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 21

April 21.10: Although news not good on Beltran, it was still a good signing.

The news isn’t good on Carlos Beltran, who was examined Tuesday in Vail, Colo. Beltran remains in neutral with no word on a potential return that is anything other than guesswork.

Beltran, who underwent knee surgery in the offseason, hasn’t been cleared to start running. And, until he runs there’s no telling when he’ll begin baseball activities, and after that a return to the line-up.

Initially, the prognosis was up to six weeks following running for a return in May. That’s not happening. Try June now, or maybe after the All-Star break. Who is to say? I mean, who is to say with any authority?

“It’s kind of unfortunate,’’ manager Jerry Manuel said. “But what we have to do is we have to continue to play the way we have the last three or four games and hope that Carlos recovers quickly. He’s obviously an integral part of our lineup, but Angel (Pagan) is playing real well.’’

Maybe so, but there’s a reason why Pagan is a role player and Beltran a perennial All-Star.

Let’s assume at least until the end of June at the earliest. For now, Pagan is the center fielder. Gary Matthews will be kept for insurance. For now I don’t believe they’ll bring up Fernando Martinez as long as Pagan is producing.

I’ve always liked Beltran. He works hard, he hustles and he plays hurt. This was an unfortunate injury, but it would be unfair to say he was a bad signing.

This is a player who played hurt. I don’t think it would be fair to say just because this injury has lasted that the Mets should regret signing Beltran. This guy showed what he is made of when he played with a broken face after his collision with Mike Cameron.

The only thing of hindsight was the issue of the surgery. It should have been done last year, not last winter. Had it been done in September instead of trying to get him back in a lost season they might have him now.

Apr 15

April 15.10: Chat Room, Game #9 at Rockies: Will Pelfrey tax us today?

Mike Pelfrey takes his new and improved splitter to the mound this afternoon at Colorado with hopes of snapping the Mets’ four-game losing streak. Pelfrey is coming off a solid performance last Friday against Washington.

Pelfrey was successful because he worked quickly, kept the ball down and got ahead in the count. That’s always the formula for any pitcher’s success, but something Pelfrey has been consistently lacking.

The Mets’ problems have been poor starting pitching and horrid hitting, namely hitting with runners in scoring position (.164). The Mets are 2-6 with four games remaining on this road trip, which concludes with three games this weekend in St. Louis.

Apr 10

April 10.10: About Last Night; Pelfrey makes stride.

Pitching plus power have always been baseball’s greatest winning equation and the Mets finally got it last night with a solid start from Mike Pelfrey and four homers.

The Mets have questions with their rotation after Johan Santana, and the Mets have gotten three solid starts in their first four games.

Pelfrey had his rough spots, but with the exception of one inning he overcame them. Last night, working under cold and windy conditions, Pelfrey showed marked improvement. He continually threw first-pitch strikes.

Pelfrey gave up two runs in six innings, an effort he can build on. The bullpen pitched well for the second straight game. It looks as if Fernando Nieve appears to have gotten the first crack at being the eighth-inning set-up man.

Pelfrey was aided by his defense, especially Alex Cora, who made two scintillating plays, one of which saved a run. The offense was four homers – two each by Jeff Francoeur and Rod Barajas – and amazingly enough, a couple of hits with runners in scoring position.

Oct 22

What if?

Kazmir: What if the Mets won that trade?

Kazmir: What if the Mets won that trade?

It goes without saying the Scott Kazmir trade was disastrous for the Mets. But, imagine for a moment, the trade worked and Rick Peterson was able to fix the very damaged Victor Zambrano.

Let’s say the Mets turned it around in 2004 and made a run at the playoffs. They were four games under .500 at the time of the trade and finished the season 20 games under. That brought the end of Jim Duquette as general manager and ushered in Omar Minaya.

Would Minaya have come if the Mets finished that season as a competitive team? With Minaya came Pedro Martinez, then Carlos Beltran, then Carlos Delgado. It’s interesting to wonder what might have happened had Zambrano panned out.

We all know what happened with Kazmir.