New York Mets: Pedro Beato

Mets morning briefing 4.4.12

April, 4, 2012
Only hours remain in spring training for the Mets. The Amazin's complete their Grapefruit League schedule against Andy Pettitte and the Yankees at noon today in Tampa, then fly home. Next up: Johan Santana versus Tommy Hanson on Thursday afternoon at Citi Field.

Check back at later today for a revealing feature on Santana, ESPN Stats & Information's Mark Simon looking at upcoming Mets statistical milestones, scouts breaking down the Mets pitching staff and an in-depth series preview with Atlanta Braves info.

Wednesday's news reports:

• After all the talk about potential DL trips, it turns out the only players landing there apparently will be Pedro Beato (shoulder) and D.J. Carrasco (ankle). Closer Frank Francisco, lefty specialist Tim Byrdak and center fielder Andres Torres all are ready to break camp with the team. Francisco threw a bullpen session Tuesday, two days after receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing left knee. The closer said he is pain-free, despite some residual inflammation. Sandy Alderson acknowledged the issue could linger -- "especially for a guy who weighs 260 pounds," the GM told reporters.

Byrdak recorded three outs in Tuesday's Grapefruit League game, exactly three weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Torres, who had resumed game action during the weekend on the minor league side, had two plate appearances Tuesday in his first Grapefruit League game since March 20, when he suffered a strained left calf. He singled against Ivan Nova and was hit by a pitch. Read more on the positive health resolutions in the Star-Ledger, Record, Journal, Daily News, Post and Newsday.

• As a result of the trio's health, Vinny Rottino and Daniel Herrera have been dispatched to Buffalo. The Mets also had held back Kirk Nieuwenhuis in Port St. Lucie after the center-field prospect's Triple-A teammates had departed, but Nieuwenhuis was cleared by late Monday to head north to join the Mets' top minor league affiliate.

• Because the three players avoided the disabled list, the Mets will only need to clear two 40-man roster spots -- for backup lefty-hitting outfielder Mike Baxter and spot starter/long reliever Miguel Batista.

Ike Davis hit a walk-off homer and the Mets beat the Yankees, 7-6, Tuesday in the first spring-training meeting between the clubs in Port St. Lucie since 1995. Mike Pelfrey limited the Yankees to a Nick Swisher solo homer and one other hit while striking out five and walking none in four innings. Read more in Newsday, the Times, Post and Star-Ledger.

• Swisher reminisced to David Waldstein in the Times about growing up at the Mets' spring-training complex. Writes Waldstein:

From age 8, when his father, the former major leaguer Steve Swisher, was a minor league manager with the Mets and later a coach with the big-league club, Swisher was a fixture at the Mets’ spring training. There were the days when he won $100 off Todd Hundley, joked around with the eccentric Bill Pulsipher and took what he estimated were a million swings on the back fields. Returning here Tuesday as a 31-year-old Yankees right fielder brought back a stream of memories for Swisher, who celebrated his return by hitting a home run in a 7-6 loss to the Mets in the same park where he used to shag fly balls as a youngster.

Paul DePodesta, who oversees the Mets' farm system and amateur scouting, participated in a chat at Baseball Prospectus. DePodesta addressed the new collective bargaining agreement, which will restrict Mets spending on draft picks. He also discussed left-handed prospect Josh Edgin's future, 2011 first-round pick Brandon Nimmo (who will participate in extended spring training rather than break camp with full-season Savannah), the plan to give Jordany Valdespin limited exposure to center field while keeping him primarily in the middle infield, the elimination of the Mets' Gulf Coast League team, and under-the radar-prospects. On that last subject, DePodesta identified Domingo Tapia and Rafael Montero as legit prospects not getting hype. "Both guys have a chance to emerge as our next group of top-tier potential major league starting pitchers," DePodesta predicted. "They have power stuff. Tapia routinely touched 100 mph last summer. And both pound the strike zone."

DePodesta added that while the organization is committed to building from within, they also realize they need to strategically add capable free agents. "It's awfully difficult to build a championship-caliber club just with your own minor league players (though the Rockies basically did)," DePodesta said. "But if we can build up a core, and we absolutely believe we can and we will, then we will have plenty of capacity to make strategic free-agent or even trade decisions."

On top prospect Zack Wheeler, DePodesta said: "Like most young pitchers with big stuff, it's just a matter of consistency. He has a major league repertoire right now. In fact, it's better than most major league starters. The difference is simply how consistently he's able to make the ball go where he wants and do what he wants. He's making progress and isn't far off, and we'll see stretches this year when he's locked in and looking like a big leaguer."

DePodesta said his children have selected Lucas Duda as the player most likely to pick up the Linsanity mantle.

• Read's position-by-position analysis of the Mets, including scout comment.

Matt Harvey will start Buffalo's opener Thursday at Pawtucket. He will be followed in the Bisons' rotation by Jeurys Familia, Chris Schwinden, Jeremy Hefner and Garrett Olson. "It's a huge honor," Harvey told Mike Harrington at the Buffalo News' Bisons blog. "I wasn't sure going into spring training exactly where I was going to start [between Buffalo and Binghamton]. Wally [Backman] told me the whole time I had a good chance of going with him. As soon as they told me, I was extremely honored and happy."

Double-A Binghamton, which opens at home, will have Collin McHugh on the mound Thursday, in Game 1. Lynn Worthy profiles the B-Mets in the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. Wheeler, Edgin, Juan Lagares, Matt den Dekker and Darin Gorski highlight the Double-A roster.

See the full minor league roster assignments here.

• The Mets will have a group seating/party area between the old and new left-field walls at Citi Field, with ticket prices ranging from $100 to $200 per person and including food and drink. Meanwhile, executive VP Dave Howard acknowledged Tuesday that Opening Day is not yet sold out. Read more in the Times, Post and Newsday.

Rhiner Cruz, the hard-throwing right-hander plucked from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings, has made the Opening Day roster of the Astros. Cruz will need to stick with Houston at the major league level for the full season in order to officially become Houston property.

• Among Post baseball writers, Ken Davidoff and Mike Vaccaro predict the Mets finishing fourth in the NL East, ahead of the Braves. George King, Mike Puma, Joel Sherman, Kevin Kernan and Dan Martin pick the Mets for the basement.

Kernan has a National League preview. Kernan's Mets comment: "Offense will be fine if Wright is healthy because Ike Davis and Lucas Duda can crush, but this is a transitional season. Not enough pitching. Looking forward to seeing Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia join the rotation and watching Zack Wheeler grow."

Sherman has these Mets predictions in a 2012 crystal ball column:

Johan Santana needs two DL stints to survive just a 15-start season, but uses his savvy to go 8-5 with a 3.58 ERA when he does pitch. Jon Niese’s command and maturity catch up to his competitiveness and stuff, allowing him to become a 15-game winner with an ERA in the threes. Andres Torres tanks and the Mets turn to Matt den Dekker, who proves to be Devon White Lite: Long legs and a long swing leading to ace defense, bunches of strikeouts and some lefty pop. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda each top 30 homers, but Davis does it with Gold Glove contention defense while Duda is so troublesome in right the Mets are forced to consider whether he can play there long term. The same goes for Daniel Murphy as a definitely-can-hit, but-can’t-field second baseman.

