JUPITER, Fla. -- Lucas Duda had three hits against left-handed pitching, two of which drove in runs, and Dillon Gee battled through seven innings as the New York Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Sunday at Roger Dean Stadium.
Manager Terry Collins has pledged not to platoon Duda at the beginning of the season, despite the first baseman hitting only .180 with two homers in 111 at-bats against southpaws in 2014. So Duda’s positive performance against left-handed pitching during Grapefruit League play is encouraging.
“It’s just one day,” Duda said. “It’s not a big deal.”
Duda opened the game’s scoring in the third with an RBI single against left-hander Marco Gonzales. In the fifth, Duda evened the score at 2 with a single against left-hander Randy Choate. Both times, Duda drove in Curtis Granderson, who went 2-for-2 with a walk to improve his Grapefruit League average to .475.
The Mets (16-11) scored the tiebreaking run in the sixth when Matt Reynolds singled, advanced to third on Anthony Recker’s double and scored on Ruben Tejada’s fielder’s choice.
Duda, who is under the Mets’ control through the 2017 season, reiterated Saturday’s reporting that talks with the team about a long-term extension are in the early stages.
“It’s kind of in preliminary talks,” he said. “… New York gave me the shot to play in the big leagues. It’s definitely a first-class organization. Unbelievable players, unbelievable staff. I’m blessed to be in the position I am.”
Duda said he would like the talks to wrap up before Opening Day.
“I’d rather get it done before the season just to concentrate on the season and focus on winning,” he said.
Gee struggled early, but wriggled free of jams by getting three double plays in the first four innings -- including a pair on sharp lineouts. He ultimately settled down and limited the Cardinals to two runs on seven hits and three walks, striking out three in seven innings. Gee threw an additional 15 pitches off a bullpen mound afterward in order to get his count to 87.
“I definitely started executing a lot better as the game went on,” Gee said. “Early I had trouble finding everything. Luckily, today I think the cutter allowed me to stay in the game long enough to figure it out. … Today wasn’t great at first, but neither are some of the outings in the season. Sometimes you have got to figure it out. I thought I did a good job of figuring it out midgame.”
Collins has not officially declared Gee as the fifth starter over Rafael Montero, although the expectation is Montero will be assigned to the bullpen. Gee said he is preparing for starting a game during the second regular-season series in Atlanta, unless informed otherwise.
“I haven’t been told anything yet,” Gee said.
Gee said his preparation for the season has not been inhibited by being used in relief early in camp, before Zack Wheeler received the torn UCL diagnosis.
Pen mighty: In the lefty-relief race, both internal candidates had flawless performances Sunday. Dario Alvarez struck out lefty-hitting Scott Moore, while Sean Gilmartin struck out two righty-hitting batters he faced.
Parnell hit a batter and walked another in a 16-pitch effort. He had one strikeout.
Parnell is due to open the season on the disabled list for the New York Mets but could be activated by mid-April.
It has not worked out that way for the Red Sox, who are in the ominous process of gathering information on the elbow of catcher Christian Vazquez. The Rangers lost Yu Darvish for the season earlier in the spring, and that’s an absence hard to mitigate. Some teams have developed more holes than answers this spring.
But for the following five clubs, this has been a spring training in which answers have been found.
So far, anyway. Knock on wood.
1. Oakland Athletics
Rival evaluators have walked away from this spring impressed by Oakland’s depth, which was restored with another round of reconstruction by general manager Billy Beane (who turned 53 Sunday).
Juan Lagares, CF
David Wright, 3B
Lucas Duda, 1B
Michael Cuddyer, LF
Matt Reynolds, 2B
Ruben Tejada, SS
Dillon Gee, RHP
Matt Carpenter, 3B
Jason Heyward, RF
Matt Holliday, LF
Matt Adams, 1B
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Randal Grichuk, CF
Pete Kozma, 2B
Marco Gonzales, LHP
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. --
FIRST PITCH: The New York Mets are almost outta here!
Their final week of spring training kicks off with a 1:05 p.m. ET matchup Sunday in Jupiter against the St. Louis Cardinals. Dillon Gee opposes left-hander Marco Gonzales. Original starter Jaime Garcia was scratched due to an issue with his surgically repaired left shoulder.
