New York Mets will face Houston Astros; Ramos to catch Syndergaard

After an eventful Tuesday game in which Tim Tebow hit his first spring training home run and J.D. Davis hurt his shoulder on a diving catch, the New York Mets will play the Houston Astros at 1:10 PM ET.

The game will mark the first time the two teams face off this spring after the Astros were punished for sign-stealing in the 2017 season. The Mets, who appointed Carlos Beltran over the winter to be their skipper, had to part ways with him because of his role in the scheme back when he played in Houston that year.

The Mets will send Noah Syndergaard to the mound. The righty is determined to improve upon his 2019 season. Last year, he had a 4.28 ERA, but it came with a much better 3.60 FIP. As his track record suggests, Thor can be much better than that.

According to manager Luis Rojas (who took over Beltran a few weeks ago) his slider is showing more bite this season.
For the game, Jeff McNeil will play third base and lead off, with center fielder Brandon Nimmo as the second hitter. Pete Alonso, who hit 53 home runs in 2019 and was tagged as the Rookie of the Year in the National League, will hit third today. Michael Conforto will occupy the leadoff spot.

Here is the full lineup:

Jeff McNeil 3B
Brandon Nimmo CF
Pete Alonso 1B
Michael Conforto RF
Wilson Ramos C
Amed Rosario SS
Dominic Smith LF
Eduardo Núñez DH
Luis Guillorme 2B

Noah Syndergaard RHP

The Mets want Ramos and Thor to patch things up

One of the biggest storylines to watch for the New York Mets this spring is the development of the Wilson Ramos – Noah Syndergaard catcher-pitcher tandem. Last season, Thor openly said that he preferred to pitch to Tomas Nido or Rene Rivera.

Luis Rojas wants the starting catcher and Syndergaard to iron out the little issues that make the latter think like that. Ramos, for his part, has said recently that he wasn’t mad about Syndergaard’s comments and that intends to put any potential controversies behind him.

New York Mets: deGrom’s competitiveness is on full display

Jacob deGrom is a competitive beast. Of course, that should go without saying, as a person doesn’t win two Cy Youngs in a row in a league that headlines Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and the like without some inner fire. The New York Mets have been lucky enough to witness the prime of a mound star.

It is that drive and desire to be better all the time the thing that has made Jacob deGrom’s career so successful.

The Mets’ ace pitched a simulated game on Tuesday to be right on schedule for opening day. The conditions at Clover Park didn’t generate too much adrenaline. It was a fairly non-competitive environment. Yet, deGrom pitched in front of players and coaches, and few more. The reactions off his pitches were audible to those in attendance.

DeGrom threw 30 pitches to a group of hitters headlined by reigning Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario.

“Even to our guys, I don’t like giving up hits,” deGrom said to MLB.com. “It’s frustrating. So I don’t know if I’m hard on myself or really competitive. They’re trying to get work in, I’m trying to get work in. Their goal is to get a hit and mine’s to not give up hits. I think it’s just the competitive part of it.”

The Mets’ internal competition is on!

Conforto was the one with the most success against deGrom in the session. The New York Mets’ right fielder connected two of the three hits that the ace gave up in a couple of innings of “work”.

When Jed Lowrie hit a screaming ground ball to the third base line, deGrom argued vociferously that the ball was foul from his favorite place: the mound. He was really into it, even though it was just a simulated game.

“Those are tough hitters,” deGrom said. “Great guys to be around. This has been a fun spring — everybody’s having fun and getting along great. Watching these guys play is impressive. When they stepped in the box, I didn’t want to give up hits to them.”

You can call him stubborn, competitive, or hard-on-himself. But that attitude has given deGrom a shot at a career 2.62 ERA in 1,101.2 innings. It’s because of that he’s looking for his third straight Cy Young award. The Mets sure aren’t complaining.

New York Yankees won’t make a trade to supplement loss of Luis Severino

New York Yankees, Luis Severino

The New York Yankees will proceed into the 2020 season without their No. 2 starter in Luis Severino. The talented pitcher will undergo Tommy John surgery and spend the year recovering, which puts the Yanks in a tumultuous position. Luckily, they’ve been through this before, and they just invested $324 million into Gerrit Cole as their bonafide ace.

Reports bubbled that the Bombers could be interested in trading for a starting pitcher, but they will stay put with the alternatives they already have on the team. With Jordon Montgomery making a return after recovering from Tommy John, and youngsters Michael King and Jonathan Loaisiga able to act as starting options, the Yankees will hope they can handle the 5th spot in the rotation.

“You rely on your depth,” Cashman said in aftermath of the Severino announcement (Twitter link via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). “I wouldn’t expect any domino effect or cause and effect in terms of us being able to go to marketplace. The winter marketplace this time of year, it doesn’t exist.”

