Jared Diamond in the Journal that most of his issues have been mental, including paying too much attention to the Super 2 deadline. "I was thinking about that almost constantly," Syndergaard said.

Pitch selection, and an overreliance on fastballs, also has been an issue. "I've had a hard time knowing what to throw in certain situations," said Syndergaard, whose fastball comfortably hit 98 mph Thursday.

• Jay Schreiber in the Times notes that the last time the Mets finished with a winning record and the Yankees with a losing record was back in 1990. Could it happen again?

• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger lists six surprising stats for the Mets, including Ruben Tejada possessing the third-highest OBP among major league shortstops and the Mets leading the NL in home runs since June 17.

• Anthony Seratelli had a three-run homer and Cory Mazzoni earned the win in his Triple-A debut as Las Vegas held on against Salt Lake, 7-6. Robert Gsellman had a 10-strikeout game on his 21st birthday as Savannah beat Lexington, 5-1. Taylor Teagarden’s rehab assignment shifted to St. Lucie, which lost to Brevard County, 4-3. 2012 first-round pick Gavin Cecchini was pulled from that game for an apparent disciplinary reason. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• First-round pick Michael Conforto is due to make his professional debut Saturday for the Cyclones as the designated hitter. Brooklyn hosts Williamsport at 6 p.m.

• Closer Huston Street was traded by the Padres to the Los Angeles Angels. Read more in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

• Benjamin Hoffman in the Times writes that San Diego may end up with the worst offense in major league history.

Dan Uggla was released by the Braves despite $18 million remaining on his contract through 2015. Read more in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

• Nick Forrester in the Daily News profiles Cyclones GM Steve Cohen.

From the bloggers …Faith and Fear made it through the All-Star break, but just barely.

BIRTHDAYS: Rick Ankiel turns 35. ... Preston Wilson is 40. ... David Segui turns 48.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Will the Mets finish with a better record than the Yankees?

Matsuzaka to work in bullpen

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
9:04
PM ET
SAN DIEGO -- Daisuke Matsuzaka will be stationed in the bullpen on Friday night and available to work in relief in the series opener against the Padres.

However, Terry Collins does not plan to use Matsuzaka in relief later this weekend, in order to ensure Matsuzaka would available on Monday to step in at Seattle should Jonathon Niese have an issue and end up unavailable.

Still, the full expectation now is that Niese will return from the disabled list on Monday to face the Mariners. At that point, Matsuzaka's return to the bullpen will be official.

Matsuzaka opened the season as a reliever. He produced a 2.22 ERA in 17 appearances.

Morning Briefing: And now we pause

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
5:40
AM ET

Getty ImagesThe Mets open the second half with Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler facing the Padres.
NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: The Mets headed into the All-Star break with an Amazin’ finish to the first half.

They completed their homestand with eight wins in 10 games. It marked the second-most wins on a homestand in Citi Field history. The Amazin’s went 9-1 from April 18-28, 2010.

“We came off the road and, actually, I was talking to the coaches the first day,” Terry Collins said. “I said, ‘If we go 7-3, that’s going to be a tremendous homestand for us.’ These guys just stepped it up -- got the offense and pitching going at the same time. And that’s how you put streaks together.”

The Mets are still 45-50 on the season and seven games behind the co-division-leading Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves.

Those teams are on pace for 89 wins. So it may require that magical 90 wins for the Mets to capture the division. And that would mean a 45-22 record the rest of the way.

The Mets reconvene Friday in San Diego. Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler face the Padres that series.

“What we’ve shown the last 10 days is, yes, we can compete,” Collins said. “Now, we’ve got 67 more games. We’ve got to go out and do it. We can’t just talk about it. We’ve got to go do it. If we continue to play like this, September is going to be a fun month.”

Monday’s news reports:

• The Mets closed the first half with a 9-1 win against the Marlins as Jacob deGrom limited Miami to one run in seven innings and also drove in the tiebreaking run for his first career RBI.

The Mets leapfrogged Miami and moved into sole possession of third place for the first time since May 4.

After the victory, David Wright suggested the Nationals and Braves are within striking distance of the Mets.

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

• Wright still is playing through shoulder discomfort. He planned to receive a cortisone injection after Sunday’s game to try to address swelling and his bruised left rotator cuff. Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger and Newsday.

• Despite Collins floating Saturday that deGrom may have to open the second half in the bullpen for a week or two to conserve innings, the manager confirmed postgame Sunday that deGrom would remain uninterrupted in the rotation. Read more in the Star-Ledger and Newsday.

Jonathon Niese returned to the mound for a bullpen session Sunday and declared himself fit to return from the disabled list next Monday in Seattle. With deGrom remaining in the rotation, that signals Daisuke Matsuzaka is reverting to relief work. Read more in the Post.

