P.J. Conlon

Rosario’s Signature Game Leads To Mets Win

More than any game this season, you expected the Mets to lose yesterday.  Jason Vargas and his 10.62 ERA were pitching on three days rest.  The team made a flurry of moves to add Tim Peterson, Buddy Baumann, and Scott Copeland, a trio many joked were really names spit out by the Madden name generator, to the roster.   Once again, they had an extremely short bench.

And to make matters worse, the Braves were pitching Julio Teheran, who has owned the Mets in his career.

But something very interesting happened.  Vargas was actually good.  The veteran lefty would pitch five shutout innings against the Braves.  Better yet because of a pair of fourth inning doubles from Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez, the Mets actually had a 1-0 lead through five.

Interestingly enough, many were actually second guessing Mickey Callaway‘s decision to pull Vargas after five.  The main arguments were he was pitching well, and he had only thrown 65 pitches.

Those arguments neglect the obvious counterpoint that Vargas was on short rest, and he’s been bad all year.  Those five innings were a gift, and rather than look in the horse’s mouth to see if anything was left, he thanked the baseball gods and gave the ball to Peterson.

Peterson is an interesting story because as the Mets 2012 20th round draft pick, he was going to have to do more than the average prospect to prove himself.  He has done just that coming off a 1.14ERA in Binghamton last year, a terrific stretch in the Arizona Fall League, and a 3.45 ERA and 12.6 K/9 for Las Vegas this year.  With the rash of injuries, at 27 years old, Peterson was finally going to get his shot.

He would immediately prove he belonged pitching a 1-2-3 sixth inning, an inning where he faced Ozzie AlbiesFreddie FreemanNick Markakis.  That is no small feat indeed.  In fact, in his two innings of work, he would allow just one hit.  Unfortunately, that one hit was a Johan Camargo homer to the same exact spot he hit his walk-off against Gerson Bautista the previous night.

Fortunately, that homer would cut the lead to 2-1 because the Mets came up with two huge two out hits against Teheran.  First, Amed Rosario hit a rope to center past Ender Inciarte that turned into a two out triple.  Then, Brandon Nimmo would jump on a 3-2 pitch and rip a single to right to give the Mets a then 2-0 led.  That triple set up an important insurance run, but it would not be the last impact Rosario would have on this game.

In the top of the eighth, Shane Carle relieved Teheran, and the Mets immediately went on the attack.  After a Jose Bautista double, Bruce was intentionally walked, and Kevin Plawecki worked out a six pitch walk.  Gonzalez, who the Braves are paying $21.8 million not to play for them, hit an RBI single giving the Mets a 3-1 lead.  The rally would end there as Luis Guillorme hit into an inning ending double play.

Callaway then made a decision he promised to make heading into the season, but he has not followed through.  He brought Jeurys Familia into the eighth inning because the Braves had the top of the lineup coming up.  No, this was not going to be a six out save chance.  Rather, Callaway was using his best reliever to get out the best hitters in the Braves lineup.

The move almost blew up with Albies and Freeman hitting a pair of one out singles followed by Markakis smoking a grounder up the middle.  That’s when Rosario made a truly great defensive play to save the inning and perhaps the game:

That 6-4-3 double play ended the inning, and it might’ve saved the game.

In the top of the ninth, Rosario and Nimmo added an insurance run off Miguel Socolovich with a pair of one out doubles to increase the Mets lead t0 4-1.  That three run margin was more than enough for Robert Gsellman to record his first one inning save.

Ulitmately, in a series of many twists and turns, the Mets battled through injury and fatigue and somehow walked away with a split. Perhaps more importantly, we now have a signature game from Rosario, who suddenly seems like he is figuring it out in each and every aspect of his game.  He’s been exciting, and as he continues to develop, you have more and more reason to get excited about this Mets team.

It speaks to the resiliency this team has, and it will be interesting to see what it means for this team as it begins to get healthy with Todd Frazier and Anthony Swarzak on the horizon.

Game Notes: To make room for the aforementioned three relievers, Phillip Evans and Jacob Rhame were sent down to Triple-A.  To make room for Copeland and Peterson on the 40 man roster, Juan Lagares was transferred to the 60 day disabled list, and P.J. Conlon was designated for assignment.

