New York Mets: Nick Punto

A Mets free-agent shoppers guide

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
1:50
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Getty ImagesPlayers who could be of value to the Mets: Shin-Soo Choo, Stephen Drew, Bronson Arroyo.
When putting together a list of the priorities for the Mets in this offseason's free-agent market, you must be realistic.

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.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Mets 2

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
12:50
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LOS ANGELES -- Matt Harvey looked mortal against baseball’s hottest team.

Harvey surrendered four runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings and the Mets lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2, Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.


Mark J. Terrill/Associated PressMatt Harvey allowed four runs in six innings.


L.A., which has won the first two games of the series, is now unbeaten in 16 straight series (12-0-4). The Dodgers are 39-8 since June 22.

Harvey wriggled free of danger for a while, benefiting from double plays in the second, third and fourth innings. He coaxed Yasiel Puig into an inning-ending twin-killing in the final of those frames, on a 3-0 count with two Dodgers on base.

Harvey’s good fortune ran out. He surrendered a two-run double to Nick Punto in the fifth and a two-run single to A.J. Ellis an inning later as the Dodgers took a 4-1 lead.

Harvey’s final line: 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. He threw 95 pitches (61 strikes). His ERA climbed to 2.23.

The four runs allowed by Harvey (9-4) were one shy of matching his season high. He was charged with five runs against the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 3. That also marked the last time Harvey had a multi-walk game. The three strikeouts matched Harvey’s career low.

The Mets’ lone run against Hyun-Jin Ryu came in the first inning, on a one-out homer by Juan Lagares into the left-field corner. John Buck had a ninth-inning RBI single.

What’s next: Dillon Gee (8-8, 3.82 ERA) opposes ex-Met Chris Capuano (4-6, 4.50) in the 10:10 p.m. ET series finale Wednesday. Ike Davis is due to start against a southpaw for the first time since returning from Triple-A Las Vegas.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, Mets 2

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
1:00
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LOS ANGELES -- The Mets, well Daniel Murphy, gave the Los Angeles Dodgers too many outs in the sixth inning.

With Jenrry Mejia cruising against the red-hot Dodgers, Murphy failed to execute consecutive makeable plays to open the frame. Los Angeles eventually posted three runs in the inning en route to a 4-2 win against the Mets on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

L.A. improved to 38-8 since June 22 -- the franchise’s best 46-game stretch in baseball’s modern era.


Harry How/Getty ImagesDaniel Murphy's near-miss of Mark Ellis' soft liner in the sixth contributed to a three-run frame.


With the Mets leading 2-0, Carl Crawford opened the bottom of the sixth with a grounder to Murphy’s right. Murphy knocked down the ball but could not handle it, on what was ruled an infield single.

Mark Ellis then produced a sinking liner that glanced off a retreating Murphy’s glove and dropped into shallow right field for another hit.

Adrian Gonzalez followed with a line single over shortstop that plated Crawford. And Juan Lagares’ throw back to the infield skipped past Wilmer Flores at third base for an E-8. That allowed Ellis to also race home and even the score at 2, while Gonzalez advanced to third. That put Gonzalez in position to score an unearned run and give the Dodgers the lead on Yasiel Puig’s sacrifice fly.

Mejia stopped the damage there, in what became his final inning.

Mejia’s line: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. He threw 85 pitches (62 strikes).

The Mets chased Ricky Nolasco and eventually loaded the bases with one out the following half-inning.

On a controversial call, Ronald Belisario then struck out Juan Lagares looking at a full-count offering that plate umpire Chad Fairchild ruled was on the outside corner. With two outs, lefty Paco Rodriguez entered and coaxed Murphy into a flyout to right field as the Mets stranded three.

Nick Punto homered against Carlos Torres in the bottom of the seventh to give L.A. a 4-2 lead.

Mejia had retired the first eight Dodgers he faced, until Nolasco’s single. The Cuban phenom Puig struck out twice against Mejia before the sixth-inning sacrifice fly.

The Mets had taken a 2-0 lead in the second on four straight singles, including consecutive run-scoring hits by John Buck and Omar Quintanilla against Nolasco.

Medical attention: Flores received a visit at third base from trainer Ray Ramirez and Terry Collins after advancing there on Buck’s single in the second inning.

Flores remained in the game and later made a stellar diving stop toward the line to rob Mark Ellis of an extra-base hit to open the bottom of the fourth.

Viva Ike: Ike Davis reached base two more times, on a second-inning single and third-inning walk. He has reached base at least twice in each of his last 12 starts. That matches John Olerud's 1998 franchise record.

