Right now the outfield combination is a guess that works for the Mets

New York – Friday night at Citi Field in the New York Mets outfield, Mike Baxter got the start in right field, Lucas Duda was in left, Jordany Valdespin in center. It has been common not to expect the same everyday outfield combination in the lineup put together by manager Terry Collins.

It could cause some issues, but not in the Mets clubhouse. Everyone seems to be content with their playing time. What matters most, Collins is trying to find the right combination that can produce some runs in the lineup. And, if Valdespin keeps coming off big, as he did Wednesday night with a walk-off game winning grand slam home run, he could be in the outfield every day.

However, Collins will not commit to who plays where. As he makes out the lineup a lot has to do also with righty against lefty, and who may have the upper hand. Except Mets fans are becoming acclimated to seeing Valdespin come up big, who can also fill some holes in the infield.

“I took the one guy who has a .400 on base in Mike Baxter and said if we can get him on, we got a guy at number 2 who can handle the bat, and hit behind runners, and hit in the holes and bunt and do the little things,” commented Collins about inserting Baxter in right at the top of the order Friday night.

Baxter was followed in the order by Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright, and then came Duda.  The Mets come to the ballpark and it does matter where, when, or if or not they are in the lineup.

The outfield has learned to work as a unit and in the end it comes down to winning ballgames.

Yes, Sandy Alderson, the general manager suggested to Collins to insert Wright fifth in the order.  The Mets captain, before getting injured, drove home 10-runs in the World Baseball Classic. The outfield, though, that is the discretion of the Mets manager.

“He led off for us last year, he knows what he is doing,” said Collins about inserting Baxter in that role Friday night as the Mets dropped the first of a three-game series to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Baxter struck out once and went hitless in four at bats. In the third inning, he also lost a ball in right field that was ruled a double of the bat of Lance Nix.

“It was the twilight out there, hard to read,” commented Baxter about the mixed ball. He said it had nothing to do with the limited playing time out in right, or coming off the bench as a role player.

As for going hitless at the plate, Baxter and the Mets can blame Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick who shut out the Mets for the first time this season limiting them to three hits. Kendrick did not allow a runner to second base after the first inning.

Simply put, Collins is aware that he has to get his guys playing time and find a proper role for them. Baxter, as with rookie Juan Lagares, will get the time. The 24-year old Lagares of the Dominican Republic was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas Tuesday and recorded his first Major League base hit coming off the bench.

The attitude of Lagares, it fits in with the rest of that crowded outfield. “I am going to try and be here and do whatever they need me to do here, come here to work hard everyday  ” he said after getting his first start in center Wednesday night against the Dodgers.

But in a matter of time, Collins and the Mets should have that outfield set. In the meantime, when the Mets outfield arrives at Citi Field early Saturday morning for another game with the Phillies, as has been the case, they will look on the board and see if their name is in the starting lineup.

“We will come out tomorrow and give it another try,” said Baxter.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

Posted under Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Dro, Lefty, Mets Clubhouse, Mets Fans, Mets New York, Mike Baxter, New York Mets, Outfield, Playing Time, Right Combination, Ruben, Runners, Sandy Alderson, Tejada, Top Story, Wednesday Night

Not everything was great out of the pen for Francisco in a close call as Mets beat Braves

Jonathon Niese was cruising along at Citi Field Sunday night. The New York Mets starter pitched eight effective innings, allowed one run and struck out six Atlanta Braves. And then the call to the bullpen and everything went wrong, but, according to closer Frank Francisco, everything went right.

Francisco, who has had his problems closing games, making his second appearance since coming off the disabled list Friday, was ineffective. He walked two with the bases loaded in the ninth, and gave up a two-run double to Martin Prado.

He squandered a 6-1 lead, could not find the strike zone and gave the ball to Jon Rauch with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second. Afterwards, as the Mets dressed and left town with a 6-5 win, losing two of three to Atlanta, Francisco could not be serious.

“They wore me out a little bit, and I’m a little bit out of shape,” said Francisco. That was the serious part. After that, you wonder how much Francisco is serious about being an effective closer.

A major part of the Mets second half collapse has been their inability to drive in runs with two outs, and ineffective starting pitching. Sunday night, Niese (9-6) bounced back from a bad outing against the Marlins on Tuesday.

As the Mets did so effectively in the first half, Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis drove in a run apiece with two outs. Thursday, in their only win against the Marlins, R.A. Dickey got the complete game win, his 15th, and New York drove in five of their six runs with two out hits.

