New York Mets: John Ricco
FIRST PITCH: After a ninth-inning meltdown capped the squandering of a five-run lead, the Mets now need a victory Monday to avoid a split of their four-game series against the last-place Philadelphia Phillies.
Jonathon Niese (5-8, 3.41 ERA) opposes right-hander David Buchanan (6-5, 4.39) at 1:05 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park.
Monday’s news reports:
• Jacob deGrom will be examined in New York on Monday and has been scratched from Tuesday’s scheduled start against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field because of shoulder soreness. DeGrom does not believe the issue is serious.
Montero, who has produced two straight scoreless appearances with Triple-A Las Vegas and already has appeared at the major league level, would appear more likely among the call-up options. Sandy Alderson did not reply to an inquiry from ESPNNewYork.com.
Read more in the Post, Daily News, Journal, Star-Ledger, Record, Newsday and at MLB.com.
• Jenrry Mejia revealed he has a hernia that will require surgery. He hopes to take medication and pitch with the discomfort for the remainder of the season, but it is possible he is shut down before then and undergoes the procedure sooner. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Daily News and at MLB.com.
• Mejia failed to hold a one-run lead in the ninth and the Phillies rallied for a 7-6 win against the Mets on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. The Mets suffered their 11th walk-off loss of the season. No other team has suffered more than eight, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Zack Wheeler produced a quality start, but expressed disappointment with his high pitch count (112 in six innings). Wilmer Flores' failure to throw out Ben Revere on a two-out grounder in the seventh proved costly. Terry Collins explained several managerial moves afterward, including intentionally walking Chase Utley with the count already full to get to Ryan Howard for the walk-off RBI single.
Read game recaps in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Post, Daily News, Newsday, Times, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.
• Read more on Flores in Newsday.
• Pitching coach Dan Warthen tells columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post that John Smoltz offered advice to Wheeler during a June 30-July 2 series in Atlanta, which coincided with the beginning of Wheeler’s current streak of eight straight quality starts. “I do give credit to John for a couple of comments he made to him,” Warthen told Davidoff. “[It] really pumped him up. And he’s been outstanding since.”
• Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbow inflammation) is due to make a rehab start for Class A St. Lucie on Monday. Matsuzaka then should be set to return from the DL.
• Jeremy Hefner, who had a forearm issue arise as he returns from Tommy John surgery, is due to be examined in New York.
• Bobby Abreu officially has been released by the Mets.
• Logan Verrett notched his 10th win as Vegas beat Albuquerque, 7-5. Steven Matz and Randy Fontanez combined on the shutout as Binghamton blanked Harrisburg, 3-0. Stefan Sabol had a game-tying RBI triple and scored the go-ahead run on Yeixon Ruiz’s single as Savannah beat Augusta, 6-4, in a rain-shortened game. Amed Rosario had a tiebreaking two-run double in Brooklyn’s 5-2 win against Batavia. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• From the bloggers ... Faith and Fear takes note of some unusual Met stability.
BIRTHDAYS: Double-A infielder Wilfredo Tovar turns 23. ... Right-hander John Mitchell was born on this date in 1965.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Should Jenrry Mejia shut down his season now and undergo hernia surgery?
Dear Mr Mejia. I pitched with sports hernia in 2010, results will not get better because you won't be able to finish your pitches#justssayin— Tim Byrdak (@Givemethelefty) August 10, 2014
Adam RubinMatt den Dekker replaces Chris Young on the roster on Saturday in Philly.
The result: den Dekker has 65 strikeouts in 335 Pacific Coast League at-bats in 2014.
That 19.4 percent minor-league strikeout rate is the lowest of his career.
It was 21.9 percent in an injury-shortened 2013, 29.9 percent in 2012, 28.9 percent in 2011 and 27.0 percent in 32 games in 2010 after being drafted in the fifth round out of the University of Florida.
Den Dekker is due to join the Mets on Saturday and is expected to get a legitimate look in left field. He replaces Chris Young, who was designated for assignment after Friday’s 5-4 series-opening win against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he did not appear.
Den Dekker’s .334 average leads the Pacific Coast League. His .407 on-base percentage ranks third, trailing only Albuquerque’s Joc Pederson (.431) and Vegas teammate Allan Dykstra (.421).
“It doesn’t really mean much,” den Dekker said, downplaying being atop the leaderboard. “It’s just playing well and hitting the ball well.”
A more compact swing means he has that much longer to recognize and react to pitches.
“I made a lot of changes to my swing in Vegas here with George, the hitting coach,” den Dekker said before boarding a redeye on Friday night. “I shortened up my swing, my stride, and it’s a lot of using my hands. I think that’s really helped out a lot, and my numbers have been a lot better because of that. I’ve kind of gone to more of a no-stride approach and using my hands. It’s worked out a lot better for me.”
Den Dekker has to prove that will translate to the major league level. There is no shortage of players who put up big numbers at Vegas and then did not thrive at the major league level.
Over two seasons, den Dekker is hitting .184 (19-for-103) with one homer and seven RBIs in the majors.
“Obviously there’s a big difference between Triple-A and the major leagues,” assistant GM John Ricco said. “But one of the things that we asked him to do, and that he has done, is cut down on the strikeouts. The strikeout rate is definitely down this year. And that was a big part of what was keeping him from having success up here. But until he comes out and does it, it’s hard to say.”
One reason for encouragement is den Dekker’s knack for a dramatic uptick in production when he gains experience at a level.
Den Dekker hit .235 while finishing the 2011 season with Double-A Binghamton. He then hit .340 when he opened the next season there.
