New York Mets: Henry Blanco

Shoppach highly unlikely to return

December, 3, 2012
12/03/12
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Don't look for a catcher who has passed through the Mets to return to the organization as the righy-hitting complement to Josh Thole.

Any of them.

A major league official painted it as a highly unlikely scenario that the Mets would re-sign Kelly Shoppach, who finished last season with the club after being acquired from the Boston Red Sox for Pedro Beato on Aug. 16.

Similarly, scratch off fellow ex-Mets Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco as well as former Mets farmhand Jesus Flores, who was non-tendered by the Washington Nationals, sources advise.

So where do the Mets go for catching?

The remaining righty-hitting free agents include Miguel Olivo, Chris Snyder and Matt Treanor. The Mets also could acquire a backup catcher via trade, although that may prove difficult because the club may be asked to overpay for another team's backup, since rival GMs sense the Mets' desperation to fill the role.

Rapid Reaction: Diamondbacks 11, Mets 5

July, 28, 2012
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WHAT IT MEANS: Jon Niese matched a career high by surrendering eight runs and the excitement generated by Matt Harvey’s major league debut the previous night evaporated in the Arizona desert.

Despite homers by David Wright and Ike Davis, the Mets lost to the Diamondbacks, 11-5, Friday night at Chase Field. They returned to a season-worst four games under .500 and lost for the 12th time in 14 games since the All-Star break.

The bulk of the damage against Niese came in a six-run second inning as Arizona overcame a 2-0 deficit. Niese allowed six straight batters to reach. He walked ex-Met Henry Blanco with the bases loaded to force in the Diamondbacks’ first run, then surrendered an RBI single to opposing pitcher Josh Collmenter. Niese’s ensuing throw to first base on Willie Bloomquist’s squibber up the third-base line with the bases loaded ended up in foul territory down the right-field line as three more runs scored.

The six-run frame only ended when Jason Bay slammed into the wall in foul territory down the third-base line while catching Jason Kubel’s fly ball. Bay already this season has landed on the DL with a fractured rib and concussion for separate aggressive catch attempts. He remained in this game. (At the plate, Bay went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.)

Niese’s final line: 6 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.

Elvin Ramirez, a logical demotion candidate when Frank Francisco is expected to be activated from the disabled list for the next series in San Francisco, allowed three seventh-inning runs.

WRIGHT STUFF: Wright answered a half-inning after Arizona's six-run frame with a three-run homer against Collmenter to pull the Mets within 6-5. Wright’s long ball, the 199th of his career, snapped an 0-for-15 drought.

Wright has 16 homers this season, one shy of Davis’ team-leading total. Davis, playing in his native Phoenix, opened the scoring in a two-run second with a solo homer.

WHAT’S NEXT: Three more days until Harvey starts Tuesday opposite Tim Lincecum in San Francisco.

On Saturday, Chris Young (2-4, 3.91 ERA) opposes Diamondbacks right-hander Ian Kennedy (8-8, 4.20). First pitch: 8:10 p.m. ET.

Series preview: Mets vs. Diamondbacks

May, 3, 2012
5/03/12
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The Mets face three starters for the first time this weekend: (l to r) Wade Miley, Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill.
METS (13-12, third place/NL East) vs. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (13-13, second place/NL West)

Friday: RHP Dillon Gee (2-2, 4.85) vs. LHP Wade Miley (3-0, 1.29), 7:10 p.m. ET

Saturday: LHP Johan Santana (0-2, 2.25) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (1-1, 4.76), 4:05 p.m. ET

Sunday: RHP R.A. Dickey (3-1, 4.45) vs. RHP Trevor Cahill (2-2, 3.13), 1:05 p.m. ET

Diamondbacks short hops

• Left-hander Wade Miley topped the Mets’ Kirk Nieuwenhuis for the NL Rookie of the Month honor for April, which was announced Wednesday. Miley, 25, limited opponents to a .133 average with seven walks and 15 strikeouts in 21 innings spanning five appearances (two starts). He became the third Diamondbacks player to be recognized since the monthly award’s inception in 2001, joining Gerardo Parra (May 2009) and Daniel Hudson (August 2010). Miley originally pitched in relief of shaky Josh Collmenter’s starts, logging as much as four innings an appearance. The southpaw entered the rotation when Hudson landed on the DL with a shoulder impingement. Hudson is due to throw a bullpen session for the first time early next week at Chase Field.

• Center fielder Chris Young has been on the DL since April 18 with a right shoulder injury. An MRI revealed a small tear of the ligament in the AC joint as well as a severe bruise. He has started swinging in a cage. GM Kevin Towers reportedly watched Vladimir Guerrero work out in the Dominican Republic on Monday, but there is no firm resolve to sign the veteran with Young’s absence not expected to be prolonged. Righty-hitting rookie A.J. Pollock (.120) and lefty-hitting Parra (.256) have been sharing center-field duty in Young’s absence. Pollock is a native of Hebron, Conn. He attended Notre Dame, where he was the Irish’s first MVP in consecutive seasons since Aaron Heilman in 2000 and ’01.


Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
Ex-Met J.J. Putz blew his second save of the season Wednesday, at D.C.


• Shortstop Stephen Drew began game action Monday in a minor league intrasquad game as he works back from surgery to repair a right ankle fracture he suffered last July 20 sliding on a play at the plate. John McDonald and Willie Bloomquist have shared the shortstop role minus Drew. Collectively, they have committed only two errors. McDonald’s homer on April 17 against the Pittsburgh Pirates was his first since last May 11 against the Boston Red Sox. He had been acquired with Aaron Hill from the Toronto Blue Jays last Aug. 23 for Kelly Johnson.