Cashman’s statement essentially means that teams aren’t looking to trade away significant pieces this late into the offseason. With pre-season well underway and player evaluations taking place, managers are looking to build around their talent rather than trade it away.

Unfortunately, for the Yankees, that means relying on mostly unproven talent to supplement the loss of Severino and James Paxton for several months.

A look at the starting rotation for the New York Yankees:

  1. Gerrit Cole
  2. Masahiro Tanaka
  3. J.A. Happ
  4. Jordan Montgomery
  5. Jonathan Loaisiga/Michael King/Jonathan Holder

One Paxton returns, Monty will slot into the 5th spot, and the Yankees can return to their normal ways. Last season, they survived with injuries and still won 103-games, proving their offensive production can be of ample help when pitching is lacking. A strong bullpen will also contribute toward a successful season.

I anticipate the Yankees looking to the trade deadline to add a starting pitcher, especially if they’re playoff-bound.

J.G. Pageau Gives Islanders and Their Fans a Glimpse of Future with Memorable Debut

J.G. Pageau, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders didn’t come away with a victory last night. What they did come away with, was a look at what could be on display for the future.

J.G. Pageau, the newest Islander after he was acquired Monday morning from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for three future draft picks and then signed shortly thereafter to a six-year, $30-million contract, starred in one of the most memorable debuts for the team in recent memory.

“He’s as advertised,” head coach Barry Trotz said about Pageau to reporters following the game.

Pageau started the game on the third line with Michael Dal Colle and Josh Bailey, and his presence could immediately be felt. That trio was one of the best all night for the Isles until all hell broke loose.

Late in the second period right after he recorded his first goal — one that helped the Isles finally solve Rangers goalie Alexander Georgiev after they’d been buzzing all night — Pageau sent a pass to Dal Colle who was caught with his head down, thus taking a ferocious hit up high from Rangers d-man Jacob Trouba. Pageau then went right after Trouba, standing up for his teammate. In that one moment, he endeared himself to his teammates and the hearts of the fans who jam-packed Nassau Coliseum.

https://twitter.com/rtaub_/status/1232485772927758336?s=21

“He’s standing up for teammates right away,” teammate Brock Nelson said. “He hasn’t been here long, but guys have respected him before, he’s going to fit right in.”

Pageau himself also knew he had to something for his new club.

“I want to prove that I want to be part of the family and be part of that group,” he said about the incident. “You saw Bails dropped his gloves right away too. I think it just shows how guys care for one another here.”

Pageau received a five-minute major, ten-minute misconduct and two-minute instigator penalty for his response to Dal Colle going down. But that didn’t matter. The fans still serenaded him with “Pageau, Pageau, Pageau!” chants ala the “Ole” chants he would receive when he played in Ottawa.

As the Islanders rallied to force overtime without Pageau, Dal Colle and d-man Andy Greene — who went shoulder first into the boards in the first period — Pageau was set to come back out for the extra session. He wouldn’t get his chance as the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad would win the game on a booming slapper that beat Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov just 28 seconds into overtime.

Even with the stinging defeat, Pageau’s night couldn’t have been a better introduction. He was all over the ice, winning face-offs, engaged in the play and showed his physical nature despite his 5’10 frame.

“He made a great first impression on all of us,” veteran Josh Bailey said. “We already knew what he could bring to the table, but I think our fans for sure got a glimpse of it tonight.”

“Here’s a player, we wanted him, we got him for the next six years. He’s impactful, you see how he changes our team in so many ways. You saw how he stepped up. What a great pickup by Lou (Lamoriello). The picks (we gave up in the trade) are nothing, I can tell you that — a lot of picks never play. You’ve got a solid guy who fits right in the hockey team. You saw the character, how he plays. Glad he’s on our side,“ Trotz added.

Looking beyond last night, no one knows how the next six years will play out for Pageau and the Isles. But on his first night in orange and blue, he showed a glimpse of what he will mean to the organization moving forward.

Tebow’s Homer and Davis Injury Headlines New York Mets Loss to Tigers

New York Mets, Andres Gimenez

Tim Tebow playing in New York Mets Spring Training games is already a headline in itself. When Tebow homered off Detroit Tigers reliever Alex Wilson, it is a 100 percent guarantee to throw the baseball world for a loop.

Tebow showcased his opposite-field power with a no-doubt home run to left-center field. It was his first during his Spring Training career, and it was the fourth time he reached base in eight Spring plate appearances. Expectations are meager for the 32-year old former quarterback, but we still know he has a flair for the dramatic.

