Tag: livan hernandez

Livan Good, Freddy Not So Good

After their most recent performances, it’s nearly a given that Livan Hernandez will go north as the Mets #5 starter, while Freddy Garcia’s future will depend on whether he’s willing to begin the season in AAA.

Hernandez was sharp in his Wednesday start, and looks to be in mid-season form. His fastball is underwhelming (low 80s), but he throws strikes, gets outs, and does everything else a pitcher needs to do to win (hit, bunt, field). The Mets don’t need Livan to be an ace, they need him to take the ball every fifth day and keep the team in the game through 6-7 innings.

You have to love Livan’s attitude, as demonstrated in an SNY interview during the sixth inning of that game. He was cool as a cucumber, completely relaxed, sounding like he just came in from a day of rum drinks on the beach rather than a five-inning stint on the mound. Of course, that same personality will drive people mad if his ERA is over 7.00 and his record is 0-6 by mid-May. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

In contrast, Freddy Garcia is not progressing quickly enough — though there were a few positive signs in his outing against the Braves. Though Garcia was again battered — 7 hits and 5 runs in two innings — his velocity was improved and his curveball continues to have good bite. The fastball was riding around 85-86, and he touched 88 several times — a significant increase from the 83-84 range of a week ago. But it remains clear that he’s going to need more time to get ready for prime time. If the Mets don’t release him, and if he accepts a minor league assignment, I believe he can work his way back to the bigs after another month to six weeks in the minors. The guy is a battler, and it appears he’ll be able to get the velocity back around the 89-90 range. If he can get it there, he can win a few games in MLB, because his curveball is already a plus pitch, his changeup is solid, and his slider can be devastating. His problem now is that all of those pitches are around the same speed, and his fastball location is too high. Another few MPH difference between the fastball and his other pitches are key to his future success.

After his dismal performances this spring, Garcia may not have a choice — it’s not like other teams will be banging down his door.

In other news, Jonathan Niese has been sent to minor-league camp. That move plus Tim Redding’s shoulder injury and Tony Armas, Jr.’s demotion would suggest that the fifth starter competition has become a two-man race — with Livan Hernandez several strides ahead.

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5 Early Warning Signs from Port St. Lucie

1. Johan’s Elbow

Make no mistake — Johan Santana has a problem with his elbow and it is going to be an issue for the entire season. Santana is a throwback, a tough guy who takes the ball, sacrifices himself for the team, and pitches through pain.

I’m a former player myself, and I can tell you firsthand that badasses such as Johan and myself go to the trainer to complain about an injury only when it’s become unbearable, and only as a last resort. The fact that Johan not only went to the Mets’ training staff to bring up an issue, but that it became public knowledge, throws up a dozen red flags.

I have two conspiracy theories. One, that Johan continues to pitch with pain, but feels he needs to earn his obnoxious contract and grin and bear it. Two, that the Mets won’t send Johan for an MRI because they’re afraid it might show damage, and they’ll have to shut him down. No Johan means no chance in hell that the Mets make the postseason, which in turn means season ticket sales grind to a screeching halt in an already depressed economy, and Citi Field doesn’t enjoy a record-breaking debut.

2. John Maine’s Shoulder … and Mechanics

Maine developed scar tissue and eventually, a cyst, on his shoulder due to a minor mechanical flaw in his deliverya flaw that can be corrected. However, neither the Mets nor Maine did anything to correct the flaw, which by the way also adversely affects his command. Unless someone wakes up and tells Maine to break his hands in the middle of his body instead of behind his right hip, we’ll watch another inconsistent season of 5-inning outings and 12-pitch at-bats.

3. JJ Putz’s Fastball

When the Mets acquired Putz, the scouting report was that this was one of the top closers in all of MLB, with a “filthy” breaking ball and 95-96 MPH heat. In his first appearance as a Met in Port St. Lucie, Putz was barely able to break 89 MPH, and reached that only a few times. He had a similarly underwhelming debut for Team USA. Now, we know it can take a while for a flamethrower to build up his strength, but the fact he’s struggling to reach 90 MPH is a major concern.

4. The Back End of the Rotation

Normally we wouldn’t worry too much about the #5 spot in the rotation. However, we’re looking at the possibility of chronic elbow issues from the ace, and inconsistency from #4 man John Maine — which means the back end needs to pick up the slack. So far, Freddy Garcia has looked awful, Livan Hernandez even worse, and Tim Redding has yet to take the mound due to a shoulder injury. The next men on the totem pole — Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell — are at best average prospects and have less than 20 big league innings of experience between them.

5. Jerry Manuel’s Mouth

The honeymoon is nearly over. Manuel has reigned as a media darling ever since taking over the Mets last June. However, comments and cajoling that previously were presented as “zen-like”, charming, and “a breath of fresh air” are starting — though ever so quietly — to be questioned. Manuel has always been known as engaging with the media — much to the chagrin of his players. His loose lips helped sink the ship in Chicago, as his constant calling out of players eventually created a tense and resentful clubhouse.

A similar pattern began in the initial days at Port St. Lucie, when Manuel told reporters that Daniel Murphy was a “better hitter” than Ryan Church. Even if that statement were true, it’s not the type of thing you go around boasting about. Only a week later, NY Post writer Bart Hubbuch compiled a long list of Manuel’s missteps with the media (interestingly, the post was generally ignored by the rest of the media and most Mets blogs). It’s not even mid-March yet, and Manuel’s already marred his managerial tenure with his mouth.

