This year's intracity Interleague competition takes on a little different twist. Plenty of players have left one side of the Mets-Yankees rivalry for the other in the span of a year – Miguel Cairo and Mike Stanton being the latest entries in that notebook – but for the first time, the Mets will be managed by a person who last saw the Yankees from the inside of their dugout.
"It's going to be nice to see the crowds involved," said Willie Randolph, who has his Mets off to a 22-19 start after a sweep of the Reds this week. "I'm sure it's going to be great."
Randolph wasn't so pleased to watch the Mets sweep the Yankees at Shea Stadium last season, but he'd be plenty satisfied if the results were replicated in 2005. So would his players, and that journey starts behind right-hander Victor Zambrano on Friday night.
"They're a good team. We feel we're a good team too," outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "They're going to come out here and try to beat our butts. And vice versa."
"Growing up as a Mets fan, you root against the Yankees," said third baseman David Wright. "To be on the other side of that fence now and be in the batter's box, it gives you that extra incentive."
PEDRO PUSHED BACK: Pedro Martinez had a cortisone shot in his inflamed right hip on Tuesday and has been moved back to pitch Sunday against the Yankees, instead of Friday as originally planned.
Martinez said he has been experiencing pain and an "uncomfortable" feeling pushing off the rubber in his last two starts, over which he has allowed nine earned runs and four home runs to the Brewers and Cardinals, respectively.
Martinez said there is no doubt that he'll be able to make his scheduled start Sunday – "Plenty of time," the ace said – and opined that he could have gone Friday as planned if Willie Randolph had wanted to put him on the mound.
If for any reason Martinez is unable to pitch, Randolph said that the starter for Sunday would most likely be right-hander Aaron Heilman, who has been changed into the bullpen's swing man with the activation of left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii.
As a side note, Martinez's prized bright orange suit made its third pre-game appearance of the year in the clubhouse. The Mets are 3-0 when Martinez whoops it up wearing the garish threads, which the ace believes brings the team offensive juice.
Reyes scored on both three-base hits, which concluded with clean head-first dives into the bags, but the Mets' leadoff hitter is still batting just .260. Reyes has only worked out five walks in his 173 at-bats this season, which accounts for his .285 on-base percentage.
BENCH BOY: Carlos Beltran finally got a day off on Wednesday, as Randolph took the opportunity to "recharge [Beltran's] batteries" by holding him out of the starting lineup. Mike Cameron took the start in center from Beltran, who had started the Mets' first 40 contests.
"It was a little bit boring, but it's OK," said Beltran, who pinch-hit in the seventh inning and grounded out.
Cameron played flawlessly in center field, including a running catch in the second inning that featured a perfect throw to home plate, pinning a runner at third base.
"It felt like when you've been away from home for a long time," Cameron said. "You go home [and] it's kind of like everything is still in place."
MAN ON THE RISE: Don't look now, but Mike Piazza's batting average is quietly creeping up toward respectability. Piazza ripped another four hits in the mix of Wednesday's win, stroking three singles and a double to jack his average 23 points to .242.
GRASS MAN IN HOT WATER: Shea Stadium groundskeeper Dominic Valila was among a group of 36 people indicted Wednesday on charges that they were involved with a $360 million gambling ring, the Associated Press reported.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a news release that the operation facilitated illegal gambling on horse racing, football and baseball to fund the Bonanno crime family.
Mets vice president of public relations Jay Horwitz told the AP that the team cooperated fully with the district attorney's office.
You could argue the Mets are the hot hand coming into this weekend's Subway Series action, riding a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds. But you'd be foolish also to bet against the Yankees, who had a 10-game winning streak snapped with a loss at Seattle on Wednesday.
As with almost any game, Friday's renewal of intracity competition should come down to the pitching matchup. This one will be a pairing of hurlers who probably should pitch better than their records indicate: Victor Zambrano (2-3, 5.45) for the Mets and Kevin Brown (2-4, 6.08) for the Yankees. First pitch is 7:10 p.m.