Mar 12

Testy Johan Santana Acting Like Diva

It was a little over a week ago when the Mets pointed to March 14 as the target date for getting Johan Santana in an exhibition game. Doing so would have given him three, maybe four starts to be ready for Opening Day.

It won’t happen.

Outside of that ill-advised mound session, we haven’t seen, or heard, much from the testy lefty this spring. Today, he sniped at reporters who had the gall to try to talk to him – imagine that? – giving a curt response about not understanding the concept of an off day.

SANTANA: Rough times

SANTANA: Rough times

By definition, an off day is when no game is scheduled. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything going on. There was a reason why Santana was at the complex, just as there was a reason reporters were present.

At the time of the projection, Terry Collins said, “we’re not worried about April 1, we’re worried about 30 starts.’’

At this rate, it doesn’t look as if he’ll get either, even if Santana was pushed to the back of the rotation for the first cycle. Whether he’s ready or not, Santana’s last two exhibition starts would come against minor league competition, because if he were placed on the disabled list to the start the season the Mets could backdate it into spring training.

This reduces the time Santana would miss in the regular season although it is highly unlikely he would reach the 215 innings plateau needed to activate his 2014 option. I don’t know what the Mets are waiting for if not to placate Santana’s ego. He won’t be ready for the start of the season and the decision the Mets are avoiding is only inevitable.

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Mar 12

In Defense Of Matt Den Dekker

Do you remember when Citi Field opened the Mets vowed they they were going to build around pitching and defense? Then, they immediately signed Jason Bay, who played well defensively, but that wasn’t the point.

Enter Matt den Dekker, who doesn’t have the inside track at making the team as the center fielder despite being the their best defensive outfielder.

DEN DEKKER: Magic glove.

DEN DEKKER: Magic glove. (AP)

Terry Collins managed arguably one of the greatest defensive center fielders in history when he had Jim Edmonds. Collins said they compared favorably in their ability to chance down fly balls in the gap with their speed, “although nobody got a jump like Jim Edmonds … it seemed like he took two steps before the ball was hit.’’

That comes from knowing the hitters and the pitch, so maybe that part of it will come to den Dekker. However, and this is the rub, he’s not even close to Edmonds at the plate and it could cost him a spot on the roster.

Den Dekker made another spectacular catch Monday when he went against the wall in left-center to rob Detroit’s Austin Jackson of extra bases. It is one of several he’s made this spring, each one seemingly more scintillating than the previous.

Den Dekker told reporters later in Lakeland he was “just doing my job,’’ but for a team lacking in offense, that’s only part of what the Mets need from him.

“If you are going to be a platoon player, you got to be able to do something off the bench in the National League, and that’s not just play defense,’’ Collins told reporters.

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Mar 11

Jonathan Niese Sparkles Against Detroit

Jonathan Niese threw 4.2 scoreless innings this afternoon against the Tigers, begging the question: Why not just off call the charade with Johan Santana?

It is clear Santana won’t be ready for the start of the season, and the only possible result in rushing him is risk injury.

Terry Collins has already said Niese would replace Santana as the Opening Day starter and Jeremy Hefner will take his place on the roster if the veteran lefty isn’t ready.

The Mets are waiting for Santana to throw batting practice and in the bullpen before he gets in a game, and then, under normal circumstances make six exhibition starts until he stretches it 30 innings. Santana’s current timetable is to make four starts.

The Mets can’t deal Santana because of his $31 million contract, and their best value for him is for him to pitch as well as possible.

That begins with being healthy.

METS NOTES: Frank Francisco said he’s feeling fine after yesterday’s bullpen session. He said the next step is another bullpen in a day or two, “maybe,” he said. … Jenrry Mejia gave up one hit in a scoreless inning today against Detroit.

Mar 11

Jordany Valdespin Making Impact

Jordany Valdespin is not an easy person to like, and especially hard to cheer for. Ask a question and he’ll often mumble an indifferent and inaudible answer.

VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)

VALDESPIN: Decked by Verlander (AP)

He exudes confidence on the field, but crosses the line with a brash attitude, tendency to showboat and not always hustle. Off the field he wears a bright red baseball cap reading “JV 1.’’ He often carries himself  with an “I own the world,” persona that goes beyond confidence, so much that manager Terry Collins has warned him to tone it down a notch.

Last year, Valdespin fell out of favor with the Mets despite hitting five pinch-hit homers. He didn’t help himself in the offseason when he was suspended in winter ball. Even so, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis out with a bruised left knee and Daniel Murphy sidelined with a strained right side, Valdespin is being given every opportunity to make the roster in the outfield or as a second baseman.

Valdespin has produced, but with a caveat: He plays to his own soundtrack.

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Mar 11

Today’s Mets Lineup Vs. Tigers

Here’s today’s Mets lineup against Detroit at Lakleland.

Jordany Valdespin, 2b

Ruben Tejada, ss

Ike Davis, 1b

Lucas Duda, lf

Mike Baxter, rf

John Buck, c

Travis d’Arnaud, dh

Matt den Dekker, cf

Brandon Hicks, 3b

Jonathan Niese, lhp

LINEUP COMMENTS: The Mets are giving Valdespin every chance to make this team. His versatility helps him. He’s at second today and has played center and right this spring also. … Duda had three hits the other day against Houston. He’s in left today hitting behind Davis. I am wondering if Terry Collins will stack the two lefties during the season. … den Dekker again in center. He’s Mets’ best defensive outfielder, but they don’t know if he’ll hit enough. He has five hits, including a homer this spring.