Friday, March 30, 2012

Less than a Week

The Mets are less than a week away from Opening Day 2012. What had been a group of 50 plus players in camp has now been dwindled down to about 30. The moving trucks are back at Port St. Lucie, ready to ship the team back to Queens.

The team itself is starting to show signs that it is also ready to head back north. The starting rotation has been putting together solid starts over the past week, Mike Pelfrey included. The offense is getting their timing down, highlighted by the return of David Wright this week.

What was once a dark, stormy cloud is now clearing the way for a light, fluffy white cloud. Mets baseball is almost here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How They'll Stack Up

When the dust settles in late summer, when all 2,430 games have been played, 10 teams will be standing, 10 teams left to fight for the World Championship.

Here are the 10 teams the Metropolitan has playing in the promise land.

AL EAST: Tampa Bay
- The Ray's been in the post season in the past few years, but this is the year they take the division with relative ease.  Their strong rotation and experienced lineup will provide enough to get them the division over New York and Boston

- Like all other teams, the Tigers will have to play 162 games, but that may just be a formality.  Their pitching staff includes the best starter and closer in the league and the lineup, with the addition on Prince Fielder, may be the strongest and deepest in the AL

AL WEST: Anaheim
- By acquiring the best position player and the best pitcher this off-season in free agency, the Angels are again prime to run at the World Series.  Deep pitching and the return of Kendrys Morales should prove enough to get out of the short division

AL WILD CARD 1: New York
- The Yankees will push Tampa Bay for most of the season but age will eventually catch up with them.  Jeter, Rivera, and Rodriguez will further their slow down and there will not be enough to get them over the hump.  The team is deep enough offensively however that they will be able to keep other teams at bay.

AL WILD CARD 2: Kansas City
- The time has finally come for the Royals and their fans.  After many years in the basement of baseball, Kansas City has built a young, fun, exciting team that will finally get some post-season baseball it's been waiting for.

NL EAST: Atlanta
- The Braves will end Philadelphia's streak of division titles mostly because of their talent and partly because the rest of the division is in shambles.  Their pitching staff has some of the best arms in the league and the return of Jason Heyward will provide solid pop in the middle of the line-up.

NL CENTRAL: Cincinnati
- Due to no other team wanting to win this division, the Reds will take the Central this season.  Joey Votto jumps from the third best to the best best first baseman in the league.  The addition of Ryan Madson as closer is enough to make this team the favorites.

NL WEST: Arizona
- What should be a race to the finish with the Giants, I like the Diamondbacks to take the crown because of their more polished, all around better offensive.  Their pitching matches up as equal to the Giants, but Justin Upton and Miguel Montero are enough pop in the middle of the lineup.

NL WILD CARD 1: San Francisco
- If pitching wins championships, then the Giants will need the greatest pitching performance they can get from their rotation.  The return of Buster Posey will help provide the spark the lineup desperately needs.

- Potentially the riskiest team in the majors because of all the personalities on the roster, the Marlins will show plenty, at least for the first year, and will be an exciting team for the fans of southern Florida.  Jose Reyes will need to stay healthy, as well as Josh Johnson, for the club to make noise this summer.

And Away We Go...

And just like that, in a blink of an eye, the start to our 2012 season has come and gone.  Earlier today, in Japan, the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners squared off to get things going.  Now never mind you that I believe it's quite dumb to start the season on another continent, over a week before the rest of the league will start theirs.  But money controls the world and that's exactly what pushed this opening game.

But alas, the season is under way and what a different season this may be for us fans.  For starters, the balance of power continues to shift to the American League.  Two of the three biggest free agents this past winter abandoned their team and the National League for the American League; Prince Fielder heads to the Detroit Tigers and Albert Pujols goes to the Anaheim Angels.  The American League has become the attractive place to play because of its deep lineups thanks in part to the Designated Hitter.  So for us National League fans, especially come Interleague play time, there is a good chance that we may have even more become the younger brother.