• Noah Syndergaard, sporting a Mohawk, produced the save for the U.S. team and Kevin Plawecki started at catcher and drove in the opening run as the Mets prospects were on the winning side of a 3-2 victory in the Futures Game on Sunday in Minneapolis.


Jeff Roberson/Associated PressNoah Syndergaard confessed he was affected by lofty expectations while struggling in Triple-A.


Syndergaard told the Daily News’ John Haper afterward about closing: “It’s a different mentality. My heart is still racing. I’ll leave that to someone else.”

He said about a 5.31 Triple-A ERA in 16 starts with Las Vegas this season: “I feel like the expectations got to me a little bit.” On rearing back and firing fastballs with men on base, he added: “I have to become more of a pitcher than a thrower.”

Read more in the Post, Daily News and Newsday.

• Collins offered no indication Wilmer Flores is returning to the majors soon, despite a 17-game hitting streak with Las Vegas. The manager expects the Mets to remain with an outfield-heavy bench at the major league level.

• Dilson Herrera had a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh and Binghamton overcame four errors from third baseman Dustin Lawley in a 5-4 win against Erie. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• Tim Rohan in the Times addresses Jenrry Mejia’s demonstrative post-save antics. Writes Rohan:

As Mejia progressed, so did the celebrations. For weeks he appeared to tinker with that dance, and finally, against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, he executed it smoothly and confidently. Tommy La Stella, the batter Mejia struck out to end the game, and Jason Heyward, a young Braves star, said they hardly noticed it.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “If stuff like that bothered you, you’d be fighting every day. Whatever he’s got to do. I’m glad that my closer and my team, when we win games, we just walk off the field. Like we’ve done it.”

The Mets did not appear to have a clear opinion, either. Manager Terry Collins said that times had changed and that closers’ celebrations were more acceptable than they once were. He cited a conversation he once had with the former manager Jim Leyland, who put up with Jose Valverde's antics for years in Detroit. If Leyland could do it, Collins could, too.

Travis d'Arnaud says amateur lip readers on Twitter are incorrect if they think he was cursing the Marlins postgame Saturday. Read more in Newsday.

• Columnist George Willis in the Post lists reasons to be bullish about the Mets.

• Jared Diamond in the Journal labels All-Star Daniel Murphy the Mets’ MVP, Chris Young the biggest letdown and Lucas Duda the biggest surprise.

BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets third baseman Robin Ventura turns 47. ... Minor-league flamethrower Jack Leathersich, who is averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings in his pro career, turns 24.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Do you believe?

Rookie deGrom will stick with starting

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
6:47
PM ET

Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesJacob deGrom closed the first half by limiting the Marlins to one run in seven innings.
NEW YORK -- Terry Collins’ recent suggestion that Jacob deGrom temporarily might find himself in the bullpen to open the second half to conserve innings was a false alarm.

After the Mets entered the All-Star break with a 9-1 win against the Miami Marlins that included seven strong innings from the 26-year-old rookie, Collins confirmed deGrom would remain in the rotation as Jonathon Niese returns from the disabled list.

DeGrom will start in Seattle during the second series of the second half, meaning Daisuke Matsuzaka is headed to a bullpen role.

DeGrom is 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA over his past five starts. And although the Mets typically are conservative with innings counts for their young pitchers, deGrom logged 147 2/3 last season in the minors. So Sandy Alderson has said he is comfortable with deGrom reaching 185 innings this season.

DeGrom is at 112 innings right now between the majors and minors. He would have 13 more starts during the regular season if he took the ball every five games.

“We’re not going to take Jacob deGrom out of the rotation,” Collins said postgame Sunday, after deGrom limited Miami to one run on five hits and two walks in seven innings. “I say that now, but we might look up in a month where he is starting to run out of gas a little bit, where we have to make a decision. He’s pitched very, very well. He didn’t even have his best stuff today. He did a great job.”

No pitcher feels perfect at this point in the season, but deGrom indicated he has plenty of petrol remaining.


Adam RubinDavid Wright cut a lock of Jacob deGrom's hair and affixed it to a clubhouse poster featuring the rookie after deGrom nearly smoked Wright with a foul ball during batting practice.


“I feel really good,” he said. “I think working on my mechanics and getting back to where I wanted to be with [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] has helped my arm recover. I haven’t really been sore this year.”

DeGrom certainly has earned the respect of teammates. He initially was scripted to have a bullpen role. But Dillon Gee’s side-muscle injury lingered for two months and deGrom outperformed Rafael Montero to solidify a spot in the rotation for the long haul.