What’s next: Matt Harvey Day in L.A. Harvey (9-3, 2.09 ERA) opposes left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (11-3, 2.99) at 10:10 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Series preview: Mets at Dodgers

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
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Getty ImagesThe Mets face (l to r) Ricky Nolasco, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Chris Capuano at Dodger Stadium.
METS (54-61, third place/NL East) vs. LOS ANGELES DODGERS (67-50, first place/NL West)

Monday: RHP Jenrry Mejia (1-1, 1.96) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (8-9, 3.65), 10:10 p.m. ET

Tuesday: RHP Matt Harvey (9-3, 2.09) vs. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (11-3, 2.99), 10:10 p.m. ET

Wednesday: RHP Dillon Gee (8-8, 3.82) vs. LHP Chris Capuano (4-6, 4.50), 10:10 p.m. ET

Dodgers short hops

• The Dodgers are 37-8 since June 22, matching the best 45-game stretch in franchise history. They also posted that record in 1899 and 1953.

The turnaround spared manager Don Mattingly getting fired, he said last week while revealing a late-May meeting with team president Stan Kasten. The Dodgers were a season-low 12 games under .500 before their current 45-game surge.

"Stan was really honest. He didn't want to do anything but he said, 'Donnie, at some point I got to do something,'" Mattingly said, as quoted by ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I understood it. I was fine with that. I understand. At some point you need a change of voice, a different voice."

Hanley Ramirez (.359, 11 HR, 37 RBIs) continues to experience pain in his right shoulder a week after diving into the stands during a catch attempt at Wrigley Field. He has not started any of the past seven games. The disabled list is a consideration, although the Dodgers lost some backdating ability when Ramirez was used as a pinch hitter Friday. Nick Punto and Dee Gordon have shared the shortstop duty with Ramirez banged up.


Brian D. Kersey/Getty ImagesYasiel Puig is a leading candidate for NL Rookie of the Year.


• First baseman Adrian Gonzalez departed Sunday’s game in the ninth inning with dizziness. Gonzalez leads the Dodgers in homers (16) and RBIs (72).

Ricky Nolasco was acquired from the Miami Marlins on July 6 for Angel Sanchez, Steve Ames and Josh Wall. Nolasco is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in six starts since joining L.A. He has exceeded 5 2/3 innings only once since arriving, in his Dodgers debut at Arizona.

• Cuban defector Yasiel Puig, a 22-year-old rookie, is hitting .441 (15-for-34) with 12 walks in 10 August games. Puig became the first player since Joe DiMaggio in 1936 to have 70 or more hits and 10 homers in his first 50 major league games.

Writes ESPN.com’s Dave Schoenfield: “Puig got two hits in his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 3, then hit two homers the next game, and has been a lightning rod ever since for his play on the field and for his on-field antics that have upset opponents -- a brawl, a bat flip, a confident attitude, a spikes-high slide that Dusty Baker complained about. He plays the game with the flair of someone who escaped Cuba and enjoys displaying his talent for the entire world.”

• Former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson, returning from Tommy John surgery, signed with the Dodgers and is working his way back. He tossed a perfect inning Sunday with Triple-A Albuquerque. He has another minor league appearance scheduled for Tuesday, the day before he is eligible to be activated from the disabled list. The Mets, including pitching coach Dan Warthen, flew to California to watch Wilson during the offseason, and were disappointed Wilson was not further along in his rehab from the elbow surgery at that point.

• Center field Matt Kemp has been sidelined since injuring his left ankle sliding into home plate on June 21. He shagged fly balls and took batting practice Sunday, signaling a return is getting closer.

• Closer Kenley Jansen had retired 27 straight batters -- the equivalent of a perfect game -- before surrendering a single to St. Louis’ David Freese on Thursday. Jansen became the first Dodger to retire 27 straight since Greg Maddux retired 32 straight from Aug. 13-19, 2006, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• Ex-Met Chris Capuano allowed five runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Rays on Friday. The southpaw had combined to toss 13 scoreless innings over his previous two starts, against the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs.

• Reliever Carlos Marmol was acquired from the Cubs on July 2 for reliever Matt Guerrier. Marmol made his Dodgers debut 20 days later, after a minor league stint.

A.J. Ellis sees the most pitchers per plate appearance in the NL.

• Third baseman Juan Uribe became the victim of a hidden-ball trick by the Rays when he stepped off third base Saturday.

• L.A. acquired Drew Butera, a former Mets farmhand, from the Minnesota Twins for a player to be named and assigned the catcher to Albuquerque.

TC explains decision to use Rice in 9th

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
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Why did Scott Rice remain in the game for the ninth inning with the score tied Thursday afternoon?

Terry Collins had a reasoned answer.

The manager said he risks burning out Bobby Parnell by using him in too many tie ballgames. And the way the Dodgers' lefties were lined up, Collins added, keeping Rice in the game made sense.


Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports
Scott Rice


Switch-hitter Nick Punto opened the inning with a double off Rice, and Collins said he wanted Punto to hit from that side because he had not yet been forced to do so in the series.

The reason Rice was in the game for the ninth inning to begin with was to face the next batter, lefty-hitting Adrian Gonzalez. And Rice did coax a groundout to first base, although Punto advanced to third on the play.

Collins resolved going into the inning that if Rice had retired Punto and Gonzalez, the manager would have inserted Scott Atchison to face the righty-hitting Kemp.

Instead, with a runner on third and one out, Collins had Rice intentionally walk Kemp to face lefty-hitting Andre Ethier.

Rice hung a slider for the tiebreaking RBI single.

“I just left it up,” the southpaw said.

At that point, Collins inserted Parnell to try to limit the damage. An inherited runner scored against Parnell, Ike Davis produced a solo homer in the bottom half and the Mets lost, 3-2.

Lefty batters had been 3-for-19 with three walks against Rice entering the appearance.

“This guy gets so many groundballs,” Collins said about Rice. “… And he hasn’t given up a hit to a lefty all year. I mean, like one hit to a lefty all year. We tried to get a groundball from Ethier to get out of the inning.

“I’m trying to keep from having to use Bobby in tie games every time. If I start the inning with him and he has a 20-some-pitch inning, I don’t have him for tomorrow. I said, ‘Well, if I have to, maybe we can just use him against one hitter to get out of the inning.’ It just didn’t work like that.”

Collins said he really has to “protect” veteran relievers Atchison and Brandon Lyon from overuse.

“We’re already wearing him down a little bit,” Collins said about Lyon.

Collins added: “Some of those young guys, we’ve got to get them in some of these games, let them pitch in some tough situations to get them ready. Because you don’t know when you’re going to need them.”

The use of Rice in the critical spot is a testament to Collins’ faith in the 31-year-old rookie -- and certainly an indication of Rice’s superior performance thus far compared with fellow lefty Josh Edgin. Rice has now entered in the eighth inning or later in each of his past five appearances.

“It feels great that they have confidence in me,” Rice said. “I’ve just got to forget about this one and go out there tomorrow and keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 3, Mets 2

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
4:07
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WHAT IT MEANS: Left-hander Scott Rice spent 14 seasons in the minors -- including the past two with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- before becoming a positive contributor this year in his first MLB season.

The 31-year-old Rice stumbled Thursday afternoon, though.

With a switch-hitter and a pair of lefty hitters due up and the score tied in the ninth, Terry Collins demonstrated his faith in Rice by allowing him to remain in the game to face the heart of the Dodgers’ lineup.

Rice proceeded to surrender a leadoff double to Nick Punto. After a one-out intentional walk to righty-hitting Matt Kemp, Rice then surrendered a tiebreaking RBI single to Andre Ethier.

Bobby Parnell entered with runners on the corners and one out and surrendered a run-scoring infield single to Juan Uribe as L.A. took a two-run lead.

The Dodgers ultimately beat the Mets, 3-2, at Citi Field after Ike Davis contributed a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth.

The Mets (10-10), bidding to win their first four home series of a season for the first time since 1976, instead dropped to .500 with the rubber-game loss.

The Mets now are 5-0 in games started by Matt Harvey and 5-10 when anyone else takes the mound.

HEFTY PERFORMANCE: Jeremy Hefner, who had struggled serving up long balls this season, limited L.A. to one run on three hits while striking out four, walking three and hitting a batter in a 93-pitch effort spanning seven innings. The lone run came in the first, when Hefner plunked leadoff batter Carl Crawford and surrendered a two-out RBI single to Kemp.

WOE IS IKE: Davis, who was displaced from the cleanup spot by Lucas Duda on Thursday afternoon, struggled until delivering the ninth-inning homer. Davis had been 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. His second strikeout ended the sixth inning and stranded two runners in scoring position.

The Mets had evened the score at 1 against left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R) earlier in the frame on a sacrifice fly by David Wright.

Davis has 24 Ks in 69 at-bats.

He also dropped a ball off the heel of his glove in foul territory in the eighth, although Jerry Hairston Jr. subsequently flied out and the faux pas did not cost the Mets.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Philadelphia Phillies visit for a weekend series. Dillon Gee (1-3, 5.95 ERA), who is coming off an outing in which he tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Nats and picked up his first win, opposes right-hander Kyle Kendrick (1-1, 3.28) in Friday’s 7:10 p.m. series opener.