He hit .220 in his first season in 2012 in Triple-A, when the Mets were in Buffalo. The average rose to .296 last year, when the Mets’ affiliate shifted to hitter-friendly Las Vegas and den Dekker had returned from a broken right wrist. The average rose again this year, to .334.
“There’s definitely the comfort level and an adjustment period,” den Dekker said. “That was part of the year in Vegas and helped me out as well.”
Terry Collins plans to regularly use den Dekker in left field, with Juan Lagares in center field and Curtis Granderson in right field. Kirk Nieuwenhuis should still see playing time, but that will be rotating among the three outfield positions.
“Judging by the way Juan has played center field and then Kirk goes out there and plays, it’s really nice to have those options,” Ricco said. “Obviously we know Matt is a pretty good center fielder as well. That will be up to Terry, but Juan has played a really stellar center field. So I think right now it looks like the opening will be in the corner.”
The Mets have pledged to give legitimate shots to call-ups before, only to deviate after a few days. That included Wilmer Flores' early promotion this season, when the Mets quickly reverted to using Ruben Tejada at shortstop. Still, there looks to be commitment across the board now to evaluating the Mets’ youth, with the team having faded from the fringes of contention.
Asked if he sensed this call-up was different, that a legitimate opportunity awaited, den Dekker said: “I’ve been playing well, so I’m just going to go up there and try to do what I’m doing here and not get too excited or anything about it.”
FIRST PITCH: The fan base may be calling for blood, but they are unlikely to receive it before the Mets reconvene this weekend.
Although the Mets enter Thursday’s team off-day 11 games under .500 and 10 games out of first place -- both season worsts -- no firings or releases are imminently expected, a team insider told ESPNNewYork.com.
That means Terry Collins, the coaching staff and even Chris Young should be able to exhale for a day.
After completing a stretch in which they played 25 of 33 games on the road, the Mets will host the injury-decimated Texas Rangers this weekend. Jonathon Niese (5-4, 2.88 ERA) opposes right-hander Nick Tepesch (3-3, 3.65) in the Fourth of July series opener.
Collins reiterated postgame Wednesday that he expects David Wright to reenter the lineup Friday. That would come a full week after the captain was scratched from a game in Pittsburgh with what subsequently was diagnosed as a bruised left rotator cuff.
Incidentally, online voting for the All-Star Game concludes at 11:59 p.m. Thursday. In the final intermediate tally released Tuesday, Wright trailed Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez by 235,060 votes for the starting nod for the National League at the hot corner. Daniel Murphy was nowhere to be found among the second-base leaders.
Thursday’s news reports:
• Chris Johnson delivered a three-run double past third baseman Eric Campbell’s backhand with two outs in the first inning and the Braves completed a three-game sweep with a 3-1 victory Wednesday. Collins said postgame that the Mets sorely missed Wright for the past week.
The Amazin’s went 1-6 on a trip to Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Only a six-game losing streak by the Philadelphia Phillies has kept the Mets out of last place.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Journal and at MLB.com.
• Citing the team’s run differential being close to even, Sandy Alderson suggested the Mets are better than their record indicates. Alderson added that he is uninterested in trading Jonathon Niese. Overall, the direction the Mets take at the trade deadline will be dictated by how the team plays in the next 10 to 12 days, the GM added. Read more at CBSSports.com and in the Star-Ledger and Newsday.
• Beginning Friday, the Mets will wear a patch for the remainder of the season honoring Cashen on their right sleeves, below a patch recognizing Ralph Kiner. Cashen died Monday at age 88.
• Will the Mets trade Murphy before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline?
Asked about the optics of trading Murphy, Ricco added to the newspaper: “It depends what the return is.”
• The Mets signed 11 players on the day international 16-year-olds are eligible to ink contracts: shortstops Yoel Romero and Edgardo Fermin, outfielder Yordin Araujo, right-handers Jhoander Chourio and Jurgen Jimenez and left-hander Daniel Guzman from Venezuela and right-handers Agustin Casilla and Jose Moreno, outfielder Claudio Geraldo, shortstop Hansel Moreno and catcher Luis Lebron from the Dominican Republic.
None ranked in the top 30 in Baseball America’s rankings.
On Romero, who turned 16 in April and received a reported $300,000 signing bonus, Paul DePodesta told ESPNNewYork.com: “He’s a very solid defender at shortstop -- definitely stays at the position.”
Baseball America also forecasts the Mets will sign Venezuelan shortstop Kenny Hernandez, who is not eligible to sign until turning 16 on Aug. 13. The magazine ranks Hernandez the 13th-best international prospect and writes:
He fits better at third base or possibly second than he does at shortstop, but he stands out most at the plate with one of the sweetest swings in the class. Two of the Mets’ top signings last year -- Dominican outfielder Ricardo Cespedes and Venezuelan shortstop Luis Carpios -- were also two of the youngest players in their class. It looks like they’re ready to go that route again.
• Although the Mets have agreed to the financial terms with first-round pick Michael Conforto at the recommended $2,970,800 slot figure, the Oregon State outfielder is not yet officially on board. A source familiar with the negotiations recently told ESPNNewYork.com that no snags are expected and Conforto just wants some time to relax after the college baseball season.
Alderson told Jon Heyman at CBSSports.com about Conforto: “There are three or four [mostly] non-financial clauses that we are talking about. … I certainly expect this deal to get done.”
• Left-hander Scott Rice, on the Triple-A disabled list with an elbow injury, is traveling to New York for an MRI. He has been dealing with a nerve issue, SNY correspondent Robert Brender tweeted.
