Apr 08

Carlos Beltran to begin running; tonight’s lineup.

Carlos Beltran is supposed to begin running this weekend, and if there is no setback, the clock will begin on him.

Originally, the Mets said four to six weeks for his return after beginning baseball activities. That puts him at the end of May.

That’s just an estimate. The Mets, like all teams, won’t put a specific date for a return from an injury.

Expect the Mets to be ultra-conservative with Beltran, especially considering what happened this winter. If anything, they’ll keep him out longer than needed.

In other injury news, Jose Reyes will play in a Florida State League game tonight, and if there are no complications he should be activated Saturday.

LINEUP

Well, Jerry Manuel said he wanted to get everybody in a game by the end of the homestand. Four new starters tonight for the Mets behind Jon Niese against the Marlins.

Mets (1-1)

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Ruben Tejada, SS
Jon Niese, LP

Apr 07

April 7.10: Chat Room, Game #2, vs. Marlins, Maine gets the test.

Obviously, the most pressing and important issue surrounding the Mets this season is their rotation beyond Johan Santana, and the first test goes to John Maine, tonight’s starter against the Florida Marlins.

Maine (7-6, 4.43 ERA last season) missed most of last season with a sore right shoulder coming off surgery.

Maine is 3-1 with a 1.05 ERA in four starts against the Marlins in New York, and 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 career starts.

Maine did not have a good spring with a 7.88 ERA, and manager Jerry Manuel said during his pre-game he’s inclined to have a short leash with him.

After the opener, Manuel said he’d stay with the hot hand.

Line-up vs. Ricky Nolasco (13-9, 5.06 last year):

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

NOTEBOOK: Manuel said Oliver Perez is able to work out of the pen tonight. … As long as Gary Matthews stays hot, he’ll be playing ahead of Angel Pagan. … Manuel said he’d like to use Jenrry Mejia during this home stand.

Apr 07

April 7.10: Maine says he’s fine; gets start tonight.

There was a time when John Maine was considered a throw-in from Baltimore in the Kris/Anna Benson trade, but his strong showing at the end of the 2006 season and 15 wins in 2007 gave hope he could evolve into a dependable No. 2 starter.

“No. 2, that’s just a number,’’ Maine said. “I just need to get out there, stay healthy and I believe I’ll be fine.’’

Maine had shoulder surgery at the end of the 2008 season and admitted this spring that he rushed himself back last year contributing to his arm problems.

“I learned a lesson,’’ he said.

At 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA in spring training, it’s hard to defend Maine’s performance other than saying the numbers don’t count and he was working on things. Pitching with a migraine and stomach virus, Maine gave up four runs on six hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings in his exhibition finale against Washington.

(NOTE: Part of juggling the rotation was to avoid the Nationals getting another look at Maine so quickly).

Maine brushed off his performance, saying: “My arm feels fine. Shoulder feels good. That’s the top priority.’’

The numbers haven’t been there, but Maine insists he’s not worried and he’s throwing the ball better than anytime after the 2007 season. He said the ball is just flowing out of his hand.

“I think the last time it came out easy without trying to really force anything was spring training 2008,” Maine said. “I might have been throwing a little harder then, but it’s coming out good.’’

Apr 05

April 5.10: Chat Room, Game #1, Opening Day, vs. Marlins

There should be no pressure on Opening Day, but that’s not the case with Jerry Manuel, who was thrust under the microscope the day after the 2009 season ended when COO Jeff Wilpon said he expected better things this season from his manager and GM Omar Minaya. And, with 16 of their first 22 games at home, there an even greater sense of urgency to get off to a fast start.

And, that fast start start has to come without Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, and with a suspect rotation.

“We need to get off to a good start but what we need more is consistency and so to merely focus on a good start is not enough,” said Manuel, who knows a slow start could doom him before the All-Star break.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be the case, but the Mets were 70-92 last season following two late-season collapses.

The season is underway, so let’s talk about it. I plan to blog the games with you as I have the last three seasons, and hope this time we’re talking late into October.

Here’s today’s line-up vs. Josh Johnson of the Marlins:

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

Don’t forget to go to the previous thread to post your favorite Opening Day memories.

Mar 29

March 29.10: Wrapping up the Day.

Jose Reyes took batting practice today, but didn’t do anything distinguishing against minor leaguers Mike Antonini and Dillon Gee.

Reyes hadn’t faced a pitch since last May, and the Mets are debating whether to force-feed him six at-bats a day in minor league games for several days before giving him a couple of exhibition games.

“I feel good. I don’t play since last May, so I can’t wait to get on the field,’’ Reyes said this afternoon. “Right now, I’ll take it one day at a time and see what happens next.’’

Reyes said he’s been running 100 percent for the past week without any problems to his hamstring. Even so, there’s a difference between running sprints in the outfield and the type of running – stopping and starting and changing of directions – done in a game.

NIESE NOT SHARP: Projected fifth starter Jon Niese had a rough day, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings against the Marlins.

Even so, Niese was given credit for the victory today over the Marlins by the official scorer.

NOTEBOOK: Today was supposed to be Johan Santana’s turn to pitch, but the Mets didn’t want to start him against the Marlins, the team he’ll face next Monday on Opening Day at Citi Field. Santana will get his work in minor league games this week. … Jenrry Mejia gave up a run in 1 1/3 innings today. … After a sluggish spring, Jeff Francoeur is starting to come around with three hits, including two doubles. … Infielder Ruben Tejada, who could stick with club if Reyes opens the season on the disabled list had two hits to raise his average to .339. … The Washington Nationals claimed reserve catcher Chris Coste on waivers.