New York Mets: Steve Starker

Mets morning briefing 4.27.11

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
8:50
AM ET
R.A. Dickey tries to extend the Mets' winning streak to six games when he opposes Nats left-hander Tom Gorzelanny in the middle game of the series.

Wednesday's news reports:

• Newsday's Steve Marcus reports Fred Wilpon expects to select a new minority owner in May, with the sale closing in June and raising $200 million to pay off debt, including a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball. Among the four reported finalists, it is "too close to call" who will be selected, a source tells Marcus. The Post previous identified the finalists as one-time commodity trader Ray Bartoszek, hedge fund operator Steve Cohen, BTIG co-founder Steve Starker and hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci.

• The Mets had an uneventful voluntary visit Tuesday morning to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Last year, when Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez did not attend, it caused drama inside the organization that spilled into the media. ("I said I had feelings about [the missing players]. I just didn’t want to talk about it," Dickey tells the Record's Steve Popper about the 2010 situation.) This time, Taylor Buchholz and Francisco Rodriguez did not attend, but both had been permitted to travel to Washington on Tuesday so they could spend the Monday off-day with their families. Read more in the Record, Times, Newsday and Daily News.

• In Newsday's game story, David Lennon asks Jon Niese about a report that the southpaw might have been assigned to the bullpen had he had a poor outing Sunday, with Dillon Gee remaining in the rotation. "With a big-market team, if you don't do your job, they'll find somebody who will," Niese told Lennon. An organization source told ESPNNewYork.com that while the potential move was discussed, it was not overly likely to occur Sunday.

Brian Costa in The Wall Street Journal identifies two benefits of Beltran's ability to play every day and produce. In the short term, it gives the Mets a bona fide No. 4 hitter. Secondly, if the Mets drift out of contention, it gives the organization a viable trade piece. At the July 31 deadline, Beltran still would be owed $5,964,480.87 -- 32.3 percent of his $18.5 million salary. So the Mets may need to pick up a portion. But Beltran has been producing. Even his outs Tuesday were mostly hard-hit, including a shot deep to right-center that Nats center fielder Rick Ankiel needed an extraordinary effort to corral in the first inning. Beltran also had a rocket to right field in the sixth that was caught.

After sitting matinee games in the first four series of the season, Beltran has now started 11 straight games in right field. Of course, there's always the concern that the cumulative pounding of a season will begin to catch up with Beltran's arthritic right knee. Beltran tells Costa: "I've been feeling good, so there's no reason not to play right now. I don't even ice my right knee. I don't think about it. I put my brace on there, but it's kind of like a habit now. I come to the ballpark and put my brace on, but I don't feel anything."

Costa also notes Beltran received a no-trade clause in his original seven-year, $119 million deal. Beltran tells Costa about a potential trade: "I would listen to my agent, because they're going to approach my agent first and then me. There's a possibility that can happen if we're not in contention. I might not be the only one [traded]. There's a lot of players kind of in the same situation."

Chris Young said he felt no discomfort in his shoulder in his first outing back from the disabled list (watch video here). He allowed three solo homers and departed after 4 2/3 innings. Read more in the Record, Daily News, Post and Star-Ledger.

Ryota Igarashi stranded two runners in scoring position inherited from Young by striking out Jayson Werth. David Waldstein in the Times takes you through the Igarashi vs. Werth at-bat.

Johan Santana is throwing at a distance on flat ground up to 120 feet and should be atop a mound within days. The Star-Ledger identifies the potential date as Sunday, which happens to be the precise May 1 date the Mets had targeted when Sandy Alderson outlined a plan at the start of spring training. Other reports said Santana will be on a mound within two weeks.

Andy McCullough delves into Josh Thole's slump, which the catcher may have freed himself from by producing a tiebreaking two-run double and career-high three RBIs in the series opener. Writes McCullough:

Before last night, Thole languished behind the rest of the regulars, burrowing deeper into a slump. His frustration mounted with each swing-and-miss. In the past, Thole avoided strikeouts. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens believes Thole possesses the best plate coverage on the team. In 2010, Thole made contact with 97.5 percent of the pitches he swung at inside the strike zone, according to FanGraphs. In the spring, Thole vowed to change. He tired of tapping two-strike pitches for easy outs. He hoped to add power and stop reaching outside the zone. Through 22 games, the results were unseemly. He entered last night striking out 25.8 percent of the time, more than twice his rate from 2010. “I’ve never struck out this much,” Thole said. “Makes it tough.”

