Apr 24

April 24.10: Chat Room, Game #18 vs. Braves: Looking at .500.

Beautiful day a Citi Field. Sunny with a slight chilly bite in the air. No surprises, the Mets will attempt to reach .500 for the first time in over two weeks with a win this afternoon behind Jon Niese and their new-and-improved line-up.

Jose Reyes insists he doesn’t mind hitting third – I told him Babe Ruth hit third – and he’ll be there again today. There are changes at second and behind the plate, but everything else is the same.

Mets Line-up (8-9)

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

MAINE UPDATE: John Maine has spasms in his left elbow which he hopes won’t keep him from missing his next start. He admits to being frustrated, saying, “it kind of hard wrapping my head around this.” … Maine experienced something similar a few years ago in Philadelphia, but nothing this season.

Apr 23

April 23.10: Chat Room, Game #17 vs. Braves: Reyes hitting third.

I am not a second guesser and won’t start tonight. So let me go on record now – and again – before the game to denounce the move of Jose Reyes to the third spot in the order.

It will be the first time since 2005 Reyes will bat anywhere other than leadoff.

I don’t care if Reyes gets on four times tonight, I believe in the long term this move will inevitably backfire because eventually it will force the speedy shortstop outside his game.

Reyes, arguably the game’s premier leadoff hitter, is being asked to take his skills to the third slot under the guise of getting more fastballs for the struggling Jason Bay.

You see, explains Manuel, Bay’s problems stem from not getting enough fastballs, and putting a base stealer ahead of him theoretically will get those fastballs. Just out of curiosity, who was the great base stealer ahead of him in Boston? Was it David Ortiz?

For years, the Mets have been telling anybody who would listen Reyes is their offensive catalyst, that him at the top of the order is what gets the team going. So, naturally, when Reyes is just starting to feel comfortable they move him to a position with the high potential of inducing bad plate habits.

However, Reyes insists he’s not going to do all the things when one plays outside himself after being moved to a run-producing slot in the order. There will be no poor pitch selection, no trying to loft the ball and pull, no trying to hit home runs.

Throughout his career Reyes has fallen into these habits after hitting a home run or two. Willie Randolph used to cringe whenever Reyes homered.

“I’m going to be me,’’ Reyes insists. “I’m going to take it like I’m going to be leadoff. He explained it to me. I said, `I don’t have a problem Jerry.’ ’’

Easier said than done. When thrust into an unfamiliar role it is human nature to want to live up to the dynamics of that role. The No. 3 hitter is supposed to be your best hitter, one with the combination of average and power. It is not a speed position.

For the Mets, that player is a healthy Carlos Beltran, and in his absence, David Wright.

But we’re going to get Reyes, who even under ideal circumstances sometimes swings too long.

It will be very easy to fall into bad habits in this role.

A less dramatic solution would be to move Bay out of the clean-up slot, perhaps to No. 2, or maybe temporarily sixth. Instead of moving the player with the problem, the Mets’ solution is to juggle the entire line-up. Not only will Reyes move, but also Wright, Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan.

There are other options, but none would fill the leadoff slot as well as Reyes. So, in essence the Mets are weakening two slots in the batting order with this gamble.

The Mets’ offense hasn’t been doing well, but the team had won three of its last four games. Most of the Mets’ problems when they lose have been pitching related.

If John Maine spits the bit tonight, it probably won’t matter what Reyes and Bay do.

Nobody with the Mets – not just Bay – failed to hit against the Cardinals. So, why didn’t Manuel do this then? Oh yeah, because Reyes said he was uncomfortable in that role.

Here’s tonight’s line-up for the Mets:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
John Maine, RP

Apr 23

April 23.10: A lot to look forward to tonight.

It’s early in the season, but tonight’s game against the Atlanta Braves could be telling on several fronts, with the most important being John Maine.

Maine, he of the 10.38 ERA, will be making his fourth start of the year. After being hammered in his first two, Maine demonstrated improvement in his last start at St. Louis.

Maine is moving away from his dependency on off-speed pitches and more toward a reliance on his fastball as he did in 2007 and 2008. There’s also been the mechanical adjustments of a higher leg kick, different positioning of his right foot, and throwing more over the top.