• Left fielder Jason Kubel signed a two-year, $16 million contract as a free agent on Dec. 12 that includes a team option for 2014. Thursday’s 0-for-4 night at Washington interrupted a streak in which the ex-Twin had hit safely in 13 of 14 games (.393, 22-for-56). Kubel leads major league outfielders in assists with six. During his Twins tenure, he had split time nearly evenly between the outfield and DH.

• Third baseman Ryan Roberts’ struggles at the plate and in field have opened the door for Cody Ransom to chip away at his playing time at the hot corner. Despite singling in three at-bats Thursday, Roberts is in a 3-for-34 rut and is hitting .167 this season. Ransom has started seven of the Diamondbacks’ past 11 games at third base.

• Syracuse-area native Patrick Corbin makes his second major league start Saturday. He won his major league debut, 9-5, at Miami on April 30, allowing three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. Corbin was selected for the call-up over top-rated prospects Tyler Skaggs (No. 3 Baseball America) and Trevor Bauer (No. 1). Corbin supplanted the ineffective Collmenter (0-2, 9.82 ERA in four starts) in the rotation. Collmenter has moved to the bullpen, but has yet to appear in that role. Corbin had been 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA at Double-A Mobile before the promotion. He was acquired with left-hander Joe Saunders and Skaggs from the Los Angeles Angels in the July 25, 2010 trade for right-hander Dan Haren.

• Right-hander Trevor Cahill arrived from Oakland during the offseason along with left-hander Craig Breslow and cash for right-handers Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook and outfielder Collin Cowgill.

• Hill has reached base safely in 20 straight games. His 74 homers trail only Dan Uggla and Robinson Cano for the most long balls by a second baseman since 2009.

• Ex-Met J.J. Putz had a 28-game save streak snapped April 14 at Colorado. He blew his second save chance of the season Wednesday at Washington. Putz surrendered a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth to Ian Desmond.

• Catcher Miguel Montero has thrown out seven of 14 would-be base stealers. He is backed up behind the plate by ex-Met Henry Blanco.

Matchups

Gee vs. Diamondbacks (career: 1-1, 4.91 ERA)
Paul Goldschmidt 1.000, 1 PA
Cody Ransom .500, 2 RBI, 2 PA
Justin Upton .400, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 6 PA
Miguel Montero .200, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K, 5 PA
Gerardo Parra .200, 1 RBI, 1 K, 5 PA
Lyle Overbay .167, 6 PA
Ryan Roberts .167, 1 RBI, 6 PA

Santana vs. Diamondbacks (career: 2-0, 0.62 ERA)
Miguel Montero .333, 1 K, 3 PA
Jason Kubel .333, 1 RBI, 3 PA
Justin Upton .250, 2 BB, 3 K, 6 PA
Willie Bloomquist .214, 1 RBI, 1 K, 14 PA
Henry Blanco .125, 1 BB, 3 K, 9 PA
Aaron Hill .111, 1 RBI, 1 K, 9 PA
Lyle Overbay .091, 2 BB, 8 K, 13 PA
John McDonald .077, 1 BB, 2 K, 14 PA

Dickey vs. Diamondbacks (career: 0-1, 3.86 ERA)
John McDonald 1.000, 2 PA
Jason Kubel .600, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 5 PA
Willie Bloomquist .571, 2 RBI, 7 PA
Gerardo Parra .500, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 3 PA
Aaron Hill .500, 1 RBI, 2 PA
Justin Upton .250, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K, 4 PA
Lyle Overbay .071, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K, 16 PA
Henry Blanco .000, 1 K, 2 PA
Cody Ransom .000, 1 K, 2 PA

Miley vs. Mets (career: never faced)

Corbin vs. Mets (career: never faced)

Cahill vs. Mets (career: never faced)
Andres Torres .222, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 10 PA

Last series results

Arizona won, 3-0, at Chase Field, Aug. 12-14, 2011 (AP game recaps)

Diamondbacks 4, Mets 3: Ian Kennedy won his seventh straight start to become the National League's second 15-game winner. Kennedy (15-3) allowed a run on six hits in seven innings to tie Philadelphia's Roy Halladay for the most wins in the NL. Justin Upton homered, Cody Ransom doubled in two runs and Kennedy helped himself with an RBI double as Arizona pulled two games ahead of second-place San Francisco. Jason Bay went 3-for-4 with a double and RBI single in the Mets' third straight loss and ninth in 12 games. Arizona first baseman/outfielder Xavier Nady's left hand was broken when he was hit by a pitch from Dillon Gee in the second inning.

Diamondbacks 6, Mets 4: Ryan Roberts hit a three-run homer and the Diamondbacks came from behind to win for the 33rd time this season. Daniel Hudson (12-8) allowed four runs (two earned) on eight hits in eight innings. Hudson also had a run-scoring single, his 13th RBI of the year. J.J. Putz pitched a scoreless ninth for his 29th save in 33 attempts. Mike Pelfrey was hit by a line drive off the bat of Gerardo Parra leading off the fifth inning and had to leave the game with a bruised right elbow. His team led 4-2 at the time. Reliever D.J. Carrasco (1-3) came on to hit Willie Bloomquist, then Roberts followed with his 16th home run of the season on the first pitch he saw.

Diamondbacks 5, Mets 3: Justin Upton homered, Paul Goldschmidt doubled twice and Arizona earned its sixth consecutive win. Diamondbacks starter Jason Marquis, acquired in a July 30 trade from Washington, was hit on the right shin by a line drive in the third and left the game one inning later with a broken shinbone. Goldschmidt doubled and scored on Henry Blanco's double to give Arizona a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning. Zach Duke (3-4), who came on in relief of Marquis, allowed two runs and four hits over 2 2/3 innings and David Hernandez pitched the ninth for his 11th save. Chris Capuano (9-11) allowed four runs and nine hits over six innings.