“He’s one of guys that was a little under the radar,” captain David Wright said. “You heard about the Syndergaards. You heard about the Wheelers. [Steven] Matz has been getting a lot of attention. And Montero. But you never really hard too much about deGrom. And he was actually slated to be in the bullpen when he first got called up and something happened and he got a start and really has seized that opportunity. He’s got a live arm and throws strikes. It’s fun to play defense behind those guys.”

Wright had some fun with deGrom in recent days. After deGrom nearly smoked a stretching Wright with a foul ball while the pitcher was taking batting practice, Wright cut a lock of deGrom’s floppy hair and affixed it to a poster hanging in the clubhouse between their adjacent lockers. The poster had been created by the Mets’ social media team, with a silhouette of the rookie’s mane and the hashtag “#HAIRWEGO.”

“I let him do it,” deGrom said about Wright playing barber. “That’s the second one I almost hit him with, too. I guess I kind of deserved it.”

DeGrom said he has matured as a pitcher since arriving in the big leagues. An effective sinkerballer, he has learned to elevate four-seam fastballs to get batters to chase upstairs for strikeouts.

“And if they don’t swing at it then maybe go to the curveball in the dirt. Just raise their eye level and then try to get them out with something down,” deGrom said.

Overall, he is now 3-5 with a 3.18 ERA. The floppy hair he has not cut in six months and his hitting are giving him notoriety, too.

DeGrom broke a 1-all tie Sunday with an RBI single after a two-out intentional walk to No. 8 hitter Ruben Tejada in the fourth inning. DeGrom has seven hits in his first 12 major league games. That is tied with Matt Harvey for second-most in franchise history. Rick Aguilera had eight.

After the 1-for-3 performance that included his first career RBI, deGrom was asked if he could sustain his current .280 batting average if he were an everyday player.

“I have no clue,” deGrom said. “That’s a tough question.”

Rapid Reaction: Mets 9, Marlins 1

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
4:29
PM ET
NEW YORK -- There may have been scoffing and eye rolls when Terry Collins built this up as a make-or-break homestand, considering the Mets entered the stretch 10 games under .500 and 10 games back in the NL East.

Well, say this for the Amazin’s: They enter the All-Star break on fire … and still relevant.

The Mets completed a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins with a 9-1 win Sunday at Citi Field.

With an 8-2 homestand, the Mets (45-50) have moved into sole possession of third place in the NL East for the first time since May 4. They still are five games under .500 and likely will be seven games out of first place in the division with co-leaders Atlanta and Washington enjoying large late-game leads Sunday, but the mathematics take a backseat to the emotional high for the moment. Sixty-seven games remain.

Jacob deGrom, the third-most ballyhooed prospect in his prospect peer group with Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, continued to produce at a level that will make it difficult to entertain assigning him to the bullpen even for a week or two out of the break.

DeGrom limited the Marlins to one run in seven innings to win his second straight start and slice his ERA to 3.18. The lone run against him came in the fourth after Eric Campbell, in his first major league action at second base, retreated into right field calling for Garrett Jones' pop fly but lost the baseball. It dropped between Campbell and deferring right fielder Curtis Granderson for a two-out double. Marcell Ozuna followed by legging out a run-scoring infield single.

Heck, the Mets cannot afford to deprive themselves of deGrom’s bat, either. A half-inning after the defensive bungle evened the score at 1, deGrom followed an intentional walk to No. 8 hitter Ruben Tejada and restored a lead with a two-out RBI single. It was deGrom’s first career RBI.

DeGrom clearly is entrenched in the rotation for the long haul. Collins even acknowledged pregame Sunday that he arranged his second-half rotation to separate the similar-throwing Zack Wheeler and deGrom. Still, Collins had floated Saturday that deGrom might spend a week or two in the bullpen out of the break to conserve innings if Sandy Alderson deems it necessary -- temporarily sparing Daisuke Matsuzaka a bullpen assignment with Jonathon Niese due to return from the DL.

Yet it is hard to conceive that a hard-charging team that fancies itself in the race intentionally would deprive itself of a wildly successful rookie’s starts, no? So deGrom ought to be starting in Seattle in the second series after the break.

He currently is at 112 innings for the season between the majors and minors. Alderson has said 185 innings is the rough cap.

The Mets opened Sunday’s scoring with a Lucas Duda double and Chris Young sacrifice fly in the second inning. Following deGrom’s two-out RBI single, the lead swelled to 3-1 later in the fourth on Granderson’s run-scoring bloop double. Marlins starter Brad Hand departed after that inning with a bruised right shin, which he suffered getting struck with a comebacker.

Granderson scored in the sixth for a 5-1 lead when second-base ump Will Little trumped an out call at the plate by ruling Granderson was interfered with by Ed Lucas while rounding second base. The Mets loaded the bases with none out in the ninth and produced four runs.

