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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — This early in spring, live batting practice is an exercise inherently stacked against hitters. David Wright calls facing a game-ready pitcher “impossible” at a time when he and his peers are simply trying to rediscover their timing at the plate.
So it was entirely unsurprising to Wright when Matt Harvey unleashed a tumbling curveball Monday and the third baseman not only swung through it, but dropped his shoulder, put his head down and half-whiffed, half-walked out of the batter’s box.
Wright was not alone; for the first time this spring, hitters stepping into the cage regularly tried — largely unsuccessfully — to swing at pitches. Against Harvey, that resulted in several whiffs and a fair amount of weak contact. Harvey in particular focused on the curveball that was his primary out pitch in college, before giving way to the slider early in his professional career. Coming off surgery, Harvey said, the curveball came easier to him, so he began throwing it more. And pitching coach Dan Warthen only encouraged it, noting that the curve places far less torque on his elbow than the slider.
“I’m a big believer in curveballs,” manager Terry Collins said. “Sliders, obviously you can throw those a lot harder than you can a curveball. But the plane change on a curveball is a very, very good pitch. It takes less torque to throw a curveball. I always thought Matt had a very, very good one. I think it’s a good pitch for him. It’s a little something off his hard stuff that he can throw for strikes.”
“It’s a great combination to be able to throw a four-seam [fastball] up in the zone and come back with a curveball,” Warthen said. “The delivery, everything is repeating itself beautifully right now.”
Harvey, for his part, said he has no idea why the curveball came so naturally post-surgery, speculating that either his mechanics grew cleaner or “it just magically appeared.”
“I always threw sliders,” said Harvey, who threw approximately four of them for every three curves in 2013. “It’s nice having that develop.”
Still, though Harvey did his best to gauge the reactions of Wright, Curtis Granderson and others during Monday’s session, a far more significant test will come Friday at Tradition Field. There, Harvey will face the Tigers in his first live game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in Oct. 2013.
On the mound for Detroit will be left-hander David Price, who recently joined a growing chorus texting Harvey to offer support. The two met with Harvey was a student at the University of North Carolina and Price was pitching in nearby Durham. They kept in touch over the years, leading Price to contact Harvey with words of encouragement — and perhaps a touch of trash talking.
At the time, it was a light moment between two of baseball’s stars. Friday, it will be Harvey’s job to brush aside Price and all other distractions, focusing instead on his continued development as March melts toward April.
“We still have a whole month to go,” Harvey said. “I don’t want to go out there and overwork or get too excited about one or two innings. I’ve been through Spring Training before. I realize there’s still a lot of work to be done and still a lot of steps that need to be taken in order to be game-ready.”
New Mets hitting coach Kevin Long spoke at length this morning, offering his take on several Mets hitters. Read the story on Mets.com, but also check out these bonus takes:
On Curtis Granderson: “When I’ve seen Curtis — and I’ve seen him at a very high level — he’s able to get on base. He’s able to drive the ball. And certainly the top of the order, those guys are going to get more at-bats throughout the year. Let’s say he hits sixth. He’d probably lose 70, 80 at-bats to the guy who hits leadoff. So do you want your best hitters and the guys who get on base the most? Certainly you do. There’s some other options, so that’s not etched in stone, but we’ll say how this plays out. Terry’s ultimately is going to have the final say-so on that. But Curtis has done it before. He’s capable of doing it. So we’ll just see how it plays out.
“Obviously we’ve worked on a few things, and we’re going back to the blueprint of when he was with the Yankees. There are a couple minor things that we’re working on. One is getting his hands into a consistent position, and just getting him to feel the consistency he had, the shortness to the ball, obviously the compact swing that he had, the explosiveness — it’s all in there. It’s just a matter of going back, kind of going through the video, getting together, trying some things in the cages and seeing if we can gain on it. And I think we have. I think he feels good about his work that he’s done in the offseason, and now coming into Spring Training — it’s not that we’re gaining momentum anymore, it’s more about staying where he’s at now.
