Posts Tagged ‘John Maine’

For 2010, Mets Ask Fans to Just Believe

February 15, 2010

In the next few days, the city of Port St. Lucie, Fla. will be officially open for business as it kicks off the Spring Training portion of the Mets 2010 season. Coming off such a sour year in which they finished in fourth place with ninety-two losses, a fresh start is most definitely in order.

With injuries to key players and poor pitching being the main causes for such a forgettable season last year, heading into this upcoming season ultimately pain-free and ready to go is all you can expect at this point. If you speak to anyone affiliated with the Mets from season ticket holders down to those responsible for checking their tickets you would be met with the same consensus.

“I believe that we are going to improve,” Mets ace Johan Santana has said. “We weren’t a full team last year.”

“Baseball is a fun game,” he added. “If guys try to do too much… and not try to do someone else’s job, we will be fine.”

Even though the Mets front office, ownership included, were unable to acquire a front-line starter to complement the left-handed Santana, there is no question that Mets players and coaches are excited to get this part of the baseball season underway.

Along with newly-acquired free agent slugger Jason Bay, the Mets expect to have their catalyst back, shortstop Jose Reyes, at one hundred percent. With a healthy Reyes in the Mets lineup, manager Jerry Manuel would likely have lesser things to worry about.

Pitching Coach Dan Warthen, on the other hand, is banking on three of his projected starters, Oliver Perez, John Maine, and Mike Pelfrey, to undergo a complete turn-around from last season. Maine and Perez are coming off injuries and Pelfrey is searching for whatever was lost during his second full season with the Mets.

“Pelfrey loves the challenge,” Santana said. “He’s dropped twenty pounds and has been telling a lot of people that he wants to win.”

“Maine has the stuff to be a starter,” he added.

Regarding Perez, Santana replied, “Ollie has to get back to being Ollie.”

Not only will the Mets not have one of their perennial leaders in centerfielder Carlos Beltran at the beginning of the season due to injury, they will also not be carrying veteran Carlos Delgado as well. Delgado has remained unsigned as he makes his comeback from major hip surgery.

“When I think of a veteran, I think of a leader, like Carlos Delgado,” Maine said in a recent interview with Mets Blog’s Matthew Cerrone. “Someone else is going to have to fill that void. I just think what he’s done, who he is, and his demeanor…he was perfect for that,” he added.

The theme of this season is entitled, “We Believe in Comebacks.” If the Mets can stay healthy and their starting rotation can perform to their potential, perhaps, Mets fans will allow themselves to start believing again and have faith that things are moving in a positive direction.

In closing, since 2006, the NL East division from top to bottom has gotten exponentially better. For the Mets to have a winning chance at the division this season, its imperative that they remain healthy and stay consistent throughout the year. And also hope that the players they currently have in place are able to produce better numbers than they have in the past.

Let’s Go Mets!

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Mets Starting Pitching Has No One Else to Blame

August 24, 2009

Occasionally, in my day-to-day conversations with co-workers and friends, the topic of the New York Mets comes up. After agreeing that the team stinks and that they will not be making the post-season this year, I usually defend their performance by pointing out the enormous amount of injuries they’ve had to deal with. Nonetheless, after tuning into yesterday’s 9-7 loss to the defending World Series-champion Philadelphia Phillies, I have come to realize that injuries or not, the Mets lack good starting pitching.

Looking at their last four games, including Sunday’s outing by left-hander Oliver Perez and Wednesday’s embarrassing performance by righty Bobby Parnell, reinforces that notion. For Parnell, you can make the case that his ineffectiveness is because he started the 2009 campaign in the bullpen. He most likely wouldn’t have been given a chance to start for the Mets if lefty Jon Niese and right-hander Fernando Nieve weren’t on the disabled list. For Perez, who has been hindered by soreness in his right knee, the reasons for his disappointing pitching numbers are not so easy to assess.

