Archive: May 13th, 2013

Mets Sign Ankiel, Starts Tonight

Rick Ankiel already helped the Mets once – during the 2000 playoffs.  Now they’ll hope he can help them again (in a more traditional sense).

The Mets signed recent Astros castoff Rick Ankiel today.

Terry Collins said the lefty-hitting Ankiel and righty-hitting Juan Lagares will platoon in center field. That’s a blow to Jordany Valdespin, who Collins said may play some second base if Daniel Murphy continues to struggle.

Apart from his arm, Ankiel doesn’t provide much of an upgrade in the outfield.  His last really good offensive season came in 2008, when he hit 28 home runs.  This year, he has a .715 OPS which is less than that of the other left-handed hitting outfielders Mike Baxter and Valdespin.

Looks like Sandy Alderson is trying to catch lightning in a bottle.  Or maybe the team was secretly hijacked by Omar Minaya.

Andrew Brown was optioned to Triple-A.

So there’s that.

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Ike Davis is the Key to Mets Offense

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Ike Davis strikes out on Sunday during a key moment in the game.

OK, you’re probably reading the headline and thinking, “more like ‘Seven Guys Not Slumping at the Same Time is the Key to Mets Offense.'”  Yes, the Mets are not exactly the reincarnation of the 1927 Yankees.

They don’t have an ideal leadoff hitter or a steady center fielder or right fielder.  Ruben Tejada has been nearly as unspectacular with the bat has he has been with the glove this year, and Daniel Murphy, after a hot start, has slumped mightily.  On April 25th, he was batting .346/.388/.538.  Since then, he’s hit only .130/.161/.167.

It seems in late April, everyone went into a slump following their hot start.  But the Mets need a stabilizing presence in the middle of the lineup to mitigate poor performance from the rest of the team – let’s say…a power-hitting left-handed bat.  Someone like Ike Davis.

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Mets Pitching Prospect: Steven Matz

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Steven Matz has endured one of the most stressful and unexpected journeys of any player in the New York Mets farm system. Selected in the 2nd round in the 2009 MLB Draft, it’s taken Matz four years to pitch in full-season ball. But he’s finally here.

After Tommy John surgery and two years of rehab, Matz debuted with Kingsport in 2012. Matz impressed in 6 starts, striking out 34 in 29 innings of work, while keeping opponents hitting .158. On the bad side, he was prone to giving up the walk, walking 17 in his limited innings. Matz was temporarily shut down with arm troubles and understands that the 2013 season is important for him.

“I just want to play the whole season healthy,” said Matz. “And keep my walks down. Those are my two main goals.”

Walks were a concern while Matz was with Kingsport, but he seems to have fixed the issue at Savannah. Matz and the Mets decided recently that they wanted to scrap the curveball. “The [curveball] wasn’t consistent. I just wanted a breaking ball that I can throw more for a strike.”

Former Cy Young winner and current Savannah Sand Gnats pitching coach Frank Viola went more in-depth about the scraping of the curveball and how the “slurve” benefits Matz.

“The organization, him, and I. Basically what it is is like a slurve, a hard curveball, but we’re calling it a slider. It’s got late break, depth, but it goes according to his arm slot with a fastball and change-up. It’s the absolute perfect pitch to throw at the arm slot he is at,” said Viola. “And he can throw it two ways, as a strike pitch or a put away pitch. The more he throws it, the better he develops it, the more he can put two together and really make that a very advantageous pitch.”

Matz admits his best off-speed pitch is his change-up. In his outing on April 26 against West Virginia, Matz said he threw 17 changeups. “I don’t really have a true strikeout pitch,” said Matz. “I can get a lot of guys to chase on a high fastball.”

In that West Virginia start, Matz struggled to stay in the game. He was yanked after reaching his pitch count in 4.1 IP, allowing two earned runs on four hits, while talking two and striking out three. Frank Viola believes that start was the start of a new side to Matz.

“The other night was the first night I saw any resemblance of anger, feistiness, what have you. He had to leave, came out in the fifth inning, and had the no-decision because he didn’t complete the five innings because of the pitch count,” explained Viola. “And he threw the glove down, said a couple of choice words, but it was the first time I saw a little fire in his belly, which personally, is a great sign in my opinion.”

“I know it’s there and you have to realize, he’s played professional ball for 2 ½ years but he only has 10 professional starts. He’s had some experience but he doesn’t have a lot of experience from the mound itself. So every time on the mound is a learning experience and I think by the all-star break you are going to see a completely different Steven Matz.”

Viola hinted that Matz may not be around when the All-Star game comes around. Matz could be on the fast track to St. Lucie, but it all depends on whether the lefty can stay healthy. “I really believe he’s that close to really putting it together,” said Viola.

“Just to mentally keep it together with all the crap he’s gone through is pretty tough…You’re exactly right, many people wouldn’t be able to do that. He’s maintained it, he’s learned from it, and he’s using it to his advantage now.”

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