On Juan Lagares: “Juan’s talented. I’ve noticed that and I’m excited about this player. He’s got a nice demeanor about him. He’s confident. Obviously he’s going to have to hone in on the strike zone and kind of take these chases and these swings out of the zone, and be able to lay off some pitches, and determine what’s a pitch that he can do damage to. And if he can’t, certainly laying off is going to do what? It’s going to increase his on-base percentage. I think with Juan, it’s more about, ‘Can we maximize his ability to get on base?’ So he’s got some work to do.
“There’s drills you can do. There’s a lot of vision stuff. And I’ll use Robinson Cano as an example because he’s the guy who sticks out, but we really paid attention to what he was swinging at, talking about his ‘A’ swing, talking about doing damage to the ball, talking to him about, ‘Today, you swung at seven pitches out of the zone. Let’s see if we can get that number down to four a day.’ And then all of the sudden, the four turns into two.’ Instead of trying to get there all at once, you gradually get there. So we’ll do strike zone stuff where we’ll say, ‘Okay, let’s just swing at pitches middle-away. Anything in, take it, instead of trying to cover the whole strike zone and expand it.’ You can do that early and you can do that in plus counts, and a lot of times that we’ll help as well.
“He’s got a good swing and he’s always had the ability to get hits. He finds a way. I think he hit .285, which the Major League average is .250, so he’s 35 points up there. What we’re looking at is, ‘What is his on-base?’ It’s probably .315, .320. If we can get that number up to .350, .360, you’ve gain on it quite a bit.”
On David Wright: “He’s a tough one for me to kind of give you an honest evaluation of. I wasn’t here. I didn’t live it. I didn’t see it. I couldn’t see his face. I didn’t know what kind of workload he was able to do or not able to do. So in David’s case, certainly I can tell you that if I’ve got a shoulder issue and I need to get extension, at some point it’s going to pinch. And it’s going to hurt. So if you saw him cutting off his swing and not getting through baseballs or not driving the ball, you can put two and two together and say they probably had something to do with it.”
On Travis d’Arnaud: “It’s funny because when I looked at Travis and I looked at him early on, it was almost like the competitiveness was out of him. The athlete, he was thinking too much. He wasn’t trusting his ability, and probably what had gotten him to the big leagues. Maybe he didn’t know if he could compete at this level. I think when he went back to Triple-A, he said, “You know what, I’m going to go back to the way I hit.’ And one of those things was getting on the plate. Getting on the plate certainly helped him a great deal. I could see his confidence level rise, I could see his swing start to come together, and really I’ve done very little with Travis — almost nothing, other than keep his confidence level up and his spirits up, and let him know that what you did last year when you came back was enough, and it was terrific.”
On Lucas Duda: “He’s well aware that he needs to work. And all lefty-on-lefty stuff is, or righty-on-righty stuff, it’s angles. So we’ll get different angles and we’ll get the ball coming from this angle a lot more than this angle. Obviously he’s had some success [against right-handed pitchers]. He’s had some success [against lefties] in the Minor Leagues. So it’s here. He can do it. When he’s able to swing, we’ll get back to doing some lefty-on-lefty stuff, and see if we can’t get him a little bit more consistent there. Obviously we’re talking about a 30-home run guy. There’s not many of those in the Major Leagues. So the more that we can get Lucas in the lineup, the better off we’ll be.
“Using the whole field certainly will get that average where it needs to be. But Lucas, if I’m not mistaken, I think he has power to all fields. Certainly we’ve seen more to the pull side, and most hitters are going to have more power to the pull side, but this something that Lucas has done in the past. He’s been able to drive the ball to all fields. So I’m sure some of our attention will go to that, and we’ll see if maybe we can get that average to elevate just a little bit.”
On Bartolo Colon: “Bartolo’s got some work to do [laughing]. He’s not too vested in putting that much time into getting his swing where it needs to be. He said he had two hits last year, and I said, ‘How about four hits this year?’ And he said, ‘How about three?’ That’s where we’re at with Bartolo.”
Date: Feb. 21
Days until Opening Day: 44
Temperature in Port St. Lucie, Fla.: 68 degrees
Temperature in Flushing, N.Y.: 28 degrees
Picture of the Day: Matt Harvey participates in pitchers’ fielding practice as Jacob deGrom and Josh Edgin look on.
Quote of the Day: “My life has changed a lot in a year.” –RHP Jacob deGrom, who went from Triple-A depth last spring to reigning National League Rookie of the Year.