Rod Barajas came away impressed with newly promoted left-hander Raul Valdes after catching the Cuban defector in spring training. Valdes, who was in major-league spring-training camp with the Chicago Cubs in 2005 and ’06, was activated before Sunday’s game, with right-hander Sean Green placed on the disabled list with a rib-cage strain.
“He located every pitch,” Barajas said. “He doesn’t have overpowering stuff. He’s got a great curveball that he throws to both sides of the plate. He puts it where he wants it. His changeup? It’s like a palm ball. The ball never gets there. And his fastball is sneakier than what the radar gun says. He doesn’t throw 92, 93 mph, but it gets there because he ‘short-arms’ it.”
Valdes was the correct choice over Bobby Parnell, Kiko Calero or another option, because it gives the Mets another situational left-hander and could free up Pedro Feliciano to work the eighth inning, Mets officials said. Valdes was the last bullpen cut at the end of spring training.
Right-hander Clint Everts, who had made one relief appearance for Double-A Binghamton, has been designated for assignment to clear a roster spot.
Green said he was unsure whether his multiple arm slots this spring may have contributed to his muscle strain.
BAY CLEANING UP: Manager Jerry Manuel has relented on keeping Mike Jacobs in the cleanup spot, separating David Wright and Jason Bay, against right-handed pitchers.
Manuel reasoned that Jacobs’ struggles -- he’s 1-for-11 -- make it more prudent to bat Bay fourth and Jacobs fifth. With the lefty-hitting Jacobs behind Bay, Manuel said, opposing managers still have to proceed cautiously in inserting a right-handed reliever to face Bay.
“Jake’s not swinging as well as I’d like to see him,” Manuel said. “Once he gets going, you can mix that up. I still like having a left-handed hitter behind Jason Bay.”
SECOND COMING … STILL: Luis Castillo was held out of the starting lineup for a third straight game with a right calf issue. Castillo is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday in Denver against the Colorado Rockies. He pinch-hit Saturday and singled.
CLOSER CALL: The Mets reasoned that closer Francisco Rodriguez struggled in the second half last season (6.75 ERA after the All-Star break) because of few save opportunities leading to sporadic use and rustiness. So Manuel plans to get K-Rod into Sunday’s game regardless of the score.
CENTER ATTENTION: Gary Matthews Jr. started the season’s first two games in center field, Angel Pagan the next two, and now Matthews two straight again to complete the home stand. That should not be the pattern much longer, though.
“They’re still in there every day in some form or fashion,” Manuel noted about the duo, who have each appeared in all five games so far. “I expect one to take off sooner or later.”
SHORT COMING: Maybe Jose Reyes’ hit Saturday coming in his final at-bat, against Nationals right-handed closer Matt Capps, wasn’t a coincidence. The switch-hitting Reyes, who was 0-for-2 against left-handed starter John Lannan, estimated he only batted from the right side of the plate four or five times in the week leading up to his activation.
WASHINGTON INSIDER: Garrett Mock, who struggled as Friday’s starter for the Nats, was optioned to the minors to clear room for Livan Hernandez, who opposes Johan Santana on Sunday. The next turn through the rotation, Scott Olsen is expected to be promoted for Mock’s rotation spot. … Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring) remains sidelined. … Mike Morse (calf) was placed on the DL. Outfielder Roger Bernadina joined the Nats. … Pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, the top overall pick in last year’s draft, makes his Double-A debut Sunday.