Mar 29

March 29.10: Reyes still an Opening Day possibility.

They are playing the “maybe’’ game again with Jose Reyes, with GM Omar Minaya not discounting him for Opening Day.

“We haven’t ruled it out yet, no,’’ Minaya said. “He looks good. He wants to bring it to the next level.’’

Reyes took live BP this morning for the first time.

The Mets could put him in a minor league game, where he’d lead off each inning and get six or seven at-bats. But, isn’t that rushing him, something they said they wouldn’t do?

Reyes hasn’t faced a major league pitch since last May, and even with a full workload this week that might not be enough.

Reyes is too valuable to this team to fool around with him. Better be certain than risk a setback. By Minaya leaving it open, Reyes might push himself to where he shouldn’t go. Better for Minaya to say
something now and take temptation away from him.

MEJIA STILL POSSIBLE: Jenrry Mejia to the Mets bullpen still remains a possibility, and if it happens he would presumably take the spot of Kiko Calero, leaving him behind for an extended spring training.

ONE GAME BAGGED: The split squad game in Viera, Fla., against the Nationals was rained out. Jon Niese was scheduled to start, but instead will pitch today in Port St. Lucie, against the Marlins.
Oliver Perez was to start that game, but will start tomorrow instead.

Here’s today’s lineup against the Marlins:

Angel Pagan, LF
Alex Cora, SS
David Wright, 3B
Daniel Murphy, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Gary Matthews, CF
Henry Blanco, C
Ruben Tejada, 2B
Jon Niese, LP

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 23

March 23.10: Is it so bad to go with the kids?

Fernando Martinez (shown here), Jenrry Mejia, Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and Jon Niese. That is the future core of the Mets, along with David Wright, Jose Reyes and Jason Bay. That’s your team over the next few years.

But, should the future be now?

All spring I’ve been saying these guys aren’t ready and should open the season in the minor leagues where they’ll fine tune their games. That they for the most part have played well this spring makes me wonder if I should reconsider.

There have been players who played a minimum in the minor leagues and became stars in the major leagues. Maybe, if these guys are as special as the Mets are saying, they’ll adapt right away and become productive.

Afterall, it’s not written in stone anywhere that if they start out in the majors they’ll fizzle out. It’s also not written anywhere that going to the minor leagues now guarantees future success.

I just look at the team now, and despite all the bluster early, they are playing near a listless .500.

Why is that?

Ok, it’s spring, and results aren’t supposed to matter, but the following ERAs make me wonder about this year, and that if it’s a lost year, why not give the kids a chance?

* Johan Santana has a 9.00 ERA in three starts, but I’m not worried so much about him. However, he is coming off a surgery, and you just can’t throw out 20 wins for him.

* Mike Pelfrey has a 7.36 ERA in four starts, including four homers yesterday. Pelfrey said he wanted to start being a pitcher. Now is as good a time as any to start.

* Oliver Perez has a 5.73 ERA in three starts. He’s had good and bad moments, which is the way it always has been for him. The only thing given about him is the roller coaster.

* John Maine has an 11.37 ERA in three starts. He had a good first start, but three bad appearances (don’t forget that relief effort when he said he wasn’t in it). I just wonder about Maine, and it isn’t a good wonder.

So, if the starting pitching holds true to form from last year and this spring, and with Reyes and Beltran out for at least the first month, the Mets aren’t exactly poised to sprint out of the gate.

If another listless season is in the making, then seeing the young players should come sooner than later.

Mar 22

March 22.10: Questions down the stretch.

When pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 18, I posted five key questions the Mets faced heading into spring training. With two weeks remaining, there are issues with four of those five concerns.

Question: What is this team’s attitude?
Assessment: By all accounts, it is good and positive. The Mets aren’t rolling through their spring schedule, but there have been no issues of lack of hustle and laziness. David Wright said the Mets need to use last year’s embarrassment as a motivator. Jason Bay is fitting in and Jeff Francoeur has been a positive influence. So far, so good, but they haven’t played any games that count yet.

Question: How healthy is this team?
Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and already two of the team’s core will open the season on the disabled list and likely won’t be ready until May. Carlos Beltran’s knee is responding well to rehab and Jose Reyes’ hamstring feels good. However, Reyes’ issue is his thyroid and one wonders how that will be with the riggers of the season. Reliever Kelvim Escobar, penciled in as a set-up man, has missed the entire spring with shoulder pain. There have been no problems physically with Francoeur, Oliver Perez, Johan Santana and John Maine, all with recent surgery on their resume.

Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?
Assessment: These three guys represent the season’s key. If they do well, then the Mets can contend. The Mets didn’t make any rotation additions this winter because they believe in the upside of these three. It has been an up-and-down spring for all three, but Perez has been refreshingly positive. However, none have performed to where the Mets can say they are in the clear. The concerns remain.

Question: Who is fifth starter?
Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi are in the mix. Takahashi has looked the best, but he hasn’t pitched enough to be stretched out. Niese has options remaining, so they could do the safe thing and send him out and protect someone else. Jerry Manuel said he’ll use a fifth starter from the start, so there will be no hiding him with the off-days in April. This is the biggest decision remaining in camp.

Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?
Assessment: The biggest sub-question is whether Jenrry Mejia goes north in the pen and what role he would have. With his stuff, he’s a closer in waiting, which makes me think eighth-inning set-up. But, will the Mets expose him to that or put him in a low-pressure role. To me, that’s defeatist thinking. If you’re afraid to use him, then why carry him? Losing Escobar went a large part in opening the door for Mejia. So has, the general ineffectiveness of the relievers. If Takahashi doesn’t make it in the rotation, it could be him. Any of the losers for the fifth-starter could also fit as the long man. Bobby Parnell is still around, but he might be a casualty if they keep Takahashi in the pen. Kiko Calero and Ryota Igarashi will make the roster. Pedro Feliciano is still the only lefty of substance.

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.