As Expected: Mets Split Doubleheader Losing deGrom’s Gem and Winning Conlon’s Mess

If we learned anything from the doubleheader yesterday, it was baseball makes no sense whatsoever.  How could it?  Somehow, someway, the New York Mets are 5-6 in Jacob deGrom starts and 2-0 in P.J. Conlon. starts.  Just to put how bizarre that is in perspective Conlon has pitched fewer innings in his brief MLB career than deGrom did yesterday.

And it was another virtuoso performance from deGrom yesterday.  The only mark against him was a Tyler Flowers seventh inning shot.  That had made the game 2-1 with the Mets scoring on a Devin Mesoraco bases loaded walk.  While Luis Guillorme would end that rally, he made up for it by hitting a double over the head over Preston Tucker, who had not played the field in about a month and looked like it.  On the double, Mesoraco would score from first.

After the Flowers homer, the Braves apparently smelled blood in the water because they went on the attack.  Tucker walked, and Johan Camargo singled on a ball any other second baseman not named Asdrubal Cabrera fields.  With runners at the corners, the Braves seemed poised to tie the game.  It never happened.

First, deGrom struck out Dansby Swanson.  He then got Kurt Suzuki to pop out to swallow left with Amed Rosario getting to it and running it back to the infield to prevent any shenanigans.  Finally, deGrom got Ender Inciarte to ground out to end the inning.

After that, deGrom gave the Mets the seven innings they needed on a day where they were going to have a bullpen game in the second half of the doubleheader.  It was a 115 pitch virtuoso performance.  In total, he allowed the one run on five hits and three walks while striking out eight.  He furthered this case to win the Cy Young.

It didn’t matter because instead of going to Jeurys Familia, Mickey Callaway went with Seth Lugo.

Admittedly, going to Familia for six outs may not have seemed like the obvious move, but when you’re looking to use your whole bullpen for the second game, why not use Lugo’s for 2-3 innings instead of either setting up or trying to get the six out save himself. For whatever reason, Callaway tabbed Lugo to go out there and get his first career save against the first place team in the division.

It didn’t happen. In the eighth, Ozzie Albies started the inning off with a bunt single, and he was on third after a Freddie Freeman single.  To his credit, Lugo did limit the Braves to just a Nick Markakis sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2.

The Mets would take the lead in the ninth when Mesoraco, who was 2-3 with two runs, a homer, and two RBI on the day the catching competition really started, hit a go-ahead homer.

Even with Familia warming, Callaway went to Lugo to pick up the win.  Seemingly just as Gary Cohen’s words left his mouth about the last time he homered, Charlie Culberson hit a walk-off two run homer to give the Braves a 4-3 win.

It was a brutal fourth loss in a row featuring a third bullpen meltdown and questionable Callaway decision making.  It was a bad omen for the night portion of the doubleheader.  Fortunately, it didn’t pan out that way.  Maybe, because in the five plus hour rain delay between games, the Mets finally figured something out.

Like most games recently, the game started off quite well with Adrian Gonzalez opening the scoring with an RBI single.  The rally would continue with Kevin Plawecki, fresh off the disabled list, reaching on an awful throw to second by Brandon McCarthy.  Instead, of an inning ending double play, it was 2-0 Mets.  That lead would grow to 3-1 Mets with a Brandon Nimmo homer to lead off the third.

That lead was not for long as the Braves went to work against Conlon in the third.  After a Freeman two RBI single, Markakis would double setting up runners at second and third with no outs and the game already tied 3-3.  Conlon was done for the day, and Callaway would tab Hansel Robles to come on to stifle the rally.

While it may not have been pretty, in an inning which included Camargo getting hit by a pitch, Robles got through the inning allowing just a Suzuki sacrifice fly to give the Braves a 4-3.  In total, Robles would actually give the Mets three scoreless innings, which not only kept them in the game, but it would allow the Mets to take the lead.

The big hit of the game would come from Rosario.  After Plawecki, Jose Reyes, and Guillorme hit consecutive one out singles to load the bases, Rosario hit a go-ahead two RBI single giving the Mets a 5-4 lead.

To the surprise of no one, the lead didn’t last.  Robert Gsellman came into the sixth, and he was greeted with a Ryan Flaherty single and an Inciarte double to set up runners at second and third with no outs.  Rather than tempt fate by bringing in Jerry Blevins again (who was not warming), after Albies struck out, the Mets intentionally walked Freeman to load the bases before Gsellman allowed an infield single to Markakis to tie the score.

Naturally, Reyes could not make the play.

