Mientkiewicz is Mets' Mr. Cleanup

NEW YORK – With the power bats of Cliff Floyd (strained chest muscle, day-to-day) and Mike Cameron (left wrist, disabled list) still sidelined by their respective injuries, Mets manager Willie Randolph opted to use Doug Mientkiewicz as the cleanup hitter Sunday.

Mientkiewicz is hitting .282 with one home run and four RBI, but his true offensive impression has been an ability to lay down bunts – he did so again Saturday leading off an inning.

A gap hitter with some pop, Mientkiewicz certainly not your prototypical cleanup hitter, but the move was indicative that Randolph won't be afraid to try different things as the season goes on.

"He's a big guy," Randolph said. "He's a guy I don't have to be concerned about if they bring in a lefty. I'll feed his ego a little bit, make him feel like he's one of the big boys."

Spotting the lineup posted in the clubhouse, Tom Glavine cracked, "When was the last time you batted cleanup? The Olympics?"

Close, but not quite. Mientkiewicz – who said he batted third and sixth in the 2000 Olympics at Sydney – last batted fourth on May 20, 2001 for the Twins at Baltimore.

Few things are more entertaining than watching Pedro Martinez … watching television.

The bleary-eyed Mets clubhouse snapped to attention Sunday morning with a high-pitched chirping sound piercing the air. A stray pigeon stuck in an air conditioning duct, this was not – instead, it was Martinez, delighting in ESPN highlights of Manny Ramirez's grand slam Saturday for the Red Sox, who defeated the Devil Rays 6-2.

"Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi!" Martinez said. "Man-ny!"

The mood turned serious when the program switched to highlights of Saturday's Mets-Marlins game, a contest started by Martinez. The righthander – who earlier this spring told reporters that he is more of a student of pitching than anything else – indeed focused in on every aspect of his televised delivery, even the spliced replays of Martinez's third strikes.

Righthander Steve Trachsel is in uniform and will travel with the club over the next several weeks while he begins his rehab, hoping to feel a little closer to the action than he did resting at his San Diego home. "He's on the mend," Randolph said. "I just want him to feel like he's part of the team."

Trachsel, who underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in late March, reports no pain or stiffness in anything he has tried so far, and remains on schedule to return to the rotation after the All-Star Break. He was able to walk out of the hospital in a matter of hours, not weeks, and had no trouble driving a car or taking the cross-country flight.

Contrast that with the medical scene if Trachsel had herniated a disc 20 to 25 years ago, and the tale might have been a bit different.

"We'd probably be talking about if I was even going to pitch again," Trachsel said.

They said it: "I kind of like Shea like this. Not too much booing going on." – Mike Cameron, after Friday's game.

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