Frank Francisco’s knee issues and inability to deal with the running game leads to Terry Collins going with a hot-hand approach at closer and no Met recording more than 18 saves. Ruben Tejada is not Jose Reyes, but he proves himself an everyday major league shortstop by making all the plays defensively while maintaining a good on-base percentage in the .350 range. David Wright is helped by the shortened Citi Field fences and rebounds to a .285, 24-homer season, but nothing helps Jason Bay, who finishes with just 10 homers.

Here's Puma's Mets preview. And here's Davidoff wondering if New York could become a Mets town again.

Andy Martino in the Daily News writes Jon Niese's deal will be close to the five-year, $28.5 million guarantee the Texas Rangers gave to left-hander Derek Holland, but "not necessarily quite that lucrative."

Omar Minaya, now a lieutenant to GM Josh Byrnes in San Diego, tells Christian Red in the Daily News that Ruben Tejada will be a capable alternative to Jose Reyes. “He’ll surprise you,” Minaya told Red. “Listen, you’re not going to replace Jose. But I don’t think Ruben is of that mindset. Ruben is a fine shortstop. He’s a young kid who can throw, catch, who is going to hit the ball into the gap. He’s a well-rounded baseball player.”

• Columnist John Harper writes in the Daily News the Mets really could use the Yankees' Brett Gardner. Meanwhile, he quotes Alderson on the lack of Yankees first-team players who attended the game in Port St. Lucie as saying: “That’s an issue for Major League Baseball, not for us. But I don’t know whether Yankees fans are happy to see a Yankee uniform or would prefer to see somebody recognizable in the uniform.”

TRIVIA: Who has been the only player other than Reyes to bat leadoff for the Mets on Opening Day since 2005?

Tuesday's answer: Schwinden led Buffalo in strikeouts last season with 134, in 145 2/3 innings.

Mets 7, Yanks 6: Ike walks off

April, 3, 2012

Adam Rubin
Ike Davis heads to a team bus to leave spring training in Port St. Lucie after belting a walk-off homer Tuesday.
The Yankees made their first visit to Port St. Lucie since 1995, and Tim Byrdak and Andres Torres made their returns to Grapefruit League action, as the Mets essentially fielded their Opening Day lineup for the first time all spring training.

Ike Davis provided the heroics, launching a deep walk-off homer to center off Mark Montgomery as the Mets beat the Yankees, 7-6, Tuesday before a record crowd for spring-training baseball in Port St. Lucie of 7,644.

“Oooh, that was way back,” Josh Thole said after watching on TV from the clubhouse as Davis crushed Montgomery’s offering.

Said Justin Turner: “That ball still hasn’t landed.”

Terry Collins was thrilled he was able to field his regular lineup (plus Scott Hairston at DH) for the first time all spring training -- Torres, followed by Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Davis, Jason Bay and Lucas Duda, then Thole and Ruben Tejada after the Hairston DH spot that won’t exist come Thursday.

The manager, earlier in the day, also watched closer Frank Francisco successfully throw a bullpen session to test his gimpy left knee, which had required a cortisone shot Sunday.

“We’re very pleased,” Collins said. “Frankie had a good pen. He said the knee is still a little irritated, but he said he’s fine. He could pitch with it.

“There were smiles on all the coaches’ faces today that we finally ran our team on the field. As a matter of fact, we like to post the lineup early, and we couldn’t even do that until we got all the things in place this morning -- talking to the trainers, talking to the players. Sandy [Alderson] and I met [about] the ramifications if something should happen, what were we going to do. But about 9:30 we finally came up with the lineup.”

After the game, the Mets bused to Tampa. They will play the Yankees in the final 2012 Grapefruit League game. Collins said he will use his full lineup for a couple of innings in Wednesday’s spring-training finale.

Mike Pelfrey had a strong final tune-up for Game 4 of the regular season, against the Washington Nationals on April 9. Pelfrey limited the Yankees to one run on two hits while striking out five and walking none in four innings. The lone damage came on a homer by Nick Swisher.

(Read full post)

Byrdak on Opening roster, too

April, 3, 2012

US Presswire
Frank Francisco, Andres Torres and Tim Byrdak all apparently will avoid opening the season on the disabled list.
Tim Byrdak, who underwent March 13 surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee, is scheduled to pitch in today's Grapefruit League game and will break camp with the Mets.

So after all the injury talk in spring training, the Mets will break camp pretty much healthy, with Andres Torres (calf) and Frank Francisco (knee) also ready to be at Citi Field on Opening Day.

The lone DL players are expected to be Pedro Beato (shoulder) and D.J. Carrasco (ankle).

Mets morning briefing 3.26.12

March, 26, 2012
Johan Santana makes his fifth Grapefruit League start this afternoon, looking to ramp up to 90-95 pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter. David Wright may be manning third base behind Santana, although Terry Collins did not want to commit until this morning. Otherwise, Wright -- who saw live pitching from right-hander Michael Powers and left-hander Robert Carson on Sunday -- should make his first exhibition-game appearance Tuesday. Santana limited the Cardinals to one run and six hits -- all singles -- in six innings last Wednesday while requiring only 69 pitches. Jake Westbrook is scheduled to start for the Cards.

Monday's news reports:

Jason Bay felt like he dodged a bullet when a fastball from Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg drilled the left fielder in the right forearm, rather than Bay's wrist or hand. Bay nonetheless was forced to leave the game after the half-inning as the forearm tightened. Watch video of Bay discussing the injury here. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Times, Record and Post.

• The injuries on Sunday did not end with Bay on Sunday. Left-hander Garrett Olson, who seemed the primary alternative to Tim Byrdak in the bullpen while the incumbent lefty specialist recovers from knee surgery, was struck in the palm of his pitching hand in a Double-A game. X-rays were negative and Olson was diagnosed with a bruise, the team announced. Josh Edgin might have forced his way onto the roster over Olson anyway in the final 10 days of spring training. He now is an even more serious candidate, despite having not pitched above Class A, if Olson's injury lingers a week.

• There was some progress, aside from Wright. Collins said Andres Torres' strained left calf felt considerably better Sunday, although the center fielder still appears a few days from testing it running, which still makes Opening Day an uncertain proposition. Scott Hairston (strained left oblique), the backup to Torres in center field, took batting practice Sunday for the first time and pronounced the session a success. Read more in Newsday.

D.J. Carrasco and Pedro Beato appear headed to the major league disabled list to open the season. Carrasco's right ankle is still bothering him. Beato, who likely was ticketed for Triple-A Buffalo now that he officially is Mets property and not a Rule 5 pick, has more shoulder stiffness after throwing 25 pitches off a mound Thursday.

• Carrasco starting the season on the DL all but locks Miguel Batista into the final bullpen spot, joining Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Acosta, Bobby Parnell and the lefty specialist. Carrasco is guaranteed $1.2 million, in the second season of a two-year, $2.4 million deal. He had recorded seven outs without surrendering a hit or walk early in the Grapefruit League season before suffering the ankle injury.

