New York Mets: Nelson Cruz
FIRST PITCH: Play ball!
After a four-day All-Star break, the Mets get back to business, trying to build on their 8-2 homestand that closed the first half.
The Amazin’s resume play against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park at 10:10 p.m. ET Friday. Bartolo Colon (8-8, 3.99 ERA) opposes right-hander Ian Kennedy (7-9, 3.47).
The Padres rank last in the majors in runs (279), average (.214), OBP (.273) and slugging percentage (.334). They lost consecutive 1-0 games to the Los Angeles Dodgers to close the first half. However, San Diego’s staff has a 2.08 ERA in 24 games since June 18.
Read the Mets-Padres series preview here.
Friday’s news reports:
• Daniel Murphy tells Marc Carig in Newsday that his agents have not had any extension talks with the Mets. Murphy, making $5.7 million this season, is eligible for arbitration a final time this winter. He is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
"I think that anybody would be willing to listen to an extension," Murphy told the newspaper. "They're not just passing out at-bats in this league. I don't know what the years or anything would look like. But at the point you come and say, 'Hey, we trust you with 600 at-bats [in each] of the next three to five years,' you're like, 'Yeah, I would like that.'”
• Former Mets GM Omar Minaya tells Mike Puma in the Post that the contribution of holdovers from his regime -- including Juan Lagares, Jacob deGrom, Murphy, Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia -- does not feel like vindication.
“I don’t think that way,” said Minaya, who is currently helping oversee the Padres in an interim capacity after the firing of Josh Byrnes as general manager. “You do your job. And when teams don’t win in [New York], people’s opinions are a product of it. We felt very comfortable and believed we had a plan in place to get athletes, to get good players to the major leagues. And it’s an organization, not just one person. Part of it has been Paul DePodesta and Sandy Alderson. They are part of bringing these guys along. It’s not an individual thing.”
• In a lengthy ESPNNewYork.com article by Andrew Marchand on Mets fandom, Jonathon Niese said: “We are not filling the stadium. Where are the Mets fans when we are down-and-out? They were here in '06 and '07 when we were really good, but we have struggled and they are not coming to the stadium."
• Puma in the Post chats with Terry Collins on the eve of the second half.
On the Mets’ postseason potential, Collins said: “We’ve got 67 games to go and we’ve got 39 in our division. If we end up having a good record against our division, I think we’re going to be in the mix at the end.”
On whether key bullpen pieces are overworked, the manager said: “Hell, I won’t know that until the end of August. That last month of the season is when those guys who are in the big leagues for that first full season, some of that stuff starts to show up. The fatigue, the pressure of 145 games at that time, and you can start to see it … because their minor-league seasons would have been over and they’re still playing. So how they handle that situation will determine how that last month will go.”
Carlos Torres leads all major league relievers with 59 1/3 innings. Familia’s 45 relief appearances trail MLB co-leaders Brad Ziegler (Arizona) and Will Smith (Milwaukee) by four.
• Back from the Futures Game, Noah Syndergaard allowed seven runs in five innings as Las Vegas lost to Salt Lake, 7-6. Dustin Lawley had a three-run homer and finished with four RBIs as Binghamton beat Trenton, 8-4. Michael Fulmer tossed six scoreless innings in the nightcap as St. Lucie split a doubleheader with Brevard County. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Ron Darling is “extremely optimistic” about the Mets, he tells Bob Raissman in the Daily News.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal asks three questions: Can the Mets continue to produce at the plate? Will the Mets wheel and deal before July 31? And will Syndergaard debut this season?
• Diamond in the Journal also revisits signing Chris Young over Nelson Cruz.
• Justin Terranova in the Post writes that the Mets can become deadline buyers.
• Matt Ehalt in the Record lists five people under scrutiny in the second half: Collins, Alderson, Travis d'Arnaud, Ruben Tejada and deGrom.
• Tim Healey at MLB.com revisits last August’s trade of Marlon Byrd, which yielded Vic Black and Dilson Herrera.
• Jeremy Hefner tossed two innings in the Gulf Coast League on Thursday, in his second game since returning from Tommy John surgery.
• Zack Wheeler is one of nine candidates in MLB who could demonstrate significant second-half improvement, Baseball Prospectus suggests. The site writes:
Wheeler has walked more than two batters just twice in past 11 starts (after cracking that threshold five times in his first eight games), and he entered the All-Star break with a string of three consecutive starts in which he pitched six or more innings and surrendered just a single run. He has also honed his stuff since last season, adding 0.5 mph to his fastball (which is now averaging 95.9 mph) and diversifying his pitch mix. He has doubled the frequency of his changeup, and though it is still the weakest offering in a repertoire that features a pair of plus breaking pitches, Wheeler has the potential to be dominant if he can refine el cambio. He has also kept the ball on the ground this season, upping his ground-ball rate by 10 percentage points while surrendering just seven bombs across 108.3 innings (only two homers have come since he turned 24 on May 30th), while his component stats have all trended in positive directions.
• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger looks at the value of catchers framing pitches.
• Mets first-round pick Michael Conforto was in L.A. on Thursday as a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s top collegiate player. The honor went to the University of Kentucky product A.J. Reed. Conforto is due to rejoin Brooklyn on Friday and make his professional debut shortly thereafter.
• Keith Law placed four Mets prospects in his top 50 in MLB: Syndergaard at No. 16, Conforto at No. 32, Brandon Nimmo at No. 34 and Dominic Smith at No. 49. ESPN Insiders can read the commentary here.
• Friday is the MLB deadline to sign players from June’s draft. The Mets do not plan to sign any more of their remaining picks, DePodesta told ESPNNewYork.com. Eleven college-bound prep players went unsigned: Luke Bonfield (21st round), Richard Moesker (23rd), Tommy Pincin (26th), Keaton McKinney (28th), Chris Glover (32nd), Brady Puckett (33rd), Jordan Hand (34th), Jonathan Teaney (35th), Garett King (36th), Tristan Gray (37th) and Kyle Dunster (38th). Bonfield and McKinney are headed to the University of Arkansas.