• Daily News columnist (and Dickey co-biographer) Wayne Coffey speaks with new set-up man Jason Isringhausen, who did allow an eighth-inning run Tuesday. Writes Coffey:

Go ahead and ask Jason Isringhausen how his body feels. Watch as he points to a right elbow that has had six operations (including three Tommy Johns), to a shoulder that has had three operations and a hip that has had two. "It's as good as it's going to get," he said. "I'm an old man. It's worn out. I'll keep going until it pops."

• The Mets are 5-0 since Jason Bay returned to the lineup. Bay's wife Kristen is soon due with the couple's third child, although the birth is expected during the Mets' home stand next week, which would not disrupt Bay's play, the Post writes. As for being unbeaten since his return, Bay tells Dan Martin: "I'd like to take all the credit, but it's obviously more complicated than me coming back and everyone all of a sudden hitting. We've got a lot of good hitters, and it was only a matter of time before a few of them started clicking."

BIRTHDAY: Co-tallest Met Eric Hillman turns 46. Hillman, a lefty, measures 6-foot-10, the same height as Young. Hillman was 4-14 in his Mets career from 1992 to 1994. Amazingly, there are six pitchers with worse career winning percentages for the Mets than his .222 (minimum 10 decisions). -Mark Simon

Mets morning briefing 4.25.11

April, 25, 2011
4/25/11
6:41
AM ET
With their winning streak at four games after a series sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Mets take a day off before opening a series in Washington on Tuesday. Read the series preview here.

Monday's news reports:

• Post columnist Joel Sherman writes the Mets were contemplating putting Jon Niese in the bullpen if he did not have a credible outing Sunday. Writes Sherman:

The Mets were concerned Niese was dismissing his changeup (he had thrown just nine in four starts), which reduced him to more of a reliever-like repertoire of fastball and curve. That the Mets were even pondering such a move shows just how dedicated they are early this season to win rather than play for the future. They further demonstrated that by announcing after yesterday's 8-4 win over Arizona that they were keeping Gee to pitch out of the pen and demoting D.J. Carrasco, the only free agent they gave a multi-year contract to in the offseason. Niese halted talk of moving him to the pen by ending what was an eight-start winless streak dating to last year. And he hardly needed his changeup to do so.

Jim Baumbach of Newsday catches up with Double-A manager Wally Backman, whose team is back on track after opening the season 2-6. (The B-Mets are still tied for the Eastern League's poorest record at 5-8.) Writes Baumbach:

Losing was tough enough, but what really bothered the gritty, fiery former Mets second baseman was when players didn't take the game seriously. In a telephone interview, Backman said a few players on his team were simply "going through the motions" during the losing streak. Stuff like not hustling during games or not taking batting practice seriously, Backman said, that's what ate at the competitor inside him. Backman knew he had to stop that type of behavior right away or face the prospects of a long season of uninspired play. "You got to do it as quick as you can," Backman said, "or else players will fall into a pattern."

• The Post's Josh Kosman and Lenn Robbins report the sale of a minority share of the Mets could be weeks away. The article includes:

Sources close to some suitors suspect that the Mets' auction may not be going as well as advertised, although the Mets maintain it is. Suitors who made it past the first round include: former Glencore commodity trader Ray Bartoszek; hedge fund honcho Steve Cohen; a group led by Steve Starker, co-founder of trading firm BTIG; and hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci.

David Wright had the 16th multi-homer game of his career Sunday, further distancing himself from last week's 0-for-20 drought. Wright tied Dave Kingman and Carlos Beltran for third on the franchise's multi-homer game list. Darryl Strawberry is the leader at 22, followed by Mike Piazza with 17. Read more in Newsday and the Journal.

D.J. Carrasco, not Dillon Gee, was dispatched to Buffalo after Sunday's game to make room for the activation of Chris Young (biceps tendinitis) for Tuesday's start in Washington. Carrasco received the lone multi-year deal for a free agent from Sandy Alderson during his first offseason as GM -- two years, $2.4 million. Alderson said Gee in the bullpen may last only seven to 10 days. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Record, Daily News and Newsday.

