Apr 16

April 16.10: Chat Room, Game #10 at Cardinals: Low expectations.

The Mets are in St. Louis tonight, a town that rarely treats them kindly. They’ll play the sizzling Cardinals, who have the game’s best hitter in Albert Pujols. They’ll face them with Oliver Perez, which begs the question what’s the over-under on homers allowed?

I’m guessing three.

Perez never inspires confidence, so you have to wonder whose basket is Omar Minaya putting his eggs in this weekend. Perez? Johan Santana? John Maine?

Geez … who do you think he had in mind when he told SI.com of his expectations for the weekend?

“St. Louis is always tough,” Minaya said. “If we can win two out of three, that will be outstanding. If we win one, I’ll take it. We’ve got Jose back, and once we get Murphy and Beltran back, we can compete with everyone else.”

Here’s tonight’s starting line-up:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Gary Matthews, CF
OIiver Perez, LP

Apr 06

April 6.10: Wright steps up for his team.

David Wright spoke in basic, but his smile told a much more complex story.

First inning, Citi Field, yesterday afternoon and Wright was rounding the bases after hitting a two-run, opposite-field homer off Josh Johnson … his smile carrying him as much as his legs.

Wright, who seemingly talked himself out of hitting for power early in the season, and later that lost summer was felled with a concussion after taking a Matt Cain fastball to his head, had just gotten the Mets off to a fast start in turning the page from a disastrous 2009.

Could one swing of the bat set the tone for a summer?

“I don’t put too much stock into home runs,’’ said Wright, who hit only ten of them last year, one of them last Opening Day he was quick to remind when the “tone’’ word surfaced.

Logic says no, that Mets 7, Marlins 1, was simply one game, but the game gave us a glimpse of what could happen when Wright’s team puts it all together for an afternoon. Yesterday was a blue print of what needs to happen.

The Mets need pitching more than power and Johan Santana was superb. And, with their suspect rotation, they need the bullpen late and Fernando Nieve gave them two sterling innings and Francisco Rodriguez was perfect.

Last summer, the Mets hit a major league low 95 homers – the only team not to hit 100 – so their offense must generate runs and take advantage of what is offered. So many opportunities were wasted last year, but yesterday they parlayed three Florida errors into four runs. A gift, yes, but too many times last year they came away empty in similar spots.

The new guys, Gary Matthews, Jason Bay and Rod Barajas had two hits apiece, and Matthews showed he can cover center until Carlos Beltran’s return.

“I think it was an all-around good effort,” Wright said. “We caught the ball, we pitched well and obviously had some timely hitting. You can’t ask for much more than that, first game of the season.’’

Wright is correct, it’s only one game, but it’s better than if it had been one game the other way. For a team coming off two late season collapses and a free-fall summer, that played with frustrating mediocrity this spring, winning sure as hell beats losing.

“By no stretch of the imagination are we where we want to be right now,’’ said manager Jerry Manuel, who looks at winning in a more personal, job-preserving vein. “The important thing is that as you put the pieces into place that you win games.

“We played well. We played all 27 outs.’’

There will be times this summer when they don’t. All teams, even champions, have those moments. And, there will be times this summer when the smile Wright wore yesterday will be a frown.

But, it was finally nice to see him smile.

“It’s good to see David get started,’’ Jeff Francoeur said. “David has to step up. It has to be his team.’’

And, yesterday it was.

Mar 29

March 29.10: Pelfrey should open season in the minors.

Let’s face it, Mike Pelfrey has had a miserable spring, one which doesn’t warrant going north with the team. He’s given up eight homers this spring, and 12 runs over his last two starts.

Pelfrey speaks knowingly of the need for him to pitch well, but spits the bit most every time out this spring. Neither John Maine nor Oliver Perez have pitched well, either, but Pelfrey has been combustible.

It would be very simple for Nelson Figueroa to start the season in the rotation with Bobby Parnell being added to the bullpen until Pelfrey works out his problems.

It is imperative for a lot of reasons that the Mets get off to a fast start, but right now I see Pelfrey putting the breaks on getting out of the gate.

Mar 25

March 25.10: Wrapping up the Day.

Despite giving up two homers, there was questionable progress made by John Maine in today’s loss to St. Louis. The two homers were the only runs he allowed in five innings. Maine also walked two. Not sterling by any stretch, but better by comparison to how we’ve seen him this spring.

The Cardinals had chances, but for the most part Maine pitched out of trouble, which is a positive sign. But, he was lucky the homers – on by Albert Pujols – came with the bases empty. It hasn’t always been that way.

Maine was one inning and run less than what passes for a quality start these days. Three runs in six innings hardly represents quality, but does by today’s watered down standards. Tom Seaver would call in unacceptable.

The Mets need more from Maine, both at this stage in spring training and during his career. I’d take the two runs every time out, but the Mets need more than five innings considering his pitch count of 88. That many pitches must take him through seven innings.

Five innings won’t make it.

CARTER IMPRESSES: Omar Minaya, speaking during today’s telecast, said Chris Carter is making an impression regarding the final position spot on the roster.

“He’s a left-handed hitter with power,’’ Minaya said.

Carter flied out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, but is batting .421 with five extra-base hits.

Also in contention for that spot are Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto, neither of whom are hitting over .200.

REYES WORKS OUT: Jose Reyes worked out again today and said there were no problems.

“Today went much better,’’ Reyes told reporters. “I was a little bit sore, but it was good so far, I’ll continue to do more and hopefully I’ll be on the field as soon as possible.’’

The will take it slow with Reyes. Pushing him at this time would only risk injury to his leg and would be foolish.

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.