Mets morning briefing 3.5.11


At 10:30 a.m. on a back field in Port St. Lucie, Mike Piazza-coached Team Italy faces the Mets' top prospects. 2010 first-round pick Matt Harvey, a right-hander from the University of North Carolina, technically throws his first professional pitch in a game. (Harvey signed at the August deadline and had not thrown all summer, so he did not appear in a minor league game last year. He then was working out with the Mets' fall instructional league team, but a death in his family prompted him to return home to Connecticut just before he was poised to throw an inning or two.)

Meanwhile, the Mets continue their regular rotation of facing NL East teams, heading back to Disney to again face the Atlanta Braves. Mike Pelfrey is scheduled to start.

On to Saturday's news reports:

David Lennon in Newsday profiles the longest shot among the four second-base candidates, Justin Turner, who received his first Grapefruit League start at the position Friday. The 26-year-old Turner was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles last May and proceeded to hit .333 with 11 homers and 35 RBIs in 312 at-bats with Triple-A Buffalo. He even hit for the cycle and went 6-for-6 in the Bisons' finale, but was snubbed for a September call-up when rosters expanded. (He did have eight at-bats in the majors with the Mets earlier in the season.)

Turner has two major obstacles in beating out favorite Brad Emaus, Daniel Murphy and Luis Castillo (who is likely to get released, along with Oliver Perez.) One, Turner has a pair of minor league options remaining. That means he can be sent to Buffalo without being exposed to waivers. So if the original choice falters, Turner then can be summoned -- whereas once Emaus is sent back to Toronto or Castillo is released, it cannot be undone. Turner's second problem: His primary advocate was Wayne Krivsky, who originally drafted him while GM of the Reds, acquired him while a special assistant with Baltimore, and then was influential in the Mets making the waiver claim last year. Krivsky, who was a special assistant to Omar Minaya, remains with the organization because he was already signed through 2011. But Krivsky is now scouting for the organization and is not part of the inner circle.

Turner, by the way, is best known for his college days while at Cal State Fullerton, when he was beaned by a pitch. As Lennon writes:

Turner was nailed in the face during a semifinal against Stanford -- former Met Chris Carter was on that Stanford team -- and gained instant fame. Not the kind anyone would want, of course. Turner suffered a badly bruised face and a chipped tooth, but he returned to the dugout for the 10th inning of that game. The worst of it was a fractured ankle, the result of his attempt to twist out of the way. Turner continues to be recognized from that incident, mostly because of his red hair. Shortly afterward, Turner dyed it black to "get a breather" from the attention -- especially in the Fullerton area -- but there's no escaping the legacy of that pitch.

Jason Bay acknowledges his timing is off at the plate right now, suggesting he's behind fastballs because it's spring training and he's tinkering with his stance. His aim is to reduce extra movements and make his stance more closed -- the front foot closer to the plate, rather than farther away. "The only problem is I'm used to having a lot more movement," Bay tells the Post's Mike Puma. "Sometimes I feel like I need to be doing more, when in essence I need to be doing less. I've hit a couple of line drives over the second baseman's head, which I don't do a lot. That tells me my bat path is good, but I'm still off on spring-training timing. Some of those fastballs are beating me a little bit. ... I'm catching up to game speed -- 88 [mph] looks like 98 the first week."

Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger chronicles Chris Young's second Grapefruit League outing, during which the 6-foot-10 right-hander allowed an unearned run in three innings. Young was displeased with his early control, but he has been thrilled with the life on his fastball and no signs of past shoulder woes. “I felt strong," Young said. "The ball had life on it. It’s something to build on.” ... More on Young's outing in the Post, Times and Record. ... McCullough also weighed in on Turner and the second-base race.

Peter Botte in the Daily News reminds readers about the hockey ties of Young's wife's family:

His wife Elizabeth's great-grandfather was hockey pioneer and Hall of Famer Lester Patrick -- the legendary Rangers coach and the GM of their 1940 Stanley Cup championship team. Her grandfather, Muzz, played, coached and served as GM of the Rangers, while her father Dick Patrick is a part-owner and team president of the Capitals. Muzz's brother Lynn, his uncle Frank and his nephew Craig are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

• By the way, forgive Young if his attention is distracted Saturday. Young's alma mater, Princeton, can clinch the Ivy League basketball title tonight and an NCAA Tournament berth with a win at second-place Harvard, which is unbeaten at home and trying to stay alive in pursuit of its first Ancient Eight title in school history. Young hopes to attend an NCAA Regional in Tampa assuming Princeton makes it and gets assigned to that site.

Hisanori Takahashi isn't sure if the Mets' financial woes affected their interest in re-signing him, he tells Tyler Kepner of The New York Times. The Mets bid $3 million with a team option for 2012 before being forced to cut loose Takahashi because his original deal when he came over from Japan granted him the right to free agency after one year rather than the standard six years. Takahashi signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Angels. Takahashi, who has dealt with back discomfort in camp, is ticketed for the bullpen unless ex-Mets phenom Scott Kazmir flames out in the rotation.

• Record columnist Bob Klapisch profiles Terry Collins, comparing the combustible match to putting high-strung Tom Coughlin with a bad football team but also writing:

There’s a surprising calm this time around, maybe because he’s already been to the inferno and back. “Look, I took [managing] too seriously, I tried too hard to prove I could do it,” Collins said. “I reflect back on my time [in Houston and Anaheim] and realized, you know what, I didn’t enjoy it. That’s going to change, I promise you." Finally, he understands why [Joe] Torre was able to drive George Steinbrenner crazy all those years, why the idea of getting fired never frightened him. It’s because Torre had already been whacked by the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, which granted him a certain peace about his ultimate doom in the Bronx.

• Former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who is trying to mediate a settlement between Irving Picard and Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz, tells Newsday: "Both sides agree, 'Yes we are willing to make every effort to make settlement here.' ... What the judge was hoping was that there could be a settlement because it is better than litigation that is long and maybe even ugly. It is less expensive to those paying [lawyers'] bills."

Douglas Martin in The New York Times chronicles the life of ex-Met Greg Goossen, who died last weekend at 65. Writes Martin:

As a Met, he caught Nolan Ryan’s first big league game in 1966 and broke up a perfect game by Larry Jaster of the Cardinals with a two-out eighth-inning single in 1968. ... It was Casey Stengel who made Goossen a baseball trivia legend with one remark in 1966. Stengel, having retired as the Mets manager the previous season, was visiting the Mets’ training camp when he pointed at Goossen and was reported to have said, “Goossen is only 20, and in 10 years he has a chance to be 30.”

• The Daily News continues to suggest the Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation of Bernard Madoff may have been tainted, and reasons the Wilpons ought to be vindicated because of its apparent conflict of interest.

BIRTHDAYS: Mike Hessman, who appeared in 32 games for the Mets last season, turns 33. He was the active leader among minor leaguers in homers with 329 until deciding to play in Japan this season. ... Left-hander Les Rohr, the second overall pick in the 1965 draft, was born on this date in 1946. He made six appearances for the Mets from 1967 to 1969. ... Outfielder Larry Elliot was born in 1938. He hit .236 in two seasons with the Mets, in 1964 and '66.