• St. Lucie rallied in the ninth to beat Charlotte, 7-6, as Gilbert Gomez doubled and scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball. Jon Leroux doubled and scored the tiebreaking run as Savannah beat Charleston, 7-4. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• The bullpen has become sturdy with Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia at the back end, Jared Diamond writes in the Journal.
• Collins said he did not believe Julio Teheran’s pickoff move, which caught Eric Young Jr. on Wednesday, is legal. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
BIRTHDAYS: Moises Alou turns 48. ... Frank Tanana is 61.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Who should represent the Mets at the All-Star Game?
I swear I feel bad for David Wright! He's being penalized for displaying loyalty...bc let's face it my #Mets are awful!!!!!!— Justin (@IAmGoalDigger) July 3, 2014
"12/16/2013, Depo asked Jeff if we would consider Villar in a Murphy deal."
DePo is, of course, Paul DePodesta. Jeff would be Astros GM Jeff Luhnow. And Villar is shortstop Jonathan Villar, now 23 years old and hitting .200 with six homers, 22 RBIs and 14 steals in 225 at-bats this season.
A Mets official, apprised of the leaked dialogue, did not dispute the accuracy.
That Murphy was available last offseason if the Mets got the right price is no industry secret. In fact, it's entirely foreseeable Murphy is traded at some point in the next 13 months -- either in July, during the winter, or at the 2015 trade deadline.
Murphy (.301/.351/.417) leads the National League in hits with 101. He also is making $5.7 million this season, is arbitration eligible one more time next offseason, then can become a free agent after the 2015 season.
There's also an early spring training inquiry about Ike Davis, floating Lucas Harrell and minor-league left-hander Alex Sogard. It reads:
"2/27/2014, JL asked PD if they woudl consider Davis for Harrell + Sogard. PD said they value Davis higher for that. He said it appears they may value Davis higher than the market does, so they are comfortable hanging on to him."
In an early offseason groundwork call, Mets assistant GM John Ricco reportedly told Houston, according to a database entry from the Astros: "JR said that they have some pressure to get better next year but have some payroll flexibility to help them do that. They are looking for corner OF help, a veteran starter, and a little bullpen help. Overall they're looking to incrementally upgrade where they can"
Deadspin first reported the existence of the data.
FIRST PITCH: The Mets head home having failed to score in 23 straight innings … and with a new shortstop.
Wilmer Flores is expected to join the Mets on Friday for the series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. Omar Quintanilla is due to be designated for assignment.
The Mets, off on Thursday, will play 16 of their next 19 games in New York City -- including two Subway Series games in the Bronx.
Jenrry Mejia (3-0, 5.23 ERA) opposes Phillies right-hander Roberto Hernandez (2-1, 4.50) on Friday at 7:10 p.m.
With the Mets at 16-17 and now under .500, the pressure is on Mejia to demonstrate he can navigate through the middle innings in order to maintain his rotation spot.
Thursday’s news reports:
• Miami handed the Mets their seventh walk-off loss at Marlins Park since the stadium opened for the 2012 season. This time, Giancarlo Stanton scored on a sacrifice fly ahead of an offline throw from usually steady Juan Lagares and the Marlins beat the Mets, 1-0, Wednesday afternoon.
Hitting coach Dave Hudgens suggested the combination of strong pitching, a spacious ballpark and Mets batters “not locked in” combined to up the Mets’ scoreless streak to its longest stretch since going 24 straight innings from July 15-17, 2010.
Zack Wheeler tossed six scoreless innings, but had a no-decision to show for it. Mets pitchers are now 0-for-58 at the plate this season.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record, Times, Journal and at MLB.com.
• Flores apparently will be chipping away at Ruben Tejada’s time at shortstop when he is expected to join the Mets on Friday. Can Flores actually handle the position in the majors? Stay tuned.
Read more on the shortstop shakeup in the Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Like ESPNNewYork.com, Carig reports in Newsday that Mejia may soon be headed back to the bullpen. Writes Carig:
Back in spring training, the Mets right-hander asked his agents to relay his desire to remain a starting pitcher, which he believes is easier on his arm than working as a reliever. The Mets initially were on the same page, with general manager Sandy Alderson citing Mejia’s injury history as the reason he’d be a starter.
But the Mets are preparing for an about-face. With the bullpen desperately in need of reinforcement, Mets insiders told Newsday that Mejia has emerged as a prime candidate to transition again into a relief role.
"[Even] if I don’t like it, I’m going to do it,” said Mejia, who is scheduled to start Friday night against the Phillies. “I have to do it. That’s my team, and I want to be with my teammates.”
In that scenario, Daisuke Matsuzaka could step into the rotation or Jacob deGrom or Rafael Montero could be promoted for a starting role. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• David Wright said the Mets, losers of six of their last seven, must stop their skid now.
• The Mets have been hitting into some bad luck, ESPN Stats & Information’s Mark Simon writes here.
• Ron Darling did not read the “True New Yorker” letter he and other ’86 and ’69 Mets digitally signed before the club blasted it via email to fans. Read more in the Daily News.
• Columnist Mike Vaccaro in the Post, in Miami for the Nets-Heat series, swung by Marlins Park on Wednesday and used the “True New Yorker” loyalty-oath request and the Mets getting swept as fuel for a scathing column. Writes Vaccaro:
Matt Harvey was with the Mets this week rehabbing before the public eye, so it was a good time to remember that the men who own the Mets vowed in the spring of 2013 that this was going to be the year they blew the dust off their wallets and jumped back into the game, act like they own a team based in New York City, not Oklahoma City.