Tidbits from Alderson

December, 3, 2010
12/03/10
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GM Sandy Alderson offered insights on several topics Friday as the winter meetings approached:

(1) Alderson has no intention of signing players to extensions beyond the 2011 season -- at least before spring training. This particularly applies to Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey, who both should be free agents after next season. Alderson's reasoning is that he wants to have as much financial flexibility as possible next offseason. And he does not want to commit before seeing with his own eyes.

(2) Alderson said he would be surprised if Oliver Perez is NOT in spring training with the Mets. The primary reasons: Why eat $12 million now, before watching him in spring training, especially with how thin the Mets are in pitching? And Perez has enjoyed some success in winter ball.

(3) Jenrry Mejia and Ruben Tejada ideally will spend the bulk of 2011 at Triple-A Buffalo. Alderson does not want to repeat the previous regime's error in plugging a major league need at the expense of a player's development.

(4) Pedro Feliciano has made his last pitch as a Met. Alderson does not want to offer a multi-year deal to the reliever, so Feliciano's chances of returning all but ended when the southpaw declined arbitration Tuesday.

(5) Henry Blanco sounds like a goner too. Alderson said there has been virtually no conversation with Blanco's agent, and the only reason Blanco remains even a remote consideration is because there are so few catchers available to back up Josh Thole.

(6) Alderson has had two phone conversations with Omar Minaya and plans to have lunch with the former GM after the winter meetings to discuss if there is any compatible role for Minaya.

(7) Alderson said the non-tendering of Chris Carter was strictly baseball-related -- that he felt opening that 40-man roster spot was more valuable than retaining Carter.

Thole catching on as No. 1?

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
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Is Josh Thole the No. 1 catcher in 2011, with the Mets only in the market for an inexpensive, righty-hitting backup catcher? Sandy Alderson was noncommittal on that subject Tuesday at the GM meetings.

“Well, we’re looking for more catching help,” Alderson said. “It would be a little bit premature for me to make a judgment about his ability never having actually seen him play. So I’ll reserve that judgment. We’re thin there, both at the major league level and at Triple-A. So I think we will be looking for help. But I’ve heard nothing but good things about Josh. So I expect that he’s going to be a very important piece for us.”

As a follow-up, Alderson was asked if uncertainty about whether Thole is the No. 1 rules out re-signing free agent Henry Blanco as the backup, since Blanco turns 40 next season and almost assuredly would have to be a backup.

“Look, I’m not making a judgment about Thole as the No. 1 or No. 2,” Alderson replied. “Whether he plays the majority of games or not, we’re going to need additional catching help. So I think in part it’s going to depend on what I hear and what others think of Thole. And the second is going to depend on what’s available out there otherwise. But we’re very happy that we have him. Exactly what his role will be is a little undetermined. Whatever it is, we're going to need some backup.”

As for the free-agent catching market, John Buck appeared to go off the board Tuesday, with the Florida Marlins nearing a three-year, $18 million deal, according to the Associated Press.

The original free-agent list of catchers also included: Rod Barajas, Josh Bard, Gerald Laird, Jason LaRue, Victor Martinez, Chad Moeller, Bengie Molina, Miguel Olivo, A.J. Pierzynski, Yorvit Torreala, Matt Treanor, Jason Varitek and Gregg Zaun.

Money matters, Taka on clock, AFL

October, 24, 2010
10/24/10
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Josh Byrnes still has five years remaining on his contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. And that means he likely would cost the Mets significantly less than the other GM finalist, Sandy Alderson.

The Mets could not pay Byrnes $1 annually for five years, but they would only be responsible for a "reasonable" payment. That's because every dollar Byrnes gets from the Mets is deducted from the amount Byrnes would receive from his Diamondbacks contract -- so Byrnes gets the same amount either way.

Needless to say, the Diamondbacks are rooting for Byrnes to get the job, too. That's because whatever the Mets pay him is less out of their pockets.

There is no indication that financial consideration is a dominant factor. But if two qualified candidates end up being neck-and-neck, perhaps potentiially saving $1 million or more a year on GM and using that for player procurement could come into play.

ON THE CLOCK: Bidding on other teams' free agents doesn't start until five days after the World Series under the revised guidelines (down from 15 days afterward), but the Mets face a hard deadline looming with left-hander Hisanori Takahashi.

When the Mets signed Takahashi to a minor-league deal in February, they guaranteed to make him a free agent after Oct. 31 if he was not signed to a longer-term deal by then. And if the Mets do cut Takahashi loose next Sunday per that obligation, they would not be able to re-sign him to a major-league contract and use him in the big leagues until May 15, as The New York Times noted this morning.

So, essentially, if Takahashi is not re-signed by the Mets by next Sunday, he's going elsewhere.

Even if Takahashi had more success as a reliever, he could be particularly valuable to the 2011 Mets because of his versatility given the uncertainty over when Johan Santana might be fully recovered from shoulder surgery. Also, the Mets' other primary left-hander in the bullpen, workhorse Pedro Feliciano, is a pending free agent.

UNDER CONTROL: Right-hander Brad Holt, the 33rd overall pick in the 2008 draft out of UNC Wilmington, finally appears to be putting things together in the Arizona Fall League. Holt, who turned 24 on Oct. 13, struggled with control during the regular season, prompting a demotion from Double-A Binghamton to Class A St. Lucie. His combined numbers between the levels: 3-14 with an 8.34 ERA, 111 hits and 79 walks in 95 innings.

