New York Mets: Frank Francisco

Morning Briefing: Dive at five

May, 11, 2014
May 11
5:45
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NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: The Mets have lost a season-high five straight as well as eight of nine. They also now occupy sole possession of last place in the National League East.

Can Jonathon Niese stop the slide?

Niese (2-2, 1.82 ERA) opposes left-hander Cole Hamels (0-2, 7.02) in Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. series finale as the Mets look to avoid getting swept for a second straight series, as they did in Miami.

Hamels has a 7-14 record and 4.65 ERA in 27 career starts against the Mets. The Mets roughed him up for six runs in 4 2/3 innings two weeks ago in Philly. Hamels then allowed five runs on 10 hits and a walk against the Toronto Blue Jays, including surrendering homers to Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus. Overall, Hamels needs one win for 100 in his career.

Sunday’s news reports:

• Terry Collins would not commit Saturday to Jenrry Mejia making his next start, and appears to prefer 23-year-old Rafael Montero getting promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas for Wednesday’s outing opposite Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees at Citi Field. Of course, Sandy Alderson -- who picked Mejia over Daisuke Matsuzaka out of spring training, which was not Collins’ preference -- would need to sign off on bouncing Mejia from the rotation. Would the GM allow a prospect to debut in the Subway Series (and before the Super 2 deadline)? That seems out of character. In fact, a source tells columnist John Harper in the Daily News about Alderson's thinking on Montero: "not yet."


Brad Barr/USA TODAY SportsTerry Collins apparently advocates Rafael Montero as Wednesday's starter against the Yankees.


Mejia reiterated he is leery of bullpen work because he believes it contributed to his Tommy John surgery. “I worry about my arm,” Mejia told reporters. “I want to have a long career. … I don’t want to get hurt again.”

After tossing 5 1/3 no-hit innings Friday (with three walks) at Salt Lake, Montero is 4-1 with a 3.67 ERA and .203 opponent batting average in eight Pacific Coast League starts.

Read more in the Post, Newsday and at MLB.com.

Eric Campbell joined the Mets on Saturday and received No. 29, formerly donned by Ike Davis. He delivered a tiebreaking sac fly while pinch hitting with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth against left-hander Jake Diekman. Campbell became the first player in franchise history with a sac fly in his first big-league plate appearance. Ken Boswell in 1967 had a sac fly in his MLB debut, but it came later in the game.

Campbell had an eventful second plate appearance. With the score tied at 4, one out and two in scoring position in the eighth, Mike Adams threw the first pitch of an intentional walk. Chase Utley then came to the mound with Carlos Ruiz and the Phillies -- realizing Bobby Abreu had grabbed a helmet and planned to subsequently pinch hit -- reversed course and pitched to Campbell, who proceeded to strike out.


Courtesy of New York Mets
Eric Campbell made his major league debut Saturday with a sacrifice fly and strikeout off the bench.


Campbell initially was in Saturday’s starting lineup as the first baseman, but Lucas Duda said he had recovered enough from a suspected case of food poisoning and was a late addition to the lineup in Campbell’s place.

Josh Satin, who had been 3-for-28 this season in sporadic use, was optioned to Las Vegas. Campbell figures to start Sunday against Hamels.

Read more in Newsday.

• A half-inning after the Mets stranded the bases loaded, Ryan Howard delivered a two-out RBI single in the ninth against Kyle Farnsworth and Philadelphia beat the Mets, 5-4, Saturday night at Citi Field. At three games under .500, the Mets (16-19) have matched their 0-3 start for their season low-water mark.

After consecutive singles to open the bottom of the eighth, Chris Young -- hitless in 14 at-bats -- had a successful sac bunt. Campbell then struck out, Wilmer Flores walked and Abreu, pinch-hitting for Travis d’Arnaud, grounded back to Adams as the score remained tied at 4.

Scott Rice had inherited a one-run lead for the seventh from Dillon Gee and surrendered a game-tying RBI double to Utley.

Gee’s scoreless streak ended at 16 innings with two runs by the Phillies in the first. He allowed three runs in six innings and tossed only 81 pitches before departing with a 4-3 lead in what became a no-decision. Collins preferred having Rice face the Utley/Howard portion of the Phillies lineup in their fourth plate appearances.

David Wright snapped a career-high 136 at-bat homerless drought with a two-run homer in the first inning against Kyle Kendrick. Wright finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs, but popped out in foul territory against Jonathan Papelbon with Daniel Murphy at second base to end the game.

Mets pitchers remained hitless and are now 0-for-61 to open the season.

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

• Noah Syndergaard surrendered five runs (four earned) in six innings for Las Vegas, including a first-inning three-run homer to Nick Franklin. He struck out 10. Matt Koch, Randy Fontanez and Beck Wheeler combined on the shutout as St. Lucie beat Palm Beach, 2-0. John Gant, Dawrin Frias and Robert Coles combined on the shutout as Savannah beat Charleston, 1-0. 2012 first-round pick For the Gnats, Gavin Cecchini returned to the lineup two days after departing with a knee injury. Savannah snapped Yankees prospect Caleb Smith’s scoreless streak at 23 1/3 innings. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• Jon Hamm, who plays advertising executive Don Draper on “Mad Men,” is a St. Louis Cardinals fan in real life. Hamm was in New York on Friday promoting his role as a sports agent in the new Disney movie, “Million Dollar Arm.” Writes Anthony McCarron in the Daily News:


ESPNActor Jon Hamm is a big St. Louis Cardinals fan.


