Spring Training Heats Up

After months of anticipation, Spring Training is in full swing and the Mets' first Spring Training game draws closer as the club takes to the field on Wednesday. Here is a brief look at the on-goings of the week.

Manager Jerry Manuel's address to Mets players before the first full-squad workout of spring training didn't explicitly mention the team's September collapses the previous two Septembers. Instead, the only passing reference, according to Manuel, was him saying: "Everything we've gone through is preparation."

Manuel, who took over when Willie Randolph was fired last June, quickly made sure his fingerprints were on his first spring training at the Mets' helm. He had additional flat-screen televisions installed throughout the clubhouse. After the first full-squad workout, a highlight reel of the Mets' top 2008 opposite-field hits were playing on all the TVs to drive home the importance of those types of at-bats.

That's part of Manuel's message to his players this spring to take a team-first approach and do the little things on the field, like going the opposite way with a runner on base, that the manager feels the Mets have been lacking.

It's a similar message that Manuel is preaching to shortstop Jose Reyes about steals. The actual number of steals is unimportant. It's important that steals are attempted at the right time, and not just to contend for the National League lead in that category. Manuel said the Mets haven't been consciously selfish, but they have displayed those tendencies.

"I'm just trying to take this to a different level," Manuel said. "Stolen bases aren't important to me. It's important when you steal the base. You know what I'm saying? Just to have the numbers aren't important. It's when you steal a base that's important."

Third baseman David Wright said Manuel brings to the Mets the perfect combination of being a players' manager, but also a stickler for detail.

"You get the best of both worlds with Jerry," Wright said. "He's a tremendous players' manager, where you feel like you can talk to him about anything. And he's a tremendous motivator, and will push you and really make you reach your potential."

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

NOTES, QUOTES

--LHP Johan Santana's first Grapefruit League action is expected to wait until March 3 against the Cardinals in Port St. Lucie, Fla., nearly a week into the schedule. Although Santana will skip the World Baseball Classic following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, he feels healthy. Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the delayed first start is because a 37-game spring schedule is too long, and that his starting pitchers don't need seven Grapefruit League starts to prepare for the season.

--2B Luis Castillo arrived at camp weighing 193 pounds, down from his 210-pound reporting weight last spring training. Castillo, who performed miserably in the first season of a four-year, $25 million deal, traveled 70 minutes each way to the Mets' complex in the Dominican Republic this winter to work on his conditioning with former major-leaguer Rafael Landestoy.

--1B Carlos Delgado, who has the most homers and RBIs of any Puerto Rican player in big-league history, is happy Roberto Clemente's family has allowed him to wear No. 21 during the World Baseball Classic. Delgado, along with CF Carlos Beltran, INF Alex Cora and LHP Pedro Feliciano, will leave camp after a March 1 Grapefruit League game to report to Team Puerto Rico's training camp in Fort Myers, Fla. Delgado says he'd like to see Clemente's number retired MLB-wide. "I'm Puerto Rican. I'm a little bit biased. But I'd love to see it," Delgado said. "Needless to say, Jackie Robinson had an impact on the game, but so did Clemente."

--RHP J.J. Putz plans to leave camp Feb. 24 to head to Arizona, where doctors plan to induce labor on his wife at midnight that night. Putz is expected to return to camp for a couple of days before reporting with 3B David Wright to Team USA's World Baseball Classic training camp.

--The final section of Shea Stadium was demolished Feb. 18. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon expects the site, which is adjacent to the new $800 million Citi Field, will be paved and available for parking by the team's home opener April 13 against the Padres.

--RHP Livan Hernandez signed a minor league contract with the Mets. He went a combined 13-11 with a 6.05 ERA with Minnesota and Colorado last season.

--RHP Tony Armas Jr. was the lone no-show at camp. Armas is dealing with visa problems for a second consecutive spring training.

BY THE NUMBERS: 34 -- Vertical leap, in inches, of 3B David Wright during testing by the Mets' staff. "Shaq-esque," Wright labeled it, with a smile.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I sit there and I laugh and say, 'Really, this is still going on?' They're still rolling with that? Every time a team is going to be good and is going to face another team that is going to be good, someone is going to have something to prove. If that's the term they are going to use to stake their claim, then so be it."

-- Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins, on new Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez declaring the Mets the "team to beat" in the NL East in 2009. Rollins first uttered the phrase two years ago, and Mets CF Carlos Beltran parroted it last year.