• 2010 first-round pick Matt Harvey had a miserable outing in place of Dillon Gee as the Mets lost to the Nats, 12-0, Sunday afternoon in Viera. The first four batters against Harvey homered, doubled, doubled and homered. Harvey ultimately lasted only 10 batters, allowing five runs, three homers and seven hits. Strasburg even singled against Harvey. Washington snapped an 11-game winless streak. Harvey was borrowed from minor league camp so Gee could avoid facing Washington for a third time during spring training. Gee instead tossed six scoreless innings against the Miami Marlins' Triple-A New Orleans affiliate. Gee's first regular-season game is slated for April 10 against Washington at Citi Field. Read more on Harvey's performance in Newsday, the Times, Journal, Post, Daily News and Star-Ledger.

• Francisco tossed a scoreless inning in Sunday's loss, after allowing single runs in six of his previous eight Grapefruit League appearances. Collins has been excusing the appearances by saying closers need to be amped up in order to thrive, and often underperform when they enter lopsided exhibition games in the middle innings. Yet Francisco did blow the save in the ninth Saturday against St. Louis while trying to protect a one-run lead. Francisco told Mike Kerwick in the Record he is unconcerned about spring-training results. "I like when they have a big inning," Francisco said, " ’cause I get to work more. The other day, I went and … I got two outs [on] two pitches. I don’t want that. I want to work."

Josh Satin is now 4-for-6 in two games with Triple-A Buffalo since being optioned from major league camp. Satin drove in the lone Bisons run in a 1-1 tie with the Zephyrs on Sunday that included Gee on the mound. Read the full minor league recap here.

TRIVIA: Name the five most-recent Mets general managers.

Sunday's answer: In addition to Mike Baxter, who finished his college career at Vanderbilt, R.A. Dickey and Matt den Dekker also played in the Southeastern Conference. Dickey pitched for the Tennessee Volunteers, while den Dekker played center field for the Florida Gators.

Nats 12, Mets 0: Harvey hit hard -- Bay too

March, 25, 2012
Matt Harvey, part of the organization’s quartet of highly regarded pitching prospects, was rocked for three homers and five runs in an inning. Jason Bay left the game with a bruised right forearm. And the Washington Nationals snapped an 11-game Grapefruit League winless streak with a 12-0 win against the Mets on Sunday afternoon at Space Coast Stadium.

Stephen Strasburg

Starting Pitcher
Washington Nationals


2011 Season Stats
5 1 1 2 24 1.50
Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg tossed five scoreless innings, limiting the Mets to five hits, a walk and the drilling of Bay with a fastball while striking out five. The Mets did load the bases against Strasburg in the third inning, but Ike Davis grounded into an inning-ending double play.

“He’s got a great arm,” Terry Collins said. “It’s quite obvious. A live arm. Today, when the game got out of control, I’ll bet he was just out getting his work done. When you pitch at 96 mph, and can hit 99 or 100, that’s pretty good stuff. He’s got a good breaking ball. That’s the best changeup Ike said he’s seen off of him.”

Ruben Tejada went 2-for-3 with a double in the loss, while Frank Francisco and Bobby Parnell each tossed scoreless innings while working for the second straight day. Parnell, who allowed a hit and walk before retiring Jayson Werth on an inning-ending flyout in the sixth, struck out two and ran his scoreless streak in Grapefruit League play to 7 1/3 innings.

“Bobby’s throwing the ball very, very well,” Collins said.

Parnell, despite a minor league option remaining, clearly has pitched his way into the major league bullpen, with Collins quipping: “Hell, he may be the last man standing the way they’re dropping.”

Collins was referring to D.J. Carrasco and Pedro Beato both likely to start the season on the major league disabled list. Carrasco has an ankle injury. Beato, who has a shoulder issue, threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Thursday, but has not returned to a mound. He likely was ticketed for Triple-A Buffalo to open the season, but now probably picks up service time and major league pay.

(Read full post)

Relievers making progress

March, 23, 2012
Three injured Mets relievers are making progress in their returns from injuries.

D.J. Carrasco, who sprained an ankle, is eyeing a minor league game Sunday, pitching coach Dan Warthen said.

Tim Byrdak, who underwent March 13 surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee, had the stitches out Thursday and planned to toss a baseball at distances up to 100 feet today.

Pedro Beato (shoulder) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Thursday -- his first since getting shut down.

Mets morning briefing 3.19.12

March, 19, 2012
The Mets' complex is closed today -- for major and minor leaguers -- allowing for a near-48-hour break before the big leaguers regroup for a Tuesday night game against the Washington Nationals at Digital Domain Park. So all of the action today should be in lower Manhattan, where jury selection and opening statements are expected to begin in the clawback lawsuit against Fred Wilpon and family brought by the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

Monday's news reports:

Richard Sandomir and Ken Belson in the Times wonder if the Wilpons might settle soon, for some number between the $83 million for which the judge has indicated they likely already are on the hook and the maximum $386 million with the most adverse outcome from the district-court round of the trial. Write Sandomir and Belson:

Mario M. Cuomo, a former New York governor who is the mediator in the case, has attended hearings but there has been no palpable optimism about a deal. Asked Sunday if a settlement could come as early as Monday, he said by telephone, “You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.” He said that his goal in meeting with the sides had been to reach a settlement which could theoretically come at any point during the trial. Any settlement would logically be between $83 million and $386 million. The Mets might think that they could afford to pay a potential settlement in the neighborhood of $165 million. Still, producing a lot of cash quickly might be difficult.

Tim Byrdak returned to camp five days after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and said that while Opening Day is a "long shot," the team's projected six-week absence is way too conservative. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

Mike Pelfrey allowed eight runs in 2 2/3 innings Sunday against the Houston Astros, as the Mets' Grapefruit League winless streak increased to nine games. Pelfrey said he was trying to overthrow to get his arm strength up for fastballs during the season, and his sinker control suffered as a result. Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger, Newsday, Daily News, Journal and Record.

David Wright, working his way back from an abdominal tear, hit off a tee and swung at soft flips Sunday. Meanwhile, Terry Collins said Ruben Tejada (groin) should be in the lineup Tuesday night. The manager hopes to see D.J. Carrasco (ankle) and Pedro Beato (shoulder) on a mound soon.

Wright told columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post that he's certain he will be ready for Opening Day on April 5 at Citi Field. "Each day I get better and better and I’m doing more and more,’’ Wright told Kernan. “I think I got lucky where I did it so early in camp [so] I had the luxury of waiting and being patient, and I haven’t had any setbacks. I’m at the point now where I’m feeling good, but I can’t go out there and overextend myself and set me back."

Fernando Martinez struck out three times and walked in four plate appearances against his former club. F-Mart said he was surprised by being placed on waivers by the Mets during the offseason, but insisted he had no bitterness toward his former employer. Read more in Newsday, the Daily News and Post.