And, you know: act like True New Yorkers.
Then Harvey got hurt last year and you could almost hear the audible sighs of relief coming from the suits in the corporate suites: “surely, nobody would hold us to that promise now” -- even if, when Fred Wilpon made that sacred pledge, Harvey was just a pitcher with a world of potential, not the Dark Knight of Gotham he became.
But that was OK, because the men who run the Mets have grown used to playing their fans for fools, because for years they have insisted that all is well in their corporate coffers, and to celebrate this they have a team that cost the princely sum of $86 million this year. That would be considered shameful, but then the men who run the Mets have proven time and again that they have no shame.
• Scott Rice, whom Terry Collins refrained from using the final two games of the Marlins series, insisted his back issue is a nonissue.
• Harvey is now due to throw on flat ground at 120 feet on Friday at Citi Field for the first time since undergoing Oct. 22 Tommy John surgery. That potentially puts Harvey within three weeks of throwing off a mound for the first time since the procedure.
• Wheeler expressed dissatisfaction with his slider during his postgame interview, Mike Puma notes in the Post.
• Read more on the Mets’ hitless pitchers at MLB.com.
• DeGrom struggled for the first time this season, but Eric Campbell had a tiebreaking RBI double in the top of the 10th and Vic Black struck out the side in the bottom half. When it was over, Las Vegas had rallied from a two-run deficit with two outs in the ninth to beat Salt Lake, 7-5. Outfielder Cesar Puello, who served a 50-game suspension related to Biogenesis last season, was placed on the temporary inactive list with Vegas. Greg Peavey tossed a two-hit shutout as Binghamton beat New Hampshire, 6-0. Gavin Cecchini homered and had three RBIs as Savannah beat West Virginia, 9-3. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear immerses itself in a decade’s worth of Mets-at-Marlins walk-off lore.
BIRTHDAYS: We ain’t lying: John Maine turns 33.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Can Wilmer Flores handle shortstop in the majors?
@AdamRubinESPN Still wish they'd try for Nick Franklin, buried by the Mariners at Tacoma and hitting .369. Or Gregorius, .288 at Reno.— Bob Mac (@Ram8080Bob) May 8, 2014
FIRST PITCH: The Mets had moved a season-high four games over .500 after winning in Philly last Tuesday. Now, Zack Wheeler needs to help prevent the Mets from returning to Citi Field with a losing record to face the Phillies.
Wheeler (1-3, 5.13 ERA) opposes Miami Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler (3-2, 2.41) in Wednesday’s 12:40 p.m. road-trip finale.
Wednesday’s news reports:
• Henderson Alvarez became the first Marlins pitcher to shut out the Mets since Dontrelle Willis in 2005 as Miami won, 3-0, Tuesday night at Marlins Park. Bartolo Colon allowed three runs in seven innings and dropped to 2-5 with a 5.36 ERA. Terry Collins nonetheless said the Mets, who are 16-16 on the season, are “doing all right.”
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Times and at MLB.com.
• Heavily used Carlos Torres has been dealing with a lat muscle issue. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Jeremy Hefner hopes to be throwing off the slope of a mound within three weeks and hopes to return to the majors by season’s end. Read more in the Newsday and at MLB.com.
• Columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post surmises that the bullpen is the Mets’ Achilles heel yet again this season. Writes Davidoff:
Sandy Alderson, in his fourth year as the Mets’ general manager, has performed enough heavy lifting to make this beleaguered franchise relevant again. Except the launch to greater heights is in peril because he and his lieutenants haven’t been able to figure out the darn bullpen.
“We’re disappointed with where we are,” Alderson said, referring to his relief corps, in a telephone interview Tuesday. “It’s not a pen that has been consistently underperforming, but it has underperformed spectacularly in certain cases. Overall, it has been inconsistent.”
• Former Mets lefty reliever Royce Ring is back with the organization as pitching coach for the Gulf Coast League club.
• Jenrry Mejia must demonstrate he can navigate the middle innings of games or he may soon be bounced to the bullpen, a team insider tells ESPNNewYork.com.
Jared Diamond in the Journal advocates the Mets using Mejia as closer. And Mejia -- despite previously expressing aversion to bullpen work -- says he would be OK with that, telling Diamond: “If they told me eighth-inning guy or ninth-inning guy, that’s going to be good to me.”
Jenrry Mejia, who currently serves as the Mets' fifth starter, seems like a perfect candidate to close, a move that would instantly resolve a number of difficult questions surrounding the team's future. Transitioning Mejia to that role would alleviate an impending logjam in the rotation, repair the Mets' bullpen and, potentially, best leverage Mejia's skill set.
Unless the Mets' beleaguered relief corps suddenly improves, the debate about whether Mejia belongs in the bullpen will continue to burn.
"It's always in the conversation," manager Terry Collins said.
Read more on Mejia in the Star-Ledger.
• The amount the Wilpons owe as part of their Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme settlement is down to $80 million.
• Although the Mets are expected to soon expose Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero to bullpen work with Las Vegas in advance of a promotion to the big-league club for relief roles, the duo continues to be listed as starters with the 51s.
DeGrom is next scheduled to start Wednesday, with Montero starting on Friday. Alderson has said it’s “not a necessary step” that the duo first pitches in the minors in relief before coming to the majors for that role, but it may very well be the “first step.”
Of course, if Mejia flops, deGrom or Montero could end up in the big-league rotation, unless the Mets want to turn to Daisuke Matsuzaka.
