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Six errors too much for Mets to overcome

Herrera belts first Major League home run and drives in three

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MIAMI -- For non-contending teams, September is a month for growth. The Mets know now that they won't be involved in postseason play. They are at peace with it. So over the season's final four weeks, they simply want to set themselves up as well as possible for 2015.

Monday's Labor Day matinee at Marlins Park showcased exactly the type of thing they'd like to avoid going forward. The Mets committed a half-dozen defensive errors in a 9-6 loss to the Marlins, allowing the winning run to cross home on a wild pitch.

"It [wasn't] a big league baseball game," manager Terry Collins said. "I can tell you that."

Stuck in a 6-6 tie in the eighth, reliever Jeurys Familia gave up a leadoff double on a ball that deflected off outfielder Eric Campbell's glove, before committing a throwing error on a sacrifice-bunt attempt to put runners on the corners with no outs. Familia then allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch, which catcher Travis d'Arnaud exacerbated by making a throwing error of his own on the play.

"I think I'm trying to be too quick," said Familia, who has a growing recent history of similar miscues. "I think I've got to throw it perfect, so sometimes I try to be too quick with the ball and then I throw it away."

Following an intentional walk, Familia committed yet another throwing error on another bunt attempt, allowing the Marlins' eighth run to score. From there, he gave way to rookie Erik Goeddel, who intentionally walked the first batter of his big league career before forcing in a run with an unintentional walk.

The Mets never recovered.

"I'm not sure I can say it publicly," Collins said when asked how he felt about the six errors. "There were a lot of the phases of the game that weren't very good."

The game's first six innings were a tangle of timely hits and untimely defensive lapses for both teams, cumulatively resulting in a stalemate. The Mets took an early lead with a four-run rally in the third inning, highlighted by rookie Dilson Herrera's first career homer and David Wright's two-run single. But they fell behind in the bottom of the fifth, when Casey McGehee, Garrett Jones and Marcell Ozuna all drove in runs in succession -- chasing Mets starter Zack Wheeler from the game.

The Mets took another brief lead on Herrera's two-run triple in the sixth. But after the second baseman committed his second fielding error in the Marlins' half of the inning, Christian Yelich tied things up again with an RBI single.

"I have no excuses," Herrera said through an interpreter. "Errors are going to happen. You're going to make mistakes on errors here and there. I'm not perfect, but I'm also going to continue to work on it and get better -- because that's a big part of my game."

He was far from the only culprit, at least, as the Mets and Marlins combined for 12 runs on 15 hits and four errors over the first six innings. Wheeler gave up five runs (two earned) over 4 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking two.

"I felt terrible the whole day, honestly," said Wheeler, who came into the game with 10 quality starts in his last 11 tries. "I'm sure you all could see it. I was leaving my breaking balls up in the zone and nothing was really working for me. Just a bad day."

It was a bad day for just about every Met -- even those such as Herrera and Wright who came through at the plate. But the Mets are willing to brush it aside, knowing that defense -- unlike offense -- has not typically haunted them this season.

Consider this yet another lesson in a long season full of them. As long as they learn from it, the Mets can stomach it.

"I think, all in all, we've played pretty good defense throughout the year," Wright said. "One game isn't going to tarnish that. At the same time, we can't expect to go out there and win and be successful when we play as sloppily as we did today."


Mets look to callups to keep 'pen functioning

Mets look to callups to keep 'pen functioning

MIAMI -- Some teams look to September callups as a chance to give their bullpens much-needed breaks. The Mets looked at their 2014 callups simply as a way to keep their fractured bullpen intact.

With both Josh Edgin and Daisuke Matsuzaka back in New York nursing injuries, the Mets are using their small influx of pitching -- right-hander Erik Goeddel and lefty Dario Alvarez -- to avoid leaning too heavily on Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and their other healthy bullpen arms.

"We've still got basically seven guys in the bullpen," manager Terry Collins said. "It's not like we've got a lot of guys down there. But make no mistake ... they're the guys who are going to pitch. Those are the guys who are going to pitch when the game's on the line with a lead."

Edgin, who received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his sore left elbow on Aug. 25, has not responded to the procedure as the team had hoped. He will visit with doctors in New York this week before the Mets decide their next move.

Matsuzaka had trouble warming up in the bullpen over the weekend and will also see doctors in New York. Because rosters are now expanded beyond 25 men, the Mets did not need to place either pitcher on the DL.


Satin called up from Triple-A Las Vegas

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MIAMI -- It's an exciting time at Triple-A Las Vegas, where the 51s are tied for the Pacific Coast League's best record and postseason play looms. But it's still the Minor Leagues.

"I would rather be here," infielder Josh Satin said, laughing on Monday morning at Marlins Park.

The Mets officially recalled Satin on Monday, rewarding him for his .386 on-base percentage and .825 OPS in 100 games at Las Vegas. A clubhouse favorite and a lock for the big league roster heading into Spring Training, Satin struggled at the beginning of the season and quickly lost his bench job to Eric Campbell.

He has been working his way back ever since.

"Anytime you can be back in the big leagues, it's obviously rewarding," said Satin, who will serve mostly as a right-handed pinch-hitter in September. "This season hasn't gone as planned. It's been tough. It's been a grind. But I came out every day in Triple-A, worked hard, out hitting early every day just trying to get back here. It's a lot of hard work and sometimes it feels like you're not being rewarded. But to be back here definitely feels good."


Collins understands why Colon drew few calls

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MIAMI -- Terry Collins may not have expected such a scant number of teams to check in on starter Bartolo Colon prior to Sunday's waiver trade deadline, but the manager was unsurprised to learn that Colon would ultimately remain with the Mets.

"I've been there before, where we've had players who everybody's talking about them, talking about them, and nothing ever comes about," Collins said a day after the deadline passed. "A lot of times, the asking price is what some teams don't want to pay. I'm not surprised that he's still here."

Colon, who is due $11 million next year, is 12-11 with a 4.01 ERA in his age-41 season. General manager Sandy Alderson has spoken openly of shopping the right-hander over the winter, though that is also far from a guarantee. If the league's recent lack of interest in Colon is any indication of the future market for his services, the Mets could simply hold on to him until his contract expires.

"To be honest, you're sitting here watching the MLB Network -- where everybody's struggling, a lot of these teams are struggling for starting pitching -- and we've got a guy who's had a pretty good year," Collins said. "But nobody came crazy to knock the door down to help themselves out. I was a little surprised that there wasn't a little more activity. But I'm happy he's still here."

With Colon now a Met for the rest of the season, the team may temporarily move to a six-man rotation in September -- as it looks to give rookie Rafael Montero at least one more big league start down the stretch. For now, however, Montero will remain at Triple-A Las Vegas as the 51s begin postseason play.


Niese out to help Mets even series with Marlins

Marlins aim to gain ground in playoff race, as Mets try to play spoiler

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The Marlins are hanging on by a thread in the postseason race, but their hopes for October are diminishing with every loss. While they have dropped six of their past nine and sit two games below .500, the team is just 5 1/2 back for the second NL Wild Card spot.

Despite generating some optimism in a 9-6 victory against New York on Monday, Miami may be in store for a tough night with Jon Niese taking the mound for the Mets opposite Brad Penny on Tuesday at Marlins Park.

Niese has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 23 of his 25 starts -- including four consecutive quality starts. His 3.48 ERA is not overly impressive, but it is good enough to be the second-best mark among Mets hurlers with at least 18 starts.

His consistency continued in his last start, as Niese limited Atlanta to three earned runs over 7 1/3 innings on Thursday. However, he was disappointed, as the Braves scored two of those runs thanks to a leadoff double by opposing pitcher Mike Minor.

Emilio Bonifacio followed with a triple and Freddie Freeman singled to chase Niese, who was in position to give up one run or fewer in an outing of at least six innings for only the third time since accomplishing that feat three times in April alone.

But as Niese and the Mets dealt with another crushing defeat that night, the left-hander spoke to a larger desire he shared with teammates with only a month remaining in the 2014 campaign.

"I want it bad," Niese said of a strong September. "I'm just hoping that all 25 of us have that same feeling. We need that to make the games in September meaningful. This year's kind of -- I don't want to say 'lost,' because you want to play every game the same in September. But it does mean a lot to play games and have them mean something."

While it remains subject to change, for now Penny is getting the nod as Miami's fifth starter. Manager Mike Redmond made the move official on Saturday afternoon.

With Penny back in the rotation, left-hander Brad Hand is back in the bullpen.