• The Padres have narrowed their GM search to four finalists, Scott Miller tweets: Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen, MLB senior VP Kim Ng and Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller.
BIRTHDAYS: Hall of Famer Joe Torre, who finished his playing career with the Mets, turns 74. ... Minor-league pitcher Robert Gsellman is 21.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Which Mets player will take the biggest leap forward in the second half?
I find it interesting when fans argue that Minaya deserves credit for building this 45-50 #Mets team as if it is some slight to Alderson— Sean Sullivan (@MetsExaminer) July 17, 2014
FIRST PITCH: The Mets exhale Monday with a day off before opening a brief two-game homestand against the American League West-leading Oakland Athletics (47-29).
The Mets originally lined up to draw Sonny Gray in Tuesday’s 7:10 p.m. opener. Instead, the A’s will delay the 24-year-old Gray’s next start until Saturday in Miami to conserve his innings.
So Scott Kazmir will pitch for the first time in Queens on Tuesday, opposite Bartolo Colon. Kazmir was signed by Oakland for two years, $22 million after Colon departed for a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets.
Zack Wheeler now faces left-hander Brad Mills on Wednesday. The Mets then head out again for a trip to Pittsburgh and Atlanta.
Monday’s news reports:
• Seven Mets starters had multi-hit games and Jonathon Niese, with unaccustomed run support, won his first game in a month as the Mets beat the Marlins, 11-5, on Sunday. The Mets, who even pulled off a successful suicide squeeze on Niese’s bunt, won three of four games in the series.
Mets players have been celebrating hits by waving towels in the dugout. And the practice has been picking up steam. The team had a season-high-matching 17 hits Sunday.
“We started thinking about it, and it popped right from my memory of the Bulls and their three-peat championship -- Cliff Levingston or Stacey King out there waving a towel all the time,” Curtis Granderson told reporters postgame. “It just popped in my head, and we’ll do that when we get a hit. We started doing it and then a couple other guys did it and now we just needed the guy on the base to do it back. Then it got a little bigger. Now we’ve seen the guys in the bullpen doing it and some of the fans in the stands are doing it.”
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.
• The San Diego Padres fired GM Josh Byrnes, and elevated Omar Minaya to an interim position helping lead the baseball-operations department. Read the news story at ESPN.com.
• Juan Lagares is due to play with Double-A Binghamton on Monday as his rehab assignment continues. Lagares is expected to be activated later this week.
• Travis d'Arnaud, who is expected to be promoted during the Oakland series, struck out as a pinch hitter and Zack Thornton surrendered two runs in the 11th as Las Vegas lost to Memphis, 7-5. Eudy Pina and L.J. Mazzilli had two doubles apiece as St. Lucie beat Jupiter, 10-6, in a rain-shortened game. Brandon Brosher and Ivan Wilson homered in Kingsport’s 5-2 win against Bluefield. Gaither Burmgardner tossed four scoreless relief innings to earn a save as Brooklyn beat Aberdeen, 2-1. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• A team insider told ESPNNewYork.com that team officials were still weighing which catcher -- Anthony Recker or Taylor Teagarden -- would be dropped once d’Arnaud is promoted. Read more in the Daily News.
• Zach Braziller in the Post reviews Nelson Cruz’s accomplishments since the Mets did not sign him this offseason.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear advises taking things one game, one inning and one pitch at a time.
BIRTHDAYS: Right-hander Juan Castillo, who made his only two major league starts for the Mets, was born in Venezuela, on this date in 1970.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
Getty ImagesSandy Alderson did not vigorously pursue Nelson Cruz. He instead jumped on Chris Young early in free agency.
So, suffice it to say, Sandy Alderson blew it signing Young for $7.25 million on Nov. 26 when Cruz ended up signing for $8 million on Feb. 24, right? After all, Young is hitting .202 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 109 at-bats.
That's unfair, Alderson suggested Tuesday on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York 98.7.
"Keep in mind, when we signed Chris Young, we signed him to a one-year deal. It was early in the offseason and we wanted to get a marker on the board," Alderson said. "We had lost Marlon Byrd. The Phillies signed Marlon Byrd. So we wanted to make sure that we had ourselves covered in center field with somebody who had some pop and maybe could have the same type of bounceback year that a guy like Marlon Byrd had.
"At the time, Nelson Cruz was looking for like $65 million to play -- what? -- left field for us. Not center field, where we needed some protection. He was going to have to play left field. It was apples and oranges at that point. For the fact that he ended up signing for $8 million weeks, months later, I think is kind of an unfair comparison."
Asked about that being a topic among disgruntled fans, Alderson added: "Lots of stuff is out there. I get that. I can’t really get into a debate on every issue that is out there."
Jeff Roberson/Associated PressDaisuke Matsuzaka makes his first Grapefruit League start as a Met on Sunday against the Cardinals.
FIRST PITCH: After two home losses to open Grapefruit League play, the Mets head south on I-95 to Jupiter to face the St. Louis Cardinals.
Fifth-starter frontrunner Daisuke Matsuzaka opposes right-hander Michael Wacha in the 1:05 p.m. game.
WOR 710 AM will broadcast the game, with Josh Lewin joined by former Mets GM Steve Phillips on the call. Phillips will handle three WOR games this week.
Eric Young Jr., held out for the first two exhibition games with a side-muscle issue, took batting practice Saturday against Bobby Parnell and is scheduled to make the trip. Due to pitch for the Mets after Dice-K: Jeurys Familia, Jose Valverde, Steven Matz, Carlos Torres, Joel Carreño and Jack Leathersich. (See the full travel list here.)
Matz, from Stony Brook on Long Island, was electric in Thursday’s intrasquad game. He flashed a 94-96 mph fastball and sharp slider that impressed the few scouts in attendance.
Sunday’s news reports:
• Pitching for the first time since undergoing surgery on a muscle in his left leg last Aug. 28, John Lannan tossed two scoreless innings in his Mets debut. Lucas Duda provided a solo homer and committed an error at first base as the Mets dropped their second straight game, 9-1 to the Miami Marlins at Tradition Field.
