Mets Roll Dice To Eat Innings

It’s all about the innings.

It’s also about the future, which is why the Mets signed veteran righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka on Thursday and slotted him into the rotation right away after injuries and the impending innings count put a dent in the staff.

The countdowns are already underway for young hurlers Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler, and with Jeremy Hefner and Jennry Mejia lost for the season due to injuries, the next day’s starters might have soon been announced as TBA. Carlos Torres was again drafted out of the bullpen for spot starts, and would have started tonight against the Tigers, but with the signing of Matsuzaka, the effective reliever (2-2, 3.00ERA/1.45 ERA in relief) was dispatched back to the pen.

Reliever Greg Burke was optioned back to Sin City to make room for the 32-year-old Matsuzaka, with the verbal promise of a return ticket when September call-ups are made.

Matsuzaka’s signing made sense from a cost-effective point of view. They signed him for just the remainder of the season, and if he pitches well over the course of the next five weeks or so, and helps ease the burden of the staff with innings at a premium in September, he could become a bargain.

Trouble is, the start to his Mets/National League career was anything but a bargain, giving up five runs – including two home runs, to the Tigers in just the first two innings. With starts like that, the Mets would be better served hanging a Help Wanted sign outside the gates of Citi Field for a spot starter.

Matsuzaka settled down for a bit after that, throwing three additional zeros, but those first two frames were pretty ugly. He threw 86 pitches in the five innings, 58 for strikes. Dice-K racked up four Ks, with one walk.

At his request, Matsuzaka was released from his contract with the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 20th. He had been relegated to their minor league system, languishing in Triple-A all season after migrating to the Indians when his manager from the only major league team he had known, Boston’s former leader, Terry Francona, returned to the skipper’s chair in Cleveland.

With the Columbus Clippers of the International League this season, Matsuzaka was just 5-8 in 19 starts (3.92 ERA), striking out 95 and walking 39 in 103.1 innings. In 13 of his IL starts, Matsuzaka lasted at least five innings, in seven of them at least seven innings, hence the attraction.

However, another line on his stat sheet displays his 1-7, 8.28 ERA record the last time he pitched in the majors, in 2012 with the BoSox, yielding 45 earned runs in 45.2 innings. For his career, all in Boston, Matsuzaka is 50-37, 4.52 in 117 games, all but one as starts. His best season came in 2008, when he notched a 18-3 mark, 2.90, in 29 starts.

The 6-foot, 185-pound native of Tokyo, Japan, becomes the 12th Japanese-born player to appear in at least one game with the Mets, the 11th pitcher to have hailed from the Far East, and the first since Ryota Igarishi in 2011.

With the Yankees’ Ichiro Suzuki making news earlier this week as only the third professional baseball player to reach 4,000 hits – combining his accomplishments on two continents, it is also interesting to note there have now been 59 players born in Japan to have played in the majors, although some of those are players you might not have guessed were born in Japan. That list includes the likes of Craig House, Dave Roberts, Jeff McCarry, and Keith McDonald.

Matsuzaka was assigned No. 16, made famous a generation ago in Mets history by Dwight Gooden, and if you want to go back a little further, Lee Mazzilli. Matsuzaka wore No. 18 with Boston, and why that’s significant is that No. 18 carries some sort of prestige in Japan for pitchers. They often request it. But right now, Mets third base coach Tim Teufel is occupying the number, first popularized in Met lore by Darryl Strawberry.

What? You’ve forgotten Al Luplow?

Igarishi wore 18 in 2011.

Matsuzaka is not the first Japanese-born Met hurler to wear 16. Hideo Nomo wore it in New York in 1998, interestingly the first Met to wear it since Gooden last wore it in 1994.

Getting back to the original point, Matsuzaka is here to eat innings. The Mets desperately want to protect both Harvey and Wheeler from throwing too many innings beyond their 2012 results, which recent history suggests, protects young arms. There still are no guarantees (see Stephen Strasburg), but as long as the theory is believed, innings limits will take precedent.

Going into the weekend, Wheeler was at 138.1 combined innings majors and minors for the season. The Mets would like to see him top of at around 170-175. In 2012, he threw 149 innings for two minor league affiliates – Binghamton and Buffalo.

Harvey is at 171.2 innings. Last year he threw a combined 169.1 innings. His target is about 210-215.

With the Mets not exactly in the pennant race, at some point there going to shut down both dynamic arms. And they’re going to need new arms to show up on the mound every day.

There appears to be a general reluctance to call up other promising prospects to do so, one due to their own innings limits, and two, the eyes that watch them say they’re just not ready.

Jason deGrom is an arm the scouts have been raving about lately (4-2, 3.93 in Las Vegas) but he’s not even on the 40, so they would have to lose someone to call him up. Don’t be surprised if another major league castoff from some distant shore also washes up on a Mets beach before this campaign is over.

