The Mets have their third and final night game of spring training, as the Houston Astros visit Port St. Lucie today. Mike Pelfrey is due to start for the Mets and will attempt to trim an 11.49 Grapefruit League ERA.
Thursday's news reports:
• Chris Young reported to camp Wednesday, days after formally agreeing to a minor league deal. Young, who underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his right shoulder on May 16, 2011, said he is just about ready to face hitters in a batting-practice setting. Terry Collins noted the Mets could use a six-man rotation once Young is ready for the majors, assuming the right-hander's shoulder continues to progress. A six-man rotation would be palatable because four of the five incumbent starters -- the exception being R.A. Dickey -- would probably be better served with extra rest between starts, the manager said. Of course, if the Mets have faded from the race, a rotation spot could be freed by trading Pelfrey. Young has June 1 and July 1 outs in his contract if he is not at the major league level on those dates. Watch video of Young speaking about his progress here. Read more in the Times, Star-Ledger, Newsday, Record, Daily News and Post.
• Appearing on WFAN, Sandy Alderson called what has transpired in spring training a "mixed bag." On the positive side, the GM identified the $162 million settlement in the Bernard Madoff lawsuit and the $240 million infusion from minority investment blocks as positives because those allow for more planning clarity. Johan Santana's health also has been a plus. Alderson expressed disappointment with the team's 6-16-2 Grapefruit League record because it is "some indicator" -- albeit modestly -- of in-season success. Alderson added: "I'm not entirely comfortable with our depth. As part of that, I'm not entirely comfortable with our bench."
On Jason Bay, Alderson noted Bay is the left fielder and will play, but added: "I don't think he has driven the ball. From our standpoint, he has had good approaches at the plate."
On Pelfrey, the GM noted, all of his spring training ERAs historically have been poor. "This one isn't even his worst," Alderson added. "The good thing is, last time out his velocity was up. So in some sense we look at Pelfrey and say -- look, this is the analysis we did last fall, when we had to tender him a contract: What does he bring to the table? We're not sure from a qualitative standpoint what he's going to bring this year, but we do know that he pitches through injury, he'll pitch through pain and probably give you 200 innings. What is that worth? ... He probably would be one of five in most rotations."
Alderson acknowledged middle infielder Jordany Valdespin -- who has been dabbling in center field -- is unlikely to make the Opening Day roster, which is consistent with what has been expected. The GM expects Valdespin will play "a number of positions" at Triple-A Buffalo, including limited center-field duty, a position where Kirk Nieuwenhuis should get the bulk of the starts for the Bisons.
Alderson said center field prospect Matt den Dekker is ready defensively to be a major league outfielder, but not offensively. The Mets would be comfortable with Nieuwenhuis starting at the major league level if Andres Torres (calf) and/or Scott Hairston (oblique) weren't ready.
As for catching, Alderson said Mike Nickeas has improved offensively.
The GM said 200 innings is "probably not" a realistic expectation for Santana. Alderson noted that it's unrealistic for Santana to throw 110 or 115 pitches in a game in April either, since the southpaw has topped out at 88 pitches in spring action, in his final Grapefruit League start.
Alderson expressed disappointment with the spring-training showings of his bullpen imports: Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez. The GM said the bullpen needs a stopper, and "nobody that we've brought in has really shown that this spring. Now, that doesn't mean it won't happen."
• Sports-marketing firm president Marc Ganis estimated the Mets are worth roughly $1.5 billion, if the Los Angeles Dodgers' sale price is $2 billion. Fred Wilpon has no intention to sell. The reason the Mets are worth less than the Dodgers is because L.A. is about to have open bidding for a huge local TV rights package, whereas the Mets are locked into SNY at a smaller right fee, which bulks up the network's profits at the expense of the team's profits/losses. Read more in Newsday.
• Jon Niese limited the Nationals to two runs in six innings and Hairston (oblique) and Bay (forearm) returned from injuries, but the Mets lost to Washington, 3-2, Wednesday afternoon at Digital Domain Park.
• Tim Byrdak may be too ambitious, but the left-handed reliever hopes to be in a minor league game Friday. Byrdak also aims to be on the Opening Day roster. The organization may be more cautious, in which case team sources indicate Daniel Herrera is likely to break camp with the team as a short-term plug as lefty specialist. (Alderson acknowledged that he doubted left-handed prospect Josh Edgin would open the season in the majors.) Mike Baxter, Miguel Batista and Nickeas also are expected to claim roster spots, with Batista's fate required to be confirmed by Friday. Collins said the entire roster should be all but set this weekend. Thursdays generally have been cut days, so the field in major league camp may be whittled somewhat today.
• Mike Kerwick profiles Baxter in the Record.
• Lucas Duda should bat sixth in the season-opening series. That's because of the need to separate lefty hitters Ike Davis and Duda, considering the quality of the Braves' left-handed relief. However, Duda should be moving up from No. 6 to a higher slot by the second series, against the Nats, who do not possess the same caliber of left-handed relief.
• Buffalo and Binghamton won minor league games Wednesday, behind two-run homers from Matt Tuiasosopo and Travis Ozga. Read the full minor league recap here. Earlier in the day, the Mets released from minor league camp outfielder Javier Rodriguez and right-handers Michael Hebert and Michael Powers.
• Santana is slated to pitch in a simulated game Saturday rather than a Grapefruit League contest, in his final tuneup for Opening Day on April 5 against the Braves at Citi Field. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Nationals manager Davey Johnson wondered to Mike Puma in the Post why David Wright doesn't yet have an extension on top of the third baseman's current contract. The Nats locked up Ryan Zimmerman long term. Wright is under the Mets' control through 2013 because of a team option. "What’s David Wright’s future?” Johnson asked Puma rhetorically. “Did they extend him or what are they doing?” Zimmerman, a friend of Wright's since their days growing up in Norfolk, Va., said: “They gave him an opportunity, and anytime you’re a loyal person like he is, anyone who gives you an opportunity to come up and treats you well, obviously you would like to be here. He’s a guy that works his butt off and plays the game the right way. Anytime you find players like that, I don’t want to say it’s rare, but he’s a special kind of player. He’s a good player and an even better person. David has worked his butt off and done a lot of things for the Mets and hopefully it will work out."
• Mike Sielski and Brian Costa in the Journal give a position-by-position breakdown of the Mets.
• Costa notes that for the Mets' trio of up-and-coming pitchers -- Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia -- to avoid a repeat of their Generation K predecessors that never matched the hype, the young pitchers must avoid serious injuries. Writes Costa in the Journal:
Today, when a Mets pitcher begins his professional career, team officials put him on a multi-year plan to gradually increase his workload. The innings limits for Wheeler, Harvey and Familia are not etched in stone, but [Paul] DePodesta said, "You're not going to see a 50- or 60-inning jump from any of those guys." The Mets also limit minor-league pitchers to 330 pitches per three starts. It's a giant leap from the days of "Generation K." But after a decade of innings limits and pitch counts, teams have learned something else, too: It's not enough.
TRIVIA: Who is the only major league pitcher to have more strikeouts than Santana from 2004 to the present?
Wednesday's answer: Pelfrey was born at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.