Cameron Won't Abandon Teammates

NEW YORK – While enjoying a rare off-day in New York Monday, Mike Cameron couldn't escape the call of the office.<br> <br> With the Mets scheduled to play their next 12 games against their prime divisional competitors, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Florida Marlins, Cameron was told at least twice by fans how important the stretch that kicks off Tuesday night at Shea Stadium is for New York's season.

"Already?" Cameron said. "It's cool, you know. I guess this is the kind of environment you want to play in, because we can put ourselves right in the mix."

The Mets enter Tuesday's game having finally achieved the .500 mark, notching their 22nd win of the year Sunday behind Tom Glavine's one-hit shutout over the Colorado Rockies. New York trails the double-headed tandem of Florida and Philadelphia by just three games, creating a surprising boost of energy around Shea.

"That's a good thing for here, right?" Cameron said. "Playing good baseball?"

After struggling through most of the last two years due to injuries, New York has been able to break even despite missing key cogs Cliff Floyd and Jose Reyes for significant amounts of time.

Sunshine could be on the horizon, however. Al Leiter, who has missed his last two starts and is currently on the disabled list, played catch on Tuesday and reported that he felt good. Meanwhile, Reyes is playing well on a rehab assignment with Class-A St. Lucie and could return to the club on Friday, when the Mets open a three-game weekend series in Miami – quite possibly the closest manager Art Howe has ever been to a full deck of players since he took the helm of the Mets nearly a year and a half ago.

As for Cameron, who tore a ligament in his right pinkie in a collision with San Francisco Giants catcher Yorvit Torrealba earlier this month and had to talk Howe out of going on the disabled list, things appear to be status quo.

No amount of rest that the Mets can provide right now can heal a torn ligament, and Cameron – hitting just .210 – acknowledges that offseason surgery is a distinct possibility.

Right now, however, Cameron refuses to go on the shelf and abandon a Mets club that is primed to make a run at first place. After a period of taking weak, almost one-handed swings, Cameron insists that his batting grip and his plate strength are slowly but surely coming back, and that the injury is no big deal: just one more thing to deal with.

"I don't think I've been 100 percent since I started playing baseball," Cameron said. "Especially since I turned 30 [last January]."

HOWE SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT: Addressing the media before Tuesday's game, Howe used the opportunity to clear the air regarding his decision to use Ty Wigginton at second base last Wednesday.

Last Sunday, Howe had told reporters that he would not consider Wigginton at second base, then explained the move by saying, "I guess I lied."

It was another troubling and infuriating faux pas for Howe, who has already been burned a number of times in New York. Thus, Howe shouldn't have been surprised when reporters printed his quote verbatim, and secondary news media sources branded him as a liar.

"That was tongue-in-cheek," Howe said. "Obviously it's been made a lot bigger than what that was supposed to be meant. From day to day I'm going to change my mind on things and adjust. That's what a good manager does.

"I've got a problem with people questioning my integrity, because that's one thing I have is my integrity. Everything I tell you [the media] is the truth. I don't always tell you everything, but what I tell you is truthful."

ROSTER SHUFFLING: After Tyler Yates lasted just 4-1/3 innings in his start Saturday against the Rockies, the Mets have decided that his future lies in the bullpen. The team will begin to reintroduce him to a relief role at Triple-A Norfolk this week.

Yates – a former closer – was at his strongest in the first two or three innings of each of his starts, but seemed to run out of gas in the fourth and fifth innings.

"I think it was pretty evident that his velocity started to change as the game went along," said Howe, who compared Yates' situation to that of former Major Leaguer Doug Bair, a Minor League teammate of Howe's.

After flopping in the minors as a starter, Bair switched to relief and put together a 15-year career, compiling a 55-43 record with 81 saves. Howe believes Yates could be capable of similar results.

"There's a big upside for him as far as the bullpen is concerned, as far as a power arm," Howe said.

Lefthander Pedro Feliciano joined the Mets and was available on Tuesday. He was 2-2 with a 6.30 ERA and one save at Triple-A Norfolk.

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