May 2006 Archives

May 30, 2006

Ever-Lasting or Brief Audition?

Like Jose Reyes and David Wright before him, Lastings Milledge’s major-league debut was a big deal. Several New York area newspapers yesterday summoned columnists from days off or other assignments to take in Milledge’s first day at Shea Stadium.
Are we seeing a three- or four-week audition while Xavier Nady recovers from his emergency appendectomy or will a dazzling first impression have a lasting impact, putting Milledge in the lineup on a fulltime basis and putting Nady in the fourth outfielder’s role when he returns? “Xavier Nady is our rightfielder,” Willie Randolph insisted before Tuesday’s game, before later adding, “Anything can happen.”
If the kid is a phenom, Nady won’t get his job back, which will make the Mets’ bench stronger for what will surely be a pennant drive. If Milledge’s stay is brief, he’ll benefit from the experience. It’s a win-win situation for the Mets.
“Quickest hands I’ve seen in a long time. If he continues to learn, you’ll be watching him here for a long time,” Cliff Floyd said. “I’m looking forward to watching him. He has a knack. He knows what he’s doing. I think he learned a lot in spring training. He knows what he’ll be one day. He’s just doing what he’s asked to do now.”
Translation: When Milledge is with the Mets for good and not just a stop-gap measure, he won’t be batting eighth.


Continue reading "Ever-Lasting or Brief Audition?" »

May 29, 2006

God Bless America

What do you think about Carlos Delgado for abandoning his principles just because the Mets have asked him to?
When he was a Toronto Blue Jay, Delgado refused to stand for the playing of “God Bless America” in American baseball stadiums because he felt doing so would mean he was showing de facto support for the war in Iraq. It got a lot of attention and got him booed at Yankee Stadium, where “God Bless America” is played during the seventh-inning stretch of every home game. But he stuck to his guns.
The Mets only play the song on Sundays and during special occasions, like Opening Day or Memorial Day. So there was Delgado on Monday night, on the top step of the dugout during the seventh-inning stretch, adhering to the Mets’ policy that all players must stand when the patriotic song is played, as he has said he would. As a Blue Jay, Delgado would retreat into the clubhouse and then re-emerge when it was time for baseball again.
When my Newsday colleague Wallace Matthews asked him about the issue before the game, Delgado politely but firmly brushed him off. It’s strange that someone who was willing to make a public statement two years ago is now silent when he’s playing in the media capital of the world, where his views could get wide play and perhaps fuel a debate about one of the most important issues of our time.
Mets fans: Did it bother you when Delgado didn’t stand for “God Bless America” when he was a Blue Jay? Would you like him less as a player or person if he continued to do it now, in Shea Stadium, on Memorial Day?

Still Valentin's Day

--- Jose Valentin started his second straight game at second base on Monday. Willie Randolph said he's going to rotate, but not platoon, Valentin, Kaz Matsui and Chris Woodward.
“I’m going to match up guys the way I see fit,” Randolph said. “It’s not going to be any type of platoon thing, it’s just how I feel at the tiime."
Omar Minaya said the Mets are not considering calling up Anderson Hernandez for the moment.
--- The public address announcer at Shea introduced "Larry the Cable Guy" before the game. You'd think the Mets would not want to draw attention to this "celebrity" sighting. At least there was no flatulence involved.

May 28, 2006

Jump ball

Only two members of the Mets traveling party had enough juice to get tickets to Saturday's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals: Cliff Floyd .... and WFAN's own Ed Coleman? Not the duo you were expecting, I know, but the two were talking smack in the clubhouse this morning.

"Hey Cliff, I didn't see you there last night," Coleman said. "I think you were too far up."

Actually, the reverse was true, with the Mets leftfielder seated near the Heat bench and Coleman more than a few rows behind him. "I was going to send a beer up," Floyd joked.

Floyd had the ticket connection, but not the star power to get on TV. Usher, Diddy and Tom Brady were among the celebrities to get network face time, but Cliff got no love from ESPN. "They check your statistics first before they put you on," Floyd said.

In other Mets news, Kaz Matsui is benched for today's game, and it appears he is no longer the everyday second baseman. Jose Valentin is starting this afternoon and manager Willie Randolph said he would use a rotation of Valentin, Matsui and Chris Woodward for the forseeable future.

May 27, 2006

Sunshine State

Obviously, Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphin Stadium is not a very good place for baseball. Nobody comes to the games and it rains all the time, which makes for a depressing environment. But you have to appreciate the fact that someone thought to put a huge jacuzzi tub behind the Marlins bullpen, which gives the stadium kind of a resort feel for the 10 people that can squeeze into it. The sightlines aren't as good as the one at Arizona's Chase Field, however, which is located just beyond the wall in right-center. If you catch a ball in the Marlins' tub, it's foul.

Anyway, just an observation. Here's what's going on with the Mets this morning:

-- David Wright, feeling much improved after back spasms sidelined him Friday, is in today's lineup, batting fourth. Good thing, too, because Carlos Delgado and Clliff Floyd are both sitting against Dontrelle Willis. Paul Lo Duca also is taking a breather, replaced by Ramon Castro.


