New York Mets: Didi Gregorius
“Things can happen quickly here just because of the proximity of everyone in the same hotel and the availability of everybody’s staff. So things can happen quickly,” Alderson said in his suite at the Grand Hyatt on Sunday, as the winter meetings got underway. “But, at the same time, you look at the free-agent market -- not a lot has happened on the pitching side. Some of that activity may have to take place before we’re able to really have serious discussions with anyone on a possible trade.”
“We don’t have our minds made up at this point,” he said. “It will be about the market.”
The GM added that he is not averse to trading Niese, which would leave the Mets with an all-righty rotation, at least until prospect Steven Matz is ready for the majors.
“We like having a lefty. But I think if you look at our division, having a lefty is not as critical as it might have been a couple of years ago, if you look at the way some of the teams are evolving,” Alderson said. “But we’d still like to have a lefty in the rotation if we can.”
As for shortstop, Alderson said there were no substantive discussions with the Arizona Diamondbacks before Didi Gregorius was shipped to the Yankees last week. Early on, the D-backs had indicated they wanted Noah Syndergaard for Gregorius, according to Mets insiders.
“We’ve looked at all the shortstop possibilities,” Alderson said. “We knew Arizona was looking for young pitching. There’s some young pitching we weren’t prepared to trade, but I can’t say we had a lot of extensive conversations with Arizona.”
Sources tell ESPNNewYork.com that the Mets have had discussions with the Seattle Mariners about their young shortstops -- Brad Miller and Chris Taylor. Miller, who is known for his bat, did start taking fly balls in the outfield this past season. So it’s not entirely necessary that Seattle trades him. Miller, 25, hit .221 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs in 367 at-bats with Seattle last season.
The Mets are expected to wait into January to see if they can get a shortstop on their terms -- whether via trade, or if a free agent such as Jed Lowrie remains unemployed.
Asked if something might occur at this week’s winter meetings as far as a free-agent shortstop, Alderson said: “I’d say further down the line, probably.”
As for Flores as the 2015 shortstop, the GM added: “I’d say where we are today, that’s the likelihood. But that doesn’t mean it’ll happen. But if you look around at all the possibilities, is it more likely than not? Probably.”
Meanwhile, the Mets have dismissed Troy Tulowitzki as a possibility and the Chicago Cubs are uninterested in trading Starlin Castro.
Alderson again projected that prospect Matt Reynolds will open next season at Triple-A. So, for now, Ruben Tejada is the backup middle infielder behind Flores and Daniel Murphy.
“Reynolds is not on the roster. I expect he will be invited to spring training,” Alderson said. “We’ll see how he does in the spring. But, if I had to bet right now, I’d say he ends up probably back in Las Vegas.
“You know, if you look at his track record at the minor-league level, last year was an outstanding year. But it wasn’t an outstanding year on top of an outstanding year on top of an outstanding year. So I think there’s probably more experience that’s necessary there. He’s certainly someone we like middle to long term.”
The Mets also need a second lefty reliever to complement Josh Edgin.
And they are hoping to add a righty bat for the bench as an upgrade over Eric Campbell, with Jonny Gomes and Ryan Ludwick among the possibilities. Absent that addition, Campbell and Michael Cuddyer might be in the lineup against southpaws, with one starting at first base and the other in the outfield.
Alderson suggested both the right bat and lefty reliever might be more realistic to obtain later this month or in January as opposed to at the winter meetings.
Mets insiders recently had suggested that the D-backs were demanding Noah Syndergaard from the Mets for Gregorius, which the Mets were not going to entertain.
The Mets still could match up with the Seattle Mariners for a trade. That club has both Brad Miller and Chris Taylor.
The Mets' shortstop strategy has been to be prepared to use Wilmer Flores at shortstop and wait into January to see if prices come down in terms of trade demands or free-agent salaries.
A trade for Troy Tulowitzki is "not happening," sources briefed on the matter told ESPNNewYork.com, but the Mets do plan to go the trade route in order to try to upgrade at shortstop. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs are viewed as four viable trade partners. A deal for Tulowitzki is not on the Mets' radar because of the $100 million-plus still owed as well as the expected cost in terms of prospects (two or three blue-chippers).
Daniel Murphy's future with the Mets heavily depends on how the Mets address shortstop. Murphy, who is due to make roughly $8.1 million in his final season before free agency, likely will remain a Met in 2015 if the team is unable to acquire a shortstop and uses Wilmer Flores at the position, or if the Mets acquire a defensive-oriented shortstop (think Arizona's Didi Gregorius). If the Mets are able to land a shortstop with a more potent bat (think the White Sox's Alexei Ramirez), then it is more likely they deal Murphy.
Of course, that requires getting a quality offer for Murphy, which has been an issue in the past.
There only are believed to have been preliminary conversations with teams so far regarding Murphy. And, unless the Mets are bowled over, his fate will likely wait to be determined until the shortstop situation is resolved.
Meanwhile, the Mets now have a quality nucleus of hard-throwing relievers, with Bobby Parnell returning from Tommy John surgery to join Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Vic Black, Carlos Torres and left-hander Josh Edgin. With Dana Eveland and Scott Rice now free agents and Dario Alvarez arguably not ready for the big leagues, a veteran left-hander to complement Edgin would be the ideal bullpen acquisition.
