Mets Minors: Zach Lutz returns

Class AAA Buffalo 3B Zach Lutz returned to the lineup this weekend, going 5-for-13, after missing about two months with a hamstring and finger injury.

He has dealt with a myriad of foot injuries since turning pro in 2009, including missing two months in AA Binghamton last season due to a stress fracture in his left foot.

Lutz is batting .327/.407/.500 in 52 at-bats with six doubles, a homer and six RBI.

“My parents helped me get through a lot of stuff the last couple of years,” he told the Buffalo News. “It’s been the same thing going on and on again and to finally get through all my feet injuries was great and then for something like this to happen it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re back to square one again.’

“A lot of times I’d say, ‘I can’t deal with this anymore, all I want to do is play baseball,’ and all I would do is sit the bench, watch the team play, but I wanted to try and help the team win. They would tell me not to get down and that God has a plan for everything.”

The Bisons got some bad news when CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis was put on the seven-day DL with a left shoulder strain.

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Low Class A Savannah has won five straight games, 17 of its last 21 and is 5 ½ games ahead of the Greenville Drive with seven games remaining and the South Atlantic League’s South Division title.

The Sand Gnats placed six players on the All-Star team: OF Cory Vaughn, IF Robbie Shields and Ps Gregory Peavy, Taylor Whitenton, Chase Huchingson and Josh Edgin.

SS Wilfredo Tovar, 19, has a personal season-best 11-game hitting streak, going 16-for-37 (.432), raising his average from .185 to .228 during the streak.

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Below is a scouting report compiled by Baseball America on Mets first-round pick Brandon Nimmo, a high school outfielder from Cheyenne, Wyo.

“Simply getting drafted out of Wyoming is an accomplishment in itself—the state does not have high school baseball and has produced just two draft picks the past decade.

With a lean, 6-foot-3 frame with projection remaining, he’s a good athlete and one of the best sprinters in the state. He tore his right ACL playing football during his junior year in 2009 and spent most of last summer playing with a brace on his knee.

He’s an above-average runner when he’s healthy, which helps him on the basepaths and in center field, and there’s more to his game than just speed. Nimmo has a pretty, efficient lefthanded swing. He’s short to the ball and has outstanding barrel awareness, consistently squaring balls up and shooting line drives to all fields. He has a good eye at the plate and should be an above-average hitter. As he gets stronger, he could add loft to his swing to turn doubles into home runs.

Nimmo worked out for teams in Arizona this spring and had some tendinitis in his knee. His American Legion team started playing in mid-April and their schedule goes right up to the signing deadline, and he has an Arkansas commitment to fall back on.”

AROUND THE MINORS: Buffalo OF Val Pascucci is batting .302 (31-for-102) in his last 31 games and leads the team with 42 RBI. … Binghamton RHP Jeurys Familia struck out a season-high 11 batters Sunday against Trenton, allowing four runs in 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision. … Binghamton 2B Reese Havens hit his first homer this past week and is hitting .245/.317/.396 with five walks and 17 strikeouts in 53 at-bats. … His double-play partner SS Jordany Valdespin is 11-for-32 with three homers and four steals in his last nine games, pushing his average to .270/.317/.439.

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Should Mets throw in the towel?

The New York Mets are taking some serious body blows. Could the towel be coming next?

Only an outstanding effort by Johan Santana prevented the Mets from being swept by the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend.

After failing to win the rubber game on Sunday, New York limps back to Flushing to start a six-game homestand against Colorado and Philadelphia with a 55-56 record, nine games behind Atlanta and 7 ½ back of San Francisco in the wild card. The Mets are under .500 for the first time since May 23 and have played 12 games under .500 since June 27. The homestand begins against 17-2 Ubaldo Jimenez.

The Mets team in Philadelphia this weekend was the same tired and beaten bunch we’ve seen the last six or seven weeks. New York managed just one run through eight innings Friday. Mike Hessman’s meaningless homer in the ninth occurred after eighth-inning men Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano allowed five runs.

The Mets went several innings in each game this weekend without any baserunners and couldn’t get a big hit – both continuous trends. New York didn’t get a hit with runners in scoring position in the 1-0 win on Saturday. After getting four hits Sunday with runners in scoring position to pull within 6-5, the Mets finished 0-for-4 in those situations in the last three frames with Jose Reyes stranding the tying run on third.

With runners in scoring position on Saturday and Sunday, Carlos Beltran went 0-for-5 and David Wright struck out four times with runners in scoring position.

When New York needed a big start Sunday from reliable R.A. Dickey, the knuckleballer got pounded over three innings, and he wasn’t helped by his defense. Beltran misjudged a deep fly ball in the second, resulting in a home run by Jayson Werth. During a five-run third, Beltran went back on a ball before letting it drop in front of him for a single. Reyes booted a routine grounder and Dickey also made a poor throw on a swinging bunt in the deciding frame.