May 26, 2006

Gone Fishin'

Orlando Hernnadez joined the Mets today here at Dolphins Stadium and staged his own impromptu news conference in the hallway. El Duque even held the clubhouse door open to let the reporters file through first. The highllight? When asked about the back strain that bothered him earlier this month, Hernandez replied that it was nothing, but didn't make any guarantees about his future health,

"No, I don't have problems right now with my back," Hernandez said. "I don't have problems with my arm. I'm very healthy right now but you never know."

Hmmm. Not exactly the most reassuring comment, but what else can you expect from a pitcher who is somewhere between 36 and 41 years of age, depending on who you believe.

In other news, Mike Pelfrey was scratched from Friday's start for Double-A Binghamton because of what was described as an "upset stomach."

May 25, 2006

It's Your Turn

OK, Mets fans, you’ve had 24 hours to digest the Orlando Hernandez trade. Let’s hear your thoughts. Is getting the ageless ex-Yankee enough to calm your fears about the Mets’ rotation? Or is it merely a stopgap measure to bide time until Omar Minaya can make a deal for a stud before the trade deadline? Does it bother you that Kris Benson has now been traded, in effect, for Hernandez and John Maine? Does getting a pitcher who is mostly identified with the Yankees make you want to retch? Or is it fair game after Doc Gooden, David Cone and Al Leiter became Yankees?

The Plane Truth

Have you ever flown into LaGuardia Airport and gotten a great view of Shea Stadium while a game was going on?
That happened to Mets pitcher Heath Bell on Wednesday during his flight from Syracuse after the Mets recalled him from Triple-A. He was in a plane over Shea during the seventh inning of the Mets-Phillies game when he saw Pat Burrell rounding the bases after his game-tying home run against Pedro Feliciano.
“I saw somebody running around the bases and the infielders standing around,” Bell said. “I knew it was a homer. I thought it was us.”
Bell was supposed to reach Shea by game time, but he was delayed in Syracuse when his first flight was canceled due to mechanical problems. He didn’t arrive until after the Mets’ 5-4 victory.
He’ll be flying somewhere else later Thursday: either to Miami with the Mets or back to Syracuse. The Mets will need a roster spot soon to make room for Orlando Hernandez.
UPDATE: Bell made it on the plane to Miami. Jeremi Gonzalez didn't.

May 24, 2006

Waiting for Orlando

Most of the Mets remember Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez from his days in pinstripes, but there's really no predicting how he will perform for them now that it looks like his first start will be Sunday against the Marlins in Miami.

"When he was with the Yankees, it was always tough facing him because he had so many arm angles," Carlos Beltran said. "When he takes the mound, you've got to kill him."

Beltran was referring to El Duque's uncanny ability to slip free of trouble, and that elusiveness had more to do with his knowledge of pitching than a blistering fastball or baffliing changeup. It's all about pacing with Hernandez, and if he can still keep hitters off balance, than he should do a good job for the Mets.

"I think experience plays a big role when you come to a place like this," Carlos Delgado said. "He knows what he's going to run into."

Added Tom Glavine, "We can use some help in that area. Hopefully he can recapture some of the magic that he had. So many people were waiting for us to get a No. 1 starter type of guy, but I don't think that's necessary yet."

Is El Duque the answer?

Just as the Mets were preparing to unveil one Cuban pitcher in Alay Soler, general manager Omar Minaya gathered reporters Wednesday for a hastily-called news conference to announce they had acquired Orlando Hernandez from the Diamondbacks for Jorge Julio. El Duque was a legend in the Bronx, where he was a lethal pitcher in October, but does he have anything left for the Queens crew? Hernandez was 2-4 with a 6.11 ERA in Arizona, but Minaya was anxious to stabilize his rotation, and this is the best he could do at this point. While Minaya insists Hernandez will be a shot in the arm for his depleted pitching staff, he seems more like a stopgap measure than a solution. For the real help, stay tuned until the Mets get closer to the July 31 trading deadline.

Long, Strange Trip

Pedro Martinez at shortstop? Tom Glavine behind the plate? Alay Soler in rightfield? These are some of the possibilities Willie Randolph would have had to consider if the Mets had lost a position player to injury from innings 12-16 on Tuesday night.
When Ramon Castro pinch hit for the pitcher in the 12th, that was it for position players. Randolph chose to use his last player in an attempt to win the game, unlike Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who kept infielder Chris Coste on his bench and pitchers Rheal Cormier and Tom Gordon in his bullpen while Ryan Madson pitched seven-plus innings. Manuel also chose to double switch out third baseman David Bell in the ninth inning and pinch run for Met-killer Pat Burrell in the ninth. Odd.
Randolph said he wasn’t sure who would have caught if Paul Lo Duca had been injured – he jokingly mentioned Glavine – but Carlos Delgado did come up as a catcher, so that one's easy.
There also was a potential chance for Randolph to use his noodle when Carlos Beltran argued with umpire Andy Fletcher after being thrown out at second base in the 11th. If Beltran had been ejected, Castro could have come in the game, but where? Behind the plate, perhaps, with Lo Duca moving to the outfield? In a game like this one, the possibilities for strangeness were limitless.