The Mets complete the Florida portion of their exhibition schedule on Thursday. They then fly to the Lone Star State for a pair of games against the Texas Rangers.
Next Sunday, the Mets will hold a closed workout at Nationals Park. Opening Day in D.C. is only eight days away.
SUNDAY’S NEWS REPORTS:
- The Mets and Lucas Duda's agent reportedly have engaged in “preliminary” talks about a long-term contract. Duda is not eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season, when he will be 31 years old. Agent Dan Horwits indicated talks would be tabled if nothing is agreed to by Opening Day.
- The Mets last worked out a long-term deal with a controllable player on the eve of the 2012 season. Jonathon Niese agreed to a five-year, $25.5 million extension that included team options for 2017 and 2018, at $10 million and $11 million. If both options are picked up, Niese will have exchanged three years of free-agency eligibility for the security.
- Read the original report from Joel Sherman in the Post as well as news reports in the Record, Newsday and at NJ.com and MLB.com.
- The Mets upped their Grapefruit League-leading home run total to 35 and Jacob deGrom tossed seven quality innings in a 10-2 win against the Washington Nationals on Saturday. Curtis Granderson and David Wright consecutively homered against Stephen Strasburg, while Johnny Monell and Duda took Tanner Roark deep. Read more in the Post and at MLB.com.
- The Mets’ left-handed relief answer may very well come from outside the organization in the next week. The club trimmed the internal considerations Saturday. Scott Rice, who had a 9.64 Grapefruit League ERA, was dispatched to minor league camp. Earlier in the day, the Mets also sent right-hander Chasen Bradford and utility player Alex Castellanos to the minors. Read more on external lefty relief candidates, including Washington’s Jerry Blevins, in the Post.
- The Nats officially announced their rotation for the opening week. As expected, it will be Bartolo Colon versus Max Scherzer on Opening Day, followed by deGrom versus Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2 and Matt Harvey versus Strasburg in the series finale.
- Daniel Murphy (pulled hamstring) had five at-bats in a minor league game on Saturday, although he only jogged to first base and then left the basepaths after making contact. Murphy will be confined to minor league games so the Mets can backdate any potential 15-day DL stint as much as nine days into spring training.
- Vic Black (shoulder weakness/impingement) tossed 24 pitches off a mound on Saturday. Black wants to be in games Wednesday as well as Friday and Saturday in Arlington and be active on Opening Day, although he understands the club may be more conservative. Read more in the Post and Daily News.
- Columnist David Lennon in Newsday writes that manager Terry Collins is concerned about the relief corps. The Opening Day bullpen figures to include Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Carlos Torres, Rafael Montero and Buddy Carlyle. Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin -- despite walking Bryce Harper on Saturday -- looks like the best candidate as a lefty reliever, unless the Mets go outside. If Black opens on the DL, one more spot is created, perhaps for Zack Thornton.
- Bobby Parnell will pitch in another minor league game Sunday as he takes the final steps back from Tommy John surgery. Parnell, despite conservative team estimates, is expected to be activated from the DL in mid-April.
- Eric Campbell became even more versatile Saturday. He caught an inning in a minor league intrasquad game. It marked his first time ever catching in a game. Campbell handled every pitch from prospect Matt Koch, who topped out at 94 mph. Campbell would only be used in-season behind the plate in an emergency.
- Steve Kettmann, the author of “Baseball Maverick,” explains the full title in a column in the Daily News. Writes Kettmann:
Yes, the Mets are revived. That’s my claim on the cover of my new book “Baseball Maverick: How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets,” and I stand by it 100 percent: The Mets are relevant again, they’re exciting -- and it’s time to circle Matt Harvey Day on the calendar.
Of course, Omar Minaya drafted Harvey, but whatever.
- Tim Rohan in the Times writes about Wilmer Flores at shortstop. Alderson tells Rohan about Flores: “I’m not even accepting the idea that Wilmer is going to be a below-average shortstop. He may turn out to be. But I’m not convinced based on what we know now and the sample we had last year that that’s going to be the case.”
- Matt Ehalt in the Record looks at the process of trimming Travis d'Arnaud's passed balls.
- From the bloggers … Faith and Fear revels in the first-person plural as it applies to their favorite team. … Mets Report wonders why the Mets don’t just put Murphy and Black on the DL.
BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets first-round pick and current Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane turns 53. ... Scott Atchison is 39. ... Alex Ochoa is 43.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
— MT Baseball (@MT_Baseball) March 28, 2015
YOU’RE UP: Should the Mets commit to Duda long term?
Duda is earning $4.2 million this season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining, so he is not eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.
Teams frequently discuss longer-term deals at this stage of a player's career. The deals typically cover one or two free-agency years.
Duda described any talks as "preliminary stuff" to the Post. Agent Dan Horwits told the newspaper talks would be tabled if nothing is concluded by Opening Day.
Duda hit .253 with 30 homers and 92 RBIs last season.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Curtis Granderson and David Wright consecutively homered against Stephen Strasburg, and Jacob deGrom had the longest outing by a New York Mets starter during spring training in a 10-2 win against the Washington Nationals on Saturday at Tradition Field.
Granderson’s three-run shot in the third inning opened the scoring.
Wright, who followed with an opposite-field blast, has four spring training homers. He finished last season with a career-high 189 at-bat homerless drought.
The Mets (15-11) have produced a Grapefruit League-best 35 homers.
Manager Terry Collins said he likes the team’s offensive approach, but he cautioned to make too much out of the long ball total.
“We can’t get too caught up down here,” Collins said. “The winds are blowing, the weather has been warm, and the ball carries. We’ve got some power. I’m not saying we don’t have any power. But you’ve got to be careful, because we aren’t playing at Citi Field -- especially in April, when the wind is blowing in and it’s cold [in Queens].”
DeGrom allowed one run on four hits and two walks while striking out four in seven innings. He required only 81 pitches.
“That’s the most stretched out I’ve been all spring, and I felt really good out there today,” deGrom said.
DeGrom took a scoreless effort into the sixth inning, when Bryce Harper delivered a solo homer that sliced Washington’s deficit to 4-1.
“I struggled today a little bit,” said deGrom, who sliced his Grapefruit League ERA to 2.45. “I don’t know if I lost concentration or something with those two four-pitch walks. That’s the main thing today, but the spring has been going pretty smooth. I’m still trying to work on things. I was getting under my changeup today. And that’s what I fell behind Bryce with before he hit the home run.”
DeGrom said he did not mind facing Washington so close to the regular season. The Mets had avoided pitching Opening Day starter Bartolo Colon against the Nats and instead used him in a minor league game this week. Collins said it is more beneficial to have Colon dodge the Nats, since the 41-year-old right-hander is not a power pitcher, and familiarity with him is more likely to help Washington batters than with seeing deGrom.
Pen trouble: Collins summoned Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin to face Harper in the eighth. Gilmartin, who had a string of solid performances recently to seemingly become the internal favorite for a lefty relief role, walked Harper on five pitches.
Sinking feeling: Jeurys Familia’s struggles continued. He allowed a ninth-inning run as his Grapefruit League ERA rose to 6.75.
Collins said the issue relates to a loss of sink on Familia’s two-seam fastball, and not anything regarding velocity. The Mets have now abandoned trying to get Familia to throw four-seam fastballs up in the zone to allow the reliever to concentrate on his signature sinker.
“The only concern we have is the sinker is not there right now,” Collins said. “… I think it’s a mechanical thing more than anything.”
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The New York Mets sent Scott Rice to minor league camp after Saturday's 10-2 win against the Washington Nationals, reducing the lefty relief candidates in camp to Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin and Dario Alvarez.
The Mets have been in desperate need of lefty relief help since Josh Edgin underwent Tommy John surgery last week. Team personnel are actively scouting the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers, and got a firsthand look at potentially available Nats southpaw Jerry Blevins on Saturday at Tradition Field.
Rice, 33, had a 9.64 ERA in seven Grapefruit League relief appearances.
He re-signed with the Mets on a minor league deal in December. He had been outrighted off the 40-man roster and became a free agent early in the offseason.
Rice underwent season-ending elbow surgery last July 23 to remove a bone spur and move a nerve.
In 2013, he had a storybook season. He debuted in the majors at 31 years, 192 days old -- becoming the second-oldest U.S.-born player ever to debut with the Mets, trailing only Shawn Gilbert (32 years, 82 days in 1997). He ultimately made 73 relief appearances that season.