He’s from St. Louis and grew up loving the Cardinals and Ozzie Smith and is still close to Ted Simmons’ son, a childhood friend. The ‘82 World Series is his favorite baseball memory.

“Oh, I hated the Mets with a passion that kills and still do,” Hamm said last week while promoting his new movie, “Million Dollar Arm,” which opens Friday, May 16.

But, Hamm acknowledges, the Mets -- at least the late ’60s version -- are the “perfect team for Don Draper to root for. They’re brand new. They represent nothing but possibility.

“Don would never be a Yankee fan. That’s a frontrunner. He’s an underdog guy, if he’s anything.”

Speaking of Don Draper and the ’69 Mets, columnist Mike Vaccaro addresses that topic in the Post.

Read more in the Times and Newsday.

• Kevin Burkhardt (Class of 1997) will give William Patterson University’s commencement address Wednesday at the Izod Center, writes Phil Mushnick in the Post.

• The Yankees will honor Joe Torre, Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill with plaques in Monument Park this season. So what about the Mets honoring their past heroes? Writes David Lennon in Newsday:

The franchise has retired only three numbers in addition to Jackie Robinson's No. 42 -- Casey Stengel's 37, Gil Hodges' 14 and Tom Seaver's 41 -- but [Mike] Piazza seems to be next in line.

Piazza's No. 31 has not been issued by the Mets since he left after the 2005 season, and he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame last year. But the Mets appear to be waiting on Piazza's campaign for Cooperstown, and he fell 74 votes shy of the 75 percent needed (429) for induction in his second year.

Carter's No. 8, Keith Hernandez's No. 17 and Willie Mays' No. 24 also have been mostly kept out of circulation, so they remain possibilities.

In the meantime, the Mets rely on a seven-person committee to decide on their own Hall of Fame, which has 27 inductees. Who will follow Piazza? David Wright? That would be a bit of a wait.

• Columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post suggests the Mets' season appears snowballing out of control.

Omar Quintanilla cleared waivers and accepted a demotion to Vegas. Quintanilla, who was replaced by Wilmer Flores on Friday, had the right to decline the assignment and declare free agency.

• There have been 122 players to play for both the Mets and Yankees, writes Anthony Rieber in Newsday. There are five slated to participate in this week’s Subway Series: Abreu, Bartolo Colon, Farnsworth, Curtis Granderson and Carlos Beltran.

• The Chicago White Sox promoted former Mets closer Frank Francisco from Triple-A Charlotte on Saturday.

• The Los Angeles Angels released ex-Mets left-handed reliever Robert Carson from Triple-A Salt Lake, where he had a 10.34 ERA and had allowed 23 hits and 13 walks in 15 2/3 innings.

From the bloggers ... Faith and Fear encounters a Mets fan existential crisis.

BIRTHDAYS: Walt Terrell, who was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Howard Johnson on Dec. 7, 1984, turns 56.

TWEETS OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Who should start Wednesday against the Yankees -- Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Carlos Torres, Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard?

7 Mets become free agents

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
12:19
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Seven Mets became free agents as of 9 a.m. Thursday: David Aardsma, Tim Byrdak, Pedro Feliciano, Frank Francisco, Aaron Harang, LaTroy Hawkins and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

With those seven roster spots now free, the Mets formally activated their seven players on the 60-day DL, where they were not counting against the 40-man roster. Those players are Ike Davis, Josh Edgin, Matt Harvey, Jeremy Hefner, Jenrry Mejia, Bobby Parnell and Scott Rice.

Players such as Harvey who are due to miss the 2014 season cannot remain on the 60-day DL during the offseason.

With the Oct. 17 purge that included Mike Baxter and Robert Carson getting claimed off waivers, the Mets' 40-man roster currently stands at 36. The Mets will shed another member of the 40-man roster once Johan Santana's 2014 option is declined.

Frank Francisco out for a few days

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
12:16
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NEW YORK -- Mets reliever Frank Francisco is not available Sunday because of his bruised pitching hand, and manager Terry Collins said he doesn't expect to have Francisco for three to four days.

[+] EnlargeFrank Francisco
Maddie Meyer/Getty ImagesFrank Francisco after taking a line drive off his pitching hand Saturday.
Francisco, who was hit by a line drive in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, doesn't believe he'll be out for three days, but said he has to see how his right hand responds -- it's still swollen.

"Doesn't hurt as much as it did last night," Francisco said Sunday. "Last night it was pumping. Now, it's only when I move it."

Francisco has pitched in just four games for the Mets this season, following a slow rehab process after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow last December. He hasn't pitched well since returning on Sept. 8, posting a 10.13 ERA in 2 2/3 innings of work.

Collins said he does expect to have Francisco back this season. The Mets have 14 games left.

HAWKINS TO STAY? Collins also said he would be in favor of having veteran relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins stick with the Mets next season. Hawkins, 40, received a spring training invitation this year and emerged as one of the team's most reliable bullpen arms, with a 3.20 ERA and 10 saves.

"When you're talking about the future of the organization in 2014 and all the young guys, to have a quality guy like LaTroy Hawkins among those young guys I think would be a real benefit," said Collins. "Certainly if he wants to come back and we're talking about all those young relief pitchers coming up, it would be nice to have him around."

