Mets morning briefing 3.21.11

Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson and -- at some point during the powwow Oliver Perez -- meet on Monday morning to discuss what's next for the on-the-ropes southpaw, while Luis Castillo lands in Philadelphia on a minor league deal and the Atlanta Braves come to Port St. Lucie to face Mike Pelfrey.

On to Monday's news reports:

• The Mets filed their official court response to trustee Irving Picard's $1 billion-plus lawsuit. Read the ESPNNewYork.com summary of the defense here. You can download the actual document filed here.

• Newsday notes that part of the Mets owners' legal argument is that they were customers rather than sophisticated investors and therefore don't have to return the money. It quotes their lawyers' press release as saying: "A customer has no way of knowing what his broker is actually doing." Picard co-counsel David Sheehan told the newspaper the Wilpons are incorrect in their interpretation of the law.

• The Daily News chronicles the Wilpons' vindication efforts by noting Picard's complaint ignores a deposition given by the manager of Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz's own hedge fund that he trusted Bernard Madoff and regarded him as a marvel.

Of course, I don't think it was in Picard's best interest to note in the lawsuit that a Wilpon associate was supporting Mets owners' assertions in his deposition. That's probably the defense's job. Picard stuck to pointing out the disputed e-mail Peter Stamos allegedly sent after Madoff was caught in which he appears to suggest Wilpon and Katz ignored warnings. Stamos in his deposition explains that away as saying he wanted the Wilpon family to put no more than 10 percent of their assets in any one place to avoid risk, and now they were screwed because they did not hede his advice and instead put all of their eggs in one basket.

• Read more coverage in the Times. The newspaper notes the Wilpons suggest they could not have been warned by Ivy Asset Management, as is alleged by Picard, that something might be improper with Madoff because that company itself is "being sued by its investors and the New York Attorney General for concealing its Madoff ‘concerns.’"

It also quotes Katz from his deposition asserting the lawsuit's portrayal of him as a sophisticated investor -- even if he had direct access to Madoff -- is false. “I don’t do well in the markets, the stock market," Katz says in a deposition. "I’m not good at it. It’s not my business.”

• Meanwhile, Newsday's Steven Marcus reports the Mets' books are now open to the potential minority investors who have cleared Major League Baseball's screening process. The hope is to have a minority partner in place by June, although the unresolved Picard lawsuit could complicate that. Writes Marcus:

Those on the list were subject to a financial and personal background investigation by MLB with candidates paying a nonrefundable fee of $25,000 for the right to examine the team's finances. After reviewing the records, investors still interested will meet with principal owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz to formulate specific offers.

• After the bus left for Sunday's game in Jupiter, the Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough remained behind to observe Carlos Beltran's progress with his ailing knees. Beltran ran four times about 100 feet in the outfield. Beltran had received a cortisone shot in his left knee Friday, while his right knee is more severely arthritic but not as big an issue in the past week. “I don’t feel anything,” Beltran tells McCullough after the workout. “So I’m moving pretty good. I feel confident.” Still, McCullough writes:

Beltran knows neither when he can return to spring training games nor how many he needs to properly prepare for the season. He frets about neither. “The main thing right here is my [left] knee,” he said. “If my knee feels good, and if I don’t feel pain, I’m going to work hard to get to what I need to be in the games.” Progress comes in increments. He took batting practice from the left side on Friday. He ran Sunday. Monday he plans to participate in outfield fielding practice. He also hopes to track pitches on the minor-league side of the complex to hone his batting eye.

• Newsday's David Lennon quotes Beltran saying: "I feel strong. I've feel like I've been doing the work that I need, so once I start playing every day, it's going to turn out good for me."

Read more about Beltran in the Record.

