New York Mets: Kirk Nieuwenhuis
FIRST PITCH: Wait until next year!
The Mets officially were eliminated from postseason contention on Friday night, despite producing a win.
Still, they play on.
At 74-80, the Amazin’s occupy fourth place in the NL East. Still, they are only a half-game behind the Miami Marlins (74-79) for third place and only 2½ games behind the Atlanta Braves (76-77) for second place.
The Mets need to go 7-1 the rest of the way to reach .500. Otherwise, they will produce their sixth straight losing season, which would match the Houston Astros for the longest active streak of sub-.500 seasons in the majors.
On Saturday at Turner Field, Jonathon Niese (8-11, 3.55 ERA) opposes left-hander Mike Minor (6-11, 4.74) at 7:10 p.m.
Saturday’s news reports:
• Lucas Duda opened the scoring with a two-run homer and the Mets tacked on three ninth-inning runs en route to a 5-0 win against Atlanta in Friday’s series opener. Albeit requiring 105 pitches, Zack Wheeler tossed six scoreless innings to improve to 11-10 with a 3.49 ERA with one start remaining.
“His stuff was very, very good,” Terry Collins said, while adding: “As we’ve seen lately, he uses a lot of pitches to get outs.”
Collins was pleased that Wheeler has maintained his velocity this deep into the season. He has now logged 180 1/3 innings. Last year, he logged 174 1/3 innings. Wheeler has continued to average more than 96 mph with his fastball in September.
“That’s what you work hard for during the offseason, so you can last this long and stay powerful throughout the season,” Wheeler said. “It’s a good sign.”
As for turning a 3-8 record entering July into an above-.500 mark, Wheeler added: “It was a rough first few months, but I got past that. I kept my nose down and kept going.”
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Journal, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.
• Read more on Wheeler in the Record.
• Triple-A manager Wally Backman joined the major league staff Friday for the final nine games of the season. He offered candid assessments of Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki, Matt Reynolds, Matt Bowman, Jacob deGrom and Wilmer Flores. Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger and Newsday.
• Juan Lagares is skipping the trip to Atlanta and D.C. because of his right elbow sprain. Lagares may appear during the season’s final series, against the Astros at Citi Field. Or he may already have played his final 2014 game.
• Kirk Nieuwenhuis was given Friday off after passing a kidney stone.
• Broadcaster Ron Darling tells Neil Best in Newsday this was an “enjoyable” year watching the Mets.
• If deGrom wins the Rookie of the Year Award, he would have logged the second-fewest innings ever among recipients, ahead of only Dave Righetti, writes Jared Diamond in the Journal. DeGrom is at 134 1/3 innings with two remaining starts. Righetti had only 105 1/3 with the Yankees while winning the AL award in 1981.
• A fan caught Duda’s homer in a popcorn bucket. Watch the video at MLB.com.
• The Mets hosted a wheelchair softball tournament in the parking lot at Citi Field, writes Lisa L. Colangelo in the Daily News.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear has mentally pushed its calendar ahead to 2015.
BIRTHDAYS: Jason Bay turns 36. ... Dave Gallagher was born on this date in 1960.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
Murphy was forced from Thursday’s series opener in the eighth inning after being struck in the left wrist by a fastball from Matt Thornton. X-rays were negative.
Terry Collins said Murphy intends to avoid taking pregame batting practice Friday.
“It’s pretty swelled up,” Collins said.
Said Murphy: “It’s sore today. I’ll get some treatment and see how it feels tomorrow.”
Also on the injury front:
• Travis d'Arnaud is back in the lineup after being pulled in the fifth inning Thursday. D’Arnaud has been battling a banged-up wrist and other ailments. Collins said d’Arnaud should get Sunday’s series finale off, giving him three days off in the next week-plus to try to recuperate. The Mets have off-days Thursday and Sept. 22.
• Matt den Dekker remains unavailable to bat after getting struck with a pitch on the top of his left hand against Colorado. With the Mets having faced left-handed pitchers two of the past three days, Eric Young Jr. is getting playing time in left field. Collins said he likely will turn to Kirk Nieuwenhuis on Saturday with the Nats throwing right-hander Doug Fister.
• Dana Eveland likely will not pitch again this season because of inflammation in his left elbow. He has a small bone spur, but does not expect he will need to have it surgically removed.
• Although Terry Collins expressed concern with Vic Black's drop in velocity on Monday and wondered if it was related to Black’s herniated disk, Collins said there is no current issue with the reliever. In fact, Collins said, he would have used Black to close Thursday because the manager wanted to stay away from Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Black has not appeared in any of the past three games.
FIRST PITCH: Well, if the Mets have designs on reaching .500 and beyond, they will have to accomplish it against a tough nemesis.
Of the 16 games remaining for the Amazin’s this season, seven are against the Washington Nationals. That includes a four-game series at Citi Field that begins Thursday at 7:10 p.m., when Bartolo Colon (13-11, 3.96 ERA) opposes right-hander Tanner Roark (12-10, 2.97).