Hawkins has filled in as the team's closer since Bobby Parnell was sidelined with a herniated disc in his neck in late July, and Hawkins' 10 saves are the most he's had since 2009. He hasn't yielded a run in 19 of his past 21 appearances, and recorded a save in Saturday's nightcap.

Collins, who said he hasn't talked with GM Sandy Alderson about next year's roster yet, likes how Hawkins has mentored some of the younger pitches in the bullpen.

"He's had several conversations with the likes of Robert Carson, a few other guys about how to approach a hitter. Perhaps things they have to get better at to get outs. I've heard a lot of guys say 'Hawk talked to me about this, Hawk talked to me about that,'" Collins said. "You look at the way the bullpen, (how) they're always together. That's LaTroy Hawkins."

Another scoreless inning for Francisco

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
4:44
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Frank Francisco pitched another inning of relief for the Class A St. Lucia Mets on Wednesday afternoon, and did not give up a hit. He did walk two batters, but also struck out a pair.

Francisco has now pitched five innings for St. Lucie and has yet to allow a run. He has given up one hit and stuck out six batters.

Mets manager Terry Collins said Tuesday that Bobby Parnell will remain the closer when Francisco returns, at least initially. But Francisco's return to the big leagues, after missing the start of the season with elbow inflammation, is definitely getting closer.

How the 2013 Mets make the playoffs

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
3:10
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US Getty ImagesThe Mets need huge seasons from Johan Santana, Ike Davis and David Wright to have any hopes of 2013 success.

Let’s be honest: The trade of R.A. Dickey has given Mets fans every reason to punt on the 2013 season.

Yes, you’re looking ahead to 2014 and 2015, but 2013 comes first.

And maybe, just maybe, there’s a way we can pretend that the Mets could be contenders this year.

So that got me thinking -- what is that one combination in 100 that puts the Mets into October?

I did an exercise a couple of weeks ago in which I tried to assess the Kansas City Royals' chances of winning the AL Central and I’ll try to employ a similar methodology here.

We start with the idea that every major-league team, even one made up entirely of “Quadruple-A players,” is going to win at least 52 games.

We then take the approach that if you sum a team’s total Wins Above Replacement that it gets from its roster, and add that to 52, you’re going to get a number that is reasonably close to that team’s win total.

It is not a perfect formula by any means, but for the purposes of what we’re trying to do, it suffices.

In our case, the target number we’re going for is 38. Why 38? Because the five NL playoff teams last season averaged 38 Wins Above Replacement for the season.

The 2013 Mets finished with 20 Wins Above Replacement last season. There’s a big gap between 20 and 38 (especially with Dickey gone), we don’t dispute that.

But on we go.

The Foundation
The chart on the right lists the most important players on our dream-world 2013 Mets. Here’s what we’d be asking for from them.

-- David Wright having a repeat of his 2012 season (6.7 WAR, tied for 8th in MLB). We’ll bump him to 7 WAR.

-- Ike Davis returning to the skill level he showed as a rookie and posting a 3-WAR season. He was an 0.7 WAR in 2011. For him to get to 3-WAR, we’d need two considerable improvements: Batting average and defensive play.

-- Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada forming a respectable double-play combination. The pair was worth a combined 3.1 WAR last season. We have them pegged for 2.5 apiece.

What does a 2.5-WAR second baseman look like? Last season, it was Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (.280 BA/.768 OPS, 14 HR, -4 Defensive Runs Saved). Can Murphy be Walker? If the Mets are going to make the playoffs in our dream world, he has to be.

Tejada was a 1.9 WAR last season. He could get to 2.5 by being a little bit better defensively and by playing 140 games instead of 114.

-- Since we’re presuming that just about everything goes right for this imaginary Mets team, we’re going to make Travis d’Arnaud into someone who makes a big impact right away. Maybe not Buster Posey big, but a 2.5 WAR would be huge for a catcher in his debut season.

-- In Dickey’s absence, the pitching staff needs its starters to step up to the challenge. Bumping Jonathon Niese from 3 WAR in 2012 to 4 WAR in 2013, which takes him from being a top-35 pitcher to being a top-15 pitcher. In other words, he morphs into Cole Hamels.

-- Matt Harvey’s promising start likely raised expectations for his sophomore season. We pushed them to the max, basically giving him the numbers that Niese finished with in 2012. That’s why he’s pegged for 3 WAR.

-- Now let’s say that Zack Wheeler comes up around the same time as d’Arnaud and has a respectable debut. That’s two more Wins Above Replacement.

Let’s pause here and restate everything we’re looking for:

-- An MVP-caliber season for Wright
-- Davis, Murphy, Tejada rate above average at their positions
-- Big immediate impacts for d’Arnaud and Wheeler
-- Niese becomes a top-15 starter
-- Matt Harvey becomes a top-35 starter

All of that adds up to 26.5 wins.

We still have 11.5 wins to go.

And really, it’s more than that, because inevitably the performance of your pitchers as hitters and those additional call-ups/acquisitions who don’t perform well is probably going to be about 7.5 wins (the five NL playoff teams lost an average of 7.4 to sub-replacement performance last season).

So now we’re looking to somehow squeeze 19 Wins Above Replacement from the rest of the team.

And what’s left to assess?

The outfield ("what outfield?" as Sandy Alderson might say), the bullpen, and the bench. Oh, and one other guy.

Johan
Unless you’re planning on making Dillon Gee or Jeremy Hefner a Cy Young contender, Frank Francisco Fireman of the Year, Lucas Duda an MVP candidate or Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis All-Stars, there’s no way to conjure up 19 wins from what’s left.

