Matt Harvey made an appearance at Citi Field Monday afternoon, throwing a bullpen for pitching coach Dan Warthen while wearing his #70 jersey. However, the right-hander was technically on the taxi squad last night, and a corresponding roster move had to be made today to put him on the roster. There were rumors that either Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Lucas Duda were on the verge of getting demoted, but it was Pedro Beato who was sent down instead.
With last night’s performance being the worst of his seven appearances this year out of the Mets bullpen, he’s given the opposition the lead in extras two times within the last week, both of which happened to be the Nationals. With the four runs he surrendered last night, his ERA ballooned up to 10.38. Both Beato and Josh Thole said that his pitches were coming over the heart of the plate, and it certainly looked like they were. Before New York took the field Monday, it sounded convincing that the front office would be sending down one of their two young and struggling outfielders to get back on track and make space for Harvey, especially since they’re carrying an extra bench player, but Beato’s performance was bad enough to change their mind.
However, this move means that an already struggling and overworked bullpen (particularly over the last two days) will be short another arm as they go to battle tonight in Flushing. So, even though Duda and Nieuwenhuis were able to escape being demoted after last night’s loss, it seems unlikely that they will both be getting on the plane Wednesday to fly to Arizona.
Neither one of these potential roster moves would be a surprise; Nieuwenhuis’ struggles have found himself on the bench more often than not in July. After walking to the plate for 80 or more at-bats in April, May, and June, Captain Kirk has only accumulated 30 at-bats this month, and is hitting .133/.212/.167. Meanwhile, Duda hasn’t been abiding much lately; he’s 2-for-his-last-22 and has only had 43 at-bats this month after getting 97 in June. The decrease in playing time has shown in his average, as he’s not been a fan of July thus far (.140/.260/.233). With Jordany Valdespin making his first career start in right field against right-hander Jordan Zimmermann last night, his recent productivity will allow him a chance to show what he can do on a nightly basis, and rightfully so.
Two questions come to mind in the case of Duda and Nieuwenhuis, however. Their slumps have been mighty bad, but they haven’t been nearly as bad as what Ike Davis had to endure through the first two months of the season. Yet, Davis still was getting consistent at-bats (81 in April, 78 in May, 87 in June) to allow him to try and bust out at the plate. Obviously, him being the only natural first baseman on the squad helped him get into the lineup more than he should, but with enough reps, he was able to break out. If there is anything that I know about slumps, it’s that you can’t get through them if you don’t get at-bats.
It would be nice for Duda and Nieuwenhuis to get some at-bats in Triple-A and get into a groove again, but why not let them do it at the Major League level, like they allowed Ike to do? I know Duda doesn’t offer much in the field, so when he doesn’t hit it’s hard to put him in the lineup, but he’s not doing any good sitting on the bench either, and it’s the same thing with Kirk. These two players were integral parts of the Mets’ surprising first half, and they deserve some more consistent playing time to figure it out in the Bigs instead of getting sent down.
As of right now, it looks as if Duda is in the most danger to be sent down as the Mets will be recalling Manny Acosta to the bullpen…wait, what? Duda for the Acostalypse?! In 19 appearances in 2012, Acosta was terrible with his 1-2 record, 11.86 ERA, and a 2.27 WHIP. However, in 28 innings with Triple-A Buffalo, Acosta is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. So, he’s been a ton better with the Bisons, but we’ll see how it translates up at the Major League level.
Fans have been pleading for the front office to show them that they are committed to winning and putting the best players on the field. As New York keeps losing and losing, it’s unlikely we will see bullpen help anymore, but Sandy can make a bold statement if he truly wants to. Jason Bay (.194/.262/.376) has just done nothing virtually all year, and he looked overmatched in the late innings last night with a chance to give the Mets the lead. Getting Valdespin in the game is important, but not at Duda’s expense; I’ll take a struggling Lucas Duda over Jason Bay any day. A roster move to bring up another bullpen arm is likely before the Mets hit the road, and instead of demoting Nieuwenhuis or Duda, Alderson should cut Bay like he cut Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez last spring.
It’s like what Van Wilder’s father said to him… sometimes, you just need to recognize a bad investment and cut your ties. It’s been time for a while now, but it doesn’t seem like he’s in danger, and that makes me scratch my head.