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Projecting the Mets’ Opening Day roster, March 16

Update, March 17, 4:48 p.m.

The Mets just made six additional cuts, which are reflected below.

Time to whip out a new version of the projected roster, taking into account Zack Wheeler’s impending Tommy John surgery and other developments.

IMG_2799

Lineup:
CF Juan Lagares
2B Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
1B Lucas Duda
RF Michael Cuddyer
LF Curtis Granderson
C  Travis d’Arnaud

SS Wilmer Flores

No changes here, particularly considering how nice a spring Lagares is having. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Bench:
C Anthony Recker
OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis
OF John Mayberry, Jr.

INF Ruben Tejada
INF Eric Campbell

Again, let’s just keep moving. This group is pretty static.

Rotation:

RHP Jacob deGrom
LHP Jon Niese

RHP Matt Harvey
RHP Bartolo Colon
RHP Dillon Gee

With Wheeler out for the year, the names here won’t change barring another injury (Sorry, fans of Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Rafael Montero. But the order remains unclear. Expect either deGrom or Niese to start Opening Day, with Harvey sliding into Game 2 or 3. Colon and Gee should round out the rotation.

Bullpen:

RHP Jenrry Mejia (CL)
RHP Jeurys Familia

RHP Vic Black
RHP Carlos Torres
RHP Rafael Montero
LHP Dario Alvarez
RHP Buddy Carlyle

Color me unimpressed enough with Sean Gilmartin’s performance to throw Alvarez in here instead, though there’s a growing chance the Mets fill their lefty need externally. Wheeler’s injury bumps Gee to the rotation, giving Montero an excellent opportunity to land in the bullpen. I like Carlyle’s chances, too, since the Mets may lose him if he doesn’t make the cut. And if Black’s shoulder woes linger, the Mets may even need to add another right-hander from the depths of camp.

Disabled list:

RHP Bobby Parnell, RHP Zack Wheeler, LHP Josh Edgin.

Still in camp:
C Johnny Monell*, C Kevin Plawecki*, INF Brandon Allen*, INF Danny Muno*, INF Matt Reynolds*, OF Alex Castellanos*, OF Matt den Dekker, OF Cesar Puello, RHP Chase Bradford*, RHP Erik Goeddel, RHP Cory Mazzoni, RHP Akeel Morris, RHP Noah Syndergaard, RHP Zack Thornton*, RHP Jon Velasquez*, LHP Sean Gilmartin, LHP Jack Leathersich, LHP Steven Matz, RHP Scott Rice*.

*Denotes non-roster invitee

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Wheeler has torn UCL; Tommy John surgery probable

Update, 12:39 p.m.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — For the second straight season, the Mets’ rotation will be incomplete.

Starting pitcher Zack Wheeler has been diagnosed with a completely torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the team announced Monday, making Tommy John surgery inevitable. Though the Mets have not committed to the operation, general manager Sandy Alderson described Wheeler’s situation as “pretty clear-cut,” calling the diagnosis preliminary only because Wheeler has yet to meet with team orthopedist Dr. David Altchek.

Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery is the standard treatment for a torn UCL, requiring an approximate 12-month recovery.

“The diagnosis is not surprising,” Alderson said. “We had been forewarned by the doctors that his elbow was a concern, and that it was going to have to be managed over the course of this season. It wasn’t clear that the ligament was involved at that time, but we understood that we were going to have to manage his medical condition over the course of the season. So when he complained of the elbow pain, it wasn’t a surprise to us.

“When the elbow is involved, anything can happen.”

The news broke as Matt Harvey, who spent the entire 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, prepared to make his third spring start.

“Thanks for everybody’s support and kind words,” Wheeler wrote on Twitter. “It’s greatly appreciated. Long road ahead.”

Wheeler, 24, was 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA in 32 starts last season, putting him in contention for the Mets’ Opening Day start. But his elbow was an issue as far back as last summer, Alderson said, when he first complained of discomfort. The Mets ordered an MRI last September, as Wheeler was putting the finishing touches on a 16-start run that saw him go 8-3 with a 2.71 ERA. Though that test came back clean, Wheeler complained of elbow discomfort again over the winter. A second MRI in January also showed no UCL tear.

Reporting to Spring Training in February as usual, Wheeler complained of elbow discomfort a third time last week, prompting the Mets to scratch him from his Saturday start. At the time, they said it was more due to a blister underneath his right middle fingernail than to anything related to the elbow, with Alderson going as far as to say that Wheeler would not need another MRI. That changed a day later, when the team sent him for one and forwarded the results to Dr. Altchek in New York.