The Mets remain 5½ games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second wild-card spot. The Amazin’s are four games under .500, at 71-75, and have won a season-high-matching four straight.
The Nats have a 10-2 record and have outscored the Mets 62-34 this season.
Washington has won 11 straight games in Queens. That’s the longest-ever winning streak by a visiting team against the Mets. The Atlanta Braves won 10 straight games at Shea Stadium in 1991 and '92.
The Nats are 25-4 at Citi Field since September 2011.
“I’m very pleased,” Terry Collins said about the Mets’ recent play, which includes winning seven of their last eight games and four straight series wins. “We’ve still got a tough road ahead here. We’ve got the Nats coming in, who we have not played very well, [and] who play absolutely great here. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’re aware of that.”
Thursday’s news reports:
• A civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn alleges chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon “humiliated” the club’s senior vice president overseeing ticket sales because she was pregnant and unmarried. The Mets responded that former employee Leigh Castergine’s lawsuit is “without merit.”
Read more in the Post, Daily News, Journal, Times, Newsday and at MLB.com.
• Read columnist Mike Vaccaro’s take on the Mets’ wild-card pursuit and the lawsuit in the Post and columnist David Lennon’s take in Newsday. Jeff Passan has a scathing critique of the latter topic at Yahoo!, as does Bob Klapisch in the Record.
• Despite a high pitch count, Rafael Montero tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings and earned his first major league win as the Mets swept the Rockies with a 2-0 win Wednesday. Eric Young Jr. went 3-for-3 with an RBI triple and Jenrry Mejia became the youngest player in franchise history to notch 25 saves in a season. Mets pitchers have logged 19 straight scoreless innings, two shy of matching the season high (April 20-22), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Journal, Newsday, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Daniel Murphy was shifted to third base Wednesday with David Wright done for the season because of persistent left-shoulder woes. Murphy received no fielding chances in his first start at the position since July 21, 2011. The move allows rookie Dilson Herrera to get continued playing time at second base. Read more in the Times and Star-Ledger.
• ESPN’s Buster Olney suggests it could be a quiet offseason for the Mets, at least spending-wise. Writes Olney:
The reality appears to be that the Mets' front office will be left with little money to improve the roster, perhaps bypassing pricey veterans who could represent pivotal upgrades, such as shortstop J.J. Hardy. It appears Alderson will instead pick through the bargain bin for short-term gambles, which is how Chris Young came to be a Met last winter; he was a bargain for a reason.
The Mets' ownership could choose to take a different path and look to spend money to make money. But once again, that does not appear to be the route this team will go, and it's bad for the sport when a New York City team pretends it must adhere to its budget the way the Tampa Bay Rays do.
ESPN Insiders can read Olney’s full analysis here.
• Matt den Dekker remained sore and did not appear in Wednesday’s game a day after getting plunked on the back of his left hand with a pitch.
• Binghamton is one win from the Eastern League championship after a 5-1 victory at Richmond on Wednesday. Xorge Carrillo and Travis Taijeron homered and Greg Peavey limited the Squirrels to one run in seven innings as the B-Mets took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Binghamton will go for the sweep at home on Friday with Steven Matz on the mound. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Matz and Herrera were named the pitcher and player of the year in the Mets organization, the club announced. Sterling Award winners at individual levels of the organization were Matt Reynolds, Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, Dario Alvarez, Akeel Morris, Vicente Lupo, Marcos Molina, John Mora, Ali Sanchez and Walter Rasquin.
• Wright and Dillon Gee visited FDNY Squad 288/Hazmat 1 in Maspeth, Queens, on Wednesday.
• Chris Young homered and had two RBIs as the Yankees rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Rays. Young became the second player ever to homer for the Mets and Yankees in the same season, joining Dave Kingman in 1977, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
• Andrew Beaton in the Journal looks into the Mets being 16-2 this season in games started by Kirk Nieuwenhuis. That’s the best winning percentage for any player in the majors with a minimum of 15 starts.
• From the bloggers … John Delcos at NY Mets Report doesn’t believe Wright’s injury and Herrera playing second base could pave the way for Murphy to be traded this offseason.
BIRTHDAYS: Former closer Frank Francisco turns 35.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
Flores is one of the five players on the 40-man roster who exhausted a final option this season.
That means, barring an offseason trade, Flores either will break spring-training camp with the Mets in 2015 or be exposed to waivers. And Flores has shown enough that he would have to be on the team, because he surely would be claimed.
An option is good for an entire season, allowing a player to move freely as many times as desired between the majors and minors without being exposed to waivers. Most players get three option years, although some get four, including Mejia. (See explanation at BaseballAmerica.com.)
Players can begin burning options even before reaching the majors. For instance, left-handed prospect Steven Matz was placed on the 40-man roster last winter to protect him from Rule 5 draft eligibility. So Matz came to camp in Port St. Lucie in February as a 40-man roster player. And when he predictably failed to make the team, he was optioned to minor-league camp. So his first option was used in 2014 despite never appearing in the majors.
In the case of Mejia, having exhausted his options is largely immaterial. Whether as the closer or some other late-inning relief role, Mejia has established himself as a major leaguer and should no longer need an option.