Penny, 36, has made two starts this season, going 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA. He's also pitched twice in relief -- including throwing one scoreless inning in Friday's 5-2 loss in Atlanta.

"He's done a nice job," Redmond said. "He's been in big games, big situations. He's earned it."

Marlins: Stanton reaching franchise, personal heights
• Giancarlo Stanton hit a solo homer on Monday, giving him 34 for the season and 151 for his career. He needs only four more home runs to break Dan Uggla's franchise record of 154.

The solo shot also represented Stanton's 99th RBI, which puts him only one short of his first career season at or above the 100-RBI mark. Stanton's previous best was 87 RBIs in 2011.

Mets: Later innings are Familia territory
• Jeurys Familia has been a terrific arm out of the New York bullpen in 2014, compiling a 2.13 ERA over 65 appearances encompassing 67 2/3 innings. He is also on pace to make history, as his 16 holds are the second-most by a Mets rookie.

Familia is one hold short of tying Scott Rice's record of 17 set in 2013, and is currently tied with Bobby Parnell's mark of 16 set in 2009.

Worth noting
• Miami's win on Monday snapped a five-game losing streak against the Mets.

• The Marlins' bullpen pitched 6 2/3 innings in relief of Henderson Alvarez on Monday and sports a 2.42 ERA over 130 1/3 innings since the All-Star break.

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Edgin, Dice-K staying in NY to have elbows checked

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NEW YORK -- The Mets headed to Miami following their 6-5 win over the Phillies on Sunday. Left-hander Josh Edgin and right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka did not.

Both relievers are staying in New York to have their problematic elbows examined by doctors. Edgin has tendinitis and bone spurs in his left elbow, while Matsuzaka's right elbow is sore, again, days after he was activated from a month-long stint on the disabled list for a similar issue. Neither will land on the DL given that the roster expands Monday.

Edgin hasn't pitched since Aug. 23. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection Monday, and an MRI indicated there are no tears. The team hoped it would settle down after a few days of rest, but that has not been the case.

Edgin tried warming up Friday night against the Phillies, but he didn't feel well enough to enter the game.

"It's not where I want it to be," Edgin said. "They told me to rest it. If it starts feeling better, just don't go too quick I guess."

Edgin added that he fully expects to pitch again this season, though there is no timetable for when that might happen.

This leaves Dana Eveland -- plus Dario Alvarez, whom the Mets called up for Monday's game against the Marlins -- as the southpaw options out of the bullpen. He's come a long way from signing a Minor League contract with New York during Spring Training.

"It's definitely been more than I expected ever this year," said Eveland, who tossed a scoreless inning Sunday. "I went from being a guy who had a hard time getting a job period this season -- a Minor League job -- to playing a fairly significant role in the big leagues. So it's been a great year, and I'm very happy and I'm hoping I can finish strong and see where that leads me into next year."

Matsuzaka has allowed four runs in 2 2/3 innings since returning to the Major League team Thursday. He most recently pitched two innings Saturday.

{"content":["injury" ] }
{"content":["injury" ] }

Recker delivers big blow to help Mets win series

Catcher's three-run homer in sixth keeps Phils in NL East basement

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NEW YORK -- For a moment Sunday afternoon at Citi Field -- before the Mets finished off the Phillies, 6-5 -- one Anthony Recker swing in the sixth inning eased the pains of a difficult season in Queens, his bat colliding with an A.J. Burnett breaking ball that never really broke, the ball soaring through the humid August air until it landed a half-dozen rows back in left field.

The Mets waved their rally towels from the dugout. The celebratory Big Apple rose from its outfield dwelling. The 7-Line Army banged their noise sticks in center, and most of the rest of the 27,159 in attendance got out of their seats to cheer as Recker rounded the bases.

It was the sort of long majestic homer that's easy to imagine living long in baseball lore if the weather was a little cooler, the calendar a little later, the crowd a little more electric.

But the Mets won't get that chance this year. Although the win Sunday gave them the series over Philadelphia -- keeping the Mets in fourth place in the National League East -- they fly to Miami on the precipice of another lost September, their goals for which are hardly tangible. Manager Terry Collins spoke this weekend of finishing strong in the hopes of it carrying over into 2015, an objective true for the team as a whole as well as several individuals.

"We haven't played anywhere near like we thought we were going to," Collins said. "But they come into the clubhouse each day with a smile on their face getting ready to play. I don't think there's any other way to go about it."

Sunday's triumph yielded signs of progress. Right-hander Dillon Gee scattered seven hits and three walks over six innings, holding the Phillies to three runs for his second straight quality start -- the beginning of a renewed consistency, maybe, that he has lacked in the second half.

Then there was Wilmer Flores, who is in the midst of a six-week tryout of sorts as a Major League shortstop. He tied his career high with three hits and scored a run, then made a nifty diving stop to end the eighth inning and turned a difficult ninth-inning double play in a crucial spot that started with second baseman Dilson Herrera fielding a Ryan Howard ground ball in shallow right field.

"Very encouraging," Collins said of Flores. "That's a tough angle to turn a double play with, but Wilmer did a nice job, got himself in a good position, and like we've seen, we know he's got the arm strength. It's just a matter of making sure his feet are going where they're supposed to be going."

David Wright, too, gave hints that he's close to emerging from another lengthy slump. He singled twice -- both line drives to center -- for his first multihit game since Aug. 13. One of those hits plated a run, his first RBI in 20 days.

The Mets scored twice in the fifth, once on Matt den Dekker's double and once on a Wright single, to offset Howard's RBI double and solo shot. That set the stage for Recker's go-ahead blast in the sixth.

"[Burnett] had thrown a couple [curveballs] to me my first couple of ABs, first pitch and thereafter," Recker said. "He threw me a lot of them. I thought I just missed one my first at-bat, so I was just glad I was able to put a good part of the bat on it."

The Phillies narrowed the deficit to one with two outs in the ninth, but Jenrry Mejia wound up with his 21st save. Herrera's base knock in the eighth plated Kirk Nieuwenhuis (2-for-4, two stolen bases) -- Herrera's first Major League RBI -- and it stood as the difference.

"I'm sure that's a big thrill for him," Collins said of the 20-year-old rookie. "The more he does things like that, he's going to realize he belongs here."

Added Wright: "He's a little nervous, and he's learning the ropes, but you can tell he's got great tools, and I think he's going to be a really good player."

And so it was a productive day in Flushing -- a series win and a little something for the Mets to take into September.

"The only way we're going to get better and the only way these younger guys are going to feel more comfortable playing every day is to go out there and play and make mistakes and have that kind of experience, on-the-job training," Wright said. "That's kind of what we're going through right now."


Slumping Granderson gets chance to clear mind

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NEW YORK -- Amidst a month-long slump that has seen his strikeout rate (21.9 percent) rise above his batting average (.214), Curtis Granderson got a day off for the first time in 24 games Sunday in the Mets' series finale with the Phillies. Manager Terry Collins made his regular right fielder aware of the chance to "clear his mind a little bit" Sunday morning.

The day off came a game after Granderson struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, ending a Mets rally in which he represented the potential tying run in an eventual 7-2 loss. Collins pointed to that at-bat as evidence Granderson is still a threat.

The Phillies had left-hander Antonio Bastardo warming when left-handed hitter Kirk Nieuwenhuis -- who started in place of Granderson on Sunday -- batted in the seventh Saturday night. Manager Ryne Sandberg opted to wait until Granderson stepped to the plate two batters later to call on his southpaw for the lefty-on-lefty matchup.

"They're saving him for Curtis Granderson," Collins said. "He's the guy they said, 'We got to get this guy out.' That tells you what those names mean in your lineup, and that's why when they're doing damage, it creates havoc."

Still, Granderson is batting .147 with a .231 on-base percentage and two extra-base hits in August.

Granderson carries that into the last month of his first season in Queens, which can only be described as disappointing. His .214/.317/.361 slash line in 2014 is the worst of his career, and despite an ability to carry a team for a stretch -- like when he hit .362/.472/.609 for most of June -- he hasn't exhibited that talent in some time.

Collins suggested that with a season in the National League and at Citi Field under his belt, Granderson will enter Spring Training in 2015 with a better idea of what it takes to succeed in those situations. His offensive decline, though, isn't limited to this month or this season.

Since posting a career-high .916 OPS during his All-Star 2011 campaign, Granderson saw that mark drop to .811 in '12 and .723 during in injury-riddled '13. This season, it's down to .677.


