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Mets morning briefing 2.25.11

2/25/2011

Daniel Murphy goes head-to-head against Brad Emaus and Willie Harris sees if he can make one final dazzling catch against a Met as the Amazins play an intrasquad game Friday, on the eve of Saturday's Grapefruit League opener against the Atlanta Braves.

On to Friday's news reports:

David Waldstein of the Times notes another reason why the organization may prefer Ruben Tejada work at shortstop at Triple-A Buffalo rather than be a bona fide contender for the major league second base job. Writes Waldstein: "Having Tejada play short every day in the minors also gives the Mets time to determine whether Tejada can be the long-term replacement for [Jose] Reyes, should Reyes be traded this year or leave as a free agent after the season."

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger also addresses Tejada, writing: "A hitter with a .696 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in the minors, Tejada floundered at the plate last season. Defensive metrics treated him poorly, but Mets officials believe in his glove. To progress, he must improve his hitting. In 255 plate appearances last year, Tejada hit .213 with 13 extra-base hits. He struck out more than he walked. But [Terry] Collins sees improvement this spring."

• McCullough takes a look at David Wright's fielding too. Writes McCullough: "After winning Gold Gloves in 2007 and 2008, Wright’s defense remained worrisome in 2010, according to both simple and advanced statistics. His 20 errors ranked third in the National League. For the second consecutive year, he finished last among all qualified third basemen in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), a metric that measures a player’s range in the field. Then there is the Dewan Fielding Bible, which through video analysis keeps score of each fielding attempt during the season. In 2010, Wright made 10 fewer plays than the average third baseman." Still, there's this caution: "Even within the sabermetric community, defensive statistics are viewed with skepticism." Wright did place an extra emphasis on long throwing during the winter at the instruction of coach Chip Hale to strengthen his arm.

Chris Young has a degree in politics from Princeton. Chris Capuano graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Duke, with a 3.86 GPA. And R.A. Dickey is no slouch, either, having studied literature at the University of Tennessee. Heck, Taylor Tankersley's father even is a nuclear physicist. "When I was younger, I can remember wanting to be a doctor," Capuano tells Newsday's David Lennon. "I always liked the sciences." The pitching successes of Young and Capuano are no coincidence to GM Sandy Alderson, who attended Dartmouth as an undergrad and then Harvard Law. "If you look at them both, neither one is throwing 95 mph," Alderson tells Newsday. "They have to do the little things in order to be successful -- whether that's pitch sequence, whether it's location, whether it's understanding their mechanics and knowing how to make adjustments, so it certainly does come into play. They're not relying exclusively on inherent ability. They're relying on their capacity to maximize their physical ability because of their mental approach to the game."

• Young's intellect also is the topic in the Daily News, where Andy Martino writes that the right-hander's senior thesis, written while riding buses in the minor leagues, was "The Impact of Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball on Racial Stereotypes in America: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Stories about Race in the New York Times." Says Young: "The thought process was that the media shapes public opinion, and so Jackie Robinson was the variable to determine how public opinion regarding race was changed after he integrated baseball. Basically, we saw a shift in tone. There were less negative stories written about African-Americans in the three months succeeding his integration of baseball."

• The Bergen Record's Steve Popper discusses Young's on-field strides this spring, as the pitcher tries to distance himself from shoulder surgery. The former NBA prospect, who was once offered a deal by the Sacramento Kings, received a positive assessment recently from catcher Dusty Ryan, who is in Mets camp after catching Young at Triple-A Portland in San Diego's system last year. “He came out to the mound when I was done and he didn’t say nice job,” Young tells Popper. “He said, ‘Hey, your velocity is back.’ That was the best confidence-builder he could have given me, just to hear him -- a guy who caught me six months ago -- say, ‘Your stuff is good.’ That got me excited about where I am." Young's father-in-law, incidentally, is Dick Patrick, president of the NHL's Washington Capitals.

Jason Isringhausen continues to impress Collins. The manager noticed Isringhausen working on a changeup, which Isringhausen hasn't thrown in games since early in his career -- in 1996 -- when he needed a deeper repertoire of pitches because he was working as a starter. Read more in the Times.

Tim Byrdak, identified by Collins as the likely left-handed specialist in the bullpen, attended NASA's space shuttle Discovery launch Thursday afternoon, according to Newsday. Astronaut Mike Massimino, who hails from Franklin Square, L.I., is a Mets fan and got Byrdak within three miles of the launch site.

• Times columnist George Vecsey profiles Ike Davis.

Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal notes that six years after Fernando Martinez signed at 16 years old, after a power-filled audition in Port St. Lucie, the Mets are still waiting for the outfielder to stay healthy and pay dividends. "Sometimes I say, 'Come on, what happened?'" Martinez tells Costa. "'What happened to me?' I think I play very hard. I'm very young. Maybe all the injuries will stop one day." Martinez recently has dealt with an arthritic knee, which threatens to persist throughout his career. He has averaged only 77 games a professional season because of assorted injuries.

• The Post's Mike Puma looks at Josh Thole's progress behind the plate. "Josh Thole really, really, really has improved as a defensive catcher," Collins said. "I saw him last spring for the first time and the advancement he made from the time he started the season to the time he got called up was phenomenal. I saw him catch R.A. Dickey one night and I said, ‘You cannot tell me this guy has not been a catcher his whole life the way he just caught that.’ He caught it comfortably. He blocked balls. He handled him. And I think the handling of the pitching staff -- this pitching staff in particular -- makes him an everyday guy." Thole was a catcher through high school, but the Mets mostly used him at first base after drafting him in the 13th round in 2005. In fact, he caught only 26 games his first three professional seasons. Thole did not return to primarily catching until a month into the '08 season, while playing for Class A St. Lucie.

• Daily News columnist Bill Madden reviews Dickey's major league journey. Writes Madden: "Dickey was 6-0 in his first seven starts and finished the season 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA, despite the 17th-lowest run support (4.34 per game) in the majors. His reward: a two-year, $7.8 million contract. 'This,' said Dickey Thursday, 'after 14 non-guaranteed contracts in spring training.'"

• Mets morning briefing has now gone one day without citing a story concerning Bernard Madoff or Irving Picard.

BIRTHDAY: Ed Lynch, who went 38-40 with a 3.82 ERA in 167 appearances (98 starts) for the Mets from 1980-86, turns 55. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs on June 30 of the Mets' last championship season for Dave Lenderman and Dave Liddell and later became Cubs general manager.