As for the backup infielder, that actually could end up being Flores if the Mets acquire a light-hitting defensive shortstop and decide to keep Murphy.
The other heavy lifting the Mets will need to do this offseason is making Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese and Bartolo Colon available and seeing which one commands the most relative to their value. It's conceivable that deal would package a prospect, too, in order to acquire a shortstop or address another need.
FIRST PITCH: When will the Mets awake from their hitting doldrums?
For a fourth straight day Sunday, the Amazin’s failed to exceed four hits. If the Mets again fail to do so Monday, they will tie the franchise record. During a pair of Septembers -- in 2004 and 1963 -- the Mets went five straight games with four hits or fewer in each.
Bartolo Colon (11-10, 3.85 ERA) opposes right-hander Kyle Hendricks (4-1, 1.79) in the 12:10 p.m. series finale against the Cubs.
Monday’s news reports:
• David Wright looks like he will miss multiple games with a left-shoulder injury that worsened when he was struck by a fastball from Dan Straily in the sixth inning on Saturday.
Mets manager Terry Collins said Straily was not throwing at Wright.
"Somebody thought they might have thrown at him. Why?” Collins told Matt Ehalt in the Record. “It’s a 3-1 game. You just don’t throw at people to throw at people.”
Read more on Wright’s absence in the Post, Newsday, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Rookie Rafael Montero limited the Cubs to one run in 7 1/3 innings, but the Mets ultimately lost, 2-1, Sunday at Citi Field. Jenrry Mejia surrendered a game-deciding homer to Starlin Castro on the first pitch of the ninth inning. Curtis Granderson had snapped an 0-for-17 drought and evened the score with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.
Montero could be Vegas-bound with Jacob deGrom moving toward returning from the disabled list to face the Dodgers next weekend in Los Angeles. deGrom threw off a mound Sunday for the first time since going on the disabled list.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Times, Star-Ledger, Record, Journal and at MLB.com.
• Read more on deGrom in the Post, Daily News and Star-Ledger.
• Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post suggests that while the Mets and Cubs look like perfect candidates to outsiders for a pitching-for-shortstop swap, it may not happen. That’s because Chicago’s front office knows the value of young hitting and has the resources to buy pitching like Jon Lester. And it’s because Mets GM Sandy Alderson and crew don’t like making equitable trades and don’t seemed inclined to part with their elite talent. Writes Sherman:
Nevertheless, the sense I get currently from the Mets is they would like to protect Harvey, Syndergaard and probably Wheeler and use other elements to solve positional problems. So I could see the Mets shooting a little lower on the shortstop food chain by trying to use Dillon Gee, Niese, Sunday’s starter Rafael Montero or others from their deep trove to see if they could get, say, the White Sox’s Alexei Ramirez or try for an Arizona shortstop -- the Diamondbacks seem much more willing to talk Didi Gregorius than Chris Owings, but while a defensive whiz, Gregorius might not project to hit enough for the Mets.
• Anthony McCarron in the Daily News quotes a scout labeling Montero a “solid No. 4 starter.” Read more on Montero in Newsday.
• Vic Black takes the 7 train from Manhattan to Citi Field, writes Lisa L. Colangelo in the Daily News.
• Noah Syndergaard allowed two runs in five innings and tossed 96 pitches in Las Vegas’ 4-0 loss at Omaha. Binghamton’s Steven Matz allowed one run in seven innings in a 1-0 loss to Reading. Matt Oberste delivered a tie-breaking RBI double and Savannah beat Greenville, 3-2. Jhoan Urena’s two-run double highlighted a five-run sixth as Brooklyn beat Vermont, 7-3. Read the full minor-league recap here.
BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets left-hander Pat Misch turns 33.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Will the Mets exceed four hits on Monday?
@AdamRubinESPN Fire Dave Hudgens!— Kevin E. Collins (@TheRealKColl) August 17, 2014
Getty Images, AP ImagesThe Mets will listen on trades involving Bartolo Colon, don't seem likely to make a deal with the D-backs now given Tony La Russa's newness, and could acquire Javier Baez, industry sources predict.
Separately, their wish list in trades includes an upgrade at shortstop over Ruben Tejada and a power-hitting left fielder to join Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson as the primary outfielders, according to industry sources.
The acquisition of highly regarded prospect Addison Russell in the trade for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel gives the Chicago Cubs a glut of young shortstops. While that ultimately may lead the Cubs to deal Starlin Castro, who is signed through 2019 at salaries that escalate to $11 million, 21-year-old Javier Baez is believed to be a more realistic target for the Mets.
Baez is hitting .240 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs at Triple-A Iowa this season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have seemed like a natural match for the Mets for a while given their excess shortstops, including Didi Gregorius. However, an industry source believes recently hired Tony La Russa remains in assessment mode and serious deals involving the D-backs may wait until the offseason.
Alderson also is expected to look for takers for outfielders Chris Young and Eric Young Jr. to solve the Mets’ outfield glut, if that’s possible.
