Why Mets looking at shaking up back end of their rotation

Why Mets looking at shaking up back end of their rotation

ATLANTA — Zack Wheeler grew up just a few miles from here. The Mets righthander now makes his offseason home just down the road. But in two attempts, Wheeler has yet to get an official start at SunTrust Park.

The Mets and Braves postponed Sunday’s series finale because of rain. It has been rescheduled as a day-night doubleheader on Memorial Day.

Wheeler was scheduled to start, and Mets manager Mickey Callaway said that he will push the rotation back so that Wheeler will now start Tuesday’s series opener against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, who will be pitching in what was Matt Harvey’s spot now, will follow in the three-game series at Busch Stadium.

This will push Jacob deGrom back to the series opener in San Diego. Beyond that, Callaway said the Mets are looking at possibly shaking up the back end of the rotation to split up the lefties with the return of veteran lefty Jason Vargas.

“We’ll have to see what we are going to do with the bottom of the rotation,” Callaway said after the game was called. “There is a chance we might slide Wheeler in between Matz and Vargas, not sure yet.

“We have a little wiggle room.”

Vargas is pitching Monday in Las Vegas, the final step to make sure he can catch and field a ball after recovering from surgery on his right hand. He would be available to pitch on Saturday.

Wheeler, who made his big-league debut at Turner Field, made a start here last May. He pitched into the third inning, but after a two-hour rain delay the game was called. So, that start was wiped out of the records and by the time the Mets came back to make up that game, Wheeler was back on disabled list.

Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler misses out on the chance to pitch with friends from home in the stands.

Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler misses out on the chance to pitch with friends from home in the stands.

(Kathy Willens/AP)

Wheeler said he mostly remembers being hustled into the laundry room to do interviews after the rained out game from his last visit here. So he was looking forward to pitching at SunTrust on Sunday with friends and family in the stands.

And it would have been a sweet homecoming for Wheeler, who is back in the rotation after a rough 2017, spring training and a demotion to the minor leagues. The former first-round draft pick struggled last season after a setback-filled, two-year return from 2015 Tommy John surgery. He started out strong in 2017, pitching so well the Mets scrapped plans to start him in extended spring training, but tired out quickly. He went 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts. His last start of the year was July 22, before he was shut down for a stress reaction in his biceps.

This spring, Wheeler revamped his delivery to try to take some stress off his elbow and could not consistently stick with it. Wheeler was demoted to Triple-A the last week in spring training, sent to the minors with the challenge to find some consistency and learn to keep his pitch counts low.

In two starts since being called back up to the majors, Wheeler has done both. He is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA going into Tuesday’s start.

His efficiency allowed him to become the first Mets starter to pitch into the seventh inning this season. Without his best stuff against the Nationals last week, Wheeler got through the sixth having held them to three runs on mostly soft-contact hits.

It said a lot about how far Wheeler has come this season when the Mets made a move to put Harvey in the bullpen this week instead of sending Wheeler back to the minors, which had been the original plan.

“I think Wheeler is throwing the ball really well,” Callaway said. “I think he deserves to stay in the rotation at this point. That’s fairly obvious to me. That’s why we made the decision we did. He’s been solid. Now he just has got to keep it going.”

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Mets Insider: Days off give Jay Bruce chance to take deep breath

Mets Insider: Days off give Jay Bruce chance to take deep breath

ATLANTA — Jay Bruce was not in the lineup for Sunday’s rained out game, a scheduled break to get the Mets’ veteran right fielder off his feet.

With Monday a scheduled off day for the Mets, it is also chance for him to take a deep breath and relax after a rough start to the season. Bruce is 13-for-67 in the Mets’ first 20 games.

“I think he’s in a spot right now where he is trying to figure things out,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “Never a comfortable spot to be in. It leaks into defense, it leaks into all parts of his game. Jay Bruce is a real good player, he’ll bounce back. He’s been through this before, as everybody has. He’ll end up turning it around.”

Bruce had always been considered a streaky hitter by scouts, but last season he was fairly consistent. In his last year before free agency, Bruce hit .254 with 36 home runs and 101 RBI for the Mets and Indians.

Bruce hit a single in Saturday night’s Mets loss to the Braves and said he is starting to feel more comfortable.

