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.

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.

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