Jan 26

Heilman: Takes high road when asked about NY.

HEILMAN: Change of scenery.

HEILMAN: Change of scenery.

Aaron Heilman could have ripped the Mets, but took the high road when asked about his time in New York when questioned by The Seattle Times.

“Playing in New York is the only existence I’ve known and I think you get used to it,” Heilman said. “You learn to accept the fact that you are dealing with a very passionate, very knowledgeable fan base. … New York’s one of those markets where unless you win the World Series, it’s not a good year.”

Clearly, Heilman wanted to start, but the Mets valued him in the bullpen. It was always presumed he would have left when he became a free agent. However, the Mets beat him to the punch and included him in the J.J. Putz trade.

“I certainly didn’t look at it as I really wanted to get out of New York,” Heilman told the paper. “I was kind of looking forward to going back and showing that last season was an aberration and to get back to what I normally can do.”

When he’s on his game, and he wasn’t for much of last season, he’s capable of getting hitters out from either side of the plate.

Heilman had productive stretches both in 2007 and last season, but didn’t come close to his 2006 effectiveness. Especially, when it came to keeping the ball in the park.

More than a few times he denied he was scarred by giving up the Game 7 homer in the NLCS.

Jan 25

Utley says he’ll be ready by Opening Day

UTLEY: Says he'll be ready for Opening Day.

UTLEY: Says he'll be ready for Opening Day.

If the Mets were counting on Chase Utley’s hip injury to keep them close to the Phillies out of the gate, they’ve got another thing coming as the All-Star second baseman says he’ll be ready by Opening Day, contradicting initial reports his rehab from surgery would keep him out through May.

Utley has been working out with the Phillies training staff five days a week, and said he’ll be swinging a bat soon.

“In two to three weeks – that would be nice,” Utley said. “If everything goes as planned, that’s what we want to do. And right now, we’re on schedule. … It’s about listening to my body. Right now, we are listening and it’s responding well. If that continues to happen, then I don’t see why I won’t be ready for Opening Day.”

Jan 23

Mets sign Alex Cora

Alex Cora is finally official, being announced to a one-year, $2 million deal by the Mets. The veteran infielder, 33, can play any where in the infield save catcher.

Cora will give manager Jerry Manuel a quality rest for David Wright and Jose Reyes. I know what most of you are thinking: He’ll most likely spend a lot of time at second base.

Cora hit .270 last year at Boston, so he’s not automatic out.

Said GM Omar Minaya: “You win championships with a 25-man roster.”

Jan 23

Mets sign Garcia

GARCIA: Worth the gamble.

GARCIA: Worth the gamble.

GM Omar Minaya said a team can’t have enough pitching, that he’s always interested in stockpiling bodies for spring training.

Freddy Garcia, 34, who has pitched in just 14 games the last two seasons because of an injured shoulder, qualifies more as a body than he does certified pitching. He’s logged only 73 combined innings with Detroit and Philly the last two years, but was worth the risk to be signed to a minor league deal last night that could balloon to $7.5 million with incentives (starts and/or innings).

Garcia won 17 games for the 2006 White Sox, and the Mets had some interest after that season.At this point, Garcia is another body, but a good signing if he’s healthy for that cost. It also sends a message to Oliver Perez they aren’t waiting.