May 06

May 6.10: Return Reyes to the top.

It’s time for Jerry Manuel to call in the dogs on his batting order experiment and return Jose Reyes from third to leading off.

In theory, the switch was to provide Jason Bay with more fastballs with Reyes on base as a steal threat. In reality, neither is hitting and it is time to return to the basics … and that begins with Reyes.

Reyes is out of his element in the three hole and you can see that in every swing-out-of-his shoes at-bat. Reyes has become the pop-up king. It is clear he has adjusted his game mentally and is trying to lift everything.

Personally, I think when they go back Reyes will be so entrenched in bad habits that he’ll be totally lose.

As for Bay, he’s not hitting anything, fastballs included.

“I’ve been seeing more fastballs because I can’t hit them,’’ said Bay, who hit in nine straight then has fallen into a funk going hitless in his last 15 at-bats and is batting just .238 on the season and on pace to strike out 191 times.

The Mets knew when they signed him that he’d be streaky, so maybe he’ll figure it out. Then again, maybe he won’t and will have the kind of power year David Wright had last season. Only thing, Wright made up for it with average and getting on base.

For the past five seasons we’ve been told Reyes has the potential to be this generation’s Rickey Henderson. He, quite simply, has all the tools to be the game’s premier leadoff hitter.

Angel Pagan, however, does not. So return to the fundamentals and put Reyes back into the spot where he has the best chance to perform.

A No. 2 needs to be patient, he needs to exercise bat control and put the ball in play. Hitting second snapped Wright out of slumps before and it might be time to think the same might work for Bay. And, if Reyes snaps out of it, Bay should be seeing those fastballs Manuel promised. If nothing else, it will remove what has been a consistent out in the middle of the order.

Wright is the team’s best hitter in Carlos Beltran’s absence and should go back to hitting third.

Quite honestly, if you tinker with Bay hitting second – and I doubt they will – that leaves a hole at No. 4. If not there are four options: Jeff Francoeur, who has been spotty lately; Ike Davis, who might have the best plate presence in the line-up and Rod Barajas, who is tied with Wright for the team lead in homers.

As Reyes played out of his game moving to third, I’d be wary of moving Davis to clean-up for fear of picking up bad habits.

I’d try Francoeur – who has hit there before – and have Davis bat fifth followed by Barajas. Then I’d go with Pagan and Luis Castillo, which in theory would bunch the speed together and consequently help Bay.

Whatever Manuel does, something needs to be done because this line-up isn’t clicking. Manuel made the initial move out of desperate measures. Well, these are also desperate measures.

May 03

May 3.10: Chat Room, Game #26 at Reds: Perez needs to stop slide.

After their weekend in Philadelphia in which they were ripped the last two games, the Mets find themselves in position of needing to again right their ship.

As quickly as they won nine of ten they can lose the same, especially if they don’t get pitching. So, once again, it is time to say Oliver Perez needs to earn his money.

Maybe not all $36 million, but at least one game’s worth.

The Mets’ starting pitching, so good during the last homestand that is fast becoming a memory, has been poor in three of its last five games, beginning with Perez’s start last Tuesday against Los Angeles when he gave up three runs in 3 2/3 innings.

Manager Jerry Manuel gave Perez the benefit of doubt after that start, saying the cold and windy conditions made it hard to grip the ball. That won’t be a problem tonight in Cincinnati.

Manuel said Perez would stay in the rotation for now, however, he suggested he would keep his options open, and if the uncertain lefthander should continue to falter how impressed he has been with Hisanori Takahashi.

Here’s the line-up behind Perez tonight:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Oliver Perez, LP

Apr 30

April 30.10: On to Philly.

The Mets didn’t win anything on their recent homestand and they won’t win anything this weekend in Philadelphia.

Neither will the Phillies.

The most important thing coming out of the homestand, and this weekend’s series, is it has made the Mets’ season relevant again. It might have started with the promotion of Ike Davis and ended with perhaps the best 10-game regular season stretch in franchise history, but in between we saw the Mets play alert, aggressive baseball.

We saw the Mets play as they promised us they would. We saw them play as if they wanted our attention.

And, they deserved it.

What I am looking forward to in this series are three games of intense baseball, of a rivalry where the competitive juices are flowing.

After all the promoting it as such, it finally is a rivalry worth paying attention to again. Each one of the games has a special nugget of intrigue.

Tonight is about Jon Niese and how the young pitcher will respond to the pressure of a high profile game. Niese giving the Mets six strong tonight will go a long way toward answering some of their pitching questions. It would also prevent an emotional let down.