“I think we are getting to the point where it’s probably weeks as opposed to months,” assistant GM John Ricco told Kristie Ackert in the Daily News for the timetable for deGrom and Montero to be contributing at the big-league level. “Ultimately that will be Sandy’s decision. But, I think we’re getting close.”
• Matsuzaka tells Mike Puma in the Post he will try a more streamlined warm-up routine. “I don’t think there are any short-term effects in throwing the amount I do,” Matsuzaka told Puma. “I don’t think it would affect me in that particular game, but the long-term effects are definitely going to take a toll on my body, so it’s something that I’ve thought about and I will definitely start making adjustments. With the weather getting warmer, my body probably doesn’t need as much to get warm, so I’m definitely going to try out a different routine.”
• Mariano Rivera and Jon Stewart chatted about the Mets on “The Daily Show.”
• Darryl Strawberry’s son Jordan has committed to play college basketball at Mercer, TheRecruitScoop.com reported.
• Jayce Boyd homered and had two doubles as part of a four-hit game, but Binghamton lost to New Hampshire, 6-4. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• From the bloggers … Mack’s Mets interviews Savannah outfielder Jared King.
BIRTHDAYS: Former catcher Brook Fordyce, who made his big-league debut as a Met, turns 44.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Should the bullpen issues have been foreseeable?
.@AdamRubinESPN ooh maybe we can sign him next!— Richie O'Reilly (@rworeilly78) May 7, 2014
Drew Hallowell/Getty ImagesCole Hamels gave himself a harsh critique after losing to the Mets on Tuesday.
FIRST PITCH: The Mets sit at four games over .500 for the first time since July 14, 2012. And they now have 15 wins, their most in April since 2007.
Now, Bartolo Colon attempts to keep the Amazin’s rolling Wednesday night. Although the game may end up a washout given the dire weather forecast, Colon (2-3, 4.50 ERA) is scheduled to oppose right-hander Kyle Kendrick (0-2, 3.52) at 7:05 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park.
Wednesday’s news reports:
• Jonathon Niese overcame rainy weather and allowed one run in seven innings and the Mets beat the Phillies, 6-1, Tuesday night. Cole Hamels, who was charged with all six runs, fell to 7-14 with a 4.65 ERA in his career against the Mets. He walked four, including Niese to force in a run, in the fourth.
“Sometimes when you pitch, you have to battle the elements, and the elements definitely got the best of me today,” Hamels told reporters postgame, as quoted in the Star-Ledger. “Just not being able to locate pitches or throw strikes or even apply a plan of attack to hitters, when you’re not able to execute, it creates a serious issue. It led to a very poor performance. I’m truly embarrassed.
“I didn’t give anybody a chance. Balls weren’t being put in play because I wasn’t allowing them to be put in play. It’s an embarrassment because I’m not allowing my team to get in the game. Even for the fans who stayed today, it’s pretty embarrassing. The type of game I went out there and pitched is not the type of game I’d like to credit myself on. It was very poor.”
Byrd, who homered against Niese for Philadelphia’s lone run, said pregame that he appreciated the opportunity the Mets gave him last season when his career was on the ropes. Byrd had Lucas Duda work with him on hitting early this past offseason in Los Angeles.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Journal, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.
• The Mets intend to activate Juan Lagares from the disabled list on Thursday, for the series opener at Colorado. Terry Collins indicated he plans to rotate his four primary outfielders once Lagares returns. Lagares had a pinch-hit double for Las Vegas on Tuesday night. He is due to start for the 51s again on Wednesday as he returns from a pulled right hamstring. Read more in Newsday and at MLB.com.
• 1986 hero Mookie Wilson appeared on “The Daily Show” with Mets fan Jon Stewart. “Who would have thought that that would be the last championship the Mets ever won?” quipped Stewart to Mookie as the appearance concluded. Watch here.
• The Mets emailed a letter to fans, signed by ’86 and ’69 Mets including Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, asking the fans to sign a letter and write a note supporting the team, which will be presented to players.
• Duda reportedly filed a report with police alleging he was the victim of theft, including the loss of a knock-off Breitling watch. Duda declined to comment Tuesday.
• Assistant GM John Ricco tells Ken Davidoff in the Post that Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero beginning to work in relief at Triple-A is "not that far off."
• Savannah’s Kevin McGowan and Robert Coles combined to blank Delmarva, 4-0. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• From the bloggers … Mets Police wonders if the Open Letter from Keith and Ron is actually an overreaction to the recent survey suggesting the Mets are not the most popular team in Queens. … The Eddie Kranepool Society writes about the 50th anniversary of Shea Stadium and how it's also the 50th anniversary of the author becoming a Mets fan.
BIRTHDAYS: Left-hander Bob Hendley, who finished his career with the Mets, was born on this date in 1939.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
The entertainer and fledgling agent met with New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, general manager Sandy Alderson and assistant GM John Ricco for dinner Monday night to discuss free agent client Robinson Cano, the New York Post reported.
Read the full news story here.
Granderson declined a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Yankees on Monday.
Sandy Alderson is due to land in Orlando about 6 p.m., in time for a dinner that includes each team's front-office executives at 7:30 p.m.
"When I talked to [Brown] earlier last week, he wasn't sure if he was coming," Ricco said about contact with Granderson's agent. "He wasn't planning on coming at that time. Maybe he changed his mind.
"He's one of the guys we called. We've called dozens of players and their agents and talked to them. Matt is one of the guys we checked in with, but we don't have anything scheduled.
"Actually, I don't have anything scheduled with anybody until I meet with Sandy and line up our schedule."