Veteran reliever Kyle Farnsworth’s fastball sat at only 86-88 mph and he allowed a solo homer to Austin Barnes. Josh Edgin’s velocity also sagged and his arm angle was lower in than in past years, leading scouts to worry about him, too, as he allowed five runs (three earned).
Read more in the Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Newsday and MLB.com.
• The Mets are projected to have the seventh-lowest payroll in the majors.
• Columnist Mike Vaccaro in the Post suggests Mets owner Fred Wilpon and Knicks owner James Dolan trade teams. Writes Vaccaro:
Imagine: James Dolan never has been shy about opening his checkbook. Many’s the day when a Knicks fan has found himself saying, “If only there were no salary cap in the NBA.” Well, there’s no salary cap in MLB. Even the most fervent Dolanaphobe has to concede this much: The man will spend money. If Dolan owned the Mets they wouldn’t have had to worry about Stephen Drew because he would’ve signed Jose Reyes to a 10-year contract.
The Wilpons? Put it this way: The first time they looked at the NBA’s collective-bargaining agreement they would get good and giddy and look at each other with big smiles and say: “Wait, there’s a limit to how much money you can spend? If you don’t keep yourself under the salary cap you can be in trouble?”
• 2012 third-round pick Matt Koch threw batting practice Saturday on a back field -- his first time facing batters since getting struck with a line drive last August with low-A Savannah and getting hospitalized for three days.
• Here are Oscar predictions, courtesy of the Mets:
David Wright: Wolf of Wall Street. “It’s based on a true story. Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio were amazing.”
Travis d’Arnaud: Captain Phillips. “It reminded me of my grandfather, who also was a captain of cargo ships. Tom Hanks played a great role.”
Ike Davis: Gravity. “I saw it in an IMAX theater and it really felt like you were in space.”
Curtis Granderson: Captain Phillips “Any time you have Tom Hanks, you know it’s going to be a great performance. It was based on a true story. You really felt like you were part of the action.”
• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger profiles Juan Lagares, who grew up playing softball and still uses the larger ball during offseason training to strengthen his throwing arm. Lagares began in the Mets organization as a shortstop. But he committed 40 errors in 82 games at the position in 2007 with Savannah and two seasons later pretty much had fully transitioned to the outfield.
• David Lennon in Newsday addresses whether Granderson’s transition from hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium to pitcher-friendly Citi Field will result in the same struggles Jason Bay endured coming to the Queens ballpark.
“Some of it kind of gets blown out of proportion. It’s still a big park, and there are times when you feel like you should be rewarded, and it gets frustrating,” Wright told Lennon. “But it's not like I think to myself, ‘Oh, God, this is changing the type of player I am.’
“Were there times it stunk to hit there? Of course. But as far as saying it changed players’ careers or didn’t allow players to be the type of players they were before, that’s nonsense. I think Jason would be the first one to tell you that it was some inconsistencies, some poor play, some injuries that just kind of spiraled out of control for him.”
• Tyler Kepner in the Times catches up with LaTroy Hawkins, who left the Mets as a free agent for a $2.5 million offer from the Colorado Rockies. Kepner notes that with Mariano Rivera’s retirement, Hawkins’ 943 games pitched make him MLB’s active leader. He debuted on April 29, 1995. Writes Kepner:
Only 15 pitchers have worked 1,000 games. It is a more exclusive club than 300 wins, 500 homers or 3,000 hits. Hawkins has never made an All-Star team, never led the league in any category except earned runs in 1999. But he is about to earn his way in.
• Triple-A Las Vegas manager Wally Backman tells Mike Puma in the Post that he spoke with two teams during the offseason about coaching in the majors but received no offers.
• A fan initiative to name three left-field sections at Citi Field “Kiner’s Korner” is chronicled in the Post. The Mets have committed to wearing a patch this season and also will have the microphone-themed emblem displayed on the outfield wall, as they did two years ago after Gary Carter’s passing.
• Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post notes the Mets are considerably behind the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, and are more akin to the Miami Marlins. Writes Sherman:
Here is the real worrisome factor for the Mets: Does anyone see that condition changing any year soon? The Nationals and Braves already are what the Mets are trying to become.
• Steve Serby in the Post has a Q&A with Chris Young. Among the exchanges, Serby gets Young’s reaction to the Mets signing him over Nelson Cruz.
“All I can do as a player is do the best that I can, and that’s the only thing that I can focus on,” Young said. “If I start focusing on what other players are out there, what other teams did, things like that can drive yourself crazy. There’s a lot of great players out there. Everybody gets different contracts and different opportunities with different teams, and as a player all you can do is go with whatever situation you feel is best for you, and that’s what I did.
“I’m excited to be here as a Met, and I’m gonna do everything that I can to the best of my abilities to help this team win.”
• Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Chase d’Arnaud, the brother of Travis, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis with that organization.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing is impressed by how mellifluous the Mets sound this spring.
BIRTHDAYS: Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin, who isn’t a Met just yet, turns 23.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Would you prefer the Dolans or Wilpons as Mets owner?
Nice to finally face hitters again. It was too long of a wait.— Matt Koch (@mattykoch20) March 1, 2014
Getty ImagesAfter Ruben Tejada's physique received criticism, Sandy Alderson commented on that topic as well as Stephen Drew.
"Look, we have probably 30 front office and coaching staff down here. There's going to be a stray comment about players from time to time," Alderson told MLB Network. "That's unfortunately the nature of the media in New York. It's so pervasive that comments like that are going to be gleaned from time to time.
"We were happy with what Ruben did in the offseason. We're hopeful that he'll show significant improvement on the field -- back to the levels he has demonstrated, so it's not an unrealistic hope. But we continue to look at our middle-infield situation.
"There's been a lot of talk about Stephen Drew obviously. My own personal view is at this point, Stephen and his agent are reviewing the situation and perhaps looking at a strategy that prolongs this situation into the regular season or even into June. I have no idea at this point, but I do think in light of Nelson Cruz's contract (one year, $8 million) that they're probably reconsidering where they are. That doesn't mean they're going to do a similar deal. But I do think there will be some reevaluation going on.
