Mar 04

March 4.10: Mejia on Tap for Today.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey gets the start today against St. Louis, and Jason Bay, David Wright and Jeff Francoeur will make their spring training debuts, but arguably the most interesting moment of the day could be the appearance of 20-year-old prospect Jennry Mejia, whom manager Jerry Manuel admits is raw, but is also making noises about using him as a reliever.

And, in a comment that will do nothing but add pressure and expectations, Darryl Strawberry said his cutter reminded him of Mariano Rivera. Easy Darryl, easy Darryl.

Mejia has electric stuff, the kind scouts drool over and makes one wonder about future dominance as a starter. Mejia doesn’t have the command or pitch variety to be a starter now, but he could be a one-trick pony out of the pen. However, command is still command, and that’s important in any role and right now he’s more a thrower than a pitcher.

I saw how the Mets rushed Eddie Kunz – who is still struggling – and Bobby Parnell and I don’t want the same thing to happen to Mejia. If Mejia is to make the major league roster, he needs a defined role and a manager with the patience not to yank him out of a role with the first sign of struggle.

It’s easy to get seduced by a high-90s fastball, but most scouts say Mejia is not ready for prime time. Sure, it would be nice to fast forward a year or two, but that’s not realistic.

NOTE: No word yet as to why, but Jose Reyes was scratched from today’s line-up.

Mar 02

March 2.10: Let the games begin.

It’s been raining most of the morning, but today’s exhibition against the Braves is still expected to be played. Nelson Figueroa is scheduled to start for the Mets.

The Mets made some drastic  changes to their starting line-up.

Here’s the original:

Gary Matthews, CF

Luis Castillo, 2B

Jose Reyes, SS

David Wright, 3B

Jason Bay, LF

Mike Jacobs, DH

Jeff Francoeur, RF

Ike Davis, 1B

Chris Coste, C

Here’s the second:

Jesus Feliciano, LF

Ruben Tejada, SS

Gary Matthews, CF

Mike Jacobs, DH

Mike Hessman, 3B

Ike Davis, 1B

Chris Coste, C

Jason Pirdie, RF

Luis Hernandez, 2B

Analysis: It is clear the grounds are wet and soft in Port St. Lucie and Jerry Manuel is protecting his players from possible injury. Especially wise in Jose Reyes’ case.

NOTES: Francisco Rodriguez is still recovering from pink eye and hasn’t been cleared to rejoin the team. … Pitcher Hisanori Takahashi left the team to attend to his visa issues resolved. … Lefty Jon Niese is saying his hamstring issue is behind him. … As of now, the Mets plan on opening the season with a five-man rotation. In this order: Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, John Maine and the fifth starter. Let’s figure Niese for now. … Reyes tested his hamstring Monday with a triple in the intrasquad game and gave a thumbs up.

It’s been raining most of the morning, but today’s exhibition against the Braves is still expected to be played. Nelson Figueroa is scheduled to start for the Mets.

The Mets made some drastic  changes to their starting line-up.

Here’s the original:

Gary Matthews, CF

Luis Castillo, 2B

Jose Reyes, SS

David Wright, 3B

Jason Bay, LF

Mike Jacobs, DH

Jeff Francoeur, RF

Ike Davis, 1B

Chris Coste, C

Here’s the second:

Jesus Feliciano, LF

Ruben Tejada, SS

Gary Matthews, CF

Mike Jacobs, DH

Mike Hessman, 3B

Ike Davis, 1B

Chris Coste, C

Jason Pirdie, RF

Luis Hernandez, 2B

Analysis: It is clear the grounds are wet and soft in Port St. Lucie and Jerry Manuel is protecting his players from possible injury. Especially wise in Jose Reyes’ case.

NOTES: Francisco Rodriguez is still recovering from pink eye and hasn’t been cleared to rejoin the team. … Pitcher Hisanori Takahashi left the team to attend to his visa issues resolved. … Lefty Jon Niese is saying his hamstring issue is behind him. … As of now, the Mets plan on opening the season with a five-man rotation. In this order: Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, John Maine and the fifth starter. Let’s figure Niese for now. … Reyes tested his hamstring Monday with a triple in the intrasquad game and gave a thumbs up.

Feb 27

Feb. 27.10: Mets batting order.

As of now, the question in the Mets’ batting order is at 4-5, where Jerry Manuel needs to decide how to slot David Wright and Jason Bay.

Jose Reyes, unfortunately, is still ticketed to bat third, with Angel Pagan and Luis Castillo hitting one-two. Then comes Wright-Bay  followed by Daniel Murphy, Jeff Francoeur, Rod Barajas and the pitcher.

With Carlos Beltran out, Wright is the Mets’ best hitter and should be third, with Reyes leading off. However, since that won’t be the case, I think he should bat fifth with Bay at clean-up. When the Mets’ batting order was its most potent in 2006, it had Beltran-Carlos Delgado-Wright.

With Reyes third, and presumably on base, Bay should get more fastballs and Wright would offer protection in the order. I like Murphy sixth because it should afford him more RBI opportunities.

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 22

Feb. 22.10: Wright cut right.

David Wright spent a lot of time this offseason working out to get himself ready for the season, and that included eating right. Jeff Francoeur said Wright is chiseled.

The new-and-improved Wright brought some criticism, with some suggesting why he didn’t do this earlier in his career. I can’t see that. Wright has always been one of the hardest working Mets, and to suggest he hadn’t put the effort in previously is unfair. I’ve always known Wright to come to camp early and as one of the team’s hardest working players.

Last year was a bad one for him, both mentally and physically. That he recognized that and stepped up his program is to commended, not second guessed. Wright has always taken a leadership role with this team, but until last season he’s lead a charmed life. To work harder after adversity only affirms his leadership responsibilities.

I see a big year for Wright, with him again reaching his career norms in power and run production. And, with Carlos Beltran out early and Carlos Delgado gone, it will truly be his locker room and his team.