Shortly thereafter, it became clear that Wheeler was destined to become the fifth Mets pitcher to undergo Tommy John surgery in the past 20 months, joining Harvey, Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner (twice) and Josh Edgin. Several pitchers with partially torn UCLs have attempted to rehab their injuries instead of undergo surgery, most notably Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka. But rehab is only possible if the UCL is not completely torn, as Wheeler’s is.

“It’s a blow, but at the same time we knew there would be a lot of uncertainty surrounding Zack and his elbow over the course of the season,” Alderson said. “We’re obviously not happy he won’t be with us, but I think if there’s a silver lining, it’s that we now have some certainty. We know that we have a solution for this, that he won’t have to manage the kind of pain that I think he had to manage over the course of last season. Doing that over a career is simply unsustainable.”

To replace Wheeler in the rotation, the Mets will almost certainly turn to Dillon Gee, a longtime starter who had been demoted to bullpen work. But the Mets also have several top prospects ready or close to ready for the Majors, including Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Rafael Montero. They will be considerations early in the season, if not immediately.

Said Alderson: “We’re still digesting the injury to Zack and really have not started to address that issue.”

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Wheeler satisfied elbow injury is not serious

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Rather than prepare for his originally scheduled Grapefruit League start against the Nationals, Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler spent his Saturday morning downplaying the elbow injury and blister that forced him to the sideline.

“It’s something that I’ve had before and had to deal with,” Wheeler said of his right elbow tendinitis in particular. “It mainly sort of picked up last year, but I’ve had it my whole career. It’s been that way. I’ve dealt with it and stuff. I’m just going day-to-day with it.”

For now, that means a brief period of rest. The Mets treated Wheeler’s discomfort last season with anti-inflammatories and other treatments, but no injections. And Wheeler simply pitched through the pain — finishing 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA in his first full season. His blister is a recurring injury that he has had since high school, and also something he believes he can manage.

“Every pitcher in here pitches through pain at some point,” Wheeler said. “It’s just a matter of dealing with it. … You don’t want to push yourself during Spring Training. The games don’t mean anything here. I’m just trying to get myself right for the season when the games actually do mean something.”

Wheeler plans to rest for a few days, throw a bullpen later this week and make his next scheduled start, as he continues to compete for an Opening Day assignment. Right-hander Tyler Pill took his spot Saturday against the Nationals, in what the Mets anticipate being a one-start hiatus.

Still, the club has reason to be concerned, considering Major League Baseball’s growing history of elbow injuries turning into operations. Over the past 20 months, Mets pitchers Matt Harvey, Bobby Parnell and Jeremy Hefner (twice) have undergone Tommy John surgeries. Reliever Josh Edgin is currently considering an operation as well. Outside the Mets’ clubhouse, Rangers ace Yu Darvish is about to join the growing ranks of top-flight arms headed for the operating table.

“You always have that in the back of your head, but you try not to change anything you’re doing — arm angle, mechanics, that kind of stuff,” Wheeler said. “You just keep doing what you’re doing and trust it.”

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Projecting the Mets’ Opening Day roster, March 13

Update, March 13, 11:17 p.m.:

The Mets made three cuts this afternoon, bringing their camp total down to 54 players.

With precisely 24 days left until Opening Day, we’ve received a bit of clarity on what the Mets’ roster will look like April 6 in Washington. For our purposes, I’m considering everyone in big league camp in contention for a roster spot — until they get cut.

IMG_2801Lineup:
CF Juan Lagares
2B Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
1B Lucas Duda
RF Michael Cuddyer
LF Curtis Granderson
C  Travis d’Arnaud

SS Wilmer Flores

As much as manager Terry Collins has discussed tinkering with certain things, such as moving Granderson into the leadoff spot or dropping Murphy down in the order, I just don’t see him doing it for Opening Day. Those tinkerings will come later in the season — maybe even later in April — if the Mets begin scuffling.

Bench:
C Anthony Recker
OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis
OF John Mayberry, Jr.

INF Ruben Tejada
INF Eric Campbell

Again, not much up for debate here. Recker and Nieuwenhuis are out of options, giving them huge advantages heading into camp. Mayberry is on a guaranteed contract, making him a lock. Campbell’s versatility makes him a shoo-in as well.