What’s next: The Mets reconvene Friday in San Diego for a trip that also takes them to Seattle and Milwaukee. Bartolo Colon handles Game 1, followed by Dillon Gee and then Wheeler. The Padres will throw Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and Odrisamer Despaigne in the series.

Morning Briefing: Third place at break?

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
5:55
AM ET
NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: Don’t look now, but a win on the final day of the first half would leapfrog the Mets over the Miami Marlins and put the Amazin’s in sole possession of third place for the first time since May 4.

Jacob deGrom (2-5, 3.38 ERA) opposes left-hander Brad Hand (0-1, 5.09) in Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. series finale as the Mets aim to sweep Miami.

Terry Collins plans to give Daniel Murphy off Sunday ahead of his busy All-Star break, with Eric Campbell likely to appear at second base for the first time in his major league career.

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, right-hander Noah Syndergaard and catcher Kevin Plawecki will compete in the Futures Game at 5 p.m. ET at Target Field.

Sunday’s news reports:

Chris Young had a pinch-hit two-run homer in the seventh and Campbell had a tiebreaking pinch-hit RBI single an inning later as the Mets twice overcame two-run deficits to beat the Marlins, 5-4, Saturday at Citi Field. Murphy had a leaping two-out catch in the eighth to prevent the Marlins from taking a lead. Daisuke Matsuzaka had a career-high-matching 10 strikeouts.

Collins said the victory may be the biggest for the Mets so far this season.

The Mets have won seven of nine of their current homestand. With wins by division co-leaders Atlanta and Washington on Saturday, the Mets remained seven games back in the NL East.

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

• Although Matsuzaka is expected to shift to the bullpen with Jonathon Niese poised to return from the disabled list, Collins said he needs to discuss with Sandy Alderson on Sunday whether there ought to be the intermediate step of putting deGrom in the bullpen for a week or two to conserve the rookie’s innings. Alderson has said deGrom should have 185 innings in 2014. Read more in Newsday.

• Although it has not been fully announced, a source tells ESPNNewYork.com that the second-half-opening series in San Diego should be Bartolo Colon on Friday, Dillon Gee on Saturday and Zack Wheeler in the finale. That pushes Niese to the opener in Seattle, where he can deal with lefty-hitting slugger Robinson Cano.

Niese is scheduled to throw at Citi Field before Sunday’s game against the Marlins to demonstrate he is fine to return from the DL in Seattle.

Matt Harvey continues to be more and more resigned to the fact he will not pitch in the majors in 2014. Read more in the Post.

Jeremy Hefner had a perfect inning in the Gulf Coast League in his first game since undergoing Tommy John surgery last Aug. 28. Taylor Teagarden (hamstring) also began a rehab assignment in that game. He only had two plate appearances as a DH before departing for a pinch runner.

• Marc Carig in Newsday profiles the All-Star-bound Murphy. Writes Carig:

Daniel Murphy is the antithesis of a star.

There is no grace in his game. There is no flash. There is no sense of ease. His value stems entirely from function, not aesthetics, and because of this, he knew long ago that his only way to the major leagues involved walking a fine line.

"I've always felt that at the point that I don't play the game with my hair on fire, I'm just not physically gifted enough to continue playing at this level," Murphy said. "So that's how I've always approached it."

• Steve Serby in the Post has a Q&A with Murphy.

• Jayce Boyd homered and had three RBIs as Binghamton beat Erie, 9-3. L.J. Mazzilli doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th as St. Lucie beat Lakeland, 5-4. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• Columnist Mike Vaccaro in the Post compares LeBron James’ departure and return to Cleveland with the Mets’ trade and reacquisition of Tom Seaver.

• Laura Albanese in Newsday profiles Triple-A All-Star Allan Dykstra, who is not related to Lenny Dykstra.

• Stony Brook University product and new dad Tom Koehler discusses his no-decision Saturday with Mike Gavin in Newsday.

From the bloggers ... Faith and Fear revels in what it believes is the most scintillating Mets win of the year.

BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets catcher Mike Fitzgerald was born on this date in 1960.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Can Jeremy Hefner be useful for the Mets later this season?

TC, GM to discuss deGrom to pen for week

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
8:59
PM ET

Getty ImagesWith Jon Niese poised to return from the DL, something has to give in the rotation between Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jacob deGrom.
NEW YORK -- The expectation is Daisuke Matsuzaka ends up in the bullpen for the Mets at some point very soon. Still, Terry Collins threw a small curveball into the timeframe after Saturday’s 5-4 win against the Marlins.

