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.

Apr 19

April 19.10: It’s Davis’ time now.

Tabbed the Mets’ first baseman of the future, that future could be now for Ike Davis, who’ll be brought up from Triple-A Buffalo for tonight’s game against the Chicago Cubs.

While the Mets opted not to take Davis north after Daniel Murphy’s knee injury, several factors conspired into the decision being made now.

Twenty innings Saturday night forced the Mets to bring up a pitcher, Tobi Stoner, to bail out the bullpen, and expendable was the struggling Mike Jacobs, who was designated for assignment.

So, as much as the Mets wanted to avoid force-feeding the majors to Davis, necessity prevailed.
Davis, 23, the son of former Yankees reliever Ron Davis and first-round pick out of Arizona State in 2008, scorched the ball during spring training and hasn’t cooled. Davis is hitting .364 with two homers and four RBI for Buffalo and is riding a seven-game hitting streak.

Initially, I thought Davis needed more Triple-A time, and that might be the case, but as early as it is, there’s a sense of urgency for the Mets and it isn’t assured Davis will struggle at this level. Frankly, he can’t do much worse than what the Mets had been getting at first base.

While there is talk the Mets are rushing Davis, it must be remembered there is no guarantee he’ll be overwhelmed, just as there are no givens he’ll flourish like David Wright, who was promoted after only 114 Triple-A at-bats in 2004.

“When it’s time for him to come up, he just needs to remember to come in and do what he’s done his whole career,’’ Wright told ESPN.com. “I know there are expectations. I know there is going to be a lot of pressure. But he seems like he’s a tremendous player, a great guy, and will do well at this level.’’

With Murphy down, the Mets hoped to fill the position until his return with the platoon of Jacobs and Fernando Tatis. (Frank Catalanotto started at first last night).

“We just felt that we didn’t quite see what we wanted to see in that brief opportunity he was given,’’ manager Jerry Manuel said.

It was obvious Davis would be elevated when the Mets designated Jacobs for assignment rather than option him outright to the minors. In doing so, they cleared a spot on the 40-man roster for Jacobs.

POLL: Too early or deserved? Vote in the Davis poll.

Feb 27

Feb. 27.10: Mets batting order.

As of now, the question in the Mets’ batting order is at 4-5, where Jerry Manuel needs to decide how to slot David Wright and Jason Bay.

Jose Reyes, unfortunately, is still ticketed to bat third, with Angel Pagan and Luis Castillo hitting one-two. Then comes Wright-Bay  followed by Daniel Murphy, Jeff Francoeur, Rod Barajas and the pitcher.

With Carlos Beltran out, Wright is the Mets’ best hitter and should be third, with Reyes leading off. However, since that won’t be the case, I think he should bat fifth with Bay at clean-up. When the Mets’ batting order was its most potent in 2006, it had Beltran-Carlos Delgado-Wright.

With Reyes third, and presumably on base, Bay should get more fastballs and Wright would offer protection in the order. I like Murphy sixth because it should afford him more RBI opportunities.

Feb 24

Feb. 24.10: Wondering about Frenchy.

His thumb is good, so that shouldn’t be an issue with Jeff Francoeur. That doesn’t mean the Mets’ right fielder isn’t without questions or concerns.

Francoeur’s attitude – and his performance – was a breath of fresh air in a stagnant clubhouse of a listless team last summer. He played with an energy the team had been lacking, bringing with him from Atlanta that “grit” the Mets have long been accused of lacking.

However, Francoeur has been an enigma for several years, with his stock falling since he hit a career-high 29 homers with 103 RBI in 2006. Believe it or not, that is the only season he’s hit 20. He hit 19 with 105 RBI in 2007, but his numbers have been on a downward spiral since.

That’s probably why he cost the Mets only Ryan Church.

Francoeur cited a change of scenery as giving him a lift last season, and perhaps that was the case. He hit .311 with 10 homers and 41 RBI in 289 at-bats for the Mets. That projects to a decent season of a little more than 20 homers and 82 RBI. Even so, it is still shy of his best season.

So, what do we expect from Francoeur if healthy and him getting over 600 at-bats? Would it be the change of scenery and a new Francoeur? Will it be another disappointment?

Not a lot has been made of Francoeur being an issue, but his career is at a crossroads and it will be interesting, and important, to the Mets to find out in which direction he’s going.

Feb 16

Feb. 16.10: Open competition at first.

Omar Minaya said first base is wide open, but is it really?

“He’ll compete for the job,” Minaya said of Jacobs, and then of Murphy, added, “I think it’s fair to say that Murphy has proven himself worthy of being considered, but he’s going to have to continue. It’s an open competition.”

Not quite a ringing endorsement. Jacobs is 29, and hit 18 homers last year and with 92 RBI the season before that.

With Carlos Beltran out and Carlos Delgado gone, the Mets are in need of left-handed power. Yesterday I said Murphy had the potential to hit 20 homers. Well, Jacobs has proven he can hit more than that and he’s not learning a new position.

I can see Jacobs winning this thing with Murphy coming off the bench.

Who would you like to see at first?