Jordany Valdespin continued to make an impression with manager Terry Collins. Inserted in left field, Valdespin hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, his eighth off losing pitcher Ben Sheets (4-2) that built a 5-1  lead. Collins intends to give him more playing time.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be given the chance and show why I can play here,” said Valdespin about a role in the outfield and also being used in the infield.

However, a constant for the Mets woes is having the most ineffective pen in the game. Before Francisco got the ball, rookie Josh Edgin got the call. He walked two and hit a batter. Francisco could not get the third out and Rauch put out the fire when Jason Heyward swung and missed a slider in the dirt.

But, according to Francisco, the Mets got a win and everything is alright.

The closer, after his comments Sunday night may be the laughing stock of New York baseball. He could not provide the proper answer as to his inability to throw strikes, and make it easy for his manager Terry Collins and those left in the crowd of 24, 891.

“We got a win, that’s the important thing, “commented Francisco about his shaky outing. And then, he ridiculed media by his locker when he said, “It was easy. I’m a bit out of shape. I just got tired. I feel great. You know why, I feel good. That’s it, no more questions?”

Of course, no more questions because Francisco can’t give the answers. Niese watched from the dugout hoping it was not another collapse.

“That was tough,” he said. “I can’t sugarcoat that by any means. But they got the job done,” commenting about the pen, “and that’s all that matters.”

And Collins, looking forward to a day off in Cincinnati Monday, before New York begins a three-game series with the NL Central leading Reds, needed the win. Then it is three more at NL east leading Washington.

It was the Mets ninth win in their last 30 games that has put them out of contention.

“We needed this, we have not played well,” said Collins. “I am not making any excuses. We have not played well on any side of the ball. So this win helped. I don’t care how It came about. I’m glad to get it.”

And for Francisco, apparently he does not care how the win came. The Mets won, however, their closer, ineffective as he was, said he feels good. Though Mets fans, and Collins can’t continue to have that good feeling about his inability to close games.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com and at facebook.com/Keep It in the Ring.

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Bullpen, Collapse, Complete Game, Jonathon Niese, Marlins, New York Mets, Outfield, Playing Time, Second Half, Sixth Inning, Strike Zone, Tejada, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on August 13, 2012

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Tejada Provides A Much Needed Mets Spark

Ruben Tejada the 20-year old rookie infielder of the New York Mets has been patient realizing his playing time has also been a valuable experience. Back in April he was on the 25 man roster and struggled at the plate.

Patience is a virtue as they say. And for Tejada recalled from Triple-A Buffalo on August 7th, the learning process of being on a big league roster have probably earned him the starting second base job at Citi Field next season.

The roster move back in August came when the Mets released veteran infielder and clubhouse leader Alex Cora. “He helped me a lot, spoke to me about what to expect and how to play the big field,” Tejada said recently about his experience of playing in New York and taking Cora in as a mentor.

Tuesday night at Citi Field in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the Mets trailing the Milwaukee Brewers by two runs, in a game that meant nothing but playing for pride, Tejada got his chance. He hit an inside fastball off   Brewers hard throwing left handed closer John Axford.

The ball went into the left center field gap and Luis Castillo came home with the Mets seventh walk-off win of the season 4-3. Tejada was mobbed at home plate by his teammates after going 3-for-4 The second of his two doubles became the big hit with his two runs batted in.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel has always been an advocate of using Tejada as the every day second baseman which regulated the big contract of Castillo to the bench And when infielder Luis Hernandez broke his foot and ended his season on the prior home stand, the second base job and batting eighth in the lineup was permanent for Tejada.

“It was a matter of him getting some hits to fall for him,” said Manuel about the game wining hit that gave the Mets their first win of the season when trailing after eight innings. “Some things fell in for him tonight, that’s a great confidence boost for him.  He’s trying to establish to himself where he belongs on this level and he did a good job tonight,”

Tejada, who makes his off season home in Veraguas Panama has made it known that the adjustment to the big city has been a patient process, Just like being patient at the plate where he has been struggling to keep his average over .200.

“I feel great and hit the ball hard to the left fielder and won the game,’ he said after what hopefully will be many more of his walk off wins for the Mets. On the situation, he said, “I think I’m looking for my count and hit the ball to center field to tie the game.”

It was more than a game tying hit. It became the game winning hit that gave the Mets a good start to their final seven games of the season at home. “I want to finish up strong, we want to finish strong,” he said.

The three hits tied a career high that were achieved against the Pirates on September 14th. Back on September 5th, Tejada also became the second Met this season that had a five RBI game. “I saw the ball good that day,” he said and the wind was also blowing out that day at Wrigley Field.

“It’s been a great experience for me I’m learning a lot, it’s good,” commented Tejada. He will pack his bags after the final game Sunday and return home to be with his mother and members of his family, and then possibly play winter ball in Venezuela.

