Mar 22

March 22.10: Questions down the stretch.

When pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 18, I posted five key questions the Mets faced heading into spring training. With two weeks remaining, there are issues with four of those five concerns.

Question: What is this team’s attitude?
Assessment: By all accounts, it is good and positive. The Mets aren’t rolling through their spring schedule, but there have been no issues of lack of hustle and laziness. David Wright said the Mets need to use last year’s embarrassment as a motivator. Jason Bay is fitting in and Jeff Francoeur has been a positive influence. So far, so good, but they haven’t played any games that count yet.

Question: How healthy is this team?
Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and already two of the team’s core will open the season on the disabled list and likely won’t be ready until May. Carlos Beltran’s knee is responding well to rehab and Jose Reyes’ hamstring feels good. However, Reyes’ issue is his thyroid and one wonders how that will be with the riggers of the season. Reliever Kelvim Escobar, penciled in as a set-up man, has missed the entire spring with shoulder pain. There have been no problems physically with Francoeur, Oliver Perez, Johan Santana and John Maine, all with recent surgery on their resume.

Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?
Assessment: These three guys represent the season’s key. If they do well, then the Mets can contend. The Mets didn’t make any rotation additions this winter because they believe in the upside of these three. It has been an up-and-down spring for all three, but Perez has been refreshingly positive. However, none have performed to where the Mets can say they are in the clear. The concerns remain.

Question: Who is fifth starter?
Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi are in the mix. Takahashi has looked the best, but he hasn’t pitched enough to be stretched out. Niese has options remaining, so they could do the safe thing and send him out and protect someone else. Jerry Manuel said he’ll use a fifth starter from the start, so there will be no hiding him with the off-days in April. This is the biggest decision remaining in camp.

Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?
Assessment: The biggest sub-question is whether Jenrry Mejia goes north in the pen and what role he would have. With his stuff, he’s a closer in waiting, which makes me think eighth-inning set-up. But, will the Mets expose him to that or put him in a low-pressure role. To me, that’s defeatist thinking. If you’re afraid to use him, then why carry him? Losing Escobar went a large part in opening the door for Mejia. So has, the general ineffectiveness of the relievers. If Takahashi doesn’t make it in the rotation, it could be him. Any of the losers for the fifth-starter could also fit as the long man. Bobby Parnell is still around, but he might be a casualty if they keep Takahashi in the pen. Kiko Calero and Ryota Igarashi will make the roster. Pedro Feliciano is still the only lefty of substance.

Mar 19

March 19.10: Looking at the pen.

Jerry Manuel said if prospect Jenrry Mejia makes the roster coming out of spring training, it won’t be in the set-up role but in low pressure situations.

If that’s the case, then isn’t he better off in the minor leagues pitching in the role the Mets envision for him immediately?

I just see the Mets doing the same yanking around with him they did with Bobby Parnell. Speaking of Parnell, his spot on the roster could be in jeopardy if fifth-starter candidate Hisanori Takahashi makes it as a reliever.

Takahashi will start the March 27 game against Washington. He has worked 8 1/3 scoreless innings in three appearances in competing with Jon Niese and Fernando Nieve for the fifth-starter role. The more I think of Takahashi as a fifth starter, the more I wonder. His numbers are good, but he hasn’t exactly been stretched out this spring and one start won’t do it, thereby making him more suitable for the bullpen.

PEN NOTES: Kiko Calero and Ryota Igarashi are in good shape as far as making the roster. … Pedro Feliciano was hit on the right knee by a grounder and left last night’s game. Feliciano was able to throw warm-ups after the injury and is expected to be fine. … Either Sean Green or Parnell could also be in trouble if the Mets sign left-hander Joe Beimel.

LIKING JACOBS: Manuel likes Mike Jacobs as a back-up first baseman and pinch hitter. The word is he’s been better than expected defensively. Jacobs has two homers this spring.

MANUEL ENDORSES CORA: After last night’s game Manuel endorsed Alex Cora over Ruben Tejada to play shortstop while Jose Reyes is down. That’s not to say Tejada will automatically be ticketed to the minor leagues.

Mar 14

March 14.10: Mets play two; line-up and roster thoughts.

