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.

May 22

May 22.10: Don’t count on Mets getting Oswalt.

Just because Roy Oswalt wants out of Houston, don’t go thinking his next stop is Queens. Oswalt has $31 million remaining on this contract through 2011, plus an option, so he won’t come cheaply.

I know what you’re thinking, if they can give more money than that to Oliver Perez, why can’t they give it to a good pitcher such as Oswalt?

They could, but do you really see them spending that kind of money? I don’t, and I don’t see Oswalt waiving his no-trade clause to play for a team that’s in disarray.

Let’s face it, outside of a pitcher’s ball park, what do the Mets have to offer. A listless offense? Perhaps a managerial change? Perhaps a change in the front office? A shaky bullpen?

The Mets aren’t a very attractive proposition right now.

Even so, the Mets still have three holes to fill in their rotation.

After last night, Hisanori Takahashi will get another shot. So will R.A. Dickey. The next time John Maine’s spot in the rotation will come up will be a week from tomorrow. The best guess is it will be Pat Misch.

Bottom line, for immediate help, it will have to come from within.

May 21

May 21.10: Chat Room, Game #43 vs. Yankees: Mets come limping home.

Both the Mets and Yankees limp into this weekend’s series at Citi Field, but as usual there are more issues in Queens than the Bronx.

“I always look forward to these series,’’ Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “You find out where you are as a team, and how you perform in that type of environment.’’

Doesn’t he know by now?

The Mets, despite winning last night at Washington, are reeling, almost in a free fall, and could very well be there after back-to-back series against the Yankees and Phillies.

The last-place Mets are coming off a 2-6 road trip in which they lost, by injury or performance, three-fifths of their rotation. Jon Niese, the most consistent of the three, went on the disabled list and could be joined there by John Maine, who was yanked after five pitches last night. Oliver Perez was exiled to the bullpen.

Journeyman knuckleballer R.A. Dickey replaced Perez and performed well, and long reliever Hisanori Takahashi will start tonight in place of Niese against the Yankees.
Takahashi’s move to the rotation, even temporarily, further strains the bullpen. Fernando Nieve and Pedro Feliciano, so effective in April, have been hit lately.

Further complicating matters has been an unproductive offense, which is relying on a journeyman catcher Rod Barajas and rookie first baseman Ike Davis because of the season-long power drought of Jason Bay and David Wright’s assault on the strikeout record.

Bay, although he’s been making contact lately, in on pace for four homers, while Wright is on pace for 223 strikeouts. Jeff Francoeur and Jose Reyes also aren’t hitting.

As bad as things have been, one can logically assume if Wright and Reyes, the cornerstones to the franchise, were hitting according to expectations, the Mets would be over .500 and there wouldn’t be so many rumblings about Manuel’s job security.

Despite COO Jeff Wilpon’s impromptu meeting in Atlanta in which he said he wasn’t about to fire Manuel or GM Omar Minaya, the whispers persist and are even louder after last night’s Manuel-Maine dugout blowout.

“When the owner comes down, you know something is going on,’’ said Francoeur. “But at the same time, you have to be professional. At times it can be tough, all the speculation, but I try to just play. That’s the easiest way to deal with it.’’

Manuel didn’t do much to get Wright and Francoeur on his side when he rested both this week. Both expressed displeasure at sitting, but neither criticized Manuel.

Also, neither offered much verbal support.

Before he was sacked, Willie Randolph had more verbal support from his players than Manuel has received, but the players are still hustling. That is a saving grace, but will it be enough if the Mets are pasted by the Yankees and Phillies?

Here’s tonight’s Mets’ line-up behind Takahashi:

Jose Reyes, SS
Alex Cora, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
David Wright, 3B
Angel Pagan, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Hisanori Takahashi, LP

NOTE: Luis Castillo was scratched from the line-up with a bruised left heel. … After throwing five innings in relief last night, Raul Valdes is not expected to be available for the Yankees series. … With Takahashi starting, R.A. Dickey will be the long man.

PREVIOUS POST: Feel free to comment on the Maine vs. Manuel thread.

May 17

May 17.10: Wilpon in town; tonight’s lineup.

Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon is in Atlanta meeting with Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya. Wilpon told reporters nothing dramatic is imminent. But, one can assume the leash is getting shorter.

Among the topics on the table is what to do with the rotation, which is minus Oliver Perez and Jon Niese. Hisanori Takahashi is speculated to start Friday against the Yankees, but Perez’s spot Wednesday is open. Veteran knuckleballer RA Dickey has a locker ready for him in Atlanta reports SNY.

The Mets will DL Jon Niese to make room. Also, don’t think it is not possible the Mets could find something wrong with Perez and DL. Afterall, he’s lost up to five mph. off his fastball. Word now is trainer Ray Ramirez is in the meeting.

The wheels are spinning.

Perez has refused to go to the minor leagues which means a productive player will have to be optioned to make room for reliever Ryota Igarashi or another starter.

The Mets open a two-game series tonight with the following line-up:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Chris Carter, RF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Gary Matthews, CF
Mike Pelfrey, RP

COMMENTS: After scoring eight runs yesterday, the line-up is essentially the same. Since Jason Bay is hitting the ball, although not for homers, he’ll stay in the third slot. … Gary Matthews, who came off the bench yesterday for a couple of hits, starts in center to give Angel Pagan a rest. … Jeff Francoeur sits again.

May 16

May 16.10: Chat Room, Game #38 at Marlins: Juggling to stop a slide.

It is Oliver Perez’s right – via collective bargaining – to refuse a demotion to the minor leagues. That doesn’t mean he’s any less selfish in refusing.

“I don’t like going to the bullpen,’’ said Perez. “But, I think that’s what’s best for the team.’’

What nonsense.

What’s best for the Mets is the minor leagues, because that’s where he’ll get the most consistent work, and therefore, have the best chance to get himself righted.

However, they can’t make him go. And, despite it being his right, it’s a selfish decision because he’s wasting a roster spot better left for somebody else. Should the Mets decide to bring up somebody from the minors to start, somebody would have to be optioned out. A possible option is Jenrry Mejia to develop him as a starter.

Another aspect of this is it might force them to use Hisanori Takahashi, which weakens the bullpen. A straight change of roles between Takahashi and Perez is possible, but the former pitches when the games are in the balance. The Mets would only want to use Perez in games out of control.

A trade would have been nice, but let’s face it, any trade would either entail the Mets paying a bulk of the balance of his due salary, or an exchange of bad contracts. The guy is a power pitcher who can no longer bring it; he’s not going to net much in return.

Another shake-up with the Mets is overdue, and that’s returning Jose Reyes to the leadoff spot. Reyes’ comment, that it’s like returning home, indicated he was never on-board with this.

It also means Jerry Manuel, however well intentioned, didn’t know Reyes’ temperature on this and that’s not good managing.

A manager has to know how to put players in the situations where they are most apt to be successful and Manuel has wasted Reyes for the better part of a month.

The Mets close their series in Florida today with Jon Niese on the mound in the hope of stopping the losing streak at four games.

Here’s today’s line-up:

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

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