Getty ImagesThe Mets are due to face Chase Anderson, Josh Collmenter and Bronson Arroyo this weekend.
Friday: RHP Bartolo Colon (3-5, 5.34) vs. RHP Chase Anderson (2-0, 5.06), 7:10 p.m. ET
Saturday: RHP Zack Wheeler (1-4, 4.53) vs. RHP Josh Collmenter (2-2, 4.02), 4:10 p.m. ET
Sunday: RHP Rafael Montero (0-2, 6.97) vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo (4-3, 4.45), 1:10 p.m. ET
Diamondbacks short hops
• Tony La Russa, who is due to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 27, was hired as the team’s chief baseball officer last Saturday. He last was affiliated with a team in 2011, when he managed the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title. La Russa more recently worked with commissioner Bud Selig, including on implementing the new instant-replay and plate-collision guidelines. La Russa has final say on all baseball matters, which means longtime GM Kevin Towers has been stripped of considerable power.
• Right-hander Chase Anderson’s third major-league start comes against the Mets. He debuted May 11, limiting the Chicago White Sox to one run on two hits and a walk while striking out six in 5 1/3 innings. Bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. told the Arizona Republic that Anderson has the best changeup in their system. The 26-year-old Anderson, a ninth-round pick in 2009 from the University of Oklahoma, had been 4-2 with a 0.69 ERA and 0.718 WHIP in six starts at Double-A Mobile. He logged only 205 1/3 innings from 2011 through ’13 because of elbow troubles, which also prompted the organization to convert him to a reliever to close last season in Triple-A. Anderson had a 6.52 ERA in 13 relief appearances and reverted to starting this year.
• The Mets are seeing the reigning co-NL Players of the Week in consecutive series. Yasiel Puig has departed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but fellow winner A.J. Pollock now arrives at Citi Field with the D-backs. Pollock, a center fielder, hit .500 (11-for-22) with two homers last week.
• Left fielder Mark Trumbo, who was acquired during the offseason from the Los Angeles Angels, has been sidelined since April 21 with a stress fracture in his left foot. Trumbo had been hitting .210 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in 81 at-bats. Righty-hitting Cody Ross primarily has played the position in Trumbo’s absence, with lefty-hitting rookie Ender Inciarte also seeing some action in left field.
• Didi Gregorius, the expendable shortstop for the D-backs, is hitting .296 with three homers, 20 RBIs and a .386 on-base percentage in 186 at-bats with Triple-A Reno. Chris Owings, who beat out Gregorius for the D-backs’ shortstop job, is hitting .275 with two homers and seven RBIs in 142 at-bats. Gregorius has appeared in 30 games at second base and 18 games at shortstop in the Pacific Coast League this season as the D-backs try to increase his versatility in case they retain him.
• Ex-Met Oliver Perez has a 1.26 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings over his past 15 appearances.
• First baseman Paul Goldschmidt’s 33 RBIs rank fifth in the National League. His .315 average is 10th. Goldschmidt hit a 437-foot homer against Shaun Marcum last season at Citi Field.
• After opening the season in the bullpen, Josh Collmenter entered the rotation April 14 to face the Mets in Phoenix. He allowed three runs in four innings. Collmenter swapped roles with Randall Delgado, who had allowed nine runs in 7 1/3 innings over a pair of early season starts.
• Bronson Arroyo signed a two-year, $23.5 million contract with the D-backs on Feb. 7. The deal includes an $11 million team option for 2016 or $4.5 million buyout. Arroyo, 37, has reached the 200-inning plateau eight of the past nine years. The exception: 2011 with the Cincinnati Reds, when he was one inning shy. The Mets battered Arroyo for nine runs in 3 1/3 innings on April 15 at Chase Field. Kirk Nieuwenhuis delivered a two-run homer.
• Second baseman Aaron Hill returned Wednesday after missing three games with a sore shoulder.
• Third baseman Martin Prado departed Sunday’s game with a blurry left eye, but was prescribed medicine and did not miss a start.
NEW HAMPSHIRE 6, BINGHAMTON 3: The Fisher Cats broke open a 3-3 tie with three runs in the top of the ninth off B-Mets relief pitcher Jon Velasquez, who took the loss. Darin Gorski started for Binghamton and went six innings, giving up three runs on six hits (including three home runs), with six strikeouts and one walk. Kevin Plawecki had a team-high two hits for the B-Mets. Box
ST. LUCIE 15, FORT MYERS 9: Brandon Nimmo and T.J. Rivera had four hits apiece for St. Lucie, and Maikis De La Cruz hit a home run. Starting pitcher Michael Fulmer lasted just 2 1/3 innings, giving up eight runs on nine hits. Seth Lugo, who came in and gave up just one run on three hits in five innings of work, picked up the win. Box
GREENVILLE at SAVANNAH (ppd.): The game will be made up as part of a May 15 doubleheader.
BINGHAMTON at PORTLAND (ppd.): The game will be made up as part of a May 21 doubleheader.