• Outfielder Cesar Puello and right-hander Jeremy Hefner were optioned to minor league camp after Sunday's game, reducing the number of players in camp to 40. Puello, who turns 21 on April 1, hit .259 with 10 homers last season at Class A St. Lucie. Hefner was claimed off waivers by the Mets during the offseason after going 9-7 with a 4.98 ERA for San Diego's Triple-A affiliate last season. Hefner could be exposed to waivers again in the next two weeks with the Mets needing to clear as many as three 40-man roster spots, for backup outfielders and a lefty relief specialist in Byrdak's absence.

• The Mets' top two minor league affiliates lost exhibition games to Marlins farmhands Sunday.

Mike Kerwick in the Record looks at the range of Mets on Twitter. Josh Thole had a bad experience last season and dropped it, but the list of participants is growing. The latest addition: Byrdak (@Givemethelefty). Sandy Alderson (@MetsGM), by the way, has been idle since a Feb. 28 tweet about his dog, Buddy Alderson.

TRIVIA: For which former public official is the lower Manhattan courthouse where the Wilpon-Madoff trial is due to take place named?

Sunday's answer: The eight players to start for the Mets in right field last season were Carlos Beltran (91 games), Lucas Duda (38), Scott Hairston (11), Mike Baxter (7), Jason Pridie (6), Nick Evans (4), Willie Harris (3) and Martinez (2).

Last-day roster drama unlikely for Mets

March, 11, 2012
The Mets would like to fit Miguel Batista on the Opening Day roster in the bullpen, but there very likely will not be any last-day drama.

Batista is the only player in Mets camp who falls under a new collective-bargaining stipulation requiring a player to be notified five days before Opening Day whether he has made the team. If Batista -- who is on a minor league deal -- were somehow to be informed five days out that he did not make the squad, the Mets either would be required to cut him a $100,000 check to get him to go to Triple-A or make him a free agent.

Players eligible for the roster retention bonus in a general sense are those who played in the majors last season and signed minor league contracts. Rob Johnson, despite catching in the majors last season, technically is not eligible, assistant GM John Ricco said.

Tim Byrdak’s ailing left knee will be examined by team doctor Struan Coleman on Monday morning in Port St. Lucie.

“We’ll go from there and see what’s going on,” Byrdak said. “It was something, working out in the offseason, there was a little discomfort. I actually felt it when I went to sit on the couch one day. I went to put my foot underneath me and I said I really didn’t feel right. But there was no injury, no pop, no sudden movement that tweaked it. It’s been something kind of nagging around. I was pitching with it this whole time. It’s still kind of there. I sought treatment for it and it wasn’t really responding to the treatment. We’re going to have the doctor look at it tomorrow and see where we go from there.”

Mike Nickeas went into camp with a leg up as backup catcher because the organization knows him and he already is on the 40-man roster, but that’s not an automatic ticket. And at least one scout praised Johnson again Sunday.

I’ve presumed that with the Mets likely needing to clear 40-man roster spots for two backup outfielders (assuming Scott Hairston lands on the DL) that Nickeas would have a large advantage over Johnson. After all, Johnson would need to be added to the 40-man roster too. But, a team insider noted, Nickeas very likely would clear waivers, so the catchers could just be swapped on the 40-man roster without the need to otherwise free space.

I’m not necessarily predicting that’s the way it’s headed, but it could. And that does provide some further clarity on the potential maneuver.

• Listing Pedro Beato for Wednesday’s trip to Lakeland is very likely too ambitious. Beato, who has dealt with right shoulder inflammation, has not even returned to a mound yet.

Your Mets injury summary

March, 11, 2012

Getty Images/US Presswire
The Mets' sizable injury list includes David Wright (rib cage), Scott Hairston (oblique) and Tim Byrdak (knee).
There are only 54 players in Mets big league camp. Yet, somehow, the Mets already have amassed quite a massive injury list. The summary:

RHP Pedro Beato: Officially suffering from right shoulder inflammation, Beato is listed to return Wednesday in Lakeland against the Tigers. However, Beato has not yet returned to a mound, so that's unlikely. Regardless, he is likely ticketed for Triple-A Buffalo to open the season.

LHP Tim Byrdak: Suffering from sore left knee. As was the case with Pedro Feliciano before him, the Mets have little depth as a lefty specialist and likely will carry no other southpaw in the Opening Day bullpen. So keeping Byrdak on the field is vitally important. Other left-handers in camp include Chuck James, Daniel Herrera, Garrett Olson and Robert Carson. The Mets also are often borrowing Josh Edgin from minor league camp.

1B Ike Davis: Not showing any ill effects from a suspected case of valley fever and routinely playing in Grapefruit League games, but Davis said the issue could take a year to get out of his system.

RF Lucas Duda: For a third straight day, Duda had been expected in the lineup and did not appear because of back stiffness. Duda did work out with teammates pregame, though.

OF Scott Hairston: Strained the same oblique that landed him on the DL to close last season, and appears likely to be inactive to open this season as well. If Hairston is placed on the DL, that means both backup outfield spots -- the lefty and righty hitter -- are up for grabs. However, Vinny Rottino is the only right-handed person in camp who fits the profile. From the left side, Adam Loewen would have a leg up on Mike Baxter in part because Loewen can back up Andres Torres in center field, which was supposed to be Hairston's role.

2B Reese Havens: Prospect continues to be tormented by back issues and has been idle for most of camp.

RHP Jenrry Mejia: Not a camp injury. Mejia is in the final stages of recovering from Tommy John surgery and should be in minor league games beginning in May.

CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis: Added to injury list Sunday with right oblique strain.

3B David Wright: Has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game because of a left rib-cage issue. So far he has just fielded grounders, but has not swung a bat or thrown. Team doctor Struan Coleman could clear Wright for increased activity tomorrow.


LHP Robert Carson: Had a right oblique strain, but returned to Grapefruit League action Saturday in Viera.

CF Andres Torres: Returned to game action Saturday after a limited absence with right glute tightness.

IF Zach Lutz: Drilled a week ago in the left elbow by a pitch from Bobby Parnell, Lutz since has returned to action.

Upcoming pitching probables

March, 11, 2012
Here are the Mets' pitching probables through Thursday. Pedro Beato, who had shoulder inflammation, is scheduled to return to game action Wednesday -- but that appears unlikely since he has yet to resume throwing off a mound.

Monday vs. Tigers at Lakeland
Mets: Jon Niese, Jeremy Hefner, Daniel Herrera, Armando Rodriguez, Robert Carson, Josh Stinson
Tigers: Duane Below, Jacob Turner, Andy Oliver, Jose Valverde

Tuesday vs. Cardinals at Port St. Lucie
Mets: Mike Pelfrey, Fernando Cabrera, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Manny Acosta, Garrett Olson, Ramon Ramirez, Bobby Parnell

Wednesday vs. Tigers at Lakeland
Mets: Dillon Gee, Chris Schwinden, Pedro Beato, Matt Harvey

Thursday vs. Marlins at Jupiter
Mets: R.A. Dickey, Miguel Batista, Bobby Parnell, Josh Stinson, Manny Acosta, D.J. Carrasco

Mets morning briefing 3.10.12

March, 10, 2012
The Mets head north on I-95 to Viera to face the Washington Nationals on Saturday, with R.A. Dickey on the mound.

