Mets Diamond Notes: Collins Hopes to Finish Third, Collin McHugh To Start Next Week

By Matt Musico

With the Mets falling off the face of the Earth since they returned from the All-Star break, it has been a goal of Sandy Alderson and the front office to keep this team as competitive as possible through the end of the season, hopefully giving fans something to look forward to for next year. MLB Trade Rumors reported that the organization would like to finish in front of both the Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins in the NL East standings by the end of 2012, hoping to prove some sort of positive perception by the public. A couple days after hearing that, Terry Collins came out to and said the same thing.

Basically, Collins said that “it would be nice” if the Mets could pick it up over the final month of the season and finish in third place. While the Nationals and Braves are are battling for the top spot in the East, New York, Philadelphia, and Miami are bunched together at the bottom, fighting hard to stay out of the basement. Although fans hate hearing their manager say that he would be happy with a third place finish, it’s a good goal to have for September. The Mets have a lot of young players on their roster this season, and they will only get younger with September call ups. It’s tough to tell them that every game matters when the team is more than 15 games out of first place; that doesn’t exactly register with young players.

Giving them a tangible goal to work toward (i.e. finishing in third place) is something that is very possible if they play good fundamental baseball. One of my favorite sayings while playing baseball was, “You can’t change the past, you can only change the future.” In a game where superstars fail more than they succeed, it can be used a lot, and can be used here; no one can change what the Mets did over the past month and a half. However, what they do have control of is how they finish with these last 33 games on their schedule. A strong finish will leave a good taste in the mouths of the players after what has been a mostly sour second half.

After taking batting practice yesterday afternoon before their series opener against the Phillies, Daniel Murphy deemed himself healthy to continue playing, and Collins obliged by putting his second baseman into the starting lineup last night. Murph has been cleared to play, even though he has a right rotator cuff strain, and Adam Rubin of ESPN New York said that he will take anti-inflammatories to help manage the pain. This injury must not be serious at all if the Mets medical and coaching staffs are comfortable with playing Murphy despite having to pull him from the ballgame Sunday immediately following his injury. However, he responded last night with a three-hit game. So, I guess he really is fine.

As expected, Collin McHugh will be back up in the Mets pitching rotation come September, as Collins announced the rookie right-hander will be starting against the St. Louis Cardinals on September 3rd. After he was called up last Thursday to start in place of the injured Johan Santana, McHugh turned in an impressive MLB debut, throwing 7 shutout innings and giving up 2 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 9 hitters. The next day, he was optioned back to Buffalo to make room for Jeremy Hefner, who was eligible to return from paternity leave. It was the best move for McHugh because he would be able to stay on his regular rest by returning to Triple-A. In splitting time with both the Binghamton Mets and Buffalo Bisons, the hurler has put together a 7-9 record with a 2.88 ERA in 143.2 innings of work this season. It will be interesting to see how McHugh responds to his debut performance in his second start. After reading some of his blog posts, it seems as if he’s got a good grip on life and baseball, so I believe he’ll be just fine.