“I’ve started feeling a little bit better at the plate the last few days,” Bruce said. “Usually, I like to play through these things, but he’s the manager and makes the decisions. I understand it.”

Bruce has also been dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but said Sunday morning it has been feeling a lot better. He has started a new treatment process called shockwave therapy.

“It helps break up the adhesions in there,” Bruce said. “It’s really been feeling good.”

No more than 7 images from any single MLB game, workout, activity or event may be used (including online and on apps) while that game, activity or event is in progress.

Jay Bruce reacts after being called out on strikes in the seventh inning against the Nationals last week.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

FRAZIER FINALLY SITS

It took a spike to the toe to finally get Todd Frazier out of the lineup. The veteran third baseman sat out his first start of the season Sunday because he took a hard spike in Saturday night’s game.

“He got spiked pretty good at third base last night,” Callaway said. “I had already talked to him earlier in the week, trying to strategically use this day to try and get him multiple and then his toe was throbbing pretty good. Made some sense.”

VARGAS VEGAS BOUND

Jason Vargas’ final tune-up before making his season debut will be limited, Callaway said. He will throw about 75 pitches in what is really just a test to make sure he can catch and field the ball.

The lefthander suffered a fractured right hamate bone in spring training. He had the bone removed, but has been unable to use his glove as the wound from surgery healed.

Ironically, the Mets signed the 35-year-old to a two-year deal this spring as insurance for their often-injured starting rotation.

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Mets waste Jacob deGrom gem as Braves win on walk-off bunt

Mets waste Jacob deGrom gem as Braves win on walk-off bunt

ATLANTA — It’s a recurring nightmare for Jacob deGrom and the Mets. After he dominated for seven innings Saturday night, he had to watch as the Mets bullpen blew it for him. Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte’s walkoff bunt brought home the winning run as the Mets fell 4-3 in SunTrust park.

Jeurys Familia, who had come in to get the last out of the eighth, threw five straight balls to start the ninth, walking Dansby Swanson. He gave up the game-tying RBI-triple to Johan Camargo on a groundball that got past Asdrubal Cabrera and got all the way back to the right-center field wall.

Inciarte bunted up the first-base line and Camargo beat Adrian Gonzalez’s throw to the plate.

The Mets (14-5) suffered their first walkoff loss of the season. It wasted a great effort by deGrom.

He had held the Braves scoreless for seven innings. He scattered four hits and struck out 10, his second straight double-digit strikeout game. In his last start, deGrom watched as the bullpen imploded in the eighth.

Jacob deGrom was dominant, holding the Braves scoreless over seven innings.

Jacob deGrom was dominant, holding the Braves scoreless over seven innings.

(John Amis/AP)

Saturday night, he must have had some deja vu.

The Mets meltdown started in the eighth.

AJ Ramos came in and walked Ryan Flaherty and with one out Ozzie Albies. Lefty specialist Jerry Blevins gave up a two-run double to Freddie Freeman before getting Nick Markakis to strikeout.

The Mets had struggled against Braves ace Julio Tehran as well and had just jumped on the Braves bullpen in the eighth.

No more than 7 images from any single MLB game, workout, activity or event may be used (including online and on apps) while that game, activity or event is in progress.

Asdrubal Cabrera extended his hitting streak to four games.

(Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Wilmer Flores led off the eighth with a walk and Jose Reyes singled when Braves shortstop Ozzie Albies failed to cover first base on the bunt. Flores advanced to third on Michael Conforto’s fielder’s choice and Albies’ second blunder, dropping the ball out of his glove as he transferred it out of his glove on what should have been a double-play. Instead, after a challenge, the video replay team ruled that even Reyes was safe at second, setting up a bases-loaded situation.

Reyes and Flores scored on Cabrera’s one-out single. Jay Bruce singled in Conforto with some help from Ender Inciarte’s fielding error.

DeGrom did not give up a hit for the first 4.2 innings before Carlos Perez singled on a line drive to right field.

In the sixth, Ender Inciarte singled and stole second. He attempted to steal third, but on a challenge by the Mets the video replay showed he came off the base as Todd Frazier applied the tag. That caught stealing at third cost the Braves their only real chance at a run off deGrom, because one out later Freddie Freeman doubled.

Jose Reyes went 3-for-4.

Jose Reyes went 3-for-4.