Saturday's news reports:

• Judge Jed S. Rakoff set the parameters for the March 19 civil trial against Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon, his family, businesses and charities. A nine-person jury will decide how much, if anything, to award trustee Irving Picard of the $303 million he seeks in principal the Wilpons invested with Bernard Madoff in the two years before the swindler's arrest. Picard must convince jurors the Wilpons were "willfully blind" to the fraud and acted in "bad faith" in order to collect that amount. The trustee already has been awarded as a matter of law as much as $83 million by Rakoff pre-trial -- the profits in the two years before Madoff's arrest. After a quick jury selection on Day 1, the trial is expected to last 10 days. Court is scheduled to be in session during business hours Monday through Thursday. Read more in the Times, Newsday and Daily News.

Matt Harvey tossed a pair of perfect innings and Matt den Dekker delivered a tiebreaking two-run triple in the eighth as the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves, 5-3, Friday at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Read more in the Record.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger notes that Harvey's control wasn't precise, but he got the job done. Writes McCullough:

The count ran full to the Atlanta Braves' Jason Heyward. Catcher Josh Thole called for a four-seamer inside to tie up Heyward’s hands. "I didn’t really mean to go up that high with Heyward," Harvey said, as his team wrapped up a 5-3 victory. "I was trying to go in. But ..." But Heyward still waved at the pitch, which popped on the stadium gun at 95 mph as it buzzed the upper region of the strike zone. And therein lies the rub: Harvey's stuff appears capable of getting out major-league hitters. In his first inning, he retired veteran slugger Chipper Jones on grounder , recorded a flyout from former Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske, then whiffed Heyward.

• A reunion between Chris Young and the Mets is expected to materialize, Andy Martino reports in the Daily News. Young -- reportedly also considering the San Diego Padres -- supposedly is feeling strong. However, he underwent last May the same surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule that Johan Santana did the previous September. So there is no assurance of a 2012 contribution. Young made only four starts for the Mets last season before the shoulder woes ended his season. He received a base salary of $1.1 million despite the limited workload.

Lucas Duda was pulled from Friday's trip to Disney, but Terry Collins said he expected the right fielder on the bus for Viera to face the Nats today. Similarly, Andres Torres, who was dealing with a tight right glute, is expected on the trip. Read more in the Post.

• Ex-Met Jason Pridie will be suspended 50 games for use of a recreation drug, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

• A day after now-sidearm-throwing southpaw C.J. Nitkowski auditioned for the Mets, a team official said the organization had "not ruled out" signing him. But, the official added, Nitkowski almost assuredly would go directly to minor league camp if he were signed.

• Santana returns to the mound Sunday, but he apparently will not face former teammate Jose Reyes.

• The Mets' Triple-A Buffalo affiliate will play at Fenway Park against Pawtucket on Aug. 18 as part of a minor league doubleheader.

Neil Best in Newsday notes the April 18-29 Tribeca film festival not only includes the documentary "Knuckleball!" featuring R.A. Dickey, but also "Benji, about the ill-fated Chicago prep basketball star of the early 80s, Ben Wilson, and Broke, about the many sports figures who have gone astray financially."

Jason Bay is trying to revert to his old Pittsburgh-era swing. So far he is 0-for-5 with three walks and two strikeouts in Grapefruit League play. "It's tough when you're trying to work on things and people are trying to get you out," Bay told David Lennon in Newsday. "It's not batting practice. I think for right now, it's just about getting used to game speed -- getting used to seeing 95 and getting your timing down. Trusting what you do in the cage and not trying to think too much out there."

Writes columnist Joel Sherman in the Post about Bay:

Let’s give Jason Bay this benefit of the doubt because -- if nothing else -- the Mets certainly believe his failure as a Met is about caring too much, not too little. It is about the left fielder falling into a hole instantly in 2010 and losing confidence while gaining advice. It is about a destructive cycle of wanting to please so much that too many voices got beyond the velvet rope in his brain, too much counsel was heeded to tinker here and readjust there. His ears became a meeting place for the well intentioned to feed a series of recommendations that worked as harmoniously with one another as oil and water. Executives around the Mets couldn’t remember an accomplished player who turned every at-bat into a mandate on the positioning of his hands, the angling of a foot.

Adam Loewen discusses with Mike Puma in the Post making the switch from pitching to the outfield after suffering a second stress fracture in his left elbow. "Three years ago I made the switch, and it was actually an exciting time for me because I had a new life," the 6-foot-6 Loewen told Puma. "As much as it was heartbreaking not being able to pitch anymore, it was exciting to have that second chance and progress enough to think I could make it back to the big leagues."

Loewen and Mike Baxter currently are vying for a lefty-hitting backup outfield job, although the Mets very well also could pick someone else up near the end of spring training. At present, Loewen may have a leg up on Baxter in part because Loewen can play center field, whereas Baxter does not. Both play first base. Backing up in center field should not have been a requisite, but righty-hitting Scott Hairston (oblique) is starting to appear likely to open the season on the disabled list, leaving a void as a fill-in for Andres Torres.

Brian Costa in the Journal looks at the Puerto Rican Torres' offseason spent partly in the Dominican Republic, where he worked with Yankee Robinson Cano and his father. Cano met Torres on the MLB All-Star Tour of Taiwan in November and invited him to work out with them. They worked on refraining from lunging at balls. With the San Francisco Giants last season, Carlos Beltran also offered Torres advice, telling him he was too close to the plate and using too heavy a bat. Now, hitting coach Dave Hudgens has advice for Torres as well. Torres, who is slated to be the Mets' leadoff hitter, had his on-base percentage plummet 31 points, to .312, last season. Writes Costa:

Hudgens saw two things that concerned him. The first was an inability to stay on top of the ball, which made him prone to weak pop-ups. The second issue was lapses in plate discipline. Torres swung at a career-high 31% of pitches outside the strike zone last season. The Mets want him to be more selective and work the count better, and they told him as much during an early spring meeting with Hudgens, manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson. They'll find out soon enough whether he can heed all the advice. "I know people look at me like, 'I saw you last year, and you didn't have it,'" Torres said. "But I feel really good right now."

Mike Kerwick in the Record checks in on the acclimation progress of new double-play tandem Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy. Writes Kerwick:

Their color choices were strikingly different, separate hues for separate personalities. Tejada leans on Spanish; Murphy speaks English. Tejada spent his life studying to be a middle infielder; Murphy is taking his first serious stab at it. But the chemistry between these two middle infielders -- Tejada at shortstop, Murphy at second -- will help define the Mets’ defense this season. "It's almost a courtship kind of thing," joked Mets third base coach Tim Teufel. "They're getting to know each other, their likes and dislikes."

Ken Belson in the Times notes today is the 50th anniversary of the franchise's first spring-training game. And Belson writes about the radio recording that captures it:

But what is somewhat intriguing is the identity of the first announcer to greet listeners of the game’s radio broadcast. It wasn’t Ralph Kiner or Bob Murphy or Lindsey Nelson, all of whom were on hand for the start of what would be their long collaboration chronicling the team’s fortunes. Instead, the first voice coming out of the radio belonged to none other than Howard Cosell, still emerging at that point as a larger-than-life personality in American sports.

