Apr 23

April 23.10: A lot to look forward to tonight.

It’s early in the season, but tonight’s game against the Atlanta Braves could be telling on several fronts, with the most important being John Maine.

Maine, he of the 10.38 ERA, will be making his fourth start of the year. After being hammered in his first two, Maine demonstrated improvement in his last start at St. Louis.

Maine is moving away from his dependency on off-speed pitches and more toward a reliance on his fastball as he did in 2007 and 2008. There’s also been the mechanical adjustments of a higher leg kick, different positioning of his right foot, and throwing more over the top.

In short, it’s back to Pitching 101.

“I have to get back to where I was,” Maine said. “After seven weeks of doing something I haven’t been doing, I just have to break that habit.’’

Hopefully, the adjustments will result in a spike of his velocity.

In five innings at St. Louis Maine threw 115 pitches to continue a disturbing tendency that has to stop. What kind of progress has Maine made in the past five days? If there’s little or none, how long will the Mets stay with him or will they try to get him well in the bullpen or minor leagues.

A five-inning Maine offers no help to the bullpen which was tested the past two series and didn’t always pass.

This was a concern going into the season, and after a fast start it is a concern again, especially with Ryota Iragashi going on the disabled list and Hisanori Takahashi unable to find the plate with a GPS.

We’ll may also see tonight what Jerry Manuel does with his line-up that until last night has been a vacuum in the 3-4-5 spots. David Wright and Jeff Francoeur showed snap-out-of-it signs with RBI hits, but Jason Bay is still a horror show at the plate.

Even so, the Mets have won three of their last four games, and four of six. So, does Manuel want to tinker with what has worked the last week? If the Mets were .500 instead of two games under this wouldn’t be an issue.

On one hand Manuel talks of consistency, but on the other he’s the man who can’t resist playing with the charcoal at a barbeque. A day doesn’t go by when Manuel doesn’t talk of making some move, and he still has the itch to move Jose Reyes to third.

The alternative would be the more palatable move of Bay to No. 2, something that worked in the past for Wright.

Another option would be tinkering with Ike Davis, which would be a mistake. Four games into his career he has six hits. Let’s keep him where he’s been successful instead of adding pressure. Davis said he’s on board with any move, but it’s only human nature for a player to try to do too much when he’s put into the clean-up spot.

The prudent thing would be the slight adjustment of flipping Bay and Francoeur in the 4-5 slots, and if they do mess with Davis not to go any higher than fifth.

Jan 28

Jan. 28.10: Around the horn.

PEREZ: Yawn ... says he feels good.

PEREZ: Yawn ... says he feels good.

Oliver Perez closed mini-camp with a strong side session and said he’s comfortable with his mechanics. Pitching coach Dan Warthen is trying to get him to make a longer stride with his lead leg which will help him drive toward the plate. Theoretically, that’s supposed to help with his control. But, I’ve lost track of all of Perez’s mechanical adjustments designed to help his command. We shall see.

* All indications are the Mets are about to bring back Fernando Tatis. For a role player, Tatis has done pretty good for himself as he’s about to get his third year in the majors after leaving the game. Tatis’ primary asset is his versatility that enables him to play the infield and outfield corners and second base in a pinch. Tatis will be used primarily to platoon with Daniel Murphy at first base.

* John Smoltz said he’s interested in signing with the Mets. He’s being recruited by former Braves teammate Jeff Francoeur.

* Manager Jerry Manuel said Bobby Parnell won’t compete for the fifth starter job in spring training but to compete for the set-up role. Kelvim Escobar is also a candidate for that job. Of course, if Smoltz were signed for the bullpen it would bump everybody down a notch.