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Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Mets morning briefing 3.23.11

By Adam Rubin

R.A. Dickey starts in Jupiter on Wednesday against the Cardinals. He then heads to Nashville for the birth of his son. Jason Isringhausen will try to throw a bullpen session, with his career at a potential crossroads. And Carlos Beltran, well, we'll see ...

On to the day's news reports: 

Jose Reyes tells Newsday's Jim Baumbach he will make a concerted effort to raise his on-base percentage, which was only .321 last season. Writes Baumbach:

With free agency looming after this season, Reyes clearly knows his best chance at a big payday is not only by staying healthy, but also by becoming a more complete hitter. And in order to accomplish that, he's forcing himself to understand that he doesn't need to think "hit" all the time. "Walks, I need to make that a part of my game again," Reyes said. "Last year I wanted to get a hit every time I got to home plate because in 2009 I only played, like, 30-something games. So I just wanted to do so good every time. This year is going to be different. I'm not thinking like that."

Of the 89 major leaguers to have 600 plate appearances last season, Reyes tied for 74th in on-base percentage.

David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News talks with Luis Castillo, after his eventual arrival at Phillies camp Tuesday. Castillo must beat out fellow ex-Met Wilson Valdez as injured Chase Utley's placeholder at second base, or win a bench job from a group that also includes Josh Barfield, John Mayberry Jr., Michael Martinez, Pete Orr and Delwyn Young. Writes Murphy:

Castillo blamed his late arrival on a "miscommunication between me and my agents," which is the same thing Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters. The Phillies expected the second baseman to arrive in time to play against Toronto today, one of nine games the team has left before it opens the regular season on April 1. "More importantly, I'm here, and I'm excited to be here," Castillo said. "I'm healthy. I feel good. I'm ready. I'm here to play baseball and help this team win some games." Asked what the Phillies told him about the opportunity he will get here, Castillo responded, "Right now, I know Valdez is doing a good job and Utley is hurt right now. I'm trying to find a job here. I want to compete and I want to win the job. I want to play. I have 10 days to prove and try to get ready."

Dan Martin of the Post also chronicled Castillo's arrival. The ex-Met continued to maintain he feels he did not get a legit shot with the Mets.  "[Collins] wouldn't give me a chance to play," Castillo said upon arriving at Phillies camp. "I told him if he didn't give me the chance to play that I don't know if I have to be on the team. He decided to release me."

• Independent lawyers tell Newsday they don't expect former Gov. Mario Cuomo to be able to compel a settlement in trustee Irving Picard's $1 billion-plus lawsuit against Mets owners. Certainly, they say, there's little chance anything would materialize before a June 29 hearing in which U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland will rule on the defendant's motion to toss the case (which would be a long shot). Writes author Anthony M. Destefano:

Sources familiar with the case and outside legal experts point to the latest exchange between the two sides in the form of dueling news releases and court filings. "I don't think there is anything magical Mario [Cuomo] can do," said attorney Howard Kleinhendler of Manhattan, who represents other Madoff victims.

• The Times delves into the legal wrestling going on, with Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz's lawyers demanding Picard turn over documents and the trustee denying those requests for the time being, until he's compelled to put all his cards on the table. Writes Richard Sandomir:

The team’s owners have now charged that Picard has been deceptive in employing that tactic. They charged in a court filing Sunday that he had withheld some evidence that deeply undercut his lawsuit’s central allegation: that Wilpon and Katz continued to invest with Madoff, and profit greatly from those investments, in the face of repeated warnings that he might not have been clean. ... In denying Wilpon and Katz’s lawyers access to the contested evidence -- called precomplaint discovery -- Picard is not violating any rules, said two law professors with expertise in civil procedure who are not involved in the litigation.

• After watching Beltran go 2-for-8 and require a pinch-runner in minor league games Tuesday, Newsday's David Lennon concludes the right fielder -- who has yet to play right field in a game this spring -- likely will start the season on the DL, even though that's not the organization's official position. Remember, Beltran's DL stint can be backdated to the point where he only needs to miss three-regular season games. That is, as long as he limits his spring work to the minor league side and does not appear in a Grapefruit League game. Regarding appearing full throttle in a spring game, Beltran tells Lennon: "I have to be smart. I just can't throw myself out there like that. It doesn't work that way. Just because it feels great doesn't mean I'm healed 100 percent, you know?"

Steve Popper of the Record says the Mets have a plan to put Beltran in three Grapefruit League games next week if his knees allow. ... I'm skeptical that happens. Because then if Beltran lands on the DL, the backdating is out the window and he misses a full 15 regular-season days. Frankly, it sounds like something the last front office would do.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger looks at the Tuesday activities of Angel Pagan and Beltran. Pagan was pulled in the second inning of a game in Lakeland against the Detroit Tigers because his back stiffened, but he insists he will be back in the lineup Thursday as scheduled. Beltran continued to take small steps toward being ready for the season. ... Here are similar accounts in the Post and Daily News.

• Isringhausen, who played catch Tuesday after being shut down for three days with elbow inflammation, knows he's at a make-or-break point in his career.  He's supposed to throw a bullpen session Wednesday.  "I don't have much time left," Isringhausen tells The Wall Street Journal's Brian Costa. "If I try to throw [Wednesday] and I can't do it, that could be it for me. I know this."

Sandy Alderson candidly noted that putting Izzy on the major league roster from a money perspective is not a concern. He's only slated to make $500,000. The problem is that if he breaks camp with the team, the Mets could lose another pitcher from the organization. Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell, Tim Byrdak, D.J. Carrasco and Taylor Buchholz appear safe, and Rule 5 pick Pedro Beato certainly merits being included too. So taking Izzy with the last slot should mean Manny Acosta and Pat Misch get exposed to waivers. Blaine Boyer, who has drawn positive reviews, is on a minor league deal and can go directly to Triple-A, although one teammate continues to think Boyer will make the roster. Left-hander Mike O'Connor is on a minor league deal, too.

David Waldstein of The New York Times looks at the maturation of Josh Thole behind the plate. Thole caught in high school, but he primarily played first base from the 2005 draft until May '08. That's when first-string St. Lucie catcher Sean McCraw's hitting woes opened the door for Thole to become a full-time catcher, and he ran with it. Writes Waldstein:

Many of the Mets pitchers say Thole’s pitch-calling is noticeably improved. “When he first came up in 2009, I thought he was OK as a pitch-caller,” [Mike] Pelfrey said of Thole’s debut with the Mets that September. “But when he came back last year, he was a totally different man to the point where he’s become a guy you recommend. I want to throw to this guy.”

George King, the Yankees beat writer for the Post, quotes Brian Cashman on the team's interest in Oliver Perez. "[Team president] Randy Levine asked me to look into it," Cashman tells King. "I have no interest. It's not a fit, not something that makes sense based on what we have seen." ... Even former Mets teammates are skeptical Perez will appear in the majors this season.

BIRTHDAY: Left-hander Mike Remingler was born on this day in 1966 in Middletown, N.Y. He made 15 appearances (nine starts) for the Mets in 1994 and '95 during a 14-year major league career.