Mar 09

March 9.10: All eyes on Santana today.

Johan Santana reported to spring training feeling brash, talking about such things as winning a Cy Young Award and more importantly, a World Series.

Always confident, but what gave Santana the push is that his surgically-repaired left elbow feels good, strong and sound.

Last season long since lost, Santana shut it down in August and had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow – the second time he’s had such surgery.

“I’m able to let it go,’’ said Santana, who’ll do it for the first time this spring in a game against Houston.

Santana has been reporting full extension in his release. So far no problems in his bullpen sessions.

“I am able to throw my fastball with no problems and throw my breaking balls and my change-up without feeling that sharp pain in the back of my elbow now,’’ Santana said. “I am able to throw all my pitches pain free, so that’s a big plus for me.’’

Full arm extension means a better release point, which adds bite to his slider.

“Now I am able to extend my arm and release the ball in front of me and be able to throw my slider,’’ Santana said. “It’s a big difference from last year. I am able to now throw my pitches and let everything go. Last year I wasn’t able to do that.’’

This is huge news for the Mets, who opened camp with questions to their entire rotation, but Santana changes the entire dynamic of the team. If he’s healthy he gives the Mets a good chance to win every five days; if not, an already suspect rotation falls into disarray.

For a team desperate for positive health news, having Santana back eliminates one headache.

Mar 08

March 8.10: Maine goes today.

John Maine isn’t a project the way Mike Pelfrey and Oliver are, but he’s a question nonetheless. When healthy, the Mets have a reasonable idea what to expect from Maine, once considered a throw-in in the Kris Benson with Baltimore.

But, how healthy is Maine?

“It feels fine,’’ Maine said at the start of spring training when asked about his surgically repaired shoulder. “It feels like it did three, four years ago.’’

Three years ago appeared to be a breakout year for Maine, who made 32 starts and went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA. However, Maine complained of fatigue in his shoulder the following summer and eventually missed his last seven starts because of surgery to remove bone spurs in his shoulder.

Surgery was deemed successful, but by his own admission he rushed his comeback saying “maybe I was trying to make up for lost time.’’

Maine made only 15 starts last season and went 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA. Maine’s biggest problem last year was an inability to amp it up and pitch out of trouble. He came back at the end of the year to show he was recovering, then modified his off-season program by starting later and throwing less.

Today’s start against the Florida Marlins won’t be about getting people out as it will be another test for his shoulder and to see what he might have picked up working with Sandy Koufax earlier this spring.

Koufax had Maine using a longer stride when delivering his fastball and concentrating on working on the inner half of the plate.

When healthy the Mets have a good idea from what to expect from Maine, although the organization believes the potential ceiling is higher with Pelfrey and Perez.

“I think being able to go out there every five days,’’ Maine said when asked the key for a successful season from him. “When I do go out there I generally give the team a chance to win.’’

Here’s the line-up behind Maine:

Angel Pagan CF
Fernando Martinez RF
David Wright 3B
Jason Bay LF
Daniel Murphy 1B
Rod Barajas C
Russ Adams 2B
Ruben Tejada SS
John Maine RP

Mar 06

March 6.10: What about Kunz?

Mike Pelfrey is pitching this afternoon for the Mets, but I’m more interested today in Eddie Kunz, the guy who was supposed to be the Mets closer after Billy Wagner.

With the bullpen in shambles in 2008, Kunz got a look-see and disappointed. Kunz, 24 next month, also pitched poorly early this week against the Braves, walking three and retiring only one of the six batters he faced. He gave up four runs, and while one outing won’t determine his fate, it has been awhile since we’ve seen something positive from Kunz other than the scouting reports.

“He’s got great stuff,’’ manager Jerry Manuel said. “His ball moves. It’s powerful sink.’’

Yes, the scouting report reads the same as it did when he came out of Oregon State, but the results haven’t been there, and the Mets, a team in need of a bullpen, are moving on without him.

Names are bandied about, and Jenrry Mejia is the flavor of the month, but nobody talks about Kunz anymore.

Spring training is for new beginnings, and for Kunz it could be about last chances.

Mar 05

March 5.10: Reyes out with thyroid issue.

Mets shortstop Jose Reyes was scratched from today’s game and will return to New York for tests after it was detected in Thursday’s bloodwork that he could have a thyroid imbalance.

Reyes will be tested through Monday and won’t play until at least Wednesday.

Reyes said he doesn’t feel any differently.

“I don’t know what’s going on, this is the first time I’ve ever had something like this,” Reyes said. “I have to be worried. I can’t do anything.” Reyes also said this issue has nothing to do with his hamstring issues.

Mar 05

March 5.10: Mets still interested in Beimel.

Obviously, signing Kiko Calero doesn’t quite cure all that ails the Mets’ bullpen ills, which is why they remain interested in free-agent lefty Joe Beimel.

The Mets have on the table a one-year, deal for less than $2 million, and considering we’re already into spring training with the first week of games it doesn’t appear the phone will be ringing anytime soon.

Beimel would be a good addition as it would take some of the pressure off Pedro Feliciano. You can’t go wrong with two lefties in the pen.