"From our standpoint, look, it does appear that we would be a logical landing spot for someone like Stephen Drew. But, at the same time, we have to make our own, independent evaluation and cost-benefit computation and act accordingly, which is what we have done."
Adam RubinIke Davis barked at a New York Post beat writer in the clubhouse on Monday.
FIRST PITCH: Coincidentally, the Mets have a media-training seminar on Tuesday morning for players. Then, they head outdoors for another day of full-squad workouts.
There are three days until Friday’s 1:10 p.m. Grapefruit League opener against the Washington Nationals.
Tuesday’s news reports:
• After the Post reported Ike Davis failed to disclose a lingering injury last season, the first baseman shot back at the reporter Monday morning in the clubhouse in view of teammates and other media. Davis then privately had another exchange with the reporter in the afternoon in the players’ parking lot. Davis insisted he was not making an excuse for his poor play. Terry Collins, caught off guard by the report, said “everything would have been better off had [Davis] said something” last season.
“It’s a fine line, but nobody wants to come out of the game,” David Wright told MLB.com. “Being as competitive as most of us are, you try to battle your way through nagging things. There’s very few times over the course of the season where you go out there and say, ‘You know what? Something’s not bothering me.’ It’s just a matter of being smart enough to know what you can and can’t play through.”
Writes columnist David Lennon in Newsday:
Ike Davis, as a first baseman for the Mets, doesn't get to tell us what’s a story or not. We decide that. It’s part of our job description, along with asking questions, taking notes and obsessively checking Twitter.
But when it comes to the way Davis is portrayed in the media, he steers the ship by how he performs or what he says. Play well, and Davis is described as the second coming of Keith Hernandez. Hit .205 and wind up demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas, as he did last season, and you get to the place we all were at early Monday morning.
Read columnist John Harper’s take in the Daily News.
Read more on Davis in the Journal, Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Record and Newsday.
• Bill Brink in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the Pirates potentially will use an Andrew Lambo-Gaby Sanchez platoon, but remain in the market for a first baseman. Brink lists Seattle’s Justin Smoak, Toronto’s Adam Lind and Texas’ Mitch Moreland as trade alternatives to Davis. Free-agent Kendrys Morales is possible, too, although that would cost Pittsburgh its first-round pick.
• A Mets insider told ESPNNewYork.com that middle infielder Nick Franklin is on the team’s radar and predicted talks should pick up with the Seattle Mariners in the next few weeks. Franklin still has six seasons under control before free agency -- the first three seasons at or close to the MLB minimum salary. Read more in Newsday and the Post.
• In preparation for an intrasquad game Thursday, and facing the Atlanta Braves at Disney next Monday in his Grapefruit League debut, Noah Syndergaard threw two innings of live batting practice Monday.
• After consulting with the outfielder, Collins now plans to give Curtis Granderson plenty of Grapefruit League at-bats. Originally, Collins planned to have Granderson ease into exhibition play, which the manager still plans to do with Wright and Daniel Murphy. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Post and MLB.com.
• Free-agent Stephen Drew could hold out until after June’s draft, Foxsports.com reports. The team that signed him at that point reportedly would no longer be responsible for forfeiting a draft pick. Read more in the Daily News.
• Columnist Bob Raissman in the Daily News writes this about Sandy Alderson:
It’s time for his honeymoon to finally end. He’s a smart, at times condescending, guy, granted a hardball doctorate by baseball’s boss scribes. If there’s any heat in his future Alderson can take it. He’ll just explain things away anyway he wants to.
Like the Nelson Cruz situation. The money was available to sign him, right?
Listening to, and reading Alderson’s laundry list of excuses after Cruz was signed by the Orioles for a year at $8 mil was comical. The media sucked up Alderson’s lines -- his defense of signing Chris Young -- like a giant Hoover. Alderson told them Cruz’s asking price in November was too high when he signed Young for $7.25 million. “This is not a gee-whiz, if-only-we’d-waited moment,” Alderson told boss scribes in Port St. Lucie.
• Tim Rohan in the Times has a positive review of prospect Rafael Montero. “If you wanted to teach mechanics, he would have it,” pitching coach Dan Warthen told Rohan.
• Josh Satin should get regular playing time against southpaws at first base regardless of whether the lefty-hitting Davis or Lucas Duda emerges as the primary player at that position.
• Michael Salfino in the Journal reviews some Duda statistics. Writes Salfino:
Duda’s big problem is that he lets the first pitch pass without a swing 83.7 percent of the time, the highest rate on the Mets last year. (The league average is 72.9 percent.) Davis, by contrast, took 64.9 percent of first pitches, the fewest among returning Mets hitters. Taking first pitches at a high rate seems to make little sense given that National League pitchers threw strikes on 61 percent of these offerings last year.
• MLB and the Players’ Association adopted a compromise blocking-the-plate rule for 2014. There is no must-slide mandate. And a catcher can still block the plate if the ball arrives first. Regardless of the ultimate rule, Sandy Alderson already had said Mets catchers will be instructed to allow a lane for the runner in order to avoid collisions and injury.
• Matt Harvey threw on flat ground Monday for the second time since Tommy John surgery.
• Infielder Chase d’Arnaud, the brother of Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud, was designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Chase, 27, primarily plays shortstop.
• A camp for top Mets prospects opened Monday at the team’s complex. Check out the full roster here.
• Lefty prospect Steven Matz had surgery to clean out a knee in October.
• From the bloggers … At Mets Police, Shannon finds a “59th anniversary” Mets cap available for sale. … John Delcos at Mets Report doesn’t believe players will disclose injuries, no matter Collins’ desire
BIRTHDAYS: Former Chicago Cubs GM Ed Lynch, who pitched for the Mets for seven seasons, turns 58.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
FIRST PITCH: It’s Game Week in Port St. Lucie.
The Mets stage their second full-squad workout Sunday, but it is later in the week when baseball really returns.
The Mets have an intrasquad game Thursday, then open their Grapefruit League schedule Friday against the Washington Nationals at 1:10 p.m. at Tradition Field.
