Apr 09

April 9.10: About Last Night; Niese shows up; offense doesn’t.

Losing two of three to the Florida Marlins, including 3-1 last night, isn’t the fast start manager Jerry Manuel envisioned. The upsetting thing is they could have swept this series with several more hits.

There was one positive to take out of the game, and that’s Jonathan Niese, who gave up three runs in six innings. Niese pitched with composure and efficiency for the most part, something they didn’t get the night before from John Maine. Something to look out for is the Marlins did some first-ball hitting because Niese often started out with fastballs.

Offensively, the Mets picked up where they left off the previous night, not to mention 2009. They left two runners on in the second and fourth innings when they could have made a dent into the game. Just three extra-base hits in their past two games.

When you’re not going to pitch consistently, you need to score. And, you can’t afford to waste good outings when you get them. The Mets were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring positions and left seven, and over the past two games have gone 0-for-10 while leaving 16. Not the ingredients of a fast start.

Tonight against Washington, it will be Mike Pelfrey vs. Garrett Mock.

Apr 08

April 8.10: Chat Room, Game #3, vs. Marlins, Niese gets the ball.

Undeniably the Mets’ pitching is suspect, which Jerry Manuel has finally admitted. He didn’t say the team should have been more aggressive this winter, but reading between the lines you can bet he’d like some help.

After John Maine last night, and the fact he moved around Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez, there’s little doubt to anyone that their pitching is in trouble.

“I think an honest assessment is that we have to be somewhat concerned,” Manuel said. “We had some setbacks and some inconsistencies there last year, so we can’t just assume that that’s going to be lights out. We have some questions there, and hopefully tonight we’ll see where we are at least in part to that particular issue.”

Jonathan Niese gets the nod tonight against the Marlins. Interesting, but Manuel said if Niese gets into trouble he’ll get the chance to work out of it if his pitch count is around 50 or 60.

That’s good to see. Without the chance we’ll never know how good Niese could be.

By the way, I won’t be around for the start of the chat room. I’ve started taking classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I should be back around 9 for the last few innings.

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.’’