ST. LUCIE 11, JUPITER 6: The Mets broke a 5-all tie for good in their half of the sixth. Chipper Smith retired the first two batters, but then walked Dilson Herrera and Brandon Nimmo to bring up T.J. Rivera. Rivera drove a 3-1 pitch into center to score Herrera and make it 6-5. Aderlin Rodriguez followed with a two-run double to the top of the left-field wall. St. Lucie poured in on in the seventh on run-scoring hits by Eudy Pina and Nimmo. Pina added a two-out, run-scoring triple in the eighth to make it 11-5. Beck Wheeler threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and struck out three to earn his first win. Starter Matt Koch allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings. Rivera finished 3-for-5 with a double and homer. Rivera’s solo homer in the fourth broke a 3-all tie. Nimmo went 2-for-4 with an RBI. He has now hit safely in eight straight games and has five multi-hit games in his last six games. Herrera added a homer and Rodriguez crushed two doubles. Box
SAVANNAH 3, AUGUSTA 1
AUGUSTA 2, SAVANNAH 1 (8 innings): After rallying to win the resumption of Monday's suspended game, the Gnats fell in extra innings in the regularly scheduled contest. Savannah left-hander Dario Alverez entered the suspended game in relief of Monday’s starter, Kevin McGowan, and promptly allowed an inherited runner to score the game's
In Tuesday’s originally scheduled seven-inning game, Gnats starter Ricky Knapp struck out eight batters. He allowed a game-tying run in the fifth on a base-loaded groundout by Cristian Paulino. In a 1-all game in the bottom of the eighth, Knapp surrendered a double to Ty Ross. After a bunt groundout by Paulino, Knapp intentionally walked Shawn Payne. He was then lifted for reliever John Mincone. The left-hander served up a walk-off RBI single to Ryder Jones. Gnats outfielder Jared King preserved his league-high 12-game on-base streak, earning a walk during Game 1 and then going 2-for-4 in Game 2. Box 1, Box 2
Compiled with team reports
Getty ImagesThe Mets face Josh Collmenter, Bronson Arroyo and Brandon McCarthy during a series against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Monday: RHP Zack Wheeler (0-2, 5.73) vs. RHP Josh Collmenter (0-0, 2.25), 9:40 p.m. ET
Tuesday: RHP Jenrry Mejia (1-0, 4.09) vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo (1-0, 4.82), 9:40 p.m. ET
Wednesday: RHP Dillon Gee (0-0, 5.03) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (0-2, 7.78), 3:40 p.m. ET
Diamondbacks short hops
• After allowing nine runs in 7 1/3 innings in two starts, Randall Delgado has been reassigned to the bullpen. Josh Collmenter steps into the slot Monday against the Mets.
Collmenter made 49 relief appearances for the D-backs last season. He last started on Sept. 30, 2012. Collmenter had a four-inning save Wednesday, so he is reasonably stretched out for the starting duty.
Delgado, who began wearing glasses last year, incidentally has dropped using them because of comfort -- although it leaves his vision less than perfect.
• Bronson Arroyo signed a two-year, $23.5 million contract with the D-backs on Feb. 7. The deal includes an $11 million team option for 2016 or $4.5 million buyout. Arroyo, 37, has combined to log only 9 1/3 innings over two starts. He has reached the 200-inning plateau eight of the past nine years. The exception: 2011 with the Cincinnati Reds, when he was one inning shy.
• Ex-Met Oliver Perez signed a two-year, $4.25 million deal with the D-backs on March 10. He has allowed six runs (five earned) on four hits, four walks and a hit batter in seven appearances spanning 5 1/3 innings.
• The D-backs signed veteran left-hander Randy Wolf on a minor-league deal Friday for pitching depth. Arizona lost 2013 NL All-Star Patrick Corbin for this season due to an elbow ligament tear that required Tommy John surgery. The D-backs have an MLB-worst 5.95 ERA. They also have allowed 20 homers. Only the Mets, with 21, have allowed more homers in the majors.
Wolf asked for his release from the Seattle Mariners last month after declining to sign an agreement that would have allowed the club to release him during the season’s first 45 days without being responsible for his remaining salary. John Lannan agreed to sign that type of stipulation with the Mets.
• Outfielder Cody Ross, who suffered a dislocated right hip last August against the Mets, is a week into a rehab assignment with Triple-A Reno and may return during this series.
• Two-time Gold Glove-winning outfielder Gerardo Parra has a .340 average (36-for-106) in 31 career games against the Mets.
• Didi Gregorius, who was made available in trade talks by the D-backs, instead ended up in Triple-A, where he is now splitting time between shortstop and second base. Gregorius, who was born in Amsterdam, is hitting .357 with one homer, four RBIs and five walks in 11 games with Reno.
Chris Owings, who won the big-league shortstop job, is hitting .295 with a .340 on-base percentage after going 2-for-3 with a walk Sunday as the Los Angeles Dodgers completed a sweep in Phoenix.
• Addison Reed, who had a career-high 40 saves for the Chicago White Sox last season, was acquired on Dec. 13 for third baseman Matt Davidson. That has pushed incumbent closer/ex-Met J.J. Putz to a setup role.
• First baseman Paul Goldschmidt finished second in 2013 NL MVP voting after hitting .302 with 36 doubles, 36 homers and 125 RBIs. Goldschmidt is hitting .317 with two homers and nine RBIs so far this season.