TOP ROOKIES: LHP Jon Niese tossed eight scoreless innings against the Braves in September, and Mets officials for much of the winter talked about him being the favorite to claim the No. 5 starter's role. Hard-throwing RHP Bobby Parnell primarily worked as a starter in the minors, but he could challenge for a bullpen role. CF Fernando Martinez, the organization's top prospect, hit .287 with eight homers and 43 RBIs at Class AA Binghamton last season, but he was limited to 86 games by a recurring right hamstring injury. He should start the season at Class AAA Buffalo, but he figures to make his major league debut in 2009.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nManager Jerry Manuel's address to Mets players before the first full-squad workout of spring training didn't explicitly mention the team's September collapses the previous two Septembers. Instead, the only passing reference, according to Manuel, was him saying: \"Everything we've gone through is preparation.\"
\r\n
\r\nManuel, who took over when Willie Randolph was fired last June, quickly made sure his fingerprints were on his first spring training at the Mets' helm. He had additional flat-screen televisions installed throughout the clubhouse. After the first full-squad workout, a highlight reel of the Mets' top 2008 opposite-field hits were playing on all the TVs to drive home the importance of those types of at-bats.
\r\n
\r\nThat's part of Manuel's message to his players this spring to take a \r\nteam-first approach and do the little things on the field, like going the opposite way with a runner on base, that the manager feels the Mets have been lacking.
\r\n
\r\nIt's a similar message that Manuel is preaching to shortstop Jose Reyes \r\nabout steals. The actual number of steals is unimportant. It's important that steals are attempted at the right time, and not just to contend for the National League lead in that category. Manuel said the Mets haven't been consciously selfish, but they have displayed those tendencies.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm just trying to take this to a different level,\" Manuel said. \"Stolen bases aren't important to me. It's important when you steal the base. You know what I'm saying? Just to have the numbers aren't important. It's when you steal a base that's important.\"
\r\n
\r\nThird baseman David Wright said Manuel brings to the Mets the perfect \r\ncombination of being a players' manager, but also a stickler for detail.
\r\n
\r\n\"You get the best of both worlds with Jerry,\" Wright said. \"He's a \r\ntremendous players' manager, where you feel like you can talk to him about anything. And he's a tremendous motivator, and will push you and really make you reach your potential.\"
\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\nNOTES, QUOTES
\r\n
\r\n--LHP Johan Santana's first Grapefruit League action is expected to wait until March 3 against the Cardinals in Port St. Lucie, Fla., \r\nnearly a week into the schedule. Although Santana will skip the World \r\nBaseball Classic following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, he feels healthy. Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the delayed first start is because a 37-game spring schedule is too long, and that his starting pitchers don't need seven Grapefruit League starts to prepare for the season.
\r\n
\r\n--2B Luis Castillo arrived at camp weighing 193 pounds, down from his 210-pound reporting weight last spring training. Castillo, who performed miserably in the first season of a four-year, $25 million deal, traveled 70 minutes each way to the Mets' complex in the Dominican Republic this winter to work on his conditioning with former major-leaguer Rafael Landestoy.
\r\n
\r\n--1B Carlos Delgado, who has the most homers and RBIs of any Puerto Rican player in big-league history, is happy Roberto Clemente's family has allowed him to wear No. 21 during the World Baseball Classic. Delgado, along with CF Carlos Beltran, INF Alex Cora and LHP Pedro Feliciano, will leave camp after a March 1 Grapefruit League game to report to Team Puerto Rico's training camp in Fort Myers, Fla. Delgado says he'd like to see Clemente's number retired MLB-wide. \"I'm Puerto \r\nRican. I'm a little bit biased. But I'd love to see it,\" Delgado said. \"Needless to say, Jackie Robinson had an impact on the game, but so did \r\nClemente.\"
\r\n
\r\n--RHP J.J. Putz plans to leave camp Feb. 24 to head to Arizona, where doctors plan to induce labor on his wife at midnight that night. Putz is expected to return to camp for a couple of days before reporting with 3B David Wright to Team USA's World Baseball Classic training camp.
\r\n
\r\n--The final section of Shea Stadium was demolished Feb. 18. Mets chief \r\noperating officer Jeff Wilpon expects the site, which is adjacent to the new $800 million Citi Field, will be paved and available for parking by the team's home opener April 13 against the Padres.
\r\n
\r\n--RHP Livan Hernandez signed a minor league contract with the Mets. He went a combined 13-11 with a 6.05 ERA with Minnesota and Colorado last season.
\r\n
\r\n--RHP Tony Armas Jr. was the lone no-show at camp. Armas is dealing with visa problems for a second consecutive spring training.
\r\n
\r\nBY THE NUMBERS: 34 -- Vertical leap, in inches, of 3B David Wright during testing by the Mets' staff. \"Shaq-esque,\" Wright labeled it, with a smile.
\r\n
\r\nQUOTE TO NOTE: \"I sit there and I laugh and say, 'Really, this is still going on?' They're still rolling with that? Every time a team is going to be good and is going to face another team that is going to be good, someone is going to have something to prove. If that's the term they are going to use to stake their claim, then so be it.\"
\r\n
\r\n-- Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins, on new Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez \r\ndeclaring the Mets the \"team to beat\" in the NL East in 2009. Rollins first uttered the phrase two years ago, and Mets CF Carlos Beltran parroted it last year.
\r\n
\r\nTOP ROOKIES: LHP Jon Niese tossed eight scoreless innings against the Braves in September, and Mets officials for much of the winter talked about him being the favorite to claim the No. 5 starter's role. Hard-throwing RHP Bobby Parnell primarily worked as a starter in the minors, but he could challenge for a bullpen role. CF Fernando Martinez, the organization's top prospect, hit .287 with eight homers and 43 RBIs at Class AA Binghamton last season, but he was limited to 86 games by a recurring right hamstring injury. He should start the season at Class AAA Buffalo, but he figures to make his major league debut in 2009.
\r\n
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