May 23, 2006

Second Thoughts

It was a small transaction, but it spoke volumes. Anderson Hernandez, the great-field, no-hit second base prodigy, finished his injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk and was assigned to . . . Triple-A Norfolk. Hernandez could have been called up to the big club, but the Mets have quietly decided to stick with Kaz Matsui at second base. Matsui has been solid in the field and was batting .238 going into Tuesday’s game against the Phillies. Will it last? Matsui was an iron man in Japan; his history with the Mets suggests an injury is just around the corner.

May 22, 2006

Alay, Alay, Alay, Alay, Alay!

Here’s Willie Randolph’s scouting report on Cuban righthander Alay Soler, who was called up Monday and will make his major league debut against the Phillies Wednesday or Thursday:
“He’s got a good slider, two curveballs. His velocity’s been up since he first came to the States. I know that he’s experienced, been around a long time. He’s throwing the ball really well right now.”
Soler is listed as 26 years old. He signed with the Mets in August 2004, but missed all of last season because visa problems prevented the team from bringing him to the United States.
He was hit hard in spring training, going 0-1 with a 21.56 ERA in two outings. He picked it up in the minors, going 2-0, 0.64 in five starts with St. Lucie (A) and 1-0, 2.75 in three starts for Binghamton (AA).
In 19 2/3 innings at Double-A, he allowed 16 hits with three walks and 22 strikeouts.

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

Notes after the Mets' 4-3 win over the Yankees on Sunday night:
-- Alay Soler and Jeremi Gonzalez will start Wednesday and Thursday against the Phillies (order to be determined). Interestingly, the Mets don't care to have Pedro Martinez start Thursday on normal rest against their closest division rivals. Instead, they will start him, Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel in Florida next weekend. Three guaranteed wins? Could be. Dontrelle Willis will start either Friday or Saturday. A Pedro-Dontrelle matchup would be fun, wouldn't it?
-- Cliff Floyd felt pain on his left shoulder blade after diving for a ball in the sixth and was replaced in the eighth, but said he'll be OK for Tuesday.
-- Fun series, huh? All three games were exciting and could have been won by either team. Anyone who thinks Mets-Yanks isn't a good idea, please exit the room quietly.

May 21, 2006

No Comment

Kazmir Outduels Willis, Shuts Out Marlins
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By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer

May 21, 2006, 5:17 PM EDT

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Scott Kazmir kept the Florida Marlins guessing all day long.

"He had it all going on," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said Sunday. "Fastball, slider, changeup. Both sides of the plate, up and down."

Kazmir allowed four hits and matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts in eight innings, helping the Devil Rays beat Dontrelle Willis and the punchless Marlins 3-0 for the young left-hander's fifth straight win.

At 22, Kazmir is the youngest major league pitcher to win seven games this early in a season since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.

"He's got great stuff, and he knows how to pitch. He's proved that," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. "He's been on a roll. I think he took a few lumps the first half of the season last year. Since then, he's been as good as anyone in baseball."

Kazmir (7-2) shares the major league lead in wins. He held the Marlins to three singles and Miguel Cabrera's fourth-inning double while limiting an opponent to one or fewer earned runs for the fifth consecutive start.

The lefty walked one and hit a batter before departing after 119 pitches. Tyler Walker worked the ninth for his eighth save in nine opportunities.

"I felt in a groove the whole game," said Kazmir, who didn't get his first win last season until May 19.

"This is the best I've felt, by far, definitely. I'm a whole new pitcher. I'm more comfortable with all of my pitches."

Jonny Gomes keyed a three-run fifth inning with a RBI triple off Willis (1-5), who allowed eight hits in his first complete game of the season.

Ty Wigginton and Greg Norton also drove runs in the fifth for the Devil Rays, who swept the weekend series and have won a season-high four straight games.

The Marlins have lost seven in a row, their longest skid since losing eight in a row from July 7-18, 2002.

Willis worked out of jams with runners in scoring position in the first, second and third innings, but couldn't wiggle off the hook after giving up a one-out single to Julio Lugo in the fifth.

Gomes broke the scoreless tie with his triple to right-center, then trotted home on Wigginton's RBI single for a 2-0 lead. Norton finished the inning with a run-scoring single that gave Kazmir added insurance.

"You could see when he got the lead that he turned it up. To me, that's the mark of an ace and a winner," Girardi said.

"He's got three out pitches. Whenever you have a starting pitcher with three out pitches, they're dangerous. They're going to rack up strikeouts and they're going to go deep into games. You don't get the same look at them."

May 20, 2006

Johnny Cakes anyone?

The Subway Series attracts its own celebrity element, and the headliner yesterday was Long Island native Joseph Gannascoli, better known as Vito Spatafore on HBO's "The Sopranos."

