Mar 08

Mets In Lakeland To Face Tigers; Gee Gets Ball

Good morning from Lakeland. Just arrived. The drive was a little over two hours, straight highways all the way through past Yeehaw Junction, dozens of orange groves, junkyards, farms and dilapidated motels.

The weather is nice, but it wasn’t a pretty drive.

The Tigers play in a place called Joker Marchant Stadium, built in 1966. It has been renovated several times. There’s a hill behind the left field fence, much like what the Mets have at Tradition Field in right.

The Mets’ bus just arrived and I’ll be heading to the clubhouse in a few minutes. The Tigers are taking batting practice and there’s only a few people in the stands.

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Mar 07

Jordany Valdespin Saying Right Things

Jordany Valdespin sat by his locker, his eyes glued to a television showing Phillies-Nationals highlights. However, his mind seemed elsewhere, but apparently not on his quest to be the Opening Day leadoff hitter in center.

“They have a decision to make, and the only thing I can do is keep playing hard and give them something to think about,’’ Valdespin said.  “I can’t make the decision. I have to play hard and see what happens in spring training.’’

Valdespin rarely made eye contact, instead kept on watching the television.

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Mar 04

Questions About Marcum, Santana And Nieuwenhuis

The Mets are off tomorrow, but have a “B’’ game in Jupiter in which Shaun Marcum, Pedro Feliciano and LaTroy Hawkins will pitch.

The projected fifth starter, Marcum, raised concerns when he didn’t report in shape. Here is a guy trying to hang onto a major league job and he doesn’t come to camp ready to pitch and says he only needs four exhibition appearances to get ready for the season.

MARCUM: Pitches tomorrow.

MARCUM: Pitches tomorrow.

Guys like that are hard to cheer for and you only hope he’s right about the four games. Somehow, I doubt it.

Hawkins, 40, is competing for a bullpen spot, and as a veteran supposedly requires only a minimum amount of innings.

Feliciano, once a Mets’ workhorse out of the pen, was sidelined with a heart ailment and is required to wear a monitor.

Considering all three could make the staff, that’s not a good sign for the Mets’ pitching.

SANTANA QUESTIONS: Other than Johan Santana being angry at reporters having the nerve to ask him about his condition, there’s been no timetable in the wake of his throwing off the mound Sunday.

I still don’t understand how the Mets can say they monitored Santana in the off-season, yet be surprised he didn’t come to camp in shape.

I also don’t understand why Santana, who knows the Mets won’t extend him beyond this season, didn’t report ready considering he would be pitching for a new contract.

Perhaps, with $31 million due him from the Mets this year, he’s already thought about cashing in his chips and calling it a career.

Just wondering. Also wondering why Santana wanted to pitch in the World Baseball Classic for Venezuela  when he’s not even ready to pitch in an exhibition game for the Mets.

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Mar 03

Did Mets Rush Johan Santana On Sunday?

Some athletes will use anything as a motivator while others simply know what it takes to get ready.

Today, pitching coach Dan Warthen tried to sell the idea Johan Santana used perceived criticism of his physical condition as the spark to get him on the mound for the first time since Feb. 19. Santana threw the day after GM Sandy Alderson said he didn’t think the soon-to-be 34-year old lefty would pitch for another ten days to put his Opening Day start in jeopardy.

SANTANA: Pushes himself to mound. (AP)

SANTANA: Pushes himself to mound. (AP)

The Mets are trying to mix the contrasting positions Santana as the ultimate competitor who knows better than anybody what it takes to get ready and the other that he uses criticism as motivation.

Well, which is it?

Reportedly, Santana was irritated at reporters’ questioning, to which my first thought is for him to get over it as he’ll get $31 million this year regardless of how much he pitches, so answer the damn questions.

There’s no doubting Santana’s heart, but he can be sensitive.

What I especially found questionable is if the Mets thought he was ten days away from throwing, then why would they let him throw today? Who’s running the show anyway?

When a team puts it in the hands of the athlete to make medical decision, there is a likely chance of failure. Just think of Ryan Church, Mike Pelfrey, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes and others.

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Mar 01

Mets’ Outfield Remains Muddled

After a handful of games, this much is certain about the Mets’ porous outfield situation: Nothing has been settled.

We know Lucas Duda is expected to play left field, but center field and right field are open. Wide open, it seems.

Going into spring training, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill were penciled in as a platoon in center, while veteran Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter were going to be a right field platoon.

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

“The outfield is definitely a question mark, collectively,’’ Sandy Alderson said. “I think we’ve liked what we’ve seen from Cowgill. I don’t think that (Andrew) Brown and (Jamie) Hoffman have had much of an opportunity to play at this point.

“Nieuwenhuis, (Matt) den Dekker, still have some work to do offensively. Marlon Byrd is what he is (which hardly qualifies as an endorsement. Mike Baxter is certainly in that mix- expect him to be on that team.’’

Nieuwenhuis if off to a horrible 0-for-12 start with six strikeouts, and both Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin have outperformed him offensively. Nieuwenhuis was given the first opportunity to with the leadoff spot because of his speed, but he’s shown nothing in that regard. Last night, he batted fifth.

Den Dekker has a great glove, but Jim Edmonds comparisons quickly end when his bat is mentioned.

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