Rotation Takes Spring Focus

During the off-season, the Mets have taken the steps to bring in a number of arms to compete for the back end of the rotation. One who will be in the mix is Jon Niese, but the signing of veterans makes his job more difficult. Here is a wire report on happenings as the attention moves from the front office to Port St. Lucie

J.J. Putz, Sean Green and Jeremy Reed were eager to get to Port St. Lucie, Fla., after enduring a 101-loss season with the Seattle Mariners in 2008. The three players acquired by the Mets in a Dec. 10 three-team trade all reported to camp early.

"It was a long season -- not just the physical grind, but it was kind of a mental grind," Green said. "Everybody was struggling and coaches are getting fired and players are getting released. It was kind of a tough situation."

Putz rightfully generated the bulk of the attention among the trio after the trade because he and free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez potentially could combine to lock down the final two innings for the Mets in 2009. But Mets officials also have heaped praise on Green, whom they feel will be a valuable addition to the bullpen.

Reed is projected to make the team as a defensive outfielder, filling the role Endy Chavez had with the Mets in recent seasons. Chavez was sent to Seattle in the trade.

"I'm really excited to be over here," said Reed, who hit .269 with two homers and 31 RBIs in 286 at-bats for the Mariners last season.

"I think the National League fits my game better -- the fact that I've played all three outfield positions and, in the past, I've played some first base. I kind of want to work on that a little bit more just to have that. I feel like defensively I can go out there at any time and help the team.

"Gosh, I have a little over three years' service time and I've gone into one spring training knowing that I was going to play every day. So I'm kind of used to that. I'm used to going out there and fighting and giving myself the best opportunity to win a job."

Putz predicted Green, a right-hander, will have a breakout year with a more reasonable workload. Last year, Green had 48 first-half relief appearances, the most in the American League. His 29 relief appearances of more than one inning during the season ranked third in the majors.

"He was as lights out as anybody was the first half of last year," Putz said. "The way that they kind of abused him last year -- he probably won't say it -- but I think it really did take a toll late in the season."

WHERE, WHEN: Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie, Fla. First exhibition game is Feb. 25 against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale.

TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: RHP Sean Green didn't get much hype when he arrived from Seattle with J.J. Putz in a December trade, but Mets officials expect the 6-foot-6 right-hander to play an integral role in the bullpen. Green, 29, went 9-7 with a 4.32 ERA in 160 relief appearances for the Mariners during the past three seasons.

TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: Picking up 1B Carlos Delgado's $12 million option for 2009 became a no-brainer after he hit .313 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs over his final 300 at-bats of last season. Still, Delgado was hitting just .228 entering July last year, and it's possible his age and a career spent primarily playing on artificial turf in Toronto could catch up to him at age 36.

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Manager Jerry Manuel, who posted a 55-38 record after taking over for fired Willie Randolph in June, runs his first spring training camp as Mets skipper. The former American League Manager of the Year with the White Sox wants to run a disciplined camp that focuses on fundamentals, but most of his top players will miss significant time to participate in the World Baseball Classic, making that objective more challenging.

NOTES, QUOTES --LHP Johan Santana withdrew from the World Baseball Classic at the request of Mets officials. The Mets want Santana to be cautious after he underwent Oct. 1 surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Santana's first time on a mound since the procedure wasn't until Feb. 10, not enough time to be performing full throttle four weeks later in the WBC.

--RHP Tim Redding and LHP Jon Niese have a friendly competition for the fifth starter's role. The two contenders, who have the same agent, caravanned from the Midwest for the 15 1/2-hour drive, and they are living together during spring training. RHP Freddy Garcia actually is the favorite to claim the final slot in the rotation despite being on a minor league deal, which would push Redding to long relief and Niese to Class AAA Buffalo.

--RF Ryan Church, whose 2008 season was marred by two concussions, said that episode is behind him. "I've had no setbacks," Church said. "I feel like I did last offseason, before anything happened. That's why I want to get this thing going. I feel like I'm back to where I was before."

--2B/OF Jose Valentin signed a minor league deal with the Mets. Valentin did not play at the major league level in 2008. He battled neck discomfort last spring while in Mets camp, then halted his season after the health issue persisted while he tried to prepare in the minors.

--RHP John Maine, who had surgery to shave a bony growth on his right shoulder blade, went through his winter workout program without issue. "I did everything the same," he said. "The only thing I couldn't really do was play golf. I played once this winter."