Colon's rough sixth inning sends Mets to defeat

Righty stumbles vs. Phils pitching for first time since mother's funeral

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NEW YORK -- More and more, it seems as though Bartolo Colon will remain in Flushing through August, through September and quite possibly beyond. The Mets have no pressing need to trade their eldest starting pitcher prior to Sunday's waiver deadline, so unless some desperate contender changes their mind -- and soon -- they quite simply will keep him.

After all, they'd miss the big fella. At 41, Colon has given the Mets more than seems reasonable given his age and mileage; the six runs he allowed in Saturday's 7-2 loss to the Phillies at Citi Field were hardly indicative of the way he has pitched all year.

But those runs did sting, even if only for a night. Pitching for the first time since his mother's funeral, at the tail end of a chaotic two-week span that saw him twice fly to his winter home in the Dominican Republic, Colon smashed into a wall when six of the seven Phillies he faced in the sixth inning singled. Five of them ultimately came around to score, knocking him out of the game.

"I'm going to cut him a little slack this time," manager Terry Collins said. "That's some long trips he's had in the last 10 days, back and forth like that. I don't know if he just ran out of gas, but obviously he was getting way too much plate."

Colon gave up an earlier run on Marlon Byrd's homer in the fifth, after retiring 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. All told, it added up to his second clunker of the month, bloating his ERA from 3.82 to 4.01.

"We kind of came out swinging tonight, so he had to nitpick just a little bit more, use his offspeed a little bit more instead of pounding the zone with his fastball," Byrd said. "Tonight was one of those nights we were ready to hit it."

Such inconsistency has been Colon's primary issue all season, and he struggles to explain it. In his 12 wins, he owns a 1.54 ERA. In his 11 losses, that mark sits at 7.02.

"I didn't do anything different," Colon said of the sixth inning. "They just made the adjustment. I made some good pitches, but they still put it in play."

Saturday, Colon's issues worked in tandem with the Mets' far more consistent problem: hitting. Facing right-hander Jerome Williams, who came into the game with a 5.42 ERA split amongst three teams, the Mets settled for a single hit over the game's first six innings. They finally began knocking Williams around in the seventh, chasing him when Dilson Herrera's first big league hit loaded the bases with one out. But that rally produced merely two runs; with the bases loaded, Curtis Granderson struck out to end it as the potential tying run.

Granderson's disappointed walk back to the dugout ensured that Colon would end his August on a sour note -- though at least he'll likely end it a Met.

The Mets believe they can make use of Colon going forward for several reasons, despite a 2015 rotation that already potentially includes Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. General manager Sandy Alderson has said that he expects Colon's value as a trade chip to be greater this winter than it is right now, if the Mets decide to go that route. His presence could also free the team to trade Niese, deGrom or another one of its starters, if that's what the Mets prefer. Or, the Mets could simply hold on to everyone, understanding how critical starting-pitching depth can be.

Less tangibly, Collins believes Colon's value as a mentor for the staff's younger Latin pitchers is immense -- specifically to relievers Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia, who are both enjoying strong-to-quite-strong seasons. The fact that Colon committed to starting every five days this month, despite his mother's death and funeral, only underscored that trait in Collins' mind.

"He brings something to the party, no doubt," the manager said. "His presence in the clubhouse, he doesn't say much. He talks mostly to the young Latin kids, but he has a presence about him. He is very, very good at sharing information and sharing some knowledge. It's made a difference on how they've pitched, to have him here."

Collins added one last thing: "I hope he stays."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Mets calling up Satin, Centeno, two others

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NEW YORK -- Reinforcements are coming for the injury-riddled Mets.

Following the club's 6-5 win over the Phillies on Sunday, the team announced it is calling up four players for Monday's opener against the Marlins, the first day rosters expand from 25 to as many as 40 players.

Infielder Josh Satin and right-handed pitcher Erik Goeddel will arrive from Triple-A Las Vegas. Catcher Juan Centeno and left-hander Dario Alvarez will join the Mets from Double-A Binghamton. The 40-man roster is up to 39 with the Mets purchasing Alvarez's contract, with the other three already on it.

Satin, 29, is an infielder who has seen time with the Major League team in each of the last four seasons. He's a career .250/.350/.361 hitter in the big leagues, though in 15 games this April and May he hit just .107/.265/.179. With Las Vegas this year, he played mostly third base while batting .289 with nine homers and 49 RBIs.

Centeno is another familiar name for Mets fans. He's gotten into 10 big league games the last two seasons, including six in May when Travis d'Arnaud was out with a concussion. He hit .289/.342/.340 in 74 games with Binghamton and Las Vegas.

Goeddel's next Major League game will be his first. He has steadily climbed the Minor League ladder since the Mets drafted him in 2010, and he struck out 64 batters in 63 2/3 innings for Las Vegas this season. However, he also posted a 5.37 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP.

Alvarez's rise this season is an impressive one. He started out with Class A Savannah but made his way to Binghamton by mid-August. In 29 games (six starts) across three levels, he has a 1.10 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP while striking out 14 batters per nine innings.

Originally a Phillies signee prior to the 2007 season, Alvarez, 25, didn't pitch stateside until joining the Mets' organization last year.

Las Vegas and Binghamton are both about to embark on playoff runs, and the Mets are likely to call up additional players once their affiliates' seasons end.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

deGrom making case to be NL Rookie of the Year

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NEW YORK -- Jacob deGrom's National League Rookie of the Year Award bid appears to be back on track.

By firing seven innings of one-run (zero earned) ball against the Phillies on Friday night, deGrom increased his win-loss record to 7-6 while decreasing his ERA to 2.94. Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton has also been hot, batting .304 since Aug. 19, thereby narrowing this even further into a two-man race.

While the American League boasts several standout Rookie of the Year Award candidates, headlined by Chicago's Jose Abreu, the NL has fewer. Hamilton's 53 steals in 129 games may make him the favorite at this point, but deGrom appears close enough to challenge him with a strong September.

"He's unfazed," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He just goes out and does the best he can."

A dark horse candidate for the honor is Mets reliever Jeurys Familia, who debuted in 2012 but retained his rookie eligibility into this season. Familia entered Saturday's play with a 1.90 ERA and four saves in 63 appearances. No rookie pitcher in either league has appeared in more games.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Mets prospect Herrera collects first MLB hit

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NEW YORK -- The ball sits atop Dilson Herrera's locker, dirtied and smacked around, just like dozens of others at Citi Field on Saturday. This one, though, is different. A slip of orange paper -- bound to the baseball by a rubber band -- designates its significance: Herrera's first Major League hit.

It was a single to left field, the result of an 0-1 fastball that Phillies starter Jerome Williams left out over the plate in the seventh inning and the highlight of a 1-for-3 game for Herrera, the Mets' No. 8 prospect. Philly shortstop Jimmy Rollins eventually tossed it into the Mets' dugout, and from there it made its way to the home clubhouse and Herrera's locker.

It was a bright spot of an otherwise forgettable night in Queens, a 7-2 loss for New York. For Herrera, 20, it was anything but.

Soon, the ball will be headed to Colombia -- home.

"It's for my parents," Herrera said.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Collins manages 1,500th career game

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NEW YORK -- Terry Collins wasn't sure he would ever reach this mark. But Collins blasted past a personal milestone on Saturday, managing his 1,500th career big league game.

Only eight other active managers have reached that plateau: Bruce Bochy of the Giants; Terry Francona of the Indians; Ron Gardenhire of the Twins; Clint Hurdle of the Pirates; Bob Melvin of the A's; Mike Scioscia of the Angels; Buck Showalter of the Orioles and Ned Yost of the Royals.

"It means I'm really, really lucky," Collins said. "That's exactly what it means: I've been very, very lucky. This has been a great experience, I've been in pennant races -- it's a lot of fun. I'm lucky to be able to do it as long as I've done it, and hopefully it can continue for a while."

Collins entered Saturday night with a 732-767 combined record at the helm of the Astros (1994-96), Angels (1997-99) and Mets (2011-present). He is 288-333 over nearly four full seasons in New York.

Last September, the Mets gave Collins a two-year contract extension with a team option for 2016.


A little luck helps Mets lock up win for stellar deGrom

After righty's strong start, NY takes lead on error before steal of home

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NEW YORK -- Perhaps a little luck is all the Mets needed. Little else has gone their way this year, forcing them to look fully toward their future on Friday with the promotion of Dilson Herrera. This team will not come close to 90 wins, which general manager Sandy Alderson reiterated earlier in the day was never "a goal." But that doesn't mean things have to end sourly for the Mets.

