3/28/2005 09:46:00 PM
�THE GUARNTEEED CONTRACT IS MIGHTER THAN THE SWORD�
Before the yesterdays game against the Nats, Randoplh/Minaya handed out five demotion notices leaving 37 players left in the St. Lonesome camp. Banished to the bushes are Jeff Keppinger, Jae Seo, Scott Stewart, Ober Moreno and Scott Strickland. Strickland is still on the come back from Tommy John surgery he had two years ago and has not regained the velocity that he had before the operation. What he also posses is an �out� in his contract that states if he�s not on the 25 man he can be declared a free agent. Usually players exercise this option when confronted with a trip to AAA or the opportunity to join an other ML team, but Strickland looks like he�ll accept a trip to Norfolk to get in shape, as he wants to stay a Met in the worst way:
["I told Willie (Randolph) that in five years in the big leagues, this is the first clubhouse that I've been in that didn't have to be convinced they were going to win," Strickland said. "What makes this hard is I want to be a part of that. I spent two years trying to get to here, and now it's like I'm still a little ways away. They just felt like I wasn't all the way back to the Scott Strickland they know. ... At the same time, this is my free-agent year and I have to be on the big-league mound, especially when I'm healthy."]
It is a credit to Randolph on how this camp has been run. Think back to the last two years under Artie form Queens when the end of spring training had Mets fans looking forward to the opening of NFL training camp. Not this year! There is plenty of buzz and a kind of a nervous anticipation about the team that is coming north. You can sense that the players believe that they will contend for a playoff spot and are not to be taken lightly.
But of course not everything in camp has me with a smile on my face. Yesterday was the Mets version of Bullpen Idol as Bartolome Fortunato, Manny Aybar, Jose Santiago, Mike Matthews and Heath Bell got to audition in a game that was televised back to NY. All that was missing was the 1-866 number and who to vote for. What we have to watch for the rest of this week is (a) how many relievers does Randolph take north. 6 or 7? and (b) does a worthy candidate get demoted because of Felix Heredia and his guaranteed $2mil for the year? (Update: As I type this post, I�m listing to Mike and the Mad Dog who joyously tell me that Felix Heredia came into today�s game with the bases loaded and proceeded to walk in two runs and then he gave up a GRAND SLAM to Scott Rolen. OMAR I�M BEGGING YOU, BUY HEREDIA OUT OF HIS CONTRACT!!!!! Of course the two assholes got a good laugh over this. Time to listen to some music) The locks are Looper, DeJean (whose calf injury does not seem to be as bad as the press made it out to be, that�s why we should not get our briefs in a bunch over the reports of Petey�s stiff back) and Guaranteed Felix. That leaves either 3 or 4 spots open for the following contenders:
I can�t figure out why Bell should be in a fight for a spot in this pen. When you add in his work last year and his commitment this spring he should be locked in. Hopefully Randolph sees this as well. Mr. Koo has looked better and better with each outing as have Fortunato and Hernandez and Manny Aybar pitched two nice innings yesterday. Matthews and Santiago were touched for runs (Bell got out of a jam left by Matthews in the 7th) Today Matt Ginter, Hernandez and Mr. Koo get there screen test against the Cardinals.
As Professor Rick says, �It will be a photo finish� to see who gets the remaining spots.
I�m looking at 7 relievers starting the season; as Petey�s back has to be watched and The Zambrano Project and Ishii could both throw 100 pitches in 3 innings. I�m guessing the pen will look like this come next Monday:
Aybar, Fortunato, and Santiago (as well as Bell, Koo) can be optioned to Norfolk. Matthews would either be traded or waived even though having him would be better than Guaranteed Felix but even though these are the �New� Mets some of the �Old� Mets ways are hard to change.
Ginter would be the long man and Mr. Koo could go two plus innings if need be. Heredia should be used as a LOOGY and nothing else. Hernandez and Bell could interchange leading to DeJean to set up Looper. On paper it does not look too bad put paper don�t mean squat.
�WRIGHT BATTING EIGHTH, AIN�T RIGHT�
Yesterday Willie Randolph put his starting eight on the field together for the first time. I guess in all the excitement he made a bit of a lineup faux pau as he wrote David Wright�s name in the 8 hole. It had to be a mistake as no one outside of Art Howe would dream of putting Wright so low in the order, right Willie:
[Randolph's lineup order was predictable, other than the fact that Mike Cameron hit sixth, Doug Mientkiewicz seventh and David Wright eighth. But the manager cautioned people not to get too attached to yesterday's order. "I didn't go in thinking this was going to be my Opening Day lineup," he said.]
You have to have Wright hitting no lower than 6th. Let Cameron hit 7th and Mienky bat 8th (Hey some has to?) I would even think about Matsui 8th and Wright in the 2 spot. Here is what Randolph should use for his line all this week:
That Piazza/Floyd 4, 5 spot will make the difference between 50, 000 people jamming Shea in September and folks going apple picking upstate NY in September.
Speaking of Piazza, the Times has a piece on what could be Piazza�s Farewell as a Met. The story looks at Mikey�s decline in production due to injury and age and the fact that he has gone about his business this spring without the fanfare of past springs. Mikey had a nice opposite field double yesterday and vintage Piazza homer over the centerfield fence. This quote from Randolph sums up a nice spring for Mikey:
[The initial signs have been positive. Piazza has been healthy and has been making solid contact throughout spring training. He seems to be in an excellent frame of mind after his recent wedding.
"I think he's going to have a good year, and I've said that from Day 1," Manager Willie Randolph said. "He'll be my cleanup hitter and he'll be in the mix a lot. He's in good shape and he seems to be very enthusiastic about this team and the support he has around him. He seems like he's really happy. I'm sure being married helps."]
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