May 23

May 23.10: Maine admits to arm problems; Manuel vindicated.

Is it lying or semantics?

Pitching coach Dan Warthen called John Maine a “habitual liar,’’ two words that could destroy most any working relationship. It remains to be seen whether it will ruin this one, even though Warthen and manager Jerry Manuel have been vindicated for pulling Maine after five pitches last week in Washington.

Warthen’s intent was innocent enough although his choice of words was poor. Warthen meant it in that Maine never admits to his arm feeling poorly.

Even now, when Maine finally admitted something is not right with his shoulder he couched his words.

“There’s a little bit of pain, but what pitcher doesn’t have pain?’’ Maine said. “It’s the nature of pitching. It wasn’t going to stop me from going out there every five days.’’

But, it isn’t pain as much as it is weakness or fatigue in the shoulder.

“There was a little bit of weakness, not that much,’’ Maine said. “I guess they want to get to the bottom of it. What’s the problem, you know? What’s going on back there?

“Something has got to be found, but if everything comes back good, then I’ll deal with it and pitch, if I have to.’’

In the interim, the Mets must improvise.

The current thinking is to use Raul Valdes, who replaced Maine after his five pitch-outing, against the Phillies Tuesday night, followed Hisanori Takahashi and Mike Pelfrey. The thinking of Valdes over R.A. Dickey is because of the left-handed power in the Phillies’ line-up.

The next time Maine’s turn in the rotation would be is a week from today. But, the Mets will jump off that bridge when they get to it.

May 21

May 21.10: Who goes first, Manuel or Maine?

Was one of the five pitches John Maine threw last night his final one with the Mets?

That’s what many are thinking, but if Jerry Manuel’s job security was secure, or at least stable, it might be enough for him to outlast Maine, but it is a house of cards.

Maine was the third Mets starter to go down during the team’s dreadful 2-6 road trip, but if the DL is in his immediate future then he’ll get another chance to save his career.

Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen think Maine is hiding an injury – the latter called the pitcher a “habitual liar’’ when it comes to discussing his health – and we should know after he sees a doctor today.

“I would like an explanation,’’ Maine said about his removal. “Me throwing 85 mph I don’t think is a good explanation to be taken out.’’

A weak warm-up session and Maine hunched over on the mound might have had something to do with it.

However, Maine partly answered his own question about why he wasn’t allowed to stay in the game.

“I’m in no position, I don’t have enough clout,’’ said Maine. “I don’t have enough star power to say anything. So what happens happens.’’

While Maine’s verbal explosion might doom him with some organizations, what might save him was how this was bungled by Manuel and Warthen.

“I just didn’t think John had enough to compete tonight,’’ Warthen said. “If he’s throwing that way, then there’s got to be something incorrect in that arm. … He wants to go out there and pitch. But we have to be smart enough to realize this guy isn’t right.’’

How come then, if his warm-ups were so bad, weren’t they smart enough to pull the plug before he took the mound?

Warthen told Manuel that Maine wasn’t throwing 80 mph in the bullpen. When Maine bounced a warm-up pitch, Manuel immediately got Raul Valdes up and throwing.

Manuel talked so much about wanting to protect Maine, but he let him start the game anyway? If one pitch could blow out his shoulder, then why take the chance?

Maine said he was never asked how he felt or that he was scheduled to see a doctor today. There’s a protocol in dealing with pitcher’s injuries and it wasn’t followed.

To be sure, Maine didn’t handle things properly, but neither did Manuel or Warthen, and the ice they are skating on is thinner than Maine’s.

May 05

May 5.10: Chat Room, Game #28 at Reds: Getaway day and resting Pelfrey.

The Mets behind Jon Niese will attempt to win the rubber game of their series at Cincinnati this afternoon and go home 3-3 on the road trip. A let down of sorts after their 9-1 homestand, but considering what happened in Philly, I’ll take it.

Niese is coming off a superb start last Friday in Philadelphia, prompting one anonymous Phillie to say he’s better than any pitcher the Phillies have “not named Halladay.”

To me, the key story of the day is how the Mets are handling Mike Pelfrey’s tight shoulder. Pelfrey was hammered in his last start, and afterward complained of stiffness in his shoulder. An MRI Monday was negative, but even so the Mets bagged his normal throw day yesterday and today he had a light abbreviated bullpen session.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the decision to cancel his normal bullpen was to not force the issue, but also said Pelfrey is good to go this weekend against San Francisco.

I say, why bother?

There’s reason enough to be concerned so shouldn’t the prudent thing be to have him skip his start to be sure he’s sound. We’re talking a game in May. Isn’t it better to miss one game now rather than four or five later should he go on the disabled list for a prolonged time?

When it comes to a pitcher’s arm, I always anticipate the worse and believe it is better to be cautious now rather than regretful later. They don’t need Pelfrey as much this weekend as they do later this season.

R.A. Dickey is pitching well for Triple-A Buffalo and could be brought up for an emergency start.

Here’s today’s line-up for the Mets:

Angel Pagan, CF
Alex Cora, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Gary Matthews, RF
Henry Blanco, C
Jon Niese, LP

Mar 27

March 27.10: Takahashi starts today; looking at the pen.

When the Mets signed Hisanori Takahashi after his ten years with the Yomiuri Giants, there was little doubt he’d be on their staff, most likely as a starter.

After a strong start Jerry Manuel said there would be a spot for him, but with prospect Jon Niese recovered from a hamstring injury and performing well, the Mets are looking are at using him out of the bullpen, giving them a second lefty to Pedro Feliciano.

Pencil Takahashi into the bullpen, even though he’ll start today.

“Takahashi is fun,” pitching coach Dan Warthen said earlier this spring. “He very seldom hits the middle of the plate. He changes speeds. He recognizes swings, works both sides of the plate extremely well.’’

Takahashi’s ball cuts and sinks, giving the Mets an option to come in and get the double play, something they’ve lacked since Chad Bradford in 2006.

The dynamics of the make-up of a pitching staff are interesting. Niese puts Takahashi in the pen, and Kelvim Escobar’s injury led to several scenarios. Escobar was to be the eighth inning set-up reliever, but that could go to Takahashi now. It could go to Fernando Nieve or to somebody else. It won’t got to Pedro Feliciano.

The Mets will carry seven relievers with only closer Francisco Rodriguez and situational lefty Feliciano givens with defined roles.

Ryota Igarashi and Kiko Calero have been impressive, and that leaves one spot unaccounted for.

For much of the spring we heard it could be Jenrry Mejia, but it seems he’s ticketed to the minor leagues.

Who gets the final spot?

Do they relent with Mejia, or give it to Bobby Parnell, Sean Green or Nelson Figueroa?

The path of least resistance would be Figueroa for the following reasons: 1) if Mejia won’t be the eighth-inning guy he’s better off getting consistent work in the minors, 2) Mejia, Green and Parnell all have options remaining, and 3) with the Mets’ rotation suspect there would appear to be opportunities for an innings-eating long-man.

That’s Figueroa.

“We know that he’s capable of throwing three innings a day and then come back if somebody’s losing it and throwing again,’’ Manuel said. “He has shown us that he can handle the big leagues. Whatever role we decide for him, he throws strikes. He’ll be fine.’’

Prior to yesterday’s disastrous start Figueroa had pitched well, and his demeanor and talents are better suited for the mop-up role. The irony of it is that Figueroa isn’t good enough to make the rotation, but the questions in the rotation might give him a chance to stick.

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.