Five things we learned from Wally Backman, during his talk with SNY.TV’s Rob Brender in Las Vegas…

1) Matt Reynolds is going to have a big future as an every-day, big-league player, he’s “grinder,” “he makes all the plays,” “he grows on you,'” and, “he’s off to a great start.”

2) Dilson Herrera will be an All-Star second baseman one day, “he lights up everyone on the infield,” “he can play it wild,” “he plays hard,” and, “I love everything about him.”

3) Steven Matz has been throwing his secondary stuff for strikes when behind in the count, which is something he worked to improve upon all winter.

4) Matz and Noah Syndergaard are ready if needed on the Mets, though both could still benefit from additional work at Triple-A.

5) Kevin Plawecki knows how to run a major-league baseball game, he’s smart and he will have a bright future.

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Game 21: Mets at Marlins, 7 pm ET on SNY

The Mets (15-5) and Marlins (8-12) continue their three-game series in Miami on Tuesday.

The Mets own the best record in baseball and are off to their best start since 1986.

RHP Rafael Montero (0-1, 4.15) will start for the Mets against Marlins RHP David Phelps (1-0, 3.55).

Montero was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas for Tuesday’s spot start. The Mets are expected to return to a five-man rotation beginning Wednesday. Montero is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in four games in relief for the Mets this season. In two career relief appearances against the Marlins, both at Citi Field, Montero did not allow a run in 1.2 innings pitched.

Phelps, who opened the season in the bullpen, is pitching in the rotation spot of injured teammate Henderson Alvarez. In his last outing, Phelps threw seven shutout innings, scattering three hits and striking out five in a win against the Phillies. He gave up one run in 4 2/3 innings against the Mets in early April at Citi Field.

Marlins C J.T. Realmuto has been named the team’s everyday catcher after the organization designated Jarrod Saltalamacchia for assignment Monday. Realmuto is batting .237 with 2 RBI in 12 starts this season.

The Mets have eight come-from-behind victories this season and are 13-0 when leading after the sixth inning.

Daniel Murphy has nine RBI during his last five games, during he’s batting .263 with three doubles and a home run. Wilmer Flores reached base safely in a career-high 14 straight games, during which he’s hitting .313 with a.365. Juan Lagares is hitting .389 with 21 hits in his last 14 games.

The Mets bullpen has tossed 16 scoreless innings dating to April 19. The bullpen ranks fourth in the majors with a 2.36 ERA and third in the majors with 18 holds.

MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Mets

Mets roster may be similar to 2014, but 2015 team is totally different

cerrone avatarMatthew Cerrone,

As people, baseball players can grow up. In the same way you and I may not be the same person we were a few years ago, athletes can change as well.

The Mets are mostly made up of young guys, most of whom grew up up together in team’s farm system. In previous spring trainings, they were consumed with internal competitions, fighting to see who would be the starting player or simply make the cut on a team that was more about development than winning. However, this past spring, I saw a team more set in stone, more mature and fighting to see how they would take their first real steps toward October.

These Mets have grown up together, they’ve lost together, they’ve gotten better together, they’ve gotten used to criticism and expectations in New York together, they’re entering their prime together and, now, they’re winning together. In front of the line of the young, maturing core, keeping everyone calm, confident and on the same page, are seasoned veterans David Wright, Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson, as well as Kevin Long and Terry Collins and the rest of the team’s coaching staff.

The calm, upbeat and confident talk started in the off season, built with swagger alongside Mike Barwis, and continued through spring training. However, when a team wins, when it starts 15-5, pre-season words become prophetic and everyone buys in to the success. To read more of this story, click here


Noah Syndergaard returns to Vegas with a vengeance

Mets top prospect Noah Syndergaard tossed a two-hit shutout, with nine strikeouts, for Triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday.

It was his first start since April 18, after missing a start with a stomach illness. That same afternoon, Syndergaard exchanged words on Twitter with a fan who criticized him for missing work, which prompted Mets management to talk with him about how he handles himself on social media.

