By Mike Lalor, Contributing Writer
Mets ready for Opening Day….and 2017 MLB Predictions!
The New York Mets completed their 2017 Grapefruit League campaign on Thursday with a 5-4 victory over their AAA affiliate, the Las Vegas 51s, at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, FL. The Mets finished the exhibition season with a 15-17 record, and now that slate is wiped clean and it’s time to head north. The 2017 regular season starts for New York on Monday, April 3rd, at Citi Field against the Atlanta Braves. The Mets possess a good mix of both confidence and urgency entering the season, and will look to reach the postseason for third consecutive year, which would establish a new franchise standard.
On Friday, the Mets were rained out of their scheduled matchup against the United States Military Academy at West Point. Originally slated to play the game at West Point, late winter weather wreaked havoc with field conditions at USMA, forcing last week’s move of the game to Flushing. Unfortunately, on Friday, rain continued to soak the New York City region, forcing the postponement of the anticipated matchup between the Black Knights and the Mets, which would have reignited a series that has been dormant since 1984.
During a busy week for New York, there were plenty of injury updates, administrative actions, and roster decisions that will certainly shape the start of the Mets’ season. On the injury front, the Mets’ medical staff diagnosed LHP Steven Matz with elbow inflammation on Thursday. While an MRI did not reveal structural damage to Matz’s left elbow, he will be shut down for three weeks, providing time and space for the elbow to resolve the issue. Matz, who first complained of elbow soreness following a March 22nd game against the Marlins, received a Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injection in his elbow. Look for Matz (who underwent surgery last September to remove a bone spur from the same elbow) to be out of the New York rotation until May. In response, Manager Terry Collins named Zack Wheeler his #4 starter and RHP Robert Gsellman the team’s #5 starter to kick off the campaign.
Here’s how the rotation looks over the first week of the season (all times Eastern):
3 April vs. Atlanta, 1:10 pm: Noah Syndergaard
5 April vs. Atlanta, 7:10 pm: Jacob deGrom
6 April vs. Atlanta, 7:10 pm: Matt Harvey
7 April vs. Miami, 7:10 pm: Zack Wheeler
8 April vs. Miami, 7:10 pm: Syndergaard
9 April vs. Miami, 8:00 pm: Robert Gsellman
The “Big 8”? Although there’s been plenty of hype over the last two years with New York’s young pitching staff, the Mets have never once made a rotation turn in the regular season with Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Matz, and Wheeler. At least for now, that will continue to hold true. Fortunately, GM Sandy Alderson and Collins have Gsellman and RHP Seth Lugo at their disposal. And, the Mets will now go one deeper, after a strong spring by RHP Rafael Montero (20.1 IPs, 1.77 ERA, 23 Ks). Coming off a busy spring that included pitching for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic (26.1 IPs between the WBC and spring training), Lugo complained of a tired arm earlier this week. With that, there’s a very good chance that Montero will make the squad out of the bullpen to start the year – with Lugo taking time to rebuild arm strength at AAA Las Vegas, under more controlled conditions.
Other medical notes and roster decisions. 3B David Wright, OF Brandon Nimmo, and OF Juan Lagares are slated to open the season on the (new) 10-day disabled list. Lagares, nursing a strained left oblique, enabled the Mets to award his roster spot to Michael Conforto. Conforto is the team’s only healthy bench option with center field experience. IF Ty Kelly won the fifth and final spot on New York’s bench, alongside Conforto, C Rene Rivera, IF/OF T.J. Rivera, and super-sub Wilmer Flores.
MLB disciplinary action and the Mets’ bullpen. On Wednesday, Commissioned Rob Manfred levied a 15-game suspension on New York closer Jeurys Familia, following his domestic violence incident last October. Although Familia was acquitted legally in New Jersey, Manfred exercised his authority to suspend Familia in violation of the league’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse policy. Manfred cited that Familia’s overall conduct was “inappropriate, violated the policy, and warrants discipline.” Familia agreed not to appeal the discipline. With Familia out until late April, RHP Addison Reed will serve as the Mets closer to start the season. Reed will be joined by LHP Josh Edgin, LHP Josh Smoker, LHP Jerry Blevins, RHP Hansel Robles, RHP Fernando Salas and either Lugo or Montero in the team’s bullpen.
Back to staple of our Mets coverage! This week in Mets’ history:
April 2, 1966: The Mets are awarded negotiating rights with RHP Tom Seaver after they, along with Philadelphia and Cleveland, match Atlanta’s original offer of $50,000. But it’s the Mets’ slip of paper that MLB Commissioner William Eckert picks out of a hat, thus giving the Mets a chance to sign the former No. 1 pick. The “Franchise” signed, and the rest is history.
April 2, 1972: Mets’ Manager Gil Hodges suffers a fatal heart attack after playing golf in Florida. He dies two days before his 48th birthday.
April 4, 1983: Returning from Cincinnati after a 5 ½ year hiatus, Tom Seaver returns to the Mets and makes his club-record 11th Opening Day start. He combines with Doug Sisk for a 2-0 win vs. Philadelphia at Shea Stadium.
April 4, 1988: OF Darryl Strawberry cracks an Opening Day home run that hits the roof at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Fellow OF Kevin McReynolds adds four hits and three RBIs in New York’s 10-6 win.
April 5, 1993: RHP Dwight Gooden four-hits the Rockies in the first game in Colorado’s history, a 3-0 New York win. It was Doc’s first Opening Day shutout.
April 6, 1972: A memorable day. Manager Gil Hodges is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn. The press is later summoned to Shea Stadium where the club announces that Yogi Berra has been given a two-year contract to manage the team and that the Mets acquired OF Rusty Staub from Montreal for SS Tim Foli, OF Ken Singleton and OF/1B Mike Jorgensen.
April 7, 1970: 1B Donn Clendenon drives in the winning run as the Mets beat Pittsburgh, 5-4, in 11 innings to post their first Opening Day triumph. Ron Taylor picks up the win.
April 7, 1984: Dwight Gooden, 19, makes his Major League debut at the Astrodome. Doc picks up the win in the 3-2 victory over Houston, working five innings with five strikeouts. Gooden became the third-youngest pitcher in club history.
2017 MLB Predictions. With great anticipation, here’s how we see the season playing out. Wild Card: denoted with an asterisk*
…we will check in with these at the key checkpoints of the MLB season: Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and after the World Series
- New York Mets
- Washington Nationals*
- Miami Marlins
- Atlanta Braves
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Chicago Cubs
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Cincinnati Reds
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Arizona Diamondbacks*
- San Francisco Giants
- Colorado Rockies
- San Diego Padres
- Baltimore Orioles
- Toronto Blue Jays*
- Boston Red Sox
- New York Yankees
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Detroit Tigers
- Cleveland Indians
- Kansas City Royals
- Minnesota Twins
- Chicago White Sox
- Houston Astros
- Seattle Mariners*
- Texas Rangers
- Los Angeles Angels
- Oakland A’s
NL Wild Card: Washington over Arizona
AL Wild Card: Toronto over Seattle
NLDS: New York (NL) over Chicago
Los Angeles (NL) over Washington
ALDS: Baltimore over Houston
Detroit over Toronto
NLCS: Los Angeles (NL) over New York (NL)
ALCS: Baltimore over Detroit
World Series: Los Angeles (NL) over Baltimore