Time to go to the University of Michigan. Actually, not. The University of Michigan comes to the Mets on Sunday. But most of the media should be at Disney World. That's where Chris Young, Oliver Perez and the major league staff will be participating in a split-squad game against the Atlanta Braves.
On to Sunday's news reports ...
• Ken Belson and Richard Sandomir of The New York Times report: "One person close to the team said that advance ticket sales for the 2011 season were going so poorly that a sense of panic had begun to take hold in the team’s front office. The team has recently initiated a broad shake-up of its ticket operations. Over the last several months, Bill Ianniciello, the longtime head of ticket sales, was replaced by Leigh Castergine, an executive brought in to overhaul the department in the wake of last year’s steep decline in attendance."
• Commissioner Bud Selig, speaking in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he named Joe Torre executive VP of baseball operations for MLB, was mum Friday regarding his friends with the National League club in New York, declining to even acknowledge he extended a $25 million loan to the Mets' owners, writes Ken Davidoff in Newsday. The report quotes Selig saying: "I do have great affection for Fred Wilpon , make no mistake about that. I have great affection, and I have great respect." Despite the circumspect answer, Davidoff says the commissioner's office has concern about whether the Wilpons can retain ownership. ... Wilpon, wearing a University of Michigan baseball cap, was even more quiet at Mets camp. "You'd have a hard time finding half the guys in here that know about what's going on," David Wright told Newsday. "And the other half that has heard about it, I don't even know how to begin to explain something or comment on something that I don't fully understand. To me, it doesn't affect anything that we're doing this year. Beyond this year, I guess we can answer those questions then. But as far as I'm concerned, I trust what the Wilpons are saying and you kind of go from there. I'm not too worried about it."
• Former commissioner Fay Vincent tells the Post's Dan Martin the Mets' $25 million loan from Major League Baseball is a major red flag about how dire things may be financially with the organization. Vincent, according to the report, once loaned the Detroit Tigers money before their 1992 sale and tells Martin: "Any time a team has to come to baseball for money, it's a great concern. Other teams have to be worried. There are implications for everyone."
• Michael Cramer, former president of the Texas Rangers, which happens to be the last major league club to go into a bankruptcy proceeding, similarly tells Anthony Rieber of Newsday that the Wilpons' need for a loan from MLB does not bode particularly well for their current state. "There's no way you hit up the MLB credit agreement for a liquidity loan for $25 million unless you just don't have the cash or any other way to do it," Cramer, director of the Texas Program in Sports and Media at the University of Texas at Austin, tells Rieber. "My gut is that's not a good sign."
• Steve Popper of the Bergen Record talks to Mets pitchers about why they wanted pitching coach Dan Warthen to return. "I was sitting there thinking there’s no way you can get rid of this guy, as much as he did with the injuries that happened," Mike Pelfrey tells Popper. "He had guys coming in. Guys stepped up. Guys performed. I think that’s a reflection, big-time reflection, of the pitching coach. No way you can get rid of a guy after that. ... The thing about his personality is that he is blunt. If you weren’t very good, he’s going to tell you that you weren’t very good. He’ll make a joke about it, but it’s sarcastic truth like, ‘Hey, I went back and watched the tape yesterday and you were awful. You were worse than I thought.’ I’m like, ‘Thanks, Dan.’ I’m sitting there thinking I knew that. I threw the pitches. I knew I wasn’t very good. But the next time in the bullpen, he comes with a plan." Third base coach Chip Hale and Warthen are the two holdovers from Jerry Manuel's staff.
• Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger does a Q&A with Ike Davis. One question: An accomplished pitcher at Arizona State, could he have success now on the mound in the big leagues? "Well, I could throw hard," Davis says. "It’s just I don’t have the mechanics and arm strength right now. They do a lot of work, you know? I could throw 90 for four pitches. That’s not good for a game."
• McCullough also profiles Warthen, who reveals he has no feeling in his fingers because of the effects of overpitching and the need for Tommy John surgery that was not yet perfected as a player.
• Luis Castillo gets a positive grade for his performance in the Grapefruit League opener, according to Newsday. "I feel like I'm a rookie," Castillo said. "I have to show people I can still play. I'm going to play hard, like it's my last game, and I'm going to fight for the job. I think I can still play." ... Read more on Castillo in the Record. ... The Star-Ledger does note Castillo "failed to stretch for a Jason Heyward grounder in the fourth, and hit into a double play in his second at-bat."
• Jason Bay played in a game for the first time Saturday since getting shut down in July following the concussion he suffered at Dodger Stadium. You can read about Bay's return at ESPNNewYork.com. ... Post columnist Mike Vaccaro wonders how the Mets' 2010 season might have turned out had Bay been healthy for the entire year. Vaccaro notes the Mets were 6 1/2 games out of first place, and four games out of the wild card, when Bay's season ended. "We’ll never know either way, right?" Bay tells Vaccaro. "Carlos [Beltran] was just coming back. We’d had our whole team together for a week. There’s no telling what might have happened, especially when you consider the great pitching we got all year."
• Mike Puma of the Post notes the staff will get their first glimpse of Young in a game today in a Mets uniform. Young thought he returned too quickly from shoulder surgery last spring training, and ended up making only one April appearance before again being shut down. "Last year I thought I was going through a normal spring training," Young tells Puma. "But I couldn't have the throwing days between starts the way I've been able to do here between bullpen sessions. Here, there have been no issues bouncing back, and I'm pretty excited about the way I feel."
• Andy Martino in the Daily News reminds that Perez, in addition to Young, makes his first Grapefruit League appearance Sunday at Disney against the Braves. "This spring training is different for me because I'm looking for a spot on this team," Perez tells Martino. "You have to treat it like the regular season. It's very different than when you come here just to get ready for the season." Warthen says the field of rotation starters should be narrowed about March 10, with Perez reassigned to the bullpen audition group then if he's faltering. After that, you know what is next. Young and Chris Capuano (who starts the other split-squad game Sunday, against the University of Michigan), should emerge as the final two members of the rotation if the Mets follow the script.
BIRTHDAY: Pete Smith, who made 21 starts for the Mets in 1994 and went 4-10 with a 5.55 ERA, was born on this date in 1966.