Syndergaard had been experiencing forearm stiffness during spring training, Terry Collins recently told reporters (April 12). He had the start of his season delayed and was later examined and given an MRI, but reports were clean, according to Sandy Alderson.

cerrone avatarMatthew Cerrone: I feel like Syndergaard’s stock has taken a slight a hit the last few months, based on conversations with people close to the team. I specifically heard rumblings in spring training that Syndergaard had been talking to the trainers about his elbow. I didn’t think much of it. Then he had the MRI. Also, remember, earlier in the spring there was a small clubhouse issue with David Wright and Bobby Parnell, he’s missed starts, took a ball off the ankle, then there’s the illness, the Twitter incident and recent shaky outings. All the while, LHP prospect Steven Matz has been a rock, saying nothing and pitching great.

It’s been a weird start to 2015 for Noah. However, I hope Monday’s start reaffirms everyone’s faith in him, since he still projects to be a front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, assuming he remains healthy. I trust he’ll get promoted at some point after mid May, since the Mets will continue to occasionally turn to a six-man rotation and rest their big-league regulars. Again, as long as he’s healthy, he’ll be fine, he’s too smart, big, strong and talented to be anything else…

In his first start of the season Tuesday, Syndergaard gave up three runs in four innings. He had a 60-pitch limit, ended up throwing 54 pitches, 37 of which were strikes.

Syndergaard, who is widely considered the team’s top pitching prospect, was 9-7 with a 4.60 ERA in 26 starts with Triple-A Las Vegas last season.


Early returns on Matt Harvey are great, the ace is back

mangan avatarBrian P. Mangan,

Despite turning in one sub-par start against his personal bugaboo, the Marlins, Matt Harvey has posted an overall 3.04 ERA with 2.75 FIP this year. His early season success is completely sustainable, as all the data points to the fact that he’s returned to his top form…

It’s a long season, and anything can happen, but based on the first four games of the year it’s plain to see that Harvey is back, or almost back, to his vintage dominant self >> Read more at The Read Zone.

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It was just one of those nights for Dillon Gee

Dillon Gee took a scoreless effort into the eighth inning against the Marlins on Monday before surrendering a run.

“That was extremely important for him, and for the club, too,” manager Terry Collins said. “We can put to rest that Dillon Gee can’t pitch at this level. There’s been a lot of talk, and I feel terrible for him, but I think he went out there tonight and showed everybody he can do what he’s done in the past and he’s still got it in him.”

Gee was charged with one run on six hits in 7 2/3 innings, during which he threw a total of 70 pitches, 57 of which were strikes.

“I try to pitch well every time out,” said Gee, who is 19-20 with a 3.81 ERA during his last 58 starts. “Tonight, I got a lot of ground balls and they were at people. It was just one of those nights.”

Gee has made 50 straight starts of five innings or more, the longest active streak in the majors and tied for the second-longest streak in team history.

cerrone avatarMatthew Cerrone: First off, I hope this reconfirms for people why Gee belongs in the starting rotation, not that I believe his job was ever truly in jeopardy this week. Good for him, but also, good for us – as baseball fans – because he and Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart put on a great show. I’m sure I’d feel different had the Mets lost, but Monday night’s game was fun and what I remember to be “old school baseball” from when I was growing up.

I watched Gee and Cosart both work quick, throw and get back on the mound, they pounded the strike zone with breaking stuff, they each got first-pitch strikes and changed speeds, and they trusted the men in the field to do their jobs. The seventh-inning stretch occurred 65 minutes after the start of the game, at which point Gee had thrown just 50 or so pitches. It was a beautiful thing: an efficient, tight, fundamentally sound, and — topped off by a dramatic finish — excoting game. Nice work, everyone!