After a mound visit, Gsellman got a groundball from Suzuki.  Gonzalez made the heads up play of getting the out a home to preserve the tie.  Culberson would not have a second act of heroics today as he flied out to center to end the inning.

In what should be a lot of credit to this Mets team, they responded in the seventh.  The rally started with a Michael Conforto leadoff single. He’d be erased on a Jay Bruce fielder’s choice, but the Mets would load the bases with ensuing singles from Gonzalez and Plawecki.  Reyes, once again, failed by striking out.

Guillorme would give the Mets the lead with a clutch two out two RBI single, and Rosario followed with an RBI single of his own giving the Mets a 3-0 lead.

There would be no bullpen meltdown as Jacob Rhame pitched a perfect seventh before Callaway finally allowed Familia go out there and get his six out save.  With that, in a very odd way, the Mets earned a split of the doubleheader, and they ended a frustrating losing streak.  It will be very interesting to see how this team responds later today if they actually play the game.

Game 1 Notes: In the fifth, Braves starter Max Fried picked-off both Conforto and Jose Bautista off first base.  Bruce played first base.  Technically, Bautsita’s goes down as a caught stealing as he broke for second.  There was a long rain delay when there was no rain on the field.

Game 2 Notes: During the broadcast, Keith Hernandez noted his belief Reyes is struggling at third because he is not comfortable there.  It should be noted Reyes has played more than 90 games at the position and was signed to be a utility player, a utility player who refuses to play the outfield.

Mets Mishandling Corey Oswalt

The Mets were aware but not yet set on putting Jacob deGrom on the 10 day disabled list, so rather than make sure Corey Oswalt was in line to start the opener against Cincinnati, the team decided to add P.J. Conlon to the 40 man roster and have him make the start.

After Conlon’s short start and with Jason Vargas making a start, the Mets needed to add a fresh arm in the bullpen who could give them some length.  Instead of calling up Chris Flexen, who was on normal rest, the team called-up Oswalt, who was on three days rest.  Since that time, the team has more than ample opportunity to use him, and they haven’t:

Game Bullpen Innings Relievers  Used
May 8th 6.0 Lugo (1.0), Ramos (1.0), Blevins (0.1), Robles (0.1), Sewald (1.1)
May 9th 3.0+ Gsellman (2.0), Lugo (1.0), Ramos (0.0)
May 11th 4.0 Lugo (1.0), Sewald (1.0), Ramos (1.0), Familia (1.0)
May 12th 7.0 Gsellman (3.0), Sewald (2.0), Ramos (1.0), Familia (1.0)

Overall, the Mets needed to go to their bullpen for 19+ innings in a four game stretch.  Robert Gsellman and Paul Sewald went multiple innings on multiple occasions.  AJ Ramos appeared in four games with Seth Lugo appearing in three.  Breaking it down, there were plenty of chances for the Mets to get Oswalt in for even an inning.  They didn’t.

It’s more than that. For a team gun shy to use Oswalt on short rest, between days off and rain outs, Oswalt has not pitched since Saturday, May 5th, he is not going to get a chance to pitch until 10 days after his last star, and that’s if he’s even used. Effectively, Oswalt has skipped two starts so he can sit idly by in the bullpen.

This is not how a team handles their top Major League ready starter.  Oswalt needs to be on a mound pitching, working on his game, and generally improving as a pitcher.  Really, there is no benefit to him by his not pitching, and seeing how Mickey Callaway is reticent to use him, there is really no benefit to him even being on the roster.

The roster spot could be better allocated towards Buddy Baumann, who could serve as a second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, or Tyler Bashlor, who has been lights out in Binghamton.  You could even argue the spot should go to Conlon, who could serve as the 2015 version of Sean Gilmartin.

As for Oswalt, he’s serving no purpose right now, and he’s not getting the starts he needs.  The Mets need him in Triple-A at the ready in case Vargas doesn’t improve.  He needs to be at the ready in the event Steven Matz suffers another injury.  Really, they need him to do anything other than sitting unused in the bullpen.  That’s not benefiting anyone.

Mismanagement, Vargas Has Mets Seeing Red in Blowout Loss

Well, if you were feeling good about the Mets after their win last night, those feelings were quickly dispatched.  Todd Frazier, arguably their second best position player all year, landed on the disabled list meaning Jose Reyes was in the starting lineup.  Worse than that, Jason Vargas was the starter.

