Mets' second-half preview: 5 key questions

Mets first baseman Ike Davis, right, sits in

Mets first baseman Ike Davis, right, sits in the dugout during batting practice with the AAA Las Vegas 51s before playing against the Tacoma Rainiers. (June 11, 2013) (Credit: AP)

1. Can the Mets count on Ike Davis?

Davis is 5-for-26 (.192) in eight games since his nearly monthlong exile at Triple-A Las Vegas. But Josh Satin is hitting .361 in 22 games since joining the roster in place of Davis, who is once again showing some of the free-swinging tendencies that led to his initial demotion. The Mets consider Davis part of a core group that they believe will form the nucleus of the franchise's next winning team. But recently, manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson have sounded willing to give Satin more playing time. What happens in the second half may determine how the Mets handle Davis in the offseason, when through arbitration, he'll likely be due an increase from his $3.12-million salary this season. Of course, Davis also could be non-tendered.

2. Will the Mets manage Matt Harvey's innings limit so he's pitching in September?

The phenom logged 130 innings in the first half, far more than the Mets expected. Based on his previous workload, Harvey likely won't pitch more than 210 innings this season. To remain under that threshold, the Mets must employ several measures such as cutting down his innings per start and even skipping some starts altogether. Collins believes it will be important for Harvey to pitch through September, which he was unable to do last season because of innings limits. Having Harvey around for the homestretch would also benefit the Mets on the outside chance that they find themselves within arm's reach of a wild-card spot. Though that situation appears unlikely, the Mets believe it's possible, especially with the way they've played over the last month.

3. How well does Zack Wheeler respond to expectations?

The talented righthander has made only five starts, though he already has been forced to deal with plenty of pressure. Fair or not, Harvey's early success has raised the bar for Wheeler. So far, he's responded by overcoming a few early hiccups. He made a quick adjustment after tipping some of his pitches. And in his final outing of the first half, during a brilliant effort against the Giants (his former organization), Wheeler flashed the potential that enticed the Mets to trade Carlos Beltran for him two years ago. The remainder of Wheeler's season likely will be a series of similar peaks and valleys, which will test his ability to remain steady.

4. Will the Mets cash in their trade chips?

The Mets have expressed little interest in trading outfielder Marlon Byrd (.271, 15 HRs, 51 RBIs) or closer Bobby Parnell (2.30 ERA, 17 saves), though either could bring back a useful prospect in return. It's also possible that neither will be more valuable on the market than they are now. Byrd, 35, has experienced an unexpected resurgence. And while Parnell has emerged as a legitimate closer, relief pitchers in general are prone to wild swings in production. The underlying issue, of course, is whether the Mets see themselves actually contending for a wild-card berth. Dillon Gee (7-7, 4.32) and Jeremy Hefner (4-6, 3.33) may also emerge as enticing targets for teams in need of pitching.

5. When will Travis d'Arnaud be ready?

The top catching prospect impressed the Mets enough in spring training that Alderson declared him the first in line to take over in case of an injury to starter John Buck. Ideally, d'Arnaud would have spent a month or so at Triple-A Las Vegas for some final seasoning before making his big-league debut. But a fractured foot in April wrecked those plans, and for the second straight year, d'Arnaud will lose a significant chunk of his season to injury. From a developmental standpoint, it is important for d'Arnaud to at least get back to playing in the minor leagues, which would position him to begin next season on the big-league roster.

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