So maybe the luck they received in the seventh inning Friday, scoring three runs without the benefit of a hit, was the start of something upon which they can build. Goodness knows they can use it.

The Mets could use much more of the magic that unfolded in the seventh, when Grady Sizemore dropped a routine fly ball to allow two runs to score. They could use more of the make-your-own-luck aggression that followed, when Eric Campbell swiped home on a double steal. And they could certainly use more of this type of result: a spirited 4-1 win over the Phillies.

"You take every gift you can get right now," manager Terry Collins said.

About the only thing that did not go swimmingly for the Mets was the debut of Herrera, their new 20-year-old second baseman, who finished 0-for-3 with a fielding error. But on a night when Jacob deGrom pitched brilliantly and the rest fell into place, that hardly seemed to matter.

Though the Mets would not have taken the lead without Sizemore's gaffe, it was deGrom who put them in position to take advantage of it. Returning to the form he displayed before going on the disabled list earlier this month, with his "location really good all night," deGrom took a no-hitter into the fifth and allowed just four hits -- all singles -- in seven innings. The only run against him was unearned, coming on Cody Asche's RBI single after a Lucas Duda throwing error.

That tied the game at 1, making the Mets' seventh-inning rally a critical one. After reliever Jake Diekman loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batsman, the Phillies brought on Justin De Fratus to face Juan Lagares, who lifted a fly ball to shallow left-center field. Sizemore raced over, called off center fielder Ben Revere, settled under it ... and dropped it. Two runs came around to score.

"I just missed it," Sizemore said. "It doesn't get much worse than that. The guys played hard and I just happened to be a guy that let the team down, you know? That's all there really is to it."

Moments later, the Mets executed a perfect double steal, with Lagares drawing a throw from the catcher while Campbell used the diversion to scamper home. The crowd roared and the Mets -- for once -- smiled, clapping Campbell on the back in their dugout.

It was the first time the Mets scored at least three runs in an inning without a hit since July 1999.

"Right now, that's the type of break we need until we get it going offensively," Campbell said, after the music died down in the postgame clubhouse.

With a month left in the season, the Mets may never get it going offensively to the extent they once hoped. But they at least appear to be trending in the right direction with the personnel that they have.

On the night Herrera debuted, a quick glance at the Mets' lineup card was telling. All 12 Mets who appeared in the game -- from Lagares up top to deGrom on the mound to Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia in relief -- are likely to be here for the next few years, for better or for worse. The Mets have not always been able to say that this season, yet their club skews far younger than it did in April.

That's not to say the entire dozen will play major roles; the jury is still out on Matt den Dekker, Wilmer Flores and others as the Mets look to build a cohesive whole. But September is a time for scouting and development, and the Mets will receive long looks at Herrera, Flores and others down the stretch.

They feel they have potential here.

They're lucky, in that sense.

"That's a tribute to the organization," Collins said. "They're sticking by these guys. They're going to give them a chance. And yeah, we're going to have some ups and downs, but for the most part, the future's going to be brighter than it was two years ago."


Campbell swipes home on double steal

Utility man accomplishes feat moments after Mets take lead on dropped fly ball

Campbell swipes home on double steal play video for Campbell swipes home on double steal

NEW YORK -- Eric Campbell must have been wearing his PF Flyers on Friday night.

The Mets utility man, who entered the 4-1 win over the Phillies as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, stole home on a double steal minutes later to cap an eventful go-ahead rally at Citi Field.

"We just thought we'd take a shot at it, and it paid off for us," manager Terry Collins said. "It worked, so we got that extra run when we needed it -- bad."

The rally consisted of two walks, a hit-by-pitch, an error by Grady Sizemore on a routine fly ball and Campbell's steal of home. It was the first time the Mets scored at least three runs in an inning without a hit since July 1999.

It was also the Mets' first steal of home since Jason Pridie did it on May 15, 2011, in Houston. That came on the back end of a double steal that featured Jose Reyes moving from first to second.

This, too, was a double steal. With Campbell on third, Juan Lagares on first and Curtis Granderson at the plate, third-base coach Tim Teufel set the play in motion by delivering a message to Campbell: "Be ready, Lagares might go for second."

The next pitch, Lagares did, easily swiping second on a Justin De Fratus-Carlos Ruiz battery. As soon as Campbell saw Ruiz release the ball, he broke hard from home, and his headfirst slide was barely enough to beat shortstop Jimmy Rollins' throw.

As Campbell -- who is not exactly known for his speed -- made the 90-foot dash, he only had one thing on his mind.

"Really just trying to pick out a spot to slide," Campbell said. "Whether you're going to truck the catcher if he's blocking the plate or trying to sneak your hand in there. I did the latter."

Ever-stoic, Campbell hardly broke a smile during his return to the dugout.

Moments prior, Campbell walked to load the bases with two outs for Lagares. Lagares popped up to left, but when Sizemore couldn't glove it, two runs scored and Campbell reached third.

That set the stage for something Campbell hadn't done in at least a decade, if not longer.

"Maybe high school, something like that, [as part of a] double steal," Campbell said. "But nothing like that."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Herrera makes Major League debut for Mets

Herrera makes Major League debut for Mets play video for Herrera makes Major League debut for Mets

NEW YORK -- When the call came to Double-A Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez's office, Dilson Herrera struggled to believe it. Yes, he was enjoying a solid first full season in the organization, but the middle-infield prospect understood his role at 20 years old. He had never played above Double-A. That's not often grounds for a big league promotion.

"I was just in complete shock," Herrera said through an interpreter. "I couldn't believe it."

Reality came in a private car that whisked him off to New York, where Herrera batted seventh and played second base in Friday's 4-1 win over the Phillies. Herrera went 0-for-3 with an error. With Daniel Murphy on the disabled list for at least the next two weeks with a strained right calf, and possibly longer than that, the Mets saw this as an ideal opportunity to see their No. 8 prospect in action.

"We'll see how he looks," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "He's going to get some extended playing time."

Because the Mets needed to shift Herrera onto their 40-man roster anyway this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, they decided to promote him straight to the big leagues instead of No. 20 prospect Matt Reynolds, a 23-year-old having a monster season at Triple-A Las Vegas. The move made Herrera the reigning youngest player in the Majors.

Herrera played both second base and shortstop this year at Binghamton and Class A Advanced St. Lucie, after coming to the Mets in a trade with the Pirates last August. For now, the Mets plan to use him exclusively as a second baseman; Alderson referred to Herrera's defensive chops as "average or better," though it is clear most of his intrigue revolves around his line-drive swing, which produced one home run every 27.8 plate appearances at Binghamton.

"The biggest challenge is to think he's got to do more than he's ever done," manager Terry Collins said of Herrera, who will wear uniform No. 2. "You get to this level and ... the game doesn't change. You've still got to catch it, throw it, hit it and be smart about how you go about things. He's come with really, really outstanding reports on how he plays, the way he plays, intelligent kid, all the things you want to hear. But I think he's got to keep back the excitement that this is something bigger and larger than it really is."

Still, as the 14th Colombian-born player to appear in the Majors, and the first in Mets history, Herrera does carry some weight on his shoulders.

"It's a real sense of pride to be here representing my country," he said. "My family's very proud as well. There's not very many of us, but I'm proud to come here and represent."

As for Murphy, an MRI on the regular second baseman's right calf revealed a "significant issue," according to Alderson, forcing the Mets to believe they may be without him for much of September.

"Murph's down," Collins said. "He had some pretty big goals set, and rightly so, that he was chasing. Big goals. And now we're looking at quite a lengthy DL stint."

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }

Backman named PCL's Manager of the Year

Backman named PCL's Manager of the Year

NEW YORK -- Since rejoining the Mets as a Minor League manager in 2010, Wally Backman has won with consistency, posting a combined .534 winning percentage with Class A Brooklyn, Double-A Binghamton, Triple-A Buffalo and, most recently, Triple-A Las Vegas. His efforts with the latter club on Friday earned him honors as the Pacific Coast League's Manager of the Year.

"Well-deserved," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "He's got a nice club there. They score a lot of runs. But he's had to manage additions and subtractions in personnel there. He's obviously had to deal with the pitching challenges that come with Las Vegas. I'm very pleased for him, and I think it reflects the work he's done this year."

In his second season at Las Vegas, Backman has led the 51s to an 80-61 record and a first-place standing. More importantly to the Mets, he has overseen many of the organization's top prospects, including starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero.