In three AFL starts, Holt has yet to allow an earned run over nine innings. His line: 2-0, one run (unearned), four hits, four walks, nine strikeouts.

Also in the AFL, center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis returned Saturday. He struck out in both at-bats after entering in the fourth inning. Nieuwenhuis had been out four days because of a wrist injury suffered during a slide.

SECOND COMING: Daniel Murphy, who had worked at second base in Fort Myers, Fla., during the instructional league, has moved on to winter ball with Aguilas in the Dominican Republic. Murphy has started Aguilas' first two games at second base. He is hitless so far in eight at-bats.

While it's difficult to forecast Murphy's 2011 role before a GM and manager are named and without viewing the spring-training competition, some combination of Murphy and Ruben Tejada could be viable at second base. That would serve as a lefty-righty/offensive-defensive complement.

At the least, by getting proficient at second base, Murphy would be a more valuable lefty pinch-hit bat for the bench, since he conceivably could fill in at three infield positions and left field.

Murphy missed the entire 2010 season at the major league level because of a pair of MCL injuries to his right knee.

BLANC SLATE: Henry Blanco has started three of the past four games for Margarita in Venezuela. Blanco will be a free agent, although it's conceivable he returns to the Mets. If Josh Thole is going to be the No. 1 catcher, the Mets can use a righty-hitting backup, so Blanco fits the bill. And Blanco was popular with the pitching staff. One reason for caution: Blanco does turn 40 next season.

2010's significant developMets (Part I)

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
9:00
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There was not enough Jose Reyes flying around the bases and too many frustrating strikeouts for David Wright in 2010.

While the other New York team is getting ready for its first postseason game, the other is retooling for 2011. The new administration is going to have its hands full reviewing that which took place both on-and-off the field for the 2010 Mets.

Our own review follows here in the style in which we conducted monthly reviews of May, June, July and August. We’ll do position players today, pitchers another day.

Let’s take a look around the diamond at the most significant “developMETS” for 2010, with the help of our usual tools from Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs and Stats LLC.

We Like Ike

The Mets played Ike Davis through times of success and struggle and there was a good payoff by the end of the season. Davis finished with 601 plate appearances, more than any first-year major leaguer has for the Mets.

The best thing that could happen to Davis after his early successes was that he went into a funk that was the product of swinging at a lot of breaking balls out of the strike zone. The Mets viewed this as a learning curve for a young player and let him play through it.

The good thing is that Davis figured things out. Our Inside Edge video review data indicates he chased 37 percent of breaking balls out of the strike zone in June/July, but only 18 percent from August 1 on.

As a result, Davis went from walking once every 28 plate appearances (in June) to once every seven (August to the end of the season), and he closed strong, with a .952 OPS in September/October.

Defensively, the advanced metrics like him a lot. Davis finished second in the majors behind Oakland’s Daric Barton, in +/- rating (the ability to turn batted balls his way into outs), and Runs Saved (combining his +/- with his bunt defense).

Where does his rookie year rank among position players in Mets history? Take a look at the numbers and decide for yourself whether his tops the Mets' best -- Darryl Strawberry's 1983 campaign.

Second to None

Mets second basemen had offensive numbers that were almost unprecedented.

Not only did they rank worst in baseball this season with a .592 OPS (next-worst was the Indians, .624), but you could argue that they were the worst in club history.

The only year in which Mets second basemen had a worse OPS than they had in 2010 was in 1968 (.556).

But if you look at their positional OPS+ (comparing their OPS to that of the average second baseman that season), the 2010 squad had a positional OPS+ of 66.

The 1968 second basemen rated significantly better compared to their positional peers (albeit still bad), an 80. That's our justification for calling the 2010 group the worst offensive combo the Mets have ever had.

At least Luis Castillo, Ruben Tejada and Alex Cora can take heart that there is a group of players worse off than them with the bat. Mets second basemen slugged .289. The only team who got worse pop from a position was the Orioles, whose shortstops slugged .272.

Who Stole Reyes' Speed?

Jose Reyes had the worst base-stealing season of his career, and that should concern the GM who has to decide on Reyes' $11 million option for 2011.

Reyes, via Baseball-Reference.com, had 216 opportunities to steal (meaning a free base in front of him when he was on first or second). He finished with 30 stolen bases in 40 attempts.

Those numbers are low, relatively speaking. Historically, Reyes has netted a stolen base around once for every four opportunities. This year, the rate was one every seven opportunities.

Reyes did improve in one area -- he took extra bases on hits more frequently than any season since his rookie year, 2003, but it still felt as if something was missing in terms of his aggressiveness on the bases.

David Wright, Road Worrier

If I could take/trash one statistical story from the 2010 Mets season, it would be the one regarding David Wright’s strikeout total.

Looking back at what I’ve written this season, this is the story that I’ve touched upon most often (and a couple colleagues have taken cracks at it too), and I’ve been rather harsh on Wright. That’s what happens, I suppose, when an A-level player turns in a B+ kind of season. I’ll pick one more nit of his here.

A large reason for Wright’s record-breaking 161 strikeouts was due to his performance in road games. He finished the season with a .278/.326/.508 slashline in road games, but more notable was his strikeout to walk rate –- 92 to 24.

That’s not very Wright-like. His career strikeout-walk rate on the road entering the season was 1.8 to 1, much much better than his performance this season. He hadn't posted a rate worse than 2 to 1 since his debut year, 2004. And he'd never struck out more than 71 times in road games in any season until this year.

There’s pretty clear intent that Wright was trying to hit for more power on the road than at home, an educated guess based on looking at his line drive and fly ball rates.

Was it worth it?