After a week-and-a-half of being on an emotional high, tonight is about sustaining. The last thing we want to see is for Niese to get hammered and to lose that good feeling.

Tomorrow, and this is the game I really want to see, is Mike Pelfrey against Roy Halladay. In a season full of tests for Pelfrey, this is another one. Aren’t you curious about seeing him go against an ace?

Sunday it is the stopper, Johan Santana, who would be pitching to either stave off a disappointment or continue the ride. It will be as important a game as you can have in May, and you want your best.

The Mets went 9-1 because they played to their capabilities, but also because they did not try to exceed them. They played within themselves and didn’t try to do something they weren’t capable of doing.

They need that same, level approach this weekend, and if they get it, then it could be the start of a wonderful summer.

Apr 29

April 29.10: Hope they don’t leave home without them.

The Mets wish they were playing the Phillies today. When you’re hot you don’t want to stop. Instead, they are off basking in the excitement of a 9-1 homestand.

When it began they were 4-8 and staring into irrelevancy in the National League. Today they are in first place and will take a half-game lead into Philadelphia Friday evening.

A lot of good things happened over the past week-and-a-half. Here are the nine most important trends and player developments, one for each victory:

Taking advantage: The Mets ran into three opponents who weren’t at the top of their games, but it would be unfair to say they beat up on bad teams. The Mets did what good teams are supposed to do, which is to pounce on the opposition when it is down. It’s not the Mets’ fault the Braves don’t know the infield fly rule. Too often last year the Mets didn’t take advantage of opportunities presented of them, but this time they went for the throat, which is the right mentality heading into Philadelphia.

The pitching: The starters have been particularly stingy, even Oliver Perez in terms of giving up runs. Still, Perez, John Maine and Jon Niese haven’t been able to go deep into games, but have been picked up by the bullpen. It can’t continue this way for the starters, but for now the bullpen is holding up to the strain.

John Maine: Wherever the Mets go this season, their GPS will be their rotation. Maine had been struggling, running his pitch count into the 100s while barely lasting five innings. Removed from his last start with spasms in his left arm, Maine recovered yesterday on a chilly afternoon to pitch into the seventh and earn his first victory of the season. He was on the verge of losing his spot in the rotation, but there’s now reason for optimism.

Mike Pelfrey: Pelfrey has been stellar all season, but had a rocky go of it in his last start with ten base runners through five innings. Yes, there was mumbling of this being “the same old Pelfrey,’’ but instead he pitched out of trouble with no runs scored. Not pitching well but finding a way to win is taking it to the next level.

Pedro Feliciano: The season began with a myriad of questions, not the least of which was the eighth-inning set-up role. Feliciano has been nearly untouchable giving up one run all season. During the homestand he appeared in five games and gave up one hit in 4 1/3 innings.

Fernando Nieve: The man with the rubber arm, Nieve appeared in six games during the homestand and worked 5 1/3 scoreless innings. He’s given up only five runs all season in 14 appearances, with three of them coming in one game at Colorado. He might get burned out, but for now he has proven to be reliable and durable.

Hisanori Takahashi: As Perez continues to frustrate, the Mets might have found a possible fill-in should they need to bump him a turn. Takahashi worked 3 1/3 innings in relief of Perez on Tuesday. He has 21 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings on the season.

David Wright: You knew he was going to hit eventually, and he snapped out of a funk against the Dodgers getting hot just in time for the Phillies. In the second game of the doubleheader Wright snapped a string of strikeouts in 13 consecutive games with three hits and four RBI. While it is premature to say he’s on a roll, he’s showing the signs of mechanically getting straight.

Jason Bay: Bay finally homered after 69 at-bats and is hitting the ball hard a couple of times in most games. Like Wright, it was only a matter of time. The professional that he is, Bay didn’t take his offense to the field.

Ike Davis: Davis’ major league career consists of this homestand, and in it he hit .355 with a homer and six RBI. Four of his nine hits have been for extra-bases as he’s given the Mets an offensive presence in what had been a black hole of a position.

Jose Reyes: Reyes hit safely in all but two of the ten games. He’s still not running with the authority he has in the past, but he’s getting sharper at the plate, with 12 hits in the 10 games. It is hard to say Reyes in the reason for Bay’s resurgence because the latter was starting to come around, but it is fair to say most of the questions surrounding the shortstop are being answered in the positive. Only three strikeouts during the homestand.

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.