Wacha’s Debut

Michael Wacha made his first Spring start. He is in a battle for the fifth starter spot and was on par with Steven Matz through their respective first starts. Wacha threw two innings, allowing two walks, a hit, and struck out two batters. The outing was not anything special but is a decent way to settle into the beginning of the Spring.

Davis Injury

The other major headline came when third baseman, J.D. Davis, left the game with a left shoulder injury. He jammed the shoulder after diving and spending a moment on the ground. Davis said, “right now it feels fine,” but also said the shoulder is weak and stiff. He will have an MRI Wednesday, but the early news is there is no damage to his rotator cuff or labrum.

This is the first injury scare of the Spring, and the MRI will give a clearer timeline on Davis. Initially, the injury seems minor, and it will likely have more of an effect on his offense over his defense.

Zamora Shines and Gimenez Struggles

Daniel Zamora is a projected minor leaguer to start the season but pitched a scoreless third inning, all against righties, where the only baserunner came from an Andres Gimenez error. Gimenez is known for his slick defense but already has two errors in the Spring.

Wednesday Preview

A couple of big names will face the villainous Houston Astros on Wednesday. Noah Syndergaard makes his first start of the Spring and has already poked at Houston’s cheating scandal during the offseason and early in camp. He is not afraid about throwing up and in, but there should be no shenanigans, especially in his first outing.

Edwin Diaz will make his long-awaited debut in his quest to regain the closer role. Justin Wilson will also throw as the combination of the three pitchers will likely be the crew to start the game.

New York Knicks fans can’t stand these two players anymore

There’s no way around it. The New York Knicks have players the fans don’t like.  It’s nothing personal, but their basketball style can be infuriating most of the time.

Julius Randle and Bobby Portis aren’t going to become fan favorites anytime soon.  Both of their play on the court has Knicks Twitter continually being negative about their play.  They ruin the flow of the game, which gives fans grey hair.

Randle has been playing well since Mike Miller took over for David Fizdale.  However, there are plenty of negatives that outweigh the positives.  The biggest qualm Knicks fans have is when he’s ‘feeling it,’ Randle will bring up the ball.  That has to have every single fan screaming at the television.  There’s no reason he should be bringing the ball up.

If that wasn’t the most significant thing, Randle will chuck up 3-pointers at times that are unnecessary and force isolation plays trying to beat him man one-on-one.  While there are plenty of times where he is beasting it, isolation plays aren’t the Knicks’ strong suit.  He’s unbelievably lazy on defense and only seems to exert his energy trying to beat his man offensively.

Portis, on the other hand, is also lazy, most of the time, but doesn’t exert nearly as much energy on offense as Randle.  He loves to play iso-ball as well, but you’ll find him standing around the arc looking to bomb a 3.  He needs to use his big frame to go to work down-low, but instead, he wants to let it fly beyond the arc.  Portis doesn’t bring much to the table and is only taking away time from the young players.

The time Miller is giving to Portis is time that should be used on Kevin Knox.  And as bad as Knox has been this season, Knicks fans would rather see him over Portis.  Give Knox to time to try to regain what little confidence he had last season when there was hope for him as a future NBA player.  If not, Knox belongs in the G-league.

There are reports that the New York Knicks are not expected to buyout veteran players, which absolutely no sense.  The season is over, and the team needs to focus on player development.  They aren’t despite what Miller says.

New York Giants: One defensive playmaker that can bounce back after season-ending injury

When the New York Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. away to the Cleveland Browns, they were looking for two first-round picks in 2019. However, they walked away with the 17th overall pick and a former first-round player in Jabrill Peppers.

The New York Giants sparked the potential in Jabrill Peppers:

Peppers joined the Giants as a fantastic athlete who lacked the coaching to succeed at the NFL level. With the Browns, he was slotted in as a free safety, where he inevitably struggled to gain a foothold in their defensive scheme.

The former Michigan star is his best self around the ball, playing closer to the line of scrimmage and covering tight ends, which is how James Bettcher attempted to use him in 2019. Pat Shurmur being the knucklehead that he was, also tried him out as a kick returner and knowing how successful he was as a punt-returner for Michigan, it wasn’t a terrible idea. In an attempt to provide a spark, Shurmur enabled Peppers to risk his health, which is how he picked up a season-ending hip injury.

Returning in 2020, Peppers should see an uptick in usage and efficiency, knowing his teammates and developing chemistry with the rookies. While it’s safe to assume there will be new pieces added to the puzzle, he will be in an advantageous position.

Jabrill Peppers Vs. Landon Collins:

One of the better decisions Dave Gettleman made last offseason was letting Landon Collins go. He evidently signed with the Washington Redskins, where he saw his missed tackle rate balloon from 8.0% to 12.0%. Peppers hovered around 12.5% in 2019, a fraction higher than his 2018 total (12.2%).