The biggest change for everyone involved moving forward is the new playoff structure.  Each league will now have a second Wild Card spot, with the two Wild Card teams meeting in a one game playoff to see who advances to the final four in its respective league.  This will change the way baseball is played in September, on both sides of the equation.  Those teams who are leading their division will be forced to play throughout the final month since they will not want a Wild Card spot and have to deal with the one game pay in game.  Those teams who in the past might have figured out of the playoff race will have an additional spot to chase after, and they may be close enough to make their September games count.

The last and final way the season will change this season has actually already occurred.  The calendar reads 2012.  Not 2011.  Yes, baseball may be slow compared to other sports.  It can be tough to watch or comprehend why other people watch.  But baseball is beautiful.  Every aspect that goes into the game.  The whip of a pitch, crack of a bat, the dive in the outfield, the slide at the bat, everything is beautiful.  But also, baseball opens possibilities for teams that are thought to have no chance.  It's a great sport for teams to overachieve.  To let it all hang out.  To have fun.

The weather was warm but has since cooled, now to what we are accustomed to at this time of year, and so baseball is here.  Between now and Halloween, who knows what will happen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Man in the Mirror

Overall record - 521 W, 519 L
Mets record - 77 W, 85 L

Entering his second season with the club, manager Terry Collins will again have a ball club with a number of questions and uncertainty over its head.  Last season, it was the matter bad contracts for bad players, a thin bullpen, potential trades of All-Star players, and the overall black cloud of Mets baseball.

Some issues remain, while some new ones have formed for the 2012 season and Collins will have some magic to work if the club is to remain competitive throughout the year.  He does not need to worry about the constant questions of Jose Reyes, but instead he will get a steady stream of what will happen to David Wright.  The bullpen was solidified this off-season but the starting rotation has no depth should something happen to the first five.  Collins will also have to work with two rookies,  Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada, and two players coming back from long term injuries, Ike Davis and Johan Santana.

And as always, he'll have to deal with the pressure of New York, the headache that is the Mets franchise, the large shadow of playing in the same city as the Yankees, and the preconceived notion that the Mets will finish last in their division this season.

Collins gets a good amount of credit for keeping everything together last season.  The club was in the running for the Wild Card for most of the year and showed itself as a very respectful club.  The season finally fell apart in late August when the injuries were to much to overcome and they could not keep up with the big boys.  Collins gets a pass for last season, his first year.  It was a lot of give and take between him and his players as well as him and upper management.  

This year, it won't be the same.  He will not have the good graces of the fans should the team get off to a rocky start.  He also needs to show who is boss and not take a lot from his players.  Collins needs to demand the most and the best from his players and hold them accountable.  This is not the season to coddle players.  This is the season to overachieve and win.  And win early.  If the Mets are playing well and have the record to show it in mid-July, Collins needs to force upper management to make an acquisition to make the club better down the stretch.

Collins is only signed through 2013 and for a baseball manager, that is not a comfortable feeling.  With their yearly salaries not that high, owners are more likely to let a manager go with one season remaining on the contract if the results are not seen this year.  Youth, inexperience, stacked against odds, none of those are excuses that should be used this season.  Just win.  And it begins with the manager.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Face of the Franchise

2011 stats - .254 BA, 14 HR, 61 RBI, 97 KO, 389 AB

Over the last few weeks, I've written about and touched upon those players who will most likely start the season on the 25-man roster.  As I get to the end of the alphabet, I've realized one thing.  It doesn't matter what this player does or how that player manages his season; the 2012 Mets will go as David Wright goes.

As the longest tenured position player, the boyhood fan who grew up cheering for the club who has grown into the face of the franchise, 2012 will be the most important season in Wright's career.  By far.

During his years playing at Shea Stadium, Wright had the monster offensive seasons that everyone expected him to have.  It was easy to know he would bat over .300, knock in at least 105 RBI, hit over 25 home runs while smacking the baseball all over the field.  He was a bonafide superstar in New York and a perennial All-Star.

