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Sunday, February 20, 2011
Mets morning briefing 2.20.11

By Adam Rubin

It's going to be a long day Sunday for Mets position players. That group has early morning physicals scheduled, and unity-building bowling after work. At some point, Terry Collins will find time to meet with Luis Castillo, too. The first official full-squad workout isn't until Monday. Only five days later, Jenrry Mejia is scheduled to be the starting pitcher on Saturday as the Mets open Grapefruit League play against the Bobby Cox-less Atlanta Braves at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie.

On to the Sunday clips ...

R.A. Dickey is putting his English degree from the University of Tennessee to good use and is writing a memoir, he tells The New York Times' David Waldstein. Dickey informed Sandy Alderson, and assured the GM this won't embarrass anyone but perhaps Dickey himself. "I’ve always been pretty good at journaling, and blessed with a pretty good memory,” Dickey tells Waldstein. “I figured, once I started the knuckleball journey, it was a good place to put some form to it, dating way back to childhood and leading all the way up to this year.” Among the tales to be included: how Dickey, then the father of two, nearly drowned in the Missouri River as the result of a bet.

• With Sandy Koufax first estranged from the Dodgers, and now L.A. gone from its longtime spring-training home in nearby Vero Beach, the Hall of Famer annually makes multiple visits to the Mets' spring-training complex. That included Saturday. He spoke with Chris Capuano, Jon Niese and Chris Young. He also spoke with media and said he feels badly for high school chum Fred Wilpon, who recommended Koufax invest with Bernard Madoff. "I just hate to see him being beat up this way," Koufax said. "I don't know a kinder, more generous, compassionate human being than Fred." Read the account of Koufax's visit in the Daily NewsStar-Ledger, the Times and Newsday.

• I get the strong sense Carlos Beltran will wind up in right field in the not-too-distant future. Here are the news stories in Newsday, the Star-Ledger, Daily News, the Record and Post.

• Beltran is entering the final season of a seven year, $119 million deal, and only David Wright and Jose Reyes have more seniority as Mets. I still remember Beltran's initial press conference upon arriving at his first Mets camp on Feb. 21, 2005 -- when Beltran was talking about his reverance for Bernie Williams, a hero on his native island of Puerto Rico. Reminded that Williams had four championship rings with the Yankees, Beltran had playfully replied: "We hope in the seven years I'm here that we can get five. I look up to Bernie a lot. He has done a lot in New York for the Yankees. I've just got to say that I will do my part." ... Post columnist Mike Vaccaro writes today about Beltran's Mets legacy, which perhaps will be defined by that called third strike on the curveball from Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Writes Vaccaro:  "Six years into that seven-year deal, Beltran has seen every angle of baseball in New York, every side and flip side that playing here can invite. He has been a bust and an MVP candidate. He has been the most popular jersey and the most popular target. He has played breathtaking baseball when healthy, and seen whole stretches of his prime wasted to injury."

• Meanwhile, Daily News columnist John Harper speculates Beltran's agent, Scott Boras, may have advised his client that right field will make him more marketable when he's a free agent next offseason. Writes Harper: "Switch-hitting center fielders with speed and power may be the rarest of commodities, but if Beltran's knee is going to be an issue, Boras may feel Beltran will be more marketable as a corner outfielder, saving some wear and tear on his legs that might help him put up bigger offensive numbers. Not that you should dismiss Beltran's claim that he wants to do right thing for the ballclub -- that 'this is not about Carlos, it's about the team,' as he put it Saturday."

• Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff asked Alderson is he would document the legitimacy of closer Francisco Rodriguez's usage throughout the year to have a defense ready in case K-Rod falls shy of 55 games finished and files a grievance over irregular usage. K-Rod's contract vests for 2012 at $17.5 million if he finishes 55 games. Otherwise, the Mets are responsible for a $3.5 million buyout in addition to his $11.5 million salary this year. "I've been in situations with vesting options before. I haven't done anything in the way of documentation," Alderson told Davidoff. "It's not in my experience, but it's only one man's experience." Davidoff cites one example of a grievance over a team allegedly altering usage to avoid an option kicking in. Dennis Lamp lost his claim that the Toronto Blue Jays "excessively rested him to avoid paying a $600,000 vesting option for 1987," according to Davidoff. ... You may recall the Mets cutting Alex Cora before his $2 million vesting option kicked in for 2011. Cora never did file a grievance, even if the Mets were motivated by avoiding the option kicking in, because the organization could justify the release on the grounds of subpar play.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger discusses what it's like to face the 6-foot-10 Young, and how the Princeton University product uses his height to make an 87 mph fastball look like 93 mph because he is releasing the ball closer to the plate. "He doesn't throw the ball that hard," Reyes tells McCullough, "but the ball gets to you quickly." McCullough tracks down Dr. Glenn Fleisig at the Birmingham, Ala., lab where Rick Peterson used to send Mets pitchers for biomechanical analysis. Fleisig notes elite pitchers' strides to the plate are 82 percent of their height -- or 67.24 inches if Young hits that percentage. He also talks to Princeton coach and former major leaguer Scott Bradley,who couldn't believe how fluid Young's motion was for a big man while recruiting him. Young does have what McCullough calls "an extreme propensity for fly balls." In his last two healthy, full seasons, in 2006 and '07, Young led the majors in baseballs in the air.

• McCullough also interviews left-hander Taylor Tankersley about pitching, music and naming his soon-to-be-born son Huck. Tankersley says of the name: "Brad Paisley has that song, 'If He’s Anything Like Me,' which is about his son. So I asked 'What’s his son’s name?' And they said, 'Huck.' And I was like 'Oh, wow. That’s pretty cool.'"

• As for Castillo's failure to arrive early, I say lay off him, while Steve Popper in the Bergen Record asserts Castillo isn't helping his cause

Anthony Rieber in Newsday tried to interview 80-year-old former Mets chairman of the board Lorinda de Roulet, who adamantly maintained in October 1979 the Mets were not for sale, then put up the team for sale a month later. Rieber was rebuffed, but rallied by reaching Joe Torre while exploring the parallels to the present. "You pretty much knew the hand you were dealt," Torre, who managed the Mets at the time, told Rieber about the constraints. "You knew you weren't going to spend any money because there were restrictions . . . We were miles behind where the Yankees were, basically."

• On the out-of-town newsstand, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reviews speedy ex-Met Carlos Gomez, who used to beat Reyes in races while training in the offseason in the Dominican Republic. Gomez has new life in Milwaukee with starting center fielder Lorenzo Cain sent to Kansas City in the Zack Greinke deal. Writes Haudricourt:  "Gomez has frustrated a few hitting coaches, including the Brewers' Dale Sveum, with his undisciplined approach at the plate. Last season, in 319 plate appearances, he walked only 17 times while striking out 72 times."

• Columnist Phil Mushnick in the Post gives the prosecution argument against the Wilpons in the Madoff affair.

Anthony McCarron in the Daily News catches up with Frank Viola, who rejoins the organization as Brooklyn's pitching coach. The East Meadow, L.I., native recalls going to Eisenhower Park and listening to Jerry Koosman advise young pitchers not yet to attempt a curveball. Viola's post-pitching resume includes coaching high school baseball in Orlando. "I think the difference between a kid staying in A-ball and getting farther is the mental part of the game," Viola tells Martino. "That's the strength of what I bring to the table. The stuff I went through going up to the big leagues, kids just don't think of any that. If you can get insight from someone who's been through it, it helps." Says Paul DePodesta: "There's a real passion there. The idea of working in Brooklyn, and having that age player -- from 18 to 22 or 23 -- he really felt was in his wheelhouse. That's not something you always hear from prospective coaches, that they want to work with that level. Despite everything he accomplished as a player, he's a humble guy."

Mike Lupica in the Daily News opines about Collins. "I make it a point to try to talk to everybody in the room at least once a day," Collins tells Lupica. "I've been paying attention to things that different guys have said through the winter. And just about all of them have been saying the right things. But now is the time to put actions to those words. My message? We own this, for all the talking that people want to do about our real owners. We own this season. Everybody knows the Mets have been down. It's time to get back up."

BIRTHDAYS: Nationals Opening Day starter and ex-Met Livan Hernandez officially turns 36, although he can't keep a straight face while claiming it. ... Shane Spencer, from the halcyon old days when a big Mets controversy was urinating in front of Big Apple Pizza in Port St. Lucie and tangling with a deliveryman, turns 39.