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.

Mar 12

March 12.10: Have to wonder about Reyes.

Let’s do the math. Two weeks from today puts us a week before spring training. Then Reyes has to start over, because they aren’t going to push him and certainly don’t want to rush him considering his hamstring. That puts us at the middle of April. And, since nothing with the Mets ever goes as planned, and there is no such thing as a best-case scenario, we’re not going to see Reyes before May.

Is anybody to blame for this or is it simply just another case of bad luck for the Mets?

Just because Reyes can’t eat seafood doesn’t automatically mean his overactive thyroid resulted by diet. Is it diet, heredity or some other external factor that caused the spike in Reyes’ thyroid levels?

The elephant in the room is HGH.

Reyes was treated Dr. Anthony Galea, who is under investigation after being charged with attempting to HGH into the United States. Reyes denies taking the stuff, that he only had the blood-spinning treatment. Who knows? Maybe it was the blood-spinning treatment that’s the cause.

Even so, MLB doesn’t test for HGH and since there is a correlation between HGH and thyroid levels (an excellent article this week in the Daily News), we can’t dismiss it out of hand. Would you really be surprised?

Maybe we’ll never know the cause. Hopefully, his levels will stabilize and this won’t be an issue again. But, for now there is speculation.

What is known is that the Mets are again a team with its core on the sideline. Don’t count on seeing Reyes or Beltran in April, and if the pitching doesn’t come around they could be in serious trouble before either returns.

The Mets spent the offseason counting on their injured returning and their pitching would improve. Well, half of that wish hasn’t been answered. It remains to be seen about the other half.