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.

Feb 24

Feb. 24.10: Wondering about Frenchy.

His thumb is good, so that shouldn’t be an issue with Jeff Francoeur. That doesn’t mean the Mets’ right fielder isn’t without questions or concerns.

Francoeur’s attitude – and his performance – was a breath of fresh air in a stagnant clubhouse of a listless team last summer. He played with an energy the team had been lacking, bringing with him from Atlanta that “grit” the Mets have long been accused of lacking.

However, Francoeur has been an enigma for several years, with his stock falling since he hit a career-high 29 homers with 103 RBI in 2006. Believe it or not, that is the only season he’s hit 20. He hit 19 with 105 RBI in 2007, but his numbers have been on a downward spiral since.

That’s probably why he cost the Mets only Ryan Church.

Francoeur cited a change of scenery as giving him a lift last season, and perhaps that was the case. He hit .311 with 10 homers and 41 RBI in 289 at-bats for the Mets. That projects to a decent season of a little more than 20 homers and 82 RBI. Even so, it is still shy of his best season.

So, what do we expect from Francoeur if healthy and him getting over 600 at-bats? Would it be the change of scenery and a new Francoeur? Will it be another disappointment?

Not a lot has been made of Francoeur being an issue, but his career is at a crossroads and it will be interesting, and important, to the Mets to find out in which direction he’s going.

Feb 17

Feb. 17.10: Wright speaks in PSL.

David Wright held court this afternoon in Port St. Lucie, and among other things said the Mets’ expectations are to win the NL East and the World Series. Well, I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Wright.

Wright said offensively, he hopes to find something comfortable and stick with it, which translated should mean more home runs. Wright was in a mind funk all last season and only hit 10 homers.

Of all the things he said, I like this best: “I hope its not the underdog role that gets guys fired up, I hope its the embarrassment of last year.”

Embarrassment can be a powerful motivator.

Feb 16

Feb. 16.10: Open competition at first.

Omar Minaya said first base is wide open, but is it really?

“He’ll compete for the job,” Minaya said of Jacobs, and then of Murphy, added, “I think it’s fair to say that Murphy has proven himself worthy of being considered, but he’s going to have to continue. It’s an open competition.”

Not quite a ringing endorsement. Jacobs is 29, and hit 18 homers last year and with 92 RBI the season before that.

With Carlos Beltran out and Carlos Delgado gone, the Mets are in need of left-handed power. Yesterday I said Murphy had the potential to hit 20 homers. Well, Jacobs has proven he can hit more than that and he’s not learning a new position.

I can see Jacobs winning this thing with Murphy coming off the bench.

Who would you like to see at first?