The manager said he would need to discuss with Sandy Alderson on Sunday whether any innings restriction on Jacob deGrom would warrant the rookie opening the second half for a week or two in the bullpen, which would delay Matsuzaka's reassignment to relief.

The Mets will have an extra starter with Jonathon Niese due to return from the disabled list, so someone needs to be rerouted to the bullpen.

Alderson recently said deGrom should be able to pitch 185 innings this season without restriction. He’s currently at 105 between the majors and minors.

If deGrom pitches every five games for the remainder of the season, beginning with Sunday’s first-half finale, that’s 14 more starts in 2014. Eighty innings give him more than 5 2/3 innings per outing.

Collins said he is uninterested in pulling deGrom after five innings in starts to conserve innings with the Mets trying to win games. He’s either in games for as long as he’s productive, or his number of outings need to be curtailed, according to the manager.

“I don’t know, but it’s been talked about before that with all of those young guys we’re going to take a break this summer -- [Noah] Synderaard and [Rafael] Montero and deGrom -- and back off their innings a little bit,” Collins said. “That’ll be discussed tomorrow.”

Ultimately, though, Matsuzaka is going to pitch in relief soon, since it would only be a temporary bullpen stay anyway if it materialized for deGrom.

“Daisuke has done everything we’ve asked him to do. Everything,” Collins said after Matsuzaka allowed four runs in six innings in Saturday’s no-decision. “... We’re very, very lucky to have him on this club, no matter what happens next week.”

Said Matsuzaka through an interpreter: “I haven’t been told anything as of now. I’ll think about it when it happens, or if it happens.”

Rapid Reaction: Mets 5, Marlins 4

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
7:05
PM ET
NEW YORK -- The undercard to the Huey Lewis and the News concert did not disappoint.

Eric Campbell produced a two-out, pinch-hit single in the eighth against Mike Dunn that plated Travis d'Arnaud and the Mets beat the Miami Marlins, 5-4, on Saturday at Citi Field.

The Mets (44-50) twice overcame two-run deficits en route to their seventh win in nine games on the homestand. They climbed to six games under .500 for the first time since June 25.

In a pinch: Chris Young delivered a pinch-hit two-run homer in the seventh on the first pitch of reliever Bryan Morris' appearance as the Mets evened the score at 4. Morris had just inherited a two-run lead and a baserunner from starter Tom Koehler.

It was Young’s second career pinch-hit homer. The other came June 27, 2012 with Arizona at Atlanta against Jonny Venters.

The Mets’ last pinch-hit homer this season was produced by Lucas Duda on June 25 against Oakland.

All-Star leap: Daniel Murphy preserved a 4-all score in the eighth. The second baseman leaped and snared Adeiny Hechavarria's two-out liner against Vic Black to strand the potential go-ahead run in scoring position.

Pen-ultimately: Assuming Jonathon Niese successfully returns from the disabled list for the series opener in Seattle on July 21, which is the plan, this likely was Daisuke Matsuzaka's final start for a while.

In a 120-pitch effort, Matsuzaka had a better outing than his final line indicated (6 IP, 4 H, 4 ER). He had a career-high-matching 10 strikeouts -- a total he last had achieved three times in 2007 with Boston, back in his inaugural major league season.

Garrett Jones and Marcell Ozuna produced consecutive RBI doubles in the sixth against Matsuzaka as Miami took a 4-2 lead. Ozuna’s double was a line drive misread by Curtis Granderson, which resulted in it traveling over the right fielder’s head.

Déjà vu: The Mets pulled off their second suicide squeeze of the season … and second against the Marlins in three weeks. Ruben Tejada delivered a one-out bunt that plated hard-charging Kirk Nieuwenhuis and evened the score at 2 in the fifth.

The Mets also had successfully pulled off a suicide squeeze on June 22 at Miami, with Niese’s bunt plating Nieuwenhuis to open the scoring in the second inning of an eventual 11-5 win.

T.K. Oh! Koehler, a Stony Brook University product, held the Mets hitless until d’Arnaud’s leadoff single in the fifth. He ultimately allowed two runs that inning. He received a hard-luck no-decision despite limiting the Mets to two hits and departing with a 4-2 lead in the seventh.

Christian Yelich, who had raced to the wall to corral David Wright's fly ball in the fourth, had a misadventure on Nieuwenhuis’ fifth-inning fly ball to left field that carried well. Yelich drifted back, but the ball eluded him on the warning track.

After the catchable ball dropped for a double, the Mets had two in scoring position and none out. Juan Lagares followed with a run-scoring groundout. Tejada’s suicide squeeze then evened the score at 2.

Koehler departed after a one-out walk to Tejada in the seventh and Morris gave up the two-run lead.