Juan Lagares battled back, set up Murphy’s HR

In advance of Daniel Murphy’s ninth-inning home run Monday, Juan Lagares battled back from down 0-2 in the count to rip a lead-off double over the head of Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna.

Lagares, 26, is hitting .389 with 21 hits in his last 14 games.

Matthew Cerrone: Huge hit. It set up Murphy, but more importantly, Lagares worked the at bat. He battled, fouled off side-armed slider after slider, and then the knock. Up 1-0, I’m not sure why the Marlins weren’t playing a no-doubles defense in center field, which would have allowed Ozuna to charge in the ball and likely catch it for an out. But, oh well…

Lagares has been fantastic the last two weeks, looking like the all-around player everyone hoped he would be. To the point, he’s hitting right-handed pitchers with force, especially against the off-speed pitches that troubled him in the past. In Spring Training, hitting coach Kevin Long said Lagares reminded him of Robinson Cano during the early part of Cano’s career. Long intended to make similar adjustments to Lagares, and hopefully we’re seeing the benefits of that work.

Link: Video of Lagares doubling on a fly ball to CF to lead off the ninth inning SNY.TV


Bobby Parnell says he’s fine, expects velocity to return after rest

Bobby Parnell is optimistic his velocity will return after a recent MRI showed no structural damage to his throwing arm, he told reporters in Miami on Monday.

Parnell had recently been shut down for five days during his rehab from Tommy John surgery with what he described as “achiness in his forearm.”

“We never really thought anything was wrong, we just wanted to be sure,” said Parnell, whose fastball has sat around 88 mph during his rehab. Prior to elbow surgery, Parnell’s fastball often reached the upper 90s.

He has not thrown in four days, but expects to play catch on flat ground later this week.

“I’ve got to get 100 percent and be here to help these guys at the end,” Parnell concluded. “I feel like the velocity is there. I feel like after these next few days, it’s going to show itself.”

Mets GM Sandy Alderson had been predicting that Parnell would return from the disabled list at some point in late April, early May, though this recent set back will likely push that date in to mid-to-late May.


He’s Murphalicious!

Daniel Murphy hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning against closer Steve Cishek to give the Mets a 3-1 win against the Marlins on Monday night in Miami.

“It’s Dan’s night,” manager Terry Collins said after the win. “He’s Murphalicious, that’s what we know he can do.”

Murphy started the season hitting just .140 through his first 15 games. However, since moving closer to home plate at the suggestion of hitting coach Kevin Long, Murphy is 3-for-7 with two doubles, a home run and five RBI.

“It’s been awesome, and those guys have been so excited for me the last two days with some of the hits I have gotten,” Murphy said. “This is the greatest bunch of teammates I have ever had in my entire life and I’m real humbled to be on this ballclub.”

Collins said Murphy’s home run was extra important for his team, given that they just lost two of three to the Yankees, played a sloppy, nationally-televised game on ESPN then traveled to and arrived in Miami at 5 a.m. ET.

“This was a tough day for us,” Collins said. “After all of the hoopla of the last weekend and getting in early this morning, to come out and win this ballgame was big. … We’re tired, we’re beat, and when you can have that surge of energy, that’s a huge pick-me-up.”

cerrone avatarMatthew Cerrone: This was a HUGE win. It could have been so easy to mail it in, and get back at it Tuesday. It looked like Dillon Gee, who flew ahead of the team early Sunday, was the only player on point. And then Murphy stepped to the plate… The guy has looked like a totally different player the last few games. He’s hitting the ball hard, turning on inside fastballs and going the other way on pitches off the plate. The crazy thing is, despite his early-season struggles, he’s on pace to drive in close to 100 runs. I think it’s obvious he was slowed by the hamstring and lack of spring training at bats. So, consider the first three weeks of the season his Grapefruit League, this past weekend his Opening Day and you realize he’ll be fine…

Video: Daniel Murphy hits a clutch, ninth-inning, 3-run HR to give the Mets a 3-1 lead SNY.TV