Mar 19

Where to slot in Castillo?

Manager Jerry Manuel is thinking about going back to Jose Reyes in the leadoff slot to get him going. That spot worked for Luis Castillo, who owned up to the challenge and is hitting .321 with a .500 on-base percentage.

Castillo has been far from the nightmare at the plate he was last year.

I’ve always liked him second, but I can see the logic of Daniel Murphy in that slot. That also allows for a 3-4-5 of Beltran, Wright and Delgado.

Batting him eighth is a waste, but what about ninth and swap with the pitcher? The idea would be to bunch the speed of Castillo and Reyes together.

Initially, I thought Tony La Russa was reinventing the wheel when he did it, but there’s sense to it. If the pitcher is an automatic out (that’s the assumption), what difference does it make if it is eighth or ninth?

Mar 18

Clock clicking down on Met issues

With a little less than three weeks before Opening Day, some issues the Mets opened camp with are starting to take focus. Others remain blurred.

Johan Santana, it seems, is on track. My philosophy on injuries is to assume the worst until the player proves otherwise. After a strong 56-pitch outing in a minor league game yesterday, the reports on Santana and his slider are good.

The fifth starter was another issue, and candidates Freddy Garcia (14.40 ERA this spring) and Livan Hernandez (3.72) will work today against the Braves. Garcia, obviously needs a complete turnaround to stay in contention, but coming off injuries, he’s likely to open the season with an extended spring training.

Hernandez has been mostly good, but still hasn’t blown Jerry Manuel away as to where the job is his. And, until he does, there will always be those Pedro Martinez whispers that won’t go away.

Mar 17

Niese goes today ….

Jon NIese takes his 9.00 ERA to the mound today against the Braves. Niese is still in the hunt for the fifth spot in the rotation, but hasn’t overly impressed in his opportunity.

I’m still putting what’s left of my money on Livan Hernandez to win the role. That is, of course, if the Mets don’t pick somebody else up, such as re-signing Pedro Martinez.

Nobody has blown away the field. Tim Redding is hurting and could open the season on the DL. Freddy Garcia? That ended quickly.

I like what I saw of Niese last season, but he also had those moments that said he wasn’t ready. I’d hate for him to come up and get rocked the way Mike Pelfrey did. If there is a viable major league option to Niese, the Mets will take it.

Mar 16

Not worried about Pelfrey

When a pitcher reaches a career high in innings pitched, there’s a tendency to sometimes hit a wall in the subsequent season. That’s the concern about Mike Pelfrey.

I had it heading into spring training. Not so much anymore. Another good outing the other day. There seems to be something about him that’s encouraging. In retrospect, it might have been a good thing he was hammered early in his career. It seems to have toughened him. It appears to have given him a backbone that’s essential for the core of a strong career.

Pelfrey should continue to improve as he learns the hitters better, gets stronger and refines his pitches. He’s got a great fastball; let it work for him. He doesn’t need to get fancy.

Pelfrey making another positive step might be one of the most important keys for the Mets this season.

Mar 12

Santana goes tonight

Roughly two weeks later than originally thought, Johan Santana pitches tonight. It’s times like these Santana is fond of saying, “I’m not going to do anything crazy.”

Just throw fastballs and work on his mechanics. We shouldn’t get carried away one way or another with him. If he’s lights out or gets lit up, either way, it won’t make or break the season or determine what’s to come.

If he comes out of it sound, that’s all that matters.