Seth Lugo and Steven Matz to the rescue

Lefty starter Steven Matz and righty swing man Seth Lugo have been absent from the Mets active roster since spring training. Coupled with the long term losses of our top starter and closer, this has been devastating for our once deep and powerful pitching staff. Back in spring training we had seven good to great starting pitchers and a solid bullpen. But four injuries have led us to carrying players on the roster that, frankly, don’t belong in the Major Leagues.

A team with journeymen Tommy Milone and Neil Ramirez and AAAA talent like Rafael Montero on the roster, not to mention marginal talent like Paul Sewald, Josh Smoker and the struggling Hansel Robles and Fernando Salas, isn’t poised to go very far. Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia aren’t likely to rejoin the team until at least after the All Star break. But thankfully, Matz and Lugo are working their way back to Queens with minor league rehab starts. Both should be back within the next week or two and that could be a game changer.

The offense has been pretty good for the most part and with Yoenis Cespedes coming back, scoring runs should continue to be a positive for this team. For the pitching staff to do its part, the starters need to routinely, or at least more frequently, go seven innings. Jacob deGrom is there and Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Robert Gsellman have all shown encouraging signs of joining him to form an effective rotation. The fifth spot, currently held by the now injured Milone and tomorrow by either Smoker or Montero (gulp) has been a major problem. Matz will provide a massive upgrade. While his injury history has been frustrating, he’s been effective when healthy.

The addition of Lugo might prove even more valuable. The curveball machine can fill in as a spot starter and give the rest of the rotation an extra day, or he can be someone who enters the game in the sixth inning to give us a solid two inning bridge to our only two effective relievers – Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed. Right now, it’s hard to feel comfortable bringing anyone else into a close game. Either way it will help solve the problem of blowing games in the sixth and seventh innings, where seemingly every loss this season can trace its roots.

In an ideal world, the forthcoming additions of Matz, Lugo and Cespedes spark the team and help us get back into contention. Come July, the front office can make a move to shore up the bullpen while we look forward to getting back Syndergaard and Familia, not to mention Amed Rosario, for the stretch run. In a stormy season, there’s always a sliver of sunlight if you look hard enough.

Pinstriped Performances – Thursday, May 25, 2017

Check out the top performances across the New York Yankees farm system in the latest edition of Pinstriped Performances.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Triple A)

Game postponed due to rain

Trenton Thunder (Double A)

Seven unanswered runs propelled the Thunder to a series sweep over the Reading Fightin Phils. After falling behind 2-0, Trenton answered back with a four-run bottom of the first. visit site to read more]

Gut Reaction: Padres 4 Mets 3 (5/25/17)

Y’know, we always talk about the weather, but we never do anything about it. On this night, the Mets couldn’t do anything about the weather or the San Diego Padres and they were done in by both. The Mets dropped the rubber game of this series in desultory fashion, going down in a hail of runners left on base.

Jacob deGrom was supposed to pitch for the Mets, but an all-day soaking rain caused a shift in management’s thinking: on the very real chance that the game would be interrupted by a downpour, and not wanting to waste a deGrom start, it was decided to start Rafael Montero instead. It was a bad decision. By gametime, the rain had slackened to an annoying mist. Montero threw 87 pitches in three innings — yes, you read that right — 45 of which came in the first. With one out, Yangervis Solarte drew an eight-pitch walk. Will Myers followed with a base on balls of his own. Hunter Renfroe hit a painfully slow roller to short on which Jose Reyes had no play and the bases were loaded. Cory Spangenberg lined a base hit into left and the Padres led it, 1-0. After Montero struck out Austin Hedges, he surrendered his third walk of the inning to Matt Szczur and San Diego had a 2-0 lead.