FIRST PITCH: The 53rd Opening Day in franchise history has arrived.
Dillon Gee is scheduled to throw the season’s first pitch at Citi Field at roughly 1:10 p.m.
Gee, making his first career Opening Day start, opposes Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg, who starts Game 1 for the third straight season.
Washington won the 2013 season series, 12-7.
A pregame ceremony will honor the late Ralph Kiner, with four of his children participating.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio throws out the ceremonial first pitch.
Terry Collins also unveils his lineup, with the question marks being: Ike Davis or Lucas Duda at first base? And Eric Young Jr. or Juan Lagares in the outfield?
The Mets are 34-18 in franchise history on Opening Day … and that includes eight straight losses to begin their existence.
Monday also marks the official beginning of instant replay for the Mets.
Monday’s news reports:
• The Mets set their roster Sunday by placing Jonathon Niese on the 15-day disabled list and Matt Harvey on the 60-day disabled list and by sending Eric Campbell, Kyle Farnsworth, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Anthony Seratelli and Taylor Teagarden to the minors.
The 25-man roster:
Starting pitchers (4): Gee, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia
Relievers (7): Bobby Parnell, Jose Valverde, Jeurys Familia, Carlos Torres, Gonzalez Germen, Scott Rice and John Lannan
Infielders (9): Travis d’Arnaud, Anthony Recker, Davis, Duda, Josh Satin, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada, Omar Quintanilla and David Wright
Outfielders (5): Chris Young, Lagares, EY Jr., Curtis Granderson and Andrew Brown
• Read Opening Day previews in the Post, Daily News, Times, Record and at MLB.com.
• Marc Carig in Newsday writes that Gee’s tryout for the Mets before being drafted in the 21st round in 2007 almost did not happen because of rain.
The field was unplayable. And now the Mets’ scout in charge was trying to send most of them home.
He told the group that the workout would be moved to a small indoor facility about 45 minutes up the road. Only 15 could go. Then he read aloud from the list of the chosen few.
Dillon Gee didn't hear his name.
Disappointed, he was ready to begin the long drive home. But before he made it to the car, his father made a beeline toward the scout, Ray Corbett.
“I was embarrassed,” Gee said last week. “But that’s kind of how my dad is. He was probably thinking, ‘I didn’t come here for nothing.’”
Read more on Gee in the Post and MLB.com.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal wonders when the next “Harvey Day” will be. Harvey, by the way, accompanied the team from Florida to Montreal and then on to New York and will be at Citi Field on Monday, including performing his rehab pregame by throwing on flat ground.
• Lannan, who made the team as a second left-hander in the bullpen, plans to spend the opening homestand living in the Long Beach, Long Island, house in which he grew up. Lannan will move to Manhattan when the apartment becomes available later this month. Read more in the Post.
• Shortstops Nick Franklin and Didi Gregorius both were demoted by their clubs and should still be available via trade, the Post’s Joel Sherman tweets.
• Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post offers five reasons for optimism … and five reasons for pessimism.
• Anthony Rieber in Newsday writes about four Mets who can make Sandy Alderson’s 90-win goal become reality.
• Columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post notes the Mets are deep in starting pitching throughout the system.
• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger delves in the Mets’ recent home futility. Vorkunov notes the Mets were MLB’s only team with a winning road record and losing overall record last season.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing declares that on Opening Day, baseball is a metaphor for baseball, which is all it has to be. … The Eddie Kranepool Society opines on what to expect from the Mets, with emphasis on the bullpen being a determining factor in the team’s competitiveness.
BIRTHDAYS: Tom Hausman, who pitched five seasons for the Mets, was born on this date in 1953.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsDillon Gee, who faces the Twins on Friday, also is scheduled to pitch on Opening Day.
FIRST PITCH: The Mets take a three-hour drive to Fort Myers on Friday to face the Minnesota Twins, with the buses scheduled to roll out of the Port St. Lucie complex at 7:15 a.m.
Dillon Gee opposes Ricky Nolasco in the 1:05 p.m. game (no Mets TV or radio).
Lucas Duda is scheduled to start at first base in his first Grapefruit League action since injuring his left hamstring March 3. Ike Davis -- who returned to action Thursday, going 0-for-3 and logging six innings at first base -- is due to DH against the Twins.
Friday’s news reports:
• Gee is slated to become the 23rd different Opening Day starter in Mets history. He is due to oppose Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg on March 31 at Citi Field.
After ESPNNewYork.com reported the Mets’ intent to give Gee the honor, Terry Collins all but confirmed it Thursday afternoon. The manager cited Gee’s success against the Nats (4-2, 2.72 ERA in 2013) and Gee’s 31 overall wins spanning the past three seasons, which rank second only to Jonathon Niese (32) with the club during that span.
The Mets plan to place Niese on the disabled list to open the season, ESPNNewYork.com has learned. Niese, who received a cortisone shot in his left elbow Monday to address inflammation, should come off the DL on the seventh day of the season, to face the Cincinnati Reds in the April 6 homestand finale.