"Hey isn't that the guy from the Sopranos over there?" manager Willie Randolph said, pointing from his seat on the dugout bench. When told that a few stars had come out for the series, Randolph replied, "They might be frontrunners though."

Randolph took particular interest in the fact that Alyssa Milano, the former girlfriend of the perpetually injured Yankee Carl Pavano, was in the stands with a new squeeze on Friday night. They even showed the happy couple on the DiamondVision board during the game."That's Hollywood," Randolph shrugged.

For some reason, Charlie Daniels performed the National Anthem -- is there anyone more New York than the guy who sings "Devil Went down to Georgia" -- and Tim Robbins tossed out the ceremonial first pitch.

The guy who created the biggest fuss, however, was the FOX TV producer who held up the start of the game. With Pedro Martinez ready to pitch, and Johnny Damon stepping into the batter's box, some guy in a headset wandered out in front of the Mets dugout, holding his arm up. Apparently, he's one powerful man, because Martinez was not allowed to throw the first pitch until this nobody waved his hand to give the OK.

May 19, 2006

Subway Sandwich

It's finally upon us (drum roll please) ... the Subway Series.
Here's a few early tidbits from the Mets clubhouse:
-- Brian Bannister's MRI this morning indicated that he had re-aggravated his strained right hamstring. The Mets immediately sent him back to Port St. Lucie, where he will continue his rehab, with GM Omar Miniaya saying "we're going to be more conservative this time around." Translation: don't expect to see Bannister in the rotation anytime soon.
-- Only two days after manager Willie Randolph said he would not platoon Cliff Floyd, that's what it looked like today when he benched him for Jose Valentin against Yankees lefthander Randy Johnson. Randolph bristled when questioned by reporters during a pregame news conference, but there was no need to be defensive. Floyd is hitting.202 after all.
Here are the numbers vs. Johnson.
Floyd .000 (0-5) 3 Ks
Valentin ..000 (0-13) 6 Ks
Tough to make an argument either way.

May 18, 2006

Bannister re-injured?

This just in: Brian Bannister is out of today's start for Triple-A Norfolk after just five pitches. According to a Mets official, Bannister, who is on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, felt something in his leg as he attempted to cover first base in the game against Toledo.

Update: Mets assistant GM John Ricco just said Bannister took himself out of today's game for the Tides with "tightness" in his right hamstring. He'll fly to New York tonight and have another MRI on Friday morning.

Cloud over Trachsel

How's this for luck. The Mets have been shut out twice this season and Steve Trachsel is now the pitcher of record in both of them. Ouch. Trachsel had the misfortune of starting the rain-shortened loss to the Phillies on May 11 at Citizens Bank Park and also lost Wednesday's duel with the Cardinals' Mark Mulder.

But here's the good part: At least Trachsel is pitching well. That's three earned runs in his last 11 innings (2.45 ERA) against the Phillies and Cardinals, two of the NL's top contenders. With the Mets' starting rotation in flux, they need Trachsel now more than ever, and Wednesday's performance -- despite the loss -- was encouraging. He allowed only four hits over seven innings, and got seven infield pop-ups from a very dangerous St. Louis lineup.

"That was the weirdest thing," Trachel said. "I don't know why."

May 17, 2006

One last thing ...

Oh wait. I almost forgot. Scott Kazmir pitched again Tuesday night. No big news here, just the fact that Kazmir beat the White Sox -- yup, the defending world champions -- by allowing five hits and one run over seven innings. In case you're interested, Kazmir struck out eight, now has a 2.73 ERA and is 6-2 for the lousy Devil Rays. That's right. He's got the same record as Tom Glavine. If this wasn't already the Mets worst nightmare, just wait until Kazmir strikes out the side in the All-Star game. If he keeps this up, Kazmir could be starting for the American League. [Insert your own joke here].

Who's afraid of Albert?

So much for the Barry Bonds treatment. Albert Pujols entered Tuesday's game as the most feared man in baseball -- 19 HRs in 37 games -- but Tom Glavine didn't blink in his staredown with the reigning National League MVP. Pujols, a career .529 hitter vs. Glavine, grounded meekly to the mound in the first inning, popped to short in the fourth and bounced to second base in the sixth. It helped, of course, that only once did Pujols come to the plate with a runner on base, and that was the first inning. On the other two occasions, Glavine had the luxury of Pujols leading off, which is the preferable way of facing him.

Pujols just didn't look like himself, either. Maybe it was the pitch he fouled off his left shin in the first inning, a painful incident that knocked the Cardinals giant to the ground, grabbing at his leg. Pujols returned but his night didn't get much better. In the eighth, after a 101-minute rain delay, Pujols slipped on the wet on-deck circle chasing Jose Reyes' foul pop -- falling flat on his back -- and the rubber disk was removed from the field immediatley afterward.

May 16, 2006

"Anybody Smell Pond Scum?"