SNY (full TV schedule) and debuting WOR (full radio schedule) will carry Friday’s opener.
Sunday’s news reports:
• Matt Harvey tossed a baseball Saturday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 22. After making 20 throws at 60 feet, Harvey said he feels “brand new.” Although Harvey wants to rehab in New York this season, Mets officials prefer he do so in Port St. Lucie. Sandy Alderson said the final determination is unresolved.
Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post suggests the Mets loosen the reins on Harvey and let him come back in August or September if he is capable.
Read more on Harvey’s first throwing session in the Times, Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Record, Newsday and MLB.com.
• Nelson Cruz just signed with the Baltimore Orioles for $8 million, with the potential to earn $750,000 in incentives. Alderson insisted Saturday he had no regrets about signing Chris Young for $7.25 million in November, given Cruz’s ultimate price tag.
However, that doesn’t mean [Cruz] would have signed the same deal with the Mets. Almost certainly they would have had to pay more to get him to play in their ballpark rather than Camden Yards in Baltimore, a home run haven for right-hand hitters, where Cruz no doubt is hoping to put up splashy numbers and then go looking for a big score again next winter.
So it’s overstating the case to call this a screw-up by Alderson. Signing outfielders was too much of a need to wait around all winter, hoping something like this would happen with someone like Cruz.
Other baseball people, in fact, say the consensus around the game was that some team would give Cruz a multiyear deal, especially after shortstop Jhonny Peralta, another player suspended in the Biogenesis scandal, gave teams -- including the Mets -- sticker shock by signing early with the Cardinals for four years, $53 million.
Regarding Stephen Drew, Alderson’s handicapping of the free-agent shortstop landing with the Mets remains unchanged. The GM said Saturday, via the Star-Ledger: “I think it’s just unlikely based on all the circumstances. It’s not necessarily just from our point of view -- just with all the circumstances, our other options in camp." He described the likelihood of Drew landing with the Mets as “slim” in Newsday.
Read more on Cruz and Drew in the Post.
• Terry Collins plans for David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson to not play the first week of the Grapefruit League schedule. Wright is content to proceed slowly after ramping up quickly for the World Baseball Classic last spring training.
• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger profiles Anthony Seratelli, who is trying to be a rookie in the majors at age 31 this season -- a similar storyline to Scott Rice last year. The Mets made a strong push to sign Seratelli for a backup infield role the minute minor-league free agency began during the offseason.
• Right-hander Erik Goeddel, who served as a reliever at UCLA, is permanently moving to the bullpen. All but five of Goeddel’s 66 professional appearances have been as a starter since he was drafted in 2010.
• Bobby Parnell threw a standard bullpen session Saturday, a day after being held out with left quadriceps tightness. Parnell did not participate in fielding drills, however. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• An industry source says Andy Masur has not been offered the WOR pregame/postgame job just yet, although one source told ESPNNewYork.com on Friday they expected the former San Diego Padres play-by-play man to land the gig. Bob Raissman in the Daily News also lists Seth Everett and MLB.com host Pete McCarthy as candidates. ESPNNewYork.com has heard those names as well.
• Marc Carig in Newsday chats with Ruben Tejada. Writes Carig:
First came the whispers about his physical conditioning, followed by an error-filled April that served as a preview of his cursed season. By midsummer, Tejada had been injured and marooned in the minors, and the team’s discontent had seeped on to the airwaves.
In a radio interview, general manager Sandy Alderson griped that getting the shortstop to do extra work was “like pulling teeth.”' The Mets appeared to be finished with the 24-year-old, who had been seen as a critical piece of the team's rebuilding project.
“You want to do everything good,”' Tejada said this past week as he looked back at the most tumultuous season of his career. “But it’s impossible.”'
• Eric Young Jr. and Chris Young could become the first Mets with the same surname to start on Opening Day since 1978, according to the Post. That year, Ken Henderson started in left field and Steve Henderson started in right field.
• Commissioner Bud Selig told The Michael Kay Show on Thursday he has no concerns about the Mets. “I’m very comfortable with the Mets' situation,” Selig said, as quoted by the Star-Ledger. “I have a lot of faith in the Wilpons and a lot of faith in Sandy Alderson. [I have] absolutely no concerns or trepidations about the Mets’ situation. They’re a solid franchise in my mind and on paper.” Listen to Selig's full interview here.
• The Mets bought EY Jr. a WWE-style championship belt and presented it to him at the end of their introductory meeting Saturday as a tribute to him claiming the 2013 NL steals crown, Carig notes in Newsday.
• From the bloggers … John Delcos at Mets Report notes the Rolling Stones and Mets are the same age.
BIRTHDAYS: Bobby Bonilla, who is on the Mets’ payroll through 2035, turns 51. ... Ron Hunt was born on this date in 1941.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
"This is not a 'gee-whiz, if-we-just-waited' moment for us," Alderson told reporters, adding that the Mets never really were in on Cruz, despite media reports otherwise. "We're happy with Chris Young. I'm not here to critique Nelson Cruz, but he's a very different player. He brings power to the table. No question about it. But he doesn't bring the defense. He doesn't really have our approach necessarily."
Adam RubinMatt Harvey may throw off a mound Saturday, on the four-month anniversary of his Tommy John surgery.
FIRST PITCH: Matt Harvey Day appears to have arrived.
No, he is not throwing off a mound. And he is likely not going to contribute at all in 2014.
But Harvey, who indicated Thursday he planned to toss a baseball within a couple of days, appears likely to do so Saturday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery Oct. 22. The session would occur on the four-month anniversary of the procedure, which had been Harvey’s stated goal weeks earlier.
Sandy Alderson had summoned Harvey for a meeting Friday.
Saturday also marks the Mets’ first full-squad workout.
Terry Collins will save his big spring-training speech for later in camp, once the number of players has been trimmed from its current 64 to something closer to resembling the 25-man Opening Day roster.
The Mets will play an intrasquad game Thursday, the day before the Grapefruit League opener against the Washington Nationals.
Saturday’s news reports:
• The Wilpon family has a $250 million loan in place to avoid defaulting on an expiring loan, the Post reported. The Mets lost $10 million in 2013, but may turn a profit this year with new TV revenue, according to the report.
• Travis d’Arnaud has been instructed not to block the plate, regardless of whether a new MLB rule takes effect this season mandating catchers give runners a path to home. Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger and Newsday.
• Bobby Parnell’s bullpen session again was postponed Friday, this time when trainers held out the closer from the workout because of a left quadriceps injury. Read more in the Daily News, Star-Ledger, Journal and MLB.com.
• Jon Heyman at CBSSports.com suggested the Mets floated a one-year deal at $9.5 million for Stephen Drew, which ain't happening.
• Relief prospect Chasen Bradford is sidelined with an oblique injury.
• Edgardo Alfonzo, who will serve as a minor-league coach for the Mets this season, joined the spring-training staff Friday.
• WOR may have settled upon former San Diego Padres play-by-play man Andy Masur as its pregame and postgame host for Mets radio. WOR, currently with full news programming, apparently will have a nighttime sports talk show, too, so callers can vent after Mets games and talk sports throughout the year. The tipoff is this job advertisement.
• Collins suggested Matt den Dekker needs to play every day, which likely means he is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas. Incidentally, den Dekker tells MLB.com about the right wrist fracture he suffered attempting another highlight-reel catch last spring training: “I still feel it a little bit.” Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Read more on Collins’ intended remarks to his team in the Post.
• John Rowe in the Record discusses d’Arnaud’s offense.
• Columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post has a Q&A with Triple-A pitching coach Frank Viola. Davidoff also has a column talking to hitting coach Dave Hudgens about five Mets batters who need to produce for the team to be successful this season.
• The Baltimore Orioles are close to signing Nelson Cruz, according to Heyman.
• From the bloggers … At Mets Police, Mike V has four reasons the 2014 Mets will be better than the 2013 version. … John Delcos at Mets Report writes about the Mets’ leadoff situation.
BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets reliever J.J. Putz turns 37.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Are you relieved Mets owners have financing in place and do not need to make a $250 million payment on an expiring loan?
@AdamRubinESPN and I'm going to make him buy me dinner!— Howard Johnson (@20Hojo) February 22, 2014
John Minchillo/Associated PressSandy Alderson wants to be general manager of the Mets for two or three more years, according to the Post.
FIRST PITCH: With position players due to report Thursday and the first full-squad workout scheduled for Saturday, the Mets have all but two of their players already in camp -- Omar Quintanilla and Wilfredo Tovar.
Wednesday’s news reports:
• Sandy Alderson wants to remain Mets GM for two or three more years, but “definitely not five,” Mike Puma reports in the Post, quoting a source. Alderson is in the fourth year of his original four-year deal, which also includes a team option.
• Alderson confirmed to columnist Bill Madden in the Daily News that the Mets’ offer to closer Grant Balfour exceeded the two-year, $12 million deal he accepted from the Tampa Bay Rays. Alderson told Madden he did not make a similar offer to Fernando Rodney (who ultimately signed for two years, $14 million with the Seattle Mariners) because Rodney’s camp indicated it wanted $10 million-plus a season.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates will continue to monitor Ike Davis for a potential trade, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports.
Meanwhile, will getting Davis double the typical number of spring-training at-bats help guard against another slow start to the season? Collins said it worked for Tim Salmon while Collins managed the Angels in the late 1990s. Still, Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger notes that the Phillies’ Domonic Brown led the majors last spring training with 90 at-bats and then hit only .233 in April.
• A Mets official severely downplayed a report the club is having dialogue with free-agent Nelson Cruz.
• The Mets signed right-hander Buddy Carlyle to a minor-league contract. Carlyle, 36, did not receive an invitation to big-league camp. Lefty Dana Eveland also received a minor-league contract with no invite.
• How excited can you really get about prospects, especially if you’re familiar with the bust that was Generation K? Writes columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post:
There’s only one proven method for the optimists to prevail, and that’s with sheer numbers. These Mets hope they’re building such a model for success.
“We know the history. Some guys don’t make it. That’s just what happens,” Paul DePodesta, the Mets’ vice president of player development and amateur scouting, said Monday. “They get hurt. They have a disappointing performance. They don’t continue to develop at the same rate they had previously.
“But I think we’ve gotten to the point now, in terms of volume, where some of them are going to make it. Not every one of them will, but a good number of them should, based on what we have at this point.”
• Terry Collins does not foresee Wilmer Flores on the big-league roster if Flores is not a starter. Flores, meanwhile, is confident he can play shortstop on the limited occasions he gets exposure there during spring training. Read more in the Journal, Star-Ledger, Record and Newsday.
• Collins affirmed right-handed prospect Cory Mazzoni will get consideration for the Opening Day roster as a reliever, despite serving as a starter in the minors. Mazzoni actually breaking camp with the Mets would appear an uphill battle, though, unless there are injuries or Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth are busts. Further complicating it: Mazzoni is not yet on the 40-man roster. John Rowe in the Record looks at the Mets’ late-inning relief.
• How can Eric Young Jr. increase his on-base percentage? By bunting more, Collins believes.
Regarding Young’s capability to increase his OBP, Alderson tells Marc Carig in Newsday: “The question is whether he has the potential to improve on that if it becomes a priority. On-base percentage is often a function of approach as opposed to mechanics. If we were asking him to hit 30 home runs, that’s not going to work. But guys can adjust.” Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Juan Lagares will start in center field in the Grapefruit League opener on Feb. 28, but will he be in the outfield on Opening Day at Citi Field? With Curtis Granderson and Chris Young now on board, that seems to depend upon whether EY Jr. is a starter. “I think I did good last year, but I know I can do a little better,” Lagares told the Post. Read more in the Daily News.
• Hitting coach Dave Hudgens believes Travis d’Arnaud will have more success at the plate now that he is not trying to hit every pitch for a homer.