The expectation is Bartolo Colon will start Game 2 and Zack Wheeler will start Game 3 against Washington. Daisuke Matsuzaka should handle the opener against Cincinnati on April 4. Gee then would get the second game against the Reds before Niese’s first start arrives.
Read more in the Post, Newsday, Star-Ledger and MLB.com.
• Sandy Alderson offered mostly predictable responses while speaking with media members late Thursday.
The GM expects both Davis and Duda to be on the Opening Day roster. Still, ESPNNewYork.com has reported that Alderson is checking in with GMs with whom he had trade discussions regarding Davis during the winter.
“I think you have to be a little more cautious and maybe not do something that has forever implications," Alderson told reporters, downplaying expectations of a trade.
Alderson added that he has not spoken with Scott Boras recently about Stephen Drew. He also noted that Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr. both should get playing time in the outfield, as ESPNNewYork.com previously has reported.
“We haven’t had a problem with too many good players over the last couple of years, so if we have that problem over the next week or so, it’s a good thing -- somewhat unique for us,” Alderson told reporters.
Read more in the Record.
• The likelihood seems to be that Davis and Josh Satin platoon to start the season. In that scenario, Duda would be on the roster as a lefty threat for the bench, with strategic starts at first base and possibly the outfield, although his hamstring injury has prevented the Mets from giving Duda reps out there. The Mets also will need a DH the second week of the season for an interleague series in Anaheim. Officially, Collins says the first-base winner may be the one who is most healthy.
Read more on Davis and Duda in the Post, Daily News, Times, Journal, Newsday and Star-Ledger.
• Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post advocates signing Drew. Writes Kernan:
Life could be made a lot easier if the Mets went out and signed free agent Stephen Drew, but there appears to be no play in that direction in their frugal neighborhood. Five of the six shortstops who played on division-winning teams last season had a WAR of 3.0 or better. Drew was one of those players, with a 3.4 WAR.
The Mets have stated 90 wins as their goal this season, which should make a World Series championship shortstop even that much more enticing.
• On the likelihood of the Arizona Diamondbacks trading Didi Gregorius and the Seattle Mariners trading Nick Franklin, columnist Joel Sherman writes in the Post:
The price tags still are high for Franklin and Gregorius -- the Royals, for example, tried to land Franklin in the offseason, thought the cost in prospects was too high and instead gave a four-year, $32 million pact to Omar Infante. Both Franklin, who is expected to lose a Seattle shortstop battle to Brad Miller, and Gregorius, who is expected to lose to Chris Owings, can be optioned to the minors.
And executives from both teams have told me they can wait to see what needs arise during the regular season and use their bullets then. However, an official from an interested club said once players lose a positional battle and are sent to the minors, it is harder to sell them having extravagant value. So there could be some pressure on those clubs -- beyond their win-now status -- to make moves sooner than later.
• Anthony Recker belted a walk-off three-run homer against Atlanta Braves left-hander Eric Pfisterer as the Mets won, 7-6, Thursday at Tradition Field. Wheeler allowed a pair of first-inning runs, but eventually tossed 75 pitches over 5 1/3 quality innings and departed with a 4-2 lead. Lagares had a stellar catch at the wall to deprive Justin Upton of an extra-base hit. Lagares later was drilled in the left shoulder with a pitch while squaring to bunt and departed the game. Read more at MLB.com.
• Collins batted the pitcher eighth Thursday, which he may also do in-season if the Nos. 1 and 2 hitters are not successfully getting on base enough ahead of David Wright.
• Matt Harvey, who has been throwing on flat ground at 60 feet since getting cleared to pick up a baseball, plans to increase the distance to 75 feet Friday.
• Wheeler wants to be the Opening Day starter in 2015, Kristie Ackert writes in the Daily News.
• Richard Justice at MLB.com speaks with Wright.
• Las Vegas 51s owners are having trouble getting public financing for a proposed new stadium in the area, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. The Mets’ player-development agreement with the 51s expires after this season, but the sides may have to remain in a shotgun marriage for at least two more seasons after that because no other Triple-A cities may become available for the Mets.
• The low-A Savannah Sand Gnats received their 2013 South Atlantic League championship rings during a morning ceremony Thursday at Tradition Field.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing gives more thought to Harvey and the media. … Rising Apple contributors pick their most likely Mets to disappoint in 2014.
BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets shortstop Shawon Dunston, a first-round pick by the Chicago Cubs out of Brooklyn in 1982, turns 51.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Is Dillon Gee the best choice for Opening Day starter?
@PeterBotte Listen, they are going to let Wheeler live in New York. Baby steps.— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) March 20, 2014
USA TODAY SportsDidi Gregorius and Nick Franklin are shortstop options for the Mets, but not Pete Kozma.
FIRST PITCH: The Mets break camp in exactly one week to fly to Montreal for a pair of final exhibition games. And Terry Collins says it is now time to get down to serious business.
On Thursday at 1:10 p.m. at Tradition Field, Zack Wheeler is scheduled to oppose Ervin Santana (SNY).
Santana will be making his Braves debut after signing a one-year, $14.1 million deal. Atlanta needed the pitching help after losing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. (See the Braves full travel list here.)