As for meeting with Scott Boras, who represents Shin-Soo Choo and Stephen Drew, among others, Ricco said: "I've heard he's here. ...
"There was a lot of mixed answers when I called around to see who is going to be here and who wasn't [agent-wise]. We'll find out who's here and kind of line it up that way."
As for the Mets' lack of activity so far this offseason, Ricco added: "I don't think it's quiet. If you go back and look at the timing of the deals that have happened in the past, I'm sure you have a few that are done pre-GM Meetings. But a lot of times those are guys just re-signing with their old clubs. And then the GM Meetings are kind of a ground floor. You'll get more signings when we get out of here, through the winter meetings, and then obviously at the winter meetings.
"I think a lot of teams are just doing their due diligence like we are, talking with clubs. You're trying to balance the free agents that are out there and the trade opportunities. Until you start gathering that information, it's hard to start moving forward. And I think that's what all clubs are doing at this time."
The Mets would like to trade a first baseman. On that subject, Ricco said: "In the conversations I've had with teams, ... until you sit down face to face with them, a lot of it is just preliminary talk. But people look at our team and see we have a few players there, specifically [Lucas] Duda and [Ike] Davis, so we get questions. We'll have to figure out what route we're going to go with each of those guys."
Tonight, R.A. Dickey bids for his 21st win and makes his final case for the Cy Young Award. Dickey opposes rookie right-hander Jacob Turner at 7:10 p.m. Only three other pitchers in franchise history have reached the 21-win plateau. Tom Seaver had 25 wins in 1969, 22 in 1975 and 21 in 1972. Dwight Gooden had 24 in 1985. Jerry Koosman had 21 in 1976.
Tuesday's news reports:
Dan Warthen and the rest of the coaching staff will return in 2013.
• Connecticut native Adam Greenberg, who was struck in the head with a pitch in his lone major league plate appearance -- on July 9, 2005 -- and subsequently developed vertigo will pinch hit for the Marlins today. He likely will face Dickey in the middle innings. The Mets will treat him like any other major league hitter.
Fred Van Dusen, the only other player in major league history to be hit with a pitch in his lone major league plate appearance and never play the field, will be on hand and throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Writes Clark Spencer in the Miami Herald about Van Dusen attending:
Van Dusen couldn’t be happier. “It’s a good human-interest story,’’ said Van Dusen, who has never met Greenberg or spoken with him. “It’s a positive thing, and a lot of people who don’t understand baseball, they’ll applaud it greatly."
Van Dusen was 18 when he was called up by the Philadelphia Phillies late in the 1955 season. Now 75, retired and living in Tennessee, Van Dusen said he spent about a month on the Phillies bench before he was finally given a chance to play. It was on Sept. 11 of that season, in the ninth inning of a game against the Milwaukee Braves, that Van Dusen was sent in to pinch-hit. On the fourth pitch of the at bat, and with Milwaukee’s Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews looking on from the field for the Braves, Van Dusen was hit by a Humberto Robinson pitch. Van Dusen took his base and was left standing at first when the inning ended. Though considered to be a top prospect, Van Dusen would not play again in another major-league game.
Read more on Greenberg in the Post.
• It appears highly unlikely Mike Pelfrey will return in 2013, but Terry Collins and Warthen wouldn't mind having him back -- as a back end of the bullpen option, perhaps. Pelfrey, who underwent Tommy John surgery on May 1, has to be cut loose in December. Otherwise, the Mets would have to pay him at least 80 percent of this year's $5.6875 million salary. Once a free agent, Pelfrey would be free to sign anywhere. And agent Scott Boras likely would try to place Pelfrey with a team to start on a one-year contract with a reasonable base salary (maybe $2 million) and performance-based incentives.
• Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon joined the team in Miami along with other Mets executives, including Sandy Alderson and assistant GM John Ricco. The group will begin to solidify an offseason plan.
• Warthen said the key to Dickey (20-6, 2.69 ERA) taking another leap forward this season was learning how to control the knuckleball up in the zone and using up-and-down movement in addition to side-to-side.
R.A. Dickey bids for his 21st win tonight.
“It wasn’t really an idea as much as we kind of stumbled upon it in Pittsburgh (May 22),” Dickey said about commanding the pitch up in the zone. “I figured out a mechanism to be able to keep it elevated and still take spin off of it. At least I thought I had, and was anxious to work on it in my bullpens subsequent to that outing.
“Sure enough, it seemed like we had identified something that I could do to change the elevation consistently when I wanted to. The thing about a knuckleball is a lot of times you’ll try things and it’ll do the opposite. It’s just the nature of that pitch from time to time. So when you find a way to do something and you can consistently do it with that, then you’ve found something good. From that moment on I really worked hard on it.”
Read more on Dickey's Cy Young bid in the Record.
• The proposed Major League Soccer stadium at Flushing Meadows Corona Park adjacent to Citi Field, which would house an expansion team, has community opposition. Writes Clare Trapasso in the Daily News:
Major League Soccer officials previously said they were looking to build a 25,000-seat stadium on eight acres at the Fountains of Industry site in the park. That estimate later ballooned to up to 13 acres. But officials insisted that they are committed to finding replacement park land. “We are in the process of starting conversations with community leaders to identify parcels,” MLS spokeswoman Risa Heller said in a statement. “MLS is also committed to replacing and upgrading existing community soccer fields as well.”
TRIVIA: Of the 11 ballparks that opened since 2001, Marlins Park this season has produced the worst attendance. Which new ballpark did it displace with that distinction?
Monday's answer: Jose Reyes entered the final series leading the Marlins in steals with 38, but not by much. Emilio Bonifacio swiped 30 before his season ended Aug. 21 with a right knee injury.
