Apr 20

April 20.10: Mets Notes: Let’s not get carried away.

Easy does it.

It was only one game and two hits, not enough for them to be fitting him for a statue or anything.

The Ike Davis Era got underway in fine fashion last night, bringing with it an electricity missing during the first homestand. There was a lot to like about Davis’ composure and patience.

For example, on the first hit he worked his way back from down being 0-and-2 in the count.

While there was a lot to like, remember it is only one game, far too early for the Wally Pipp analogies.

As much as I enjoyed watching Davis, the real buzz for me can with Jon Niese, who showed poise and guile working out of trouble.

Niese’s outing was the Mets’ fifth straight solid performance from a starting pitcher, one strong cycle through the rotation. As encouraging as watching Davis was, the bigger picture was another strong game from the rotation.

It has to be that way because wherever the Mets go this season is contingent on their pitching.

I’ll embrace Davis, I want him to do well, but he’s not the final piece to the 2010 puzzle.

NOTES: We should see Jose Reyes back in the lineup tonight. Tired, he asked for the night off to rest his 0-for-17 slide. Since coming back from the DL, Reyes is batting .154, which should shelve this No. 3 talk for awhile. … GM Omar Minaya said Carlos Beltran will go to Colorado this week to be re-examined.

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?

Apr 08

Carlos Beltran to begin running; tonight’s lineup.

Carlos Beltran is supposed to begin running this weekend, and if there is no setback, the clock will begin on him.

Originally, the Mets said four to six weeks for his return after beginning baseball activities. That puts him at the end of May.

That’s just an estimate. The Mets, like all teams, won’t put a specific date for a return from an injury.

Expect the Mets to be ultra-conservative with Beltran, especially considering what happened this winter. If anything, they’ll keep him out longer than needed.

In other injury news, Jose Reyes will play in a Florida State League game tonight, and if there are no complications he should be activated Saturday.

LINEUP

Well, Jerry Manuel said he wanted to get everybody in a game by the end of the homestand. Four new starters tonight for the Mets behind Jon Niese against the Marlins.

Mets (1-1)

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Ruben Tejada, SS
Jon Niese, LP

Apr 06

April 6.10: Wright steps up for his team.

David Wright spoke in basic, but his smile told a much more complex story.

First inning, Citi Field, yesterday afternoon and Wright was rounding the bases after hitting a two-run, opposite-field homer off Josh Johnson … his smile carrying him as much as his legs.

Wright, who seemingly talked himself out of hitting for power early in the season, and later that lost summer was felled with a concussion after taking a Matt Cain fastball to his head, had just gotten the Mets off to a fast start in turning the page from a disastrous 2009.

Could one swing of the bat set the tone for a summer?

“I don’t put too much stock into home runs,’’ said Wright, who hit only ten of them last year, one of them last Opening Day he was quick to remind when the “tone’’ word surfaced.

Logic says no, that Mets 7, Marlins 1, was simply one game, but the game gave us a glimpse of what could happen when Wright’s team puts it all together for an afternoon. Yesterday was a blue print of what needs to happen.

The Mets need pitching more than power and Johan Santana was superb. And, with their suspect rotation, they need the bullpen late and Fernando Nieve gave them two sterling innings and Francisco Rodriguez was perfect.

Last summer, the Mets hit a major league low 95 homers – the only team not to hit 100 – so their offense must generate runs and take advantage of what is offered. So many opportunities were wasted last year, but yesterday they parlayed three Florida errors into four runs. A gift, yes, but too many times last year they came away empty in similar spots.

The new guys, Gary Matthews, Jason Bay and Rod Barajas had two hits apiece, and Matthews showed he can cover center until Carlos Beltran’s return.

“I think it was an all-around good effort,” Wright said. “We caught the ball, we pitched well and obviously had some timely hitting. You can’t ask for much more than that, first game of the season.’’

Wright is correct, it’s only one game, but it’s better than if it had been one game the other way. For a team coming off two late season collapses and a free-fall summer, that played with frustrating mediocrity this spring, winning sure as hell beats losing.

“By no stretch of the imagination are we where we want to be right now,’’ said manager Jerry Manuel, who looks at winning in a more personal, job-preserving vein. “The important thing is that as you put the pieces into place that you win games.

“We played well. We played all 27 outs.’’

There will be times this summer when they don’t. All teams, even champions, have those moments. And, there will be times this summer when the smile Wright wore yesterday will be a frown.

But, it was finally nice to see him smile.

“It’s good to see David get started,’’ Jeff Francoeur said. “David has to step up. It has to be his team.’’

And, yesterday it was.

Apr 05

April 5.10: Chat Room, Game #1, Opening Day, vs. Marlins

There should be no pressure on Opening Day, but that’s not the case with Jerry Manuel, who was thrust under the microscope the day after the 2009 season ended when COO Jeff Wilpon said he expected better things this season from his manager and GM Omar Minaya. And, with 16 of their first 22 games at home, there an even greater sense of urgency to get off to a fast start.

And, that fast start start has to come without Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, and with a suspect rotation.

“We need to get off to a good start but what we need more is consistency and so to merely focus on a good start is not enough,” said Manuel, who knows a slow start could doom him before the All-Star break.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be the case, but the Mets were 70-92 last season following two late-season collapses.

The season is underway, so let’s talk about it. I plan to blog the games with you as I have the last three seasons, and hope this time we’re talking late into October.

Here’s today’s line-up vs. Josh Johnson of the Marlins:

Alex Cora, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B,
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Gary Matthews, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Johan Santana, LP

Don’t forget to go to the previous thread to post your favorite Opening Day memories.