As soon as the Mets moved in Citi Field, everything began to fall apart for Wright.  He sustained long term injuries in two of the three seasons; a concussion in 2009 and a fractured back in 2011.  His power numbers drastically declined as 2009 and 2011 saw him combine for only 24 home runs.  Worst of all, his strike out totals have increased at an alarming rate.  In 2009, Wright struck out 140 times and followed that by whiffing 161 times in 2010.  His pace last season would show that trending continuing had he played a full season.

Possibly the largest question looming over Wright is the same issue that was over Jose Reyes' head last season.  Wright is entering the final year of his contract and no one knows what will happen next.  With the financial troubles the owners are in, the question rises of whether or not they can afford to keep Wright.  And if they can't, can they possibly trade him away and further infuriate the fan base?  Or keep him and watch him possibly walk away for nothing in return?

In essence, today marks the beginning of 2012 for Wright, as he's been sidelined with a minor ribcage tear for the first month of Spring Training.  For both Wright and the Mets, he needs to stay healthy and stay on the field.  If he can do that and put up numbers similar to his old self, the Mets will win more games.  It is that simple.  And as people know, winning cures almost everything.

Yes, the Mets desperately need Johan Santana to stay healthy for 28-32 starts, they need Ike Davis to come back from his ankle injury, they need their new bullpen to pitch like a solid bullpen, they do need all that.  But of all, they need David Wright to be none other than David Wright.   

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cultivating the Farm

2010 stats - 9 W, 7 L, 3.52 ERA, 115 IP, 129 KO

A potential star is shooting his way through the Mets farm system and although it is extremely, extremely unlikely that we will see him in Flushing this year, there will be a lot of talk about Zach Wheeler.

Wheeler is a 21 year old right hander who came to the Mets organization last summer from the San Francisco Giants, the return for Carlos Beltran.  A power pitcher, Wheeler is a strikeout pitcher by mainly using his fastball and his curveball.

Ideally, Wheeler will start 2012 in Single A and move up to Double A sometime in the summer.  Along with Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia, Wheeler is a top prospect arm in the minor leagues that should make the rotation quite good in years to come.  The beginning of 2013 is a stretch to see these arms with the big club, but if Wheeler continues to pitch the way he has and continues to grow, he may force his way to the majors.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Little Bit of Everything

2011 stats - .260 BA, 30 2B, 51 RBI

To start the 2011 season, the Mets made the unpopular move and started Justin Turner in AAA.  It only lasted a few games as the Mets realized they needed a spark in mid-April and recalled Turner to take over second base.  Turner quickly became a fan favorite at Citi Field because of his non-stop hustle, his new guy approach and his productivity.

The month of May threw Turner in the spot light as was an RBI machine, collecting 20 RBIs for the month, earning himself Rookie of the Month honors.  He cooled off from his sizzling start as the season wore on, but a lot of that can be attributed to long season fatigue and pitchers adjusting to his game.

Turner became a jack of all trades last season, playing all over the infield as the Mets starting infield suffered injuries all throughout the season.  With the 2012 quickly approaching, Turner seems to be the number one utility player on the Mets bench.  Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright all will becoming back from injury and reclaiming their starting spots which in effect will put Turner on the bench.  Most of his playing time will come at second base, behind the learning the position on the fly Murphy.

As long as Turner can keep getting enough at bats to stay sharp, he will be a very valuable asset off the Mets bench this season; both at the plate and on the field.  The Mets aren't a very deep team, but this is one spot where they should feel a bit comfortable.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

All Up The Gut

2011 stats - .221 BA, 19 RBI, 95 K, 24, 2B, 348 AB

The other we spoke about how Ruben Tejada is now the man, like it or not, to replace Jose Reyes at shortstop for the time being.  But it's known, that at least to start to the season, that Tejada will not be replacing him at the top of the order.

