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Wednesday, May 9, 2012
TC: Mets not conceding by tapping reserves

By Adam Rubin

Terry Collins said Wednesday's backup-laden lineup was not a product of winning the first two games of the series in Philadelphia. The manager insisted this is the route he would have gone even had the Mets not won Monday and Tuesday.

"We're playing tonight to win," Collins said.

The manager cited a handful of reasons for the lineup decisions, which include righty hitters Vinny Rottino and Scott Hairston as the corner outfielders over lefty hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda.

Among the reasons Collins cited for those outfield assignments:

* After Thursday's off-day, the Mets play 20 straight days. So the backups will need to be sharp, and that means getting in the lineup.

* The Mets' lefty hitters have struggled against southpaws. Duda, despite crucial run-scoring hits against left-handed relievers in his final two at-bats Tuesday, is hitting .214 this season against southpaws. Nieuwenhuis is hitting .207. And while acknowledging Wednesday's Phillies starter, Cliff Lee, has been removed from Triple-A for a while, Collins noted Rottino's numbers against southpaws with Triple-A Buffalo were solid (.360 in 25 at-bats). Hairston, Collins added, is on the roster to face lefty pitching.

* Duda can use a two-day break with Thursday's off-day. He has lost roughly 10 pounds during his flu ordeal, according to Collins.

Incidentally, Wednesday's game against Lee will be the 14th time in 31 games the Mets have faced a left-handed starting pitcher. Collins believes that is just "happenstance" rather than teams purposely setting their rotations to line up southpaws for the Mets series -- at least right now. The Mets are 5-8 in games started by lefties and 12-5 in games started by righties.

They are on pace to see 73 left-handed starters this season. They faced 40 last year, 39 in 2010 and 43 in 2009.

Ronny Cedeno, working back from a strained intercostal muscle on his left side, played nine innings in an extended spring training game Wednesday. Collins has mentioned Friday in Miami as a logical activation date from the DL, but hedged ever so slightly today on that being the precise day he joins the Mets. Collins said he would like to see Cedeno face -- and have successful swings against -- higher level pitching, since he will be plugged in as the regular shortstop once off the DL ... until Ruben Tejada returns.

Jordany Valdespin worked early Wednesday afternoon with infield coach Tim Teufel on technique accepting pickoff and catcher's throws as the shortstop. The tutorial came a day after Valdespin committed an error at shortstop on an airmailed throw, missed a pickoff throw and couldn't handle another throw from Mike Nickeas that might otherwise have resulted in a caught stealing.

Collins said Valdespin had been positioning himself in front of the bag. Mets coaches would like Valdespin to straddle the bag and let the ball travel longer. That's because the ball moves faster than Valdespin accepting the throw in front of the base and then trying to swipe a tag.

Jenrry Mejia will make three more rehab starts before team officials decide whether he is used as a starter or reliever for the remainder of the season, Mets personnel told the Star-Ledger. Mejia pitched five innings for Class A St. Lucie on Wednesday morning.