In Perez’ fourteen starts thus far this year he has yet to pitch into the seventh inning. On Sunday, the Mets left-hander was yanked by manager Jerry Manuel after giving up six runs in just two-thirds of an inning pitched. With right-hander John Maine’s return to the starting rotation uncertain and the recent release of veteran Livan Hernandez, GM Omar Minaya will have his hands full heading into the 2010 season.

Mets Drop Two of Three Along with One of Their Starters on Their Way to the Bronx

June 12, 2009

Mets manager Jerry Manuel outwardly expressed last night after the Mets lost their second straight game in extra innings to the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies that his team is hoping to stay afloat until key players return to the Mets starting lineup. However, as the Mets patiently paddle along unchartered waters, other holes continue to spring up forcing a possible situation into nothing more than a desperate leap of faith. Along with dropping two of three to the Phillies, the Metropolitans will be heading up to the Bronx this weekend to take on their cross-town rivals, the Yankees, without one of their starting pitchers. Right-hander John Maine was placed on the 15-day disabled list following the game last night with what is being described as “shoulder fatigue.”

“Right now we’re going to hope that John Maine won’t be out for a long time,” Mets GM Omar Minaya said.

Up until now, Manuel was able to rely on the strong performances of his starting pitching to weather the storm. Before Maine’s latest setback, it was viewed as the one positive in a sea of negatives. Not only will the Mets have to decide on who will be pitching for them on Saturday evening but eventually they will have to answer the question as to who will be the one to pull in that anchor and complement, David Wright and Carlos Beltran.

“With the way we’re built right now offensively, we have to have more than two guys swinging the bat,” Manuel said.

The Mets will be heading into this weekend’s series with the hope that tonight’s starter, right-hander Livan Hernandez, will continue to pitch strongly and help his team turn the tides.

More Injuries Equals More Wins

May 31, 2009

In the fifth inning of Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Florida Marlins, Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran left the game with a stomach virus. With Beltran out for the remainder of the game, the Mets lineup resembled something very similar to that of a spring training game in March coincided with the World Baseball Classic. In defense of Mets manager Jerry Manuel, the core of his starting position players were in desperate need of a day off.

Nonetheless, left fielder Gary Sheffield, third baseman David Wright, and second baseman Luis Castillo were back in the Mets starting lineup for the final game of this current home stand against the Marlins today and, wouldn’t you know it, produced a better result. Even with their starting pitcher, John Maine, experiencing the same fate as their absent centerfielder, (Maine was pulled prior to the beginning of the seventh inning Sunday with the same type of stomach virus as Beltran) he managed to propel the Mets to victory and take the series from the Marlins, two games to one.

Maine continued his dominance with the help of his trusty bullpen at Citi Field this season with his fourth win in his last four starts at home. Against the Marlins, the right hander went six full innings giving up only three hits with no runs to go along with five strikeouts to just two walks.

“Not many foul balls were hit. I had a low pitch count. I wanted to keep going but what are you going to do.” Maine said. “I couldn’t help it.”

Today’s 3-2 victory concludes a 5-1 home stand for the Mets. Overall, the Mets are 17-9 at Citi Field. “It’s always important to play well at home,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “Our starting pitching has stepped up for us.”

With that said, right-hander Livan Hernandez will take his 4-1 record for the season with him on the road Monday as the Mets begin a four game series in Pittsburgh. They will then head to Washington to take on the Nationals this weekend before returning home to play the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Mets currently have an 11-12 record on the road.

Adding to the Mets long list of injuries, outfielder Angel Pagan left today’s game with discomfort in his right groin. Pagan’s status has been listed as day-to-day.

Will the Real Marlins Please Stand Up?