Instead, that joyful role goes to newcomer, Andres Torres, who came to the Mets this winter along with Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan.  Torres had a down season in 2011, batting only .221 with a .312 OBP.  But that does follow a season in which he batter near .270.

That's not an average that has the Mets overly excited as well, but these are tough times for the team and money was scarce.  2012 should truly show what a good leadoff hitter can do for a club.  If Torres repeats his 2010 season, the Mets will struggle to get runs in.  So far this spring, they have not produced a decent amount of offensive and outs at the top of lineup will not help.  On the other hand, if he can get on base and go back to 2010, those extra runs can immensely help out.

The one area the Mets know will improve next season is their outfield defense.  Torres is a much stronger and smoother defender than Pagan and can control the expansive outfield at Citi Field.  Better routes to the ball, better relays to the infield and better positioning for the corner outfielders can help the opposition limit their power and keep the opposition run total town.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Catcher, Catcher

2011 stats - .268 BA, 40 RBI, 17 2B

Near the conclusion of the 2010 season, Josh Thole became more than just a part-time catcher for the Mets.  He began getting most of the playing time as the organization was prepping him to become the full-time, in house catcher for the foreseeable future.  Without much of a challenge from a backup catcher in Spring Training last season, Thole took over the full-time duties in 2011.

Known mostly as a slap hitter, a batter who can work the count and draw some walks, Thole had an up and down season behind the plate.  He had 340 at-bats over the course of the season and had a decent average of over .265.  But there was something missing from Thole's game.  The club knew that he was not going to be a power hitter and never expected him to be one.  But there seemed to be a bit too much inconsistency with Thole's game.  Defensively, he was learning on the fly, improving week by week and most of the pitching staff was pleased with the way he called a game.

Coming into 2012, Thole is again the Opening Day starter behind the plate.  The Mets didn't go out this off-season and pick up another catcher and his back, Mike Nickeas, doesn't seem to have enough in his game to unseat Thole.  But that doesn't mean he should sit back on his laurels and not immensely aim at improving his overall game.  The franchise is looking to go younger and of the young group, Thole is one with the most experience.  This is a make or break season for the kid.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Replacement

2011 stats - .284 BA, 21 RBI, 7 2B, 328 AB

Welcome to the big show, Mr. Tejada.  Yes, over the last two seasons, you've been able to get some time and a decent amount of at bat with the big club.  You're familiar with the club house, how to play the game, how some of the pitchers pitch.  But this season is different.  It's all different.

As soon as Jose Reyes signed the dotted line with the Miami Marlins, everyone began to stare at Ruben Tejada, the replacement at shortstop.  Everyone is trying to protect the 22 year old by not putting to much pressure on him to be Jose Reyes.  The team says that they are different players.  Different skill set.  Different personality.  That's all true, but there is one similarity.  The position.  The position that had been Reyes' for the last seven seasons.

Manager Terry Collins is helping the pressure gauge by not having Tejada hit in the leadoff spot.  Instead he'll bat at the bottom of the order.  But Tejada is a great defensive player.  He's small and quick, with a strong, strong arm.  This spring, the most important item for Tejada is to work on chemistry with Daniel Murphy at second base and make sure they are comfortable turning the double play.

Tejada will not provide the electricity with his bat while he's at the plate.  He's not that type of hitter.  But he isn't a bad hitter.  He's more of a contact hitter who will look to put the ball in play and spread it around the diamond.  Last season he hit over .280 once he became a regular in the infield, thanks to injuries across the board.

Ruben Tejada has to be Ruben Tejada.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Biggest Comeback of All

2011 stats - 0 IP

Johan Santana is known across the Major Leagues as a bulldog.  He wants the ball all the time.  It doesn't matter the opponent, the hitter, the situation, anything.  An accomplished warrior on the mound, Santana wants nothing more than to go mano-e-mano against this opposition.

