Apr 18

April 18.10: Chat Room, Game #12 at Cardinals: Pressure on Maine.

The pressure never ends.

As much as last night’s epic 20-inning victory – anything 20 innings plus is epic – has been written and mentioned as being a catalyst to turn around this sluggish season, it means nothing unless the Mets can sustain.

That means John Maine must step up, perhaps unlike at any other time during his career with the Mets, and pitch big tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mets exhausted their bullpen last night for 13 innings, and despite pitching one inning, Francisco Rodriguez was spent after throwing 100 pitches in an up-and-down evening warming in the pen.

If a starter won’t throw the next day after throwing 100 pitches, the same could be for Rodriguez tonight.

Maine, who seems to hyperventilate around the third or fourth inning, needs at least six, better seven innings tonight. He needs it for a lot of reasons, including to silence the Dillon Gee whispers.

You see, Maine isn’t pitching tonight to save the bullpen as much as he is his spot in the rotation. While it is likely Maine, barring a disaster, will get another start after this, manager Jerry Manuel has done nothing to dispel the speculation.

Aware of ramifications of a third hammering, Maine went to the videotape to look at his mechanics and pitch selection from 2007, when he won 15 games. Fundamentally, Maine concluded if he’s going down it would be with his fastball, which has atrophied after falling in love with his off-speed and breaking balls.

“I’m fine, my shoulder is fine,’’ Maine said after the Colorado debacle. “ I know the No. 1 priority is to get back and throw my fastball. That’s what I’m going to do in my bullpen. That’s what I’m going to do in my next start I’m going to get back to where I was.’’

Maine looked at everything from wind-up to delivery to release point and said he’s going back to his 2007 delivery and with it, hopefully that year’s fastball. Where Maine once touched the radar gun at 94 mph, he topped out at 91 in his last start, Tuesday night’s meltdown in Colorado.

“I’m just going to go back to that delivery, going back to throwing the fastball,’’ Maine said. “Hopefully it turns out fine. I may get hit, but, you know, at least I know I’m going out there, getting beat with my best pitch and not my second and third pitch.’’

Maine, 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA, has given up 12 runs in eight innings in his two starts, including eight runs in three innings at Colorado Tuesday.

“It’s hard. I’m doing my stuff in between starts,” Maine said. “I’m doing the right things. I just can’t put it together. … This is awful right now.”

****

Tonight’s line-up for the Mets (4-7):

Jose Reyes, SS
Alex Cora, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Frank Catalanotto, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Gary Matthews, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Angel Pagan, LF
John Maine, RP

NOTES: Mike Jacobs was designated for assignment to make room for reliever Tobi Stoner, who was brought up to bolster their depleted bullpen. It’s obvious the Mets won’t go with a Fernando Tatis-Catalanotto platoon, so expect Ike Davis to be promoted. By designating Jacobs for assignment, the Mets open a spot on their 40-man roster.

Apr 17

April 17.10: Chat Room, Game # 11 at Cardinals: Santana tries to stop slide.

OK, the Mets lost last night in a game they could have won. In the grand scheme of things, it’s still a loss, but as the game progressed there was a different feeling than most times this young season. That’s because Oliver Perez was pitching well, giving the Mets two strong-pitched games in a row.

There’s a different feel defensively when a team gets a well-pitched game, and the Mets were indeed crisp in the field.

Today it’s Johan Santana, who always gives the Mets a chance to win, even when the offense takes a pass as it has most games already this season.

It’s the same story with the Mets offense, which is to say they aren’t hitting with runners in scoring position. Chris Carpenter pitched a good game last night, but still the Mets had a chance to put the game away before it was turned over to the bullpen.

The Mets are on national TV this afternoon. I hope you tune in and also drop by here with your thoughts.

Thanks.

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

Mar 31

March 31.10: Juggling the rotation means …. what?

When you rearrange a junk drawer without throwing out anything, it’s still a junk drawer. Right?

That’s pretty much the way I look at the news of the Mets juggling their pitching rotation. It’s the usual suspects, but they come in at a different stage of the movie.

Reportedly, following Johan Santana are John Maine, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez.
Perez was hammered again yesterday by the Cardinals, giving up seven runs on six hits – with three homers in 2 1/3 innings. Of Perez, manager Jerry Manuel said, “he’s a guy we’ve got to watch carefully.’’

Also under a microscope is Pelfrey, who has given up 12 runs in his last two starts.
But, I wonder what juggling the rotation really does. When the rotation is on, managers like to say, “we have five aces.’’ Even the pitchers buy into it saying, “I don’t care where I pitch as long as I pitch.’’

Assuming that’s true, then the worse should also apply. “As long as I pitch,’’ isn’t a comforting thought when we look at the spring ERA’s of Maine, Pelfrey and Perez.

I know, I know, some of you will say spring stats don’t mean anything and you might not be wrong. But, stats are a measure of performance and right now they are screaming the rotation is terrible.

What does juggling the rotation do? As far as I’m concerned it just changes the order of the inevitable.

Mar 25

March 25.10: Wrapping up the Day.

Despite giving up two homers, there was questionable progress made by John Maine in today’s loss to St. Louis. The two homers were the only runs he allowed in five innings. Maine also walked two. Not sterling by any stretch, but better by comparison to how we’ve seen him this spring.

The Cardinals had chances, but for the most part Maine pitched out of trouble, which is a positive sign. But, he was lucky the homers – on by Albert Pujols – came with the bases empty. It hasn’t always been that way.

Maine was one inning and run less than what passes for a quality start these days. Three runs in six innings hardly represents quality, but does by today’s watered down standards. Tom Seaver would call in unacceptable.

The Mets need more from Maine, both at this stage in spring training and during his career. I’d take the two runs every time out, but the Mets need more than five innings considering his pitch count of 88. That many pitches must take him through seven innings.

Five innings won’t make it.

CARTER IMPRESSES: Omar Minaya, speaking during today’s telecast, said Chris Carter is making an impression regarding the final position spot on the roster.

“He’s a left-handed hitter with power,’’ Minaya said.

Carter flied out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, but is batting .421 with five extra-base hits.

Also in contention for that spot are Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto, neither of whom are hitting over .200.

REYES WORKS OUT: Jose Reyes worked out again today and said there were no problems.

“Today went much better,’’ Reyes told reporters. “I was a little bit sore, but it was good so far, I’ll continue to do more and hopefully I’ll be on the field as soon as possible.’’

The will take it slow with Reyes. Pushing him at this time would only risk injury to his leg and would be foolish.