"I'm very, very happy for Wally," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He deserves a lot of accolades. Wally does an outstanding job, and certainly I rely a lot on his opinions of players and what goes on. I'm happy for him. With all the player moves we've made, he's kept that club steady moving forward. Congratulations to him."

Over the past few winters, Backman has interviewed for numerous big league managerial and coaching positions, including Collins' own managerial job four years ago. He has said publicly that he would relish another opportunity to manage at the big league level, though the Mets have passed him over for promotions to their staff in the past.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Pleskoff: Montero has control to be MLB starter

Mets' No. 6 prospect has solid mechanics, despite struggling in time in big leagues

Pleskoff: Montero has control to be MLB starter play video for Pleskoff: Montero has control to be MLB starter

The New York Mets do an extremely good job of scouting and signing international players. One of their most successful discoveries may be right-handed pitcher Rafael Montero. However, his early days as a Major League pitcher were a bit rough. Still, in time, he should be a solid starter for the team's rotation.

Montero was born in an area near Haiti. With little education and only a strong right arm to fuel his future, he moved to the Dominican Republic to try to be discovered as a baseball player. In 2011, at the age of 20, Montero realized his dream.

The Mets signed the 6-foot, 185-pound Montero, and in 2011, he pitched at four classifications in the Mets' Minor League system. That's almost unheard of, but he was stellar at every level.

Montero began his career in May that year on the Mets' Dominican Summer League team, pitching and starting in four games. He threw 18 innings and had a great 1.00 ERA and a 0.38 WHIP when he was assigned stateside to the Gulf Coast League Rookie-level club at the end of May. Montero pitched there until August 2, and put up a 1.45 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He started four games of the seven in which he appeared. His ERA was 1.45 and his WHIP was great, once again, at 1.09. On August 8, the Mets assigned Montero to Kingsport in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. For the first time, Montero scuffled a bit. His ERA increased to 4.24 and his WHIP went up to 1.35, both highs for his young career. However, Montero threw only 17 innings before being sent to Class A Short-Season Brooklyn for two games to finish the season. Altogether, in his rookie year, he pitched 71 innings and finished the year with a 2.15 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. Outstanding.

Success continued the following year as Montero pitched for Class A Savannah and Class A Advanced St. Lucie at the age of 21. Last year, he was promoted again. Montero pitched at Double-A Binghamton and finished at Triple-A Las Vegas.

This May, after only three years and having pitched at every classification, Montero was pitching in the Major Leagues, having taken a role in the rotation following an injury to rookie Jacob deGrom. He made his debut on May 14. It's an aggressive progression, but one the determined Montero earned with excellent pitching results in the Minor Leagues. With deGrom's return from injury, Montero is back at Triple-A Las Vegas. His strong performance in the beginning of his career has earned him the No. 6 position on the Mets' Top 20 Prospects list.

Montero has a full repertoire of pitches that include a 93 mph fastball, a 92 mph sinker, an 87 mph changeup and a slider that sits between 81 and 82 mph. He can bring his fastball to 94 or 95 when needed.

In the Minor Leagues, Montero found success with outstanding control of his entire arsenal. In his career before his promotion to the Mets, he had yielded 100 walks in 428 1/3 innings. That's a tad above two per nine innings. Montero had struck out over eight batters per nine.

Major League hitters walked more often than in Montero's past and were making more frequent and fairly loud contact off him in his brief stint with the big league club. That's to be expected. He will ultimately become familiar with the difference between Major League and Minor League hitters. The difference is huge. Combined in his seven starts, Montero yielded more home runs in his short time at the Major League level than he had in any entire Minor League season in the past. As has been the case in his career so far, Montero was hit harder by left-handed hitters than righties.

Montero's return to the Minor League system for further development should especially help his secondary pitches. He has a strong arm and good enough pitching mechanics to work out any issues uncovered in his initial exposure to the Major Leagues. If Montero keeps the ball down and trusts his stuff, I believe he will emerge as a long-term back-end-of-the-rotation starter.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Bats quieted behind Niese's solid start vs. Braves

Wright's return doesn't provide spark as Mets drop series finale

Bats quieted behind Niese's solid start vs. Braves play video for Bats quieted behind Niese's solid start vs. Braves

NEW YORK -- On another night, in another month of another baseball season, David Wright's return to the lineup might have portended good things for the Mets. Even without Daniel Murphy, a lineup with Wright might have had a chance.

But this was no other night. This was a Thursday in late August during Wright's worst professional season to date, and his return to the lineup did nothing to spark the Mets offensively. Instead, Mike Minor fired seven-plus innings of one-run ball against them, leading the Braves to a 6-1 win.

"It's strange how just being out a few days, how quick the game is when you get back out there," Wright said. "I've just got to get back in the grind of it."

To be fair, the burden on this night did not fall entirely to Wright, who had been out since Sunday with a stiff neck and has battled a sore left shoulder for far longer than that. It fell equally to Curtis Granderson, whose infield hit in the seventh inning did little more than snap an 0-for-20 skid, and to the five members of the starting lineup who finished without hits.

Such limited productivity was also in large part a credit to Minor, in his first start since taking a no-hit bid into the eighth inning last weekend in Cincinnati. Just as dominant at Citi Field, Minor retired 12 straight Mets to open the game, before Lucas Duda broke up his perfect game with an opposite-field single. Minor then mowed down another six in a row until Travis d'Arnaud led off the eighth with a double and Eric Campbell singled him home.

The Mets actually put the tying run on base later that inning, but Juan Lagares grounded out against David Carpenter to end the threat.

"I do feel like I've turned the corner with pitches and hitting spots and attacking hitters," said Minor, who came into the game with a 4.90 ERA. "I do feel confident. I don't feel that little guy in the back of my head is saying, 'Don't give up the home run' anymore. I feel like I'm attacking guys and going right after them."

It was an extreme example of the offensive issues that have plagued the Mets all week, all month and all season. Significantly below-average campaigns for Wright and Granderson have plummeted the Mets toward the bottom of the league in most offensive categories, including on-base percentage (24th in MLB entering the night) and slugging (29th). There they have sat for most of the summer, watching as more talented offensive clubs -- the Braves, for example, who are in the thick of the playoff race -- outslug them more often than not.

"We've got young guys [and] there's a lot going on here," manager Terry Collins said. "They're trying to learn at the Major League level and that's a lot to ask sometimes. A lot of times when things aren't going good, there's extra heat on them. It's not always about right now. It's about, 'Can you fit here? Can you play at this level?' We're trying to analyze all of that."

On this night, the results were not sound. Mets starter Jon Niese may have been sharp, giving up nothing more than Minor's RBI hit over his first seven innings. But Minor's leadoff double in the eighth inning changed the story arc for Niese, who proceeded to allow an RBI triple to Emilio Bonifacio and a run-scoring single to Freddie Freeman. Niese struck out five and walked one in 7 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits.

That dropped the Mets to within a half-game of the last-place Phillies, a symbolic station that they would prefer to avoid. After finishing in third place last year following four consecutive fourth-place finishes, the Mets had hoped to continue improving in 2014. Granderson and his $60 million contract were a big part of that, as was Wright. But through 134 games, improvement has been hard to discern.

"For me, with the way things have gone up until this point, there's no sense in whining about it or moping around and hanging your head," Wright said. "I can use this next month to do well and hopefully to get as many team wins as possible, but also to get it going for me offensively to help springboard me into next year."

"I want it bad," Niese said of a strong September. "I'm just hoping that all 25 of us have that same feeling. We need that to make the games in September meaningful. This year's kind of -- I don't want to say 'lost,' because you want to play every game the same in September. But it does mean a lot to play games and have them mean something."


Ex-running back Wilson inspires Citi Kids

After having NFL career cut short by neck injury, he's chasing Olympic dreams

Ex-running back Wilson inspires Citi Kids

Citi held its final Citi Kids event of the 2014 season at Citi Field on Monday, Aug. 18, prior to the New York Mets hosting the Chicago Cubs. Nearly 150 students ages 11-14 from the United Neighborhood Houses gathered in the Citi Auditorium to hear the inspirational story of recently retired New York Giants running back David Wilson.

Citi Kids participated in a special tour of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.

Wilson, 23, discussed his career as a professional football player, which was cut short by a serious neck injury, and charged the young audience to "keep going, no matter the obstacles you encounter."

Wilson also announced his intention to return to Virginia Tech to receive his bachelor's degree and train for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics Games in the triple jump.