Nieuwenhuis is the other case like Flores. It's no wonder the Mets are testing Nieuwenhuis in a bench-type role -- with pinch hits and sporadic starts. After all, that would appear to be the role he is slated for in 2015 given he cannot be sent to the minors at that point without being exposed to waivers.
For the same reason, the Mets careers of Puello and Brown appear to be on life support. Although they are on the 40-man roster, neither player was called up in September for a look, suggesting neither is really in the 2015 plans. That means they could be the first off the roster this offseason when the Mets need a spot for a new addition -- either a prospect who needs to be shielded from the Rule 5 draft, a free-agent signing, or via a trade that adds more current 40-man roster players than it subtracts.
The Mets' 40-man roster currently is full. (See the current 40-man roster here). And, because of a rare circumstance of not many pending free agents, it will remain full even into the offseason.
Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell will need to come off the 60-day DL, where they have not been counting against the 40-man roster.
And, with their contracts expiring, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Bobby Abreu would come off.
So 40, plus 2, minus 2, still equals 40.
That means the Mets are going to have to drastically start trimming 40-man roster players this winter. Aside from free agents, there are new prospects to shield from the Rule 5 draft, beginning with Noah Syndergaard.
FIRST PITCH: The Mets spend a day off in Cincinnati before getting back to work on Friday against the Reds.
Bartolo Colon (12-11, 4.01 ERA) opposes right-hander Alfredo Simon (13-9, 3.28) in the 7:10 p.m. series opener.
Thursday’s news reports:
• Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a two-run homer, then Travis d'Arnaud had a tiebreaking RBI double in the eighth and the Mets held on to beat Miami, 4-3, in Wednesday’s rubber game at Marlins Park. Jacob deGrom allowed one run in six innings in a no-decision as he further enhanced his NL Rookie of the Year candidacy. Nieuwenhuis started over Curtis Granderson, who has sat two of the past four games.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Journal, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.
• Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record advocates Las Vegas manager Wally Backman landing a major league role with the Mets for 2015. Writes Klapisch:
You couldn’t help but wonder how Sandy Alderson really felt about Wally Backman winning the Pacific Coast League’s Manager of the Year award, considering the GM has shown no intention of giving Backman a chance in New York. It’s time to reconsider this de facto blackball, and see Backman as an asset who can help the Mets ascend toward respectability.
Of course, this would require Alderson shedding his prejudice against the very trait that makes Backman unique: He’s an independent thinker with a strong personality, as old-school as it gets. Alderson is a dominant GM who values managers that act as corporate messengers.
• Andrew Keh in the Times addresses the woes of Granderson, who is batting .210 for the season and is hitless in his last 18 at-bats. Granderson said he has remained calm despite the struggles, quipping: “There’s never been a point in breaking a bat. Then I’ve got nothing to swing with the next time up.”
• Vic Black, on the DL with a herniated disk in his neck, is set to throw off a mound during Thursday’s off-day for the first time since being sidelined. Matt Harvey again will work off a mound on the off-day, but this time will simulate a pair of innings for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last October, pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters.
• D’Arnaud’s 12 passed balls are tied with San Diego’s Yasmani Grandal and Colorado’s Wilin Rosario for the major league lead. Writes Jared Diamond in the Journal on that topic:
Mets bench coach Bob Geren, a former major league catcher, estimated that as many as a third of d'Arnaud's passed balls have come as a result of an overreliance on framing the pitch. Instead of simply catching the ball, d'Arnaud has tried to pull it back toward the strike zone a split-second too quickly, only to have it glance off his glove.
"Sometimes it's so close of a pitch that I'll try to do extra to try to really get it, instead of just, 'Oh, it's OK, we'll take this ball so the runners don't advance,'" d'Arnaud said.
• Bobby Parnell, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April, plans to begin throwing off a mound after Christmas. Read more about his rehab plan in the Star-Ledger.
• L.J. Mazzilli's RBI single in the eighth lifted Las Vegas to a 5-4 win against Reno in the Pacific Coast League playoff opener.
Bronx native T.J. Rivera launched a walk-off three-run homer as Binghamton won its playoff opener against Portland, 8-5. “It's a great feeling,” Rivera told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. “All that stress kind of falls off your shoulders for a second. But, then again, there's tomorrow. You know, we've got to win three to advance. That's what our goal really is."
Savannah lost its playoff opener, 8-3. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Once reportedly poised to depart for Ottawa, Binghamton’s Eastern League club signed a lease with NYSEG stadium and committed to remain in Binghamton through 2021. A Mets official told ESPNNewYork.com earlier this year that the Mets have made a pledge to New York State officials to keep Binghamton as their Double-A home long term. The current agreement between the Mets and B-Mets runs through the 2016 season. Read more from Lynn Worthy in the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin.
• Terry Collins views Dilson Herrera as a future No. 2 hitter. Read more in Newsday.
• Mike Puma in the Post notes the Mets are mostly not shying away from using Jeurys Familia. Dan Warthen said 75-80 appearances is reasonable for the season. Familia is at 66 right now.