Jason Pridie delivered his first major league homer. He received the souvenir from the three-run shot off Armando Galarraga because it landed in the bullpen. "I've been waiting for a couple of years to get to the big leagues and be on a team where it matters, not just a September courtesy call-up," Pridie said.

• Read game stories from Sunday's 8-4 win in the Star-Ledger, Times, Record, Daily News, Post and Newsday.

BIRTHDAY: Former Mets reliever Brad Clontz turns 40. Clontz pitched in three games for the 1998 Mets. He is better known for throwing the wild pitch that scored the winning run for the Mets in a 2-1 win over the Pirates on the final Sunday of the 1999 season. Wins by the Mets and Reds forced a one-game playoff in Cincinnati, which the Mets won to clinch the wild card. -Mark Simon

Mets morning briefing 3.3.11

March, 3, 2011
3/03/11
6:06
AM ET
On-the-ropes Oliver Perez starts for the Mets on Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals in Port St. Lucie. Francisco Rodriguez is scheduled to make his first Grapefruit League appearance during the game, after being scratched earlier in the week because a court appearance limited his throwing.

There's also an appeals court hearing on Judge Burton Lifland's "clawback" standard being money withdrawn over money invested, if that excites you.

On to Thursday's news stories:

Andy Martino in the Daily News says the Mets are close to releasing Perez, and may do so if he flunks Thursday's outing. Perez isn't making it to Opening Day, so it's just a question of when. Terry Collins has been consistent in saying that Perez would start one of the split-squad games on March 8. The manager added Wednesday that he was "quite sure" Perez would appear again in a Mets uniform beyond today's appearance. Bottom line: If you predict the imminent demise of Perez, and a likely parting with Luis Castillo, you're likely to be right within the next four weeks.

• Well, it looks like trustee Irving Picard continues to play hardball with Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz. The court has given Picard until March 18 to file an amended lawsuit against the Mets' ownership family. The Wall Street Journal reports Picard is threatening to add new charges regarding the money invested with Bernard Madoff. Authors Matthew Futterman and Michael Rothfeld quote former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who has been appointed mediator, as saying about a settlement possibility: "The job of the mediator is to either find the road or make the road."

• K-Rod's agent, Paul Kinzer, tells Newsday's David Lennon he will be closely watching this season to ensure there's no funny business and that Rodriguez is used in a way to allow his contract to vest for 2012 at $17.5 million if he finishes 55 games. "It's going to be a point of interest," Kinzer says. "I would hope that their desire to win would override anything like that. We'll be following it very closely." Until he was injured and suspended last year, K-Rod had exceeded 55 games finished five straight seasons. The last time he didn't? When Rodriguez was still Troy Percival's understudy with the Angels, in 2004. From 2005 through 2009, his games finished totals were: 58, 58, 56, 69 and 66.

Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal looks at the budding relationship between Jason Bay and new hitting coach Dave Hudgens. While managing Caracas in the Venezuelan winter league, Hudgens spent his mornings at a Best Western watching every one of Bay's 2010 plate appearances with the Mets. Bay indicated he made too many adjustments last year in-season and too often lunged at the ball. Costa writes: He swung at a career-high 27.1 percent of pitches outside the strike zone in 2010, according to FanGraphs.com, a 7 percent increase from 2009. Bay, by the way, went 2-for-3 against the Cardinals on Wednesday in Jupiter and drew praise from Collins for his early spring look at the plate.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger gets more into the nitty gritty of Bay's change in the batter's box. The gist: Working during the offseason in Seatte with Don Long, his former hitting coach with the Pirates, Bay simplified his swing by cutting down on extra movements. Long, by the way, was one of the candidates interviewed for the position that went to Hudgens.

• Even with financial woes, the Mets and St. Lucie County split the $15,000 cost of trucking in dirt from Pennsylvania to replicate the Citi Field infield at the Mets' spring-training home, writes David Waldstein of The New York Times. Third base/infield coach Chip Hale recommended the upgrade, since Florida dirt can be sandy. "It’s basically identical to Citi Field now,” David Wright tells Waldstein. “It’s like night and day to the way it used to be. It just makes it a lot easier when you go up north and it’s the same surface you’ve been practicing on for six weeks.”