Now in its sixth season, Citi Kids is an educational and motivational community-based initiative for New York City middle and high school students developed by Citi in collaboration with the New York Mets and the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

Erin Hamlin poses with her bronze medal.

This season's Citi Kids program was a five-part series that provided 750 students from the YMCA of Greater New York and the United Neighborhood Houses the opportunity to participate in a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda by Jackie Robinson Foundation scholars and tickets to a Mets game.

In addition to Wilson, the 2014 Citi Kids special guests included:

Erin Hamlin: Olympic bronze medalist

Geno Smith: New York Jets quarterback

Marcus Samuelsson: Celebrity chef and TV

Tim Hardaway Jr.: New York Knicks guard


Mets place Black on DL, activate Dice-K

Mets place Black on DL, activate Dice-K play video for Mets place Black on DL, activate Dice-K

NEW YORK -- Hoping to ease their roster strain after effectively playing their past two games with 21 men, the Mets on Thursday placed reliever Vic Black on the disabled list, activating right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Black received a right cervical epidural injection in his neck on Thursday, and the Mets expect him to need a few days to recover from it. Rather than wait for rosters to expand on Monday, the team activated Matsuzaka to ease the strain off some of its other relievers.

"At some point, we had to make a decision and we needed another arm," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We were trying to make it through to the end of the month with what we had, but it just didn't look realistic."

An MRI on Wednesday revealed that Black has a herniated disk in his neck, as well as bone spurs growing off multiple vertebrae. Both he and the Mets believe the injection, combined with a period of rest, will allow him to recover from the injury without surgical intervention.

Black said he "absolutely" expects to pitch again this season.

"I think the recovery will be [enough] far before the DL stint is up, but there's nothing wrong with extra rest to make sure," Black said after the Mets' 6-1 loss to the Braves Thursday.

Come October, Black said, a full six weeks of rest should resolve the issue for good.

The Mets also know firsthand that they must be cautious. Last season, Bobby Parnell underwent an extremely invasive procedure to replace a herniated disk in his own neck, before partially tearing the UCL in his right elbow upon his return. The Mets do not expect him back until at least next April.

"I think you've got to be very careful with him," manager Terry Collins said of Black. "One of the reasons why he finally told us his neck was bothering him was we approached him because his velocity was down so much. Unbeknownst to us, his neck had been bothering him."

Matsuzaka, 33, was on the DL since July 26 with right elbow inflammation. He had been in roster limbo since firing five scoreless innings in his last rehab start for Class A Brooklyn on Aug. 21. In nine starts and 19 relief appearances for the Mets this year, Matsuzaka compiled a 3-3 record with a 3.87 ERA, serving as a starter, closer, setup man and long reliever.

In the ninth inning Thursday, Matsuzaka allowed three runs on four hits while recording two outs.

{"event":["prospect" ] ,"content":["injury" ,"transactions" ] }

Murphy's DL stint opens door for Herrera's callup

Murphy's DL stint opens door for Herrera's callup play video for Murphy's DL stint opens door for Herrera's callup

NEW YORK -- The Mets may have lost second baseman Daniel Murphy for the next two weeks, but they're replacing him with one of the organization's most heralded infield prospects.

Dilson Herrera will join the Mets before Friday's series opener against the Phillies, replacing Murphy, who is hitting the 15-day disabled list with a strained right calf. An MRI taken Thursday revealed the strain, forcing Murphy to the DL retroactive to Monday.

"It's frustrating," Murphy said. "I was hoping it wasn't that bad, but it ended up being a little worse than I thought. It's always nice to stay off the DL, but we've got to be smart about it and get healthy, and it's not fair to the rest of the team to make them play shorthanded."

The injury does give the Mets their first look at Herrera, 20, who will jump from Double-A Binghamton straight to the Majors. The Mets' eighth-ranked player on MLB.com's Top 20 Prospects list, Herrera was hitting .333 with nine home runs and nine stolen bases in 60 games for Binghamton, following a midseason promotion from Class A St. Lucie. Along with reliever Vic Black, Herrera was one of two prospects the Mets received in a trade for Marlon Byrd and John Buck last August.

"He's starting to control the strike zone a little more in Binghamton," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson recently said of Herrera. "He's shown surprising power for his size and age. … His athleticism, his body type [allows him to hit for power]. He's aggressive and generates a lot of bat speed."

Capable of playing both middle-infield positions, Herrera spent most of his time at Binghamton at second base. It remains unclear how much playing time he will receive in New York, but if the Mets wanted someone to ride the bench, they could have recalled a player already on the 40-man roster. Instead, they selected the contract of Herrera, who boasts as much upside as any infielder in the organization.

"Usually when you see kids his age getting to this point, the tendency seems to be some guys being more pull hitters than anything else," Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez said in June. "What he does is have plate discipline and an ability to drive the ball the other way. That's what makes him successful."

{"event":["prospect" ] ,"content":["injury" ,"transactions" ] }

Wright back in lineup aiming to improve down stretch

Wright back in lineup aiming to improve down stretch play video for Wright back in lineup aiming to improve down stretch

NEW YORK -- David Wright's return to the lineup on Thursday brought with it a nugget of optimism for the Mets. Though the team knows Wright is still not completely healthy and isn't likely to be until next spring, the Mets hope he can at least salvage something out of the season's final month.

"A lot of it is leaving here feeling good about yourself," manager Terry Collins said. "We've all seen what David can do. He's had a tough year. He's had a very un-David-like year, and as we know in this game, that happens. You can't be great every day, every year. This is one of those years where he's had some struggles, but if he finishes strong, I think it'd be a real positive thing for him to go into the wintertime."

After taking batting practice on Thursday afternoon, Wright cleared the necessary medical hurdles required for him to play for the first time since Sunday. He said his stiff neck was feeling much better, even if his sore left shoulder remains less than 100 percent.

It was enough for Wright to begin the task of improving upon his .324 on-base percentage and .368 slugging mark, both career lows. But the Mets are still promising prudence with Wright, understanding the danger of the health issues that have undermined him in recent weeks.

"Because of what's happened, if his neck tightens up on him again he's going to say something," Collins said. "If it happens again, there's got to be something wrong. But he said he feels great. There's nothing at all. There are no remnants of the stiffness, so we'll see what happens."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Mets re-up with Vegas affiliate for two years

Mets re-up with Vegas affiliate for two years

NEW YORK -- The Mets and the Las Vegas 51s, the club's Triple-A affiliate, announced a new, two-year Player Development Contract on Thursday that will continue the teams' relationship through the 2016 season.

There had been some speculation that the Mets would seek a partnership with a different Triple-A franchise, likely one in the International League, because of logistical issues regarding getting players from Nevada to Queens or wherever the Mets happened to be playing on the road in the event of a callup.

With Rochester re-upping with the Twins this week, however, the Mets stayed with Vegas, just as they have since 2012.

"There were definitely potential options to go elsewhere," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "They've made some improvements. Their field there is much better than it was. There are some things that need to be done, but in terms of getting players in and out, if you're going to be that far away that's probably the best place to be given the number of flights that come in and out of there.

"We certainly didn't want to be someplace else in the Pacific Coast League. So we're happy to be back there."

Manager Terry Collins indicated earlier this month that the significant distance between Vegas and New York is an issue.

"We worry about [the travel] every time we call somebody up. Absolutely," Collins said. "When your Triple-A team is that far away and they do take those red eyes, sometimes they get here at the ballpark at 10:30 a.m. The majority of them will say, 'Yeah, I slept a little bit on the plane.' You've traveled. You don't sleep well on planes."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Mets come up short to drop Wheeler's solid effort

Tejada's defensive miscue costly as Braves get run-saving play

Mets come up short to drop Wheeler's solid effort play video for Mets come up short to drop Wheeler's solid effort

NEW YORK -- Since the dawn of last offseason, if not further back than that, the Mets have struggled to make sense of their shortstop situation. As they spent the winter flirting with free agent Stephen Drew and a slew of trade candidates, they never fully committed to Ruben Tejada. Time and again, they gave Wilmer Flores a look. Lately, prospect Matt Reynolds has become the hot topic.

Now nearly five full months into the season, answers remain unapparent. But the Mets received a stark look at the position's value during Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Braves, which saw Tejada's fielding error cost them the game and Andrelton Simmons' spectacular defensive play save it for the Braves.