Andrew Keh in the Times notes that Pedro Beato cuts his teammates' hair, even though a professional barber also visits the Mets periodically. Writes Keh:

On Friday morning, a New York Times reporter in need of a haircut became Beato’s latest customer. It was 6:45, the sun was just coming up, and Beato set up shop near the Mets’ dugout, his clubhouse stool transformed into a barber’s chair. "Tell me what you want on the sides," Beato said as he went through his accessory bag, looking for the proper comb attachment for his electric clippers. "You look like you need a four." Like any experienced barber, he mixed stern commands -- "Keep your head down for a second" -- with just the right amount of small talk. The customer’s interests were paramount, but he was quick to offer his own insight.

(Hopefully this won't be "Barber of Sheaville, Part II." Google Rey Sanchez and "haircut during game" if you don't understand the reference.)

TRIVIA: Eight players have produced a three-homer game in franchise history. Can you name at least one Met from each decade who accomplished the feat?

(Friday's answer: Roy Halladay is the lone active major league pitcher who has at least 125 decisions and also a better winning percentage than Santana. Halladay has a .671 winning percentage (188-92), to Santana's .658 (133-69). Justin Verlander (.652), Tim Hudson (.651) and CC Sabathia (.647) round out the top five.)

Mets morning briefing 3.9.12

March, 9, 2012
Dillon Gee, Matt Harvey, Chuck James, Josh Stinson and Garrett Olson are scheduled to take the mound as the Mets head to Disney today to face the Atlanta Braves for the first time this spring training. (See the full upcoming pitching probables here.)

Friday's news reports:

Fred Wilpon was not present, but Sandy Koufax nonetheless visited Mets camp Thursday. Koufax offered advice to Bobby Parnell at Terry Collins' request. Koufax, who keeps close tabs on the Mets from a distance by watching on TV, particularly wanted to meet top pitching prospects Zack Wheeler and Harvey. The Hall of Fame pitcher got to see Wheeler pitch in a minor league intrasquad game and apparently came away impressed. Koufax plans to return to camp later this month.

Wrote Mike Puma in the Post:

Sandy Koufax talked mechanics, and Parnell mostly shut up and listened. Koufax had seen enough of the fireballing right-hander in recent years to know what kind of message to impart. The Hall of Fame left-hander said Parnell has an "exceptional" arm, but could benefit from small changes. "Where you hold [the ball], how you hold it and how you use it," Koufax told The Post when asked to summarize his chat with Parnell. "Times have changed in what people believe, and I just believe a little differently sometimes."

• Left-hander C.J. Nitkowski, who turns 39 today, auditioned for the Mets as J.P. Ricciardi and Dan Warthen watched, on the same mound where Johan Santana had just completed his bullpen session. Warthen was Nitkowski's pitching coach with the Detroit Tigers. Nitkowski, who has not appeared in the majors since 2005, had a procedure last year in which his own stem cells were injected into his left shoulder. He also was tutored on a Pedro Feliciano-like sidearm delivery by none other than former Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, who is now in his first year as Baltimore Orioles minor league pitching coordinator.

"Hopefully it gives me an opportunity to extend my career," Nitkowski, who pitched for the Mets in 2001, told reporters about the sidearm delivery. "Realistically, I knew after not playing in the States since 2006 and wanting to come back, I knew I was going to have to do something different. I was kind of hitting a wall even when I was here."

Nitkowski played in Japan and South Korea from 2007 through 2010, then in winter ball in the Dominican Republic this past offseason. He is a product of Don Bosco Prep and St. John's. Read more in the Record, Journal, Newsday and Post.

• Union chief Michael Weiner visited the Mets on Thursday as part of his tour of spring-training camps. Weiner did not take the opportunity to chastise Wilpon and family for what likely will be the largest single-season payroll drop in major league history, currently projected at $52 million. Read more in the Times, Journal, Star-Ledger, Newsday and Daily News.

• After throwing a regular between-starts bullpen session, Santana pronounced himself ready to make his second Grapefruit League start, three innings Sunday against the Miami Marlins. "I'm not the doctor," catcher Mike Nickeas told Mike Kerwick in the Record. "I don't know how [the shoulder] feels. But I thought his stuff was A-plus today."

Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post notes you could tell from Santana's body language that his shoulder feels well. Writes Sherman:

A pitcher concealing pain will cut a session short. He will not motion for Mike Nickeas to stay in his squat. To take a few extra pitches to the catcher’s mitt. "What you saw is what Johan Santana always looks like, except for when he has not felt good," Warthen would say afterward, his lingering smile also proof that, well, Santana feels better than good.

Watch Santana discuss the session here. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Daily News and Newsday.

• The Mets lost Thursday's Grapefruit League game, 5-4, to the Marlins. Mike Pelfrey had a rough outing as he struggled to control his sinker, which is a point of emphasis this spring as he tries to reduce the career-high home run total he allowed last season. Pelfrey allowed four runs on six hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings. Read more in the Times and Newsday.

Pedro Beato has rotator cuff inflammation, according to a team spokesman. Beato, who underwent an MRI in Florida, may begin light tossing as soon as Sunday. Meanwhile, center fielder Andres Torres was scratched Thursday with a tight right glute. Collins said Torres may return to the lineup as soon as Saturday.

• Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record suggests Collins is putting on a brave front of confidence as impending doom looms. Writes Klapisch:

Terry Collins is standing on a back field at the Mets’ spring training facility, separated by 1,000 miles and the 90 or so losses that likely await him at Citi Field this summer. By all accounts, there should be an anvil floating over the manager's head, but Collins is to optimism what Saudi Arabia is to oil. It overflows. "Cinderella stories happen, so why can’t it be us?" he said. "I have to think good things are in store for us. It's my job to believe, and then get my players to believe it, too."

Collins also tells Klapisch: "People say we didn’t sign anyone, but hey, we’re getting Santana back. That's the same as adding a free agent -- an ace pitcher who looks like he’s healthy again. We’re getting a healthy David Wright. We've got Ike Davis fixed up. You put all three of those guys on the field at the same time, and you never know. That’s not a bad little team."

Of course, you can also rank the 25 starting pitchers in the National League East and see where the Mets' pitchers check in. Or, you can look at the paper-thin depth, where for every start not made by a member of the rotation, Miguel Batista or someone comparable gets one.

• Columnist John Harper in the Daily News notes that Frank Francisco does not hold runners on well. That's often a problem for closers, but it is particularly bad in Francisco's case. Thirty-three of 36 attempts against him over the past four seasons have been successful, Harper notes. It's not so much a disregard for runners as a problem throwing to first -- as in consistent off-line throws. A scout told Harper teams would bunt on Francisco too while he closed for the Toronto Blue Jays because of his throwing issues. Warthen said the issue is more on throwing fielded balls to first base, rather than pickoff throws. Writes Harper:

In Frank Francisco's first spring training appearance for the Mets on Monday, he gave up a single and, on the next pitch, pinch-runner Eury Perez took off for second. In a conversation about his new closer a few days later, Terry Collins said he knew the runner would go on the first pitch. Why? "Because they know Frankie doesn't throw over," Collins said. Huh? "It's something we're working on," said the manager.