And in 2012, the New York Mets want nothing more than Johan Santana to be healthy and provide upwards of 25 starts.

Santana had left shoulder surgery near the conclusion of the 2010 season and has not stepped on a major league mound since.  The Mets struggled last season for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest was the fact that their defacto ace was not with them.  Not close.  No where to be found.

Instead, the left hander was in Port St. Lucie rehabbing all season long, hoping and praying to get a start or two in September.  That never happened.

This spring, all eyes are focused on Santana, every time he picks up a baseball.  The media swarms toward him, Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen.  How's he feeling? What's his progress?  What's his Opening Day status?  Those are just some of the questions that these men are bombarded with all the time.

All signs are pointing upward though.  Santana has been able to start three Spring Training games, each time pushing himself a bit further with his pitch count and has not had any setbacks.  The club is still taking the cautious route with their ace, stressing the importance of his health and his availability for the entire season, and not just Opening Day.

But let's not read this the wrong way.  Collins expects Santana on the mound against the Braves on April 5th. He anticipates having him pitch every fourth or fifth day.  And with that happening, the overall rotation will be deeper and stronger because of it.  The other pitchers will know who their ace is.  They'll know what they will be getting from him.  The organization and fans want and need him healthy.  And Santana wants it just as bad.  This bulldog's hungry.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Big, Big Man

2011 stats - 5 W, 4 L, 11 S, 4.85 ERA

The last of the pitching recruits that Sandy Alderson brought to town, and one of the last pitchers that I have to write about, is the tallest player on the roster.  Jon Rauch comes over from Toronto where he was mostly their closer in 2011 until a leg injury slowed him down in the summer.  The near seven foot reliever, who is filled with arm and neck tattoos, is slated to be the 8th inning guy for the club.

In the past, Rauch has been a reliable reliever in both the National and American leagues.  Twice in his career he has had at least 18 saves in a season, the most recent being 21 saves in 2010.  Rauch pitches to contact.  He does not strike out many a men, rather lets the batter put the ball in play and relies on the defense behind him to convert the outs.  This final move by Alderson should hopefully solidify the bullpen and allow the starters to pitch a shorter game.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Another Arm for the Pen

2011 stats - 3 W, 3 L, 2.62 ERA, 68.2 IP, 66 KO

Ramon Ramirez came over to the Mets this off-season along with Andres Torres, whom the Mets acquired for Angel Pagan.  While Ramirez will not step in and be the Mets closer this season, he will be a crucial part to the bullpen.  One of the main goals for Sandy Alderson this winter was to improve the bullpen and he saw quality in Ramirez's right arm.

Over the last two seasons, Ramirez's numbers have been better in the National League, especially his WHIP.  If he can keep men off the base path and hit his mark from last year of one strikeout per inning pitches, the Mets should feel confident each time he steps on the mound.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Biggest Frustration of All

2011 stats - 7 W, 13 L, 4.74 ERA, 193.2 IP, .287 BAA

For the past couple of seasons, everyone has been waiting for Mike Pelfrey to pop and burst onto the scene like the touted prospect he was once known as.  There were signs alright, enough of them, sprinkled here and there throughout his first few seasons, to show that consistent stardom was almost here.  The biggest sign was in 2008, the last season at Shea Stadium.  Big Pelf, a nickname the fans concocted for him, was a strong, dominant presence in the rotation and finished the season with 13 wins.

After a so-so year in 2009, Pelfrey had his career season in 2010, posting a career high 15 wins and a career low 3.66 ERA.  As last season approached and certainty that Johan Santana would not be available for most of the season (we all know how that story played out), Pelfrey was tabbed to be the ace of the staff.

Wrong move.  Big Pelf struggled from the get go last season and was never able to get into a comfort zone and find a groove.  It may have been the pressure placed on his shoulders, the constant match up with the opposition's #1 pitcher, or a natural regression.  It also doesn't help that Pelfrey is a head case and no one ever knows what is going on through his mind.