What’s next: Jacob deGrom (2-5, 3.38 ERA) opposes left-hander Brad Hand (0-1, 5.09) at 1:10 p.m. Sunday in the final game before the All-Star break. Murphy is due for a day off, with Campbell playing second base.

Getty ImagesThe Mets plan to open the second half using Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler in San Diego.
NEW YORK -- When the Mets reconvene in San Diego to open the second half on Friday, Bartolo Colon is slated to start the opener against the Padres, Terry Collins said.

The rest of the rotation is not yet public, but a source told ESPNNewYork.com that Dillon Gee is likely to face the Padres on Saturday, followed by Zack Wheeler in Sunday's series finale.

Jonathon Niese and Jacob deGrom then would open the following series at Seattle, with Daisuke Matsuzaka likely beginning the second half in the bullpen if everything progresses as planned.

Gee returned from the disabled list Wednesday and limited the Braves to one run in seven innings. He plans to throw 75 pitches or so during the break while spending time in California with teammates, setting himself up to face the Padres in Game 2.

Niese is eligible to come off the DL the following day, but the Mets instead plan to use Wheeler that day. The Mets appear to prefer holding Niese back an extra day to have him face the Mariners, who have challenging lefty batters, including imported Robinson Cano.

Of course, all this presumes that Niese feels OK to make that start. The southpaw is expected to throw at Citi Field on Sunday to test himself. Niese officially was placed on the DL with a left shoulder strain, although he maintained he was uninjured. Niese has acknowledged an MRI on Monday revealed inflammation in the AC joint. His velocity has been down this season.

Assuming Niese returns after missing only the one first-half start, that means Matsuzaka should find himself relocated to the bullpen. He performed well in a relief role earlier this season, posting a 2.22 ERA and .145 opponent batting average in 17 appearances, albeit with 19 walks in 24 1/3 innings.

DeGrom remaining in the rotation with Niese's return validates how positively the rookie has pitched. It also signals the Mets are unconcerned with his innings count for the season. DeGrom is at 105 innings between the majors and minors in 2014. The Mets are comfortable with him getting to 185 innings this season.

Rapid Reaction: Mets 4, Braves 3 (11)

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
11:01
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Ya Gotta Believe?

The New York Mets, who aim to use this series against the Atlanta Braves to catapult themselves back into relevance, squandered a late lead but ultimately rallied for a 4-3 walk-off win in 11 innings on Monday at Citi Field.

Curtis Granderson produced a game-tying, two-out, solo home run in the eighth inning, and the Mets scored the winning run three innings later on Ruben Tejada's two-out RBI single off Anthony Varvaro.

Tejada also had the Mets' last walk-off hit, on May 11 against Philadelphia (also in the 11th inning).

The Mets (40-49) pulled to within nine games of the first-place Braves (49-40) in the NL East.

Wacky ninth: Eric Young Jr. ended up grounding into a fielder’s choice against Shae Simmons to strand the bases loaded and end the ninth inning, but how the Mets got there left Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez ejected and Mets manager Terry Collins perhaps worthy of admittance to the bar.

With the score tied at 3, Eric Campbell singled to open the frame. Juan Lagares then bunted, and umpire Sean Barber ruled Campbell out at second base, though a throw to first base for a double-play bid was too late.

However, Collins complained that Andrelton Simmons pulled his foot off second base before accepting the throw (which television replays supported).

"Neighborhood plays” are excluded from replay review, but Collins convinced the umps to confer and then go to video anyway. The ruling from the home office came back safe, which placed runners at first and second with no outs.

Gonzalez again argued and was ejected. He clearly believed the play was not reviewable.

In order for it to be considered a “neighborhood play,” the fielder must have acted to avoid a collision, which arguably wasn't the case, with Simmons pulling his foot off the bag to accept the throw at second. Perhaps that was Collins' winning argument.

Crazy eighth: Vic Black, Josh Edgin and Jenrry Mejia combined to allow three eighth-inning runs, as the Mets failed to hold a 2-0 lead after receiving seven scoreless innings from starter Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Black turned the two-run lead over to Edgin with Freddie Freeman on third base and two outs. Things quickly unraveled.

Edgin fired a wild pitch that sailed above Jason Heyward’s head and allowed Freeman to scamper home, which pulled the Braves within a run.

Given the series’ importance, Collins then turned to Mejia for a four-out save. Instead, the closer surrendered a game-tying RBI double to Chris Johnson off the top of the center-field wall. After an intentional walk to New Jersey native Tommy La Stella, rookie Christian Bethancourt served a go-ahead RBI single into right field.

Mejia suffered his second blown save in 10 chances. The other was June 7 at San Francisco.

Edgin had retired the first batter he faced in each of his previous 23 appearances -- a franchise record to begin a season.

