Slim pickings at Denny's

The Mets have scored just one run in five of their last seven games, leading many to wonder if Denny Walling's future as the club's hitting coach is secure.

Firing Walling, whom Art Howe has referred to as "my best friend" in baseball and out of it, might be a quick fix, knee-jerk reaction to the Mets' recent hitting troubles, but it's also early to be dropping the guillotine just yet.

The Mets are lacking lineup lynchpin Cliff Floyd – have you noticed that Mike Piazza's numbers slumped directly coinciding with Floyd's injury? – and still have yet to see speedster Jose Reyes this season. When the Mets get those two key players back, the thinking goes, their offensive output will come with it.

Still, you can make a case. The Mets' efforts at the plate have been dull to say the least: the Mets entered Friday's 3-1 loss to the Cubs batting just .243 as a club, ranking only above the scuffling Phillies and Expos.

You know the adage. If you can't fire the players, fire the coaches…

"That would be their option if they chose to do that," Walling told reporters in Chicago Friday. "I think they understand the situation here. The work ethic is there."

Walling worked extensively this spring with outfielder Mike Cameron – who homered Friday, accounting for New York's lone run – and with infielder Kaz Matsui, both of whom are looking to cut down on their high strikeout totals.

He's been especially instrumental with aiding the resurgence of utilityman Joe McEwing, drastically modifying the switch-hitter's high leg kick to the point where McEwing now has very little movement in the batter's box.

That all could be moot. McEwing is batting just .214 (6-for-28), and two other Mets regulars are batting below baseball's famed Mendoza line – Ty Wigginton, who went on the disabled list this week, was hitting just .188, while Jason Phillips' extended slump has dropped the catcher-first baseman to .137.

Mets GM Jim Duquette is no stranger to coaching staff shakeups: he relieved pitching coach Vern Ruhle from his duties last season, not just because the Mets were able to lure Rick Peterson away from the Oakland A's, but also because Mets pitchers weren't receiving the messages Ruhle was dispensing.

A similar turn of events could be underway.

HOLLYWOOD MIKE: Mike Piazza has a busy schedule for the Mets' upcoming trip to Los Angeles. He'll be a guest on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live on Monday, then bowl for charity at Todd Zeile's tournament for juvenile diabetes.

ANOTHER EX-YANKEE: The Mets signed free agent outfielder Gerald Williams, 37, and assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk. This could be the last go-round for the former Yankee – he hit just .129 in 27 games for the Florida Marlins last year and was released by the defending World Champs on April 2.

IN THE MINORS: What is it with the ex-Yankees today? Former Bomber Randy Keisler was bombed last night at Triple-A Norfolk, allowing five runs and seven hits in 5.0 innings. However, Ricky Bottalico continues to plead his case for a callup to the bigs – he threw two scoreless innings for the Tides, allowing two hits.


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