"It's that old cliche, that old adage, but it speaks volumes -- 'If your defense is strong up the middle, you've got a chance to win,'" Mets manager Terry Collins said. "[Simmons] is really good. He makes a big difference."

It was Tejada's boot of a routine ground ball in the third inning that allowed the Braves to score their third (and ultimately decisive) run off Zack Wheeler, who still delivered his 10th quality start in his last 11 tries. And it was Simmons' spectacular range and jump-throw that prevented Travis d'Arnaud from tying the game with an RBI single in the eighth. With a man on third base and two outs, d'Arnaud hit a ground ball into the hole between shortstop and third base, where Simmons gloved it and leaped, firing to first as his momentum carried him in the opposite direction.

"It reminded me of [Derek] Jeter," Wheeler said.

Estimating that Simmons had already robbed him of "four or five" hits this year, d'Arnaud claims he did not bother to watch.

"I've seen him do it time and again," the catcher -- read: victim -- said. "He's one of the best shortstops in the game and he showed why today."

Circumstance was not so kind to Tejada, whose playing time -- drastically reduced of late -- has picked up due to injuries to starting infielders David Wright and Daniel Murphy. That placed Tejada at short in the third inning, when Evan Gattis rolled a soft grounder toward him with a man on third base and two outs -- the same game situation Simmons faced five innings later.

Tejada, however, came away with an opposite result. His inability to field the ball cleanly allowed Freddie Freeman to score, giving the Braves a two-run lead that they did not relinquish.

"It made a difference in this game today," Tejada said. "Sometimes a play like that early in the game makes a big difference."

For Wheeler, it was the difference between a no-decision and a loss. After allowing a leadoff homer to Jason Heyward on a sinker near the outside corner of the strike zone, Wheeler certainly pitched well enough to earn his seventh straight victory. But the Braves rallied off him in the third inning on a one-out infield squibber and a Freeman double, before Justin Upton plated a run on a groundout and Tejada flubbed Gattis' ball.

Wheeler did not allow anything more after that, striking out seven over seven innings. But the damage had been done. Fully recovered from the 11-hit, five-run drubbing the Mets handed him during their last meeting in July, Braves starter Teheran allowed nothing more than Flores' solo homer in the second. He retired eight straight after that and 14 of the next 15, cruising into the seventh with a two-run lead.

The Mets did eventually carve into Atlanta's bullpen, rallying in the seventh and scoring a stray run in the eighth. But after the Mets put their first two men on base off Braves closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning, Flores bunted to move both runners into scoring position. Tejada then swung at the first pitch he saw, grounding a 99-mph fastball off the inside corner into a rally-killing fielder's choice, and the Mets went quietly from there.

Afterward, they shuffled back into their clubhouse, where televisions were already replaying Simmons' highlight over and over again.

"I was really excited," Simmons said. "It was a big situation and a big game, I felt. I'm just glad I contributed."

Collins recalled watching the play from his familiar dugout perch, disbelieving it for a moment, then wondering if he should consider challenging it. A quick glance at the replay told him all he needed to know.

"I knew he was out," Collins remembered thinking. "All I'm doing [at that point] is delaying the game."


Interesting history of Mets' cleanup hitters

d'Arnaud latest to join likes of Strawberry and Piazza at No. 4 spot in lineup

Interesting history of Mets' cleanup hitters play video for Interesting history of Mets' cleanup hitters

NEW YORK -- The year was 1971. Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Roger Maris were long gone, Bobby Murcer was assigned the third spot in the order, Thurman Munson batted second. Ron Blomberg, when he did play, batted fifth, and Reggie Jackson was busy making his star in Oakland, six years removed from the Bronx.

The New York Yankees' cleanup hitter was... (Hint: He choked up).

That's right, the man who batted in the No. 4 hole for the Yankees had his hands way up there, three or four inches from the knob. A left-handed catcher would have appeared less peculiar.

Roy White was the man. Yes, that Roy White, the almost welterweight switch-hitter who could hit a sacrifice fly on command -- he led the league with 17 in 1971. But he was in no way a slugger. He had hit 22 home runs the previous year. In '71, the Yanks' cleanup man hit 19. And he choked up.

Those were the years that Dave Righetti once identified as "the Horace Clark era." The Yankees were compromised, so White batted cleanup. He was well-suited to bat second, and could bat third. But to identify White as a cleanup hitter was akin to referring to "Baywatch" as a drama.

Even six years later when Billy Martin created a Yankees batting order by choosing nine small slips of paper from his Yanks cap, the cleanup man was Graig Nettles, who had led the American League in home runs the previous season.

* * * * *

Mets manager Terry Collins had Travis d'Arnaud bat fourth Wednesday night when his team engaged the Braves. Yes, that Travis d'Arnaud, the one who, before he was so assigned, had slammed 13 home runs in 405 big league at-bats. d'Arnaud has 76 homers on his Minor League resume, so he had been around the block -- and the bases.

The circumstances that prompted Collins to put his second-year catcher in unfamiliar territory certainly qualified as extenuating. David Wright and Daniel Murphy, the team's second- and third-most productive hitters, were absent from the lineup for the second straight night. So why wouldn't Collins have Lucas Duda and d'Arnaud move up one spot each? Duda had batted third 17 times previously, but he is slowly becoming a genuine No. 4 slot slugger. d'Arnaud had batted fifth in 30 games, 27 this season, before Wednesday.

Batting order assignment is a big deal only if it is allowed it to be. It was precisely that for Reggie, of course. All was right with No. 44 when a third, isolated 4 was his place in the offense. Ed Brinkman, the slender, light-hitting shortstop, didn't care all that much when Martin, then the Tigers' manager, tried his lineup-from-a-cap strategy in 1972. Most players claim their batting order address is mostly unimportant. And some actually feel that way.

As Collins said before the game Wednesday, d'Arnaud is "hitting fourth in the first inning tonight. After that, he's one of the nine." As it turned out, he did bat fourth in the first and popped out with a runner on base. d'Arnaud's other plate appearances came in the fourth inning (a 4-3 groundout as the second hitter) and in the seventh and ninth innings (6-3 groundouts, one leading off the inning, the other ending the inning). Either would have reached the outfield untouched if Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons didn't cover ground like a tarpaulin and throw like Elway.

"There were holes when I hit them, and he made them go away," d'Arnaud said.

Not that Collins had expected two long balls and a ground-rule double from his catcher. Indeed, he made the change only because he was forced to.

"I hope he doesn't take it for any more than what the situation calls for," the manager said before the game. "And that is, we know we've got some guys who couldn't play today, so we're going to put somebody else in the lineup. And Travis is swinging good.

Cleaning up
Rank Player Starts
1 Darryl Strawberry 599
2 Mike Piazza 554
3 Dave Kingman 410
4 Rusty Staub 346
5 Bobby Bonilla 336
6 Gary Carter 302
7 Cleon Jones 292
8 Ed Kranepool 271
9 Carlos Delgado 259
10 George Foster 246
11 Cliff Floyd 234
12 Carlos Beltran 233
13 Frank Thomas 221
14 Todd Hundley 206
15 Kevin McReynolds 195
16 David Wright 193
17 Art Shamsky 178
18 Ike Davis 165
19 Lucas Duda 152
20 Willie Montanez 123
Source: Elias Sports Bureau

"I hope he doesn't get carried away. As we sat and wrote the lineup today, we talked about leaving Lucas in the four-hole, and all of a sudden, 'Who are we hitting third?' Travis was brought up then. So either way, he was going to hit, we just moved some guys up because we've got some guys who couldn't play.

"I'm not making too much out of it. But certainly to be honest, it's a pat on the back to him that he's done what he's done offensively, that he's become a huge part of our offensive lineup. Hopefully he does what he's been doing, puts good swings on the ball hitting fourth."

* * * * *

The history of the Mets' cleanup spot is, well ... rather spotty. Ed Kranepool was something of a Roy White counterpart in that he started games as the cleanup hitter 271 times, and he was most productive when he hit pitches to the opposite field. Dave Kingman was the Mets' cleanup man in 410 games and had as much if not more raw power than either of the two players with more cleanup starts (Darryl Strawberry, 599; Mike Piazza, 554). And Kingman loved to bunt. So did Carlos Beltran (12th with 233 cleanup starts). George Foster (246) was a bust as the Mets' cleanup man.

Carlos Delgado (259) is widely considered to have been the most accomplished cleanup man in Mets history. But if Piazza hadn't batted third so often, he probably would have earned that subjective distinction. Todd Hundley (206) might have been the franchise's No. 1 in the cleanup spot had he twice been able to duplicate his stellar 1996 season. And anytime hitting is the topic and Rusty Staub (346 games) is mentioned, he is highly regarded.