The Mets are bloodied and battered, and it’s finally time to start making some changes, either to revive a punchless club for one last surge or to start preparing for the next battle in 2011.

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The most obvious place to start would be with a new GM and manager. But that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon – at least until season’s end.

The shakeup began instead with Alex Cora. Despite all the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on these prima donnas, Minaya released the one stabilizing influence in the clubhouse, saving the Mets $2 million, Cora’s vesting option for 2011.

Minaya did however start the youth movement, calling up outfielder Fernando Martinez and infielder Ruben Tejada from Class AAA Buffalo.

It’s time to find out if perennial top prospect Martinez is a stud or a dud. The 21-year-old hasn’t lived up to expectations, but should be able to fit into an outfield rotation with Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan. Martinez heated up the past week at Buffalo after recently enduring a 3-for-33 rut. He was hitting .255 with 12 homers and 33 RBI in 68 games this season. He went 1-for-4 on Sunday.

Although he didn’t hit in his first trial, Tejada replaced Luis Castillo at second base this weekend and made four spectacular defensive plays. With the Mets falling out of it, the 20-year-old should be able to relax more with every series and could prove to be a decent hitter. He was hitting .280 with one homer and 16 RBI in the minors.

With Barajas likely one-and-done, New York needs to see if Josh Thole can handle the rigors of catching on an everyday basis? Can he handle the staff, throw out baserunners and hit lefthanders. He did single twice on Sunday off Phils ace Roy Halladay and once off Brad Lidge.

Sure, Hessman has provided five RBI in 13 at-bats, but he’s 32 and won’t be a factor next season – or the rest of this season. Outfielder Jason Pridie is 27 and infielder Chris Turner, 25, are taking up space on the 40-man roster. In addition, righthanded pitching prospects Eddie Kunz and Tobi Stoner, with combined ERAs approaching 6.00, are taking up 40-man rosters spots. So the Mets have some room, but unfortunately not many prospects. However, Class AA third baseman Zach Lutz and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis have earned September at-bats.

Changes and additions need to be made to the pitching staff. Mike Pelfrey doesn’t look like he’s going to break out of his funk, and Jon Niese should start having his innings cut, so it could be Jenrry Mejia time. We may even have an Oliver Perez spotting. The lefthander hasn’t done it on the mound and has ticked off his teammates, but the Mets are into him for another two years and $24 million so why not try to salvage something.

The 20-year-old Mejia, a victim of a woeful decision by New York to start him in the bullpen, has been stretching out his arm in the minors and is due for a start in the big leagues in the next month.

Martinez, Tejada, Mejia, Nieuwenhuis, injured Class AA second baseman Reese Havens and super 19-year-old shortstop Wilmer Flores represent the new young stable of battlers for the Mets, who can cover up for only so long.

A good trainer knows when to throw in the towel, rethink the game plan and live to fight another day.

Do the Mets?

Lutz tears up AA

The Binghamton Mets might have the answer to the New York Mets hitting woes.

Third baseman Zach Lutz has slugged seven home runs in seven games since missing 10 weeks with a stress fracture in his left foot. That’s as many homers as Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo, Alex Cora and Ruben Tejada have hit combined for the Mets this season.

During the torrid span, Lutz went 13-for-29 with three doubles, five walks and 15 RBI. For the season, the righthanded hitter is batting .297/.417/.645 with 15 home runs and 32 RBI in 188 at-bats.

Hitting is nothing new for the 6-1, 220 pound Lutz, who hit .284/.381/.441 with 11 homers and 62 RBI in 99 games in the pitcher-friendly Class A Florida State League last season.

Lutz, a fifth-round pick in 2007 out of Alvernia College in Reading, PA, also has very good strike zone judgment. He has 28 walks against 41 strikeouts this season and 50 walks and 72 strikeouts in ’09 which accounts for his high OBP. Scouts told Baseball America, “He’s a legitimate offensive threat with a short, quick swing, a good approach and the strength to hit for power.”

Lutz has managed to avoid “top prospect” lists, probably because he isn’t long and lean, doesn’t run well or look good in a uniform. Considered a little old for AA ball at 24, Lutz’s development was stunted when he missed most of his debut season because of a broken leg.

He’s shown pretty good hands at the hot corner, making just four errors and fielding .951 in 41 games this season. He committed 13 errors in 87 games last season. Lutz has also played three games at second base and 14 games at first during his career.

Because Lutz isn’t a first-rounder he’ll have to prove himself at every level. He’s on pace to play at Class AAA next season and since it’s unlikely he’ll unseat David Wright or Ike Davis, don’t be surprised if Lutz is tried in the outfield.

Boy, could the Mets use his bat in the outfield right now.