Wright upped his road home run total from five in 2009 to 17 in 2010, but it came at price. For the first time in his career, Wright had more ROAD strikeouts (92) than hits(87). There’s no other season in his career in which he even came close to exceeding his road hit total with his strikeout tally.

Yes, Wright did hit for more power on the road, by a little bit (16 percent of his fly balls left the park in road games; 14.8 percent in home games). But was their value in hitting with this kind of approach? By our counts, no.

Angel in the Outfield

Name a non-rookie Mets hitter who EXCEEDED expectations this season. We can name one: Angel Pagan.

For every other outfielder on the roster, struggle was a part of their baseball vocabulary, but Pagan did his best to make up for the issues of Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Jeff Francoeur.

Pagan hit .291 with a .428 slugging percentage as an outfielder, beating all the Mets other outfielders combined by nearly 50 points in each. Defensively, Mets outfielders combined for 19 runs saved. Pagan had 14 of them.

Of course, when the best thing you can say about your team is that Pagan had a career year, that’s a pretty good tell that this wasn’t a good offensive season.

Catch Me If You Can

The Mets allowed 51 stolen bases this season, fewest in baseball, and while some may credit that to the pitching staff, we want to give the catchers their props.

We knew going into the season that Henry Blanco was good and he proved it, throwing out 11 of 22 who hoped to steal against him.

What was a concern was the defense of Josh Thole, who finished a respectable 8-of-22, and actually had a better innings caught/steals allowed rate than Blanco did.

The question though is what Thole can do on the offensive end, and against right-handers his splits are tolerable for someone lacking power .299 BA/.381 OBP in 174 at-bats.

He’d seem to be a keeper, but a priority this offseason should be finding a catcher who can hit lefties. Thole, Rod Barajas and Blanco hit a combined .163 vs southpaws in 2010.

Pinch Me

You don’t realize how hard it is to find a good pinch-hitter until you take a closer look at the stats. National League pinch-hitters batted .223 with a .293 on-base percentage in 2010 and that’s not far off from what they do on an annual basis.

In Chris Carter, the Mets found someone who can handle the role well. Carter finished with a .328 batting average and 19 hits as a pinch-hitter. He performed in a manner resembling those who were some his best predecessors: Rusty Staub, Matt Franco, and Marlon Anderson, while his cohorts in reserve performed at a below-average level (.203 batting average).

With runners on base, Carter was a valuable bat over a limited sampling. In 28 pinch-hitting situations, he had 10 hits, two walks, and advanced runners via out on three occasions. He made the most of his opportunity, doing just about everything that could be asked of him. Will that warrant another look in 2010? We hope so.

Pitching In

We’ll do another piece in the near-future that focuses on the prowess of Mets moundsmen who kept the team's performance respectable, but felt we should give them credit for their work with the bat here to close this piece out.

Sparked by a Johan Santana home run and R.A. Dickey’s intelligent plate approach, Mets pitchers had their best season in a long time, and were among the best at their position in the National League. And this team needed that.

Mets pitchers had their best on-base percentage(.208) since 1988 and their best slugging percentage (.211) since 1989. Three different pitchers (Dickey, Santana and Jonathon Niese) had at least 10 hits, the first time the Mets have had that happen in 20 years.

For the 2010 Mets, a team that ranked among the NL's worst in the most significant stats (runs and on-base percentage), it truly was "The Year of the Pitcher" in more ways than one.

Takahashi's struggles continue

June, 6, 2010
6/06/10
8:13
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The Mets bailed out Hisanori Takahashi on Sunday afternoon after the left-hander allowed five runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Marlins.

It was the second straight sub-par start for Takahashi, who allowed eight hits and six runs, including a grand slam, in four innings in San Diego on May 31.

“The games where he’s had success he hasn’t made the mistakes he’s made in the last two starts,” catcher Rod Barajas said. “The location there at the end just wasn’t where it was the first few times through.”

Takahashi (4-2, 3.80 ERA) has made four starts for the Mets since May 21. He’s 0-1 with a 7.45 ERA in four games (one start) against the Marlins this season.

The left-hander retired the first six Marlins he faced - five on fly-ball outs – but gave up a long home run to Dan Uggla to lead off the fourth. Cody Ross then hit a three-run shot off of Takahashi with one out in the sixth to put the Marlins up, 5-0.

HE’S ALL WRIGHT: David Wright went 3-for-5 on Sunday with one run scored to lift his average to .279. Wright, who was hitting just .244 on May 29, went 5-for-13 with three RBI and a home run in the Mets’ three-game sweep of the Marlins.

Wright has reached base in nine straight games and his three hits tied a season-high.

He hit his tenth home run of the season on Saturday in at-bat No. 194. Wright didn't reach the 10 home-run mark until his 466th at-bat in 2009.

SANTOS SENT DOWN: The Mets announced after the game that they’d optioned Omir Santos to Double-A Binghamton. Backup catcher Henry Blanco said before Sunday’s game that he was feeling fine after receiving a cortisone shot on Thursday to relieve the pain associated with a herniated disk in his neck, so there was no need for the Mets to carry three catchers.

The team will announce a subsequent roster move on Tuesday.

Look for the Mets to call up an outfielder, such as Jesus Feliciano, to backup CF Angel Pagan.

Feliciano’s agent, Melvin Roman said GM Omar Minaya has promised to call up Feliciano.

Tejada gets day off

June, 6, 2010
6/06/10
1:07
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Jerry Manuel decided to start Alex Cora at second base Sunday against the Marlins, opting to sit rookie Ruben Tejada.

Cora is hitting .500 (4-for-8) with a double, triple and an RBI against Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco (5-4, 4.57 ERA).

Tejada is 2-for-8 with two doubles and two RBI since being called up on Friday night to replace Luis Castillo (foot).

