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Saturday, February 19, 2011
Mets morning briefing 2.19.11

By Adam Rubin

Wednesday, Jeff Wilpon defended his family's honor. Thursday, it was Fred Wilpon's turn. Friday, nope, Saul Katz did not speak. But it came out that Tim Teufel also had been sued by the trustee seeking to recover funds for Bernard Madoff victims. Irving Picard seeks $1.23 million in money allegedly withdrawn over principal invested, but the lawsuit does not accuse Teufel of any wrongdoing. Newsday had that first.

Before we head to on-the-field news coverage with Saturday being the day position players officially report, we pause and recognize The New York Times for going over former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's qualifications to be mediator in the $1 billion lawsuit brought by Picard against the Wilpons. Authors Ken Belson and Richard Sandomir write: "Legal experts, colleagues, friends and former rivals said that in his more than four decades as a lawyer, politician and peacemaker, Cuomo had become expert at synthesizing mountains of information and grasping the broader legal context while doggedly pushing for results." The report notes Cuomo, now 78, mediated a case that resulted in a $500 million fund being set up for asbetos victims. ... Meanwhile, it's worth a reminder that mediation is not binding. Cuomo cannot force a settlement. Arbitration is binding, and this is not arbitration.

The Daily News took Fred Wilpon's recommendation and called Steve Greenberg, the man hired by the ballclub to find a minority owner. He, too, says people are lining up to buy part of the Mets -- "a couple of dozen very serious groups." Said Greenberg: "New York is still New York, and the Mets are one of those iconic teams that people dream about owning. It's been eye-opening for me. This has been a robust process, and it may take more time than we anticipated because of the high level of interest. It's going to be a great result. Everybody in Major League Baseball will be happy with the result, including the new partial owner of the New York Mets." Greenberg added that this process will take months to complete. ... I'm still skeptical a minority partner can come on board before a resolution to the Picard lawsuit. After all, what happens if a large judgment -- even if the Wilpons predict they'll be vindicated -- sends the organization into bankruptcy? As a minority owner, you go along for the ride.

As for baseball, that doesn't mean the topic isn't still potentially controversial.

Terry Collins is scheduled for a meeting Saturday with Carlos Beltran. And Collins all but said Friday that he prefers Beltran play right field from the get-go to minimize the exposure of his knees to risk this season. But the manager knows Beltran wants to play center field. And he'll give Beltran at least half of camp to prove he can, before considering switching to Angel Pagan. Pagan clearly reveres Beltran, which has the potential to make it slightly awkward. Pagan has looked up to Beltran since before even being drafted. The two had lunch and Beltran advised Pagan to go to school, which Pagan did -- at a junior college in Florida. Pagan credits that for being able to speak well in English and deal with media. Read coverage in the Post,  Daily News and Record.

• Newsday noted Beltran has been running without his brace, although Beltran had said going into the offseason that he did not believe that was possible.

• Collins, meanwhile, can be blunt. And while the players' union probably wouldn't be thrilled with him implying reporting on time is late, Collins did candidly say he thought Luis Castillo ought to have arrived early to send a message he wanted to remain a Met. Read the details in Newsday, the Record and Star-Ledger. ... Based on everything I've heard for several months, I fully expect Daniel Murphy to make the team in some capacity, and very possibly share the second-base duty with righty-hitting Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus, with Castillo released during spring training and Justin Turner optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.

John Harper in the Daily News profiles Collins. The manager tells Harper that if he had been managing last year when Chase Utley had the takeout slide in Philadelphia on Ruben Tejada, the benches would have cleared. You may remember Beltran had a hard slide later, but the Mets then reverted back to their passive ways. "In Philly there would have been a fight, no doubt about it," Collins told Harper. "... There's still an unwritten code about how to protect your teammates. So I do believe in situations like that, there's a right way to handle it. And that's something that starts right here in spring training. That's going to be part of my message on Monday when I speak to the team. We're going to bring a team together and we're going to watch each other's backs."

• At the bottom of his article about Beltran, the Times' David Waldstein notes ex-Generation K member Bill Pulsipher has been working out at the Port St. Lucie, Fla., complex -- as he has done in past springs. Unlike Jason Isringhausen, Pulsipher noted, he's not trying to make a comeback. But Pulsipher would like to work for the organization as a pitching coach in the future.

Mike Puma of the Post reports K-Rod likes Terry Collins. "[Collins] seems to have a lot of passion, a lot of energy," K-Rod told Puma. "He's a gamer. You can tell just being around him, and it's going to be an interesting year for us. ... I told [Collins], 'Whenever you get me up, it doesn't matter if you get me up in the eighth inning, as long as you get me up, get me in the game.' He said, 'Don't worry, that's the way it's going to be.' " It resonated with K-Rod that Collins managed Troy Percival with the Angels, prior to Rodriguez's arrival with the team. Rodriguez was Percival's set-up man before taking over as closer. Incidentally, the last time K-Rod did not finish 55 games in a season before last year was the final year in Anaheim in which Percival handled saves, in 2004.

R.A. Dickey tells columnist Mike Vaccaro of the Post that times certainly have changed since he was among the first players sent to minor league camp last spring training. "It's a different feeling for me," Dickey tells Vaccaro. "You send me into a swamp full of gators and tell me to fight my way out, I'm on it. I'm used to fighting for everything I've ever gotten in baseball." Dickey also says the Mets have given him permission to return to Nashville on March 24 for the birth of his fourth child. The last time his wife gave birth, Dickey was due to pitch, so he listened by phone, then pitched a complete game, then traveled to see his family.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger also relays the conversation between Oliver Perez and catcher Mike Nickeas after the southpaw's bullpen session. "How about that changeup. You've been working on that?" Nickeas asked Perez. Said Perez: "All winter."

BIRTHDAYS: Right-hander Tim Burke, who made 50 relief appearance for the Mets, was born on this date in 1959. ... Infielder Alvaro Espinoza, more known for wearing pinstripes, was born on this date in 1962. He played for the Mets in 1996 after being acquired from the Cleveland Indians before the trading deadline with Carlos Baerga for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino.