Feb 26

Good and bad signs ….

Luis Castillo drove in four runs with two hits yesterday, but Duaner Sanchez walked two hitters on nine pitches.

It’s only one game, so let’s not get carried away either way, but both are key issues for the Mets this season.

Sanchez might never regain his pre-accident form, but something close is imperative if he’s to become a key set-up again. Wildness is not a good way to do that.

A lot has already been written about Castillo. He’s Jerry Manuel’s pet project this spring. Manuel believes leadoff might jumpstart Castillo. It worked yesterday. But, I still have my doubts. I think he’s more ideally suited to hit second with Jose Reyes batting first.

Feb 14

Where should Reyes hit?

Manager Jerry Manuel suggested to reporters he might bat Luis Castillo first and drop Jose Reyes to third.

I’m not crazy about the idea. My first inclination is Reyes will get power happy and put more balls in the air than he does already.

I wouldn’t have a problem with Castillo first if his legs are sound, but I’d hit Reyes second instead of third. If Reyes improves his on-base percentage, the No. 3 hitter will see a lot more fastballs.

As good as Reyes is leading off, hitting second might make him a better hitter if he becomes more disciplined. I still want Reyes to walk more and strike out less, bunt more and put the ball on the ground. If he’s protecting a good leadoff hitter, it just might go to improve Reyes’ game even more.

Feb 13

Where does Castillo fit in the order?

CASTILLO: All eyes on second baseman.

CASTILLO: All eyes on second baseman.

The most scrutinized Met figures to be second baseman Luis Castillo, the player GM Omar Minaya would have unloaded in an instant, but nobody was willing to come up with a bag of balls.

Harsh, yes … but Castillo has $18 million remaining on his contract, and is coming off a horrible, yet, injury plagued season. No Met has more pressure to come up with a fast start.

To put the odds in his favor, Jerry Manuel has to put Castillo in the spot in the order to best utilize his offensive skills, and that’s second. When Castillo is on his game, he can slap the ball around, bunt and work the count …. all which help Jose Reyes when he’s on base.

And, if Castillo is getting on base, he can be a distraction to the opposing pitcher, and as a base stealer, draw more fastballs. All this, of course, is theory based on Castillo’s performance before coming to the Mets.

All eyes are on Castillo this spring, and they won’t miss anything.

Jan 27

Resisting Manny ….

RAMIREZ: The image that scares them off.

RAMIREZ: The image that scares them off.

Manny Ramirez is still floating out there, his thundering right-handed bat a temptation 29 teams have managed to resist. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have an offer on the table, and Ramirez’s refusal of $45 million over two years seems stunningly arrogant considering the line

Nobody knows which.

Last week, Jeff Wilpon told Bloomberg News the Mets weren’t interested, but he wasn’t speaking for manager Jerry Manuel, who, during a TV interview, said he’d love to have Ramirez on his team.

“To have a shot at managing him would be exciting for me,” Manuel said. “I’d love to have the opportunity to watch Manny hit every day.’’

Manuel called Ramirez “one of the best right-handed hitters in our generation,’’ and broached the topic of his reputation with the confidence of a snake charmer.

Manuel is convinced he would avoid this serpent’s tooth.

“I don’t have a problem with people that produce in the form and fashion that Manny Ramirez produces,” Manuel said. “We don’t spend, shouldn’t spend that much time in the locker room, anyway.’’

You don’t?

Players start drifting into the clubhouse five hours before game time, far longer than the time of game. But, if not concerned about the clubhouse, how about the field?

If Ramirez’s stars aren’t all aligned he’s been known to dog it on the bases and give up at-bats. Even though they won two World Series with him, Ramirez had no allies in the Red Sox clubhouse late last summer, including David Ortiz.

Jose Reyes has enough problems maintaining his attention as it is. Do you really want him looking up to Ramirez? And, for the money Ramirez is asking, they can sign a pitcher and a bat such as Adam Dunn.

They’ve resisted temptation so far. Hope they keep that strength.

Jan 23

Mets sign Alex Cora

Alex Cora is finally official, being announced to a one-year, $2 million deal by the Mets. The veteran infielder, 33, can play any where in the infield save catcher.

Cora will give manager Jerry Manuel a quality rest for David Wright and Jose Reyes. I know what most of you are thinking: He’ll most likely spend a lot of time at second base.

Cora hit .270 last year at Boston, so he’s not automatic out.

Said GM Omar Minaya: “You win championships with a 25-man roster.”