The Mets got one back in the second, when Lucas Duda launched a long home run to right field off rookie right-hander Dinelson Lamet, making his MLB debut. Euphoria was short-lived, however, as the weather reared its head once again. Leading off the third, Renfroe lifted a lazy popup to Michael Conforto in left field. Right off the bat, Conforto couldn’t see it through the foggy murk and it dropped right next to the left field foul line, while Contforto was playing duck-and-cover. Renfroe wound up on second, was sacrificed over to third by Spangenberg and scored on a two-out base hit by Szczur. The score was 3-1, but somehow it felt like 8-1.

Paul Sewald replaced Montero in the fourth and did yeoman work, tossing three scoreless innings. Josh Edgin came on in the seventh and notched two scoreless frames of his own. On offense, the Mets kept getting runners on against Lamet, but couldn’t bring any of them around — it looked a lot like last year in that regard, actually. The got the leadoff man on in the third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth and ended up with only one additional run to show for it. That run scored in the eighth, when Neil Walker led off with a booming double over Sczcur’s head and Duda grounded a single up the middle.

Addison Reed came on to hold the Padres in the ninth. He did not do that. Allen Cordoba led off with a single and with one out, Myers walked. Renfroe then sent a deep fly to right and Cordoba crossed over to third. Spangenberg slapped a line drive just past Duda’s leap, resulting in an RBI double and that bloody insurance run. It was needed, because in the bottom of the ninth, Juan Lagares drew a one-out walk. Conforto — having struck out four times, in addition to his meteorological problems — smacked a base hit into right, putting runners on first and third. Reyes hit big hopper to short, but the Padres couldn’t turn the double play and Lagares scored. That brought up Jay Bruce with a chance to win it, but he hit a weak pop foul outside third, which Spangenberg squeezed as he fell against the front of the stands.

It’ll be tough getting past the ignominy of dropping two-of-three to the worst team in the majors, but now it’s on to Pittsburgh to try and recover.

RiverDogs Lose Pitcher’s Duel To Greenville 1-0

Greenville Drive pitcher Logan Boyd shut down the Charleston RiverDogs offense in a 1-0 Drive win Thursday night at Joe Riley Park. Boyd (W, 6-1) pitched six strong innings allowing just three hits while striking out four.

The only run in the game came in the top of the first off RiverDog … [visit site to read more]

Florial Flourishing In Charleston

Estevan Florial has had an interesting journey on his way to Charleston to play for the RiverDogs. He was born in Haiti and grew up in the Domincan Republic. He almost never made it to the United States.

When the New York Yankees went to sign Florial in July 2014, there were issues with his … [visit site to read more]

Game Chatter: Dinelson Lamet vs Rafael Montero (5/25/17)

[RiverDogs Preview] RiverDogs Face Off Against First Place Drive

The Charleston RiverDogs return home after a rain abbreviated two game set in Columbia to face the Boston Red Sox affiliated Greenville Drive for four games at Joe Riley Park. Nick Nelson (0-3, 6.75 ERA) will take the ball for the Dogs while visit site to read more]

The tipping point with Terry Collins and the mainstream media

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. It seems like we may have witnessed two important tipping points with the Mets this year. The first is with how they handle injuries and the second with how they utilize their relievers.

Jerry Crasnick wrote a very detailed piece on injuries and now we have news that Sandy Alderson is holding daily meetings on the subject and looking into all aspects of how the team handles injuries. Better late than never.

And now, Teflon Terry Collins is coming under scrutiny from every source on how he handles his bullpen. Of course, bloggers have been talking about this for years while the mainstream media turned a blind eye because, doggone it, TC is such a good guy. But we heard Ron Darling crticize him on the air last night and reporters are following up. Here are snippets from what Joel Sherman wrote today in the Post:

“Perhaps the only issue Terry Collins wanted to discuss less than injuries in his pregame media gathering Wednesday was bullpen management.

And because those were the subjects of the day — and pretty much every day around this disappointing team — the manager was touchy and miserable.”

snip

“Normally chatty and helpful with reporters, Collins provided vagaries and terse responses when asked the status of his injured fleet.”

snip

“Collins saw the wildness and a dip in velocity and summoned Neil Ramirez to face Myers. On April 29, pitching for the Giants, Ramirez had allowed a three-run homer to Myers. He was designated for assignment the next day. I asked Collins if he knew that and he said he did not, that he had not seen the matchups. In this data-driven baseball age, how could the manager and his entire staff not be aware of what occurred less than a month ago?”