• Mets pitchers in 2013 had their most strikeouts and fewest sacrifices in the team’s past five seasons, writes Marty Noble at MLB.com. Bartolo Colon, who has not played in the National League since 2002 with the Montreal Expos, has blisters from practicing hitting so much this offseason in the Dominican Republic, according to the report.
• Kirk Nieuwenhuis is not forgotten, Collins told the outfielder Tuesday.
• Zack Wheeler does not mind getting less attention this spring training with Noah Syndergaard generating the buzz.
• Mets pitchers are not keen on wearing the new protective hats, although several pledged to try it once a shipment arrives.
• With three Mets players’ surnames beginning with lower-case “D’s -- d’Arnaud, Matt den Dekker and Jacob deGrom -- team equipment manager Kevin Kierst worked with Majestic to design lower-case uniform letters, writes Jared Diamond in the Journal.
• Unemployed reliever Tim Byrdak had a little fun tweeting a job-wanted advertisement. Read more in the Daily News.
• Free-agent Johan Santana continues discussions with the Minnesota Twins, but no deal is imminent, Venezuelan journalist Efrain Ruiz tweeted.
• The Houston Astros may relocate their spring-training complex to the area, but there are no active discussions with the Mets about sharing the Port St. Lucie complex, according to a source. The Astros, who originally tried to pair with the Toronto Blue Jays to build a complex, now may partner with the Washington Nationals somewhere in Palm Beach County, the Houston Chronicle reports.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing is pleased WOR and the Mets have found 710 ways to please their listeners. … Mets Police asks if you would trade Syndergaard and d’Arnaud for R.A. Dickey. … John Delcos at Mets Report concludes the organization has future payroll flexibility. … NY Mets Life looks at the lost art of the complete game.
BIRTHDAYS: Poet and former Mets pitcher Miguel Batista turns 43. … Alvaro Espinoza is 52. … Tim Burke turns 55.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Do you want Sandy Alderson to remain GM a few more years?
Offers have been slow so I thought I'd practice for 2018. I should have followed IKEAs directions on the sled ! pic.twitter.com/7o1LwkLdaf— Tim Byrdak (@Givemethelefty) February 18, 2014
USA TODAY SportsA team insider severely downplayed the likelihood the Mets land Nelson Cruz or Curtis Granderson.
A Mets source said early in the offseason that the team was unlikely to sign any of the players who received $14.1 million qualifying offers with the exception of Shin-Soo Choo. And in Choo's case, the Mets were unlikely to go beyond the guarantee Michael Bourn received with the Cleveland Indians last offseason (four years), which likely will prevent a Choo signing, too.
Granderson and Cruz both received and declined qualifying offers.
The others in that category: Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano, Choo, Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ubaldo Jimenez, Hiroki Kuroda, Brian McCann, Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and Ervin Santana.
Asked about the Mets enthusiastically being linked to Granderson and Cruz, a team insider bluntly said: "I would not believe everything you read."
1. Shin-Soo Choo, OF A few weeks ago, Matt Meyers laid out an articulate case for why not to sign Choo. Here's the argument for signing him: The Mets had a .236/.306/.366 slashline (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) against right-handed pitching. Those ranked 28th, 24th and 28th in the majors respectively. But for one exception (2011), Choo has been a ferocious hitter against right-handers. His slashline against them over the last five seasons is .311/.416/.521 with a large chunk of that coming in Cleveland (as opposed to hitter-favorable Cincinnati).
A typical team will get about 70 percent of its plate appearances against righties (as the Mets did in 2013). The Mets need to improve their performance against that 70 percent. Choo would do that in a big way.
2. Stephen Drew, SS Drew is the best shortstop in this free-agent market, one that does not contain a lot of offensive-minded players at the position. Drew is a two-to-three Wins Above Replacement player (when healthy) at a position in which the Mets are just trying to get back to neutral. He too plays a role in solving the struggles against right-handers, brings an adequate glove, and has shown a willingness to work a walk that would fit well within this team's plan.
3. Carlos Beltran, RF We're not saying this is likely, because it isn't, but of all the players in free agency, Beltran would fit the Mets idea of following the "Red Sox model" best -- a well-experienced player with a history of quality production who would be gettable on a short-term deal. Granted this is not the Beltran of 2006 to 2008, but it's a player who looks like he still has 130 to 140 games left in the tank for the next couple of seasons.
4. Curtis Granderson, OF What you're buying in Granderson is a seven-year track record from 2006 to 2012 rather than the one hindered by injuries and limited to 61 games last season. It would be foolish to think that Granderson could replicate the 40-homer seasons (2011 and 2012) from Yankee Stadium's bandbox ballpark in Citi Field, but 25 homers over 500 at-bats seems realistic given his pre-Yankee history.
5. Marlon Byrd, OF This might be the most tepid endorsement of Byrd that you'll read. There are two reasons for a lack of enthusiasm. 1) His success rate when hitting a ground ball was extraordinarily high, particularly given his history, and a return to his usual rate could mean about a 20-point dip in batting average. 2) Byrd is one of a number of Mets with ugly Citi Field numbers -- a .249/.297/.415 slashline last season and only seven home runs in Flushing. His monster home runs may have made it look like he relished hitting in Citi Field. He didn't.
That said, Byrd is a good defender and he's well liked by Mets management. And he can hit, though to what degree 2012 is repeatable, we don't know.
The key to understand with Byrd is this: In an ideal world, he's the second-best bat the team adds this winter. If he's the best, that would be a reason to be nervous about the Mets 2014 hopes.
6. Nelson Cruz, RF Cruz strikes us as Byrd like with comparable strikeout/walk numbers and little more power, though how much of that power was enhanced by PEDS is a good subject for discussion.
The risk with Cruz is that the expectation in getting him would be that he'd be a 30-homer guy. But given the difficulties of right-handers hitting for power in Citi Field (see our Marlon Byrd note), we'd take the under. We put Byrd ahead of Cruz because Byrd is more of a known player at this point and a better defender.
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS We stacked the two Biogenesis players together, as the concerns with Peralta would be similar to those of Cruz: Can he replicate his past performance without PEDs? That said, there is a big drop-off after Peralta on the shortstop market (the next-best option might be Nick Punto).
