Apr 08

Carlos Beltran to begin running; tonight’s lineup.

Carlos Beltran is supposed to begin running this weekend, and if there is no setback, the clock will begin on him.

Originally, the Mets said four to six weeks for his return after beginning baseball activities. That puts him at the end of May.

That’s just an estimate. The Mets, like all teams, won’t put a specific date for a return from an injury.

Expect the Mets to be ultra-conservative with Beltran, especially considering what happened this winter. If anything, they’ll keep him out longer than needed.

In other injury news, Jose Reyes will play in a Florida State League game tonight, and if there are no complications he should be activated Saturday.

LINEUP

Well, Jerry Manuel said he wanted to get everybody in a game by the end of the homestand. Four new starters tonight for the Mets behind Jon Niese against the Marlins.

Mets (1-1)

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Fernando Tatis, 1B
Rod Barajas, C
Ruben Tejada, SS
Jon Niese, LP

Apr 07

April 7.10: Chat Room, Game #2, vs. Marlins, Maine gets the test.

Obviously, the most pressing and important issue surrounding the Mets this season is their rotation beyond Johan Santana, and the first test goes to John Maine, tonight’s starter against the Florida Marlins.

Maine (7-6, 4.43 ERA last season) missed most of last season with a sore right shoulder coming off surgery.

Maine is 3-1 with a 1.05 ERA in four starts against the Marlins in New York, and 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 career starts.

Maine did not have a good spring with a 7.88 ERA, and manager Jerry Manuel said during his pre-game he’s inclined to have a short leash with him.

After the opener, Manuel said he’d stay with the hot hand.

Line-up vs. Ricky Nolasco (13-9, 5.06 last year):

Alex Cora, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Gary Matthews, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
John Maine, RP

NOTEBOOK: Manuel said Oliver Perez is able to work out of the pen tonight. … As long as Gary Matthews stays hot, he’ll be playing ahead of Angel Pagan. … Manuel said he’d like to use Jenrry Mejia during this home stand.

Apr 06

April 6.10: Wright steps up for his team.

David Wright spoke in basic, but his smile told a much more complex story.

First inning, Citi Field, yesterday afternoon and Wright was rounding the bases after hitting a two-run, opposite-field homer off Josh Johnson … his smile carrying him as much as his legs.

Wright, who seemingly talked himself out of hitting for power early in the season, and later that lost summer was felled with a concussion after taking a Matt Cain fastball to his head, had just gotten the Mets off to a fast start in turning the page from a disastrous 2009.

Could one swing of the bat set the tone for a summer?

“I don’t put too much stock into home runs,’’ said Wright, who hit only ten of them last year, one of them last Opening Day he was quick to remind when the “tone’’ word surfaced.

Logic says no, that Mets 7, Marlins 1, was simply one game, but the game gave us a glimpse of what could happen when Wright’s team puts it all together for an afternoon. Yesterday was a blue print of what needs to happen.

The Mets need pitching more than power and Johan Santana was superb. And, with their suspect rotation, they need the bullpen late and Fernando Nieve gave them two sterling innings and Francisco Rodriguez was perfect.

Last summer, the Mets hit a major league low 95 homers – the only team not to hit 100 – so their offense must generate runs and take advantage of what is offered. So many opportunities were wasted last year, but yesterday they parlayed three Florida errors into four runs. A gift, yes, but too many times last year they came away empty in similar spots.

The new guys, Gary Matthews, Jason Bay and Rod Barajas had two hits apiece, and Matthews showed he can cover center until Carlos Beltran’s return.

“I think it was an all-around good effort,” Wright said. “We caught the ball, we pitched well and obviously had some timely hitting. You can’t ask for much more than that, first game of the season.’’

Wright is correct, it’s only one game, but it’s better than if it had been one game the other way. For a team coming off two late season collapses and a free-fall summer, that played with frustrating mediocrity this spring, winning sure as hell beats losing.

“By no stretch of the imagination are we where we want to be right now,’’ said manager Jerry Manuel, who looks at winning in a more personal, job-preserving vein. “The important thing is that as you put the pieces into place that you win games.

“We played well. We played all 27 outs.’’

There will be times this summer when they don’t. All teams, even champions, have those moments. And, there will be times this summer when the smile Wright wore yesterday will be a frown.

But, it was finally nice to see him smile.

“It’s good to see David get started,’’ Jeff Francoeur said. “David has to step up. It has to be his team.’’

And, yesterday it was.

Apr 05

April 5.10: Chat Room, Game #1, Opening Day, vs. Marlins

There should be no pressure on Opening Day, but that’s not the case with Jerry Manuel, who was thrust under the microscope the day after the 2009 season ended when COO Jeff Wilpon said he expected better things this season from his manager and GM Omar Minaya. And, with 16 of their first 22 games at home, there an even greater sense of urgency to get off to a fast start.

And, that fast start start has to come without Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, and with a suspect rotation.

“We need to get off to a good start but what we need more is consistency and so to merely focus on a good start is not enough,” said Manuel, who knows a slow start could doom him before the All-Star break.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be the case, but the Mets were 70-92 last season following two late-season collapses.

The season is underway, so let’s talk about it. I plan to blog the games with you as I have the last three seasons, and hope this time we’re talking late into October.

Here’s today’s line-up vs. Josh Johnson of the Marlins:

Alex Cora, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B,
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Gary Matthews, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Johan Santana, LP

Don’t forget to go to the previous thread to post your favorite Opening Day memories.

Apr 04

April 4.10: Tomorrow’s line-up?

The first pitch of the season hasn’t even been thrown yet and there are already questions about Jerry Manuel’s line-up.

For instance, whatever happened to Angel Pagan leading off? If not Pagan, then why not Gary Matthews? Alex Cora was their best choice to lead off?

And, all that money for Jason Bay and he’s not batting cleanup? I would have gone Bay, Mike Jacobs and Jeff Francoeur as my 4-5-6 hitters.

I realize the line-up isn’t the same without Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, but this was akin to pulling numbers out of a cap. Luis Castillo and David Wright are the only ones slotted where they should be.

Alex Cora, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Gary Matthews, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
Johan Santana, LP