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Friday, May 6, 2011
Mets morning briefing 5.6.11

By Adam Rubin

After salvaging the series finale against the San Francisco Giants behind Mike Pelfrey's season-high 7 2/3-inning performance, the Mets welcome Don Mattingly, Andre Ethier and Ethier's 29-game hitting streak to Citi Field.

Friday's news reports:

• The Post anoints hedge-fund guru Steve Cohen the frontrunner to buy a minority share of the Mets. The newspaper reported he had a dinner meeting scheduled with Mets owners for last night. The report states:

While Cohen's investment, if he is selected and chooses to invest in the team, could solve many Mets' off-field problems, the reclusive Long Island native comes with some baggage. The investor's $12 billion SAC Capital hedge fund operation said in a letter to investors last November that it had received an "extraordinarily broad" subpoena from federal prosecutors probing insider trading on Wall Street. In a Dec. 31 letter, the Post has reported, Cohen promised those investors that he would pick up the tab for SAC's costs in cooperating with the feds. SAC has not been charged or named in any action.

Mike Sielski of The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the newly instituted paternity-leave policy in Major League Baseball. The new policy allows a team to replace a player on the roster for two games while the player leaves the team for the birth of a child. Jason Bay became the fourth player in the majors to take advantage of the new policy. By allowing the Mets to replace Bay with Lucas Duda for two games, it avoided Bay having to make a tough choice between missing his child's birth and leaving his team shorthanded. Kurt Suzuki, Colby Lewis and Ian Desmond also have taken advantage of the new policy.

• Newsday's Jim Baumbach reviews the bumpy beginning to Mattingly's tenure as Dodgers manager -- from MLB stepping in to oversee the team, to trying to succeed Joe Torre, to having an ineffective and now injured closer in Jonathan Broxton, to other injuries including to Casey Blake.

• Despite repeatedly allowing baserunners, Francisco Rodriguez actually is seven for eight in save conversions. Newsday's David Lennon looks at how K-Rod is trying to stay sharp with a slow pace of usage, far off the rate when he amassed 63 saves with the Angels."I have to find a way -- one way or the other," Rodriguez tells Lennon about his sharpness. "It's been a battle the past three years here. I used to pitch day-in and day-out. But one thing I've learned is that's something I cannot control. I've just got to be ready when the time comes and not blow it."

By the way, in K-Rod's 13 relief appearances, he has allowed a baserunner all but one time. The only exception: a two-pitch effort on April 10 in a 7-3, 11-inning win against the Washington Nationals. That day, Rodriguez entered with two out in the ninth and Danny Espinosa on second base. K-Rod retired Jerry Hairston on a fly ball and departed for pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran the following half-inning.

• Read game stories from Thursday's 5-2 matinee win against the Giants in Newsday, the Times, Record, Post and Star-Ledger.

• Newsday's Anthony Rieber said Beltran, who has played in 19 straight games, is making himself a trade commodity too. Beltran does have a no-trade clause, but you would hope that would not be much of an impediment. He is making $18.5 million this season. Salaries are calculated based on a 183-day major league schedule, so each day of the season, Beltran makes $101,092.90.

If Beltran is traded at the July 31 deadline, there still would be 59 days left in the season. So Beltran's new team would owe him $5.96 million, unless the Mets decided to subsidize it. One fascinating potential tug-of-war could be among the Mets' front office and ownership at that point. Generally, the more money the Mets ask an acquiring team to eat, the lesser the prospect package they would get in return. Eat the whole sum and the trade haul gets a lot better.

David Waldstein of the Times wonders if the Mets might consider sending Josh Thole briefly to the minors to regroup. Thole should be back in the starting lineup Friday night after a two-game absence. Even if the Mets were considering sending Thole down, it would have to wait until after the weekend. Mike Nickeas  was demoted for Ronny Paulino's activation last Friday. By rule, he is required to spend 10 days in the minors before returning to the majors, unless a player lands on the disabled list in the interim. Waldstein broached the subject because Mike Pelfrey, when asked, praised Paulino's work with him Thursday. Writes Waldstein:

[Pelfrey] credited Paulino for his leadership and game-calling. “There were times I would have the slider grip already in my glove and he would put it down,” Pelfrey said, “and I’d be like, ‘O.K., let’s do it.’” Pelfrey also noted how Paulino came out to the mound in the top of the third after Pelfrey had just scored from first base on Jose Reyes’s triple in the bottom of the second. Pelfrey said he was exhausted from the 270-foot sprint, so Paulino shrewdly made a visit to the mound before the first batter to give him extra time to rest.

Meanwhile, in addition to the problems Thole, a converted catcher, has had throwing out runners and allowing some passed balls, the Mets have been unhappy at times with some of his pitch calling. On April 6, they were dismayed when Pelfrey admitted to getting away from his two-seam fastball. ... Then last Friday against the Phillies, with Ryan Howard at the plate, Thole called for a fastball from Dillon Gee, instead of his best pitch, the changeup.

Pelfrey's ERA  by catcher this year: Paulino, 1.17; Nickeas, 3.75; Thole, 9.56.

In a larger sample size last season, it was: Henry Blanco, 2.81; Thole, 3.27; Rod Barajas, 4.80.

• Daily News columnist Bill Madden notes Pelfrey did not exactly mow down Murderers Row on Thursday. Writes Madden:

Not to disparage Pelfrey's 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball, which lowered his ERA from 7.39 to 6.06 and brought a welcome smile to [Terry] Collins. It's just that, well, when four of the eight position players in the lineup are hitting .211 or worse, the Giants don't exactly have the look of world champions right now. Before the game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was shaking his head in handing over the lineup to his bench coach Ron Wotus -- a lineup that had .298-lifetime hitting second baseman Freddy Sanchez scratched with a sore right thumb, last year's Rookie of the Year catcher Buster Posey given the day off and two of their most productive players, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and center fielder Andres Torres, on the disabled list.

"You're .500 now," someone told Bochy.

"We are?" the manager said, incredulously. "Well, considering the way we've played I guess I should be very happy with that at this point."

• The Post's Justin Terranova has a Q&A with Ron Darling. One exchange:

Q: Is it weird to see these proud franchises [the Dodgers and Mets] in such desperate situations when it comes to ownership?

A: If you are a fan of both organizations, this is not the rosiest of times. As a Mets fan, you don't know what is going to happen and Dodgers fans have to wonder what the heck is going on. But if you are in the Mets clubhouse every day, I don't think there is ever a discussion about the Bernie Madoff situation. It's a real serious story for both franchises, but it does not affect the players one iota.

BIRTHDAY: Willie Mays celebrates his 80th birthday. Mays hit the final 14 of his 660 career home runs with the Mets after being traded to the team in 1972. He also had the game-winning hit in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the 1973 World Series. -Mark Simon