Mar 08

March 8.10: Maine goes today.

John Maine isn’t a project the way Mike Pelfrey and Oliver are, but he’s a question nonetheless. When healthy, the Mets have a reasonable idea what to expect from Maine, once considered a throw-in in the Kris Benson with Baltimore.

But, how healthy is Maine?

“It feels fine,’’ Maine said at the start of spring training when asked about his surgically repaired shoulder. “It feels like it did three, four years ago.’’

Three years ago appeared to be a breakout year for Maine, who made 32 starts and went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA. However, Maine complained of fatigue in his shoulder the following summer and eventually missed his last seven starts because of surgery to remove bone spurs in his shoulder.

Surgery was deemed successful, but by his own admission he rushed his comeback saying “maybe I was trying to make up for lost time.’’

Maine made only 15 starts last season and went 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA. Maine’s biggest problem last year was an inability to amp it up and pitch out of trouble. He came back at the end of the year to show he was recovering, then modified his off-season program by starting later and throwing less.

Today’s start against the Florida Marlins won’t be about getting people out as it will be another test for his shoulder and to see what he might have picked up working with Sandy Koufax earlier this spring.

Koufax had Maine using a longer stride when delivering his fastball and concentrating on working on the inner half of the plate.

When healthy the Mets have a good idea from what to expect from Maine, although the organization believes the potential ceiling is higher with Pelfrey and Perez.

“I think being able to go out there every five days,’’ Maine said when asked the key for a successful season from him. “When I do go out there I generally give the team a chance to win.’’

Here’s the line-up behind Maine:

Angel Pagan CF
Fernando Martinez RF
David Wright 3B
Jason Bay LF
Daniel Murphy 1B
Rod Barajas C
Russ Adams 2B
Ruben Tejada SS
John Maine RP

Mar 04

March 4.10: Mejia on Tap for Today.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey gets the start today against St. Louis, and Jason Bay, David Wright and Jeff Francoeur will make their spring training debuts, but arguably the most interesting moment of the day could be the appearance of 20-year-old prospect Jennry Mejia, whom manager Jerry Manuel admits is raw, but is also making noises about using him as a reliever.

And, in a comment that will do nothing but add pressure and expectations, Darryl Strawberry said his cutter reminded him of Mariano Rivera. Easy Darryl, easy Darryl.

Mejia has electric stuff, the kind scouts drool over and makes one wonder about future dominance as a starter. Mejia doesn’t have the command or pitch variety to be a starter now, but he could be a one-trick pony out of the pen. However, command is still command, and that’s important in any role and right now he’s more a thrower than a pitcher.

I saw how the Mets rushed Eddie Kunz – who is still struggling – and Bobby Parnell and I don’t want the same thing to happen to Mejia. If Mejia is to make the major league roster, he needs a defined role and a manager with the patience not to yank him out of a role with the first sign of struggle.

It’s easy to get seduced by a high-90s fastball, but most scouts say Mejia is not ready for prime time. Sure, it would be nice to fast forward a year or two, but that’s not realistic.

NOTE: No word yet as to why, but Jose Reyes was scratched from today’s line-up.

Feb 26

Feb. 26.10: Loose threads.

Sorry, but my internet was down until recently. Let me catch you up on some of what’s going in spring training.

* Not pleased with their bullpen and not wanting to burn out Pedro Feliciano, the Mets are searching for another lefty reliever. Toward that end, the Mets made an offer to free-agent Joe Beimel, the former Dodger. Beimel will take some of the load off Feliciano and give more depth to the pen.

* Jennry Mejia was wild during batting practice. The scouting reports on him are that he’s got a strong arm and throws hard, but doesn’t always know where it’s going. Mejia is a prospect worth watching – on the minor league level this season. They would be rushing him if they kept him on the major league level this season.

* The Mets will hold an intrasquad game Monday at Tradition Field. Nelson Figueroa will get the start against the Braves Tuesday when the exhibition schedule begins.

Feb 02

Feb. 2.10: Back in the saddle again.

Good morning folks. First off, I’d like to thank you for your well wishes yesterday. I should get back some of my test results today, but I’m feeling better this morning. So, again, thank you very much for you kindness.

WRIGHT: Will he be right again?

WRIGHT: Will he be right again?


Previously, I’d listed concerns of the Mets heading into spring training. One such concern was whether David Wright would regain his home run stroke. By most standards, Wright had a miserable season in 2009, and it was that way long before he took a fastball to his helmet. Wright hit .307 with a career-low 10 homers and only 72 RBI.

Wright did himself in early when he admitted the dimensions of Citi Field were getting to him. Once that became public, pitchers had their way with him from a power standpoint and gave him absolutely nothing to hit.

Wright tinkered with his swing, but an altered swing stays with a hitter, even on the road and his power numbers paled in comparison to other seasons in production away from home, too. Wright is human, and he began to press, and with injuries mounting up – without Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran – there was little protection in the order.

Wright has been working hard with hitting coach Howard Johnson, who should have done more to persuade his third baseman to not abandon the form that produced these numbers for a 162-game average: .309, 27 homers and 107 RBI.

The problem, Johnson dissected, was in waiting on the pitch, Wright waited too long. The ball would bear down on him and he couldn’t adjust. Say hello to 140 strikeouts. A career high. That Wright hit over .300 despite his high strikeout totals illustrated how unusual Wright’s season actually was.

Their off-season work has been concentrated on Wright attacking the ball more out front, being quick with his hands and driving the ball.

Which Wright will we see in 2010?

I’m willing to bet last season was an aberration and we’ll see numbers closer to his career averages rather than last year’s posting. I’ve seen how hard Wright works and believe he’s too good a hitter, too good an athlete, not to rebound.

Yes, I think Wright will be back in the saddle again.

Oct 18

Talkin’ Baseball: More Game 6 Magic?

Talkin' Baseball: More Game 6 dramatics?

Talkin' Baseball: More Game 6 dramatics?

For all the talk of the thrill of Game 7, let us not forget, the appetizer is Game 6, and history has graced us with a lot of great memories of that game. The Buckner Game and the Marathon in the Dome are two you must surely remember.

Perhaps well have another tonight. How healthy is Beckett? That’s a major storyline for tonight. The reports are he’s lost up to four mph. off his fastball. The Rays handled him earlier in the ALCS.

However, the key to me is scoring early for the Rays. If they let the Red Sox get out to a big lead it will only fuel the momentum they created by stealing Game 5. The Red Sox believe they can come back as they did against the Yankees (2004) and Indians (2007), and the Rays have to quash that belief.

The Rays know they let Game 5 get away. They know this series should be over. But, it isn’t. They lost and must not lament. If they do, they’ll play again tomorrow, and that’s not to their advantage.