By Declan Finn
Here are the biggest storylines facing the New York Mets this weekend as they play the Miami Marlins for three games starting Friday night.
1. The biggest question mark surrounding the Mets recently has been what to do with the starting rotation, and more specifically whether Noah Syndergaard or Dillon Gee would claim the final open spot. During Syndergaard's stretch in the big leagues and Gee's performance during his rehab starts, the decision of who to bump out became all the more difficult. There again was no great separation of the two pitcher's starts Wednesday, with Syndergaard shutting out the Phillies over 7.1 innings, allowing just six hits and striking out six, while Gee allowed two runs in 6.1 innings for the team's Double-A affiliate. So, the Mets decided not to make a decision. For the foreseeable future, with August being the end game right now, the Mets will go with a six-man rotation. It means Syndergaard gets to stay with the big league club, and making fans happy in the process, and Gee stays out of the bullpen and will take his turn every six days on the mound. A six-man rotation can obviously help the Mets' abundance of young hurlers, as Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard could get extra mileage out of their arms this season. The elder statesman of the group, Bartolo Colon, can benefit as well from an extra day rest. The only concern is pitching on six days rest isn't the same as five days, and some pitchers do struggle with their mechanics and timing after switching their preparation, which has been engrained since the minor leagues. But it's the decision the Mets have made. If it was the only way for Syndergaard (who also homered against the Phillies) to remain in the rotation, then it's the right move. But if that was the only reason, the Mets need to rethink how they are handling the rotation in the first place.
2. Now that the rotation is set, the Mets need to find their power stroke at the plate, or this season will end like the rest recently, without a playoff berth. Against Philadelphia Wednesday, the Mets went deep on Phillies pitching four times, including two by Lucas Duda (who now leads the team with eight homers) and one each by Syndergaard and Michael Cuddyer (who needs a hot streak in the worst way after struggling for most of the season). Duda, the big bat in the Mets' lineup, now has five home runs and eight RBI in his last six games. He's up to .305 on the season. Cuddyer had a big series against the Phillies, going 5-for-12 with two home runs and five RBI. That ups his season numbers to .262 batting with five homers and 22 RBI. As for Syndergaard, his homer went a whopping 430 feet, which is among baseball's longest shots of the season. As a team, over the past seven games, the Mets have hit 10 homers and collected 25 RBI. With Duda and Cuddyer hitting, all the Mets need is for Curtis Granderson to rediscover the stroke that made him a star with the Yankees, and they will put forth a serious challenge to the Washington Nationals in the NL East.
3. The Mets already have issues with their infield, as Wilmer Flores is making error after error at shortstop and Daniel Murphy won't wow anyone with his glove either. But making matters worse is the biggest piece to that infield puzzle could be missing for a long while. David Wright, the Mets star third baseman, suffered yet another setback in his goal to return to the Mets this week, and will be sent to a back specialist in California. Wright is suffering from spinal stenosis, which has kept him from rejoining the team for the past several weeks. Wright will spend a week in California trying to figure out the problem. In the meantime, the Mets and general manager Sandy Alderson have some serious work to do in the event Wright is out for longer than expected, which he has already been. Right now, Ruben Tejada, Eric Campbell and Danny Muno will man the position without Wright, but none of those names will make you forget the seven-time All-Star. Alderson could look elsewhere for a trade, but the options will be limited, as the Mets can't add a big name, as he'll have to move positions once Wright does return from injury. They didn't go after Juan Uribe, who was traded from the Dodgers to the Braves Wednesday. Uribe could have been used as a stop-gap, but obviously that isn't an option. The Mets could completely revamp the infield, moving Flores to third base and then bring up Matt Reynolds from Triple-A to play shortstop. That could get Flores away from short and give Reynolds, who is hitting .347 with 16 doubles, two home runs and 27 RBI in 45 games for Las Vegas, a chance to prove himself on the big stage. That could be the easiest solution to the problem and would make fans escactic about seeing what Reynolds can do when given the opportunity. As for Wright, it's all a wait and see game now.
Also, in case you missed it, the Mets traded outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis to the Los Angeles Angels for cash. Nieuwenhuis was 3-for-38 with the Mets this season.