Unless we make the big presumption that the Mets get a good return on the $20+ million they have invested in Johan Santana’s 2013 season.

That would be a surprise of perhaps a greater magnitude than R.A. Dickey’s 2012.

But if we’re talking about the Mets amazin’ run to a postseason in 10 months, we’re going to be talking surprises. Like that Johan Santana is one of the 10 best pitchers in the majors again.

So put Santana down for 5 Wins Above Replacement.

Everyone else
We’re still a long way from making these Mets a playoff team -- about 14 wins away.

The chart on the right lays out a way by which the Mets can get them.

In short, the Mets would also need:

-- Lucas Duda to produce the 2-WAR they’d rather have gotten from Ryan Ludwick, and Dillon Gee to turn into Mike Pelfrey and his 2-WAR circa 2010.

-- The Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Collin Cowgill platoon to hit, run, and field -- and do all three well.

-- Frank Francisco to pitch like he did in 2011 (3.55 ERA, 1.1 WAR) and not 2012 (5.53 ERA, -0.7 WAR) and to do better in support of Bobby Parnell (1.3 WAR) so that he doesn’t suffer any undeserving defeats.

-- John Buck, and Justin Turner not to hurt them like Jason Bay hurt them in 2012. And Jeremy Hefner, Jeurys Familia, and Josh Edgin to resemble the Manny Acosta of 2010 (2.95 ERA, 0.6 WAR) and not 2012 (6.46 ERA, -1.2 WAR).

-- Player X (our code name for the outfielder that may turn out to be Scott Hairston) to be what Hairston was in 2012 (1.5 WAR) and Pitcher X (our code name for the veteran pitcher they’re likely to sign) to be an Orlando Hernandez circa 2006 clone (1.2 WAR) and for Jenrry Mejia to be serviceable when asked to replace him.

In other words, they still need a heck of a lot.

And in conclusion…
You may have seen that Dan Szymborski’s ZIPS projections peg the Mets for 66 wins this season. AccuScore and PECOTA will likely churn out similar guesses in the next few weeks.

Those are legit, soundly based projections and it’s perfectly reasonable to buy in and believe in them.

But fans of the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics were probably reading similar predictions at this time a year ago. And those teams went on to make the postseason.

If you asked me right now what the Mets' chances are of making the playoffs, I’d probably say 100-to-1. Szymborski has it even worse. He said the Mets made the playoffs in 0.8 percent of his simulations.

But there’s always that chance. That’s why we watch, right?

Hefner bounces back from flub vs. Philly

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
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Jeremy Hefner couldn't get his previous start out of his head.

Facing Philadelphia on Sept. 20, the starter did not record an out and was tagged for seven runs while getting pulled in the first inning in an eventual 16-1 drubbing. The past six days had him thinking constantly about the nightmare outing and all his failures that night.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Hefner
Alex Trautwig/Getty ImagesJeremy Hefner
Wednesday, he helped himself dispel that memory.

Hefner bounced back from the worst start of his career with his best outing of the year as he threw seven scoreless innings in a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh. He gave up just three hits and struck out seven as he recorded his first victory since Aug. 4.

"You could say you try to forget about that, you try to turn the page quickly, but that was tough to swallow," Hefner said. "Just tried to do my best again and it worked out. Tried to pick up the bullpen -- they picked me up last time, I picked them up tonight. Wish I could have thrown a complete game, but seven strong is pretty good."

Hefner was efficient and worked quickly against Pittsburgh as he kept them from threatening. He said the key was to throw a strike during his first two pitches and then work from there. He improved to 3-7 with the win, although his ERA is still just 5.32.

The starter was also pleased to pitch deep into the game, saying he planned to give the team length whether he was putting up zeroes or giving up runs. His success came on a night when he wasn't going to have support from the 'pen, as manager Terry Collins planned to give the top relievers in the bullpen the night off to get ready for R.A. Dickey's quest for 20 wins Thursday.

"We were going to make sure that tomorrow that we had our main guys ready for R.A.'s game," Collins said.

FRANK SORE: Closer Frank Francisco did not play catch, as planned, before the game. The closer is likely done for the season as he battles elbow tendinitis as he has not pitched since Sept. 16.

"He just doesn't feel real good," Collins said. "He just said it's still tight and still aches so he didn't throw today."

FAMILIA IN: Jeurys Familia will start in Collin McHugh's start in the rotation during the final series against the Marlins. He threw two scoreless innings to end Wednesday's game.

Collins said he used Familia on Wednesday because he will be making that start next week and stressed that it will be important for the youngster to develop a secondary pitch as he moves forward.

"I think he knows he's got a great arm, he knows he has good stuff but he had an up and down season," Collins said. "There were some games he was very good, and some games he had a tough time. He knows one thing, he has to learn but we see the stuff, you guys see the stuff, it's lights-out stuff."

TC: 70 percent chance Frankie's done

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
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The odds are not in Frank Francisco's favor.

Mets manager Terry Collins acknowledged once again that the closer is likely done for the season with elbow tendinitis, putting the odds at 70 percent that he won't pitch again this season.

"Hopefully I'm wrong," Collins said.

Francisco last pitched Sept. 16 and experienced a setback over the weekend as he woke up Saturday with a sore elbow. With just eight games remaining, it might not make sense to bring back the closer for games that are virtually meaningless in the standings. Francisco is 1-3 with a 5.53 ERA and 23 saves.