The tricky thing for the Mets will be whether to actually put Beltran in a Grapefruit League game assuming he's ready to play before the team breaks camp in nine days, or whether they limit him to minor league games. You can backdate a 15-day DL stint 10 days into spring training -- meaning Beltran technically might only have to miss the season-opening series in Florida. (That's because the regular season opens on a Thursday with the Mets not playing, and the Mets have an off-day after the first series.) But, you can only backdate into spring training until the last date a player appeared in a Grapefruit League game.

• The Times spoke with Perez on Sunday as he awaited his fate. "I know I’m not the same guy I was before I signed,” Perez tells the paper, referring to his three-year, $36 million deal that has only the 2011 season remaining. “That’s why I came here. I wanted to get better.” Authors Mark Viera and David Waldstein write:

Perez said it was difficult to hear negative feedback. He said he had visited a sports psychologist -- provided by his agent, Scott Boras -- to try to help his mind-set and performance. “I want to get better; I want to do my best,” Perez said. “It’s not easy that people boo you. You want to get better. Every time I go out, I try to get better. It’s what it is in life. Everybody wants to be great every time, but that’s impossible.” He added: “I know the New York people want to win a championship. I’ve got the same pain for them.”

• With it potentially Perez's final day in a Mets uniform, the Post's Mike Puma notes Collins' response to whether he would like to carry two lefties in the bullpen -- essentially a second with Tim Byrdak, who is widely expected to make the team. Collins' reply to reporters after Sunday's game: "I want to keep guys who get people out. If you have left-handers who don't get outs, they can't help you. If you have right-handers who have good stuff, and they get outs, I don't care who is [batting] -- they get people out."

The Mets' bullpen is expected to include Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell, Byrdak, D.J. Carrasco and Taylor Buchholz. Pitching coach Dan Warthen strongly indicated this weekend that Jason Isringhausen also is on firm footing if he stays healthy the final week and a half. Scouts believe Rule 5 pick Pedro Beato would merit the final slot at that point over out-of-options pitchers Manny Acosta and Pat Misch as well as Blaine Boyer and Mike O'Connor, who are on minor league deals.

• Isringhausen felt a pop in his elbow last week. He tells the Daily News' Andy Martino: "We think it's just scar tissue. I saw the doctor, and he said that everything is fine."

Steve Henson of Yahoo chronicles ex-Met David Newhan's comeback attempt with the Padres from a surfing accident that "snapped the C2 vertebrae in his neck" and left him in a wheelchair.

• Here's the Philly point of view on Castillo landing there on a minor league deal. Writes David Murphy in the Philadelphia Daily News:

Castillo has just 28 home runs in 15 major league seasons and carries a paltry .351 slugging percentage for his career. In 2009, he tallied just 16 extra-base hits in 580 plate appearances, the lowest total for a player with as many PAs since 1978. Still, he represents a low-risk addition to a pool of infielders that includes Wilson Valdez, Josh Barfield, Michael Martinez and Pete Orr. "His game in the last couple years, it's dwindled some," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said on Friday. "I don't know how much is there, but he used to be a hell of a player. I know at one time he was real good. If possible, yeah, he might be someone we'd take a look at."

Jeff Pearlman in the Wall Street Journal catches up with Doug Sisk, who Mets fans once loved to hate too. Sisk in the piece talks about watching a Seattle Mariners game on TV as a fan later in life and starting to boo at the TV. He then realized he had gone full circle from object of ire to fan dispensing it. Writes Pearlman:

During the team's 1986 world championship season, Mets officials thought it would be fun to use Shea Stadium's JumboTron scoreboard to play a fictionalized computer game between the '69 Mets and the current team. As the battle went back and forth, a sellout crowd cheered. When Keith Hernandez homered, fans stood. When Nolan Ryan came on in relief, they clapped. When the game ended with a triumph for the '86 club, the stadium went wild. Then, WP: Doug Sisk flashed across the screen. Boooooooooooooooooo!

BIRTHDAYS: Tim Leary was born on this date in 1958. ... Shawon Dunston was born in 1963 in Brooklyn. Primarily a Cub, he attended Thomas Jefferson High School.