BIRTHDAYS: Mike Piazza turns 46. ... Luis Lopez is 44.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Should Wally Backman be a part of the 2015 Mets staff?
If the #Mets don't take back New York from the Yankees in 2015, they never will. Let's make sure that happens, Sandy.— c.a. meglio (@cher221) September 4, 2014
Travis d'Arnaud delivered a tiebreaking RBI double against Bryan Morris in what became a two-run eighth and the Mets held on to beat the Marlins 4-3 in Wednesday’s rubber game.
The Mets are 10-6 against Miami this season. A three-game series remains in New York from Sept. 15-17.
What? Carlos Torres batted with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the eighth and the Mets leading 4-2. He struck out. Terry Collins did not have Jeurys Familia available and undoubtedly felt he needed to have Torres –-- who finished the seventh -- work the bottom of the eighth as well.
Torres then surrendered a solo homer to Giancarlo Stanton in the bottom half as Miami pulled within a run.
The alternative was to pinch hit for Torres and use Dana Eveland or Erik Goeddel in the eighth.
Debutant: With the Mets clinging to a 2-1 lead in the seventh, Collins inserted left-hander Dario Alvarez with a runner on third base and two outs in his major league debut. Alvarez surrendered a game-tying RBI single to lefty-hitting Christian Yelich as the Marlins pulled even and handed Jacob deGrom a no-decision.
Lefty batters hit .181 against Alvarez this season in the minors, although that primarily came at low-A Savannah.
deLightful: DeGrom made it through six innings before his pitch count reached 114. The rookie right-hander surrendered only one run.
DeGrom allowed a pair of baserunners in each of the first three innings and nearly escaped completely unscathed.
With Yelich on second and Donovan Solano on first and none out in the third, deGrom coaxed a 6-4-3 double play from Stanton as Yelich advanced to third base. Casey McGehee then hit a chopper back toward the mound. The ball glanced off the glove of the leaping deGrom and ricocheted toward second baseman Dilson Herrera. He barehanded it and threw to first base, but Lucas Duda was unable to scoop the baseball. The infield hit plated Yelich.
DeGrom sliced his ERA to 2.87.
Kirk! Kirk Nieuwenhuis, inserted in the lineup over Curtis Granderson for the second time in four games, produced a two-run homer in the fourth against Tom Koehler that gave the Mets a 2-1 lead. Nieuwenhuis also walked three times (once intentionally).
The Mets improved to 14-2 in Nieuwenhuis’ starts this season.
Golden sombrero: A day after going 3-for-4 with two extra-base hits and three RBIs and feeling “dangerous” at the plate, David Wright went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.
Welcome back: Josh Satin pinch hit for deGrom in the seventh. In his first major league at-bat since May 9, Satin flied out to right field.
What’s next: The Mets take a day off on the road Thursday, then resume play with a weekend series in Cincinnati. Untraded Bartolo Colon (12-11, 4.01 ERA) opposes right-hander Alfredo Simon (13-9, 3.28) in Friday’s 7:10 p.m. opener.
And then someone brought up Justin Turner.
Collins propped up in the chair and started talking with his hands.
“He can hit,” Collins said with some enthusiasm. “Always could hit. He’s not the flashiest of the flashy, but he can walk up in any situation and hit.”
Turner was non-tendered by the Mets in December and the Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal just before spring training. One cellar-dweller’s trash is a contender’s treasure in Turner’s case.
A season after hitting .280 with two home runs in 214 plate appearances and likely due a decent raise through arbitration, Turner is hitting .314 with four home runs in 249 plate appearances and smacked a game-winning home run against the San Diego Padres on Thursday night.
Turner spent three seasons with the Mets and was always a favorite of Collins, who made it a point to seek out Turner before the game Friday.
“He was always ready for whatever we needed him for,” Collins said. “Play left field one day, third base, second base, whatever. It’s been a good situation with him over there [with the Dodgers].”
Injury updates: Appointed closer Jenrry Mejia is available tonight after missing Wednesday’s game in Oakland because of some back tightness. Mejia said it crept up on him Tuesday, but after a couple days off Collins declared him good to go.
This is the time of year when “wear and tear starts to show,” Collins said. Mejia’s workload has increased and become more stressful this season since he was named the closer in May. He has also pitched through or been sidelined by numerous ailments this year, including a hernia that will require offseason surgery.
Mejia has spent parts of four seasons in the majors and has battled injuries throughout his career, including in the minors. Collins said the training staff is monitoring Mejia closely because they want him to know what it feels like to pitch through September and not have to be shutdown at the end of the season.
• Dana Eveland’s left elbow is feeling better after a cortisone shot. He is available to pitch against the Dodgers. Eveland described his ailment as “tennis elbow” in Oakland and took a shot Wednesday and played catch Thursday and reported no pain.
• Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis missed the last two games because of a stiff neck, but Collins said he is available off the bench Friday.
When asked how his neck was feeling in the clubhouse before the game, Nieuwenhuis replied, “It’s a little better.”
