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Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Mets morning briefing 2.22.11

By Adam Rubin

Not much time until the games begin. The Mets have an intrasquad matchup Friday, then face the Atlanta Braves in the Grapefruit League opener on Saturday in Port St. Lucie. Sunday, Fred Wilpon's University of Michigan Wolverines come to town, but most beat writers probably have to go to Disney for the other half of the split squad, where Oliver Perez will be among the pitchers facing Atlanta.

A look at Tuesday's news reports ...

Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal reviews Terry Collins' approach after his high-intensity personality was called into question during two previous stints as a manager. Collins is engaging players every morning in the clubhouse, taking a circuitous route to the coffee machine and chatting with any players he comes across. That doesn't mean Collins has gone soft. Costa notes that a fan shouted to Collins during a previous workout: "Whip 'em into shape, Terry." Collins' response: "I will."

• The Post's Mike Vacarro notes the similarities between Wally Backman and Collins. Writes Vaccaro: "What the Mets needed every bit as much as Backman himself was the theories and philosophies Backman embodies, both in memory and in reality: a dirty uniform, a dyspeptic disposition, an inclination to suspend niceties when necessary and get in the face of any and every offending party -- opponent, umpire, sportswriter, teammate. And if Terry Collins has proven nothing else in three months on the job, it is this: The only thing that separates the man who got the job from the man who wanted the job is a spot on that '86 roster and the permanent slot in the New York heart that goes along with it. Everything else? Close your eyes, you'd have a hard time distinguishing the two."

• Here's the review of Collins' full-squad speech from the Times, which mentions how Collins told the players that a 7-year-old boy asked him during the offseason how he would get the team to play hard, and how embarrassed that made him. ... Newsday also writes about the address, including R.A. Dickey calling Collins genuine. ... Andy Martino in the Daily News notes Sandy Alderson also spoke. "I wanted to introduce myself," Alderson tells Martino. "I wanted to give them a sense of what we're trying to accomplish with the organization. I don't think I'll talk to the team all that often."

• Meanwhile, yes, there will be less card playing in the clubhouse.

David Waldstein of the Times says Jason Bay gladly would give up No. 44 to Jason Isringhausen. “I’ve tried to hit against him and I know how good he is,” Bay tells Waldstein. “I hope he makes it because he’s a great pitcher and he’ll make our team better. And if he does, I’m giving him the shirt. It’s his. I want him to have it.” Bay said he would not ask for anything in return. Of course, before Bay relinquishes the number, Isringhausen first must make the squad. That would seem like a tall order, even if Isringhausen is fast becoming popular with the pitchers in his corner of the clubhouse. Collins has identified Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell, D.J. Carrasco (assuming he's not a starter), Taylor Buchholz and Tim Byrdak as on solid footing in the bullpen. That likely leaves two spots remaining. Collins wants a long man, and Pat Misch fits that profile and is out of options. If all that materializes and everyone remains healthy, that leaves one spot for Isringhausen to compete with Rule 5 pick Pedro Beato, Manny Acosta (who is out of options), potentially Perez, left-handers Taylor Tankersley and Mike O'Connor, Ryota Igarashi and Blaine Boyer.

• Still, Isringhausen winning that job is very doable according to Daily News columnist John Harper. Writes Harper: "One Mets person Monday even speculated that the old pro would be a better bet as the primary set-up man for Francisco Rodriguez than flame-throwing Bobby Parnell. 'The only question,' the person said, 'is if he can stay healthy.' That's no small question considering that Isringhausen is 18 months removed from his third Tommy John surgery, didn't pitch at all in the big leagues last season, and couldn't find a team during the winter to give him a contract." Isringhausen also tells Harper he will dine with Bill Pulsipher, who lives in the area, in the next few days. The two had not been in contact in recent years.

Anthony DiComo at MLB.com profiles the right-hander Carrasco, who signed a two-year, $2.4 million contract during the offseason. Carrasco is technically in the rotation competition, but the final two spots are expected to go to Chris Young and Chris Capuano. Carrasco instead is expected to hand the ball to Parnell for the eighth, and then on to K-Rod. DiComo writes Carrasco is an avid car collector, and has a '68 Camaro, '68 Firebird and '67 Cougar. Collins has said he was impressed to learn that Carrasco uses a bunch of arm angles, essentially multiplying the number of pitches he throws because it provides different looks. "I don't know if I have a catcher with eight fingers," pitching coach Dan Warthen quips in the piece.

Carlos Beltran did participate with teammates in outfield drills, batting practice  and agility drills, but Collins indicated the outfielder will not play the first week of Grapefruit League games.

Steven Marcus in Newsday writes that prospective ownership partners who seek more than a 25-percent stake are being turned away by Steve Greenberg, who leads the firm hired by the Wilpons to identify investors. Writes Marcus: "Greenberg also said potential suitors have not raised the issue of their money being at risk if the Wilpon family is found liable for the nearly $1 billion [trustee Irving] Picard is seeking. Greenberg said his charge of finding potential minority ownership is unrelated to the results of the Picard-Wilpon matter."

• The Wall Street Journal's Mike Sielski spends the day with ESPN's Bobby Valentine, who moonlights as the director of public health and safety in Stamford, Conn.  "I wouldn't be doing this if New Haven asked me," Valentine tells Sielski. "I wouldn't be doing this if Pawtucket asked me. This is my city." As for his civil-servant qualifications, Valentine adds: "I don't know how to fight fire, just like I didn't know how to throw a slider. But I had pitchers who knew how to throw sliders."

• Perez got compliments from Bay, Beltran and Alderson after throwing batting practice.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger writes about Mike Pelfrey trying to rediscover his sinker (two-seam fastball). Writes McCullough: "Though he still produced a groundball 47.8 percent of the time [last season], his methodology was different. When Pelfrey tried to throw inside, the two-seamer wouldn’t budge. Warthen advised him to throw high four-seam fastballs and trust his 92-mph heat. In turn, Pelfrey opted for the four-seamer 41.1 percent of the time in 2010, according to Texas Leaguers, an online database that charts pitches. His sinker usage dipped to 15.6. This season, Warthen believes those percentages should flip."

Pelfrey actually told me Monday that he thought the split-finger fastball Warthen taught him late in the 2009 season caught people off guard early last year and helped account for his quick start last year. During the summer swoon, Pelfrey said, his diving two-seam fastball flattened. Pelfrey had added the splitter because his changeup "was never that great." Said Pelfrey: “Early I was using my fastball most of the time, and I was locating it, which is important. And I thought the split was good too. At that time maybe the split wasn’t on people’s scouting report. They were swinging at a lot of splits. In that middle part of the year, the ball flattened out. I quit using my fastball as much. I went back toward the end and started using the fastball again and it came back and everything started working again.”

• No need to worry right now about Young and Capuano's health. "These guys have thrown more pitches probably than anybody since they've been down here," Warthen tells the Post's Mike Puma. "They have shown no ill-effects whatsoever. They both seem to be throwing free and easy and voicing no complaints whatsoever. So, it's very encouraging."

BIRTHDAY: Reliever J.J. Putz, the signature piece in three-team trade with the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians that also yielded right-hander Sean Green and outfielder Jeremy Reed, turns 34.