For the Mets, Collins has pledged that either Lucas Duda (hamstring) or Ike Davis (calf) will start at first base against the Braves. Both have been getting at-bats in minor-league games, but not running after making contact. It has been 17 days since Duda and 18 days since Davis last appeared in a Grapefruit League game. A healthy bit of skepticism exists among scouts that Davis will be ready for the season.
Jonathon Niese is expected to resume throwing, at least on flat ground, after receiving a cortisone shot in New York on Monday to address elbow inflammation.
Thursday’s news reports:
• The Washington Nationals announced Stephen Strasburg will start on Opening Day, on March 31 against the Mets at Citi Field. Gio Gonzalez will start Game 2 and Jordan Zimmermann will start Game 3.
Didi Gregorius, not Chris Owings, is the shortstop the Arizona Diamondbacks are willing to trade, sources tell ESPNNewYork.com. One industry source unaffiliated with the Mets or D-backs believes a potential trade between the teams “has legs.” Nick Franklin of the Seattle Mariners is a potential alternative acquisition. The St. Louis Cardinals are making Pete Kozma available, but the Mets are unlikely to be interested because the offensively challenged Kozma is not a clear upgrade over Ruben Tejada.
Three Arizona scouts, including special assistant Todd Greene, watched a Mets intrasquad game Tuesday in which Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Logan Verrett and Jeff Walters pitched. With the loss of planned Opening Day starter Patrick Corbin, the D-backs are looking for MLB-ready pitching in exchange for Gregorius.
ESPN.com’s Matt Meyers, meanwhile, makes the case for Wilmer Flores at shortstop. Meyers notes the Mets’ starting pitchers are fly-ball oriented anyway, and reminds readers stocky Kevin Mitchell started at shortstop on days Sid Fernandez pitched in 1986.
Flores is expected to see ample time at shortstop with Triple-A Las Vegas in April, with the Mets open to having him oust Tejada as the shortstop early in the season if Flores can demonstrate competency there.
Read more on potential shortstop trades from Jon Heyman at CBSSports.com. Read more on Flores in the Star-Ledger.
• Paul DePodesta told ESPNNewYork.com plenty of options are on the table for conserving Syndergaard’s innings count with Las Vegas, including five-inning/60-pitch appearances, sporadic one-inning relief appearances rather than full starts, and a six-man rotation.
• DePodesta did a podcast with “Who Are You” sports about his life and baseball. Listen here.
• Triple-A pitching coach Frank Viola has found solace at the ballpark after the passing of his father and mother in a four-week span during spring training, writes Anthony Rieber in Newsday. Read more on Viola in the Record.
• The Mets’ bullpen is projected to include Bobby Parnell, Jose Valverde, Vic Black, Jeurys Familia, Carlos Torres, Scott Rice and Lannan, despite Black’s struggles. Kyle Farnsworth has a contract “out” Sunday, so there should be a resolution soon on his expected failure to make the Opening Day roster. Read a bullpen review in the Post.
• Read more on Wheeler in the Post.
• Águilas Cibaeñas has hired Andy Barkett as manager of its Dominican winter-league team. Wally Backman recently had interviewed for that position in Port St. Lucie. Read more (in Spanish) in El Caribe.
• Mets fan Daniel Franklin (@Stan_Kankels), a 22-year-old from Chappaqua who now lives in Manhattan, has been selected to participate in MLB’s “Fan Cave” this season. He is a sound-board operator at WABC 770 AM in NYC. Read more at MLB.com.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal notes the Mets still have question marks with Tejada, at first base and with Jenrry Mejia’s role. Marc Carig in Newsday focuses on the uncertainty with Tejada and first base.
• From the bloggers … John Delcos at Mets Report suggests the Mets are playing unreasonable hardball with Matt Harvey. … Blogging Mets predicts the club will trade Niese and Dillon Gee.
BIRTHDAYS: Manny Alexander was born on this date in 1971.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Do you believe Lucas Duda, Ike Davis or neither will be in the Mets’ Grapefruit League lineup on Thursday against the Braves?
Should the #Mets just plan on going with Murphy at first base at this point? This is a mess— Mitch Petanick (@FirstPitchMitch) March 19, 2014
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsDidi Gregorius may be traded by the D-backs for an MLB-ready starting pitcher.
The D-backs seek an MLB-ready starting pitcher in return, hoping to offset the loss of intended Opening Day starter Patrick Corbin with a UCL tear.
A trio of Arizona scouts, including special assistant Todd Greene, watched a Mets intrasquad game involving Double-A and Triple-A players Tuesday on a back field at the Port St. Lucie complex. Noah Syndergaard, Logan Verrett and Jacob deGrom, who all may be in Triple-A Las Vegas' rotation to open the season, pitched in that game. Syndergaard almost certainly is off-limits in Mets discussions.
Gregorius, 24, hit .252 with seven homers and 28 RBIs and had a .332 on-base percentage in 404 plate appearances with the D-backs last season. He was acquired by Arizona from the Reds on Dec. 11, 2012 in a three-team trade that also landed Shin-Soo Choo in Cincinnati.