Undecided on Dice-K: The Mets still haven’t made a decision on what to do with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who threw five scoreless innings in his third rehab start Thursday.
He could be activated from the disabled list as soon as Tuesday. But Collins said there hasn’t been a decision on where Dice-K will pitch next. If the team decides to give him another rehab start it would push his return back to September when rosters expand and no corresponding roster move is needed.
FIRST PITCH: The Mets take a day off in California on Thursday, then get to work against the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend.
The Amazin’s get a reprieve of sorts, too.
Clayton Kershaw, originally due to start Friday’s series opener against the Mets, instead faces the San Diego Padres on normal rest on Thursday. So the Mets draw Dan Haren in the series opener, followed now by Zack Greinke on Saturday and Kevin Correia on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Mets will activate a pair of starting pitchers for the series.
After Jonathon Niese starts the series opener, Jacob deGrom is due to be activated from the disabled list to pitch Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Bartolo Colon will be activated from bereavement leave for Sunday’s series finale. Colon then plans to return to the Dominican Republic for the funeral of his mother, who died Monday at age 63 after battling breast cancer.
The Mets ultimately will need to make as many as three roster moves -- for deGrom, Colon and, presumably, for Daisuke Matsuzaka early next homestand.
Matsuzaka, currently on the DL with right elbow inflammation, is due to make his third minor-league rehab start Thursday. He pitches for the Brooklyn Cyclones at 7 p.m. against the Staten Island Yankees at Coney Island.
The Mets have a number of potential maneuvers to clear as many as three spots. Gonzalez Germen, promoted when Colon went on bereavement leave, could return to Las Vegas. So could Rafael Montero, who otherwise would be working out of the bullpen with deGrom reentering the rotation. Perhaps the Mets also could find a DL candidate among some banged-up players.
Jenrry Mejia, who has a hernia and cranky calf, was unavailable Wednesday in Oakland because of tightness in his lower back on the right side, which is a recurring issue. Dana Eveland required a cortisone shot in his left elbow. And Kirk Nieuwenhuis was scratched from Wednesday’s lineup with neck discomfort.
Thursday’s news reports:
• Sandy Alderson joined Seth Everett on WOR, reminiscing about his days in Oakland and also commenting about the state of the Mets. (Listen here.)
On the team’s offensive funk (Wednesday notwithstanding), the GM said: “It’s been pretty much across the board, starting with the top of our lineup all the way through. When you only get three or four hits a night, there’s a collective issue. We’ve got some young players in the lineup who we’ve got to give some time, but I think it’s been a collective thing. I do believe that offensively we will get better. The question is how much better.”
Addressing David Wright's subpar production, Alderson added: “First of all, no player is ever going to be at the top of his game consistently throughout a season, or over ‘X’ number of seasons. And part of dealing with the adversity is how it’s handled. David handles it very well. We certainly recognize this is a collective thing.”
On the evaluation process for Matt den Dekker and Wilmer Flores, Alderson said: “The one thing that we have to do is be patient and not reach those judgments prematurely.”
And on how Terry Collins will be judged, Alderson said: “It’s more than wins and losses. It’s how the team approaches each game and how it conducts itself over the course of an entire season. All those things are important.”
• Eric Campbell and Lucas Duda homered in a five-run second inning against Jeff Samardzija and the Mets survived a pair of errors by Daniel Murphy en route to an 8-5 win against Oakland on Wednesday.
Zack Wheeler (9-8) allowed four runs (two earned). He was pulled after 5 2/3 innings and 103 pitches as the Mets kept him on a tight pitch limit after he threw 120 his previous outing. Wheeler improved to 6-0 with a 2.12 ERA in his past 10 starts and climbed above .500 for the first time this season.
With Mejia unavailable, Jeurys Familia produced a five-out save. Familia inherited the bases loaded in the eighth from Vic Black and walked in a run, but otherwise kept the A’s in check.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Journal and at MLB.com.
• Read more on Colon’s temporary return for Sunday’s start in the Daily News and Newsday.
• Read more on Eveland’s “tennis elbow” and cortisone injection in the Star-Ledger.
• Matt Bowman allowed one run in seven innings but suffered a hard-luck loss as New Orleans beat Las Vegas, 4-0. Behind three RBIs from Dustin Lawley, Binghamton trimmed its magic number to clinch an Eastern League playoff berth to one with an 8-5 win at Erie. Read the full minor-league recap here.
BIRTHDAYS: Felix Millan turns 71 today. ... John Stearns is 63.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: How should the Mets clear spots for deGrom, Colon and Matsuzaka?
@AdamRubinESPN mejia has no upside playing hurt - get surgery— shizzambangle (@shizzambangle) August 20, 2014
"Beat up" is how manager Terry Collins classified Lagares on Wednesday morning before announcing he was giving him the day off, but that didn’t keep Lagares’ play from being a focal point of conversation before the game against the Oakland A's.
Part of the reason Lagares is getting a breather? He is 3-for-28 (.107) in his past nine games, but Collins is seeing slight improvements, such as a 10-pitch at-bat that resulted in a walk in the third inning Tuesday night. Lagares, who batted leadoff, worked the count into his favor at 3-1 before fouling off five consecutive pitches and then coaxing the pass to first base.