April 28, 2009

If the Florida Marlins weren’t still sitting atop the NL East division by the slimmest of margins, last night’s 7-1 victory would most likely be nothing more than a tune-up for the Mets as they prepare for their three-game series this weekend against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Since starting the season with an 11-1 record, the Marlins have found themselves losers of seven straight. After being touted as this year’s Tampa Bay Rays, the only truth be told for the Marlins, who are fading fast, is that their payroll hovers near or below Alex Rodriguez’ single-season salary. Not only is Florida hanging by a thread, their All-Star shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, has been listed as day-to-day after being handcuffed by a John Maine fastball. Ramirez was struck on his right wrist in the first inning and immediately taken out of the game.

The Mets however were much more fortunate. The back-up to the back-up catcher, Omir Santos, put the Mets ahead in their bottom half of the first inning, 6-1, with his first career homerun, a grand slam. John Maine had a very strong outing in which he lasted six innings with an unearned run as the only run he allowed. Mets third baseman David Wright showed signs of coming out of his slump by going 2 for 4 with a triple and an RBI, his seventh of the season. The Mets did have their share of negatives. First baseman Carlos Delgado was a late scratch stemming from a sore hip he experienced while running out yesterday’s three-base hit. Second baseman Luis Castillo had to come out of last night’s game with what was diagnosed as back spasms.

Livan Hernandez will take the hill tonight for the second installment of this current three-game series. His start will conclude the latest turn in the Mets starting rotation. If Hernandez can replicate Maine’s performance against the Marlins last night, perhaps Oliver Perez’ previously disappointing outing may not seem so dire.

For further reading, check out this post entitled An Emerging Threat in the NL East.

After Santana, It’s Work, Work, Work

April 10, 2009

The good news for the Mets is that they most likely won’t have to worry about Cincinnati’s Joey Votto anytime soon. The bad news though is that after a gutsy performance by their ace, Johan Santana, on Opening Day, there is some uncertainty as to who will follow. Flushing’s most lovable southpaw, good ol’ Ollie Perez, was up to his old tricks again yesterday. His first real start of this regular season began with a flash of greatness as he mowed down four consecutives Reds hitters during his first two innings of work. Then, he and everybody else watched as it all went up in smoke, surrendering eight earned runs within his remaining two and a third innings of work. After the game, in which the Mets lost 8-6, the newly-minted left hander seemed rather complacent in his performance. Somehow, the accumulation of seven strikeouts was enough to off-set his present earned run average of 16.62. I understand that it’s just one game but we have all witnessed enough of Perez to wonder how long the organization, and fans for that matter, are willing to tolerate.

On Wednesday night, it took Mike Pelfrey at least 44 pitches to find his rhythm. At that rate, Pelfrey could very well be burnt out before the All-Star break. Even though he was credited with a win, the tall and sturdy right hander more closely resembled his early days when he was fighting for a spot in the rotation. In those days, Mets fans would anxiously wait for the young Mets pitcher to record his first win. Night after night, Pelfrey’s pitches would fail to find the strike zone so much so that Mets fans would stomp their feet and pound their foreheads in anger. As upsetting as his performances were, fans still gave the 6’7” right hander the benefit of the doubt. However, Pelfrey is now considered the team’s number 2 starter. With that role comes a higher expectation, which means that fans most likely won’t exude the same amount of patience as in the past.

With the subpar performances thus far of Perez and Pelfrey, tonight’s starter, John Maine, will be asked to appease the critics who have already found fault in a championship caliber Mets ball club.

According to Manuel, There’s No Reason to Worry

March 25, 2009

“He should be fine,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “I’m not overly or even concerned at this point.” Manuel was responding to questions regarding the state of his right-hander, John Maine. “There comes a time in Spring Training when pitchers hit a lull … usually at this time. Then you pick it back up. … I’m not concerned by what I saw,” he said. Those comments were in response to another one of his starting right-handers, Mike Pelfrey. As you can tell, Manuel doesn’t seem the least bit worried that two-fifths of his starting rotation may have to undergo a crash course in preparation for the regular season.