Made the most: The Mets mustered only four hits through eight innings but made them count. Travis d'Arnaud had a second-inning double that plated Eric Campbell, who had reached via walk. David Wright homered the following inning against left-hander Mike Minor. Then, trailing 3-2 with two outs in the eighth, Granderson homered against Luis Avilan to even the score. Daniel Murphy followed Granderson’s homer with a single that chased Avilan.

The Braves had retired 15 straight batters between Wright’s and Granderson’s long balls, with Minor retiring 13 straight to close his seven-inning outing.

d'Arnaud has reached base in all 11 games since returning from Triple-A. Wright is hitting .395 (32-for-81) against southpaws this season.

No Dice: Matsuzaka tossed seven scoreless innings in his longest start of the season but was deprived of his first win since June 10.

Matsuzaka allowed two baserunners in each of the first three innings but repeatedly escaped unscathed. His final line: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K. He threw 100 pitches and departed with a 2-0 lead.

With Dillon Gee ready to return from the disabled list, Matsuzaka might have been reassigned to the bullpen this week had Jonathon Niese not landed on the disabled list. Matsuzaka had surrendered five runs in each of his previous two starts. His previous season high had been six innings, which he had accomplished in three starts.

Struck: Carlos Torres was struck on the bare hand with a liner in the 11th but remained in the game after a visit from the trainer.

What’s next: Jacob deGrom (1-5, 3.77 ERA) opposes right-hander Julio Teheran (8-5, 2.29 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday.
NEW YORK -- Jonathon Niese feels fine after getting struck with a first-inning line drive in the love handle on his left side Friday. So the southpaw wants to come back early and get two more starts before the All-Star break. And that appears to be bad news for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who could now end up in the bullpen without making another start.

Niese was pulled after 12 pitches from an eventual 6-5 win against the Texas Rangers, after getting struck in the lower back by a line drive off the bat of Alex Rios.

Niese insisted to Terry Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez that he was fine and wanted to remain in the game. But Ramirez would not even permit Niese to throw a warm-up pitch, concerned that if Niese had suffered a fractured rib, he could end up puncturing a lung.

X-rays ended up being negative and Niese ultimately was diagnosed with a bruise.

Ramirez, in denying Niese’s plea, even brought up a five-year-old incident that predated Collins. During Niese’s rookie season, he was allowed to throw a warm-up with the trainer visiting on Aug. 5, 2009. Niese crumpled to the ground in pain with a complete tear of a hamstring tendon.

That incident contributed to assistant trainer Mike Herbst getting reassigned from the major league staff to rehab duty at the Mets’ Port St. Lucie, Fla., complex.

“There’s not much to say other than I’m fine. I didn’t want to be taken out,” Niese said postgame Friday. “I just felt like I was cheated there a little bit.”

Niese said he was “100 percent” confident during Ramirez’s visit that he was fine.

“I knew it was just a bruise. It kind of went away there,” he said. “I wanted to stay in there.”

Niese continued, referring to Ramirez: “He’s doing his job. He really didn’t know the extent of the injury. In my past, with the hamstring, he just didn’t want to take a chance of it tightening up and pulling something.”

The one positive byproduct: Although Collins said it had not yet been discussed, Niese wants his next start to come Monday or Tuesday, rather than wait for his official next rotation turn Wednesday.

Since Niese threw only 12 pitches, that seems more than feasible.

And that would mean the Mets could immediately reassign Matsuzaka to the bullpen without making another start. Dillon Gee should be ready to return from the disabled list Wednesday, which is when Niese’s official next turn would be. So Niese can merely jump into Matsuzaka’s slot a day or two earlier.

If that materialized, the rotation leading into the All-Star break could be:

Saturday: Bartolo Colon

Sunday: Zack Wheeler

Monday: Niese/Jacob deGrom

Tuesday: deGrom/Niese

Wednesday: Gee

Thursday: Colon

July 11: Wheeler

July 12: Niese/deGrom

July 13: deGrom/Niese

“I’m going to try to talk them into going out earlier,” Niese said. “I only threw 12 pitches.”

Alderson addresses major Mets topics

July, 4, 2014
Jul 4
6:40
PM ET
NEW YORK -- GM Sandy Alderson touched on a ton of Mets-related topics during a 21-minute interview before Friday’s series opener against the Texas Rangers. Here’s a summary:

STANDING PAT?

Alderson said trade conversations so far have been limited, but that’s not surprising. He suggested talks typically do not pick up until the week before the All-Star break.

On the buyer/seller topic, Alderson said he would be “surprised” if any determination were made before the All-Star break. The Mets next have a four-game series against the first-place Atlanta Braves, which should be instructive.