Right away, Vargas loaded the bases, and he then allowed a Eugenio Suarez two RBI single to give the Reds an early 2-0 lead.  It was a minor miracle the Reds did not score more from that point.

However, they would score two more in the second with Suarez once again being the catalyst.  His RBI double scored Joey Votto from first, and he would come home on a Tucker Barnhart, the catcher the Reds kept, RBI single.

Overall, Vargas’ final line was 4.0 innings, six hits, four runs, four earned, two walks, and one strikeout.  As poor as that start was, it should be noted this was his best start this year.  With his pitching, you almost have to question why he’s guaranteed a starting spot while the team is keeping some pitchers in the minors and sending another one to Cincinnati.

That four run margin would prove to be enough for a number of reasons.

The first was Reds starter, Luis Castillo, no not that one, but then again it doesn’t really matter because nothing good happens to the Mets when there is a Luis Castillo on the field.  He would limit the Mets to just a single over the first five innings.

Finally, in the sixth, the Mets would break through on a Wilmer Flores one out homer.  Now, Flores did not start the game.  Rather, he was double switched in for Amed Rosario despite Rosario being the one Met with a hit, and Reyes being a terrible defensive shortstop.

The Mets would continue from there with a two out rally.  With consecutive walks to Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and Adrian Gonzalez, the Reds forced home a run.  That’s when Mickey Callaway opted to pinch hit Brandon Nimmo instead of Juan Lagares or even the newly acquired Devin Mesoraco to face the left-hander Amir Garrett.

Nimmo struck out to end the rally, and things would only go downhill from there.

AJ Ramos was fighting it, but he kept the Reds off the board in the sixth, but he would allow a double to Scott Schebler, and with Votto coming up, Jerry Blevins would come into the game.  He got his man, but he would be pulled for Hansel Robles.

After a Suarez single, Scooter Gennett would have Robles pointing to the sky again with his three run homer giving the Reds a 7-2 lead.

Making this game worse was the fact the Mets had called up Corey Oswalt in place of P.J. Conlon to give them some length in the bullpen.  Of course, they called up Oswalt on three days rest instead of Chris Flexen on full rest.  The end result was Callaway ripping through his bullpen trying to save Oswalt’s arm . . . the very same Oswalt who was called up to supposedly help protect against that.

That’s embarrassing.  Almost as embarrassing as getting blown out by the now nine win Reds team.

Game Notes: On the eve of the game, Matt Harvey was traded to the Reds for Mesoraco.

Mets Offense Snaps Funk, Bullpen Holds On

After a horrid offensive homestand, Mets fans were left with the hope coming to hitter’s parks like The Great American Ballpark and Citizen’s Bank Park would help wake up this Mets offense.  Well, on the second pitch of the game from Homer Bailey to Michael Conforto, it seems like our hope was well placed:

The combination of the Reds pitching and Citizen’s Bank Park really did wake up this Mets offense.  Things were going so well offensively that not only did the Mets score in each of the first five innings, but Adrian Gonzalez would hit two home runs.

Jay Bruce would also homer to ensure that all the pure left-handed hitters would have a homer run on the day.

But it was more than Conforto and Gonzalez who woke up.  Amed Rosario was 2-3 with an RBI and a sac fly. With the exception of Asdrubal Cabrera and Todd Frazier, the two who happened to be their most consistent hitters all year, each Met in the starting lineup had at least one hit.

Take out Jose Lobaton and all the starters had multi-hit games.

In the beginning, this seemed as if it was going to be more than enough run support for P.J. Conlon and the entire Mets pitching staff.  The Irish born lefty making his MLB debut got off to a great start keeping the Reds scoreless through two and to just one run through three.

With two outs in the fourth, and the Reds gaining some momentum, with three doubles in the inning coming from Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett, and Tucker Barnhart, Mickey Callaway went to Paul Sewald to nip the rally in the bud.

Sewald did just that, but he would run into trouble in the sixth yielding a home run to Suarez, and then leaving runners at the corners with one out.  Robert Gsellman came on, and he allowed just a sacrifice fly to make it 7-5.

Like Sewald, Gsellman was in to pitch multiple innings, and he would even hit for himself striking out.  When Gennett homered to make it 7-6, you were left questioning the decision.

You were also left questioning some of the Mets base running.

