Three days until Mets pitchers and catchers officially report.
Friday's news reports:
• Hall of Famer Gary Carter's battle with brain cancer ended Thursday when he passed away at 4:10 p.m., his daughter Kimmy Bloemers indicated, leaving former teammates, other friends, family and the entire baseball community in mourning. He was 57.
Tim Kurkjian's tribute at ESPNNewYork.com included this great anecdote, as told by former teammate Ron Darling, about the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series:
"Kid never swore, never. He'd say 'Gosh darn' and 'Jeez.' Because of his religious beliefs, he never swore -- and that was rare on that team," Darling said. "But when he got to first base in the 10th inning, the late Bill Robinson, who was our first-base coach, told me that Kid told him, 'There's no way I'm making the last f------ out.' That's the competitor he was."
Columnist Bob Klapisch, who covered the '86 Mets, wrote in the Record:
Watching him go to work on a misplaced fastball was artistry. But mostly, Kid stood out because his moral scaffolding kept him drug and alcohol free. The Mets used to joke they’d be “on the pavement” 45 minutes after the last out. That was their rallying cry in ’86: in the bars, deep into the other side of midnight. But you never found Carter exploring his darker angels. He was faithful to his wife, Sandy, and unlike some of the other married Mets, didn’t have girlfriends on the side. Carter knew that he was being mocked for his lifestyle, but that never bothered him enough to seek revenge. He chose to turn the other cheek, although that’s not to say Kid was a coward.
Marty Noble, who covered Carter for Newsday, wrote at MLB.com:
The Boy Scout in him never faded. A one-time colleague who liked him acknowledged that he seemed to be auditioning for a Wheaties-box appearance at every turn. And after Carter died Thursday, the same man suggested a likeness of his former comrade on the cereal box would be a fitting testament. "A decent, decent man," he called Carter.
Check out the ESPNNewYork.com photo gallery here. Listen to Dwight Gooden on ESPN New York 1050 here. And read tributes and remembrances from Ian O'Connor at ESPNNewYork.com here as well as in the Montreal Gazette, Times, Daily News, Post, Star-Ledger, Journal and Newsday.
• Johan Santana will step on a mound for the first time since the end of September on Friday at the Mets' complex. It's not quite momentous, since the test of his surgically repaired shoulder will be whether Santana can withstand pitching in games every fifth or sixth day. Pitching coach Dan Warthen hopes to place Santana on that every-five-days schedule throughout Grapefruit League play. Read more in the Record, Newsday, Star-Ledger and Daily News.
• Jose Reyes, participating in a Marlins caravan tour of South Florida, expressed sympathy for the Mets' plight."I understand it's a tough situation for the organization," Reyes told the Post's Dan Martin. "What they're going through isn't easy and that's why I was hurt at the beginning. But with the problems they have, I get it. I feel bad for them."
Still, Reyes would have liked an offer. "At least come to me and say, 'This is what we have,'" Reyes told Martin. "Make a push. Even if it's not what I'm looking for, show me you still want me. ... When I get to spring training next week, it's probably going to feel a little bit different. Every year I saw the same guys, like David Wright. Now I have a new team to learn."
• Wally Backman officially was introduced as Bisons skipper in Buffalo on Thursday. Backman, who is being promoted from Double-A Binghamton, announced he would wear No. 8 as a tribute to Carter, Mike Harrington reported in the Buffalo News. Mark Brewer will serve as pitching coach and George Greer will serve as hitting coach for the Bisons, who host this year's Triple-A All-Star Game.
• More legal papers were filed/unsealed Thursday in trustee Irving Picard's $386 million lawsuit against Fred Wilpon and family. Writes Anthony M. Destefano in Newsday:
According to Picard's unredacted court papers filed in federal district court, co-owner Saul Katz at one point invested with Madoff to take advantage of the investment earnings rather than taking out key disability insurance on certain Mets players. The account used became known as "Saul's cookie jar," according to Picard's filing. Picard has alleged that the Sterling partners and related defendants had more than 59 percent to 87 percent of their liquid assets tied up with Madoff, an amount that reached $432 million in 2007, court papers stated.
The Wilpons' attorneys also filed a bevy of paperwork late, late last night, including trying to strike some of Picard's witnesses.
• Mets outfield prospect Sean Ratliff is making a comeback bid after getting struck late last spring training in the right eye.
• 2010 first-round pick/devout New England Patriots fan Matt Harvey arrived at camp Thursday and spoke about his need to keep the ball down in the zone if he is to have success at higher levels of the minors. Backman told Bisons fans he expected both Harvey and Jeurys Familia to begin the season with Double-A Binghamton. Read more on Harvey in the Post, Times, Star-Ledger and Newsday.
TRIVIA: Carter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003. Which player(s) were enshrined with him in that class?
(Thursday's answer: Willie Stargell is the leader in career RBIs against the Mets franchise with 182. Mike Schmidt is next with 162, followed by active-leader Chipper Jones with 154.)