Spring training is starting to get into full swing in Port St. Lucie, so let’s take a look at some of the things making news from Mets camp:
Now Batting Third, Jose Reyes?
Jerry Manuel said he is considering dropping Jose Reyes down from leadoff to the third spot in the lineup, at least until Carlos Beltran returns from injury. “I would love to see him as a third hitter assuming the other parts fit,” Manuel said.
Those “other parts” would be whether Angel Pagan or Luis Castillo can make it as leadoff hitters. For his part, Reyes said he told Manuel he is up for it. “I said, ‘I’m open to anything you want me to do. It’s not a problem.'”
This is in stark contrast to last spring when Manuel floated the same idea. Reyes reportedly was not enamored with the idea. But now Reyes said that was not the case.
“I didn’t say I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t say that,” Reyes said. “It’s no different. Whatever spot he puts me in the lineup, I’m going to be able to do that. Whatever is best for the team, I’m going to do it. So let’s see what happens. He said when Beltran comes back, I’m going to be the leadoff guy again. I don’t know if he’s sure right now.
“He’s the boss. Whatever he says I’ll do it. I just want to be on the field playing baseball.”
I think this is a good move. Reyes has a decent amount of power (19 home runs in 2006), and can drive the ball into the large gaps at Citi Field. That’s what you want from your number three hitter.
Moving Castillo to the top spot is also a good idea. His on-base percentage was near .400 last year. And besides, as the number two hitter, he’ll just sacrifice bunt every time Reyes gets on ahead of him, anyway.
When Beltran comes back, Manuel could go with a lineup that looks like this:
That’s a pretty deep lineup, with no soft spots in the middle.
Speaking of Beltran, he and his surgically repaired knee arrived at camp Monday. Beltran said his rehab is on schedule, and that he expects to return to action 12 weeks after the mid-January surgery.
So far Beltran is only able to ride a stationary bike. He can’t run yet because he doesn’t feel his knee is stable, but that’s to be expected at this point.
“I feel like if I run, something wrong is going to happen, because the quad is not stable, the hamstrings are not stable. Once I strengthen those areas, I think everything else is going to fall in place and it’s going to be feeling good.”
So while he’s coming along physically, perhaps even as important is that emotionally Beltran is okay. The sometimes overly sensitive Beltran said he harbors no ill feelings towards the way the Mets publicly handled his surgery:
“No, I didn’t have hard feelings. You know, it took me a while because I’m a human being, of course, and I’m a person who has feelings. It took me like a week for me to forget everything and focus on what is important for me. What is important for me right now is just to be with the team, be ready, and being able to play.”
Koufax to the Rescue
Getting Oliver Perez ready to play will be key to the Mets season. So to teach the flaky lefthander how to get his arm and head in order, the Mets brought in one of the greatest lefthanded pitchers in history as a tutor: Sandy Koufax.
Fred Wilpon’s high school buddy makes an appearance at every Mets spring training, but this could be his most important visit. After making exactly zero moves to strengthen the starting rotation, the Mets need Perez to have a strong season. So he and Johan Santana, one of the best pitchers working today, watched Perez throw today. Not bad mentors.
Koufax cautioned against a complete overhaul of Perez’s wild motion:
“People pay too much attention to delivery,” Koufax told the New York Post. “Pitching is throwing. It’s precision throwing. Sometimes delivery is overrated. You don’t want to change what you do. Delivery shouldn’t interfere with your ability to throw. You make it a simple situation so you can retain it. You don’t want it to be something different every time you throw.’’
Santana has been working closely with Perez, and Koufax said it shows.
“Even before I started talking to Oliver today he looked different than he did last year, and I’m sure that was Johan,” Koufax said. “Warren Spahn used to say the plate is 17 inches wide and 15 belong to the hitter. Santana doesn’t use that 15 that belong to the hitter very often.’’
Koufax did have some advice for Santana. “Stay healthy,” Koufax told him. The same could be said for the entire Mets team.