In the sixth, the first inning the Mets did not score, the Reds caught Rosario in a run down off third base on a Yoenis Cespedes ground ball.  He was eventually tagged out, and the run did not score.

In the eighth, Jose Reyes pinch ran for Cespedes, and he misread a ball, and did not bust it to third causing Glenn Sherlock to hold him at third.

Fortuantely for the Mets, it did not matter as Jeurys Familia came on and recorded the save giving the Mets their first win in over a week.

Game Notes: Conlon joined teammates Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz in getting a hit in his MLB debut.

Five Prospects To Watch This Spring Training

The one thing that is interesting about Spring Training is you never know which prospect is going to make a name for themselves.  Personally, the one that always comes to mind is Dillon Gee having good Spring Training causing then Mets manager Jerry Manuel to take notice.  With that, Gee had an important champion in the Mets organization, and when the opportunity finally presented itself, Gee would get a call-up to the majors despite struggling in Triple-A with an injured shoulder.  From there, Gee has put together a nice MLB career.

This Spring Training, there are a number of Mets pitchers who will now have the opportunity to impress new manager Mickey Callaway.  Aside from the big names like Dominic Smith, here are five names to keep an eye on during this Spring Training:

RHP Tyler Bashlor

MMN Rank: 14

Bashlor was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft because he has great stuff highlighted by an upper 90’s fastball.  He combines that pitch with a sharp curve which has led to the flamethrower putting up big strikeout numbers in the minors.  His stuff was a big reason why he quickly went from closing in St. Lucie to closing for a Binghamton Rumble Ponies team who was fighting for a postseason berth.

If there’s any issue with Bashlor, it’s the walks.  In his career, he’s walked 5.0 batters per nine, and he walked 5.4 batters per nine in 34 appearances for St. Lucie.  Those are unsustainable numbers.

Still, he has immense talent which could one day lead to him closing for the Mets one day.  Before we get to that point, he has an opportunity to work with Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Triple-A pitching coach Mickey Abbott to help him eliminate the walks.  If he does, he’s going to contribute at the Major League level next year.

LHP P.J. Conlon

MMN Rank: 24

For the second straight Spring, Conlon finds himself as a non-roster invitee with a an outside chance to make the Opening Day bullpen as a left-handed reliever.  Certainly, Conlon has earned the chance as he knows how to get batters out, especially left-handed batters.

Last year, he limited left-handed batters to a .252/.273/.358 batting line, and in 2016, he was even stingier limiting them to a .216/.267/.288 batting line.  Conlon does this because he located well, and he has a great change-up.

However, with his topping out in the 80s, it appears the Mets have their doubts about Conlon’s viability as a Major League starter.  In Spring, Conlon is both going to get the chance to prove his stuff will work in the Majors similar to what we have seen with Jamie Moyer and Bartolo Colon.  More than that, he’s going to get a chance to show he belongs in the Majors right now to fill a now vacant second left-handed reliever spot in the bullpen.

RHP Corey Oswalt

MMN Rank: 12

Oswalt is coming off an outstanding year in Binghamton, and as a result, he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.  Oswalt did this because he was able to locate all four pitches, and he has shown the ability to throw his fastball in the mid 90s. While all of the Double-A took notice of Oswalt, the Mets did as well adding the starter to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

It is no secret the Mets have health issues with their starters.  Over the past two seasons, almost every Mets starter currently on the 40 man roster has had injuries requiring DL stints lasting more than half a season, requiring surgery, or both.  As of the moment, the Mets have not added another starter to the roster, which has created an opportunity to show he should be at the front of the line when the Mets inevitably need another starter.

2B Luis Guillorme

MMN Rank: 10

Right now, the Mets have a trio of injury prone second baseman in Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Wilmer Flores.  If one or any of the three go down with injury, there will be an opportunity for Guillorme, who is arguably the best defensive middle infielder in the Mets organization.

At the moment, we know he’s a great fielder.  The question mark on him is whether he can hit enough to play in the Majors.  To that end, early indications are Guillorme has increased his launch angle.  If true, and the transformation is a successful one, Guillorme’s career will transform to not if he can be the Mets second baseman of the future, but when he will be the Mets second baseman.  Given the aforementioned injury histories, he may get his chance next year.

C Patrick Mazeika

MMN Rank: 28

With Tomas Nido‘s BABIP normalizing, he had a disappointing year at the plate for Binghamton last year.  While the Mets are understandably high on him due to his defensive skills, Nido’s struggles do present an opportunity for another catcher to distinguish himself.