With Jose Reyes down, it looks as if Jerry Manuel has settled on David Wright-Jason Bay as the 3-4 hitters, which is the way to go. Wright is the better overall hitter and should be in the three hole. Also, separating Bay and Jeff Francoeur, two strikeout guys, is the way to go.

There’s no surprise, that with Reyes out it will either be Matthews or Angel Pagan leading off. Just leave Luis Castillo alone in the two slot.

Bobby Parnell will get time in the “A” game and has been working on a cutter. Curious to see it because the rap on him is the need to develop a secondary pitch.

It is obvious Omir Santos won’t go north with the team, so it appears they are showcasing him by giving him the start with Johan Santana in the “A” game. (The “B” game was at 10 this morning.) Otherwise, why not give Rod Barajas the time with Santana?

As good a spring training Fernando Martinez is having, the Mets won’t carry him unless there’s another injury. He needs consistent at-bats and he’ll get them at Triple-A and not at the fourth outfielder with the Mets.

Both Santana and John Maine go today against the Marlins in the “A’’ at Jupiter.

Santana is coming off a rocky first start, and Maine was solid in his first outing. They will try to duplicate what Oliver Perez did yesterday against the Detroit. Hit hard in his first start, Perez rebounded yesterday with four hitless innings against the Tigers. He did walk three, which is always a red flag with him, but as I said several times with Perez, I’ll take what I can get and hope for the best.

Manuel said the most encouraging sign with Perez has been a simplification with his mechanics, with the result a more consistent release point.

Here’s today’s line-up against the Marlins:

Gary Matthews, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Daniel Murphy, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Alex Cora, SS
Omir Santos, C
Johan Santana, LP

Santana will be followed by Maine, Bobby Parnell, Kiko Calero and Ryota Igarashi.

Mar 11

March 11.10: Reyes out 2 to 8 weeks.

The injury news keeps on coming for the Mets. And, it isn’t good. But, it sounds familiar.

Jose Reyes’ overative thyroid has gone from he’ll be fine to being out two to eight weeks. Where have we heard that before? And, with Reyes, too.

The test results are in and GM Omar Minaya said: `“It doesn’t look good right now. We will have to prepare for that.”

Reyes will shut it down completely and remain at home. He’ll join Carlos Beltran on the disabled list at the start of the season.

Reyes’ agent , Peter Greenberg, said:  “Jose is obviously a little bit disappointed that it’s going to be a matter of weeks as opposed to days, but it’s a completely, treatable, curable situation. I think we all view it as good news.”

Minaya said there was no medication for this and he will be treated with diet and exercise. That seems odd, isn’t there a medication for everything? And, another thing I don’t understand, if rest and diet reduce his numbers to normal levels then what happens when he gets his heart rate up again.

I’m amazed there is no treatment. That’s not what I read.

Mar 10

March 10.10: Reyes update/line-ups.

Jose Reyes has a case of hyperthyroidism, said his agent, Peter Greenberg said. “We’re waiting for the final results tomorrow,’’ Greenberg told the Times. “But, all indications are that it’s the most minimal case of hyperthyroidism possible. The doctor is very pleased and so is Jose.’’

Reyes later told reporters that his thyroid is fine. I don’t believe this is two different stories as much as it is Reyes getting positive news and downplaying things.

Reyes could resume working out in a few days.

For the all the criticism the Mets have received about injuries, they did well here. Reyes was pulled immediately at the suspicion of something wrong and were forthright in giving information.

Positive news on Francisco Rodriguez. Threw in the bullpen this morning and will throw BP Friday. If all goes well look for him Monday.

Jon Niese, who has the leg up on the fifth starter position, starts today against the Braves in Orlando.

Here’s the line-up:

Jason Pridie, CF

Ruben Tejada, 2B

Daniel Murphy, 1B

Mike Hessman, 3B

Chris Carter, DH

Omir Santos, C

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, RF

Jolbert Cabrera, LF

Russ Adams, SS

Working out of the pen will be Fernando Nieve, Nelson Figueroa, Bobby Parnell, Eddie Kunz and Eric Niesen.