Manuel said before Sunday's game that Tejada will "get the bulk of the playing time" at second base.

BLANCO HEALTHY: Now that C Henry Blanco is healthy, Manuel said that the Mets would make a decision on whether on not to carry three catchers either after Sunday's game or Tuesday's game.

The team called up C Omir Santos on Friday to back up Barajas after Blanco received a cortisone shot on Thursday to relieve pain associated with a herniated disc in his neck.

Blanco said this morning that he wouldn't need another cortisone shot and that the pain in his neck had subsided. He said that he'd be available off the bench today.

Look for the Mets to send Santos back to the minors and call up an outfielder, such as Jesus Feliciano, to backup CF Angel Pagan.

MAINE TO PEN?: P John Maine, on the DL with what the team is calling right shoulder tendinitis, threw a bullpen session today at Citi Field. He will likely face hitters in a batting practice session Tuesday.

With Jonathon Niese, R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi entrenched as starters, Manuel didn't rule out the possibility of Maine being used out of the bullpen when he is healthy enough to return.

"More than anything, how he feels ... will determine where he goes," the Met manager said.

Ollie to DL? Blanco's disc herniated

June, 5, 2010
6/05/10
1:05
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G Fiume/Getty Images
Teammates believe Oliver Perez will head to the DL, not the minors Saturday when the Mets activated Jon Niese for a start against the Florida Marlins.
The Mets plan to wait until Saturday to announce a roster move to make room for Jon Niese’s activation from the disabled list. Regardless, multiple teammates told ESPNNewYork.com they expected Oliver Perez would land on the DL with a knee injury. One teammate said Perez had an MRI of the knee after the Mets returned from San Diego.

Such as decision, assuming it materializes, would avoid a confrontation with Perez over going to the minor leagues.

Perez ultimately had season-ending knee surgery last year on his right knee. Earlier in the 2009 season, after similar dialogue arose about the minors, Perez landed on the DL.

Meanwhile, GM Omar Minaya denied agent Scott Boras had requested last month that Perez be placed on the DL and see a sports psychologist, which had been reported.

DISC-OH: Backup catcher Henry Blanco had a cortisone shot Thursday because of a herniated disc in his neck. Blanco insisted the shot had started to take effect and he was available Friday,

Still, to ensure they weren’t short behind the plate, the Mets called up a third catcher, Omir Santos, rather than outfielder Jesus Feliciano -- temporarily. Gary Matthews Jr. was designated for assignment.

“The neck has been bothering me a little bit -- I have a herniated disc -- but the whole body completely is kind of sore a little bit,” Blanco said. “I don’t know if I have a flu or something, but hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow.”

Asked if the disc issue needed to be addressed after the season, Blanco said: “Let’s hope I leave it alone. Right now I had a better day today. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. … I’ll be all right tomorrow. I don’t think it’s any big deal.”

THREE JEERS: Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez relishes playing at Citi Field.

Why?

“They boo their own players, so we like to come here and beat the Mets,” Ramirez told the Palm Beach Post. “We just laugh every time they boo their own players. It’s weird.”


AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Francisco Rodriguez recorded Friday's save, but placed two Marlins in scoring position.


ADVENTURES WITH K-ROD: Francisco Rodriguez was within a strike of a save Wednesday in San Diego before allowing an RBI single to David Eckstein in what became an 11-inning loss to the Padres. With a chance for redemption, K-Rod ultimately got the job done in the Mets’ 4-3 victory against the Florida Marlins on Friday.

He nonetheless made it interesting.

Chris Coghlan reached against Rodriguez on a swinging bunt with two out and two strikes. Rodriguez then walked Gaby Sanchez and issued a wild pitch, advancing both runners. With two Marlins in scoring position, Ramirez grounded out to David Wright at third base as K-Rod secured his 11th save in 14 chances.

“What can I say? The infield hit pretty much changed everything,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve got a game plan there I had to follow. I lost a little bit of control after that.”

Said right fielder Jeff Francoeur: “He gets two quick outs and then that happens, you kind of just feel like he’s got buzzard’s luck out there.”

Then, Francoeur added with a laugh: “I think he just wanted to go after Hanley and make it interesting.”

PENSIONEER: With his workload for the Mets last season, Elmer Dessens increased his major league service time over 10 years. That meant he qualified for a full major league pension of more than $180,000 annually once he reached his mid-50s.

With that accomplished, Dessens discussed with his wife retiring after 2009.

After not making the Mets out of spring training this year, he told his spouse, Lorenia, he wanted to give it at least one month in the minors to see if he would be called up.

Now, he’s glad he did.

Dessens, by default one of Jerry Manuel’s key eighth-inning options, picked up the final out of the seventh inning and tossed a scoreless eighth to serve as the bridge to the closer Friday.

“Of course I thought about retirement,” said Dessens, who opened the season at Triple-A Buffalo. “But I went to winter ball and I felt like I could still pitch, so I decided to come back. In spring training I decided to take one more chance. I proved I could still pitch in the big leagues. I got lucky and I got called up.”

JUST RAD: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey improved to 3-0 as a Met and established a career high with two hits in the victory. Dickey limited Florida to three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out four in 6 1/3 innings. He has completed six innings in all four of his Mets starts.

“It’s something that’s taken some time to really feel like I can trust it completely every outing,” Dickey said about his knuckleball. “There are little mechanical nuances that you have to really be able to feel. It’s a lot like a golf swing. But I’ve been able to do that. Because I’ve committed to it -- this is Year 5 for me to throw this pitch -- I feel like the more I’ve committed to it, the more I’ve really gotten to make the in-game adjustments that you have to make to stay in games for a long amount of time.”

