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Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Threat of rain casts doubts on Mets' plans down stretch

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Rain could wreck the New York Mets' pitching plans this weekend.

The forecast called for rain starting Thursday evening, which could postpone the finale of a four-game series between the Mets and Chicago Cubs. There also is a possibility of rain the following three days, when the Mets are scheduled to close the regular season against the Florida Marlins.

"It would possibly cause us to move people into positions that they're not used to being in. That would be tough," Mets manager Jerry Manuel before Wednesday's brutal 9-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs. "If you wanted to bring somebody back early, that would almost be impossible."

Manuel isn't thinking of moving up Johan Santana to Saturday on three days' rest. The Mets ace threw a career-high 125 pitches in Tuesday night's 6-2 victory over the Cubs.

"I've probably pushed him enough," Manuel said. "He's had an extra day in there but for the most part, every time he's been asked to take the ball, he's taken it. So I would rather stay away from that type of scenario right now."

Still, Manuel wouldn't rule it out completely if Santana volunteered.

"He'd have to really do a job on me to get that. That's possible, too. I could be had. (He's) making $137 million, I can be had," the manager said, laughing.

For now, Pedro Martinez is to start Thursday and be followed by Mike Pelfrey. For Saturday, Manuel plans to choose among Jonathon Niese, Brandon Knight and Nelson Figueroa. Santana is to make his final regular-season start Sunday -- but the Mets would hold him back if they've already clinched a postseason berth.

With the Cubs preparing to host their playoff opener at Wrigley Field next Wednesday, Chicago manager Lou Piniella doesn't want to have to come back to New York for a makeup game on Monday -- which would be necessary if it's needed to decide a playoff berth for the Mets.

"I would prefer to spend the day off in Chicago, let these guys get some rest," he said.

New York dropped into a tie with Milwaukee for the NL wild-card lead and remained 1½ games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. Manuel started rookie Argenis Reyes at second base against the Cubs and Carlos Zambrano on Wednesday night, benching Luis Castillo.

Reyes went 1-for-3, ending an 0-for-25 slide. Castillo is 4-for-35 (.114) with one RBI in September, and fans booed him loudly Tuesday as he went 0-for-4.

"I know how it is here," Castillo said. "The fans want you to do well. I try to do too much. I put too much pressure on myself. I need to be relaxed and enjoy the game. I have to play relaxed. Sometimes when you go to the plate, you're thinking about the fans and what's happening. I need to clean my mind."

Especially in the wake of last September's collapse, when the Mets blew a seven-game NL East lead with 17 games to play, Manuel is aware of the pressure on players.

"There is some frustrations with us, and that's understandable. Obviously, you can't hide from that. You need to face those particular things," he said, adding that he realizes Castillo has become "somewhat of a target."

John Maine, on the disabled list since late August because of a bone spur in his right shoulder, threw at 92-93 mph on flat ground before the game and was activated. General manager Omar Minaya said he could pitch in relief twice before Sunday and that if Maine were dominant, he could be considered for a postseason roster.

Maine warmed up during the game but wasn't brought in.