Collins said he planned to talk to Francisco after batting practice Wednesday to see how he's doing as the closer planned to play catch. Francisco has one year left on his contract.

"The signs are not pointing in the best direction right now," Collins said. "It's been nine days since he pitched. Certainly he's got to throw a pen before -- right now with him being out that long he certainly needs to throw on the side before we would put him in the game and I'm not sure when that would take place."

Mets morning briefing 6.26.12

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
8:47
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CHICAGO -- The Mets sleepwalked through their series opener at Wrigley Field despite a solid outing from Johan Santana and lost to the Cubs, 6-1, Monday night. Terry Collins generously called the Mets "flat." The skipper had expressed concern before the game about a post-Subway Series letdown, especially since the Mets arrived in the Windy City at 5:10 a.m. ET.

Tuesday's news reports:

• Assistant GM John Ricco tells columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post that the Mets will explore the trade market for relievers. "Our numbers are what they are," Ricco told Davidoff. "... It’s not too early to do the research. It’s probably too early to make a move, although each year there is several preemptive ones. For the seller more than the buyer.”

Davidoff goes on to list Houston's Brett Myers, San Diego's Huston Street, Oakland's Grant Balfour and Minnesota's Matt Capps (who just landed on the DL) as some of the best pieces potentially available. Davidoff notes that with a player traded midseason no longer yielding a draft pick for the acquiring team when he leaves after the season, teams may not be willing to offer as much. Then again, with two wild-card teams in each league now, there should be fewer sellers, potentially raising the asking price. With the Mets averse to giving up prospects, how much money the Amazin's would be willing to kick in to a deal might be the determinative factor. Writes Davidoff:

Myers is making $11 million this season and has a $3 million buyout on his $10 million vesting option, which he’s on track to hit (reportedly with 45 games finished). Balfour earns $4 million this year, with a $350,000 buyout on a $4.5 million team option for next year. Street has a $7.5 million salary and a $9 million mutual option for 2013 with a $500,000 buyout. General manager Sandy Alderson hasn’t ruled out the possibility of taking on payroll. He also told The Post two weeks ago, when discussing the Mets’ immediate needs, “We have to sort of take everything into account,” which means that the Mets won’t be dealing top-shelf prospects for volatile relievers. Hence the need to spend money so they won’t spend prospects.

For sure, the Mets will look beyond just the big names, try to find arms that wouldn’t cost much of anything. “Sometimes,” Ricco said, “you try to catch lightning in a bottle,” and he referenced the Mets’ acquisition of Guillermo Mota from the Indians in 2006. “That was a deal when they were just giving him away.”

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

Bobby Parnell will serve as the closer during Frank Francisco's stint on the disabled list for a strained left oblique. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Post and Record.

Jason Bay was cleared to begin physical activity Monday. The first step was to ride a stationary bicycle. If concussion symptoms do not recur, he will run midweek and begin baseball activities during the weekend.

• How big is the disparity between the performance between the Mets' starting pitchers and relievers? Nearly historic. Writes Michael Salfino in the Journal:

Mets starters, entering Monday's action, have effectively shut down hitters, compiling a 3.55 earned run average that's fourth-best in the league. But when the relievers are on the mound, that ERA rises to a major league-worst 5.22. The differential of 1.67 runs is second most since 1961, exceeded only by the 1980 A's (1.81). League-wide in 2012, relievers have an ERA about a half-run better than starters (3.63 to 4.14).

• The Mets had a modest bullpen tweak before the series opener in Chicago, adding a second left-hander, Justin Hampson. He made his Mets debut with a scoreless eighth despite allowing a triple. Read more in Newsday.

Josh Satin went 4-for-5 with two homers but Buffalo lost, while Zack Wheeler benefited from gaudy run support from his Binghamton teammates and received a win despite allowing five runs, the most in a game since he was acquired by the organization. Read Monday's full minor league recap here.

R.A. Dickey discusses former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's conviction in the Daily News.

• The phrase, "Welcome to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field" does not exactly extend to visiting players, who deal with cramped quarters in the historic ballpark. Writes Brian Costa in the Journal:

The clubhouse, which was last renovated in 1990, is more notable for what it lacks than what it offers. There is no cafeteria, no TV lounge, no video room and no couches. The only indoor batting cage is under the bleachers in right field. And while players are free to use the Cubs' weight room, the visiting clubhouse offers only a stationary bike.

TRIVIA: Highly regarded first-base prospect Anthony Rizzo is due to make his Cubs debut Tuesday. He originially was drafted by Boston, before being sent to San Diego and then Chicago. Which player went to the Red Sox when the Padres acquired Rizzo?

Monday's answer: Craig Brazell and Victor Diaz homered for the Mets in the Sept. 25, 2004 game at Shea Stadium that dealt a critical blow to the Cubs' playoff chances.
Terry Collins didn't want to burn through relievers in a tied game, so he kept Miguel Batista in to face Robinson Cano in the eighth instead of bringing in lefty Tim Byrdak.

Cano hit a solo homer to put the Yankees ahead for good, 6-5.

"I should have brought (Byrdak) in," Collins said.

The Mets' bullpen is already compromised with Frank Francisco on the disabled list, so when Sunday night's matchup became a game of the bullpens, Collins looked to get deep into the game with his relievers. He brought Batista in on a double switch to get two innings out of the veteran, and Batista retired the side in order in the seventh to keep the game tied.