Tweets Puma: Mets still in the market for a reliever and backup catcher, says assistant GM John Ricco. He projects Mets making a "small" move by 7/31.
"We're watching every day the same thing people are," Ricco said. "But you also can't fool yourself into thinking that there's one guy that is going to be the be-all and end-all solution to all of our problems. You can fall into that trap and make some big mistakes. It's one of the good things about having an experienced guy like Sandy [Alderson]. He's been down this road before."
As for balancing the present versus the future, the Mets seem to be tilted toward the latter.
"It's not even every day; we're constantly weighing both those things and having a lot of discussion about it," Ricco said. "But, at the end of the day, it's not completely in our control. There's the [other] teams. And they see the same thing. They know that, 'OK, we have to make a deal now.' So they're going to try to hold somebody over a barrel. And then it comes down to, 'Do we feel it's close enough that we can make that move?' And so far we haven't hit on it."
Read the full news story here.
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.
Papelbon, who served up the infamous 2009 pinch-hit homer to Omir Santos at Fenway Park, had held opponents hitless in the past 20 at-bats against him before Mike Nickeas' two-out double in the ninth advanced Ike Davis, who had walked, to third base and set up Valdespin's heroics.
It was Valdespin's first major league hit. Nickeas had replaced Josh Thole behind the plate a half-inning earlier, after Thole received a jolt to the head from ex-Met Ty Wigginton on a play at the plate.
"He had that feel like he was going to finish this one out," Wright said about Halladay, whose streak of wins in eight straight starts against the Mets was snapped. "We weren't able to do much against him. ... He was really dominant tonight. We were fortunate to get those two and then get him out of the game. And then to get a few off Pap, you're going from one of the best starters in the game to one of the best closers in the game. Any time you can win a game like that, that's special."
Said Terry Collins about a jubilant clubhouse that cheered SportsCenter highlights of the game afterward: "They are fired up. These guys, they realize no one expects anything from us. To come back against Roy and tie the game up, and then to finish the game with two guys that weren't even in the game at the beginning with huge hits (Valdespin and Nickeas), it was a great win for us."
Tuesday's news reports:
• Wigginton, who has a reputation dating to his Mets days for taking out catchers on plate collisions, nailed Thole with his left shoulder in the bottom of the eighth. Thole held onto the ball for the second out to preserve a 2-all score, but was forced to leave the game complaining of dizziness. The Mets did not firmly announce postgame that Thole had a concussion, but that seemed the likelihood. Thole appears headed for a newly created seven-day DL available for concussed players. The Mets planned to bring Rob Johnson or Lucas May from Triple-A Buffalo to Philadelphia, according to assistant GM John Ricco. Vinny Rottino has catching experience, but he exclusively played left field with the Bisons this season before a promotion and is viewed more as an emergency third catcher than a potential starter behind the plate. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Post and Newsday.
• Before Monday's opener, shortstop Ruben Tejada landed on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain. That paved the way for Valdespin to be activated for Monday's long ball. Justin Turner made his first major league start at shortstop Monday, but Valdespin will be assigned there Tuesday. Valdespin, a middle infielder, only appeared at shortstop in one game at Buffalo this season because he was getting a crash course in center field. Overall, though, he has played 146 minor league games at shortstop, trailing only second base (210 games) for most duty. Read more in the Post, Journal, Star-Ledger, Times and Newsday.
• Valdespin became the first player with a pinch-hit homer for his first major league hit since Cincinnati's Juan Francisco in the ninth inning on Sept. 18, 2009 against the Marlins. Writes columnist Jeff Bradley in the Star-Ledger:
All around the Mets clubhouse, his teammates’ eyes were on Valdespin. There were smiles everywhere. A comeback against Halladay. A two-out rally against Papelbon. And a game-winning bomb from a kid who’d never hit safely in a big league uniform. “You’ve got to battle,” said Collins. “You’ve got to scratch. I came into this organization two years ago, and we were being criticized for not having a very good minor league system. When we put out a lineup last week with all homegrown players we didn’t do it for publicity. We did it because we think they’re good enough to be up here. And Jordany Valdespin is another sign. He’s done his time. It’s time for him to play in the big leagues.” Who knows where it goes from here. But on a night like this, could you blame Collins for believing maybe his team had done something more than just win Game 29 of 162?
• Jon Niese allowed two runs and was pulled with his pitch count at 101 after five innings. He walked four Phillies. "It was just one of those things where they worked the count real well and made me throw a lot of pitches," Niese said. "All of my pitches were moving a lot more than really normal. I don't know the reason for it. But I had a tougher time with my control today."
• Read game recaps in the Record, Newsday, Times, Journal, Daily News, Post and Philadelphia Inquirer.
• Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels was suspended five games by Major League Baseball for plunking Nats rookie Bryce Harper on Sunday night. The suspension won't affect the Phillies since Halladay can pitch on standard rest Saturday while Hamels waits until the following day. Philadelphia had an eventful 24-hour news cycle, with Nats GM Mike Rizzo taking aim and Hamels and the Phillies, calling the southpaw "gutless," "classless," and "fake tough" in The Washington Post. Said Rizzo to the newspaper: "I’ve never seen a more classless, gutless chicken [bleep] act in my 30 years in baseball. Cole Hamels says he’s old school? He’s the polar opposite of old school. He’s fake tough. He thinks he’s going to intimidate us after hitting our 19-year-old rookie who’s eight games into the big leagues? He doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.”