(John Amis/AP)

PLAY OF THE GAME

Todd Frazier saved a game-winning hit when he knocked down Kurt Suzuki’s line drive, holding the winning run at third in the bottom of the ninth.

TURNING POINT

Johan Camargo’s game-tying, RBI-triple in the bottom of the ninth.

STAR OF THE GAME

Jacob deGrom was dominant, holding the Braves scoreless over seven innings. He scattered four his and two walks. He struck 10.

STAT OF THE DAY

1-1. That was the Mets’ first walkoff loss of the season. They are 1-1 in walkoffs.

UNSUNG HERO

Asdrubal Cabrera extended his hitting streak to four games with his clutch eighth-inning, one out single driving in the first two runs of the game.

MIA

Yoenis Cespedes went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts Saturday night. He has 37 strikeouts in 82 at-bats this season.

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Callaway: Cespedes can golf again ‘if he’s smart about it'

Callaway: Cespedes can golf again ‘if he’s smart about it'

ATLANTA — Mickey Callaway understands the pull of the golf course.

After Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes said he was reconsidering his decision to give up golf during the season, the Mets manager said he was fine with his players golfing in season with some stipulations.

“I think golf is like anything else. If he does it the right way,” Callaway said. “If he’s smart about it: (on) off days, days we come in and we’re not taking (batting practice) and it doesn’t fatigue him or affect baseball, then guys can do what they want away from the field as long as it doesn’t affect what we are doing with the team.”

Yoenis Cespedes' golf game became a lightning rod of controversy among Mets fans in 2016.

Yoenis Cespedes’ golf game became a lightning rod of controversy among Mets fans in 2016.

(Kathy Willens/AP)

Cespedes said he decided to give up golf after dealing with two hamstring injuries that cost him 81 games last season. Off to a slow start, hitting .208 with four home runs and 18 RBI going into Saturday night’s game against the Braves, Cespedes is reconsidering his decision. In the past, he felt golf helped him with the mechanics of his hands and shoulder at the plate, besides being something that would let him relax before taking the field.

But it had become an issue.

Cespedes’ golf game became a lightning rod of controversy among Mets fans in 2016. General Manager Sandy Alderson called Cespedes’ obsession with the game “bad optics,” during the 2016 Subway Series. That was the day pictures of Cespedes golfing with former big leaguer Kevin Millar on social media despite a nagging quad issue. Cespedes went on the disabled list the next day with the injury and the Mets quietly asked him not to golf while on the DL. It had been an issue before in 2015, when Cespedes left Game Four of the NLCS with a left shoulder soreness, fans began reporting that they had seen him at Medinah Country Club that morning. The Mets clinched that night and Cespedes went on to go 3-for-20 with no extra-base hits in their World Series loss to the Royals.

NEXT UP

The revolving door to the Mets bullpen continued Saturday. After a 12-inning game Friday, the Mets recalled Corey Oswalt to give the bullpen a fresh arm. They sent young right hander Gerson Bautista back to Double-A Binghamton.

Oswalt, 24, was 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts for Triple-A Las Vegas. He allowed six hits, issued four walks and struck out 12 in those two starts. Oswalt was with the Mets earlier this year from April 10-11, but did not appear in a game.

Bautista, 22, appeared in two games for New York. He worked 2.1 innings and allowed two runs.

“We just told him to continue to work and improve. He’s done such a good job from last year, coming into spring training, he looked great, he’s had a great season so far,” Callaway said. “Just continue to do the things that (pitching coach Dave Eiland) is asking him to do. They talk a lot about his chin staying on target and not pulling through. We’ll continue to communicate with his minor league pitching coaches.”

The Mets have planned to use their young arms like Oswalt, who they ultimately see as a starter, who had minor league options remaining to keep the bullpen fresh this season.

ROSARIO RESTS

Struggling infielder Jose Reyes was in the lineup playing shortstop Saturday night, a strategic decision to try and rest young shortstop Amed Rosario, who has started in 16 and played in 18 of 19 games this season.

It’s also a chance for Reyes, who has started the season 0-for-20 to try and get going.

“I think that he’s said it the other day. He’s a little lost. His confidence is probably down,” Callaway said. “He comes to play every day. He’s in good spirits. At some point, something good is going to happen. Something is going to fall and he’s going to get rolling.”

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