There were others, of course, who might be forgotten because the Mets' cleanup hitters were not always noteworthy. How could Johnny Stephenson (one game) go unmentioned? His other distinction as an offensive player with the club was that he made the final out in Jim Bunning's perfect game on Father's Day 1964. And Dan Norman (one game) was acquired in the Seaver trade. And Billy Beane (one); yes, that Billy Beane. And Dave Schneck (nine games) who wanted to return to Vietnam. And Tsuyoshi Shinjo (15 games) because Bobby Valentine was outsmarting his counterpart. And Butch Huskey (77 games) because he could hit baseballs over buildings. Jesse Gonder (33) for reasons not apparent. Shane Spencer (six) because poor Art Howe had no alternatives. And Chico Walker (1) just because.

And Marv Throneberry (nine, yes nine games for the Marvelous One) because Casey had a sense of humor.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Top prospects Syndergaard, Plawecki excel for Vegas

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The battery of Noah Syndergaard and Kevin Plawecki, the Mets' top two prospects, according to MLB.com, combined Wednesday to lead Triple-A Las Vegas to an 8-3 victory against Round Rock. Syndergaard struck out nine batters and held the Express to one run in 6 2/3 innings, while Plawecki led the 51s offense with two home runs.

Syndergaard, ranked No. 12 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, scattered seven hits and one walk. He threw 110 pitches and picked up his first victory since July 22. His nine strikeouts were his second-highest total of the season and the most since he whiffed 10 batters May 10 against Tacoma.

With Wednesday's victory, Syndergaard improved to 9-7 with a 4.76 ERA in 25 starts this season. He also moved atop the Pacific Coast League's strikeout leaderboard, with 144 in 131 innings.

In addition to guiding Syndergaard through his start, Plawecki, No. 62 on the Top 100, went 4-for-4 at the plate. He drove in three runs and scored twice. It was his first two-homer game since Aug. 19, 2012, when he was playing for short-season Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League.

Plawecki began the season with Double-A Binghamton and earned a promotion in June. Between the two levels, he is hitting .318/.373/.475 with 11 home runs in 98 games.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Wright tests sore neck with swings in batting cage

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NEW YORK -- Third baseman David Wright swung in an indoor batting cage Wednesday, testing his sore neck for the first time since the weekend. Though Wright is hopeful he can return to the Mets' lineup as soon as Thursday, he admitted that doctors have taken the choice "out of my hands."

"I don't want to set expectations for me," Wright said Wednesday afternoon. "I think it's kind of see how I feel after today, see how I feel waking up tomorrow. I'm hopeful, but by no means have we discussed it. I think they've guarded against giving me timelines because I always want to rush things."

Wright, who said earlier this week that his left shoulder is also not 100 percent, is in a 3-for-28 (.107) slide over his last eight games. He does not have an extra-base hit in 62 consecutive plate appearances and does not have a homer since July 11 -- a span of 155 straight trips to the plate.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy was also out of the lineup for a second straight day with right calf soreness. Neither Murphy nor Wright was available to pinch-hit against the Braves, though manager Terry Collins was optimistic that both could return as soon as Thursday.


Lagares' all-around effort leads Mets in series opener

Gee's solid outing, sharp defense sink rival Braves

Lagares' all-around effort leads Mets in series opener play video for Lagares' all-around effort leads Mets in series opener

NEW YORK -- Terry Collins swears by it: Juan Lagares has considerable power. You might not be able to tell by his 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame or his one home run every 100 or so plate appearances, but sooner or later, the Mets manager says, Lagares will start to show the sort of pop he does regularly in batting practice.

Lagares flashed some of that power in the Mets' 3-2 win Tuesday night over the Braves with a two-run home run that ultimately stood as the difference in the game at Citi Field. The long ball, combined with yet another highlight-reel catch in center -- this one a diving grab on a sinking liner to end the third inning -- provided another tantalizing glimpse of what the Mets think Lagares could become.

"He's got enough juice to do some damage," Collins said. "And yet he's still got enough, let the ball get deep with two strikes and still put it in play and be dangerous. But in order to play in this league you've got to be able to pull some balls, and with his power I think he can hit some home runs. I'm not going to put a number on him, but he's got more power than he's shown."

Then Collins paused briefly from raving about Lagares -- about how the coaches want him to focus on pulling the ball more, like he did Tuesday, and how he is always willing to listen and learn and implement -- to collect his thoughts.

Then he kept raving.

"Once again," Collins continued, "when he hits -- that's extra. He made some plays today. That play [in the third], that's what he's getting paid for. And so when he comes up with big hits like he does today, that's what you see and think, 'If he ever gets it, he's going to be some kind of player.'"

Lagares' homer, which came with no outs in the fourth and moments after Travis d'Arnaud's double, was the result of a full-count changeup down and in. Lagares turned on the 82-mph offering from Braves lefty Alex Wood and put it in the left-field seats.

"I think if I throw a good located changeup there, I don't think he does that," Wood said. "I think that's without question. But anytime you throw a changeup in a count where you know he's swinging and you leave it right down the middle at about 82, this is the big leagues and they're going to make you pay."

It was Lagares' fourth blast of the season and second in three games. He later put a charge into a Wood fastball in a similar location, momentarily thrilling the Queens crowd of 22,406 before it died on the warning track.

The Mets parlayed Lagares' big day with four double plays and an impressive showing from right-hander Dillon Gee for their second win in a row.

Gee hasn't had an easy time since returning from the disabled list a month and a half ago, posting a 5.71 ERA in seven second-half starts. But against the Braves -- a team he has historically dominated -- he turned in one of his better starts of the summer, limiting Atlanta to two runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Gee worked quickly early and slowed late. The Braves didn't record a hit through the first 3 2/3, then eventually put seven runners on before Gee exited with two outs in the seventh after Tommy La Stella's RBI single. Gee scattered six hits and two walks while striking out just one, the first time he fanned that few since May 10.

Back-to-back, two-out doubles from Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton served as the only other blemish on Gee's ledger.

Collins said it was the sharpest Gee has been of late, "no question."

"It's funny it looked that way," Gee said. "I think I struggled throwing my breaking ball in some of those innings. The changeup was a good pitch for me tonight, I was able to throw that behind in the count, get ahead with it and throw it when I needed to. A couple key double plays was nice, definitely needed those. It was a good team win tonight."

New York hasn't had a ton of those lately, and this one came with David Wright (neck) and Daniel Murphy (calf) nursing injuries on the bench. The Mets were also without relievers Josh Edgin and Vic Black for undisclosed reasons.

But Lagares provided enough theatrics to go around, his third-inning grab in particular drawing praise from Gee.

"He kind of played himself into we expect that from him now," Gee said. "That's Lagares, man."


Wright, Murphy sit out vs. Braves with ailments

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NEW YORK -- The Mets' patchwork lineup Tuesday night against the Braves was so because two of its biggest bats -- David Wright and Daniel Murphy -- sat out with neck and calf issues, respectively.

Wright, who left Sunday's game against the Dodgers with neck spasms, said it's "getting better," though he's still having trouble turning to his left.

"That would be problematic since that's the way I have to look at the pitcher," Wright said.

The third baseman noted that once his neck is fine, he should be back in the lineup, and his well-documented injury woes this season -- mostly a bruised left rotator cuff -- will not fully subside until the offseason. His health is still not an excuse for his struggles, Wright said, and general manager Sandy Alderson is publicly taking Wright's word for it.

"On that basis, he's continued to play," Alderson said. "Our decision is predicated essentially on feedback from the patient, and David has said it's not a factor. Now, should we discount that somewhat? Probably. But at this point I think he said it's not a factor, so we've accepted that and agreed."

Added Wright: "Is the shoulder 100 percent? No. But that takes rest, and that's what the offseason is for. But is that the reason I'm struggling the way I'm struggling? No."

Alderson did say, however, the team could "legitimately" put Wright on the disabled list if it chose to.

"At this point, we're not there yet," Alderson said. "Usually when you put someone on the disabled list, they have to agree with the placement. Not that it's an absolutely requirement, or any sort of basic requirement, but that's what happens."

Murphy's sore right calf seems to be a more minor issue, though he had little information to offer Tuesday afternoon other than that he's day to day.

"It's tighter than usual," Murphy said. "That's the only way I know how to describe it."

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