Lagares fouled off a total of nine pitches in his four plate appearances, not counting a foul-tip strikeout. He also saw 26 total pitches, the highest number for any player on either team Tuesday.
“He had that one absolutely great at-bat,” Collins said. “That was a tremendous at-bat. That’s what you want to see, that kind of stuff. You want to fight off balls you can’t hit and make [the pitcher] work. Everybody saw it and knows what’s going on.”
Lagares has 772 major league plate appearances, so a touch over what would constitute a full season. He has 137 of those from the leadoff spot, where he has been relatively productive with a .319 on-base percentage. Collins has recognized that trend and said before Tuesday’s game that he could eventually see Lagares as an everyday leadoff man with Curtis Granderson dropping to the second spot. The idea being that if Lagares can up his OBP, it would give the left-handed-hitting Granderson a hole to pull the ball through on the right side.
Of course this is all dependent on whether Lagares can develop into the kind of hitter who consistently puts pressure on a pitcher and defense with his ability to handle the bat. Because of how inept the Mets’ offense has been, these final six weeks of the regular season could be his job interview for that spot in the order.
“He’s going to get it. He’s going to be a good player,” Collins said. “We ask a lot of Juan Lagares for a guy who basically has one full year in the big leagues, but it’s because other guys aren't getting it done. So then you have to look at someone else.”
Applying the brakes: The Mets are the league’s worst-scoring team in August, have the fewest hits, the lowest OBP, slugging percentage and OPS for the month, and have stolen just six bases during the dog days.
While the offense looks for signs of life, Collins said being aggressive on the bases for the sake of being aggressive is not the answer and is more likely to kill rallies than spark them. This is because the Mets lack an instinctive base stealer.
“My experience being around all those baserunners: Guys who want to run, they’ll run. They’re looking to run,” Collins said. “When you put the steal on and guys are iffy, they always come up with reasons why they didn't get a good jump. That’s a bad feeling.”
The team doesn't have seasoned base stealers, meaning guys who might have the necessary instincts don't have the polish to be prolific just yet. And just because a guy is fast doesn't mean he can rack up big steal numbers. Even Granderson has never stolen more than 26 bases in a season.
“I’m a huge believer in baserunning, but sometimes the guys getting on aren't the guys you can run,” Collins said.
“A lot of it [is instinctive]. Jeff Bagwell was the best I’ve ever been around. He stole 31 bases one year. I’ve seen this guy get three steps and the pitcher is still holding the ball. He would just get great jumps.”
Lagares is a guy who could maybe become a steal threat, but he still doesn’t know how to read pitchers well enough, according to Collins, comparing his lack of experience to the Los Angeles Dodgers' concerns with Yasiel Puig on the bases.
Colon bereavement update: The Mets know when Bartolo Colon will return to the rotation, but Collins was not ready to share that information publicly before Wednesday’s game. Colon’s next turn would come Sunday against the Dodgers.
Injury news: Left-hander Dana Eveland is unavailable against Oakland because of tendinitis in his elbow, or what he referred to as “tennis elbow.” Eveland said he’s always had soreness there for much of his career, and he’s pitched through it this season, but it finally became too much to deal with, and the medical staff gave him a cortisone shot.
Eveland will play catch Thursday and plans to throw a bullpen before Friday’s game to determine his availability.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis was scheduled to start in right field, but the stiff neck that shut him down Tuesday was still too painful to keep him in the lineup Wednesday. Matt den Dekker replaced Lagares in center, while Eric Campbell was inserted at DH, and Granderson shifted from DH to right field in place of Nieuwenhuis.
FIRST PITCH: Seven hits!
The Mets’ string of games producing four hits or fewer ended at five straight on Tuesday -- tied for the longest streak in the majors since 1900.
The Amazin’s streak of facing aces will continue.
Zack Wheeler (8-8, 3.49 ERA) opposes former Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija (5-9, 2.96) in the finale of an abbreviated series in Oakland at 3:35 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Wheeler is 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA in his past nine starts.
Wednesday’s news reports:
• Dillon Gee walked light-hitting No. 9 batter Eric Sogard with two outs in the fourth ahead of a three-run triple by Coco Crisp and Scott Kazmir and the A’s went on to beat the Mets, 6-2, Tuesday. Gee is now 0-5 with a 5.71 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break.
Josh Reddick added a two-run homer in the eighth against Gonzalez Germen, who was called up while Bartolo Colon is on bereavement leave.
Travis d'Arnaud homered, but it was another quiet hitting day by the Mets, who had Daniel Murphy resting and Curtis Granderson in the No. 2 hole as part of Terry Collins’ lineup shakeup.
Oakland snapped a five-game losing streak.
The Mets (59-68) are nine games under .500 for the first time since July 7.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Newsday and at MLB.com.