Essentially, Mazeika is everything Nido isn’t.  In his career, Mazeika has shown himself to be a good hitter, who is quite adept at getting on base.  What is interesting with him is he has shown glimpses of power; however, it should be noted those flashes have mostly come when he is filling in at first base for extended stretches.

What remains at issue is his defensive abilities.  It is an area where the 6’3″ catcher continues to make strides, but ultimately, the question is whether he is progressing quickly enough.  With him being a non-roster invite to Spring Training, he is going to get the benefit of getting in work with Major League coaches like Glenn Sherlock, which could help him make the adjustments necessary to take the next step in his career.

Ultimately, if the Mets coaching staff sees what they like with him, he may soon find himself in the Major League mix at catcher.  Having watched Travis d’Arnaud‘s injuries the past few years as well as Kevin Plawecki having mostly struggled in the Majors, his chance may come sooner than expected.

Overall, the Mets have a number of Minor Leaguers who are going to get a chance to go out there and show the Mets why they should be an important part of the future.  In the end, it is up to them to emulate Dillon Gee and make the most of this opportunity.  If they do, we may see them in Queens sooner than anticipated.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMN

Vargas Predictable, Great

Even with the Mets having improved pitching depth, the team went out and signed Jason Vargas to a minor league deal.

Based upon the people the Mets brought into the organization the past year, it should come as little surprise Vargas was the guy.

First and foremost, there is Omar Minaya. After the Mets lost in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Omar began looking to address one of the Mets weak points – starting pitching depth.

In what proved to be an unpopular trade, the Mets sent Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens for the 24 year old Vargas. The whole of Vargas’ Mets career amounted to two starts where he went 0-1 with a 12.19 ERA.

Roughly two years later, Vargas was one of 12 players in the ill-fated J.J. Putz trade. When you consider Joe Smith was part of the deal, a Mets team looking to improve their pitching wound up trading the two best pitchers in that deal.

With respect to Vargas, that may not have been entirely anticipated. But that is what happened over his three team nine year post-Putz trade career.

The most recent stop was Kansas City where he played for current Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, who as it turned out, gave Vargas a ringing endorsement.

With that, the Mets have made would could be the most predictable signing of the offseason. It also should prove to be a good one.

Likely, the Mets can count on Vargas to last a full season. That’s important considering you can’t expect the same from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Perhaps more importantly, it’s just another arm to the equation.

As of the moment, the Mets have a somewhat incomplete bullpen. Publicly, the Mets are bandying about getting a second left-handed reliever to compete with P.J. Conlon and Matt Purke. However, the real need, and the one Mickey Callaway has discussed – the long reliever.

With Vargas here, either him or Matz could serve in both roles much like Darren Oliver did in 2006.

If not those two, we can see Eiland attempt to make Harvey or Wheeler the Mets version of Wade Davisor Luke Hochevar.

Really, the possibilities are endless. Same goes for the Mets season if Vargas permits Callaway and Eiland to effectively mix and match to get the most out of this Mets pitching staff.

Mets Pitchers Report Today, Are Better Than Advertised

It is quite fitting that today is unseasonably warm because we have the first sign of Spring with the Mets pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Spring Training.  No matter what your opinion on the Mets offseason, this time of year always brings a bit of hope for the fanbase because seeing the Mets players in uniform, you can begin to dream the players can put it all together and win the World Series.

For the Mets, like it has since 2015, the entire hope surrounds the starting pitching.

Now, there are people who are claiming there isn’t enough.  They still want the Mets to go out and sign Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, or any number of a group of free agent starters who didn’t compile 200 innings, were coming off injuries themselves, or really just couldn’t even sniff this Mets rotation when healthy.  In fact, you could argue with their recent injury histories and peripherals, Lynn and Cobb are just more of the same. Actually, what the Mets have is just better.

That’s part of the reason why the narrative the Mets did nothing to address their franchise worst pitching needs to end right now.

The first move the Mets had made this offseason to address the pitching was to go out and hire Mickey Callaway.  If you are going to be a pitching staff built on pitching, Callaway was the inspired choice.  Joining him on his pitching staff is Dave Eiland, who is renown for his ability to work with pitchers.  One of his keys to success is how he helps pitchers with their mechanics, which in turn, helps reduce injury.