In short, it’s back to Pitching 101.

“I have to get back to where I was,” Maine said. “After seven weeks of doing something I haven’t been doing, I just have to break that habit.’’

Hopefully, the adjustments will result in a spike of his velocity.

In five innings at St. Louis Maine threw 115 pitches to continue a disturbing tendency that has to stop. What kind of progress has Maine made in the past five days? If there’s little or none, how long will the Mets stay with him or will they try to get him well in the bullpen or minor leagues.

A five-inning Maine offers no help to the bullpen which was tested the past two series and didn’t always pass.

This was a concern going into the season, and after a fast start it is a concern again, especially with Ryota Iragashi going on the disabled list and Hisanori Takahashi unable to find the plate with a GPS.

We’ll may also see tonight what Jerry Manuel does with his line-up that until last night has been a vacuum in the 3-4-5 spots. David Wright and Jeff Francoeur showed snap-out-of-it signs with RBI hits, but Jason Bay is still a horror show at the plate.

Even so, the Mets have won three of their last four games, and four of six. So, does Manuel want to tinker with what has worked the last week? If the Mets were .500 instead of two games under this wouldn’t be an issue.

On one hand Manuel talks of consistency, but on the other he’s the man who can’t resist playing with the charcoal at a barbeque. A day doesn’t go by when Manuel doesn’t talk of making some move, and he still has the itch to move Jose Reyes to third.

The alternative would be the more palatable move of Bay to No. 2, something that worked in the past for Wright.

Another option would be tinkering with Ike Davis, which would be a mistake. Four games into his career he has six hits. Let’s keep him where he’s been successful instead of adding pressure. Davis said he’s on board with any move, but it’s only human nature for a player to try to do too much when he’s put into the clean-up spot.

The prudent thing would be the slight adjustment of flipping Bay and Francoeur in the 4-5 slots, and if they do mess with Davis not to go any higher than fifth.

Apr 22

April 22.10: Chat Room, Game #16 vs. Cubs: Going for first series win.

After hinting at change, Jerry Manuel opts for the status quo tonight against Cubs lefty Tom Gorzelanny, so the slumping 3-4-5 of David Wright, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur will remain intact.

Perhaps this weekend against a right-hander there could be some change.

In a nutshell, Wright is averaging a strikeout a game, Bay has 22 strikeouts and Francoeur, who opened the season with a 10-game hitting streak is on an 0-for-22 slide.

“I’ve never been so hot, and then so cold,’’ Francoeur said.

Here’s the line-up for the 6-9 Mets:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Ike David, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Angel Pagan, CF
Johan Santana, L

Apr 22

April 22.10: About Last Night: The hole in the middle.

It is easy to look at any Mets’ loss Oliver Perez starts and point at him as the reason. While Perez wasn’t nearly as sharp as he was in St. Louis, the Mets had a chance to win despite the three runs he gave up.

The Mets lost last night because their bullpen gave up six runs, a reminder rankings two weeks into the season are meaningless.

Most disconcerting from last night was the continued lack of production from the heart of the order, 3-4-5 hitters David Wright, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur, who combined to go 2-for-9.

Wright has 14 strikeouts, roughly one a game, and has been susceptible to breaking balls off the plate. Bay is not seeing the ball well at all, evidenced by 22 strikeouts. And, Francoeur, after a 10-game hitting streak to start the season, is on a 0-for-22 slide that began with the 20-inning game in St. Louis.

“I think once they get a few hits, any type of hits, they’ll get going,’’ manager Jerry Manuel said. “I don’t see fatigue as an issue. I don’t see lethargic legs. I see good bat speed.’’

Because rest isn’t the immediate answer, Manuel needs to consider breaking up the order of the three right-handed hitters, and indicated Ike Davis or Angel Pagan are options.

Currently, Bay is drawing the most concern, and Manuel said batting him behind speed might be the answer, and in that regard, he’s not letting go of the idea of moving Jose Reyes to the third slot in the order.

However, Manuel also was open to the idea of batting Bay second.

This has worked before with Wright and it could work for Bay. The problem is he’ll still have three righties in a row because he’s not going to slot Davis or Pagan clean-up.

Another possible solution is to keep batting the three righties, but mix up the order.