Go ahead, paint me the negative Nelly. But the above five issues could be pebbles in one shoe of the Mets, leaving them hobbling around on one foot through the 2009 season.

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Mets Spring Training Game 3

I’m not counting the game against the Italians, so game three is the one the Mets played against the Cardinals.

The final score was Cardinals 9, Mets 8, but we’re not concerned with the score prior to April. Once again, we’ll focus on specific players and other errata.

Livan Hernandez

I must admit I’m personally pulling hard for “Not-Duque” to make this club, so my analysis may be rose-colored. I liked the way his fastball was sinking and was inducing ground balls. His slow curve was a little scary, though, hanging up there like a balloon. Can he get a way with it? We’ll see. He had some command issues when he got lazy with his follow-through, but otherwise was hitting his spots — something he must do to be successful.

Freddy Garcia

Can I pull for two starters to take one rotation spot? Unfortunately for Freddy, he didn’t look so hot. His fastball was flat, at a very hittable velocity, and was all over the place. His curve — important to his success — had little bite and also was hard for him to spot. To me he looks like he’s not yet as strong as he needs to be — and a 100% healthy and strong shoulder is vitally important since he doesn’t use his legs or momentum at all to power the ball. Still, I like the Mets rolling the dice on him, provided he will accept a AAA demotion to build himself back up.

Carlos Delgado

Carlos is looking great at the plate, waiting long on pitches, and keeping the hands back the way he did when he was in Toronto. He does this nearly every spring, though … will he keep this approach once April arrives? I said it last year, and I’ll say it again: Delgado is key to the Mets’ success.

David Wright

The only reason David made an error was because Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez made a point to talk about his defense and Gold Gloves. Jinxed!

Reese Havens

He didn’t play, but we were able to see him do an interview with Kevin Burkhardt. I’m very high on this kid, and think he can climb the ladder quickly if he can stay healthy. He’s an all-around ballplayer, and appears as though he’s already comfortable in front of the camera — a key to succeeding in NYC. The “step program”, though, didn’t sound particularly intriguing. Not that it needs to be.

Casey Fossum

The little lefty was effective, pitching a 1-2-3 inning in his first frame and allowing no runs and one hit over two innings. However his stuff looked ordinary and his fastball didn’t have much movement. His curveballs — he throws them at several speeds and angles — were always his forte, and I only saw him throw a handful, which were mostly the flat, low-80s, sideways, sweeping breaker (though, he did mix in one super-slow roundhouse that conjured memories of Ross Baumgartner). Hard to make an analysis on him just yet. I do like the way he uses momentum to power the baseball — very old school.

Connor Robertson

Robertson, like Fossum, was effective in the boxscore but didn’t throw enough to help make much of an evaluation. He reminded me of Jon Adkins — a below-average, straight fastball, average breaking ball. But his 1-2-3 inning consisted of about five pitches, so it’s impossible to make a judgment.

Adam Bostick

You can see why scouts have salivated over Bostick for years despite his persistently underwhelming performances. He’s big, tall, lefty, and comes from a low 3/4 angle with decent velocity, reminiscent of John Candelaria or even Ollie Perez. But his command is below average and his fastball looks like it stays on one plane (no downward movement). He’ll need to do two things to make the big leagues: concentrate on placing the fastball in one specific spot consistently and mixing it up with an average slider. Even then, his ceiling is as a LOOGY.

Albert Pujols

Keith Hernandez mentioned that “El Hombre” looked like he might have dropped a few pounds, and looked a little thinner in the face. I thought the same thing. Maybe he’s no longer taking those “B12” shots. Hmm.

Jason Motte

The Cardinals righty reminds me of a combination of Eric Gagne, Derrick Turnbow, and Keith Foulke. He throws pretty hard, and looks scary. But he only throws one pitch, so nothing to be concerned about. If he ever develops a split-fingered fastball, the Cards may have something.

Mike Shannon

Nice to hear that the Cardinals broadcaster has a fine restaurant with a great wine list. He certainly is among the worst baseball broadcasters in history — Tim McCarver and Joe Buck included (funny, all the awful announcers come from St. Louis).

Royce Ring’s Beard

Hmm … hard to figure how much his beard truly affects his performance. He’s had it now for at least two years, and he’s still not come close to the early comparisons to Randy Myers.

The Mets travel to Lakeland, Florida, to play the Tigers on Saturday at 1:10 pm. However it does not appear that the game will be televised, so instead, get your fill by posting your comments below.

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Mets Sign Livan Hernandez

According to The Daily News, the Mets have signed Livan Hernandez to a $1M minor league deal, with another $1M possible in performance bonuses.

Call me crazy, but I like this signing. As long as the Mets are going to throw around “little” one-million-dollar contracts here and there on scrap heapers, this makes sense. When ST breaks, Livan can win a job, start the year in the minors, or be released without receiving the $1M. Really a no-risk situation for the Mets.

Ideally, he starts the year in AAA and is insurance for the day one of the top 5 starters breaks down — which is nearly a guarantee. I say that not to be skeptical, but because that’s the way it is — every MLB team, every year, has at least one starting pitcher miss a start at some point in the season.

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