Speaking of injuries, gone is favorite punching bag Ray Ramirez.  In his place is Jim Cavallini, who will oversee everything related to player care and conditioning.  This includes nutrition, sleep science, injury prevention, and rehabilitation.  Apparently, after all these years of injuries, the Mets are finally interested in getting players to eat better, sleep better, and take better care of themselves.

And yes, we know even with that Zack Wheeler needed osteoarthritis injections this offseason.  Matt Harvey has not been able to stay healthy since that magical 2013 season.  Steven Matz has continued to suffer one injury after another.  Technically speaking, Seth Lugo is pitching with a torn UCL much like the Yankees have seen with Masahiro Tanaka.

Yes, these injuries and injury histories exist, but as noted, the Mets finally have the people in place to not only help prevent those injuries from happening again, but also to get Harvey, Wheeler, and Matz back to form.  If they are, watch out because this is a pitching staff that can once again lead the Mets to the World Series.

If not?  Well, there’s real pitching depth in the Mets organization.  As noted above, there’s Lugo.  The team also have Robert Gsellman and Chris Flexen.  Yes, they both struggled last season, but they have an opportunity to learn from those struggles.  They also have the support system with Eiland, Callaway, and Mickey Abbott in Las Vegas.

Behind them are some intriguing prospects in Triple-A.  Corey Oswalt was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.  P.J. Conlon continues to defy the odds with his under 90 MPH stuff to pitch to a minor league career 2.35 ERA.  Marcos Molina is healthy after Tommy John, and he looks to build off a strong season.  Mickey Jannis is a late blooming knucke ball pitcher much in the same vein as R.A. Dickey.  And if you want to get deeper, Ricky Knapp rejuvenated himself after struggling in Vegas by pitching completely lights out as he helped pitch the Rumble Ponies to the Eastern League playoffs.

And if you are masochistic, this could finally be the year for Rafael Montero.

Point is, unlike last year, the Mets have actual starting pitching depth to start the season.  If one goes down, there’s two or three behind them to pick up the slack.  The team has a manager and pitching coach better suited to getting these pitchers to reaching their full potential.

Sure, it would be nice to see the Mets add a pitcher or two on a minor league deal to serve as a swing man, but even if the Mets don’t make that move, they have the depth they need in the organization.  Today is the day that group gets in peak physical shape and realizes their full potential.

And if you have a hard time believing me, sit down, take a deep breath, and remember the first two games of the season will have Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard starting for the Mets.  If you can’t get excited about that, nothing will.

Getting To Know The Prospects Before They Become Major Leaguers: LHP P.J. Conlon

By now, many of you have probably already heard of P.J. Conlon, the Mets’ left-handed pitching prospect, who emigrated from Ireland. However, that only scratches the surface of who Conlon is.

Conlon is actually from Northern Ireland – Belfast to be exact – a city at the center of The Troubles, an ethno-nationalist conflict over whether Northern Ireland belonged to the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. Not an ideal place to raise a family, especially an Irish Catholic family like the Conlons.

Seeking to escape the danger that was so prevalent in their lives, the Conlons departed for America and settled in California. It was there that would all become citizens, and it was there they would seek to fulfill the American dream. And nothing is more American than baseball.

Like most American boys, Conlon played baseball, and he was good enough to play in high school. Despite being a standout high school starting pitcher, Conlon wasn’t drafted by any major league teams leading him to further purse his baseball dreams in college.

Conlon would go to the University of San Diego. His college roommate was current Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. In Conlon’s Junior year, he was 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and an 8.1 K/9.

He wasn’t overlooked after that. The Mets would make him their 13th round draft pick in the 2015 draft.

Right away, he showed the Mets he was special. In 17 relief appearances for the Brooklyn Cyclones, Conlon was 0-1 with a 0.00 ERA, 0.59 WHIP, and a 13.2 K/9. His stats suggested he could become a draft steal and yet Conlon, himself, didn’t have great stuff.

His fastball routinely sits in the mid to high 80s. However, Conlon is still able to make it work because he pairs it with a terrific change-up and a good curveball. In fact, Conlon’s change-up may very well be the best change-up in the entire Mets farm system. Conlon also hides the ball very well due to his delivery. As you can see, it is a lot of arms and legs:

Perhaps, the main thing Conlon does right is he knows how to attack hitters. He plays each one of his pitches off the other ones making his repertoire more effective. He pounds the strike zone, and he typically keeps the ball on the ground. He’s really an uncomfortable at-bat for a hitter.