Series preview: Mets vs. Dodgers

April, 22, 2013
4/22/13
9:15
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USA TODAY Sports
The Mets face (l to r) southpaws Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly and Hyun-Jin Ryu this week at Citi Field.
METS (9-8, third place/NL East) vs. LOS ANEGELES DODGERS (8-10, fourth place/NL West)

Tuesday: LHP Jonathon Niese (2-1, 3.80) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (2-2, 1.88), 7:10 p.m. ET

Wednesday: RHP Matt Harvey (4-0, 0.93) vs. LHP Ted Lilly (0-0, -.--), 7:10 p.m. ET

Thursday: RHP Jeremy Hefner (0-2, 7.07) vs. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (2-1, 4.01), 1:10 p.m. ET

Dodgers short hops

• Los Angeles had eight starting pitchers in spring training, but the surplus is depleted. Aaron Harang was traded to the Colorado Rockies, then flipped to the Seattle Mariners, when L.A. seemed like it had a ton of depth. Zack Greinke suffered a broken left collarbone in the altercation with San Diego’s Carlos Quentin (which devolved into Padres president Tom Garfinkel having to apologize for an insensitive comment.) Fill-in Chris Capuano suffered a strained left calf. And now Chad Billingsley landed on the DL Sunday with elbow pain.

Ted Lilly makes his season debut Wednesday, after three minor league starts during which he allowed 24 hits and 15 runs (13 earned) in 17 innings. Lilly is returning from labrum surgery on his left shoulder. He missed the final 118 games of last season. Lilly was ready out of spring training and was upset when he did not make the Opening Day roster.


Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports
Zack Greinke suffered a broken left collarbone courtesy of Carlos Quentin.


Stephen Fife made his season debut Sunday in Baltimore, plugging another rotation spot.

Clayton Kershaw publicly said he did not want to negotiate a contract extension in-season, but the sides are believed to have continued talking hush-hush beyond Opening Day.

Kershaw became the second-youngest Dodger to reach 1,000 career strikeouts on Wednesday, at 25 years, 29 days. Fernando Valenzuela accomplished that feat at age 24 years, 303 days.

Kershaw enters the Citi Field outing off a loss to San Diego in which he matched a career high by surrendering three homers. Still, Kershaw has been exceptional this season. He is not getting run support. L.A. has scored a combined seven runs in his four starts.

Kershaw is 5-0 with a 1.37 ERA in six career starts against the Mets.

• The Dodgers acquired catcher Ramon Hernandez from the Rockies on April 6 for Harang. The trade brought in a backup for A.J. Ellis that will allow 25-year-old catcher Tim Federowicz to get regular playing time in Triple-A. All three were on the active roster this weekend in Baltimore, but that is expected to change.

Hyun-Jin Ryu was named to seven straight South Korean All-Star teams before joining the majors this season. He is viewed as a No. 3 of 4 starter. The Dodgers paid a $25.7 million posting fee to Ryu’s South Korean club, plus owe him $36 million in salary over six years.

Hanley Ramirez, who is on the disabled list after undergoing right thumb surgery, may return quickly -- by the end of the month -- after initial projections of mid-May. Ramirez suffered the injury in the final game of the Dominican Republic’s World Baseball Classic championship run, while diving awkwardly for a groundball.

L.A. has not announced whether Ramirez will play shortstop or third base when he returns, although the educated guess is shortstop. Both spots having gaping voids. Shortstop Justin Sellers is hitting .174. Third baseman Luis Cruz is hitting .087.

• The Dodgers took on $250 million in payroll in the Aug. 25, 2012 mega-trade with the Boston Red Sox that brought in Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.

• Cuban defector Yasiel Puig -- who signed for $42 million -- is hitting .333 with three homers and nine RBIs through 48 at-bats with Double-A Chattanooga. The 22-year-old right fielder may eventually make Andre Ethier expendable -- or, perhaps, Matt Kemp … if Kemp continues to struggle. Puig is briefly sidetracked in the Southern League because of a sprained left thumb.

• The struggling Kemp -- who finished second in MVP balloting just two years ago, behind Ryan Braun -- injured his shoulder last August in Colorado and had left surgery for a partially torn labrum in October. He had only one Cactus League homer and has not gone deep this season. Kemp is signed through 2019.

• The Dodgers’ most common batting order:

Crawford, lf
Mark Ellis, 2b
Kemp, cf
Gonzalez, 1b
Ethier, rf
Ellis, c
Cruz, 3b
Sellers, ss

• The Dodgers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 7-4 win Sunday at Baltimore. Kemp, who started the season slowly, went 3-for-5 to lift his average to .235. He produced his sixth RBI.

• Manager Don Mattingly appears on the hot seat. His 2014 option has not been picked up.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
15 4.09 151 202
OTHER LEADERS
BAD. Murphy .289
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187