Rotation:
RHP Zack Wheeler
RHP Matt Harvey

RHP Jacob deGrom
RHP Bartolo Colon
LHP Jon Niese

The order is unclear, and any lingering soreness in Wheeler’s right elbow could play a role in that decision. Harvey is not an Opening Day candidate but will pitch one of the other first five games, Collins has said.

Bullpen:
RHP Jenrry Mejia (CL)
RHP Jeurys Familia

RHP Vic Black
RHP Carlos Torres
RHP Dillon Gee
LHP Sean Gilmartin
RHP Rafael Montero

Left-hander Josh Edgin’s elbow injury means he won’t be ready for Opening Day, even if he chooses rehab over surgery. Former closer Bobby Parnell, likewise, will open the season on the disabled list. That opens the door for Gilmartin, a Rule 5 pick, though Dario Alvarez or Scott Rice could certainly swipe that spot. Montero will need to beat out Buddy Carlyle, who not on the 40-man roster and thus at a disadvantage. If Black’s shoulder tendinitis continues to bother him, that could open up yet another spot.

Disabled list:
RHP Bobby Parnell, LHP Josh Edgin.

Still in camp:
C Johnny Monell*, C Kevin Plawecki*, INF Brandon Allen*, INF Dilson Herrera, INF Danny Muno*, INF Matt Reynolds*, INF Wilfredo Tovar, OF Alex Castellanos*, OF Matt den Dekker, OF Cesar Puello, RHP Matt Bowman*, RHP Chase Bradford*, RHP Buddy Carlyle*, RHP Erik Goeddel, RHP Cory Mazzoni, RHP Akeel Morris, RHP Tyler Pill*, RHP Hansel Robles, RHP Cody Satterwhite*, RHP Noah Syndergaard, RHP Zack Thornton*, RHP Jon Velasquez*, RHP Gabriel Ynoa, LHP Dario Alvarez, LHP Jack Leathersich, LHP Steven Matz, RHP Scott Rice*.

*Denotes non-roster invitee

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Alderson: “I don’t think anybody has any complaints on our end” about Mets’ payroll

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Speaking in response to comments made in his forthcoming biography, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Thursday that he has had no problems with the Mets’ payroll levels under his stewardship.

“Some people want to interpret the last four years strictly in terms of what financial resources were available or were not available to the Mets,” Alderson said. “That’s never been an issue for me. I’ve never talked about the payroll as an unfortunate limitation to us. I haven’t talked about it recently, haven’t talked about it in the past, don’t intend to. It’s not relevant to me. The last four years is a story of putting the franchise back into a competitive situation on the field, with good players. I think we’re on the cusp of doing that.”

The GM’s comments came in response to excerpts from “Baseball Maverick,” a Steve Kettmann biography detailing Alderson’s Mets years. The club’s Opening Day payroll fell from over $120 million in 2011, Alderson’s first season at the helm, to under $90 million last April.

“We had talked about I think an $85-million payroll, roughly, and there was a period of time we were below that,” Alderson said of 2014. “Everybody was like, we had to meet this standard. It became more about the payroll than about anything else.

“Every team has a weakness and we saw the same thing this year, where we made some moves early in the offseason and we didn’t make any moves thereafter. What happens is that the novelty of the acquisitions wears off, and at some point people start looking for something else. That happened to us this year. It happened to us last year. But if you go back and look at our bullpen situation, it rectified itself pretty well once we got into the season. So it’s not always about spending money, and I think that’s the approach that we’ve all taken over the last several years.”

This winter, the Mets signed outfielders Michael Cuddyer to a two-year, $21-million contract and John Mayberry Jr. to a one-year, $1.45-million deal. Combined with raises for other players already on the roster, those deals increased the Mets’ commitments to around $100 million.

Even with that, the big league payroll still ranks in the bottom half of the Major Leagues. Its value is less than half that of the cross-town Yankees, and barely one-third that of the league-leading Dodgers.

Still, said Alderson: “I don’t think anybody has any complaints at all on our end.”

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Josh Edgin weighing Tommy John surgery

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Mets left-hander Josh Edgin is considering undergoing Tommy John surgery, which would force him to miss the entire season.

Edgin returned to Mets camp Thursday from New York, where orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Altchek diagnosed him with a stretched ligament and a bony mass in his left elbow, according to general manager Sandy Alderson. Edgin will spend the next few days deciding if he wants to attempt a rehab program or undergo surgery, which would sideline him until 2016.

