May 23

May 23.10: Maine admits to arm problems; Manuel vindicated.

Is it lying or semantics?

Pitching coach Dan Warthen called John Maine a “habitual liar,’’ two words that could destroy most any working relationship. It remains to be seen whether it will ruin this one, even though Warthen and manager Jerry Manuel have been vindicated for pulling Maine after five pitches last week in Washington.

Warthen’s intent was innocent enough although his choice of words was poor. Warthen meant it in that Maine never admits to his arm feeling poorly.

Even now, when Maine finally admitted something is not right with his shoulder he couched his words.

“There’s a little bit of pain, but what pitcher doesn’t have pain?’’ Maine said. “It’s the nature of pitching. It wasn’t going to stop me from going out there every five days.’’

But, it isn’t pain as much as it is weakness or fatigue in the shoulder.

“There was a little bit of weakness, not that much,’’ Maine said. “I guess they want to get to the bottom of it. What’s the problem, you know? What’s going on back there?

“Something has got to be found, but if everything comes back good, then I’ll deal with it and pitch, if I have to.’’

In the interim, the Mets must improvise.

The current thinking is to use Raul Valdes, who replaced Maine after his five pitch-outing, against the Phillies Tuesday night, followed Hisanori Takahashi and Mike Pelfrey. The thinking of Valdes over R.A. Dickey is because of the left-handed power in the Phillies’ line-up.

The next time Maine’s turn in the rotation would be is a week from today. But, the Mets will jump off that bridge when they get to it.

May 22

May 22.10: Chat Room, Game #44 vs. Yankees: Pelfrey attempts to stop slide.

The beleaguered Mets – losers of eight of their last ten games – hope to get better tonight with Mike Pelfrey (5-1, 3.02) going against the Yankees.

Pelfrey is making his third start against the Yankees, against whom he is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 innings. In his last start, Pelfrey gave up two runs over a season-high 7 2/3 innings Monday at Atlanta, which snapped a five-game losing streak.

With questions throughout their rotation, Pelfrey has been the Mets’ most dependable starter, and his 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA in five home starts. Pelfrey attributes much of his success for falling out of love with the sinker. He said he was becoming predictable with the sinker.

“I would almost say I’ve changed from being a sinkerball guy to a four-seam guy,’’ Pelfrey said. “There are times when I’ll only use the sinker when I get in trouble. I’ve changed.’’

What hasn’t changed is the Mets’ myriad of pitching questions, beginning with John Maine, who will be examined by doctors Monday for discomfort and fatigue in his shoulder.

Maine pitched to one batter Thursday night at Washington before being removed. Angry for being taken out, Maine has finally admitted to discomfort, but stubborn as he is, said he didn’t think it was necessary to go on the DL.

Raul Valdes replaced Maine and pitched five strong innings. He was so effective, that Jerry Manuel has tentatively penciled him in over knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to start Tuesday against Philadelphia.

The Mets’ offense, save a 10-run explosion Thursday night, has been listless for much of May. It has been a brutal month for David Wright, who was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Wright has struck out 23 times since May 8.

Here’s tonight’s line-up behind Pelfrey:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jason Bay, LF
Ike Davis, 1B
David Wright, 3B
Angel Pagan, CF
Rod Barajas, C
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Mike Pelfrey, RP

May 22

May 22.10: Don’t count on Mets getting Oswalt.

Just because Roy Oswalt wants out of Houston, don’t go thinking his next stop is Queens. Oswalt has $31 million remaining on this contract through 2011, plus an option, so he won’t come cheaply.

I know what you’re thinking, if they can give more money than that to Oliver Perez, why can’t they give it to a good pitcher such as Oswalt?

They could, but do you really see them spending that kind of money? I don’t, and I don’t see Oswalt waiving his no-trade clause to play for a team that’s in disarray.

Let’s face it, outside of a pitcher’s ball park, what do the Mets have to offer. A listless offense? Perhaps a managerial change? Perhaps a change in the front office? A shaky bullpen?

The Mets aren’t a very attractive proposition right now.

Even so, the Mets still have three holes to fill in their rotation.

After last night, Hisanori Takahashi will get another shot. So will R.A. Dickey. The next time John Maine’s spot in the rotation will come up will be a week from tomorrow. The best guess is it will be Pat Misch.

Bottom line, for immediate help, it will have to come from within.

May 21

May 21.10: Who goes first, Manuel or Maine?

Was one of the five pitches John Maine threw last night his final one with the Mets?

That’s what many are thinking, but if Jerry Manuel’s job security was secure, or at least stable, it might be enough for him to outlast Maine, but it is a house of cards.

Maine was the third Mets starter to go down during the team’s dreadful 2-6 road trip, but if the DL is in his immediate future then he’ll get another chance to save his career.

Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen think Maine is hiding an injury – the latter called the pitcher a “habitual liar’’ when it comes to discussing his health – and we should know after he sees a doctor today.

“I would like an explanation,’’ Maine said about his removal. “Me throwing 85 mph I don’t think is a good explanation to be taken out.’’

A weak warm-up session and Maine hunched over on the mound might have had something to do with it.

However, Maine partly answered his own question about why he wasn’t allowed to stay in the game.

“I’m in no position, I don’t have enough clout,’’ said Maine. “I don’t have enough star power to say anything. So what happens happens.’’

While Maine’s verbal explosion might doom him with some organizations, what might save him was how this was bungled by Manuel and Warthen.

“I just didn’t think John had enough to compete tonight,’’ Warthen said. “If he’s throwing that way, then there’s got to be something incorrect in that arm. … He wants to go out there and pitch. But we have to be smart enough to realize this guy isn’t right.’’

How come then, if his warm-ups were so bad, weren’t they smart enough to pull the plug before he took the mound?

Warthen told Manuel that Maine wasn’t throwing 80 mph in the bullpen. When Maine bounced a warm-up pitch, Manuel immediately got Raul Valdes up and throwing.

Manuel talked so much about wanting to protect Maine, but he let him start the game anyway? If one pitch could blow out his shoulder, then why take the chance?

Maine said he was never asked how he felt or that he was scheduled to see a doctor today. There’s a protocol in dealing with pitcher’s injuries and it wasn’t followed.

To be sure, Maine didn’t handle things properly, but neither did Manuel or Warthen, and the ice they are skating on is thinner than Maine’s.

May 10

May 10.10: Perez to stay in rotation for now; plus tonight’s lineup

I have asked the question more times than I can remember: What is wrong with Oliver Perez?

I don’t know the answer, and I don’t think anybody – especially Perez – has the answer. After another meltdown Sunday against the Giants, the debate is again whether Perez should remain in the rotation.

Manager Jerry Manuel said the situation bears consideration, but for now Perez will get another start, Friday at Florida, to try to cash in on his potential check.

Presumably, the weather will be better, but despite the moaning in that direction, it’s no excuse. The weather was bad for everybody and as a professional he needs to overcome the elements.

After a good first, Perez quickly unraveled. You can always tell when Perez doesn’t have it, as the game slows down to a glacier-like pace.

That Manuel said he’ll have to evaluate the situation is encouraging news because there’s nothing about Perez that is encouraging.

HERE’S TONIGHT’S LINE-UP

Pagan, CF
Castillo, 2B
Reyes, SS
Bay, LF
Wright, 3B
Davis, 1B
Francoeur, RF
Barajas, C
Maine, RP