However, Peppers logged five passes defended compared to Collins’ four. Jabrill played in just 11 games will Landon featured in 15, for context.

Another interesting comparison is Pepper’s allowed a 63.9 completion percentage while Collins allowed 70.1%, indicating that the Giants’ new strong safety had a better year in coverage. That’s one of the main reasons Gettleman let Collins walk in free agency.

Considering these numbers, Peppers should see an improvement in overall efficiency next season, especially with a full bill of health. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but I’m confident he will come back stronger.

Mets Mulling Using a Rotating Fifth Starter

New York Mets, New York Yankees, Steven Matz

The New York Mets have a luxury of starting pitching options this season and the rotation is pretty much set outside of the fifth starter. Jacob deGrom is the ace followed by Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman.

The fourth and fifth starting roles are being vied for by Steven Matz and newcomers Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Then, there are others who could slip into the mix such as Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

Porcello has leapfrogged Matz for the No. 4 spot and appears to be settling in. The fifth spot is still wide open and the Mets appear to be ready to deploy an unconventional approach to that role, especially early in the season. They may turn the role into a situational one.

From Joel Sherman of the New York Post: 

“Among the options they are internally discussing, The Post has learned, is using that fifth spot to match up best against each specific opponent. The determination would be whether the lefty Matz or the righty Wacha matches up best to start. Or the Mets would use Robert Gsellman or maybe even Seth Lugo as a one- or two-inning opener should the Mets conclude that is the best course. In that situation the opener would be followed by Matz or Wacha for bulk innings.

 

With three off days in the first 12 days of a season that begins March 26, the Mets will need to pick who goes in the fifth spot just once before April 11. After that?

 

The Mets are hoping they are in position to have to decide because it would indicate the full health of their key pitchers and success in spring training.

Not the craziest idea. Although the weather in the Northeast has been mild this year thus far, April is traditionally the month where you see the most postponed games. Injuries will also dictate how this plan gets rolled out.

Openers are more prevalent and we’ve seen teams have success with that strategy (see Tampa Bay) and the Mets’ staff certainly lines them up for such a plan.

New York Yankees: How the starting pitching rotation will look after Luis Severino’s injury

New York Yankees, Jonathan Loaisiga

With the news breaking that New York Yankees No. 2 starter Luis Severino will likely succumb to Tommy John surgery, manager Aaron Boone will need to find a replacement for him in the rotation.

James Paxton is already facing a lengthy recovery after having a cyst removed from his lower back, so losing two pitchers for significant time will force others to slot in at the end of the rotation. Thank goodness GM Brian Cashman retained J.A. Happ after all since his services will be heavily required in 2020.

However, Severino and Paxton’s injury gives multiple youngsters an opportunity as starting level pitchers. The return of Jordan Montgomery will prove to be significant, and his outing against the Pittsburg Pirates on Monday was exactly what the Yankees needed to see regarding their confidence in him.

Montgomery pitched 2.0 innings, striking out three batters and walking one. He allowed zero earned runs, finishing a quality night. I expect him to slot in as the No. 4 starter while Paxton recovers, and then move down to No. 5. While Monty didn’t feature much in 2019 due to injury, his first two seasons (2017-18) saw him toss two consecutive sub-4.00 ERA campaigns.

How will the New York Yankees supplement the No. 5 spot?

The Bombers don’t have a solidified No. 5 pitcher to take the reigns and handle the final spot in the rotation with consistency. I believe they will utilize a rotating system in the last slot, consisting of Michael King, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Jonathan Holder.

The 2020 season will be King’s rookie campaign, after pitching just several innings in 2019 at the major league level. He had some consistency issues in the minor league’s but is ready to be called up and tested. Loaisiga, on the other hand, finished 2019 with a 4.55 ERA, allowing six homers and logging 37 strikeouts. I expect him to take a step forward in the coming year after working on developing his off-speed pitches. He has added a solid changeup to his arsenal of mostly fastball variations, giving him that extra diversity to confuse batters.

Holder, though, shouldn’t be cast aside. While Holder posted a 6.31 ERA in 2019, he logged 46 strikeouts over 41.1 innings. His SO9 land at 10.0, which is quite impressive, indicating a solid whiff rate. His low 90s fastball isn’t anything to write home about, but he does feature a changeup, slider, cutter, and curveball. His cutter and fastball are his best pitches in terms of accuracy and velocity, but he has the offspeed mojo to get the job done.

Overall, I think the Yankees have the talent to survive the injuries sustained to the starting rotation, and hopefully, they can gain back Severino before the postseason hits later on in 2020.