Jerry Manuel is on the firing line too

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Jerry Manuel waving.jpgIt’s open season on managers this morning. First Lou Piniella, now Jerry Manuel, whose head the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro calls for in today’s column:

He is a good and decent man, but increasingly his in-game decisions
and demeanor have been maddening, his uber-reliance on small-ball, his
puzzling lineup decisions. He was unhappy with that eighth-inning home
run that Fernando Nieve surrendered to Coghlan? How much do you suppose
his almost daily reliance on Nieve has helped speed along Nieve’s
regression from dependable to deplorable?

Omar Minaya will make the trip to Atlanta, which might mean he’s
following Brian Cashman’s itinerary from last year, when a surprise
visit to Turner Field served as an unlikely turning point in the Yankee
season. Or it could be his own blueprint from 2008, when he took an
unexpected flight to Anaheim to personally hand Willie Randolph his vest
with the fish inside.

For the sake of this season, it would be wise if he arrived with a
new manager riding shotgun.

I have less of a problem with this than I do with the calls for Piniella’s ouster.  Manuel has been a tactical disaster this year, most notably with the bullpen, which he appears to have already burnt out.  Though I’m an agnostic when it comes to batting order optimization, Manuel’s Jose-Reyes-bats-third experiment was a failure as well, and given that Reyes himself was opposed to it to begin with, you have to figure that he isn’t a happy camper right now. Oh, and Manuel pinch hit with Jeff Francoeur yesterday for cryin’ out loud, and that should be a firing offense in and of itself.

But even if this is less problematic than the calls for Lou Piniella’s job, I question whether replacing Jerry Manuel would make a big difference for the Mets’ season. To the extent they’re seen as a disappointment right now, that’s because the eight-game winning streak last month made us think they are something more than we thought they were going to be in the offseason. What we’re seeing right now is the Mets finding their true level, not failing to meet some rational expectation. Replace Manuel with Bobby Valentine or Bob Melvin or Wally Backman and you’re still looking at a 75 win team.

But the bullpen management bothers me a great deal, and as long as you’re going to lose a lot anyway, you may as well lose with someone who isn’t going to fry all your arms before the weather gets warm.

Shelby Miller left Sunday’s start with forearm tightness

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Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller left Sunday’s start against the Dodgers after four-plus innings due to tightness in his right forearm, the team announced. He’ll be reevaluated tomorrow. Needless to say, though, a forearm injury is very concerning. In his four innings, Miller gave up three runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts, raising his ERA to 4.09.

Miller, 26, has had a nightmare of a time since joining the Diamondbacks in December 2015. Last year, he made 20 starts and posted a 6.15 ERA. He suffered a finger injury suffered from scraping his hand on the pitcher’s mound with his follow-through, and he was also demoted to Triple-A during the summer as well.

Ivan Nova finally issued his first walk. It was to an AL pitcher taking his first major league at-bat.

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Pirates starter Ivan Nova has been outstanding in his first three starts of the 2017 season. He yielded only five earned runs in 20 innings for a tidy 2.25 ERA. But even more impressively, Nova didn’t issue a walk in any of those starts.

That changed on Sunday afternoon against the Yankees, but in a most peculiar way. Nova had struck out the side in the first inning, notched a 1-2-3 frame in the second, and got two quick ground outs to begin the third inning, bringing up Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery for his first major league at-bat. Montgomery never batted in the minor leagues, either, so Sunday’s AB against Nova was his first since his senior year of high school in 2011. Montgomery took the first two pitches for balls, then a called strike, a ball, and another called strike to even the count. Nova came in with his sixth consecutive fastball but it missed low, walking the Yankees’ pitcher for his first free pass of the 2017 season.

Nova got out of the inning without any further issue. He wound up going seven innings, giving up a lone run on four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts, lowering his ERA to an even 2.00.