“It’s disappointing, yes,” Edgin said. “Actually, really disappointing. We’re going to have a great year this year, whether it’s with me or without me.”

If Edgin opts for rehab, he will still open the season on the disabled list. But he could contribute as soon as April, with the caveat that the stretched ligament and bony mass will still exist — perhaps portending future injury. Surgery would knock Edgin out for the season, but theoretically fix the problem for good.

“It’s not a black-and-white situation,” Alderson said. “There’s a certain amount of gray area here that requires some judgment on the physician’s part, as well as Josh deciding exactly how he wants to approach it.

“We’re going to let Josh sort through the information. We’ve talked about it and we’ve talked with the doctor. But look, I’m not the patient. I’m not the person who’s got the injury or the career in front of it.”

To that end, Edgin said he is considering “wife, kids, future, teammates, a lot of stuff” as he weighs both options. Understanding that Tommy John surgery “has a great outlook on it,” with most patients recovering all of their velocity within one year, Edgin also wants to pitch.

A former 30th-round Draft pick in 2010, Edgin, 28, grew up on a farm in Three Springs, Pa., receiving a $2,000 bonus as the 902nd player chosen that year. He blazed through the Mets’ system from there, coming to camp last month all but guaranteed a job for the first time. Now, Edgin is facing a decision that will significantly affect his career either way.

“Whatever I choose to do, I’m going to go at it 100 percent,” Edgin said.

Like most clubs, the Mets have had multiple big leaguers undergo Tommy John surgery in recent seasons. Most famously, Matt Harvey underwent the procedure in Oct. 2013 and is due to make his regular-season return in April. Closer Bobby Parnell had Tommy John surgery in April 2014 and is also due back this year, either in late April and early May. Right-hander Jeremy Hefner, who appeared in 50 games for the Mets from 2012-13, underwent his second Tommy John procedure last October and will miss this entire season.

Harvey initially considered rehab before consenting to surgery. Across town, Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka is undergoing a rehab program in lieu of Tommy John. But both of those players had partial tears of their ulnar collateral ligaments; Edgin’s ligament is stretched like a loose rubber band, not torn, and Alderson indicated that rehab alone is not capable of tightening it.

If Edgin does miss significant time, the primary candidates to replace him are Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin, Dario Alvarez and Scott Rice, all left-handers. Jack Leathersich is also on the team’s radar, but remains an unlikely option given his control issues. Starting pitching prospect Steven Matz is not a bullpen candidate at this time.

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Harvey is human? Harvey is human.

JUPITER, Fla. — Turns out Matt Harvey is mortal, after all.

Five days after electrifying a sold-out crowd at Port St. Lucie, Fla. with two perfect innings, Harvey fell back to earth with a 2 2/3-inning, two-run performance against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. It was Harvey’s second game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in Oct. 2013.

The damage against Harvey could have been worse, considering the first four Marlins to face him in the second inning reached base, with Ichiro Suzuki’s single plating the first run and Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s walk loading the bases with no outs. But Harvey induced a double-play on a soft liner to third base, then struck out Reid Brignac to escape the jam.

An inning later, Giancarlo Stanton hit a one-hop double off the left-field wall, plating Christian Yelich. Harvey recovered to strike out Michael Morse. His day ended there, at 49 pitches. Once again touching the upper-90s with his fastball, Harvey topped out at 98 and sitting a few miles per hour slower than that.

He allowed a total of six hits in 2 2/3 innings, striking out two and walking one, while raising his Grapefruit League ERA to 3.86.

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

It may be Harvey Day, but Harvey tries to keep himself at bay

VIERA, Fla. — Take Matt Harvey, one of the most competitive pitchers in baseball, and place him in a game after 16 tiresome months of rehab. Throw a former Cy Young Award winner on the other side, then toss them both into the carnival like atmosphere of Port St. Lucie, Fla.’s Tradition Field. Home opener, mid-70s, packed house — that sort of thing.

Understand, then, that Harvey can say and do all the right things leading up to the Mets’ 1:10 p.m. ET Grapefruit League against the Tigers on Friday, his first game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in Oct. 2013. He can swear a dozen times over that he’s “just looking at it as another day” and that he’s “getting ready for the season like anybody else.”

Manager Terry Collins still knows that once Harvey steps into uniform, stands on the mound and sees Tigers ace David Price on the other side, it will be impossible — even in a boring, old, counts-for-nothing spring game — to completely rein in Harvey.