*****

ADVANCE NOTICE:

Saturday’s matchup of Matt Harvey against Detroit’s Matt Scherzer represents the first time in baseball’s history the two starting pitchers from that year’s All-Star game opposed each other in a regular season game. Of course, this rare occurrence is primarily a byproduct of the 17-season history of interleague play. Credit the Elias Sports Bureau with the research which confirmed the rarity.

Also of note : Wednesday’s ninth inning loss to the Braves represented the 22nd time the Mets had lost this season in the game’s last at-bat. In all of 2012, they lost just 16 games in this manner.

Posted under Andy Esposito, Bullpen, Countdowns, Greg Burke, Major League, Mets, New York Mets, Return Ticket, Roll Dice, Top Story, Verbal Promise

Espo’s Trivia Challenge: Fun Facts 2013 Edition

Getting to know your Mets can be a fun process, especially if you look past the everyday fun stuff of hits, runs, errors, strikeouts, etc., you know…stats.

But ballplayers are people, too, or so they say, so sometimes there are moments in their illustrious past, often baseball related, and laced with stats, that are quite trivial, but can also amuse or entertain on a different level, and makes for interesting “facts” you can pass on to your friends when there’s a lull in your conversation.

For example, did you know that Jonathon Niese, was the last Mets pitcher to enter a game as a pinch-hitter?  He was, on April, 7, 2010, when he was sent up to bat for Hisanori Takahashi.

There you go, you’ll sound just like Ron Darling or Keith Hernandez when they’re tossing out a few tidbits during their SNY telecasts.

For this “Trivia Challenge,” we’re going to focus on the new guys and young players, and see how well you do.  Don’t worry, the first one’s a gimme.

 

 

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FILL IN THE BLANKS

 

1.___________________ is second to Mariano Rivera in game appearances by current major league pitchers. (No. 2 always tries harder, don’t they?)

 

  1. A.   FRANK FRANCISCO
  2. B.   LATROY HAWKINS
  3. C.   BRANDON LYON
  4. D.   PEDRO FELICIANO

 

2.___________________ was once traded for Carlos Beltran in a three-team multi-player deal. (Carlos Who?  Sounds familiar.)

 

  1. A.   JOHN BUCK
  2. B.   MARLON BYRD
  3. C.   LATROY HAWKINS
  4. D.   AARON LAFFEY

 

3. ______________ made his major league debut against the Mets in 2002.  (Went 0-3 in a loss to New York, and is still bummed about it)

 

  1. A.   BRANDON LYON
  2. B.   MARLON BYRD
  3. C.   SCOTT ATCHISON
  4. D.   SHAWN MARCUM

 

4._______________ was originally drafted by the Mets in 2005, but chose not to sign with New York. (What? And missed out on all that fun in 2006?)

 

  1. A.   COLLIN COWGILL
  2. B.   ANTHONY RECKER
  3. C.   BRANDON LYON
  4. D.   GREG BURKE

 

5._______________ was drafted by the NHL Carolina Hurricanes, but chose to play baseball instead of hockey.  (His dentist was disappointed)

 

  1. A.   MATT HARVEY
  2. B.   GREG BURKE
  3. C.   JAMIE HOFFMAN
  4. D.   SHAWN MARCUM

 

6._______________ played two years with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan’s Central League.  (Sushi for everyone in the clubhouse!)

 

  1. A.   SCOTT ATCHISON
  2. B.   MARLON BYRD
  3. C.   SCOTT RICE
  4. D.   LATROY HAWKINS

 

7.______________ has been traded four times, the greatest amount of times being dealt by any Met on the current 40-man roster.  (And keeps a bag packed at all times)

 

  1. A.   LATROY HAWKINS
  2. B.   MARLON BYRD
  3. C.   BRANDON LYON
  4. D.   SCOTT RICE

 

8.______________ was once voted “Mr. Baseball” by his high school. (Does Tom Selleck know about this assault on his title?)

 

  1. A.   KIRK NIEUWENHUIS
  2. B.   LUCAS DUDA
  3. C.   MIKE BAXTER
  4. D.   COLLIN COWGILL

 

9._______________ is a season ticket holder for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. (Really?  The Chiefs?  And he’ll admit to it?)

 

10.______________ became the 962nd player to appear in a game for the NY Mets on Opening Day.  (Shortly after this “new” Met became No. 962, he was soon followed by Nos. 963, 964, 965, 966, and 967 in that first game of the year.)

 

  1. A.   MARLON BYRD
  2. B.   JOHN BUCK
  3. C.   COLLIN COWGILL
  4. D.   SCOTT RICE

 

 

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ANSWERS

1.B

2.A

3.B

4.D

5.C

6.A

7.C

8.D

9.D

10.C  

 

Posted under Andy Esposito, Anthony Recker, Carlos Beltran, Espo, Everyday Fun, Fun Facts, Greg Burke, Latroy Hawkins, League Debut, Mariano Rivera, New York Mets, Niese, Ron Darling, Scott Atchison, Top Story, Trivia Challenge