Jul 12

Update on first-half questions.

When pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 18, I posted five key questions the Mets faced heading into the season. Let’s revisit those questions at the All-Star break.

1) Question: What is this team’s attitude?

Assessment: By all accounts, it has been superb. There is a different chemistry in the Mets clubhouse than I have previously seen. The Mets have shown a remarkable resiliency to bounce back from adversity and Sunday’s win is just another example. There have been no issues about a lack of hustle, and no finger pointing. Both Jeff Francoeur and Angel Pagan said the right things about the prospect of reduced playing time as Carlos Beltran is about to be activated from the disabled list. The only sour note was, surprise, Oliver Perez’s refusal to accept a minor league assignment, instead, waiting for the disabled list to leave the roster to work on his issues.

2) Question: How healthy is this team?

Assessment: Injuries sabotaged the 2009 season, and injuries have cost Beltran and Daniel Murphy in the first half, and Jose Reyes for nearly a month. Beltran is due back to start the second half, but there’s no timetable for the return of Murphy, who reinjured his knee while on a rehab assignment. Murphy was playing second base at the time in preparation for a position change. After treating Reyes with kid gloves in the wake of his thyroid issue, the Mets rushed him back from an oblique injury, which he aggravated Saturday. There’s no telling how long he’ll be out. Luis Castillo is on the disabled list and his is another injury where the Mets tried to have him play through. Fortunately, his replacement, Ruben Tejada, has been more than filled the void. Reliever Kelvim Escobar, penciled in as a set-up man, is out for the year with a shoulder injury. The Mets are still trying to find an eighth-inning solution. Oliver Perez and John Maine are currently on the disabled list.

3) Question: What is the status of the three pitching questions, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine?

Assessment: Pelfrey made a point of saying he understood this trio represented a significant key to the Mets’ success this season. Perez and Maine are on the disabled list, but the team upgraded with R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi. Pelfrey was superb for much of the first half but has been going through a dead arm period and has been largely ineffective over his last five starts. Perez balked at a minor league assignment, but an injury was found that conveniently landed him on the disabled list. He has been sound, and somewhat effective, in his rehab assignment. Look for the Mets to activate him shortly after the break and send Takahashi back to the bullpen. There’s no timetable for Maine’s return.

4) Question: Who is fifth starter?

Assessment: Fernando Nieve, Jon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Hisanori Takahashi were in the mix in the spring, but Niese won the job and has been very good since coming off the disabled list. Niese has been so good that management tabbed him untouchable when Seattle asked for him in trade discussions surrounding Cliff Lee. Figueroa is now in Philadelphia, while Nieve is in the bullpen. Takahashi replaced Perez in the rotation and pitched well at first, but clearly showed he’s more valuable in the bullpen. The Mets are searching for a fifth starter in the trade market, as there are lingering questions about Perez and Maine.

5) Question: What is the make-up of the bullpen?

Assessment: Jenrry Mejia went north in the pen in an undefined role, but eventually went to the minor leagues to work on being a starter, when he was injured. Losing Escobar went a large part in opening the door for Mejia, who threw hard, but never grasped the eighth-inning role. Bobby Parnell, who appeared to wash you last year, now appears to be the arm having the inside track in the eighth inning to start the second half. Ryota Igarashi was the guy at one time, but pulled a hamstring and hasn’t been the same since. He’s now in the minor leagues. Nieve and Pedro Feliciano were over worked early, and still have heavy workloads. The distribution of work should be improved when Takahashi goes back to the bullpen.

Jun 22

Beltran to begin rehab games.

BELTRAN: Getting closer.

The clock is about to start for Carlos Beltran, who has been running the bases in extended spring training games. The next step is minor league rehab games, and GM Omar Minaya said today that will be Thursday in Port St. Lucie.

Once the rehab games begin Beltran has a 20-day window to return to the Mets. That would be after the All-Star break. If the window expires and Beltran isn’t ready, the Mets would need his permission to stay in the minors.

As of now, both Beltran and the Mets see the player as a center fielder, which would mean a platoon role for Angel Pagan.

The club also announced John Maine will seek a second opinion on his shoulder.  Based on his contractual status the Mets don’t need Maine’s permission to go to the minor leagues.

Jun 16

Maine might need more time.

MAINE: Not ready yet.

Jerry Manuel is saying John Maine might need another rehab start after Friday night, which probably isn’t a bad idea considering he was clocked at 88 mph. in his last outing.

When Maine comes back he would most likely come back as a starter because Manuel fears his shoulder might not be able to handle the up-and-down nature of the bullpen.

Several years ago the Mets once toyed with the idea of moving Maine to the bullpen but resisted.

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Word is Carlos Beltran is running with a limp, which still delays the timetable on his return.

Once Beltran moves from extended spring training games to a minor league rehab assignment the clock will start and the Mets would have 20 days to activate him.

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NOTES: Luis Castillo is taking ground balls in Port St. Lucie and might be activated for the Yankees series at the Stadium this weekend. … With the Mets facing righthanded pitching until Sunday look for Chris Carter to remain as the DH.

Jun 09

Maine on the road back

John Maine will get another chance to join the Mets’ rotation, but one has to wonder if that would be the case if Hisanori Takahashi hadn’t spit the bit his last two starts.

MAINE: Feeling better

After two strong starts, the last two have found Takahashi being mauled. In his last start against the Marlins, Takahashi hit a wall around the fifth. Even in his two strong starts, he struggled to get through six.

The Mets think he’s better out of the bullpen.

“We like Takahashi as a pitcher,’’ manager Jerry Manuel said. “We think we have lost something in the bullpen when he’s a starter, so that’s a scenario that could work if and when John Maine is healthy and we feel he’s ready to be part of the rotation.’’

Maine threw a simulated game last night, and if he’s pain free today will make a minor league rehab start. Then it’s back into the rotation.

It didn’t look like that would be the case last month when Manuel yanked him at Washington after throwing only five pitches. The two got into it in the dugout and Manuel pulled Maine from the rotation, insisting something was wrong. An MRI then revealed shoulder tendinitis.

Jun 07

Expect Jesus Felciano shortly.

In what has the potential to be a feel-good story of the highest degree, the Mets are expected to call up 31-year, 13-year minor league outfielder Jesus Feliciano from Class AAA Buffalo for the San Diego series.

If the Mets make the announcement today, it would fall on his 31st birthday.

FELICIANO: Another bat is coming.

“All he does is hit,’’ said a minor league scout. “The issue is where to play him. They’ve had him play some center, but he doesn’t have great range and he doesn’t have the arm to play right.’’

The Mets have had Feliciano play center in preparing him to back up Angel Pagan, but because of his range questions that might be better off on the road. Initially, he might be used to give Jason Bay a day off or as a pinch-hitter.

Feliciano, who had five hits Saturday – his second five-hit game of the season – leads the International League in hitting at .392. Amazingly, despite his age, he’s never even had the proverbial cup of coffee in the major leagues, most likely because he doesn’t fit the speed or power prototypes.

But, he does stroke line drives.

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