Those of you with short memories may not remember when Cardinals fans began referring to the Mets as "pond scum" during a late-season series at Busch Stadium back in 1985, but it looks like that old term of endearment has been dusted off for this week's visit to St. Louis. Across from the new Busch, a dilapidated warehouse -- in the process of being turned into pricey lofts -- is sporting a banner that reads "Anybody Smell Pond Scum?"

It also happens to be right across from the Mets' team hotel, though it's doubtful that any current members of the club would take offense, other than broadcasters Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling.

Jumping forward to this decade, Cliff Floyd is back in tonight's lineup after his two-day "mental health" break in Milwaukee. Asked if the two days off would benefit his slumping leftfielder, manager Willie Randolph replied, "Sometimes it helps. Somtimes it doesn't mean [bleep]. If he goes 4-for-4, that will make me look smart, so get going Cliff."

Randolph also filled in the gaps for his rotation this week: Jose Lima on Thursday, followed by Jeremi Gonzalez for Friday's Subway Series opener at Shea.

May 15, 2006

More Lima Time?

Indications are the Mets are leaning toward Jose Lima as their starter for Thursday’s game in St. Louis and Jeremi Gonzalez for Friday’s Subway Series opener against the Yankees at Shea. That would give Brian Bannister more time to rehab from his strained right hamstring and give Pedro Martinez an extra day between starts after his 107-pitch outing on Sunday. Martinez would pitch Saturday and Tom Glavine on Sunday.

Bad News for Zambrano

Victor Zambrano underwent surgery in Manhattan on Monday that proved the damage to his elbow was more severe than the Mets first announced.
Zambrano had Tommy John reconstructive surgery for the second time in his career, placing his return for spring training 2007 in serious doubt. The day after he was injured – May 7 – the Mets said they didn’t expect Tommy John surgery to be necessary because Zambrano was diagnosed with a torn flexor tendon. General manager Omar Minaya even called it “good news” that the team believed Zambrano would be able to return to the mound next spring.
But when team medical director Dr. David Altchek operated, he did more than just repair the torn tendon. He also removed bone spurs from Zambrano’s elbow and performed Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament.
Typical recovery time for Tommy John surgery is 12-18 months. Zambrano also had the surgery in 1996.

May 14, 2006

Strange Brew

Notes after the Mets’ 6-5, 10-inning loss in Milwaukee:
-- Cliff Floyd looked lost in his one at-bat after entering the game in a double switch. Against lefty Jorge De La Rosa, he fouled off the first two pitches and then struck out looking. He’s now hitting .195.
-- Mike Pelfrey was the losing pitcher for Double-A Binghamton on Sunday against Altoona. In five innings, he allowed seven hits and three runs.
-- Three Mets and three Brewers used pink bats for at least part of the game as part of MLB’s “Strikeout Challenge,” a week-long program to increase awareness of breast cancer through the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The Mets were Carlos Delgado, David Wright and Xavier Nady. The Brewers were Bill Hall, Prince Fielder and Doug Davis. Mets players also wore pink armbands.
--- For one Met, the bats and wristbands really hit home. Pitcher Darren Oliver’s mother, Hazel, was diagnosed with the disease during spring training and underwent two surgeries. Oliver left the team at the end of spring training to be with her; she’s recovering at home in California. “It’s different when you’re here and you don’t know anybody who’s gone through it,” he said. “When you know somebody who’s gone through it, it’s a different story.”
For information on how to donate to the foundation, go to MLB.com.

Happy Mother's Day

Notes from a Mother’s Day pregame in Milwaukee
-- Cliff Floyd is sitting again and Jose Valentin is in left. This gives Floyd three straight days off with the Mets off Monday. Willie Randolph said Floyd will play Tuesday in St. Louis.
-- The Mets are wearing pink wrist bands and at least four players (Beltran, Delgado, Wright and Nady) will use pink bats as part of MLB’s “Strikeout Challenge,” a week-long program to increase awareness of breast cancer through the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. For more information on how to donate to the fund, go to MLB.com
-- Keith Hernandez wasn’t pinch hit for much in his playing days. But Ed Coleman will fill in in the SNY TV booth on Sunday because Hernandez is ill.

Get Back

Of course it was ridiculous for plate umpire Tim Tschida to eject Duaner Sanchez for hitting Brady Clark in the eighth inning. What was interesting after the game was Billy Wagner's reaction to the whole thing.
One of the fun things about the blog format is we can give you stuff from the players that doesn't fit into our coverage in the newspaper for reasons of space or time. Here's Wagner's take, unedited except for certain curse words which I will replace with bracketed, softer words. This may be a blog, but it's a family blog.
"What I'm stunned at is how Clark can stand on the plate like that and you expect us to not be able to come inside and when you do it's intentional. [Shoot], if you throw a strike you hit him in the cup. That's a freaking joke. You've got all that [gosh darn] armor on and they stand on the plate and dare you to throw at them. That's [not really fair]. He should have been thrown out of the freaking game."