What the Mets need to know is this, simply, which pitcher are they getting his season... 2009, 2010, or 2011.  They need the old Pelfrey.  As long as Santana continues his health come back, Pelfrey will not be looked at or needed as the number one guy.  At this point, his spot as the two or three is in question.  There is the strong possibility that Pelfrey will be the #4 starter, which may be best for him.  He will not have the pressure of being the ace nor the match up with top pitchers across the league.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lots of Frustration

2011 stats - 4 W, 6 L, 3.64 ERA, 64 KO, 59.1 IP

Bobby Parnell has been on the Mets radar for a number of years now but it also seems as if he's always on the radar for Triple-A Buffalo.  There's no question that Parnell has the talent of a major league pitcher and a fastball to prove it.  Numerous times throughout the 2011 season, the scoreboard would indicate that a Parnell heater topped out at over 100 mph.  But there's where it seems to end with him.  Parnell has the mindset that he will just be able to blow hitters away with his fastball.  News flash, all major league hitters can hit a fastball, no matter how hard it's being thrown.

Parnell does not have enough secondary pitches; pitches that he can effectively use to keep the hitter honest and just off balance enough.  If the hitter's eyes do not leave the level plane that Parnell constantly throws on, than it's a piece of cake for them.  And a headache for the Mets.

Last season, as the Mets were in the midst of trading away closer Frankie Rodriguez, Parnell stepped up and stated that he wanted to be the closer for this team.  He wanted the closer role for the future.  Well, he struggled when given that opportunity a year ago and because of that, will not be the closer in 2012.  He's not even second in command should a back up be needed.

Parnell now needs to focus on his secondary pitches and learn a better way to attack big league hitters.  It's either that, or a potential trip back down to the minors so other pitchers can show him how to get it done.

Boom, Boom, BANG!

Ya knew it was going to happen eventually.  For the most part, this has been a smooth and clean Spring Training for the Mets.  Although a few minor bumps and bruises have come across, there had been nothing on the serious note... Unless you count a Scott Hairston oblique injury to be overly serious.

Well, this morning, that changed.

David Wright's sore rib cage is a bit worse than expected and he is expected to be in New York today to meet with doctors.  There's even the report that a cortisone shot will be used to help speed up the injury.  Tim Byrdak accompanied Wright to NY to get his knee checked and it was discovered that he has a torn meniscus.  Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.

At this point the Mets do not have another set lefty reliever in their mix; although a few leftys are in camp and the team is expected to sign lefty CJ Nitkowski to a minor league deal.

We can only hope that this is the deepest extent of Met injuries in the early going.  This is not a deep team by any stretch of the imagination and any time missed because of injury will just darken the black cloud hovering over them.

Friday, March 9, 2012

High Expectations

2011 stats - 11 W, 11 L, 4.40 ERA, 157.1 IP, 178 H

There are a number of pitching story lines to track this spring and the progression of Jon Niese is most certainly one of them.  The talented left hander has shown glimpses of brilliance and the potential for what he can be in a Mets uniform.  There are many in the media, and organization, that feel this may be the season that Niese puts it all together and has a very strong campaign.

There have been two factors that have currently held Niese back, and the hope is that those factors will be corrected this season.  The first is the obvious with this club: injuries.  Niese missed the final five weeks of 2011 due to a strained rib cage and he has previously missed time earlier in his career with hamstring issues.  This doesn't fall as much on Niese as it does the black cloud hanging over the team.  

The other factor, which is common with most young pitchers, is fatigue.  Usually this tends to occur once the summer roles around and Niese tends to go 2-3 weeks without having his best stuff.  Pitches tend to stay up in the zone and over compensation leads to a bit of wildness.  This may be a factor that Niese can control, not only by maturation but by a cosmetic procedure he had done during the off-season.  The southpaw had surgery on nose, which not only reshaped it, but opened up the airways into his lungs for him to breathe easier.  He has already stated that he was able to lose up to ten pounds this off-season because he was able to get in better physical shape.

