Mar 13

Johan Santana Celebrates Birthday By Talking

Twinkies could make a triumphant return this summer, but will Johan Santana? Hostess is selling the Twinkies brand, but the Mets can’t unload Santana so their best option is to hope he mends, then hope for the best.

SANTANA: Speaks on B-Day.

SANTANA: Speaks on B-Day.

Terry Collins already named Jonathan Niese the Opening Day starter if Santana can’t go, but isn’t ready to tell the veteran left-hander he’s not going to make it north with everybody else in April.

Santana, who celebrated his 34th birthday with a cake at the Mets complex in Port St. Lucie before the team went off to play the Washington Nationals, hasn’t been on the mound since he forced the issue seven days ago.

Santana said he’s not ready to set a date when he’ll return, and acknowledged rehabbing after each of his four seasons with the Mets has taken a toll. Last winter, he took it easy and was not happy when the Mets said he wasn’t in good shape. He also admitted age makes it difficult.

“I want to make sure that whenever that day is, I’m ready to go and good to go for the whole year and not just good for one game,’’ Santana told ESPNNewYork.com this morning. “Then two weeks later they have to shut me down. I don’t want that. I want to make sure that whenever I’m on the mound, I’m on the mound for good.

“As you get older, you have to work more. There’s no question about it. But you have to know yourself very well. That’s what I do. I’m listening to my body the whole time. When you need time, you take time to make sure you move forward. You don’t want a step back.’’

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Mar 13

No More Auditioning, Matt Harvey Has The Role

harvey-2It’s not exactly the variety of a film festival when watching the Mets in spring training. It’s the Nationals, Braves, Marlins and Cardinals on a rotating basis. For the Mets in Port St. Lucie, it’s like watching the same episodes of Seinfeld over and over. After awhile, you know how ``The Contest’’ will end.

For a young guy like Matt Harvey working on a pitch, those teams don’t have to worry about the film as they can see him first hand. I’ve always wondered if that’s a disadvantage to the pitcher.Johan Santana once made his final exhibition start against a minor league team rather that against the Marlins, a team he would face in the first week.

Harvey is busy working on his change-up, which was flawless in his last start. He has no choice but to keep throwing against a team he could face five times this season.

“It’s usually the last pitch that comes around,’’ he said. “Everything went well with all my pitches the other day.’’

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Mar 10

Mets Do Right Thing In Demoting Zack Wheeler

Even without the oblique injury, Zack Wheeler would be opening the season in the minor leagues, which was always the proper decision.

Maybe he wouldn’t have been sent down today with nine others, but as spring training goes on and the need to stretch out the starters increases, Wheeler’s innings would have been reduced, something the Mets did not want to happen.

WHEELER: Heading for Vegas.

WHEELER: Heading for Vegas.

Since he is better off getting regular innings, today’s demotion was inevitable. With the oblique hampering him, there’s no sense in trying to squeeze him in. He’s better off resuming a normal routine in the minor league camp, where he’ll throw in the bullpen again before getting into a game.

There’s always the possibility of Wheeler pitching in a “B” game, but for now he’s in the right place for his development. The Mets have long been accused of rushing pitchers – see Mike Pelfrey and Jenrry Mejia – and as they are building again they can’t afford to make a similar mistake with Wheeler, regardless how he feels.

“It’s the big leagues, of course I want to be here,’’ Wheeler said. “I’m not surprised. They told me this could happen.’’

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Mar 08

Dillon Gee Takes Mound Today Against Detroit

They all can’t throw like Matt Harvey this time of spring.

Overpowering and arguably flawless in yesterday’s start against Miami, Harvey had one of those seamless starts pitchers rarely have in their third spring training game.

GEE: Continues comeback today.

GEE: Continues comeback today.

Dillon Gee, today’s starter against Detroit in Lakeland, has no such illusions.

“My mechanics are off,’’ Gee said. “It will be just my third start of the spring, so they are bound to be off. Spring training is for trying to figure out that kind of stuff.’’

Gee insists it is not an injury-related mechanical problem, but a matter of working off the rust that is a natural occurrence this time of year. It’s part of the process of getting ready to make 30 stars a summer.

“It’s all about location,’’ said Gee as he laced up his shoes while sitting at his locker yesterday afternoon. “Location is all about repetition early in spring training. I’m trying to refine everything.’’

As it is with Harvey and Jon Niese, Gee said mastering his change-up is the pitch he most needs to refine that will tell him if he’s ready to start the season. A change-up is thrown with the same motion as the fastball, and even though the pitcher uses the same grip, he releases the pitch with a different pressure on the ball.

“The change-up is such a feel pitch,’’ Gee said. “It takes time to feel comfortable with it. … Having good results would be good, but the important thing is to feel comfortable with all my pitches and improve my location.’’

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Mar 07

Jordany Valdespin Saying Right Things

Jordany Valdespin sat by his locker, his eyes glued to a television showing Phillies-Nationals highlights. However, his mind seemed elsewhere, but apparently not on his quest to be the Opening Day leadoff hitter in center.

“They have a decision to make, and the only thing I can do is keep playing hard and give them something to think about,’’ Valdespin said.  “I can’t make the decision. I have to play hard and see what happens in spring training.’’

Valdespin rarely made eye contact, instead kept on watching the television.

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