Chatting With The Enemy - Atlanta Braves at New York Mets

The Mets come into the series on a high note, coming back from 7-0 down against Pittsburgh on Thursday.

In anticipation of this weekend's series between the Braves and Mets, I exchanged questions with Michael Baron over at MetsBlog. I'll link the article when Michael gets my answers posted over there, but here are his answers to my questions regarding the Mets. 

TC: The Mets have struggled lately, and injuries to David Wright, Ike Davis, and Chris Young certainly appear to be part of the reason. Talk about how those injuries have affected the team, what players have stepped in to fill those positions, and how those players are doing?

MB: The injuries have really taken their toll and in a lot of ways, as they have overexposed some of their role players and minor leaguers. However, it's hard for any team in baseball to overcome injuries to this degree.

Of the replacements, Justin Turner has been the biggest surprise, as he's hit very well, especially at Citi Field where's he's hit .362 this season. Defensively, he's filled in nicely at second and third.

Daniel Murphy has hit for the most part, but he struggles mostly with his decision making at first and second base, which has cost this team at times.

Jason Pridie came up to replace Angel Pagan when he went down with a strained side muscle, but he tailed off considerably after a hot start. All in all, it's been a tough road with all of these injuries, but they somehow managed to go 14-13 during the month of May.

The rest of the Q&A after the jump.

TC: After a solid start to the year, the Mets bullpen has allowed 32 runs in its last 25.1 innings, giving them an era of 11.37 in that time period (before Thursday’s game). Closer Francisco Rodriguez has pitched great, but who has been struggling in the bullpen?

MB: As of late, the entire bullpen has struggled. The statistics you point out speak for themselves, as the late innings have been a disaster for the most part over the last two weeks.

No matter which button Terry Collins pushed, whether it was to bring in Tim Byrdak to get a tough lefty out, or Pedro Beato to put out a fire, it seems everyone was just pouring gas on to the fire.

The thing is, the Mets bullpen was so strong for the first six weeks of the season that they couldn't have possibly kept that pace up. Beato had not allowed a run in his first 18 innings, and no matter how good a pitcher is, he's going to give up runs.

It could just be part of the peaks and valleys cycle that bullpens go through, but the Mets are very thin on all fronts right now, so they need each member of the pitching staff to step up and keep the team in games.

TC: Justin Turner has been a revelation of sorts for the Mets. Tell us what kind of player he is and what has led to his success.

MB: Turner was the guy Terry Collins wanted at second base to begin with. He was the best defender of the group which was trying out for the position during Spring Training, and frankly, he earned the job statistically. However, Brad Emaus was a Rule V draft choice in December, and so he was the logical candidate to win the job from a contractual perspective.

Turner isn't going to wow anyone with his presence, and he hasn't hit for much power, but he does the little things right. He plays well defensively, he gives the team quality at bats, and he has kept the strikeouts down. He's a fun and energetic kid, and he's fun for any baseball fan to watch for these reasons.

TC: On the other hand, Jason Bay has struggled badly so far in 2011. What have been the issues leading to his rough start to the season, and do you see him turning it around soon?

MB: He hit during Spring Training, but towards the end he went down with a strained side muscle, and that clearly derailed him.

He has shown an inability to lay off the outside breaking ball, and in the 1 1/2 years he's been with the Mets, I have yet to see him hit that pitch with any sort of authority, or even connect with it consistently. It looks like his swing is way out of whack. He misses pitches Major Leaguers need to hit, and he seems to swing up at the ball quite a bit.

I don't know if he will break out of this, because this swing has been consistent since he arrived in New York.

TC: Finally, what can the Braves expect to see from the Mets pitching in the series this weekend? Can Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese keep up their good pitching of late? How healthy is Sunday starter R.A Dickey?

MB: Gee has been the best pitcher on the staff this season, and he probably wouldn't be with the team if Chris Young had not gotten hurt. He hasn't shown any reason to doubt he won't give the Mets a quality outing this weekend, as he has good enough velocity and great command of all of his pitches, leading to a fearless mentality of sorts.

Niese has been up and down this season, but a lot better as of late. He is starting to command his cutter again, and that's been a deadly pitch for him when he's been successful.

Dickey is battling a torn plantar fascia in his right foot, which took place on a Spring Training play in Chicago last week. While he's in pain, Dickey says its not hindering his ability to pitch, and he was great on Monday before allowing three runs in the eighth inning. Dickey's problem this season, and he will be the first to admit it, is he hasn't thrown quality strikes with his knuckleball nearly as consistently as he did last season. That said, I expect his season to get on track because he's so smart, and he knows what he needs to do to be successful.

Thanks to Michael over at MetsBlog for taking the time to answer some questions. 


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