In the eighth, Collins had his decision to make. He didn't want to bring in Byrdak for a couple of batters and then have to go to a righty, burning through three relievers that early in a tied game. Cano made him pay for that decision with his home run, the second he hit against Batista in the series, as he also crushed a homer off him in Friday night's game.

Collins' decision could have been made easier if the Mets had a second left-hander in the bullpen, like the Yankees do, but not having one makes it critical for Collins to use Byrdak in the right spots. Sunday night, the manager waited too long and he had to watch as the Yankees took this edition of a Subway Series as Cano once against bested Batista.

"It's always nice (to have a second lefty) but they're not easy to come by," Collins said. "If you get one, and he's not effective, having him down there doesn't help."

RUBEN RETURNS: Ruben Tejada had a successful return to the Mets as he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Tejada, who had been on the disabled list since May 7 with a right squad strain, had a sacrifice fly in the third inning to make it 4-1, and then tied the game at 5-5 with a RBI single in the sixth inning.

"I felt good out there," Tejada said. "I'm ready to keep working hard."

BATTLING BACK: The Mets trailed 4-0 and 5-1 against former Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia, but were able to battle back to tie the game in the sixth. While they didn't finish the job, the Mets showed resilience and didn't go down without a fight against their rivals.

"I'm so proud of our guys. We scrapped and we fought. We can build off that," starter R.A. Dickey said.

Notebook: Rauch, decisions and RISP

June, 24, 2012
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The last time Jon Rauch gave up a game-winning home run to the Yankees, the reliever was agitated, cursing himself out on his overall performance on the year.

Saturday night was a different story, as Rauch was much calmer after being tagged with the loss for the solo shot he yielded to Eric Chavez that put the Yankees ahead by the eventual final score of 4-3.

"He hit a good pitch," Rauch said. "He takes a panic swing and somehow he barreled it. ... I think everybody in this clubhouse is amazed what he was able to do with that pitch. Take it as it is."

Rauch pitched 1 1/3 innings, giving up just that one hit, but it proved to the deciding play in the game. After falling behind 0-2, Chavez drove a high fastball just inside the foul pole in left field. It's the second time the Yankees have beaten him, with Russell Martin hitting a walk-off homer against Rauch on June 10.

Rauch is now 3-7 on the year, which ties him for the most losses by a reliever in Major League Baseball.

"I thought he threw the ball OK," manager Terry Collins said about Rauch. "Ball down the left-field line out of the ballpark, I don't think you can even classify it as a mistake."

KEEPING THEM IN: In the seventh inning, Collins kept lefty Daniel Murphy in to face lefty reliever Boone Logan, with the Mets trailing 4-3 and a runner on third with two outs.

Collins had right-handed options on the bench, like Vinny Rottino and Justin Turner, but he stuck with the second baseman, who eventually struck out to end the threat. Prior to Murphy's strikeout, another lefty, Lucas Duda, also fanned against Logan.

"Those guys hit lefties," Collins said of Murphy and Duda. "They weren't really particularly good at-bats, but those two guys hit lefties. If we don't tie the game up, I know they're getting up in the ninth and I know who is going to be standing up there in the ninth inning and I wanted those guys up there."

In the ninth, Duda struck out and Murphy flew out to end the game against Rafael Soriano.

NO BYRDAK IN THAT SPOT: When Raul Ibanez came to the plate with two on and no outs in the seventh, Collins left in starter Chris Young. Ibanez followed with a three-run homer to right that tied the game at 3.

The manager said he was not considering bringing in lefty specialist Tim Byrdak in that spot, as he wanted him to face Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira later in the game. And not having Frank Francisco available meant he would have had to burn three pitchers in that one inning.

RISP WOES: The Mets were 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position, leaving 11 men on base. Over their last eight games, the Mets are just 12-for-63 in such situations.

"We couldn't really string anything together tonight," Duda said.

The weekend in 'Met'rics (May 18-20)

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
10:00
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David Wright is 20-for-40 in his last 11 games. Above is a look at his performance by pitch location.

A snapshot review of the Mets-Blue Jays series, with the help of Baseball-Reference.com

Stat of the Series
David Wright passed Jose Reyes to move into second place on the Mets all-time career hits list with his three hits this weekend in Toronto.

He's at 1,302 now, 116 shy of all-time leader Ed Kranepool.

Wright reached 1,300 career hits in this series, doing so in his 1,142nd career game.

That’s not necessarily so fast within a historical context, but Wright did reach 1,300 hits quicker than a few notables, among them: Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez and Carlos Beltran.

Clobbered
In Friday’s loss to the Blue Jays, the Mets allowed at least 14 runs in an interleague game for the seventh time in team history. That’s tied for the second-most such games with the Astros. Only the Cardinals, with nine, had more interleague games in which they allowed that many runs.

This game featured a host of weird combinations and accomplishments.

The Mets allowed 14 runs and their pitchers combined to record 11 strikeouts. It was the second time this season that they allowed at least 14 runs and had 11 strikeouts in a game. They also did it against the Braves on April 18.

Prior to this season, they had only achieved that combination once in their 50-year history-- against the Reds on April 29, 1978.

Jonathon Niese allowed eight runs and whiffed six in three innings. That’s the most strikeouts by a Mets pitcher who allowed at least eight runs, while pitching three innings or fewer.

