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Friday, April 29, 2011
Mets morning briefing 4.29.11

By Adam Rubin

After having their six-game winning streak snapped Thursday, the Mets bused to Philadelphia, where they draw call-up Vance Worley in Game 1 in place of Joe Blanton (elbow), then Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Mike Pelfrey starts the opener despite dealing with an illness that has dropped him 11 pounds in the past week-plus. Ronny Paulino joins the team, and should get his first catching assignment Sunday against the southpaw Lee as Terry Collins mostly uses a platoon, except for Josh Thole catching R.A. Dickey regardless of the opposing pitcher.

Friday's news reports:

• The Mets are willling to give up some control to a minority owner, the Post reports. A winning bid is expected to be picked by the May 12 owners' meetings. The article states:

Within the last several days, the team has told some suitors it will give a new investor veto power over a limited number of financial decisions, two sources close to the situation said. The budgetary items covered by the proposed veto power include overall payroll levels as well as larger player contracts, a source said. ... Under the veto plan proposed, the Mets would form a board of directors and each person on the board would have the right to veto decisions on team payroll. This would prevent the Mets from gutting payroll to boost the bottom line, though the Wilpons and Katz have said that is not their intent. The veto plan, whether or not it is included in the final deal, can be seen as a sweetener of sorts for the Mets in order to attract a $200 million bid because it offers potential buyers an added sense of financial security.

There are two groups seen as leaders among the suitors. They are hedge-fund titan Steven Cohen, and the team of former Glencore International commodity trader Ray Bartoszek and private investor Anthony Lanza, sources said. A third bidding group led by Steve Starker and Ken Dichter has dropped back.


• Newsday's David Lennon looks at the rash of rib-cage injuries, including Jason Bay at the end of spring training and Angel Pagan in-season that landed him on the disabled list. Switch-hitting Jose Reyes injured a right oblique muscle last summer in San Juan during batting practice before a game against the Marlins, and then sat only a short period of time before batting righty against right-handed pitchers, never allowing it time to heal. Still, Lennon explains, Collins' suspicion that the injury is more frequent now than in his playing days may be off-base. Writes Lennon:

Reyes and Pagan are two of the Mets' more highly tuned athletes, but [orthopedic surgeon Bal] Raj disagreed with the notion the oblique injuries are related to the greater focus on conditioning the core these days. In fact, he said it's the best defense against oblique injuries -- for a sport that's prone to them -- and Reyes' proactive approach seems to be working. Or at least it seems to be a better strategy than what Collins believes protected the players of the past. He said with a smile, "We were too fat before."

• Reyes and Marvin Hudson exchanged apologies Thursday, a day after the third base ump incorrectly ruled Reyes out on a would-be eighth-inning triple and Reyes went ballistic.

• Turns out Livan Hernandez, who beat the Mets on Thursday, was the subject of a federal investigation while a member of the Mets in the summer of 2009. The money-laundering suspicions reportedly partly involve a drug trafficker having fancy cars registered in Hernandez's name. Writes David Waldstein in the Times:

Evidence presented in court connects Hernandez, at least indirectly, to a convicted drug trafficker in Puerto Rico, and the news broke Wednesday, the day before his fifth start of the season. ... In the summer of 2009, when he was a member of the Mets, Hernandez was questioned by the authorities, apparently regarding the same case, according to three people in baseball with direct knowledge of the situation who did not want to be identified discussing a matter under investigation. But Dan Warthen, the Mets’ pitching coach then and now, said Hernandez never allowed the issue to interfere with his pitching. “That came up two years ago, when he was in New York,” Warthen said. “It didn’t affect him then and I doubt that it’s going to affect him now. These three hours during the game are what Livo lives for.”

Ike Davis ranks ninth in the National League with 19 RBIs, four behind leader Prince Fielder of Milwaukee. Davis is on pace for 123 RBIs, one shy of matching the franchise single-season record, which is shared by David Wright (2008) and Mike Piazza (1999). "He's a big reason why we're doing what we're doing," hitting coach Dave Hudgens tells Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal. "You can get a lot of RBIs in the No. 6 spot because all your best hitters are in the middle of the order and you can get on base a lot. It's a good spot for him." Writes Costa:

Could he drive in 125 runs? His high batting average on balls in play (.403 entering Thursday) suggests he'll cool down somewhat. And if the Mets trade Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran in July, it will hurt his chances. But for now, the Mets can dream. "That would be nice," Hudgens said. "We'd be happy about that. RBIs to me are a team stat, so it's hard to project that. If Jose Reyes gets on at a .350 clip and Jason [Bay], David [Wright], all those guys are getting on base, then he's going to get a bunch of RBIs, because he figures out ways to get hits. He takes his walks, too." If nothing else, Davis will have more than his share of chances to drive in runs. Entering Thursday, he had a team-high 25 at-bats with runners in scoring position and a team-high 42 at-bats with runners on base.

• Pelfrey had been tested for an ulcer because he got a burning sensation whenever he ate, but tests revealed he only had a blockage in is system, the right-hander said. Watch Pelfrey talk about his illness in this video. "They told me they're going to watch," Pelfrey said about being closely monitored during Friday's start. "Terry told me all he can do is go off what I tell him. I told him I'd be honest with him. I told him I was fine and I was ready to go. He said they were going to watch me. I don't see any restrictions." Read more in the Star-Ledger, Newsday and Record

• Read Thursday's game stories in the Record, Star-LedgerNewsday, Post and Daily News.

Sandy Alderson downplays his swift roster moves with underperforming players, including dropping Blaine Boyer and Brad Emaus and demoting D.J. Carrasco."I think you have to be careful about that," Alderson tells the Daily News' Andy Martino. "I don't really see it that way. If we have been proactive, we have been proactive at the margins. ... Where we have been proactive, it has been towards trying to see what else we have. You try not to make irrevocable decisions. We lost Boyer, but it wasn't really on purpose. We didn't know it would be irrevocable until he decided not to come back."

• Braves pitching coach/ex-Met Roger McDowell allegedly had an incident with a fan last year as well, the Daily News reports.

• ESPN analyst John Kruk has this commentary about Pelfrey and the Mets in the Post: "The Mets are counting on a guy who would be the fifth starter in the Phillies’ rotation, if that. He has the stuff to be a No. 1 starter, but he doesn’t have the consistency. Pelfrey has to be the guy who wins games for them, otherwise they would be sunk. He is their best pitcher, so he has to perform like he is a No. 1 guy. ... Offensively, they can be as good on anyone in the division. Getting Jason Bay back adds some credibility to the middle of their lineup. [Carlos] Beltran hit a triple the other night and looks like he’s running well. Reyes keeps getting on base.”

• Thole had a three-hit game Thursday, and earlier in the series against the Nats had a career-high three RBIs. "He's not a power guy," Hudgens tells the Post's Dan Martin. "We've gotta make sure he still focuses on hitting to the left side and the middle. Sometimes, I think he's starting to come too much off the ball and that might have led to a few strikeouts."

BIRTHDAYS: Former Mets catcher Omir Santos, who hit a replay-reviewed homer off Jonathan Papelbon at Fenway Park in 2009, turns 30. ... Ed Charles, a third baseman with the Mets from 1967 to 1969, was born on this date in 1933. ... Reliever Wes Gardner, who was traded to Boston in the Bobby Ojeda deal before the '86 season, was born in 1961.