May 13, 2006

Jumping Off the Cliff

Notes from a busy pregame in Milwaukee:
-- Cliff Floyd was not in the lineup on Saturday night against lefthander Dana Eveland and might sit again Sunday against lefthander Doug Davis. Floyd, who is batting . 197, was not happy about Willie Randolph’s decision, but made it clear when talking to reporters that he’s mostly unhappy with himself for, as he put it, putting himself in this predicament. Jose Valentin started in left.
-- Brian Bannister threw five innings (83 pitches) in a simulated game in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The Mets won’t say what the next step is, but if he feels OK Sunday, figure on the rookie to start either Thursday in St. Louis or Friday at Shea against the Yankees. Smart money is on Friday.
-- Heath Bell was sent to Triple-A Norfolk after Friday’s game to make room for Saturday’s starter, Jeremi Gonzalez. Bell had a 13.50 ERA in two outings.

The Little Things

On the play in which David Wright ALMOST tagged out Brady Clark at third base in the fifth inning on Friday night, Willie Randolph pointed out that Wright wouldn't have had to go after Clark himself if Jose Reyes had rotated over from shortstop to cover third like he was supposed to. And you know what? Willie was 100 percent right.
Bill Hall had singled to left with runners on first and second. Clark, the runner on second, rounded third but was held up by third-base coach Dale Sveum and slipped. Wright, who had moved into the cutoff position, grabbed Cliff Floyd's throw, and seeing Clark scrambling back to the base, dived in an attempt to tag him out. Clark was called safe, but he could have easily been called out. Geoff Jenkins followed with his three-run double, and the Brewers were on their way.
But think about it: If Reyes had covered third, Clark would have been out and the inning would have been over with the Mets ahead 3-1. Jose Lima would have probably been taken out after five, and the Mets' bullpen would have tried to hold the lead. Would they have been successful? Who knows. But everyone would have looked at Lima's outing a lot differently.
My point in all this is the little things in baseball, like Reyes not rotating, are often the most interesting. And most overlooked. I think it's to Willie's credit that he didn't overlook it when assessing why the Mets lost.

May 12, 2006

Miller Time

Hello from Milwaukee. Just want to let you blog lovers know that Dave Lennon is taking the weekend off. Your Newsday correspondent is me, Anthony Rieber, whom some of you might know from our "Ask Anthony" feature elsewhere on Newsday.com. Others of you might know me as the voice of "Apu" on the hit animated TV seres "The Simpsons".
For those of you in the New York area, it's raining just as heavily here as it is there and it's expected to be rainy and miserable all weekend. But Miller Park has a roof, so the Mets will not face the same fate as Thursday night's rain-shortened exercise in frustration in Philadelphia.
The highlights this weekend will be the starts by Jose Lima and Jeremi Gonzalez. Here's a question for you to ponder while you wait for the pregame show: which one of those retreads do you think will make even one more start and which one will be out of luck? If Brian Bannister comes back next week, someone has to go. And no fair guessing after Saturday's game.
My guess is Lima Time will continue for at least one more start after tonight . . .

May 11, 2006

All Wet in Philly

No clue why they started this game. They put the tarp on twice after batting practice when it wasn't even raining, but still told the starting pitchers to warm up, knowing full well a major storm was on its way. As soon as the Phillies took the field, a steady rain began to fall, and Steve Trachsel apparently wasn't pleased by the developments.

With Phillies starter Gavin Floyd on the mound, and Jose Reyes in the batter's box, the trio of Trachsel, Ramon Castro and pitching coach Rick Peterson were walking in centerfield on their way back from the bullpen. They were in no hurry either, and seemed to shift down a gear when they realized the game was being delayed. When they approached the infield, Steve Trachsel said something through his glove to third-base umpire Lance Barksdale. Eventually, they got to the dugout and the game could finally start.

Cliff's No. 2

A new lineup twist for tonight's series finale with the Phillies. With Paul Lo Duca taking a breather, Cliff Floyd will bat second between Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Floyd is a career .265 hitter in 49 previous games in the 2-hole, with two home runs and 21 RBI. The last time he batted second was Sept. 2, 1998 for the Marlins.

"I just think it's something to get me going, hopefully" said Floyd, who is batting .191 with three homers this season.

Deeeeee-fense

I counted at least three great defensive plays from tonight's 13-4 win over the Phillies, and with another strong effort from Tom Glavine -- along with a gazillion runs -- they were easily overlooked.

First inning: Jose Reyes glides behind the bag to grab Aaron Rowand's grounder up the middle, flips behind him to Kaz Matsui, who barehands the toss and rifles a strong throw to first to complete the double play. In the press box, we were amazed. Matsui has looked like a different person this season, making plays that he never would have made in his two previous years with the Mets. He's been impressive to watch, and better yet, Matsui no longer screws up the routine outs either. Or at least not as much as he used to.

Second inning: David Bell pulls a line drive that kicks off the third-base bag on the fly. It hops straight up in the air, but David Wright leaps to grab it with his bare hand, then fires a bullet that nabs Bell easily. Afterward, the self-deprecating Wright laughed as he headed out the door. "Now if I could only make the routine plays," he said. Wright may commit the occasional error, but his instincts are dead on.