The Mets best pitcher Saturday was their catcher, Rob Johnson, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Johnson, the first Met to ever play pitcher and catcher in the same game, became the first player to record a strikeout as both a catcher (on the receiving end) and a pitcher in the same game since Scott Sheldon of the 2000 Rangers.

The Sun Will Come Out To’Morrow’
The Mets had no chance, save for their ninth-inning rally against Brandon Morrow on Saturday.

Morrow allowed no runs and three hits, with eight strikeouts in a 2-0 win. He’s the first pitcher to throw a shutout against the Mets allowing that few hits with that many strikeouts since Dontrelle Willis in 2003.

On a more obscure note: Jeremy Hefner became the first Mets pitcher to throw at least five innings in a relief loss since Terry Leach in 1988.

BABIP = Baxter Average on Balls in Play
David Wright's batting average is largely a product of an amazing .476 Batting Average on Balls In Play.

But one Met has him beat. Mike Baxter, after a 3-for-4 in Sunday’s win, now has a .516 BABIP in 41 at-bats this season. Baxter is 16-for-30 when hitting the ball within the field of play.

Francisco Treat
Frank Francisco earned what we would call an adventurous save on Sunday. It was one in which he pitched a scoreless inning, struck out the side, and allowed two baserunners.

The last Mets reliever to earn such a save (one inning pitched, no runs, three strikeouts, two baserunners) in a one-run game was Billy Wagner in a 5-4 win against the Dodgers, July 22, 2007.

Rapid Reaction: Mets 3, Brewers 1

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
10:08
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WHAT IT MEANS: The Mets rebounded from a disappointing series in Miami to beat the Brewers 3-1 at Citi Field on Monday night.

BACK AT IT: Before the game, Mets manager Terry Collins said he would stick with Frank Francisco as the closer. Francisco was tagged for two losses over the weekend and blew a save against the Marlins, giving up five earned runs over 2/3 innings in two games.

Collins said the team wanted to see if Francisco could make some changes, but it did not appear they worked too well Monday. He entered the game in the ninth to protect a 3-0 lead, coming out to a chorus of boos. Three of the first four Milwaukee batters reached, including a RBI single by Cory Hart, and Milwaukee brought the go-ahead run to the plate twice.

He struck out Brook Conrad looking for the second out and retired George Kottaras on a long fly to right-center to end the game.

BATISTA'S BRILLIANCE: Miguel Batista pitched one of the team's best games of the year as he held the Brewers scoreless over seven. He gave up just four hits, and Milwaukee did not hit many balls hard during the course of those seven innings.

The Mets had been searching for some consistency out of the spot in the rotation vacated by Mike Pelfrey, and Batista has been been able to provide that. In his two starts since joining the rotation, he's tossed 12-1/3 innings and surrendered just two runs against two playoff teams from 2011. He recorded his first win of the year.

THE DANIEL MURPHY SHOW: Daniel Murphy provided almost all of the offense on this night. His RBI single gave the Mets a 1-0 lead in the fourth and he scored the team's second run on a suicide squeeze by Ronny Cedeno in the sixth. His grounder to second in the eighth ultimately led to a run, although it was more luck than anything else. Read on ...

WHEN IT'S GOING GOOD, IT'S GOING GOOD: In the eighth, David Wright was caught in a rundown trying to score on Murphy's grounder. As he tried to run to home, Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez simply dropped the ball and Wright scored to make it 3-0. Wright's hitting .398.

QUITE CHILLY: Ryan Braun was booed heavily on Monday night, his first appearance in Flushing since he tested positive for elevated testosterone this offseason. Braun went 1-for-4. Former closer Francisco Rodriguez also received a chorus of boos when he was introduced.

BACK IN ACTION: First baseman Ike Davis and third base coach Tim Teufel both missed Sunday's game with the flu, but they were back at it Monday. Davis went 0-for-4.

UP NEXT: The Mets will go for the sweep of this two-game series when Dillon Gee (2-2, 4.78 ERA) takes on former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke (3-1, 3.35) at 7:10 p.m.
We debut a new feature, which we’ll do as regularly as we can throughout the rest of the season. ESPN senior baseball editor Matt Meyers and ESPN NY blogger Mark Simon will take a look at some questions in Metsville and make predictions for the coming week. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Where will David Wright’s 2012 rank among the best seasons in Mets history?

Matt Meyers: Nothing will top Dwight Gooden’s 1985 season. For position players, Carlos Beltran’s 2006 season will be tough to beat, as it’s rare to get that kind of combination of power, OBP, speed and defense, and I think Wright will come up short of that season in the power department.

However, I can easily see this being the best season of Wright’s career, and as good as any other offensive season in Mets history. His BABIP is bound to drop, but he seems to have solved the contact problems that plagued him from 2009 to 2011.

Mark Simon: If Wright hits .317 the rest of the way and finishes with 600 at-bats, he’ll get to 200 hits and a .333 batting average. That feels doable, given the start, and the manner by which he’s spraying line drives all over the field.

That batting average, with 25 homers, 40 doubles, and 100 RBIs-- I’ll mark it down as a top-5 offensive season in club history.

Wright’s season could be historic in one regard: The Mets have never had a player lead the NL in on-base percentage. He could very well be the first.

What should the Mets do about the closer situation?

Meyers: Don’t you mean “bullpen situation?” Moving Francisco out of his ninth-inning role won’t make him more effective, and he can be just as dangerous in close games in the seventh and eighth innings. Besides, it’s not like the Mets have a lot of other reliable relievers, which is the real problem. Everyone was raving about the pen the first two weeks of the season, so I think you just stay the course and hope things turn around.

