Buchanan meets the Mets

NEW YORK – The Mets can't seem to make it through a single day without making a roster move, but Wednesday's transactions offered New York's bench a much-needed, recognizable major league bat. <P> With Cliff Floyd, Mike Cameron and Richard Hidalgo all aching in one form or another, the banged-up Mets added outfielder Brian Buchanan to their 25-man roster, signing the San Diego Padres castoff to a contract for the rest of the season.

Buchanan, 31, began the year with the Padres and spent time on the disabled list this season with a strained left oblique muscle. He hit .200 (12-for-60) with two homers and six RBI in 38 games this year for San Diego.

Stuck in a logjam behind Terrence Long, Jay Payton, Xavier Nady and Brian Giles for playing time with the Padres, Buchanan refused an assignment when San Diego tried to send him to Triple-A this week. He became a free agent on Wednesday.

After deliberating with his wife, Jill, who is eight months pregnant with the couple's first child, Buchanan decided to pack up his belongings and fly east to join the Mets, who were the first team to show interest in him. He landed at LaGuardia Airport after a 6 a.m. cross-country flight out of San Diego.

"I'm thankful the Mets gave me this opportunity," Buchanan said. "You've got to move on. I've got nothing but good things to say about the Padres. It was very emotional decision, and it was tough to do.

"There's a lot of injuries here [with the Mets], so you have to look at it and see what your best opportunity is."

Buchanan admitted that one of the most difficult parts of leaving the Padres was saying goodbye to any chance that he'd play in the postseason this year.

San Diego is two games out in the race for the National League wild card, although after meeting with Padres manager Bruce Bochy, Buchanan realized that he had very little chance of making the postseason roster even if San Diego did sneak into the playoffs.

"It's something I really wanted to do," said Buchanan, who was traded by a playoff-bound Minnesota Twins team to the Padres in July 2002.

With all three of New York's aforementioned outfielders ailing, Buchanan could fill in at left field or right field, or he could spell Eric Valent or Mike Piazza at first base for the rest of the season.

"I'm just here to play," Buchanan said. "I'll play second [base], third [base]. I just want some playing time. I'm 31. I'm not a young buck anymore. I'm just trying to get things started."

In order to make room for Buchanan on the Mets' 25-man roster, New York optioned righthander Heath Bell – who made his major league debut with two scoreless innings Wednesday – back to Triple-A Norfolk. He'll likely be back when the major league rosters expand on Sept. 1.

Mets Notes

  • One day after reporters cornered pitching coach Rick Peterson for nearly 45 minutes in a winding, drawn-out analysis of the Scott Kazmir trade and Peterson's influence on it, GM Jim Duquette was finally asked for his opinion on Kazmir's start Monday night for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Seattle.

    "He's a good kid with a hell of an arm," Duquette said. "You can question whether he should be in the major leagues right now – that wasn't our opinion. That's the Devil Rays. That's their situation."

  • The Mets had planned to keep David Wright lodged lower in the lineup through this season and then re-evaluate his promotion to the No. 3 hole during spring training 2005, but the team's rash of injuries prompted Mets manager Art Howe to reconsider.

    His lineup Tuesday night – which featured Jeff Keppinger, Vance Wilson and Gerald Williams in the top three spots – managed just two hits and no runs off of David Wells through 8-2/3 innings until the Mets finally broke up the shutout.

    For his part, Wright said that he didn't feel any extra pressure by batting third – where he batted with Binghamton and Norfolk – but said he was pleased when he saw the lineup card.

    "When you've got guys like Cliff Floyd, Richard Hidalgo and Mike Cameron here, it's quite an honor to be considered," Wright said. "To be honest with you, [even though] obviously it's an honor, but I'm not going to approach it any other way than if I was hitting sixth or seventh."

  • Duquette said that the Mets hope to start Mike Piazza (left knee inflammation) on a rehab assignment before the minor league seasons end in just over a week. When Piazza makes his way back to the Mets next month, the team will be using him mostly as a first baseman.

    Duquette was asked if that move was to help the team gauge Piazza's capability to handle first base for offseason moves, or if it was to reduce the stress on Piazza's body. Duquette's response: "Yes."

  • Elsewhere in Port St. Lucie, Victor Zambrano (strained right flexor muscle) is still on a strict shut down and is not scheduled to start throwing for another week. … Orber Moreno (strained right shoulder), who was moved to the 60-day disabled list Tuesday, will meet with the noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews to discuss a setback in his recovery.

  • The Mets came to terms with their second-round draft choice, signing righthander Matt Durkin out of San Jose State with an $800,000 signing bonus.

    Durkin, 21, topped out this season at 96 MPH with his fastball, normally ranging in the low 90s, and also features a curveball, slider and a developing change-up. He will pitch this fall in the Instructional League.

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