“I just want him to understand this is part of the process of getting back,” Collins said. “You’re not going to do any more to make a huge impression on this club by trying to overthrow tomorrow. Just go out there, hit your spots, work on your stuff and let the two innings play out. But as we all know, we’re going to have to ratchet him down a little bit probably before he walks out on that mound.”

Said Harvey: “I don’t think my mentality’s going to change at all. It’s just my first outing in Spring Training, getting ready for what’s coming in the future. I’m not looking at it as a comeback or anything of that sort. It’s me preparing for a normal season.”

For Harvey, Friday’s Grapefruit League game will complete an 18-month process that began when he partially tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, cutting short what had been, up to that point, one of the finest seasons of any Mets pitcher in history. Following a two-month flirtation with rehab, Harvey decided in Oct. 2013 to undergo surgery, then spent most of the next year working his arm back into shape — sometimes in the privacy of the Mets’ Port St. Lucie training center, often within the media crush of New York City.

By Sept. 2014, Harvey had convinced the Mets that he was back to his old self. Still, the out-of-contention team held him back, knowing that an extra six months could mean the difference between long-term health and a future recurrence.

That decision makes Harvey’s matchup with Price his first game action since Aug. 24, 2013, also against the Tigers.

“Prior to the surgery, he had premier stuff,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. “He looked like he was bound to be a superstar. Certainly for his sake and the game’s sake, I hope he bounces back and continues where he left off, because he was a very bright spot for Major League Baseball as a young player.”

Daniel Fields, one of the Tigers hitters making a two-plus-hour bus ride across Florida to face Harvey, noted that having Price on the other side only adds to the juice.

“Those are two of the best arms in the game right now,” said Fields, who will be in a lineup also set to include big leaguers Anthony Gose, Jose Iglesias, Rajai Davis and Nick Castellanos, but not star veterans Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Yoenis Cespedes or Victor Martinez. “Whenever you get a matchup like that in Spring Training, that’s what you want to see. I’m excited for [Friday]. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

The Mets are, too. They just want Harvey to stick to his word and avoid overdoing it.

“Only Matt Harvey can speak for Matt Harvey,” Collins said. “For me, it’s a Spring Training game. I know that it’s a story because he’s Matt Harvey, but I don’t want to see anything more than I would see in a normal Spring Training game.”

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

David Wright takes Noah Syndergaard to school

Update, March 4, 9:03 a.m.:

PORT ST LUCIE, Fla. — A day after Mets veterans David Wright and Bobby Parnell chastised him for eating in the clubhouse during a game, rookie Noah Syndergaard apologized for actions that he called “straight-up ignorance on my part.”

“It was just really a mistake on my part,” Syndergaard said. “It was a learning experience for me. I should have been on the bench.”

During the middle innings of Tuesday’s intrasquad game at Tradition Field, Syndergaard, who was not scheduled to pitch, ducked into the clubhouse and sat down to eat. Wright was already out of the game and when the captain spotted Syndergaard, he scolded him for not being on the bench supporting his teammates. Parnell then walked over, grabbed Syndergaard’s lunch and threw it in the trash.

“I thought it was OK,” Syndergaard said. “I thought there would be a difference — it wasn’t me being in there with my feet up watching TV. I was just grabbing a quick bite to eat. I learned from that mistake, and next time it won’t happen again.”

In his second big league camp at age 22, Syndergaard spoke with Wright again early Wednesday morning to clear up any lingering ill will.

“He didn’t want me to think him and Bobby were picking on me,” Syndergaard said. “He just wanted to make it clear they care about me, they want me to be a part of the team, because they think I can contribute in the future.”

“You see something that can help a player out and you say it,” said Wright, the Mets’ captain for the past two seasons. “It’s the way that we get on each other that maybe some people don’t get or understand. But I’ve got three younger brothers. It’s the way that I’d get on them and that’s what it’s like in here. You have some older brothers and you have some younger brothers. If you see something that can ultimately help them, or help the team, you get on them a little bit. And we wouldn’t do it to somebody that we didn’t think could take it, or that we didn’t think was one of us. I like Noah. I’ve gotten to know Noah over the last couple of years. He’s one of us.”

It was a lesson, Wright said, that he would not hesitate to deliver again — though he apologized to Syndergaard for delivering this one in such a public setting.

“There was no chastising going on,” Wright said. “I was giving a guy a hard time. I do most things with a smile on my face, or I like to think I do. There was nothing malicious.”

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

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