Apr 21

April 21.10: Although news not good on Beltran, it was still a good signing.

The news isn’t good on Carlos Beltran, who was examined Tuesday in Vail, Colo. Beltran remains in neutral with no word on a potential return that is anything other than guesswork.

Beltran, who underwent knee surgery in the offseason, hasn’t been cleared to start running. And, until he runs there’s no telling when he’ll begin baseball activities, and after that a return to the line-up.

Initially, the prognosis was up to six weeks following running for a return in May. That’s not happening. Try June now, or maybe after the All-Star break. Who is to say? I mean, who is to say with any authority?

“It’s kind of unfortunate,’’ manager Jerry Manuel said. “But what we have to do is we have to continue to play the way we have the last three or four games and hope that Carlos recovers quickly. He’s obviously an integral part of our lineup, but Angel (Pagan) is playing real well.’’

Maybe so, but there’s a reason why Pagan is a role player and Beltran a perennial All-Star.

Let’s assume at least until the end of June at the earliest. For now, Pagan is the center fielder. Gary Matthews will be kept for insurance. For now I don’t believe they’ll bring up Fernando Martinez as long as Pagan is producing.

I’ve always liked Beltran. He works hard, he hustles and he plays hurt. This was an unfortunate injury, but it would be unfair to say he was a bad signing.

This is a player who played hurt. I don’t think it would be fair to say just because this injury has lasted that the Mets should regret signing Beltran. This guy showed what he is made of when he played with a broken face after his collision with Mike Cameron.

The only thing of hindsight was the issue of the surgery. It should have been done last year, not last winter. Had it been done in September instead of trying to get him back in a lost season they might have him now.

Apr 16

April 16.10: Chat Room, Game #10 at Cardinals: Low expectations.

The Mets are in St. Louis tonight, a town that rarely treats them kindly. They’ll play the sizzling Cardinals, who have the game’s best hitter in Albert Pujols. They’ll face them with Oliver Perez, which begs the question what’s the over-under on homers allowed?

I’m guessing three.

Perez never inspires confidence, so you have to wonder whose basket is Omar Minaya putting his eggs in this weekend. Perez? Johan Santana? John Maine?

Geez … who do you think he had in mind when he told SI.com of his expectations for the weekend?

“St. Louis is always tough,” Minaya said. “If we can win two out of three, that will be outstanding. If we win one, I’ll take it. We’ve got Jose back, and once we get Murphy and Beltran back, we can compete with everyone else.”

Here’s tonight’s starting line-up:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Gary Matthews, CF
OIiver Perez, LP

Apr 16

April 16.10: Paging Carlos Beltran.

General manager Omar Minaya gave us a projection early this month that Carlos Beltran would be back around late May, which was four to six weeks after resuming baseball activities.

Well, that time frame is right now and Beltran hasn’t even begun running. Based on what’s going on, we might be looking now at June if not July and the All-Star break.

Fact is, Beltran, if he hasn’t started running, doesn’t have any real timetable. They can say four to six weeks from baseball activities all night, but they have no idea when that will be.

Would it surprise you if we didn’t see Beltran to the second half of the season if at all? Wouldn’t shock me.

Part of the fallout of Beltran’s absence is the issue of Jose Reyes batting third.

Here’s what Jeff Francoeur has to say about it: “I don’t want to see that. Not at all. He’s the most dynamic leadoff hitter in the game, and I want to see him there. Who knows what we’ll do? But I’m just saying, he’s never been really a run producer. He’s been more of a guy to score 150 runs. … I’m just saying, I think he’s the most dynamic leadoff hitter in the league… Reyes has always hit leadoff to me for a reason. He’s the best. He gets on base, steals, makes things happen.’’

Jerry Manuel says he wants Reyes to maintain his same approach in the three hole. It will never happen because the demands and job description batting third differ from batting first. Reyes gets into trouble when he plays outside himself and attempts to loft the ball instead of hitting it on the ground and line drives into the gap.

You will see a definite change in Reyes’ approach if they go ahead with this.

The No. 3 hitter should be the team’s best hitter, which is to say the best combination of average and power, and that’s David Wright.

There is nobody who comes close to being able to do what Reyes does as the leadoff hitter. For years we’ve been hearing how Reyes is the catalyst to the Mets offense. Why would they want to tinker with that?

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 12

March 12.10: Have to wonder about Reyes.

Let’s do the math. Two weeks from today puts us a week before spring training. Then Reyes has to start over, because they aren’t going to push him and certainly don’t want to rush him considering his hamstring. That puts us at the middle of April. And, since nothing with the Mets ever goes as planned, and there is no such thing as a best-case scenario, we’re not going to see Reyes before May.

Is anybody to blame for this or is it simply just another case of bad luck for the Mets?

Just because Reyes can’t eat seafood doesn’t automatically mean his overactive thyroid resulted by diet. Is it diet, heredity or some other external factor that caused the spike in Reyes’ thyroid levels?

The elephant in the room is HGH.

Reyes was treated Dr. Anthony Galea, who is under investigation after being charged with attempting to HGH into the United States. Reyes denies taking the stuff, that he only had the blood-spinning treatment. Who knows? Maybe it was the blood-spinning treatment that’s the cause.

Even so, MLB doesn’t test for HGH and since there is a correlation between HGH and thyroid levels (an excellent article this week in the Daily News), we can’t dismiss it out of hand. Would you really be surprised?

Maybe we’ll never know the cause. Hopefully, his levels will stabilize and this won’t be an issue again. But, for now there is speculation.

What is known is that the Mets are again a team with its core on the sideline. Don’t count on seeing Reyes or Beltran in April, and if the pitching doesn’t come around they could be in serious trouble before either returns.

The Mets spent the offseason counting on their injured returning and their pitching would improve. Well, half of that wish hasn’t been answered. It remains to be seen about the other half.