The answer to Steve Trachsel's back troubles finally arrived in Mets camp on Sunday, as the club completed its deal of catcher Jason Phillips for Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii.
The 31-year-old Ishii will automatically become a pet project for pitching coach Rick Peterson, who already has his hands full with one work order on Victor Zambrano this spring.
That experiment isn't exactly going swimmingly, as Zambrano holds a 10.00 ERA this spring, but it ventures on.
Ishii, who will work with Peterson Tuesday and tentatively should make his Mets debut Saturday against the Atlanta Braves, is a winner over his three-year Major League career, having notched 36 victories since coming to the Dodgers from Japan.
There's no problem with that. It's the format in which he's scored many of the wins that has been maddening.
Ishii walked more than 100 hitters in his first two seasons with Los Angeles, and last year – when he went 13-8 with a 4.71 ERA in 31 starts – Ishii walked one fewer batter (98) than he struck out (99), leading manager Jim Tracy to demote him to the bullpen not once but twice.
At this point, the Mets will take innings no matter how long it takes. Trachsel – no speed demon himself on the hill, mind you - will miss at least three months and possibly the rest of the season after having surgery this week to repair a herniated disc.
With 473 innings over three seasons under his belt, Ishii gives the Mets a starter who can boast what Trachsel's earlier potential replacements could not – unlike Matt Ginter, Jae Seo and Aaron Heilman, Ishii has been down this road before as a legitimate Major League starting pitcher.
Valent the winner: Eric Valent cracked a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday as the Mets edged the Los Angeles Dodgers at Tradition Field, 10-9. That game featured a five-inning performance from Pedro Martinez, with Martinez holding a split-squad of Dodgers to one run and five hits.
In New York's other split-squad game, the Mets headed to Fort Lauderdale and defeated the Orioles, 5-1.
Matt Ginter, Aaron Heilman and Bartolome Fortunato pitched in that contest without allowing an earned run, while the Mets rapped Rodrigo Lopez for three runs and five hits in the first inning.
Extra bases: Cliff Floyd, excused from camp to be present for the birth of his newborn son, called manager Willie Randolph from Toronto and asked for a few more days to attend to a personal matter. Floyd is now expected back in Port St. Lucie on Tuesday or Wednesday. … 2B Kaz Matsui was given the day off Sunday to rest his ailing upper back. He is expected to return to action Tuesday after Monday's scheduled day off.