If you're wondering why we rated Drew ahead of Peralta, there are a few reasons:
a) Drew's left-handed bat is needed more than Peralta's right-handed bat.
b) Drew rates better defensively.
c) Though Peralta hits more homers, Drew offsets that with an advantage by hitting doubles and triples.
d) Drew rates slightly better as a baserunner.
8. Bronson Arroyo, RHP Despite an astronomical home-run rate, Arroyo is a survivor and a winner, mainly because he doesn't walk anyone (1.5 per 9 innings over the last two seasons). And his high-3s ERA should come down a bit given 15 to 18 starts at Citi Field instead of Great American Ball Park. He's pitched 199 innings or more nine years running, so any health concerns are minimized, and he pitched in Boston, so New York wouldn't scare him. The worry spot would be his age (36), which would likely limit how many years the Mets would offer him.
9. David Murphy, OF Murphy looms as a potential free-agent bargain. He hit only .220 with 13 home runs in 142 games with the Rangers last season, but that belies his .283/.346/.449, track record of the previous five seasons. If Murphy can fix what troubled him, he'd provide value as an outfielder in either left or right. He's one with a good glove and decent speed who can play either corner outfield spot, either as an everyday guy or in a platoon.
10. J.P. Howell, LHP The Mets left-handed specialists are currently Josh Edgin and Scott Rice and this free-agent class provides room for an upgrade. Howell is the best of a lot that includes Javier Lopez, Boone Logan and Scott Downs because he can get right-handed hitters out with a reasonable amount of success as well.
To think that the team is going to land anyone with a nine-figure salary is a longshot (no matter what Sandy Alderson says), so cross Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury off any wish-lists.
Logic would also dictate that pitchers for whom the market might provide a four-year commitment comparable to the one Edwin Jackson got last winter (four years, $52 million) are not what this front office is looking for, so scratch off Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco (and probably Ubaldo Jimenez, Tim Lincecum and Ervin Santana). We also left out a few pitchers with strong preferences for specific teams or markets-- A.J. Burnett (Pirates), Dan Haren (West Coast), Tim Hudson (Braves) and Hiroki Kuroda (Yankees/Japan).
But there are players who would be good fits for this team, which most likely will be shopping for multiple outfielders, a shortstop, both starting pitchers and relievers, and maybe a backup catcher.
What is below is a list arranged alphabetically, rather than by rank, of 20 targets that we deemed realistic based on educated guesses and available information. When the World Series concludes, these players will be on the market for the Mets to pursue.
The thought of Giancarlo Stanton in a Mets uniform is appealing, but unrealistic.
The apple of the Mets (and everyone else’s eye) is in town this weekend. That being Marlins right-fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Recent reports are that Stanton, who would figure to be the Mets (and 28 other teams) top trade target this offseason if the Marlins were willing to deal, is not in any way on the trade market.
But this seems like a good time to discuss a few storylines related to him and the right-field market this offseason.
Why he’s desirable
Stanton is one of baseball’s premier talents, one who will turn 24 next season and would be under team control through the end of the 2016 season.
When Stanton makes contact, he hits balls a long way. As my Stats & Info colleague, Jose De Leon, pointed out yesterday, he’s one of 10 players with four seasons of at least 20 homers by the time he reached his “Age 23 season” (age as of June 30). The other nine are Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Conigliaro, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.
Stanton has had an odd season, one that included a hamstring injury suffered against the Mets.
He’s swung less, mainly because he’s often been pitched around and the results haven’t been as good as normal. In particular, he’s failing to drive what we’d classify as “middle-middle” pitches (those in the middle-third of the strike zone, height-wise and width-wise). He had 21 homers off pitches to that area (basically the heart of the plate) in 2011 and 2012, but only has two in 2013.
Even if the Marlins were willing to trade him ...
The biggest hindrance for the Mets is not necessarily the Marlins' reluctance to part with Stanton, but what the Mets could give up to get him.
Look at most of the biggest deals in baseball, in the Mets case what it took to get the likes of a Gary Carter or Mike Piazza. When those deals are made, the team giving up the star gets both bats and arms in return. The Mets have arms to part with, but don’t have any high-end bats other than Travis d’Arnaud, whose major-league stint is not off to a great start.
One good thing about the right-field market this offseason is that there are a good number of options (and that doesn’t even count possibilities among left-fielders) that wouldn't cost the Mets any players, or their first-round draft pick (so long as they finish with one of the 10 worst records in the majors, they don't lose their top pick. They would lose their second-best pick for signing any free agent who received a qualifying offer and third-best pick if they signed two of them).
Among them will be ...
Shin-Soo Choo who, regarding the Mets, interest, you’ve probably already read about (who we’ll take a closer look at when the Mets face the Reds later this month), and whose 20 homers and .400-plus on-base percentage are highly desirable. Choo would also benefit from a move away from center field, where he's played poorly from a statistical perspective.
Hunter Pence, who is hitting .289 with 20 homers for a Giants team that plays in an offensive-limiting ballpark and division. Pence’s numbers have been consistent since the beginning of May, and he’s closing strong, with a .380 batting average in his last 19 games. Pence doesn't rate well defensively, but his successful baserunning skills (21 steals in 23 attempts) would fit with how this team plays.
Nelson Cruz, who is sitting out due to his Biogenesis-related suspension, is two years older than Choo and Pence and would probably not require as long a commitment. One thing to be apprehensive of, however, is how much of Cruz’s value was due to playing in Texas. Over the past three seasons, he has 50 homers at home, 30 on the road.
Marlon Byrd, who has spoken of how much he enjoyed playing in New York, will also be a free agent at season’s end. Byrd has had an amazing year at age 35, and one thing that will be wondered will be not just whether he can maintain his power, but also his batting average.
Byrd has hit .315 when hitting a ground ball this season, seventh-best in the majors and nearly 90 points higher than the .226 he hit on grounders from 2009 to 2012.
Who would you like to see in right field for the Mets in 2014? Share your thoughts in the comments.