TRIVIA: Who is the only active major league pitcher to have a better winning percentage than Santana (minimum 125 decisions)?

(Thursday's answer: The game before Jose Reyes made his major league debut on June 10, 2003 at Texas, Joe McEwing started at shortstop for the Mets.)

Marlins 5, Mets 4: Pelf's sinking feeling

March, 8, 2012

Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
Adam Loewen, manning first base for the Mets, receives a fourth-inning throw as Scott Cousins dives back into first base.
Frank Francisco surrendered the decisive homer to Hanley Ramirez in the fifth and the Jose Reyes-less Miami Marlins beat the Mets, 5-4, on Thursday afternoon at Digital Domain Park.

The Mets loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, but Rob Johnson’s grounder forced out Kirk Nieuwenhuis at the plate and Mike Baxter struck out look as the threat went for naught.

Lucas May had delivered a two-run double and Baxter plated him with an RBI single in a three-run first for the Mets. Adam Loewen added a solo homer.

Matt den Dekker led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, but was called out at second base when Jordany Valdespin struck out and was called for interfering with the catcher’s throw on an attempted steal.

Jon Rauch tossed two no-hit relief innings, while Miguel Batista (1 1/3 innings) and Tim Byrdak (one inning) also had scoreless efforts.

Neither starter was effective.

Mike Pelfrey allowed four runs on six hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings, including a homer to Austin Kearns. Meanwhile, ex-Cub Carlos Zambrano allowed three runs on three hits and three walks in 1 1/3 innings.

Zambrano was acquired by Miami during the offseason for Chris Volstad. The Marlins are only responsible for $2.5 million in the final year of Zambrano’s five-year, $91.5 million deal.

“I don’t think I did a whole lot right,” Pelfrey said. “I think the biggest thing, early, I didn’t get ahead. It’s kind of hard to pitch behind in the count. The sinker today was moving, but it was almost going sideways instead of down. … Obviously I didn’t make pitches. I know there were times where May wanted a ball away and I missed, way in. He wanted in, and I missed away. The command wasn’t very good today.”

Pitching coach Dan Warthen had instructed Pelfrey to use only his two-seamer (sinker) Thursday to work on it. Warthen did not permit Pelfrey to throw a four-seam (straight) fastball.

“I know sometimes one of the hardest places to put it is away to a right-hander,” Pelfrey said. “I wasn’t able to get it there, so I was kind of limited to throwing it in to righties.”

As for Kearns’ homer, Pelfrey said: “I tried to throw four straight sinkers in. The first two were balls. The next one was high. It wasn’t where I wanted it. And the next one was right down the middle and he hit it.

“I’m not that concerned,” Pelfrey added. “Obviously I need to be better. … I think it’s too early to worry about the results.”

Terry Collins said he did not doubt that Johan Santana would come through Thursday’s bullpen session OK.

“I talked to him yesterday and he felt fine,” Collins said. “So I thought he’d be out there today. Like he said, he was pretty stiff yesterday, which you come to expect -- a little extra adrenaline. I told him, ‘It’s going to be like that each time you go out there. The more you build up, the little bit stiffer you’re going to be.’ But he feels fine. He’s on schedule for Sunday.”

• Collins asked Sandy Koufax to speak with Bobby Parnell during the Hall of Famer’s visit to camp Thursday.

“Bobby’s a power pitcher, and I wanted him to talk to Sandy. He never has,” Collins said. “I asked Sandy, ‘Have you seen Bobby Parnell?’ And Sandy said, ‘Yeah, I’ve seen him a lot on TV.’ So I said, ‘Well, if you get a chance, I’d like you to talk to him.’

“I just wanted Sandy to reassure him that he got hit at one time, or talk about the delivery. when he’s around, you’ve got to make use of him.”

Attuned to the Mets’ system, Koufax requested to meet top pitching prospects Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey. Koufax got to watch Wheeler pitch in a minor league intrasquad game.

“Obviously he saw a great arm off of Zack,” Collins said. “He wanted to talk to [St. Lucie pitching coach] Phil Regan about a couple of things he saw.”

As for Fred Wilpon’s financial situation, longtime-friend Koufax told the Post: “He’s going through tough times, and he’s a good person. He always has been. We’ve been friends for 60-some-odd years and I love him. I just hate to see him go through it."

David Wright (left rib cage) may take some light swings off a batting tee this weekend.

Andres Torres (right glute tightness) may return to the lineup Saturday, Collins said.

Pedro Beato, who is suffering from inflammation in the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, may throw on Sunday to test how he feels.

Beato has cuff inflammation

March, 8, 2012
Reliever Pedro Beato has rotator cuff inflammation, an MRI revealed. He will begin light throwing as early as Friday, a team spokesman said.

Mets morning briefing 3.8.12

March, 8, 2012
Today, Johan Santana is expected to throw a between-starts bullpen session, although there is no guarantee. Then Mike Pelfrey is due to take the mound for an afternoon Grapefruit League game against the Miami Marlins in Port St. Lucie. The Players Association also makes its annual visit to converse with Mets players today, so we may find out what union chief Michael Weiner thinks about the Mets' payroll level.

Also, please join me for a 12:30 p.m. online Mets chat. Click this link.

Meanwhile, live near Bellmore JFK High School on Long Island? You can hear alums Steve Levy and Adam Schefter of ESPN speak tonight at 7. I'm an alum of Mepham, one of the other two high schools in the district. Details on tonight's event here.

Thursday's news report:

• Not exactly a shocker, even though it was treated as such: Jose Reyes was looking for the most money as a free agent, just $1 more, Marlins team president David Samson reportedly told Miami businessmen. Reyes is not expected at today's Mets-Marlins game. He played the past two nights in exhibition games at the Marlins' new stadium in Miami against college teams -- the University of Miami and Florida International.

Andy Martino in the Daily News doesn't believe Samson. Writes Martino:

According to sources, Reyes would have strongly considered a somewhat smaller deal from the Mets, both in years and dollars, and was shocked when his longtime team did not make an offer.

My analysis: Reyes would not have defected from the Mets to Miami if the disparity in offers were $1, or probably even $1 million. But my information from reliable sources is that the Mets were willing to go to as much as five years guaranteed, with a vesting option for a sixth year that would have raised the value to $100 million if Reyes stayed healthy.

Don't get caught up in whether the Mets made a formal offer to Reyes. Sandy Alderson conveyed to agent Peter Greenberg the parameters the Mets could reach. And Reyes' side decided that would not be enough and went with the superior Marlins offer.

And, by the way, that's no crime. Players almost always go where the salary is highest. The union obviously encourages that, too. Tom Glavine never wanted to leave Atlanta for New York, for example. But the disparity in money offered was too much.