On Monday, Maine was called in to work on his day off. Pitching Coach Dan Warthen felt that the right-hander was shortening up his stride when delivering his pitches causing him to land too soon. “In the back of his mind, he was afraid to let go,” Warthen said. Maine has been accused of “babying” his arm since coming off of shoulder surgery. Since the beginning of spring training, Maine who will turn 28 in May, has fed the media’s craving for back page storylines with his blunt and often candid interpretation of his pitching performances thus far. His musings have even begun to create doubt in the minds of Mets fans who felt great confidence in their starting rotation heading into this season.

If the uncertainty surrounding Maine’s slow progression towards opening day isn’t cause for alarm, then having Mike Pelfrey’s lower left leg wrapped everyday since March 6th may also be nothing to fret about either. For the time being, it has been viewed as a minor inconvenience and according to Pelfrey will not force him to miss his up-coming scheduled start. “They told me I looked a little tired,” said Pelfrey. In 2008, the young right-hander pitched 200.2 innings. Experts cautioned the Mets coaching staff to keep an eye on him this season just in case the previous year’s workload was too much. Perhaps it’s a little premature to accuse last season’s totals to Pelfrey’s fatigue during spring training but you have to admit, it does make you wonder.

I guess I can’t blame Manuel for maintaining a level of calm. If I was stationed in Port St. Lucie, FL in mid-March with the sun blaring down on me all day and the temperature nearing eighty degrees, I would whistle on my way to work, too.

Starting Rotation Has Its Share of Ups and Downs

March 7, 2009

Along with every Mets fan’s morning coffee is the daily task of checking on the status of their left-handed ace, Johan Santana. With so much emphasis being placed on the notion of whether he is or isn’t in line to make this season’s opening day start, fans and media alike have distanced themselves from other burning questions concerning the Mets starting rotation. As disturbing as it is to imagine shaving off a piece of bone from the shoulder of right-hander John Maine during the off-season, it is just as gruesome to hear what he thinks of his progress thus far.

“I just don’t feel good out there, I don’t feel comfortable,” Maine said. “I’m trying to do something different mechanically every pitch and nothing’s working. I just feel terrible out there.”

Would somebody cheer this guy up? I think John may need a hug.

“I just didn’t think it would take this long,” Maine said. “I thought that after a few bullpens down here, a few games, stuff like that, I’d start feeling more comfortable. But that hasn’t been the case yet.”

Oh, boy. Can we get a tissue over here? I think Maine’s situation sounds serious.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel has repeatedly insisted that Santana’s elbow will be just fine. And the hubbub surrounding the two-time Cy Young award winner is just fluff for the back pages of NY newspapers. Okay Jerry, we get it, it’s time to move on and worry about other issues, like Jonathon Niese, the Mets young left-hander, who is among several other pitchers competing for the fifth spot in the Mets starting rotation.

Throughout Jonathon’s short baseball career, he has been reminded constantly of the significance in the date of which he was born, October 27, 1986. Ring a bell? It’s Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. The last time the Mets won a championship. Recently, WFAN’s Steve Somers asked him if anybody ever mentioned that to him, he shot back with, “way too many.” Niese seems to go about his business with more straightforwardness unlike his teammate, Mike Pelfrey. “Be consistent with all my pitches, stay healthy, get outs,” he said. Coincidentally, Niese is in the same position as Pelfrey was last year. He is fighting for a roster spot.

Somers attempted to squeeze an ounce of progress from the young left-hander’s abbreviated stay in the big leagues last year. He overstated that Niese showed much poise after serving up a beach ball to an opposing hitter. Niese responded with something perhaps his pitching coach might have told him, “Poise didn’t get me outs.” Somers was also heard cracking himself up by stating that Livan Hernandez, who is also competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, is old enough to be Niese’s grandfather. Hernandez is currently at the ripe old age of thirty-four. Don’t think so, Steve. Just because he pitched for the Montreal Expos doesn’t make him old enough to look back on his days of sharing a shower stall with such baseball greats as Musial, Williams, and DiMaggio.

