Mets morning briefing 5.9.11

The Mets open a two-city trip that includes stops in Denver and Houston. Chris Capuano (2-3, 5.40 ERA) opposes Colorado right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4-2, 2.85) in the series opener at 8:40 p.m. ET.

Monday's news reports:

• Newsday's Anthony Rieber caught up with Mike Piazza to reflect on the emotional first game back at Shea Stadium 10 days after 9/11, in light of last Sunday's death of Osama bin Laden. Piazza helped uplift New Yorkers -- at least the pro-Mets portion -- with a game-deciding two-run homer in the eighth inning off Atlanta's Steve Karsay on Sept. 21, 2001. Bobby Cox, during his final trip to New York as Braves manager, cited the game as his most vivid Mets-Braves memory, over all of the achievements Atlanta had during those wildly successful years.

"It was such a week and an event unto itself," Piazza tells Rieber about the resumption of baseball after the terrorist attacks. "We really at that time had to re-examine our priorities as to who we were and what was important to us. It shook us and it shook the city -- everybody who was here -- down to our foundation, to your core. It took a tremendous amount of faith and prayers, people pulling together, to get through that event, which was just tragic. I think back to it and I get emotional about it because you do want to remember it because you never want to forget. But when you do think back and you were here, I start to get emotional because you think back to the fences with people with their names and pictures, all the stories that we heard. It's something for me that will obviously always be burned in my memory."

• Rieber goes deeper into the first-year rule in Major League Baseball regarding paternity leave. The new guidelines allowed Jason Bay to leave for two games with the Mets able to fill his roster spot with a call-up. Writes Rieber:

[Ron] Darling, the former Mets pitcher, is a father of two. His first son was born during spring training; Darling didn't miss a workout even though the boy was born prematurely and had to spend two weeks in the hospital. His second son was delivered via planned C-section on a day off during the 1993 season. "You just didn't ask for a day off," Darling said. "You'd feel awful. And I'm a pitcher. I could have had a couple of days off if I'd wanted it." Darling applauded the change in attitudes and rules that allows a player to ask for the days off now with no questions asked. "The game of baseball has evolved so much better as far as families are included," he said. "Those things just didn't exist in our day. Probably made us worse parents for it and worse husbands."

Chris Young officially landed on the DL on Sunday, with GM Sandy Alderson suggesting it may be related to the shoulder injury that prompted the right-hander to undergo surgery on Aug. 17, 2009. Pat Misch joined the Mets. “He feels like he’s letting us down,” Alderson was quoted by the Star-Ledger regarding Young. “I tried to reassure him that, look, we all understood the risks associated with his signing and his pitching. So this isn’t entirely unexpected.” Young's contract has a relatively modest $1.1 million base salary. It was incentives based on games started and innings pitched that could max out the contract at $4.5 million.

Alderson also expressed concern about not having much more depth in the system to cover rotation losses. Dillon Gee is now cemented in the rotation in place of Young. And Misch is now on the major league roster. Two other members of the Mets' Triple-A safety net -- Jenrry Mejia and Boof Bonser -- suffered season-ending elbow injuries. Josh Stinson (2-3, 5.05 ERA between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo) is the most viable starting pitching prospect at Buffalo. The Mets last week signed ex-Mariner Brian Sweeney out of the independent Atlantic League.

Read more about Young's injury in the Star-Ledger and Newsday.

Andre Ethier avenged his hitting streak ending at 30 games Saturday with a two-run homer to cap the Dodgers' scoring in a 4-2 win against the Mets on Sunday. Read game stories in Newsday, the Times, Record, Journal, Post, Daily News and Star-Ledger.

• Newsday columnist Jim Baumbach looks at Bay's slow start. Bay opened the season on the disabled list with a rib-cage strain suffered during batting practice before the Mets' second-to-last Grapefruit League game. Writes Baumbach:

After hitting just .259 with a .347 on-base percentage and .402 slugging percentage in a concussion-shortened first season with the Mets, Bay is off to an even worse start in year number two. Through 14 games he's hitting .241 with a .317 on-base percentage and .352 slugging percentage. And he has only one extra-base hit in his last 44 at-bats. Of his poor start, Bay said, "you try not to dwell on it," recognizing that 54 at-bats still represent a very small sample size. But he's also eager to prove he's a better player than Mets fans have seen, and he believed he was in a good place at the plate before an oblique injury landed him on the disabled list to start the season.

The Post's Mark Hale notes Bay is 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal profiles first base coach Mookie Wilson. When Wilson was estranged from the Mets a handful of years ago, he actually decided to become a trucker. Writes Costa:

Four years ago, when Wilson found himself out of work and bored of fishing, he became a licensed trucker. Before long, the man with a .274 lifetime average and 327 stolen bases could be spotted cruising up and down the East Coast in an 18-wheeler, jabbering away on his CB radio and staring down the breathtaking sunrises while pondering the splendor that is life. He cherished the open road, and genuinely believed that baseball was a thing of his past. Yet after a few years, Wilson began to miss the smell of the grass; the sound of a popped mitt; the banter and the sunflower seeds and (gasp!) even the talk of Bill Buckner and Game 6. He spent last season as the Mets' minor-league outfield and base running coordinator, and jumped at the chance to return to New York.

Tyler Kepner of the Times looks at Jose Reyes making a case to remain a Met, and noted all six of the shortstop's triples have come at home. "Any stadium that I hit the ball in the gap, I’m always going to think triple," Reyes tells Kepner. "But, yes, this is a little bit different because this ballpark is huge. So every time I hit the ball in the gap, 99 percent I’m going to be on third base.”

Alderson tells Kepner: "You do need to take into account the baseball skill that a player possesses, but there’s another element, too -- there’s an entertainment component. What I’ve seen here is the connection he makes with the fans. It goes a little bit beyond his performance.”

Carlos Beltran's streak of 21 straight starts was snapped Sunday when Terry Collins gave the right fielder a day off. Collins said he never would have expected Beltran to play three straight weeks without a rest. Post columnist Joel Sherman said it's a win-win having Beltran in the lineup so often. The Mets get his production. And, if Beltran is traded, his market is larger because he is demonstrating he need not be confined to DH. Writes Sherman:

Like everything with the 2011 Mets, Beltran's surprising sturdiness must be viewed in two ways: It is good because the only way this team could contend is if Beltran, Reyes, Wright, Davis and Jason Bay all hit toward their career-bests to camouflage weaknesses elsewhere, specifically with the rotation. And it is good because in the more likely situation that the Mets are not contenders, Beltran becomes a trade chip toward a better tomorrow by saving money for future payrolls and drafts or by adding prospects. That he is moving better around right field opens up the NL as a destination and not just DH slots in the AL. If Jorge Posada, for example, continues to struggle, do you think the Yankees might like Beltran as a DH who also could play left field against tough southpaws?

BIRTHDAY: Ex-Mets outfielder Jerry Buchek turns 69. Buchek's claim to fame as a Met is a two-homer, six-RBI output in the second game of a doubleheader against the Astros on Sept. 22, 1967. Buchek hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning. Then, after the Astros forced extra innings, he hit a walk-off three-run homer in the 10th inning. -Mark Simon