Apr 04

April 4.10: Tomorrow’s line-up?

The first pitch of the season hasn’t even been thrown yet and there are already questions about Jerry Manuel’s line-up.

For instance, whatever happened to Angel Pagan leading off? If not Pagan, then why not Gary Matthews? Alex Cora was their best choice to lead off?

And, all that money for Jason Bay and he’s not batting cleanup? I would have gone Bay, Mike Jacobs and Jeff Francoeur as my 4-5-6 hitters.

I realize the line-up isn’t the same without Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, but this was akin to pulling numbers out of a cap. Luis Castillo and David Wright are the only ones slotted where they should be.

Alex Cora, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Gary Matthews, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Johan Santana, LP

Apr 04

April 4.10: What’s your confidence level?

Good morning and Happy Easter to everyone. It’s a gorgeous day. The Mets have returned home after a so-so spring.

It’s always fun looking at the standings before Opening Day. Zeroes across the board. Everybody is even. That’s in theory, at least.

We do know that some teams are more even than others, and the Mets are not one of them.

They still have the same pitching questions as at the start of spring training, and Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes will begin the season on the disabled list. So will Daniel Murphy and Kelvim Escobar.

Looking at tomorrow’s projected line-up, and only two players – David Wright and Luis Castillo – were starters last year on Opening Day. Not a good sign.

Opening Day is a time for optimism and hope, but with these Mets it could be hoping they don’t stink that badly. You want to be positive, but it is hard when you see that rotation.

So, am I overstating things? What’s your confidence level in this team? Do they make the playoffs? Are they competitive? Will they even finish .500?

Mar 24

March 24.10: It’s Murphy’s time.

You can read a couple of things into the Ike Davis demotion relating to Daniel Murphy.

One, there’s talk-show speculation Murphy was pressured by Davis’ presence and the possibility of him losing the position. Second, that the Mets still have faith in Murphy.

It’s the latter.

Jerry Manuel said Murphy is his first baseman, and it actually looks like that’s going to happen. For how long is another question.

With Murphy hitting below the Mendoza line this spring, and him not having much power to begin with, first base could be a black hole offensively for the team.
Murphy, at this stage of his career, is not a power hitter, but that’s not to say he can’t develop more power.

All along we’ve heard how the Mets rush some players and don’t have patience with others. Murphy has gone through a lot, enough to earn the Mets’ patience for now.

With David Wright ahead of him, Murphy, a natural third baseman was moved to another black hole, left field, at the end of the 2008 season.
He showed enough to where he was the starting left fielder last season, but it didn’t take. The Mets once considered him as a possible second baseman, but saddled with Luis Castillo’s contract, that didn’t work either.

So, it was on to first base a couple of months into last year, where Murphy played surprisingly well considering. The only problem is he doesn’t hit for the prototypical power of a first baseman.

But, he’s only 24 with one full season on his resume. But, after he settled in at first, he become more comfortable at the plate, made some adjustments, and hit .282. He also hit 38 doubles, which is an indication of some pop, and led the team with 12 homers.

Who knows? Maybe he’ll develop into a .300 hitter and hit 20 to 25 homers. It could happen.

But, if the season hinges on Murphy hitting for power, then the Mets are in big trouble anyway. Theoretically, they’ll get power from Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur. All should hit close to 30 homers.

If Murphy doesn’t, then so what?

Let’s take a look at this team. There are questions in the bullpen and the rotation has been horrid this spring. The Mets need a bounce-back year from Wright, and Beltran, and possibly Jose Reyes will open the season on the disabled list.

So, Murphy not hitting more than 20 homers seems to be low on the priority list.

Mar 20

March 20.10: Grooming Mejia?

It would be nice if the Mets would just come out and say it with Jenrry Mejia, but things don’t work that way. However, Jerry Manuel has given a good indication the Mets are considering him for this year out of the bullpen right out of the gate.

Mejia pitched yesterday, and is also scheduled to work today against the Cardinals out of the pen. It will be the first time he’s worked this season on consecutive days – always a test for a reliever – and it is coming off a bad outing, which is another test.

John Maine gets the start today, and it will be interesting to see how he does. Maine was hammered in his last appearance, which was out of the pen, and later he said he “wasn’t into it.” Here’s hoping he’s into it today.

Here’s today’s lineup:

Gary Matthews, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Fernando Martinez, RF
Alex Cora, SS
Jason Pridle, LF
Chris Coste, C
John Maine, RP

Mar 18

March 18.10: Perez tries to take another step vs. Marlins.

Oliver Perez is left-handed with 90-mph. plus heat. He’ll keep getting chances. When he’s on, as he was last Saturday against Detroit with four hitless innings, he ignites the imagination.

Then again, when he’s the Bad Ollie, he reduces those in the Mets’ dugout to a bunch of babbling, head-scratching messes. Jerry Manuel once said the Bad Ollie kept him on the top step of the dugout ready to spring out.

Perez threw strikes and spotted his pitches against the Tigers, and the Mets want to see more of that tonight against Florida. The Mets continue to hang with Perez because of his high ceiling for potential, which is greater than John Maine or even Mike Pelfrey.

Perez’s command was good in his first two starts, traceable to a consistency in his footwork mechanics that resulted in a comfortable release point.

“It seems so easy when it all works,’’ pitching coach Dan Warthen said.

When Perez has an idea where his pitches are going he becomes more focused and relaxed. The anxiety is gone.

It seems like a little thing, but in the Detroit game Perez cruised and retired his first eight hitters, but then walked the next two. The wind kept Carlos Guillen’s ball in the park. The next inning, Perez regained his focus and set the Tigers down in order.

There are dozens of games when those circumstances produced a different scenario.

It’s only spring, but it beats what we’ve seen before.

Beltran making progress: Carlos Beltran, who’ll open the season on the disabled list following knee surgery, is encouraged by his rehab.

“I’m doing good,’’ Beltran told ESPN Radio. “I come to the ballpark every single day, rehabbing, to try and put myself in the best condition, so when it come time for me to start playing baseball I can go out there and do what I know I can do.’’

Here’s tonight’s batting order vs. Marlins:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Alex Cora, SS
Henry Blanco, C
Oliver Perez, LP

Followed by Pedro Feliciano, Hisanori Takahashi, Pat Misch, Ryota Igarashi and Francisco Rodriguez.