Dickey, meanwhile, is hitting .375 with two RBIs and three sacrifices through four starts.

“I don’t know if ‘comfort’ is the word,” Dickey said about himself at the plate. “I’d like to say that I possess a small amount of skills to be able to put the barrel of the bat on the ball, but I don’t know if I feel real comfortable up there.”

SECOND THAT: Manuel said he planned to primarily use 20-year-old rookie Ruben Tejada at second base while Luis Castillo is on the disabled list, leaving Alex Cora in a backup role. Tejada offered little reason to alter that plan in his return.

In his game with the Mets since the season’s opening week, Tejada went 1-for-4, doubling in the first at-bat and later contributing his first major league RBI while grounding into a fielder’s choice.

Tejada -- who can play both middle-infield positions -- had been playing shortstop with Triple-A Buffalo for all but two games the past month. But he feels comfortable at second base, he insisted.

“I’ve been working hard every day at shortstop and second base,” Tejada said. “I played shortstop most of the time, but I’m working at second, too.”

In Tejada’s final appearance with Buffalo, he faced Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg.

“It’s a hard fastball. Everything for strikes,” Tejada said.

SHORT VISIT: Trainer Ray Ramirez came onto the field to check with Jose Reyes after the shortstop needed a minute to shake off a takeout slide after receiving a seventh-inning throw from left-hander Pedro Feliciano. Reyes insisted afterward he felt fine.

“I don’t know why they came out,” Reyes said. “I’m good. It’s no problem.”

Reyes also said the takeout by Coghlan wasn’t over the top.

“It was a clean slide,” Reyes said.

Reyes actually playfully took issue with Feliciano, who short-hopped the throw to the shortstop, leaving Reyes vulnerable.

“I said, ‘Throw that thing in the chest, man -- joking around,” Reyes said.

Describing Feliciano’s throw to him, Reyes said: “A sinker. The same way he throws to home plate. Nothing different.”

CITI DWELLING: The Mets are 20-9 at home and 8-18 on the road. The home win total leads the majors, one ahead of Cincinnati, San Francisco, Atlanta and the Yankees. The Mets have a six-game home winning streak.

An explanation?

“I don’t know. You’d have to ask somebody else,” said Francoeur, who extended his hitting streak to eight games with a fourth-inning single. “I think I’ve given three or four suggestions and none of them have worked. I don’t know. This last road trip we didn’t play that bad. We got blown out of that one game in San Diego, but other than that we battled back and were in some games. We’ve just got to find a way to win.

“But, at the same time, we can’t worry about next week on the road trip. If we can go 5-1, 6-0 at home, we can maybe keep going 2-4 on the road.”

ANGEL IN OUTFIELD: Angel Pagan had his sixth outfield assist in the third inning, when he threw out the Marlins shortstop Ramirez trying to score from second base. That’s already a career high for assists for Pagan, and one off the major league lead.

Blanco rejoins Mets, seeks help for mom

May, 15, 2010
5/15/10
6:33
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Henry Blanco returned to the Mets on Saturday, after spending five days in Venezuela with his ailing mother.

Blanco, whose mother experienced headaches for 10 days, as well as stomach and colon trouble for which the cause has not yet been determined, plans to bring her to the United States to get medical tests -- either in Miami, or with the Mets doctors in New York. GM Omar Minaya offered the services of the team's physicians.

"You've got to do everything for your mom," Blanco said. "I know it's going to be better. I'm here just to work."

While it was of secondary importance, Blanco said he did not do anything physically during his absence from the team.

"Not really. I was running in the car everywhere," Blanco said. "But I don't feel that bad. I think I'll be OK."

Blanco returns

May, 15, 2010
5/15/10
2:17
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Henry Blanco has returned from bereavement leave in Venezuela and will be active for Saturday's game. Josh Thole has been optioned back to Triple-A Buffalo. Thole spent five games with the Mets and did not appear.

Blanco out on bereavement; Thole called up

May, 10, 2010
5/10/10
3:44
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Henry Blanco has been placed on the bereavement list. Josh Thole has been promoted from Triple-A Buffalo.

Thole hit .203 (16-for-79) with seven runs scored, eight doubles, one triple and 10 RBIs in 21 games for the Bisons.

Blanco quite a catch

April, 24, 2010
4/24/10
6:28
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No. 1 catcher Rod Barajas got a kick out of this stat:

After swiping his first base in nine years on Saturday in the Mets’ 3-1 win against the Atlanta Braves, Henry Blanco has more steals than runners successfully stealing against him. That’s because runners are now 0-for-4 against Blanco, who threw out Martin Prado for a double play after Manny Acosta struck out Troy Glaus.

“You know what? Catchers are special people,” Barajas said. “We can do a lot of things that people don’t think we can. He’s always been known as a catch-and-throw guy. And every now and then, you fall asleep, most catchers can swipe a bag. He’s doing a great job.”

Mets pitchers are now 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA on the home stand. For the season, pitchers have surrendered only six earned runs in 43 innings with Blanco catching. He’s due for a second straight start Sunday, too, as Mike Pelfrey tries to up his 19-inning scoreless streak.

“Myself and Henry, we’ve been around the block,” Barajas said. “We know hitters. We know setting up pitches. We just know how to get the most out of these guys. When you’ve got two guys who pride themselves on their defense, their pitch-calling, their throwing, I think pitchers are going to have more success than they’ve had in the past.”

ON STRIKES: After fanning in the fourth inning against Jair Jurrjens, David Wright has struck out in a career-high 11 straight games. The streak is the longest by a Met since Cliff Floyd had an identical one in 2004. The franchise record is 16, by Ryan Thompson in 1995 and Dave Kingman, which spanned the 1975-76 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Wright, who went 0-for-4 as his average slipped to .230, continued to hear jeers from the home crowd.

