Mar 25

March 25.10: Niese fifth starter favorite.

It is by no means a given, but Jon Niese has emerged as the frontrunner to be the team’s fifth starter. Jerry Manuel said yesterday Niese has the inside track over Fernando Nieve, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi.

At one point this spring, I thought Takahashi was the favorite, but moved off that because he didn’t have enough innings to be sufficiently stretched out. The path of least resistance would have been to option Niese because he has options remaining, but he has pitched well enough to warrant a chance and there are other variables.

Most specifically, the sad state of the Mets’ bullpen. Niese couldn’t help out in the pen, but both Nieve as a long man and Takahashi as a left-hander fill two roles. Odd man out, as expected, is Figueroa.

Figueroa will pass through waivers then re-sign with the Mets and be pitching around June. Personally, I hope somebody claims him and he gets a chance to pitch.

Mar 24

March 24.10: Wrapping up the Day.

Jose Reyes returned to camp today, but couldn’t guarantee he’d be ready for Opening Day. And, Reyes said his leg won’t enable him to go all out anytime soon, so he’s got to take it easy.

Jerry Manuel said he doesn’t expect Reyes to be playing by this weekend, telling reporters: “I couldn’t give you a timetable, but it sure is good to have him back.’’

Reyes didn’t run at full speed, but participated in workouts and said he expects to feel sore tomorrow. Reyes said doctors told him he had a virus that elevated his levels and he has diet restrictions, such as not being able to eat seafood.

* Johan Santana gave up two runs on eight hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings.

* Doc Gooden was arrested Tuesday morning for driving under the influence. Is he ever going to get it together?

* It appears the fifth starter job is Jon Niese’s to lose with Fernando Nieve and Hisanori Takahashi trying to earn spots in the bullpen.

* Several reports have the Mets trying to deal outfielder Gary Matthews for pitching. But, considering where Matthews is in his career, what could he bring in return?

Mar 24

March 24.10: It’s Murphy’s time.

You can read a couple of things into the Ike Davis demotion relating to Daniel Murphy.

One, there’s talk-show speculation Murphy was pressured by Davis’ presence and the possibility of him losing the position. Second, that the Mets still have faith in Murphy.

It’s the latter.

Jerry Manuel said Murphy is his first baseman, and it actually looks like that’s going to happen. For how long is another question.

With Murphy hitting below the Mendoza line this spring, and him not having much power to begin with, first base could be a black hole offensively for the team.
Murphy, at this stage of his career, is not a power hitter, but that’s not to say he can’t develop more power.

All along we’ve heard how the Mets rush some players and don’t have patience with others. Murphy has gone through a lot, enough to earn the Mets’ patience for now.

With David Wright ahead of him, Murphy, a natural third baseman was moved to another black hole, left field, at the end of the 2008 season.
He showed enough to where he was the starting left fielder last season, but it didn’t take. The Mets once considered him as a possible second baseman, but saddled with Luis Castillo’s contract, that didn’t work either.

So, it was on to first base a couple of months into last year, where Murphy played surprisingly well considering. The only problem is he doesn’t hit for the prototypical power of a first baseman.

But, he’s only 24 with one full season on his resume. But, after he settled in at first, he become more comfortable at the plate, made some adjustments, and hit .282. He also hit 38 doubles, which is an indication of some pop, and led the team with 12 homers.

Who knows? Maybe he’ll develop into a .300 hitter and hit 20 to 25 homers. It could happen.

But, if the season hinges on Murphy hitting for power, then the Mets are in big trouble anyway. Theoretically, they’ll get power from Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur. All should hit close to 30 homers.

If Murphy doesn’t, then so what?

Let’s take a look at this team. There are questions in the bullpen and the rotation has been horrid this spring. The Mets need a bounce-back year from Wright, and Beltran, and possibly Jose Reyes will open the season on the disabled list.

So, Murphy not hitting more than 20 homers seems to be low on the priority list.

Mar 23

March 23.10: Wrapping up the Day.

Oliver Perez made his fourth start of the spring this afternoon against Atlanta. As usual, he’s run hot and cold. Today he was freezing, turning in his worst outing of the spring, giving up three runs on five hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings.

Perez figures to get two more starts and for his own peace and confidence he needs to make them good. Of course, that sentiment denotes pressure, which isn’t always a good thing for Perez.

In another pitching development, the Mets continue to push the envelope with Jenrry Mejia, working him for the second straight game. Mejia didn’t allow a run in 1 1/3 innings yesterday, and today he retired the side in order in the sixth.

Said Jerry Manuel: “I want to get as much of a feel as possible for him in that particular role.”

Also today:

* Ike Davis was optioned out and there was immediate talk it was done to alleviate pressure on Daniel Murphy, who has had a miserable spring. If Murphy needs something like that to help his confidence then he’s in trouble. In 25 at-bats, Davis is hitting .480 with three homers and 10 RBI. Conversely, Murphy is batting .133 with one extra-base hit over 30 at-bats.

* Jose Reyes was cleared to play and will be in camp tomorrow.

Mar 23

March 23.10: Reyes cleared to play.

With his thyroid With his thyroid levels having stabilized, the Mets cleared Jose Reyes to resume baseball activities this afternoon. The Mets expect him on the field tomorrow, but have not said when he’ll play in an exhibition game.

General manager Omar Minaya wouldn’t discount either Reyes being ready for Opening Day or on the disabled list. Bet the latter.

General manager Omar Minaya said the team still isn’t sure if Reyes will be ready for Opening Day. He didn’t discount the possibility that Reyes might have to begin the season on the disabled list.

“Right now let’s just get him here,” Minaya said. “The good thing is we still have close to two weeks to go. I can’t tell you if he’s going to be ready for Opening Day. But the reality is, we’re happy to get him back. All the players are excited, and he’s excited.”

Reyes was diagnosed in early March with a hyperactive thyroid, and originally he was to be out two to eight weeks. The doctors prescribed rest and a change of diet (cutting back on seafood).