"Things that happen in the game happen in the game," Phillies GM Ruben Amaro told the Philadelphia Daily News on Monday. "That's part of the game. But as far as how the Phillies want to conduct themselves, we like to try to take the high road on things like this. By no means are we condoning trying to be injurious."
Hamels' admission of intentionally hitting Harper came shortly after Chipper Jones took verbal aim at Jamie Moyer and his former club, the Phillies, for allegedly stealing signs -- in response to Moyer accusing Jones and the Braves of that activity.
Said Collins on Monday: "No. 1, things aren't very secretive anymore. There's so many different manners of the way news is spread today that it's tough to keep a secret. I was surprised Cole said what he said. I was a little taken aback that Chipper said what he said publicly."
Collins acknowledged, though, that initiating rookies routinely happened back in the day.
"No doubt," Collins said. "For years, the young players, one of the things those veteran pitchers used to do is knock you on your butt to find out how you were going to respond. Veteran umpires used to ring you up on pitches off the plate to see how you were going to respond, what kind of reaction they're going to get out of you. Are you going to be a pro and walk away? Are you going to raise hell? Everybody wants to feel you out a little bit. And if that was Cole's thing, that is what they did years ago. But I haven't seen it in a while. It may have happened. I just haven't noticed it."
The Phillies-Nats rivalry is getting heated on multiple fronts. Nats outfielder/ex-Phil Jayson Werth, who broke a wrist in Sunday night's game, said Phillies fans taunted him as he left the field. Werth sent an email to The Washington Post that read: “After walking off the field feeling nauseous knowing my wrist was broke and hearing Philly fans yelling ‘You deserve it,’ and, ‘That’s what you get,’ I am motivated to get back quickly and see to it personally those people never walk down Broad Street in celebration again.”
• Right-hander Jacob deGrom, a ninth-round pick in 2010 out of Stetson University, retired 20 of 21 batters he faced in his debut with Class A Savannah as the Gnats beat Lakewood, 5-0. Read Monday's full minor league rehab here.
• Guillermo Mota, who tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Mets last month in two appearances with the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field, was suspended 100 games by MLB for another positive test for a performance-enhancing substance -- this time Clenbuterol, according to MLB. Mota had a 50-game suspension imposed for a positive test while with the Mets, yet the organization signed him to a two-year, $5 million deal at the time anyway that was backloaded to minimize the amount of dollars Mota had to forfeit while serving the ban. Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.
• Johan Santana offers a positive review of his season performance thus far to Wayne Coffey in the Daily News. “On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give myself a 7,” Santana told Coffey. “I still have some way to go, things to work on. That’s okay. For me the biggest thing is staying healthy, because I know if I’m healthy, I can compete, because that’s what I’ve done my whole career.”
TRIVIA: Miguel Batista, 41, starts Tuesday for the Mets. Who is the oldest player to ever throw a regular-season pitch for the organization?
Monday's answer: Brett Myers was the first Phillies pitcher to allow a homer to Wright in the third baseman's career. Actually, Myers served up the first two homers Wright hit against Philadelphia -- five days apart in September 2004. Myers is now the closer for the Houston Astros.
Thole was being evaluated for what appeared to be a concussion by a Phillies doctor after the game. He did suffer a concussion in 2010 while playing for Triple-A Buffalo.
Ty Wigginton deals a blow to the right side of Josh Thole's face in the eighth inning Monday.
Said Terry Collins: "He's hurt. He got hurt. When we got out there, the only thing he could say is, 'I'm real dizzy. I'm real dizzy.'"
Major League Baseball added a seven-day disabled list this year for concussed players. Thole appears headed for that one-week DL, but Ricco said it was too soon to firmly declare that to be the case. Still, Ricco expected the Mets would bring in a catcher from Triple-A Buffalo. Ex-Mariner/Padre Rob Johnson seems most likely, with Lucas May the alternative.
Johnson, himself, had just returned from the minor league DL last Wednesday after nursing a left knee sprain.
In addition to Mike Nickeas, the Mets now have Vinny Rottino on the 25-man roster. He has catching experience, but exclusively played left field with Buffalo this season. So Collins said he would not be comfortable starting him behind the plate as the primary alternative to Nickeas.
"You always err on the side of having enough guys in to catch," Ricco said. "And if you don't need them, then you send them back."
As for Wigginton's apparent shoulder blow to Thole's head, Collins described the ex-Met as a hard-nosed player and offered no protest about the impact.
"Absolutely," Collins said. "As a matter of fact, Ty Wigginton, I'm surprised he didn't crush him, to be honest. But it was fine."
Nickeas said there are boundaries, but he said he had not yet seen a replay. Thole had his mask off at the time of the contact, but Nickeas said that's common when the ball has been hit in the infield.
"We know the risk as catchers when we're back there," Nickeas said. "We know certain guys that like doing it -- guys that have a reputation. But when a guy slides, I think you're kind of anticipating he's going to continue sliding. I don't know if he kind of popped up and got him. But, yeah, you're ready for it. And it is part of the game. So I don't look too much into it."
Is nothing out of bounds at the plate?
"Within reason," Nickeas said. "If a guy 'trucks' you and kind of keeps his shoulder down and just tries to bear through you, that's fine. If he starts flailing stuff at you, it kind of gets a little edgy."
Said David Wright, the lone remaining Met who played with Wigginton: "Wiggy plays the game hard. I think it could have been a lot worse. And hopefully Josh is OK. You've got to be careful with those head injuries. He's got a little bit of a headache, he said. I'm sure they'll look after him tonight. He was in good spirits after the game, and that's a good sign."