Niese will battle with RA Dickey for the proverbial second/third starter in the rotation but regardless of when the youngster pitches, the expectations are there.  A 15 win season is not out of the realm because of Niese's ability.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Riding the Pine

2011 stats - .189 BA, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 53 AB

Almost a career minor leaguer, Nickeas made it up to the bigs near the end of last season when Ronny Paulino went down with a season ending injury.  A serviceable call up and short term replacement placer, Nickeas is beign dubbed as the backup catcher to start the 2012 campaign.

In checking out the stats from last season, even though it is a small sample, it's easy to see that Nickeas will not wow many people with his bat.  What is more known for is his defense behind the plate and his ability to call a good game for his pitchers.  

Being needed once every five games or so, the Mets should be able to get by with that type of backup catcher.  The question will rise up if starter Josh Thole struggles with his offensive game and the Mets become desperate to fit a catcher with a stronger stick.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Return

It's only Spring Training.  It was only 2 innings.  But this afternoon marked a huge step for the Mets and their 2012 season.  

Johan Santana returned to the mound against major league hitters since September 2, 2010 when he faced the St. Louis Cardinals.  Santana threw 29 pitches over those two innings, allowing one hit and one walk.  His velocity was in the high 80s although he did top out at 90mph once.  Santana also threw his signature change up twice as well as two sliders.

After the performance, Santana says that he feels good and was very encouraged by his outing this afternoon.  The real factor will come over the next two days as him and the team will see how his shoulder reacts.  All signs are pointing to him making his next start through the rotation.

This is huge news for the Mets; huge, huge news.  For so many reasons, the franchise needs positive vibes coming from camp and this afternoon provided the biggest vibe so far.  Many people should not expect to ever see the old Santana again, given his age and the multiple surgeries over the years, but if the Mets can get 22-25 starts from Santana, maybe 140 innings, then they accomplished something this season.

No Third Injury This Time Around

2011 stats - .320 BA, 49 RBI, 49 R, 28 2B

For all intents and purposes, this is a make or break season for Daniel Murphy, no pun intended.  For the last few seasons, Murphy has been known as a man with a stick but no position.  The Mets experimented with a couple of different spots for Murphy, including left field, third, second, and first base.  The inconsistency showed as Murphy has struggled at most of the positions, except for third base which is his natural position.

But of all the question marks defensively, the biggest concern for the Mets this season will be Murphy's health and him being able to stay on the field.  In 2010's spring training, Murphy was taken out hard attempting to turn a double play and the knee injury cost him the entire season.  A feeling of deja vu returned last season as Murphy was injured again, this time his other knee, and it cost him the last two months of the season.

With Rueben Tejada manning the position to his right, Murphy will enter 2012 as the everyday second baseman.  The number one goal and agenda for the Mets this camp is to properly and effectively teach Murphy how to turn the double play.  They can not possibly afford to have his bat miss time from the lineup due to injury.

Throughout most of last season, Murphy was one of the most clutch hitters for the Mets.  He had a team high .320 batting average and was near the Top 10 in the league in doubles despite having less than 400 AB.  Murphy is slotted to be the number two hitter in the lineup and has the chance to have a special season because he makes contact, puts the ball in play and does not strike out to often.  Again, all Murphy needs to do is learn the double play and keep himself healthy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Play Ball

It is great to know, that 2 hours ago, the Mets opened their 2012 Spring Training season.

Here's to the growth of our players and to all around health for the ball club.

Play ball!

First Prospect Up?