Third inning: This was not as spectacular as the other two, but Jose Reyes made the difficult look easy when he snared Jimmy Rollins' grounder on the short hop. Reyes went down to one knee to smother the ball, then hopped up and delivered an accurate throw to nail the speedy Rollins. Again, not spectacular, but Reyes can make the tough play seem routine.

On a night the Phillies handed the Mets a bunch of runs on errors, these plays look even better by comparision.

May 10, 2006

X'ed out of Rightfield?

My colleague Ben Shpigel of the New York Times posed an interesting question to manager Willie Randolph before tonight's game. Given Xavier Nady's occasional defensive lapses in rigthfield, why not use Endy Chavez as a late-inning defensive replacement? Randolph chuckled uncomfortably at the idea, and seemed more intent on protecting Nady than addressing a move that actually seemed to make sense.

"I hadn't thought about it," Randolph said, trying to suppress a smile. "Nady's done a nice little job for us. It might be something we consider in the future. We'll keep an eye on it."

Randolph has said repeatedly how much he likes Chavez's defense, and he's made a few pointed comments about Nady's shortcomings after losses. Tuesday night, for instance, Randolph blamed Pedro Martinez's rough second inning on the fact that Nady couldn't come up with Aaron Rowand's leadoff triple.

"He drifted on that ball," Randolph said. "I couldn't see if it popped out of his glove or hit the wall."

It was a difficult play, no doubt, but Nady said he had the ball in his glove momentarily and that changed the whole complexion of the inning. Nady also is slow getting to some fly balls, and that happened again in the eighth inning when he was late on Ryan Howard's RBI-double. To be fair, it did hit the chalk, but some rightfielders could have made that play.

In Nady's defense, he did smack a two-run homer in the eighth that spurred the Mets' comeback, and he's second on the club behind Carlos Delgado (12) in home runs, so the Mets can live with his mediocre glove. But lifting him for the final two innings or so may not be such a bad strategy. Stay tuned.

No Love in Philly

Random thoughts to ponder while debating the merits of grilled onions and cheese whiz ...

-- If Aaron Heilman was back in the rotation, he never would have touched Bobby Abreu's nubber in the ninth.
-- Just blame dumb luck for ending Duaner Sanchez's scoreless-inning streak at 24 (dating to last season). If Kaz Matsui's relay was a tiny bit closer to the plate, and Paul Lo Duca's grip was a little tighter, Shane Victorino is out at the plate and Carlos Delgado's HR wins it instead of tying the score.
-- Manager Willie Randolph thought plate umpire Doug Eddings was looking for trouble when he ejected Julio Franco in the ninth inning. "I guess the home plate umpire was eyeballing the bench," Randolph said. "I'll never understand that stuff. I'll never understand why that happens. I guess he feels like he has to throw somebody out."
-- Xavier Nady was sporting an ugly red bruise on his left shoulder blade, the result of crashing into the wall on Aaron Rowand's leadoff triple in the second inning. "I thought I had it," Nady said. "I was shocked when I looked down and the ball was rolling in front of me. I know it hit somewhere in my glove." Rowand scored on David Bell's single.
-- Billy Wagner denied feeling any guilty pleasure in seeing Tom Gordon blow his first save on Delgado's two-run homer in the ninth. "Not at all," he said. "That [bleep] ain't funny."

May 9, 2006

Paging Mike Pelfrey

For those salivating for a Mike Pelfrey update, here's his line from tonight's game against Connecticut. Pelfrey, starting for Double-A Binghamton, allowed seven hits and three runs -- two earned -- in seven innings. By the way, he also struck out 10. Looks like the talk of promoting Pelfrey won't be going away any time soon.

As the Rotation Spins ...

Forget Dontrelle Willis for the moment. As expected, the Mets announced this afternoon that Jeremi Gonzalez will start Friday in Milwaukee, followed by Jose LIma and Pedro Martinez. And it looks like Aaron Heilman is staying put in the bullpen, even if he isn't too thrilled by it. Heilman said today that he approached manager Willie Randolph after Victor Zambrano's injury to offer his services as a starter, and was basically told, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Not great news for Heilman, who told the Mets during the winter that he'd rather be traded than return to a relief role. "They know my position," Heilman said. "My ultimate goal is to get back to the starting rotation."

May 8, 2006

Billy Ball

On the eve of Billy Wagner's return to Philadelphia, I figured it might be a good time to compare the closer's ragged start to the bumpy ride of the man he replaced, Braden Looper. So here are the stat lines based on the first 15 games.

2006 Wagner ... 2-0 ... 2.12 ERA ... 7 SV ... 3 BS ... 17.0 IP ... 12 H ... 3 HR ... 8 BB ... 19 SO
2005 Looper ... 1-1 ... 4.61 ERA .... 8 SV ... 2 BS .... 13.2 IP ... 16 H ... 4 HR .. 4 BB .... 8 SO

A little too close for comfort, wouldn't you say? Doesn't appear the Mets are getting a good return on their $43-million investment just yet.