• Jacob deGrom faced batters during a throwing session Tuesday in Oakland and has been declared ready to return from the disabled list on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. With deGrom poised to be activated, Rafael Montero could get bullpen action Wednesday against the A’s. The Mets won’t need to make a roster move until Saturday to clear space for deGrom. And if Colon isn’t activated until Sunday, Germen could go first. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Jenrry Mejia “has expressed dismay to confidants in recent days about the fact he has been used lately in several non-save situations, but before the Mets faced the Athletics on Tuesday said he’s on the same wavelength with manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen,” Mike Puma writes in the Post.
• Kirk Nieuwenhuis was unavailable Tuesday because of a stiff neck.
• Danny Muno had a three-run homer as part of a three-hit night as Las Vegas beat Omaha, 10-4. Michael Fulmer allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings in his Double-A debut as Binghamton was shut out at Erie, 7-0. Victor Cruzado homered and drove in four runs in Savannah’s 11-3 win against Rome. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal contrasts the Mets and A’s, who have similar payrolls and disparate success. Writes Diamond:
As previously reported by the Journal, teams throughout history with a $100 million player taking up more than 20% of the payroll have a cumulative winning percentage of .455.
The A's don't have that problem. Their highest-paid player on opening day, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, was due $10.5 million this year, which represented around 12.8% of the payroll. Their three highest-paid players -- Cespedes, reliever Jim Johnson and starter Scott Kazmir -- made up 35.8% of the payroll. (Cespedes was traded to Boston for [Jon] Lester last month.)
• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger chronicles Kazimr’s path from prominence to independent ball and back to prominence.
• Marc Carig in Newsday speaks with Lucas Duda about his success at the plate.
• From the bloggers …Blogging Mets wonders when and why run differential became so important.
BIRTHDAYS: St. Lucie reliever Robby Coles turns 23. ... Cory Sullivan is 35. ... Lance Broadway is 31.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: What lineup change would you most like to see to inject some life in the offense?
You're not a true #Mets fan unless you stay up for the entire game and cry yourself to sleep afterwards— Marsha Landar (@MARSHALANDAR) August 20, 2014
FIRST PITCH: With a pledge to play younger, homegrown players to determine their readiness to contribute in 2015 now in effect, the Mets continue a series at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
Dillon Gee (4-4, 3.73 ERA) opposes left-hander Cole Hamels (6-6, 2.42).
Terry Collins, who sat Lucas Duda in New York against Hamels, said Duda will start against the southpaw this time. Part of the Mets’ gauging players for next season is determining Duda’s aptitude against left-handed pitching.
Duda is 1-for-13 with seven strikeouts and five walks in his career against Hamels.
This will be Duda’s second straight start against a southpaw. He went 0-for-3 against Gio Gonzalez in D.C.
Saturday’s news reports:
• Chris Young was designated for assignment after Friday’s game, as the Mets prepare to eat what remains of his one-year, $7.25 million contract. Matt den Dekker, who leads the Pacific Coast League with a .334 average, planned to take a redeye and join the Mets on Saturday in Philly. Collins said den Dekker will regularly start in left field, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis seeing action at all three outfield positions and serving as a lefty pinch hitter. Eric Young Jr. primarily will start against southpaws.
The den Dekker promotion is consistent with the Mets’ commitment to now give Wilmer Flores a serious look as a shortstop, to gauge his ability to handle the role in 2015.
Read more on the dumping of Young and the change of focus in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Journal, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Bartolo Colon watched from the clubhouse as a four-run ninth-inning lead nearly slipped away, but he ultimately notched win No. 200 as the Mets beat the Phillies, 5-4, Friday. Colon became the third Dominican-born pitcher to reach that plateau, joining Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez. Jenrry Mejia kept a promise to Colon by stranding the tying run at third base. Meija’s calf remained tight, but he pitched through the issue.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Jeremy Hefner will be sent to New York to be examined by team doctors after experiencing a forearm issue during Wednesday’s minor-league start with Class A St. Lucie. Hefner is unsure if the injury is linked to the Tommy John surgery he underwent last August.
• Collins has no intention of dropping David Wright from the No. 3 hole.
• Danny Muno had a two-run double in a five-run eighth as Las Vegas rallied to beat Albuquerque, 9-6. Ivan Wilson had a grand slam in Kingport’s 16-10 win against Bristol. Jeff Diehl had a go-ahead two-run double in Brooklyn’s 4-2 win against Mahoning Valley. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Matt Harvey is scheduled for his third mound session on Saturday.
• Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbow) should pitch in a rehab game early next week.
• Lloyd Carroll in the Queens Chronicle weighs in on the Mets.
BIRTHDAYS: The late Tommie Agee was born on this date in 1942. ... Pat Mahomes turns 44. ... Minor-league left-hander T.J. Chism turns 26. ... Savannah first baseman/DH Matt Oberste is 23.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
The 41-year-old Colon recorded career win No. 200 as the Mets beat the Phillies 5-4 in Friday’s series opener at Citizens Bank Park.
Colon departed with a 5-1 lead after eight innings. After Dana Eveland allowed the first two batters of the ninth to reach, Jenrry Mejia converted the save -- barely.