BY THE NUMBERS: 22 -- RHP J.J. Putz's uniform number with the Mets. The reliever wore No. 20 in Seattle, but he didn't ask for it after the trade because it belongs to hitting coach and revered 1986 Mets star Howard Johnson.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Being that it is having to do with cross-town, I try to stay out of it as much as possible. But I think you can't ever condone using banned substances. You can't ever condone cheating. With that being said, I think he did a tremendous job in owning up to it. I think he did a tremendous job in his apology." -- Mets 3B David Wright, on Alex Rodriguez's televised admission of steroid use.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nJ.J. Putz, Sean Green and Jeremy Reed were eager to get to Port St. Lucie, \r\nFla., after enduring a 101-loss season with the Seattle Mariners in 2008. The \r\nthree players acquired by the Mets in a Dec. 10 three-team trade all reported to camp early.
\r\n
\r\n\"It was a long season -- not just the physical grind, but it was kind of a \r\nmental grind,\" Green said. \"Everybody was struggling and coaches are getting \r\nfired and players are getting released. It was kind of a tough situation.\"
\r\n
\r\nPutz rightfully generated the bulk of the attention among the trio after the trade because he and free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez potentially could combine to lock down the final two innings for the Mets in 2009. But Mets officials also have heaped praise on Green, whom they feel will be a valuable addition to the bullpen.
\r\n
\r\nReed is projected to make the team as a defensive outfielder, filling the \r\nrole Endy Chavez had with the Mets in recent seasons. Chavez was sent to Seattle in the trade.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm really excited to be over here,\" said Reed, who hit .269 with two homers and 31 RBIs in 286 at-bats for the Mariners last season.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think the National League fits my game better -- the fact that I've played \r\nall three outfield positions and, in the past, I've played some first base. I \r\nkind of want to work on that a little bit more just to have that. I feel like \r\ndefensively I can go out there at any time and help the team.
\r\n
\r\n\"Gosh, I have a little over three years' service time and I've gone into one \r\nspring training knowing that I was going to play every day. So I'm kind of used to that. I'm used to going out there and fighting and giving myself the best opportunity to win a job.\"
\r\n
\r\nPutz predicted Green, a right-hander, will have a breakout year with a more \r\nreasonable workload. Last year, Green had 48 first-half relief appearances, the most in the American League. His 29 relief appearances of more than one inning during the season ranked third in the majors.
\r\n
\r\n\"He was as lights out as anybody was the first half of last year,\" Putz said. \r\n\"The way that they kind of abused him last year -- he probably won't say it -- but I think it really did take a toll late in the season.\"
\r\n
\r\nWHERE, WHEN: Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie, Fla. First exhibition game is Feb. 25 against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale.
\r\n
\r\nTOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: RHP Sean Green didn't get much hype when he \r\narrived from Seattle with J.J. Putz in a December trade, but Mets officials \r\nexpect the 6-foot-6 right-hander to play an integral role in the bullpen. Green, 29, went 9-7 with a 4.32 ERA in 160 relief appearances for the Mariners during the past three seasons.
\r\n
\r\nTOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: Picking up 1B Carlos Delgado's $12 million option for 2009 became a no-brainer after he hit .313 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs over his final 300 at-bats of last season. Still, Delgado was hitting just .228 entering July last year, and it's possible his age and a career spent primarily playing on artificial turf in Toronto could catch up to him at age 36.
\r\n
\r\nAUTHORITY FIGURES: Manager Jerry Manuel, who posted a 55-38 record after taking over for fired Willie Randolph in June, runs his first spring training camp as Mets skipper. The former American League Manager of the Year with the White Sox wants to run a disciplined camp that focuses on fundamentals, but most of his top players will miss significant time to participate in the World Baseball Classic, making that objective more challenging.
\r\n
\r\nNOTES, QUOTES\r\n--LHP Johan Santana withdrew from the World Baseball Classic at the request \r\nof Mets officials. The Mets want Santana to be cautious after he underwent Oct. 1 surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Santana's first time on a mound since the procedure wasn't until Feb. 10, not enough time to be performing full throttle four weeks later in the WBC.
\r\n
\r\n--RHP Tim Redding and LHP Jon Niese have a friendly competition for the fifth \r\nstarter's role. The two contenders, who have the same agent, caravanned from the Midwest for the 15 1/2-hour drive, and they are living together during spring training. RHP Freddy Garcia actually is the favorite to claim the final slot in the rotation despite being on a minor league deal, which would push Redding to long relief and Niese to Class AAA Buffalo.
\r\n
\r\n --RF Ryan Church, whose 2008 season was marred by two concussions, said that \r\nepisode is behind him. \"I've had no setbacks,\" Church said. \"I feel like I did last offseason, before anything happened. That's why I want to get this thing going. I feel like I'm back to where I was before.\"
\r\n
\r\n--2B/OF Jose Valentin signed a minor league deal with the Mets. Valentin did \r\nnot play at the major league level in 2008. He battled neck discomfort last \r\nspring while in Mets camp, then halted his season after the health issue \r\npersisted while he tried to prepare in the minors.
\r\n
\r\n--RHP John Maine, who had surgery to shave a bony growth on his right shoulder blade, went through his winter workout program without issue. \"I did \r\neverything the same,\" he said. \"The only thing I couldn't really do was play \r\ngolf. I played once this winter.\"
\r\n
\r\nBY THE NUMBERS: 22 -- RHP J.J. Putz's uniform number with the Mets. The reliever wore No. 20 in Seattle, but he didn't ask for it after the trade \r\nbecause it belongs to hitting coach and revered 1986 Mets star Howard Johnson.
\r\n
\r\nQUOTE TO NOTE: \"Being that it is having to do with cross-town, I try to stay out of it as much as possible. But I think you can't ever condone using banned substances. You can't ever condone cheating. With that being said, I think he did a tremendous job in owning up to it. I think he did a tremendous job in his apology.\" -- Mets 3B David Wright, on Alex Rodriguez's televised admission of steroid use.
\r\n
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