Something the Mets hope for is the continued development of their youngsters.  The future at Citi Field revolves around players like Tejada, and draft picks such as Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and pitcher Dillon Gee.

And as Tejada says, “I hope to be a part of that future.” A game wining hit and continued patience certainly have almost assured a welcome mat for Tejada at Citi Field next April as their starting second baseman.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Alex Cora, August 7, Clubhouse, Fastball, Gap, Luis Castillo, Luis Hernandez, Man Roster, Mentor, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Patience Is A Virtue, Playing Time, Roster Move, Ruben, Second Baseman, Teammates, Top Story, Tuesday Night, Veteran Infielder

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on September 29, 2010

Delcos: Five Questions for The Mets

When pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 18, I posted five key questions the Mets faced heading into the season. Let’s revisit those questions at the All-Star break.

1) Question: What is this team’s attitude?

Assessment: By all accounts, it has been superb. There is a different chemistry in the Mets clubhouse than I have previously seen. The Mets have shown a remarkable resiliency to bounce back from adversity and Sunday’s win is just another example. There have been no issues about a lack of hustle, and no finger pointing. Both Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan said the right things about the prospect of reduced playing time as Carlos Beltran is about to be activated from the disabled list. The only sour note was, surprise, Oliver Perez’s refusal to accept a minor league assignment, instead, waiting for the disabled list to leave the roster to work on his issues.

2) Question: How healthy is this team?

Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and injuries have cost Beltran and Daniel Murphy in the first half, and Jose Reyes for nearly a month. Beltran is due back to start the second half, but there’s no timetable for the return of Murphy, who reinjured his knee while on a rehab assignment. Murphy was playing second base at the time in preparation for a position change. After treating Reyes with kid gloves in the wake of his thyroid issue, the Mets rushed him back from an oblique injury, which he aggravated Saturday. There’s no telling how long he’ll be out. Luis Castillo is on the disabled list and his is another injury where the Mets tried to have him play through. Fortunately, his replacement, Ruben Tejada, has been more than filled the void. Reliever Kelvim Escobar, penciled in as a set-up man, is out for the year with a shoulder injury. The Mets are still trying to find an eighth-inning solution. Oliver Perez and John Maine are currently on the disabled list.

3) Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?

Assessment: Pelfrey made a point of saying he understood this trio represented a significant key to the Mets’ success this season. Perez and Maine are on the disabled list, but the team upgraded with R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi. Pelfrey was superb for much of the first half but has been going through a dead arm period and has been largely ineffective over his last five starts. Perez balked at a minor league assignment, but an injury was found that conveniently landed him on the disabled list. He has been sound, and somewhat effective, in his rehab assignment. Look for the Mets to activate him shortly after the break and send Takahashi back to the bullpen. There’s no timetable for Maine’s return.

4) Question: Who is fifth starter?

Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi were in the mix in the spring, but Niese won the job and has been very good since coming off the disabled list. Niese has been so good that management tabbed him untouchable when Seattle asked for him in trade discussions surrounding Cliff Lee. Figueroa is now in Philadelphia, while Nieve is in the bullpen. Takahashi replaced Perez in the rotation and pitched well at first, but clearly showed he’s more valuable in the bullpen. The Mets are searching for a fifth starter in the trade market, as there are lingering questions about Perez and Maine.

5) Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

Assessment: Jenrry Mejia went north in the pen in an undefined role, but eventually went to the minor leagues to work on being a starter, when he was injured. Losing Escobar went a large part in opening the door for Mejia, who threw hard, but never grasped the eighth-inning role. Bobby Parnell, who appeared to wash you last year, now appears to be the arm having the inside track in the eighth inning to start the second half. Ryota Igarashi was the guy at one time, but pulled a hamstring and hasn’t been the same since. He’s now in the minor leagues. Nieve and Pedro Feliciano were over worked early, and still have heavy workloads. The distribution of work should be improved when Takahashi goes back to the bullpen.

John Delcos has covered Major League Baseball for over 20 years, including more than ten in New York on the Yankees and Mets beats. You can read Delcos on his blog, http://www.newyorkmetsreport.com, where he hosts a chat room for each Mets game.

Posted under Attitude Assessment, Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy, Eighth Inning, Jeff Francoeur, John Delcos, Jose Reyes, Kelvim Escobar, Kid Gloves, Luis Castillo, Mets Clubhouse, Minor League, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Pitchers And Catchers, Playing Time, Position Change, Rehab Assignment, Remarkable Resiliency, Shoulder Injury, Team Assessment, Tejada, Top Story

This post was written by John Delcos on July 13, 2010