Rice's reassignment leaves 36 players in major league camp. That includes Zack Wheeler and Edgin, both of whom are out for the season.
Murphy took five at-bats in a minor league intrasquad game. In his first plate appearances, against right-handers Matt Koch and Kevin McGowan, Murphy produced opposite-field hits.
He still took things gingerly, though. Each time after making contact, Murphy jogged to first base and then proceeded off the field.
GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins both sounded pessimistic Friday that Murphy will be ready for Opening Day, while not ruling it out.
Murphy has not appeared in a Grapefruit League game since March 19, when he injured the hamstring.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Utility player Eric Campbell can now officially place "catching experience" on his résumé.
Campbell caught an inning in a minor league intrasquad game Saturday. It marked his first experience as a catcher in a game at any level.
It's highly unlikely the 27-year-old Campbell will ever appear in a major league game behind the plate. Still, the Mets have been preparing him as a third catcher in case an in-game emergency arises. In fact, Campbell worked out exclusively with the catchers before position players reported to camp last month.
Campbell had an uneventful inning catching right-hander Matt Koch, who throws a fastball, slider and changeup. Campbell was untested during the frame. He caught every pitch without issue. Koch topped out at 93 mph.
Campbell did fail to break down the line and back up first base during an inning-ending double play, which was noted to him by bench coach/catching instructor Bob Geren.
Still, as Campbell headed off the field after the one inning behind the plate, Triple-A manager Wally Backman shouted to him: "You looked like a pro out there, buddy!"
Geren and Campbell then drove back to the main stadium in a golf cart. As they whisked by, Geren pretended to be a public-address announcer and said: "Now catching, 'Soup' Campbell.'"
Campbell appeared at six positions last season with the Mets: first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field. Back in 2013, he pitched an inning with Triple-A Las Vegas and served up a grand slam.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets pitcher Vic Black threw 24 pitches off a mound Saturday and expressed hope the team will let him begin the season on the Opening Day roster. Still, days are dwindling for Black to be ready.
Black, who was dealing with an impingement and weakness in his throwing shoulder, said he plans to return to the mound Monday for another bullpen session.
He hopes the Mets will let him throw in a Grapefruit League game on Wednesday and then in Texas on Friday and Saturday, and be active on April 6 in Washington. He understands a more conservative track might be more likely, though. That could include a backdated disabled-list stint and missing the season-opening road trip.
Black hasn't appeared in a game since March 9.
"I'm good with what they end up deciding to do, but the joy here is that my arm feels great, which means I can help the team out when the time comes," Black said.
Said manager Terry Collins: "He'd have to make huge strides fast. I don't see him facing hitters until Wednesday. So how many innings can you get him in four games?"
Nationals manager Matt Williams made the announcement Saturday. Barring any setbacks from a twisted ankle, Strasburg will face Harvey, who was bypassed as his team's opening day starter in favor of Bartolo Colon.
Max Scherzer, the 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner, will start on opening day for the Nationals.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Although the New York Mets are providing cautious return-date estimates involving Bobby Parnell, including labeling May 1 as a potential target, the ex-closer is expected to be activated from a season-opening disabled-list stint within a couple of weeks of Opening Day.
Parnell, who started throwing in games this week, is again due to pitch on the minor league side on Sunday.
"Make sure you get your tickets," Parnell joked.
He underwent Tommy John surgery last April 8 and was slowed earlier in camp by a left hamstring strain.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets pitcher Vic Black is set to resume throwing off a mound on Saturday. He last appeared in a Grapefruit League game March 9. Afterward, Black underwent an MRI and officially was diagnosed with shoulder "weakness."
Black's availability for the Opening Day bullpen is questionable.
He is scheduled to throw 20 pitches off a mound Saturday morning.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The New York Mets trimmed the number of players in major league camp to 37 on Saturday morning by sending utility player Alex Castellanos and right-handed reliever Chasen Bradford to minor league camp.
Castellanos, 28, signed as a minor league free agent with the Mets in November. He has appeared in 24 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit .222 with one homer and four RBIs in 36 Grapefruit League at-bats.
Bradford, 25, had a 4.15 ERA in nine Grapefruit League appearances. He likely is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas' rotation to open the season.