Conlon built upon his 2015 success when he was moved from the bullpen to the rotation in 2016. In his time split between Columbia and St. Lucie, Conlon was dominant once again. In 23 starts and one relief appearance, Conlon was 12-2 with a 1.65 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP, and a 6.1 K/BB ratio. His 1.65 ERA was lowest among all full season qualified starters.

His performance brought with it a lot of awards and recognition. He was a South Atlantic League All-Star. He was named the MiLB.com Fans’ Choice for Best Starting Pitcher. He was named an MiLB Mets Organizational All-Star. He was MLB Pipeline’s Mets Pitching Prospect of the Year. Perhaps most importantly, the New York Mets named Conlon the Sterling Organizational Pitcher of the Year.

He was also MMN‘s Starting Pitcher of the Year. He currently ranks as MMN‘s 22nd best Mets prospect.

He’s a prospect that seems to be not too far from the major leagues.He was a non-roster invitee to Major League Spring Training with the Mets considering using him out of the bullpen as soon as Opening Day. Most likely, Conlon will begin the year in Binghamton waiting for the call to the majors whether it is this year or the next; whether it is for a spot start or to pitch out of the bullpen.

And when that day eventually comes, Conlon will be doing something truly special indeed. The day Conlon steps foot on the field, he will become just the 44th major leaguer born in Ireland. He will be the first Irish born major leaguer since Joe Cleary pitched one-third of an inning for the 1945 Washington Senators over 70 years ago.

“I’ve always wanted to prove not only to myself but to people growing up that this was something I could do,” Conlon recently told the Irish Times.

“I feel like I can get big league hitters out and I’m just in the process right now of polishing everything and being ready for that step.”

This isn’t supposed to happen to boys born in dangerous war torn cities. This isn’t supposed to happen to boys born in Ireland. This isn’t even supposed to happen to pitchers who don’t throw their fastballs in the 90s. And yet, Conlon continues to persevere and make the best out of who he is and what he has.

That, in a nutshell, is the American Dream.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Rain Out Is Better Than Montero

If the Mets were smart, they would use the window they have right now and call tonight’s game. They certainly have their excuse to do so. No, I’m not referring to the fact that it is supposed to rain all day into tomorrow. No, I’m referring to the fact that somehow we are back at the point where the Mets are once again in a position where they must give Rafael Montero a start.

This is the same Montero who made six appearances this year going 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA, 3.600 WHIP, and a 10.8 BB/9. This follows the pattern of Montero’s career where his ERA, WHIP, and BB/9 have continuously gone up in each of the last three seasons. While the narrative has been that Montero just needs to trust his stuff and pound the strike zone, the simple fact is he doesn’t. Furthermore, no one should trust that he can anymore.

Sure, he has gone down to Vegas, and he is pitching well again. In his two starts, he has a 1.74 ERA, 0.677 WHIP, and he has only walked three batters in 10.1 innings. That’s what he does. Montero pitches well against inferior competition. Last year, he was 4-3 with a 2.20 ERA, 1.102 WHIP, and a 3.5 BB/9 in nine starts. Due to his having a good stretch in Double-A and a rash of injuries, the Mets turned to Montero. The result was him making three starts pitching just 11 innings. Over those 11 innings, he walked 14 batters. This led to his 7.36 ERA and a 2.182 WHIP. From there, he was demoted to the bullpen.

The Mets were tricked again by him coming out of Spring Training when he pounded the strike zone. The Mets relied upon those outings and the Jeurys Familia suspension to give Montero another chance. As discussed above, he squandered that chance as well. In reality, there is no indication whatsoever that Montero will justify the chance he was once again given.

In fact, with every outing of his all you can think about is the other players the Mets passed on to let Montero keep getting chances. Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa were traded for cash to the Orioles. Matthew Bowman was lost in the Rule 5 Draft, and he has since carved out a role in their bullpen. There are pitchers still in the Mets farm system like Ricky Knapp and P.J. Conlon, who despite their struggles to start the year, are certainly more deserving of a chance.

Instead, the Mets will once again give Montero yet another chance. That is unless it rains tonight, and they can skip his spot in the rotation. Hopefully, the rain beats Montero tonight. It wouldn’t be a surprise since everyone else beats him.  Yet somehow, even if it does rain, we know this won’t be the last we see of Montero.