Hernandez does have 381 starts for his career which gives the Cuban-born right-hander a lot of face time. Maybe that’s why he could be mistaken for an old-timer. If you read the NY Times, they’ll tell you the job belongs to right-hander Tim Redding. Why? The Mets spent $2.25 million on him. Case closed. And Freddy Garcia? The last time I checked the veteran pitcher’s line, it read, “Freddy Garcia was battered again. Unable to keep his fastball down, he allowed four runs — he allowed two home runs –in two innings.”

What does all this mean? It means the Mets organization has more confidence in Johan Santana’s side bullpen sessions than it does in its fourth and fifth starters’ chances of making an immediate impact.

Despite Setback, Pitching Coach Confident with His Options

March 2, 2009

“If we stay healthy, we should win a lot of games,” said Mets Pitching Coach Dan Warthen during a recent interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa.

Warthen may have sounded optimistic then, but several days after the interview, he learned that there was a possibility that the ace of his staff, Johan Santana, might experience a delay in his return to the rotation due to tightness in his pitching arm. The Mets organization has not jumped to any conclusions, but they have recommended that the elbow be examined in New York if the soreness persists. After completing a short bullpen session on Sunday, the outcome was positive and the left-hander has been green-lighted to resume his regular preparations in Port St. Lucie, FL.

At the start of this season’s training camp, the major concerns for the Mets were centered on the health of their second baseman and the durability of their corner outfielders. Fortunately for the organization, those issues have become less of a factor. However, the latest news regarding the state of their pitching staff, specifically the starting rotation, has become very unsettling.

With the recent turn of events, GM Omar Minaya should still feel confident heading into the season. For one, he has a strong pitching coach in Dan Warthen. Additionally, he has plenty of viable arms should Santana’s current situation become worse.

“We have a lot of options out there,” Warthen said. “We went out and signed Tim Redding and certainly he’s got to be right at the top of the lineup as long as he is healthy. We also have a young Jon Niese, Livan Hernandez, Freddy Garcia is throwing the ball pretty decently at this point in time, and there’s a little guy by the name of Dillon Gee that has opened everybody’s eyes around here.”

Gee, a 23 year-old right hander listed at 6’1”, has been with the Mets organization since they selected him in the 21st round (663rd overall) of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Texas-Arlington. In four starts for Double-A Binghamton last August, he went 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA. This past winter, he had ten starts for Puerto Rico in which he had a 4-0 record. In 48.2 innings pitched, Gee struck out 43 batters and surrendered only 12 earned runs. He finished with a 2.22 ERA.

“He‘s going to be on our radar all year long,” Warthen said. “This guy is something special.”

The Mets have not offered any indication as to which of these noted candidates has secured the fifth starting job with their rotation. “We have five guys that are really vying for that number five slot and five guys going for that extra bullpen spot in that sixth or seventh inning,” Warthen said.

“We have some tough decisions to make,” he added.

One decision that came easy for Warthen was to have right-hander John Maine, who is recovering nicely from off-season surgery, to initiate the curveball into his current repertoire. “John is known to throw a high fastball,” Warthen said. “We want that pitch that has the same look that comes out of the hand the same way but with a big break to it with a huge speed variance.”

If Santana is unable to make his projected opening day start, the Mets could opt to hand the job over to Mike Pelfrey. When asked to comment on the emerging right-hander’s reaction to a heavier workload this season, Warthen responded, “When you watch him pitch, he looks like he’s in a rocking chair. He’s out there nice and easy, good long strides. He uses he legs, his back. He uses his body perfectly as a pitcher.”

Since Warthen took over as the Mets’ pitching coach, he has devoted the majority of his time trying to straighten out the erratic performances of left-hander Oliver Perez. “Here’s a dedicated kid that had a wild streak in him,” Warthen said, “pitching-wise and lifestyle-wise. He’s turned the corner.” Let’s hope this is true for the rest of the team as well.