The scouting report on the ESPN Fantasy Projection reads:
A defensive whiz, Gregorius is unfortunately not much with the stick. Sure, he batted .322 in his first 38 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but from that point forward, he hit .202/.294/.284 in 65 contests, unable to do much with anything other than pitches left over the middle of the plate. His defense might be valuable enough to the Diamondbacks that he'll earn the starting shortstop job this spring, and he's knowledgeable enough of the strike zone -- he had a 9.2 percent walk rate in 2013.
FIRST PITCH: The Mets have their lone off-day of spring training Wednesday -- major and minor leaguers -- then gear up for a relatively intense final stretch before breaking camp.
Terry Collins said priority No. 1 is getting his first basemen on the field, with the manager pledging either Ike Davis or Lucas Duda would start Thursday’s Grapefruit League game against the Atlanta Braves.
With camp now down to 38 players, including rehabbing Matt Harvey and Jeremy Hefner, Collins said starters will get more time and relievers will begin to get action with in-season roles in mind.
The Mets break camp in eight days. They then head to Montreal for a pair of exhibition games against the Toronto Blue Jays before Opening Day on March 31 against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field.
“You bet it’s the critical part of the spring,” Collins said. “We’re going to tighten some things up around here. … It’s time to play like we’re getting ready for the season.”
Wednesday’s news reports:
“We don’t want to keep preaching patience, but there’s some real light at the end of the tunnel here,” Collins said Tuesday. “[Syndergaard] wasn’t the only guy sent down today who is going to pitch in the big leagues, and pitch for a long time in the big leagues. Montero is going to do it. Mazzoni is going to do it.”
The Mets likely will be tight with Syndergaard’s early season pitch counts so he has innings left in the majors during the second half. Syndergaard logged only 124 2/3 innings last season including the Eastern League playoffs and Futures Game, so 155 innings is a rough approximation for 2014. The Mets likely will consider a promotion for Syndergaard sometime in mid-June or beyond, after delaying his arbitration eligibility.
“He ain’t coming out after the fifth up here,” Collins said about pitch limits.
Syndergaard, meanwhile, surrendered one hit but walked four in four innings in a minor-league intrasquad game hours after receiving his demotion news.
Read more in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Record, Newsday, Journal and MLB.com.
• Harvey remains determined to return to the Mets in August, only 10 months after Tommy John surgery. He said he is undeterred by Atlanta’s Kris Medlen and Oakland’s Jarrod Parker recently learning they required that procedure for a second time. Harvey also remains adamant he wants to rehab primarily in New York and be around the team, which is his right under the collective bargaining agreement, even if the team disagrees. He dislikes the team’s attempts to muzzle him from speaking with the media and tweeting, too. Read more in the Daily News, Star-Ledger, Newsday and MLB.com.
• Three Arizona Diamondbacks scouts, including special assistant Todd Greene, quietly watched Mets minor leaguers in an intrasquad game Tuesday, furthering speculation that the Mets ultimately could acquire one of their shortstops: Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings. Seattle Mariners scout Joe McIlvaine also was in attendance for an intrasquad game that included Logan Verrett pitching and Kevin Plawecki catching. The Mariners are likely to trade Nick Franklin.
On Franklin, FanGraphs tackles the topic about whether he can be a passable shortstop.
• Jenrry Mejia still appears ticketed for Las Vegas to open the season. So does Wilmer Flores, who should see some serious action at shortstop with the 51s in April.
• Jonathon Niese returned to camp Tuesday and expressed relief that his second spring-training scare turned out to be only inflammation of the left elbow, with no structural damage. Niese said he does not have an ego about starting Opening Day.
Having him open the season on the DL and making his season debut April 6 against the Cincinnati Reds continues to seem the most viable option. The Mets insist they have not yet reset their rotation now that Niese is likely to miss Opening Day, beyond knowing that Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee will start during the season-opening three-game series against the Nats.
Read more on Niese in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger and Newsday.
• The Mets have arranged their starting pitchers for the next week of spring training, beginning with Zack Wheeler facing the Braves on Thursday at Tradition Field.
• Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed two homers, including a shot by Miguel Cabrera, but the Mets rallied for a 5-4 win against the Detroit Tigers on Andrew Brown’s walk-off RBI single. Read more at MLB.com.
BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets minor-league catcher Landon Powell, now a volunteer assistant coach at Furman University, turns 32. ... Prospect Yeixon Ruiz, who hit .304 at Kingsport last season, is 23.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Would you prefer Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings, Nick Frankin, Stephen Drew, Ruben Tejada or Wilmer Flores as the Opening Day shortstop?
What a tremendous opportunity but there's still work to be done.— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) March 18, 2014
Arizona dispatched special assistant Todd Greene and two other scouts. They saw Syndergaard facing right-hander Logan Verrett on a back field, as well as Kevin Plawecki behind the plate. Former Mets GM Joe McIlvaine was on hand representing the Mariners.
The Mariners and Diamondbacks are the two most likely trade partners for the Mets if they upgrade from Ruben Tejada, which remains a possibility. Arizona has shortstops Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings, while the Mariners are looking to trade Nick Franklin.