Bobby Valentine downplays speculation about return to Mets

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BobbyV.jpgDuring an appearance on with Chris Russo on SIRIUS XM’s Mad Dog Radio Channel on Friday, Bobby Valentine addressed recent speculation that he could replace Jerry Manuel as manager of the Mets, via Adam Rubin of ESPN New York.

“You know, the Mets are 3-6. It’s nine games,” Valentine said. “I mean,
let’s not get crazy here. I think Jerry, I talked to him a few times
during spring training. Jerry Manuel is up for the task. I think that he
has a tough road to hoe, there’s no doubt about it, and he’s got to
keep his head above water until his center fielder comes back, and
obviously has to get that pitching staff in shape. But I don’t see that
as being part of my future as we’re speaking here. … I’m a member of
ESPN Baseball Tonight. I’m happy to be there and I’m gonna enjoy talking
about that situation, not being talked about within that situation.”

I’ve heard Valentine get asked about a potential return to Queens dozens of times since 2002 and opposed to Gary Carter, he always answers in a diplomatic and classy way. I would expect nothing less, as he understands what it’s like to hear whispers while sitting in the manager’s office. I’ve advocated for Valentine in the past, but as Craig alluded to earlier today, Bob Melvin appears to be the in-house favorite.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.