Mar 18

March 18.10: Perez tries to take another step vs. Marlins.

Oliver Perez is left-handed with 90-mph. plus heat. He’ll keep getting chances. When he’s on, as he was last Saturday against Detroit with four hitless innings, he ignites the imagination.

Then again, when he’s the Bad Ollie, he reduces those in the Mets’ dugout to a bunch of babbling, head-scratching messes. Jerry Manuel once said the Bad Ollie kept him on the top step of the dugout ready to spring out.

Perez threw strikes and spotted his pitches against the Tigers, and the Mets want to see more of that tonight against Florida. The Mets continue to hang with Perez because of his high ceiling for potential, which is greater than John Maine or even Mike Pelfrey.

Perez’s command was good in his first two starts, traceable to a consistency in his footwork mechanics that resulted in a comfortable release point.

“It seems so easy when it all works,’’ pitching coach Dan Warthen said.

When Perez has an idea where his pitches are going he becomes more focused and relaxed. The anxiety is gone.

It seems like a little thing, but in the Detroit game Perez cruised and retired his first eight hitters, but then walked the next two. The wind kept Carlos Guillen’s ball in the park. The next inning, Perez regained his focus and set the Tigers down in order.

There are dozens of games when those circumstances produced a different scenario.

It’s only spring, but it beats what we’ve seen before.

Beltran making progress: Carlos Beltran, who’ll open the season on the disabled list following knee surgery, is encouraged by his rehab.

“I’m doing good,’’ Beltran told ESPN Radio. “I come to the ballpark every single day, rehabbing, to try and put myself in the best condition, so when it come time for me to start playing baseball I can go out there and do what I know I can do.’’

Here’s tonight’s batting order vs. Marlins:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Alex Cora, SS
Henry Blanco, C
Oliver Perez, LP

Followed by Pedro Feliciano, Hisanori Takahashi, Pat Misch, Ryota Igarashi and Francisco Rodriguez.

Mar 18

March 18.10: What’s Jerry’s thinking about the fifth starter?

With most managers, at least those with security, their objectives are a balance between winning today and building for the future. That can’t be said for the Mets’ Jerry Manuel, who has joked about the importance of a fast start for the preservation of his job.

There’s truth in humor.

Manuel presided over the late season collapse of 2008 and full season free fall of 2009, and knows the Mets must contend, if not get to the playoffs and win a round, if he’s to return next year. Manuel’s job is on the line, and with it there’s a sense of urgency of being competitive immediately.

Given that, it stands to reason Manuel’s decisions, like that of choosing his fifth starter, will be to give him the best chance of winning now as opposing for building for the future, because quite simply, he has no guarantee of a future.

Manuel’s comments the other day that he’d like to see Hisanori Takahashi start a game this spring suggests strongly he’s being seriously considered for the fifth starter role. Takahashi has been superb in six scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out nine.

“What we have seen so far is he really has the ability to pitch and pitch with all his pitches,” Manuel said. “He probably is our sharpest pitcher right now, as far as everything hitting where he wants it to hit.”

If not Takahashi, then perhaps Fernando Nieve. Nelson Figueroa will be sent out to clear waivers, and Jon Niese, who went into spring training the favorite, will be sent out because he has options remaining.

Niese might be the fifth starter down the road, but Manuel doesn’t have the luxury of letting him learn on the job. As long as Takahashi is getting batters out, the Mets have a chance to win, and that means Manuel has a better chance to stick around.

Mar 17

March 17.10: Pelfrey needs luck of the Irish.

Mike Pelfrey gets his third start of the spring this afternoon against Boston at Ft. Myers. Three starts in, and we should be seeing signs of progress from Pelfrey. So far, we haven’t. In his previous two starts, Pelfrey was hit with a big inning, which isn’t a good sign.

Pelfrey entered camp as the Mets’ No. 2 starter, and we need to see signs of that today. A big inning, and three runs counts in that regard, is an indication of not being able to put hitters away and limit the damage. That was indicative last year when he got into trouble and it is surfacing again.

There is no doubt, out of necessity, Pelfrey has been rushed by the Mets. But, what is done is done, and he’s had enough time where we should be seeing signs of development. It would be nice to see some of that today.

Mar 16

March 16.10: Where will F-Mart be Opening Day?

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. When the topic was Fernando Martinez on Monday, GM Omar Minaya said the young centerfielder would not be on the Opening Day roster, specifying the importance of consistent at-bats in the minor leagues over sporadic playing time as the fourth outfielder in the major leagues.

However, when posed with the same question, Jerry Manuel said Martinez could be the Opening Day center fielder.

It’s not the first time these two haven’t been on the same page. There’s been different sentiments on Jenrry Mejia, also.

There doesn’t always seem to be a united front with the general manager and manager, and that can’t be described as a good thing.

Angel Pagan deserves the opportunity and with Gary Matthews, there’s a capable back-up. And, it should stay that way until Carlos Beltran returns, presumably in May.

Mar 15

March 15.10: Not pleased with Maine.

Not at all pleased with John Maine’s explanation for his horrendous performance yesterday afternoon. Maine gave up five runs on three hits and three walks while facing only eight Marlins.

“My mechanics felt fine. I just I wasn’t into it,’’ Maine told reporters.


“The feeling that it wasn’t my game as a starter – that was the hardest thing. It’s a waste of a day… I was up, down, I can’t put my finger on exactly what was wrong. My delivery was fine. I was rushing a little. But that’s normal when you haven’t pitched in a while.’’

It might not have been his day as a starter, but it was his day as a Mets pitcher and there can never be any excuse for going through the motions. Never.

There was too much of that last year and if this spring is about starting fresh, there can’t be that kind of attitude.

The Mets’ pitching is suspect enough as it is and they can’t afford to have pitchers throw away their games even if it isn’t in the role they desire.

Maine is supposed to be one of the pitchers the team is looking up to and he has to come up bigger than this.

NOTEBOOK: Francisco Rodriguez, out with pink eye, will make his debut today. … The following were sent to the minor league camp: R.A. Dickey, Josh Fogg, Josh Thole and Eric Neissen.

Here’s today’s line-up vs. St. Louis:

Luis Castillo, 2B
Ruben Tejada, SS
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Fernando Martinez, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Fernando Nieve, RP

Followed by: Jon Niese, Francisco Rodriguez, Pat Misch, Sean Green, Tobi Stoner and Elmer Dessens.