Simon: Francisco’s start to the season is exactly why it seemed odd that the Mets gave him a two-year deal instead of one year. Ideally, you give him his next chance with a comfortable lead, and have Bobby Parnell ready behind him if at all possible.

Name something that the Mets are doing well that they are not getting enough credit for.

Meyers: I’ll give a hat tip to Eric Simon of Amazin' Avenue, who made a great point on Twitter about Wright’s throwing accuracy. All the attention has gone to his improved offensive game, but his throwing had become an adventure, and he has really been much more reliable on throws this year.

Simon: Mike Baxter’s early-season pinch-hitting success has been extremely valuable. Even when he doesn’t get a hit, it feels like he’s giving a good at-bat. It feels like it has been forever since the Mets had a reliable late-game option off the bench, but Baxter may turn out to be the Mets' best pinch-hitter since Matt Franco, or at least Marlon Anderson.

Prediction for the Week?

Meyers: I think Lucas Duda will hit at least two home runs this week, and his power will start to come around. He’s been pretty much a singles hitter the last couple of weeks, but he’s hitting the ball hard, and with such homer-prone righties as Yovani Gallardo, Mike Leake and Brandon Morrow on the schedule, I think Duda will have a big week.

Simon: This has the feel of 2-2 in the next four games. It will be tough for the Mets to get wins against Gallardo and Zack Greinke back-to-back, and the Reds are a better team.

For an individual pick, how about this?

The Mets bust Aroldis Chapman’s scoreless streak courtesy of a Scott Hairston home run. He’s the one guy on the team that I’d feel good about timing Chapman’s 100 mile-per-hour fastball.

Frankie bawls after ball calls

May, 13, 2012
5/13/12
6:02
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Frank Francisco insisted all of the pitches he threw to John Buck during a ninth-inning walk were strikes. And the combination of not getting those calls, and plate umpire Todd Tichenor not responding to his inquiries about why they were ruled balls, set off the reliever.


Sarah Glenn/Getty Images
Terry Collins takes up the argument on Frank Francisco's behalf after the closer fumes over ball calls from plate ump Todd Tichenor.


Francisco, after subsequently surrendering a single to Greg Dobbs that pulled the Marlins within a run and resulted in Terry Collins removing him from the game, proceeded toward the plate to jaw with Tichenor. The ump ejected Francisco, even though Collins already had removed him and inserted Manny Acosta to close out the eventual 8-4 loss.

"All strikes," Francisco maintained. "I threw one a little high[er], because he didn't call one at the knees. I threw a straight fastball right there. He didn't call anything. And then I went a little higher to see. And he didn't call the higher one. There's nothing you can do about that. It's their call. I feel like I should say something."

Francisco said he legitimately originally wanted a response from Tichenor about why the pitches were ruled balls. He said the ump was stoic and unresponsive.

"He didn't say anything," Francisco said. "He didn't say anything. I asked him where were those pitches, and he didn't say anything. I expected him to say something -- probably 'low,' 'away,' or something. Give me a reason. Nothing."

Francisco acknowledged the lack of a response got him more upset.

"Yeah," Francisco said. "I was asking a simple question."

Francisco and Terry Collins noted the exchange with Tichenor was only verbal. Therefore, neither was expecting a suspension.

"I don't think he got him. He didn't touch him," Collins said. "If he touched him, that would have been an issue. All he ever did was had a few things to say. That was all."

Said Francisco: "They've got to do whatever they've got to do. I don't think I should get a suspension for that, because I've got to express my feeling. I'm asking a question, and he didn't answer."

Francisco may have had a point in being upset -- even if being so demonstrative was ill-advised. ESPN Stats & Information's Mark Simon notes the Pitch F/X tracking system installed in every major league ballpark, including Marlins Park, had the first two pitches to Buck in the strike zone. Both were ruled balls. The third pitch then was a called strike, before two more balls.

"Trust me, I was hacking with 'Boni' [Emilio Bonifacio] at third," Buck said, disputing the suggestion they were strikes. "We all know I love to swing. But if I could have, I would have put some wood on them. So there was probably one pitch that was questionable. But, other than that, I felt they were all [balls]."

Collins: Francisco remains closer

April, 22, 2012
4/22/12
10:56
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Terry Collins is sticking with Frank Francisco as his closer.

Collins on Sunday morning met with Francisco, who assured the manager the knee woes that troubled him late in spring training are not hampering his performance. Francisco has been charged with runs in each of his past four appearances.

"I just told him yesterday was one of those days, that he's still the closer here and to be ready to pitch when we get him back out there," Collins said. "... I just went to him this morning and said, 'You've got to hang in there.' He's disappointed. He's mad at me because I took him out, which is the common thing that happens. And I certainly don't blame him. If I was in his shoes, I'd be mad too."

Jon Rauch, who also closed games for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, has not allowed a run in 8 1/3 innings this season, but Collins said: "We're not going to flip them."

Collins said Francisco may not be sharp because of erratic work. Francisco saved the Mets' first three games, but has none since the April 8 series finale against the Braves.

"One of the things that has been hard -- and I've been around closers -- the last two times he's been out there with the game on the line, but we've been unable to get him out there consistently," Collins said. "We've either had big leads, or we've lost some games that it's gone three and four days where he hasn't got in a game."

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TEAM LEADERS

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