May 7, 2006

Mets Nation speaks

In the wake of today's 13-3 bashing by the Braves, and trust me, it was gruesome, I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of early e-mails trickle into The Beat. Congrats to "Mets Fan" (very original) and Peter for being the first two respondents to this fledgling blog. Sorry Mets Fan, Peter edged you by 14 minutes, so I've got to give him props for finding us first.

Of course, the subject for both of these postings is pitching, and that's not a bad place to start after seeing Brian Bannister, John Maine and Victor Zambrano all succumb to injury in a 10-day span. Mets fan wanted to know if it's Zito Time, as in trade for the A's ace, and I say it's still too early for that. Oakland's not prepared to move him just yet, but check back in as we move closer to the All-Star break. But this is the question you've got to ask yourself: What are you willing to sacrifice for him? Lastings Milledge? Because that's who it might take. Is Milledge worth a legitimate shot at a World Series ring?

Peter wasn't ready to cash in his chips just yet. He's content to sit tight and wait for Bannister and Maine to heal up before letting Omar Minaya run up his cell phone bill. That's the benefit of a four or five-game cushion, as Peter put it. I'd have to agree. It is only May. But if Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine miss a start with so much as a hangnail, it's time to start placing calls to the West Coast for Zito or even the Marlins to check on the availability of Dontrelle Willis.

Well, that does it for this evening. It's been a long weekend -- 14 innings Friday night, followed by plenty of roster machinations the subsequent two days. All in all, the Mets still took two of three from the Braves, and are up 5-4 in the season series thus far. Admit it. Feels good, doesn't it?

Lima Time, Zero Hour for Victor

So much for a sleepy Sunday morning in the Mets clubhouse. With about two dozen reporters waiting for the official word on Victor Zambrano, in walked Jose Lima, who immediately launched into a little dance with Pedro Martinez, puncutated by the trademark double-finger point.

"It's mambo time," said Martinez.

After his impromptu jig with Pedro, Lima walked over to the couch, where he swatted a newspaper out of the hands of a coach and then looked for his locker. Clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels originally had Lima's No. 17 jersey hanging in Piazza's old corner locker, adjacent to Tom Glavine, but it was moved early yesterday morning. No doubt the veteran trio of Glavine, Steve Trachsel and Billy Wagner wanted some peace and quiet on their row.

A few hours later, the Mets put the SNY studio to good use, herding reporters in for a series of news conferences involving manager Willie Randolph, Zambrano and GM Omar Minaya. Here's the not-so-happy recap: Zambrano claims he has been pitching in pain from the moment he arrived from the Devil Rays in the ill-fated 2004 trade that sent Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay and Saturday he finally reached the breaking point.

"Yeah, pretty much," Zambrano said. "It's been very tough times for a long time."

Remember, Zambrano's season was cut short only three weeks after coming to the Mets because of a strained right flexor muscle, and this once again raises suspicions that the D-Rays dealt damaged goods to Flushing. But that's a moot point now.

Zambrano will have surgery this week to repair the torn flexor tendon in his right elbow and should be ready for spring training next February. As for replacing him in the rotation, Minaya does not want to move Aaron Heilman from the bullpen, so the Mets could be looking at someone like Jeremi Gonzalez (1-2, 3.03 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk) for next Friday.

Welcome to The Beat

For starters, I'd like to welcome everyone to On the Mets beat, a blog designed to, well, dissect and digest everything that involves the Mets. I'm David Lennon, Newsday's beat writer, but this site will be the launching pad for a handful of other bloggers as well, each with their own personalities, opinions, sense of humors (or lack thereof) and powers of observation.

Our goal will be to extend the reach of our Mets coverage from the fields of Flushing (and beyond) into cyberspace, or as my colleague Steve Popper of the Bergen Record like to call it, The Blogosphere (I know, I know -- he didn't invent the term. That's just an inside joke at his expense). This may involve trade chatter, discussing game strategy or even what David Wright had for dinner.

Anyway, as future Hall of Famer and part-time Zen philosopher Mike Piazza was fond of saying, "It is what it is." And really, doesn't that sum things up quite nicely? So climb aboard. I'd say it's a safe bet the Mets will finish above .500 this year -- no snickering Yankee fans -- and after watching them whack around the Braves five weeks into the season, can you dare say "NL East champs?" There. I knew you could.

May 6, 2006

Meet David Lennon

David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City high schools and writing about the exploits of a talented Lincoln point guard named Stephon Marbury.

His debut on the Yankees' beat was 1995 -- the very same season the Bombers snapped a 14-year playoff drought by becoming the American League's first wild-card team. Two World Series rings later, Lennon left the Yankees' beat after the 1998 season, bounced between the Bronx and Shea for the next three years, then took over on the Mets for the demise of Bobby Valentine in 2002. He's been chasing them around ever since.

Lennon also is a Hall of Fame voter and co-author of The Great New York Sports Debate.

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