“You try to get the job done, and sometimes you’re not going to get the job done,” Wright said. “You go there and keep working and hopefully you get some hits. It’s no big deal.

“I’ve gone up there and felt like I’ve had some good at-bats and not seen some of the results. And, vice versa. I’ve felt like I’ve gone up there and had some bad at-bats and gotten a couple of cheap hits. We’ll see. As long as I can go up there and stay positive -- and if we keep winning -- it makes it a lot easier to struggle.”

THREE’S A CHARM: Jose Reyes went 0-for-2 with two walks, a steal and a run scored in his second game in the No. 3 hole. Since the Mets returned to Citi Field on Monday, he’s hitting .400 with five runs scored. He arrived with a .154 average and two runs scored.

Reyes also is looking sharper in the field. He stranded two runners to end the eighth by leaving his feet and extending to snare Brian McCann’s soft liner.

“The more ground balls I get, the more comfortable I’m going to feel,” Reyes said. “Much better. I started to get my confidence back running-wise, too.”

As for the No. 3 hole, Reyes said: “Like I’ve said before, I don’t want to try to do anything different there. If I get on base and I get a good jump, I’m going to run. That’s good for the guy behind me, too. Maybe they throw more fastballs to Jason (Bay) and he’ll be able to put a better swing on the ball.”

Bay went 3-for-4 with an RBI, including a single in his final at-bat when the Braves lost a fly ball in the sun. He remains skeptical of the lineup switch having a big impact, and noted: “It’s really only relevant if Reyes is on. And it’s really only relevant if he’s on first or second, because he isn’t probably going to steal home. I haven’t noticed a huge difference. I think it coincides a little bit with me feeling a lot better the last couple of days. I have gotten some fastballs that I haven’t missed. No question. So there may be some truth to that. I don’t really know.”

Like Reyes, Bay has taken off with the home stand. After going 0-for-7 in last Saturday’s 20-inning game in St. Louis and not starting the series finale against the Cardinals, Bay is hitting .368 with three RBIs since returning home. He arrived back in Flushing with a .217 average and two RBIs.

“I feel more comfortable,” Bay said. “I’m never going to be in a situation where I say a slump is over or everything is fine and dandy. Obviously a few of the hits I’ve gotten, the at-bats I’m taking, I feel a lot more comfortable. Fortunately it’s starting to show.”

IT’S A START: Left-hander Jon Niese upped his scoreless-inning streak to 11 2/3 innings before David Ross’ sixth-inning RBI single opened the scoring Saturday. Niese allowed one run on five hits. He wasn’t particularly thrilled with five walks, although he also struck out six.

“Niese looked like he couldn’t find the strike zone,” right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. “But he struck out every guy he needed to.”

MISCELLANEOUS: Francisco Rodriguez notched a save on three straight days for the first time since getting saves on four straight days last May 4-7. … The ex-Brave Acosta earned his first win since topping the Mets last July 16. … Manager Jerry Manuel said John Maine’s routine between-starts bullpen session may come Monday instead of Sunday. … Lefthander Pedro Feliciano took sole possession of third place on the franchise’s all-time appearance list with 377, passing Jerry Koosman. … Citi Field’s “Bark in the Park” promotion Saturday helped set a Guinness World Record for most costumed dogs at a ballpark -- 208. ... Francoeur picked up his third outfield assist this season, trailing only Detroit's Magglio Ordonez (four) in the majors.

Barajas and Blanco get rave reviews

April, 22, 2010
4/22/10
12:55
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Over the years, the Mets have had some of the best catchers in baseball history when you consider both Gary Carter and Mike Piazza wore the orange and blue. Add in All Stars like Jerry Grote and John Stearns as well as the 40-homer season of Todd Hundley and you quickly realize the Mets have always had a strong presence behind the dish.

The past few years the catching position was a real weakness as there were grumblings from both the pitching and coaching staffs that the lack of defensive prowess cost them games. It's not as if guys like Brian Schneider and Omir Santos made up for shoddy game-calling with a huge offensive contribution. So, Omar Minaya decided he would search for some depth and experience at the catching position in the off-season.

After being rebuffed by Bengie Molina, he reeled in both Henry Blanco and Rod Barajas and his pitchers could not be happier. “Henry Blanco really is a student of the game,” says Met pitcher Mike Pelfrey who is off to a 3-0 start, “and it has meant the world to me. He is also a meticulous preparer as he will tell me what hitters in the lineup lunge on 0-2 counts, for instance, and it has already helped me on numerous occasions. Blanco also possesses the ability to cut down base stealers and in two instances this year, has short-circuited potential big innings with absolute laser beam throws nailing potential thieves.

Barajas has also received kudos from the pitching staff and that goes for every pitcher on the staff, including the ace. “Most times when you work with a new catcher there is a period of adjustment,” says Johan Santana, “but we were on the same page from Day 1 and I do not think people realize how rare that really is.” The veteran catcher has also hit three early season home runs giving the staff offensive support.

The Mets' starters are off to a good start with Mike Pelfrey being the poster child for that turnaround and do not minimize the role both Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco have had in his development. Much like the great catchers in the team’s past, these two players will play a huge role in measuring the success of the Mets. It is early in the season but so far their presence alone had made the pitching staff better and has erased the bitter pill of losing out on Bengie Molina.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.299 9 54 76
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 28
RBIL. Duda 85
RD. Murphy 76
OPSL. Duda .831
WB. Colon 14
ERAZ. Wheeler 3.49
SOZ. Wheeler 180