Wow, I mean just wow. And once again for emphasis, wow!!

To see Collins skewered in the mainstream media is shocking. It’s 100 percent correct and at least five years overdue but wow. Hey, better late than never.

As someone who’s been beating the drum for years that the Mets’ bullpen deployment makes no sense, it’s good to see others pick up the cause. Still, I can’t help but wonder if Collins hadn’t been “terse” and instead was “chatty and helpful” if he would still be getting a free pass.

The beauty that is Michael Conforto

“If you can keep your head about you when all others are losing theirs, and blaming it on you…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” — Rudyard Kipling

As all of us who read this know, it’s a trying time to be a Mets fan, to say the least. The woes of this team are well documented and don’t need to be enumerated individually here, suffice to say that no team is going to look very good without its dominant ace starter, its mostly-consistent closer and its lightning-rod superstar hitter. It seems that the Baseball Gods have taken special delight in heaping the trials of Job on the team from Queens. Those of us of a metaphysical bent might call it Madoff’s Revenge or continuing payback to Satan for Bill Buckner. It could be a simple reversion by ownership to its previous meddling ways – if you notice over the years, in the wake of success, Mets’ GMs going all the way back to Frank Cashen suddenly get stupid; I leave it up to you, dear reader, to figure out the common denominator. In any case, the 2017 is hurtling toward the “lost” column and it’s just Memorial Day weekend.

One bright spot among this rubble has been, of course, the emergence of Michael Conforto. Extremely little was expected from this third-year player this year. After his meteoric rise to the post-season roster in 2015 – it is easy to forget that he was only drafted out of college in June of ’14 – his fall was just as rapid last year. With all kinds of talk swirling that he might start the year in Las Vegas due to the Mets’ supposed glut of outfielders – they were supposed to have a glut of starting pitchers, too, but look how that one turned out – a lat injury to Juan Lagares late in training camp allowed for Conforto to take that roster spot. After a fitful start to the season, he has definitely made the most of his opportunity. With Yoenis Cespedes on the shelf for most of the early g and with Jay Bruce’s initial hot streak a thing of the past, Conforto has emerged as the team’s most consistent, exciting hitter. A graphic on a recent game telecast showed a textbook swing, with near-perfect mechanics. Ron Darling marveled at Conforto’s ability to keep his head down, his eyes focused on ball meeting bat. “That’s what everybody means when they say ‘Keep your eye on the ball.’ Conforto’s doing that perfectly.” With his emerging stature among League leaders, people are starting to take notice: eighth in Avg. (.333), third in home runs (13), fourth in OPS (1.138). And because of that lousy pre-season depth chart, he can’t get on the All-Star ballot.

Across town, people are turning cartwheels over the development of Aaron Judge, and rightly so. Judge started this season like a house ablaze and hasn’t let up. Thing is, Conforto is right there with him and not a lot of folks around here are noticing. While Conforto isn’t nearly the imposing physical specimen Judge is and is a year younger, he’s matched Judge stat-for-stat, with a couple more RBI and a couple fewer HR. Just watch, they’ll go neck and neck down the New York track the rest of the year.

Dare we hope the rest of the Mets can catch up?

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

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Conforto Gets First Topps NOW Card

Mets left fielder Michael Conforto‘s blistering start may have been overshadowed by another rookie outfielder across town, but that didn’t stop Topps from issuing its first Topps NOW card, coming off Tuesday’s two-homer, four-RBI day vs. San Diego.

Fans can purchase the card through 3 p.m. on Thursday at https://www.topps.com/collectibles/trading-cards/topps-now.html/.

Before Saturday’s Jose Reyes card, the last Met honored was Noah Syndergaard on April 20.