• The Times reiterates the three groups identified by the Post as being interested in buying into the Mets, although it disputes Bobby Valentine being a part of the group led by Anthony Scaramucci, a managing partner at the asset management company SkyBridge. The groups have paid a $25,000 fee to Major League Baseball to undergo the vetting process, which would pave the way to examining the Mets' books.

The group including Steve Starker of BTIG, a global trading company, has ties to the Tampa Bay Rays. Authors Peter Lattman and Richard Sandomir write:

Starker’s consortium includes Kenny Dichter, a co-founder of Marquis Jet, a company that pioneered the fractional private jet card concept; and Doug Ellin, the creator of “Entourage,” the HBO series; and Randy Frankel, a minority owner of the Rays.

Later in the Times report:

Another group includes David Heller, a Goldman Sachs senior executive; and Marc Spilker, a former Goldman Sachs executive who recently became president of Apollo Global Management, a large New York private equity firm.

Heller declined comment to ESPNNewYork.com. Scaramucci did as well, through an intermediary.

Mark Cuban did not submit paperwork to MLB, by himself or as part of a group, the Dallas Mavericks owner tells Newsday's Jim Baumbach.

• Newsday's Steven Marcus says MLB isn't necessarily entirely cutting off the Mets from additional funding. "There may be a 30-day period before a deal [in which a minority share] is closed where funds [from MLB] could be advanced,'' a source tells Marcus. "That would then be repaid with funding from the [new] partnership."

• Newsday notes Carlos Beltran is supposed to appear in a Grapefruit League game for the first time Sunday, when he serves as DH against the Boston Red Sox in Port St. Lucie. Collins has said Beltran should be in a game in right field seven to 10 days after that, although Beltran is less specific. "Right now, we're going to start with DH," Beltran tells David Lennon. Beltran won't write off returning to center field in 2012, although it's highly unlikely he's back with the Mets. "I feel like I can still play center field," Beltran said. "This was just the right move for now."

Mike Puma in the Post notes how R.A. Dickey did not pitch with any "sense of entitlement" Wednesday, in his first outing since signing that two-year, $7.8 million deal. ... Steve Popper in the Record also reviews Dickey's performance.

• Record columnist Bob Klapisch speaks with Jose Reyes. “Jose has done more to make me a better player than anyone I’ve played with,” Wright tells Klapisch. “I can’t think of what it would be like if he were gone.” Klapisch goes on to note that Ruben Tejada is being placed at Triple-A as a shortstop to be Reyes' heir apparent. A scout tells Klapisch: “[Tejada] is OK, but nothing special, definitely not someone who will remind you of Reyes. He’ll make the routine plays, occasionally make a great one, but not an impact player. No way.” I think that's too harsh on Tejada's fielding ability -- he'll make a lot of above-average plays. But even slightly bulkier this year, he still may struggle to get extra-base hits and may be best suited as a backup middle infielder during his career.

BIRTHDAY: Jorge Julio turns 32. He was famously referred to as Julio Jorge by Anna Benson, as in: "They got a ---- bag of balls for Kris. They didn't get ----. Julio Jorge [sic] and John Maine. They traded a No. 1, stud pitcher who was 30 at the time, and they blame the red dress."

Names of prospective owners emerge

March, 2, 2011
3/02/11
9:14
AM ET
The leaders of three of the more serious groups interested in buying into the Mets have surfaced.

According to the Post, Bobby Valentine's group is headed by Anthony Scaramucci, the general manager of asset manager SkyBridge Capital.

Another group, according to the report, includes David Heller, co-head of the Goldman Sachs securities unit.

A third investment group includes Steve Starker, co-founder of trading firm BTIG, and Ken Dichter, co-founder of Marquis Jet.

The Post also reports Rays owner Stuart Sternberg would be interested if a majority share would be sold, although he has disavowed interest.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
9 4.03 100 134
OTHER LEADERS
BAD. Murphy .287
HRL. Duda 15
RBID. Wright 51
RD. Murphy 57
OPSL. Duda .840
ERAJ. Niese 3.13
SOZ. Wheeler 112