Furthermore, and I know this because I ended up on a plane with a Mets official after the winter meetings, who was candid: The Mets' strong suspicion is that the Marlins would not have been done bidding until they got Reyes. I don't want to minimize the Mets' economic woes as a factor in their tepid pursuit of Reyes, but the fact of the matter is the Mets likely would have just been increasing what Reyes would ultimately have received from Miami had they actively bid. At some point the Mets would have had to stop anyway because the contract would have reached what is beyond a prudent salary versus injury risk and expected decline in performance as Reyes ages.

Richard Sandomir in the Times notes that Fred Wilpon and family may be at a disadvantage in front of a jury because a group of average folk is probably not inclined to be sympathetic to multimillionaires. The Wilpons' attorneys unsuccessfully had tried to have the $386 million lawsuit heard by Judge Jed S. Rakoff alone. Writes Sandomir:

Rakoff, regarded as a brilliant but unpredictable jurist, alone will question the jury pool. He is a Yankees fan and a partial season-ticket holder. So his neutrality is assured and seems unlikely to be affected by his rooting interests. Anyway, the role of the opposing lawyers in shaping the makeup of the jury will be somewhat limited. Experts suggest that both sides probably already know the sort of jury makeup they want, and that mock trials have likely yielded juror profiles. But neither side will get all it wants. "The real challenge is to ferret out latent prejudices, so it's extremely important for lawyers to suggest questions to the judge beyond those the judge would use to elicit obvious biases," said Mark Zauderer, a partner at Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer in Manhattan. Rakoff need not use their questions. According to several lawyers and a jury consultant, the trustee will want jurors who resent millionaires. But Wilpon and [brother-in-law Saul] Katz’s team, they said, probably want less class-conscious people who might be more inclined to feel the trustee's pursuit of the Mets’ owners was overzealous and unfair.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger updates the progress of Jenrry Mejia, who is throwing off a mound -- albeit fastballs only. Pitching coach Dan Warthen estimated Mejia is already throwing in the low-90s mph. The Mets are targeting a May return to game action for Mejia, at the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery, which is the standard rehab time. Warthen told McCullough that Mejia's delivery looks somewhat calmer now than pre-elbow injury, which should reduce his susceptibility to future injury. It was Warthen a year ago, going against the prevalent organization philosophy, who said Mejia projected to him as a reliever because of the violence of his delivery. Meanwhile, Mejia sought advice from Edinson Volquez while rehabbing, and has been consoled by friend/fellow prospect Jeurys Familia when dejected because of the long rehab process.

Jon Niese tossed two scoreless innings and Justin Turner went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs Wednesday as the Mets beat the Marlins, 7-0, in Jupiter.

• Niese is trying to improve his changeup, notes Mike Puma in the Post.

Bobby Parnell -- who dined with his family at a Port St. Lucie pizza joint last night, according to an eyewitness -- had a perfect inning in Wednesday's Grapefruit League game, bouncing back from a woeful intrasquad appearance Sunday. He is the subject of a feature in the Daily News.

There are five bullpen locks -- Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Tim Byrdak and Manny Acosta -- and Parnell is not one of them. He does have a minor league option remaining, but continued outings like Wednesday's should get him onto the major league staff, even if it's not the late-inning role he struggled with last season.

The Mets have not written off Parnell. They were credibly approached at the winter meetings by a team interested in acquiring him and were rebuffed. The Mets were leery of trading a pitcher who throws 100 mph and is under their control for four more seasons and not even eligible for arbitration until next winter in all likelihood. Parnell has only two years, 132 days of major league service time and would essentially need to spend the year in the minors not to qualify for arbitration next offseason for the first of three times.

If Parnell is on the Opening Day roster -- again, no given as of now -- that leaves one more spot. D.J. Carrasco has an existing $1.2 million deal, giving him a leg up, but one team insider said to watch Miguel Batista for one of those final two spots. Relievers facing a more uphill battle to sneak onto the Opening Day roster include younger pitchers Pedro Beato and Josh Stinson as well as left-handers Chuck James, Garrett Olson and Daniel Herrera.

David Wright (left rib-cage discomfort) does not sound like he will be back for at least a week. Terry Collins said Thursday that Wright should start taking grounders this weekend, but not throw. And Wright may or may not start swinging a bat this weekend. Meanwhile, Beato was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Wednesday afternoon, a day after being pulled from a Grapefruit League appearance with right shoulder difficulty.

• Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post uses ESPN's fantasy baseball rankings to note the declining state of third-base play in New York. Writes Sherman:

ESPN was displaying its top 12 fantasy third basemen, and I noticed Alex Rodriguez was ranked ninth and David Wright was not even among the 12 names shown. Now I do not want to confuse ESPN’s fantasy rankings with, say, The Dead Sea Scrolls for relevance. But it does provide a snapshot of third base right now in New York, which is to say the most uncertain since 2004. That was Rodriguez’s first season at his new position and Wright’s debut as a Met. Both are coming off injuries and their worst full years, so suddenly 2012 has a mandate-like feeling for the duo.

Wright told Sherman: "As far as I'm concerned it is a big motivator, not the doubt, but the fear of failure. I just don't like failing. But there is no doubt in me. I am very, very confident in what I am doing and what I need to do."

As for Wright's future with the club, Alderson said: "He is not trade bait. Is he part of the future? I hope the answer is yes. Let's see how he bounces back this season."

• Does Alderson have the autonomy -- there's that word again -- to guide the Mets properly? Columnist Bob Klaspich in the Record wonders if the GM will stand up to the Wilpons. Writes Klapisch:

Alderson has a track record to back up his promises. Then again, he’s never worked in an environment as toxic as this or for owners who are this unpopular. Fans are angry, they want the Wilpons out, many are vowing to stay away from Citi Field until regime change is complete. Alderson knows he’s about two years away from turning into a marked man, himself. It didn’t help matters last week when Fred Wilpon threw Alderson under the bus in explaining why Reyes signed with the Marlins. The owner had the audacity to say it was a "baseball decision" hatched entirely by Alderson. Don't blame me, blame him, is what Fred was saying. It was an outright lie and Alderson knows it. So does every discerning Mets fan who figured out long ago the Wilpons didn't have the resources to write a $100 million check.

David Lennon in Newsday profiles Ruben Tejada. Writes Lennon:

Just as Reyes did in his early years with the Mets, Tejada is still getting a better feel for English, which makes him come across as a bit shy on camera. "He's a different person from what you see on TV as opposed to what you get behind closed doors," Wright said. "During interviews and stuff, he's very introverted, but he's very outgoing when he's around us. He's got a dry sense of humor."

Read more on Tejada succeeding Reyes at shortstop with the Mets from Andrew Keh in the Times.

Santana is on track to start Sunday against the Marlins in Port St. Lucie, according to Collins. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Newsday, Times, Daily News and Post.

TRIVIA: Who played shortstop for the Mets the game before Reyes' major league debut?

(Wednesday's answer: The game before Wright made his major league debut with the Mets on July 21, 2004, Ty Wigginton started at third base for the Mets. Wigginton moved to first base for Wright's debut and was traded eight days after that to the Pittsburgh Pirates with now-slugger Jose Bautista and Matt Peterson for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger.)



Bartolo Colon
15 4.09 151 202
BAD. Murphy .289
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187