Mejia, who had experienced lower-back tightness Monday and calf tightness Thursday, allowed a single to Marlon Byrd that loaded the bases with none out. He then allowed a two-run double to Grady Sizemore. Cody Asche eventually contributed a run-scoring groundout for the second out, but Mejia left the tying run at third base by striking out Reid Brignac.
Colon joined Juan Marichal (243 wins) and Pedro Martinez (219) as the only Dominican-born pitchers to reach the 200-win plateau.
He also became the third pitcher to achieve No. 200 as a Met, joining Orel Hershiser in 1999 and Martinez in 2006.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three pitchers in the past 90 years have notched win No. 200 when they were older than Colon: Tim Wakefield (age 45), Charlie Hough (44) and Jamie Moyer (42).
The Mets improved to 9-4 in the season series against the Phillies. The Amazin’s have won 11 of their past 13 games at Citizens Bank Park.
A.J. Burnett surrendered 11 hits -- matching Atlanta’s Julio Teheran on July 8 for the most a starting pitcher has allowed against the Mets this season. Burnett departed trailing 5-0 after six innings.
He managed to keep the game scoreless by coaxing a bases-loaded groundout from Lucas Duda in the third. Travis d'Arnaud, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores then consecutively produced hits to open what became a four-run fourth. Over that two-inning span, eight Mets in a 10-batter stretch reached base against Burnett. (And, really, it’s 8 of 9 reaching, since Colon’s strikeout shouldn’t count, right?)
A fifth-inning solo homer by d’Arnaud, who originally was drafted by the Phillies, upped the lead to 5-0. (D’Arnaud was traded to Toronto for Roy Halladay, who threw out Friday’s ceremonial first pitch.)
Colon took a scoreless effort into the seventh inning.
After a leadoff single by Chase Utley in the fourth, Colon survived consecutive shots from Ryan Howard and Byrd that settled into Lagares’ glove just in front of the 401-foot marker on the center-field wall. Byrd’s leadoff homer in the seventh finally got Philadelphia on the scoreboard.
Colon’s line: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.
Kids' play: In the first game since Terry Collins announced Flores and Nieuwenhuis would get legitimate auditions, both contributed. Flores finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored. Nieuwenhuis went 1-for-4 with a run scored.
Ouch: Plate ump Mike Winters was struck by a pitch from Burnett in the first inning. He completed the game with a huge welt on his right wrist.
What’s next: Dillon Gee (4-4, 3.73 ERA) opposes left-hander Cole Hamels (6-6, 2.42) at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Gee is 0-4 with a 6.85 ERA since the All-Star break.
Getty ImagesWilmer Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are due for increased playing time.
As a result, Wilmer Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis now are expected to get serious looks, Terry Collins said before Friday's series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies. That will come at the expense of Ruben Tejada and Chris Young.
Collins said the plan came as the result of a conversation Thursday with Sandy Alderson.
Lucas Duda also will be afforded the opportunity to prove he can handle left-handed pitching. So he will get a chance Saturday to start against southpaw Cole Hamels, according to Collins. Eric Campbell started in New York against Hamels over Duda during the Mets' last homestand.
Collins said the Flores decision boils down to wanting to determine whether he can play shortstop at the major league level.
"Everybody has said they think he's going to hit," Collins said. "Now, how much is he going to hit? Is he going to hit for power? Or is he going to hit for average? And the big question is: Is he going to be able to play the middle of the infield. You guys have written it many times. That's going to be the question. So the only way to find out is to put him out in the middle of the infield. We're in a situation right now where we want to find out.
"Obviously he is not the prototypical, rangy shortstop, but he has shown a strong arm. He's shown good hands."
Meanwhile, Collins agreed that Tejada profiles as a very good backup middle infielder. But there are no immediate plans to expose Tejada to second base again, according to the manager. Flores would play second base and Tejada shortstop if Daniel Murphy was not in the lineup.
"We don't know what's going to happen, so I need to expose him to both sides," Collins said about Flores.
The pitcher’s slot was due up fourth the following half-inning, and Collins wanted to avoid Familia batting, knowing the reliever would continue pitching in the ninth. As it turned out, the Mets went 1-2-3 in the top half and Familia would not have batted anyway.
Asked if it was a tough call to double-switch out his best defensive outfielder, Collins replied: “You mean Juan? I thought the guy that went in did pretty good.”
Collins was referring to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who moved from left field to center field once Lagares departed. Nieuwenhuis, celebrating his 27 th birthday on Thursday, ended up making a pair of late highlight-reel catches. That included a diving catch in left-center to end the 11th inning. Jose Lobaton's shot otherwise would have been a gapper that could have plated the winning run from first base.
The Mets ultimately lost, 5-3, in 13 innings anyway.
“Yeah, it’s tough to take him out,” Collins eventually conceded about Lagares. “But the reason we can is the other guy is real good. And we’re really lucky that he’s here right now, because as I said before, before Juan Lagares hopped on the scene, Kirk Nieuwenhuis was the go-to guy in center field. We had to get innings out of guys and try to come up with some offense somehow.”