Jan 19

Collins getting ready for spring training

It was cold and rainy outside, but there was a definite feel of spring in the air inside Citi Field this afternoon when manager Terry Collins and several players played host to 25 fifth and sixth graders at the Mets’ third annual After School Sports Program.

COLLINS: Getting ready for spring training.

With spring training less than a month away, Collins touched on a myriad of issues, saying:

1) Mike Pelfrey will be his Opening Day starter against Florida. Said Collins: “He deserves it. Right now, I think Mike Pelfrey should be the No. 1 guy on this staff.’’

2) He will meet with Carlos Beltran at the start of spring training about a move to right field. Beltran will get a chance to prove he’s healthy. Collins said a decision would be made after roughly 10 games.

3) The top five in his batting order would be: Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan, David Wright, Beltran and Jason Bay. Collins said Beltran and Bay are ready physically.

4) Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez are expected to be in camp and not released before. Collins said Castillo could still win the second base job.

5) With Reyes healthy, “I’ll turn him loose,’’ and he could be a 50-60 steal player again. Reyes said he’s ready for spring training, and regarding his contract situation, added that’s not on his mind. “I want to play baseball and see what happens,’’ Reyes said.

6) Could live with 150 strikeouts from David Wright “as long as he’s driving in runs.’’ Wright’s production should increase and his strikeouts decrease with a healthy Beltran and Bay behind him.

7) He is set with three starters Pelfrey, RA Dickey and Jon Niese, with and Chris Young, Dillon Gee and Chris Capuano competing for the fourth and fifth spots.

8) Will stress fundamentals in spring training, adding he’s aiming for 30 innings from the starters and 70 at-bats from the starting position players.

9) The Mets anticipate adding another left-handed reliever.

Jan 19

Pelfrey embraces ace role

PELFREY: Likes ace role.

Freshly armed with a $4 million contract to avoid arbitration, Mike Pelfrey said this morning he welcomes the ace role created by the absence of Johan Santana.

“I embrace it,” Pelfrey said this morning on WFAN. “I want to go out there and lead by example. I’ll be out there every fifth day.”

Pelfrey won 15 games last season after a sluggish spring training. However, with the expectations high, Pelfrey didn’t panic in the spring, the first sign last year of his growing maturity on the mound. He said he wasn’t worried about the spring becoming a prelude to the season.

“I felt like I was working on things,” Pelfrey said. “I was working on the split. I was getting better every time out there.”

A knock on Pelfrey in previous years was his inability to finish off hitters and innings by losing focus. Save a horrid July, he had tunnel vision in 2010. With Santana out and questions throughout the rotation, Pelfrey should be able to take another step this summer. The Mets sure think so, which is why they rewarded him with the contract.

Should Pelfrey continue to improve it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Mets try to get an extension done next winter. Pelfrey is arbitration eligible next year.

NOTE: I will be at Citi Field today for a Mets function and will post again this afternoon.

Jan 18

Mets add Young

The Mets have their man in Chris Young and with him their five-man rotation is apparently set.  That would be Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, RA Dickey, Young and either Chris Capuano or Dillon Gee.

Remember, just keep repeating to yourself it’s not about this year, it is about treading water until 2012.

The deal is for $1 million plus incentives. Coming off shoulder problems, the deal is also a gamble.

With spring training just inside 30 days away, I’m usually looking forward to the upcoming season and this year is no different. I just don’t have the same level of optimism I usually do. The Mets have given me no reason.

The Mets were a sub-.500 team that lost its ace and might not see him this season. It could also lose potentially its best bat in Carlos Beltran by midseason in a trade.

Remember, it isn’t about this year.

Jan 14

Updating the mess that is Oliver Perez

PEREZ: Not showing it in Mexico

There are a lot of glaring differences between the Mets and Yankees, but it really stands out when you look at the signing of reliever Rafael Soriano.

The Yankees will $35 million to Soriano to be their set-up reliever. Compare that to the $36 million the Mets are paying Oliver Perez to be a stud in their rotation.

It never happened for Perez, who has one more year on his contract.  Word is Perez is working hard in the Mexican Winter League, but we’ve heard that before.

Perez has issued 29 walks with a 5.18 ERA in 37 2/3 innings, hardly inspiring numbers.

The Mets are hoping Perez will recapture his fastball and be able to make a viable contrition. But, unlike last year, they don’t figure to wait around for him to turn it around. If he doesn’t show anything in spring training they could finally eat his contract.

Jan 13

Mets and Chris Young getting close

The Mets appear to be nearing a deal with injury-scarred pitcher Chris Young for about $1 million plus incentives. Yawn.

Wonder what the incentives will be to the fans to watch him?

At 31, he should be in the prime of his career, but he’s made only 18 starts in the past two seasons, including just four last year because of chronic shoulder problems. He hasn’t started 30 games since 2007, and is 22-20 over the past two seasons.

At his best, he’s no better than a No. 5 starter, and fits in with what the Mets figure to become this year.

Meanwhile, John Maine is drawing interest from the Phillies. If healthy, I can see a bigger upside from Maine than I can Young, but it had become clear Maine had run his course with the Mets.

With spring training just 34 days away, Young is about as good as it is going to be for the Mets as far as improving their pitching.