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Thursday, April 5, 2012
Thursday tidbits: Defensive subs, knees

By Adam Rubin

Daniel Murphy took a seat on the bench for the ninth inning Thursday with the Mets holding a 1-0 lead. But Terry Collins said inserting Ronny Cedeno for Murphy will not occur every time the team holds a narrow, late lead.

Collins said he made the defensive switch in part because Murphy would not have automatically batted had the game gone to the bottom of the ninth. Murphy would have been the fifth batter.

“It don’t matter to me,” said Murphy, who made his 20th career major league start at second base. “I’ve been on the ‘closer’s list’ before, in left field. I want to win. He ran Ronny out there. Ronny made a good play on a funky hop. So I started screaming to T.C. I told him it was a great managing move. He’s a better defender than I am. I mean, I’m not going to say I’m a better defender than he is. So, good play.”

Frank Francisco tossed a 1-2-3 ninth in his Mets debut, capped by a strikeout of Jason Heyward, even though the closer had received a cortisone shot Sunday because of left knee inflammation.

“The knee feels great, but besides that, when we’re out there, you don’t think about anything else,” Francisco said. “You just get 1-2-3 and then you get outta there.”

Francisco (5.54 Grapefruit League ERA), along with setup man Jon Rauch (7.94 ERA) and Ramon Ramirez (5.25 ERA), all had subpar Grapefruit League showings in their first camps as Mets. Yet the trio, combined with Tim Byrdak, tossed four scoreless innings in relief of Johan Santana. Ramirez earned the win in his Mets debut, the first pitcher to do so since … well, Miguel Batista last season.

“For me spring training is to get ready, to get a feel for your pitches, command the baseball. And if you throw the ball in one spot, and they hit it, there’s nothing you can do about that,” Francisco said. “You just grab the ball back and try to hit your spot again.”

Said Rauch: “I think when I was younger, I put a lot more stock into how I performed in spring training, because you’re trying to make a club, you’re trying to break with the club. Obviously you don’t want to do horse [bleep] like I did. You don’t want to go out there and just give up runs every single time out. But a lot of it is getting your workload in, your innings in, and making sure once the season starts you’re not thinking about what you’re doing wrong on the mound and worrying about making bad pitches.

“I think we kind of both went through that this spring, where we’re trying to get a feel for everything and are both kind of slow starters, to start the season. We don’t really come out gung-ho right out of the chute. And I think a lot of it, for us, was just getting ourselves ready where, physically and mentally, we were where we wanted to be when the season started.”

Byrdak retired both batters he faced via strikeout in the seventh to strand inherited Tyler Pastornicky at third base. He had undergone March 13 surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee, but was able to be ready for the Opening Day roster.

“Terry was kidding around with me down in spring training. He said, ‘I don’t need you for an inning. I just need you for one or two guys, and that’s it,’” Byrdak said. “I think that played into it, too. I’m not a long guy, so to speak.”

Ruben Tejada, now officially entrenched as Jose Reyes’ replacement at shortstop, went 0-for-2 with a walk.

“I’m here to do my job,” said Tejada, who is slated to move from No. 8 to the leadoff slot in Andres Torres’ absence with a reinjured left calf. “It’s a great time here, Opening Day. It’s the first year for me.”

• The Mets announced Thursday’s game as a sellout, and the largest crowd ever at Citi Field (42,080). The team said the previous record was the July 2 game last season against the Yankees (42,042).