2011 Minor League stats - 13 W, 5 L, 3.32 ERA, 156 KO, 47 BB

The Mets have three top, solid pitching prospects in the minor leagues and the most familiar name of the three belongs to right hander Matt Harvey.  Drafted out of UNC in 2010, Harvey had a very strong showing last season in the lower ranks.  After blowing away competition in St. Lucie A ball, Harvey moved up to AA Binghamton and did struggle a bit.  This was to be expected as he faced better competition and hitters with more patience.  But he managed his way through the turmoil and finished the season with five straight wins.

Harvey is a power pitcher who also has three other pitches at his disposal.  Since him being drafted, there have been many a folk expecting him to be a front of the rotation pitcher for New York.  The organization has done and is saying all of the right things so far about Harvey.  They invited him to the big league camp for Spring Training but fully intend on having him start the season in Binghamton again. They do not want to rush him to the majors and have him exposed to early.  But, Harvey is turning 23 years old this month and does have a full collegiate career's worth of experience, so one would think that he'll be able to handle any work load.

The main consensus from certain media personnel and fans is that it's not a matter of if Harvey will make it to the bigs in 2012, but when.  Again, the Mets will do their best to keep in the minors for a few months, but between the possibility of injuries or lack of performance, the trip to Queens may be expedited for this young pitcher.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Familar Spot on the Bench

2011 stats - .235 BA, 7 HR, 24 RBI

Being the fourth outfielder on a club is good, but it's not great.  One side is like 'yes, I'm on the big league roster!". While the other side says 'I'm close to playing, but still riding the pine'.

This is the position that Scott Hairston is occupying for Mets again in 2012.  Hairston did not have a bad season in 2011, even showing a small bit of pop with seven home runs in 132 ABs.  But he did not do enough, and probably does not have enough, to get an every day job with this club.  If one of the starting three go down for a game or two, Hairston will be able to fill in admirably.  But anything closer to a week or more, and the Mets will show some signs of offensive trouble.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The New Pilates Master

2011 stats - 13 W, 6 L, 4.43 ERA, 160 2/3 IP

The 2011 campaign was the absolute definition of Jekyll and Hyde for Dillon Gee.  After getting a small taste of the big leagues in 2010, Gee started off last season in Triple A Buffalo but was called up to the bigs early on when Chris Young went down with an injury.  And he started with a bang!  Gee started his season with a clean 7-0 record and a 3.05 ERA.  He instantly was a breath of fresh air for the club and was being considered by some to be a dark horse candidate for the All-Star game.

Once the middle of June came around however, things seemed to fall apart for Gee.  Looking at the numbers, it wasn't all bad as he finished 6-6 and led the club with 13 victories.  However his ERA ballooned to almost four and a half and he was giving up more hits and walks per nine innings.  For Gee, it was a long season, the longest in his professional career to be exact.  The 160 innings he threw were by far the most he had ever thrown.

While recognizing that he tired down the stretch, part mental and part physical, Gee decided that he needed to work on his body and conditioning this off-season.  One of the ways he went about doing so was picking up Pilates to strengthen his core and to focus on muscles he never had before.

The Mets would be more than thrilled if they can get a repeat first half performance from their number five starter this season.  Without having the pressure of needing to step up and rescue the team, Gee has an amazing chance to be the quiet guy at the back of the rotation who slowly goes about his business.

New Closer in Town

2011 stats - 1 W, 4 L, 3.55 ERA, 17 S

After getting rid of Frankie Rodriguez in the middle of last season, the Mets went closer by committee in the summer, a patchwork job in order to get through the season.

The main piece of Sandy Alderson's bullpen fortification was the addition of their new closer, Frank Francisco.  After spending the first six years of his career with Texas, Francisco played with the Blue Jays yesteryear and was their main closer in the second half.  He is a bit of a strikeout machine; since the 2007 season, he has the 5th most strikeouts among American League relief pitchers.

There is no doubt there Francisco is the closer on this Mets squad.  That's in the information the organization promised him during free agency and the reason why Francisco inked a two year deal with the Mets.  The team can only hope now that the closer role will not be a distraction and potential detriment as it was in 2011.