Mark Humphrey/Associated PressSandy Alderson offered no indication the Mets would be overly active at the trade deadline.


Alderson did seem to intimate that no activity is the most likely scenario.

“We like the team as it’s developing,” the GM said. “That, in and of itself, would make us reluctant to move players at the deadline. Now, we’re practical as well. We’ve made deals at the deadline. And there’s no reason we’d hesitate to do that if we felt it was the right thing. But I think our team is on the right track. I don’t think we’re that far away. That would indicate some caution when it comes to the trade deadline.”

Alderson said it is “certainly our preference” to get back major league talent, or talent on the verge of breaking into the majors, in any trade. He noted, though, that makes a trade with a contender that much less likely, because buyers want to part with minor leaguers, not parts helping their club now.

The GM added that despite a surplus of starting pitching, trading it is not prudent.

“We have a number both here and at the minor-league level that we like. But it’s easy to run through that number in a hurry with injuries and poor performance,” Alderson said. “So I’m always hesitant to trade starting pitching. Now, I’m cognizant that an issue for us is offense and run production. So I’m not writing off that possibility. At the same time, what’s getting us to a higher level of performance, hopefully, and success is our pitching -- both our starting pitching and the bullpen.”

NO LIMITS FOR DEGROM

Dillon Gee will get 75 or so pitches on Friday night in a rehab start for Brooklyn. A team insider said Gee is expected to be activated from the DL after this outing, assuming there are no issues.

So who goes?

It seems fairly straightforward that Jacob deGrom will remain in the rotation and Daisuke Matsuzaka will go to the bullpen.

Alderson did not fully tip his hand, but he did acknowledge two major factors that support deGrom remaining in the rotation:

Slightly more than halfway through the season, deGrom is only at 98 innings between the majors and minors. Alderson said the Mets have allotted about 185 innings for him this season, so there’s no compelling reason to put the rookie in the bullpen to shave innings.

Furthermore, Alderson acknowledged, there is value in keeping deGrom in the rotation since he is likely to be a factor for a rotation spot in 2015, whereas that’s unlikely with Matsuzaka.

NO MOUND FOR YOU

Despite the ace's hope otherwise, Matt Harvey will not get on a mound until after the All-Star break, according to the GM.

NO MRI RESULTS FOR RICE

Scott Rice (left elbow) had an MRI this week in New York, but the results are not yet available. Rice is on Las Vegas’ DL. Alderson said there has been no suggestion at this point surgery is required. The GM added that there is no indication Rice’s subpar major league performance was linked to the current elbow condition.

HUDGENS ABSOLVED

The Mets’ hitting woes have persisted with the change in hitting coaches from Dave Hudgens to Lamar Johnson. So, Alderson concluded, it’s on the players.

“The conclusion I would draw at this stage, consistent with what I suggested at the time we made the change, is sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” Alderson said. “It doesn’t mean there won’t be some change in the future that one can measure. But, at this point, we haven’t seen an uptick. I don’t think that has anything to do with L.J. It probably has more to do with the players that we have.”

ONE-RUN GAMES

Asked if he agreed with Bill Parcells’ famous line that you are what your record says you are, Alderson said: “I don’t take any exception to that. I think that’s accurate. But I think, at the same time, as you’re thinking about what to do going forward, you have to have a little bit broader perspective than that.”

Trying to clarify his remarks that the Mets are better than their 37-48 record because their run differential is only minus-6, Alderson said his point is that it demonstrates the Mets are not that far away from success and therefore should not do something rash.

“I think the important thing is not to shift focus from the won-loss record, but to keep in mind sort of the fundamentals as you go about making decisions in the future,” he said. “It’s not by any means a desire to obscure the won-loss record. It’s to make sure we don’t do something in light of the won-loss record that’s not supported by more underlying facts. ... I think we’ve been playing much closer to a .500 club. But the record is what it is. So on that basis I’m certainly disappointed.”

Alderson also cited the Mets’ 10-20 record in one-run games.

Asked why the Mets are so poor in that category, or if it’s a matter of bad fortune, Alderson replied: “I’m not sure you put a finger on it. If you look at one-run games, it can be the bullpen. It can be late-inning offense. The bullpen wasn’t a strength early in the season. It is now. The late-inning offense has been an issue for us all year. I don’t think it has anything to do with strategy or tactics or anything of that sort.”

90 WINS

Alderson knows he is getting mocked for his 90-wins goal this season, but reiterated it was intended to “change a mindset” of losing.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.288 7 37 57
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 14
RBID. Wright 50
RD. Murphy 57
OPSL. Duda .829
WB. Colon 8
ERAJ. Niese 3.13
SOZ. Wheeler 112