Back to Work; Phillies and Mets Open Key Series

The festivities surrounding baseball's mid-summer classic are now just memories. After three days of distractions, the Phillies and Mets start a big four-game series in New York. Eric Milton (11-2, 4.72) goes against Steve Trachsel (9-6, 3.36) in the first game of the series. The Phillies start the second-half of the season with a one game lead over Atlanta, while the Mets are just two games behind in National League East.

When Cliff Floyd had a bone spur removed from under his right achilles tendon last August, Dr. Lou Schon told him it would be six months before he could play baseball but at least nine before he felt 100 percent.

That time has come, and it's evident in how Floyd is playing for the Mets.

In the four games the Mets played in Philadelphia last week, Floyd made four tough catches in left field, stole two bases and had a hustle double.

"My speed is back," Floyd said. "I don't get up in the morning now and wonder how my leg is going to feel. It's that way when I get to the field, too. I can do what I want now. The doctors were exactly right with what they said."

Floyd weighs 230 pounds, but he stole 27 bases in 1998 and 24 in 2000. He has swiped four for the Mets so far this season after stealing three all of last season.

"He's as healthy as he has been," Mets manager Art Howe said. "He's starting to show people the complete player that he is. When you have a physical handicap that keeps you from using your tools, it's got to be frustrating."

Floyd went into the All-Star break with 13 homers and 42 RBI.

"If I stay healthy I can drive in 100 runs," he said. "The way our lineup is now, that's the least of what I should do."

  • OF Karim Garcia (right wrist) was activated off the disabled list on Friday. RHP Matt Ginter, who has been struggling, was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk.
  • C Vance Wilson (right hamstring) was activated off the disabled list on Thursday. C Tom Wilson was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk.
  • The Mets made what could prove to be a significant move last week, agreeing to terms with Cuban RHP Alay Soler. The three-year, $3 million major league contract is contingent on Soler passing a physical. The Mets also have to obtain a work visa for their newest player. The organization plan is to send him to the team complex in Florida before assigning him to a minor league team. The Mets believe Soler is good enough to make a rapid rise through their system and be on the major-league roster by late August or early September. Little concrete is known about Soler, who defected in April with several teammates from the powerful Cuban National Team. He is said to be 24, although many Cuban players prove to be older than their listed age. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Soler was a teammate of Yankees right-hander Jose Contreras with Pinar del Rio in the Cuban league. He has been working out in the Dominican Republic since his defection last November and reportedly throws a 94-mph fastball with a good split-finger fastball as his second pitch. But it is worth noting that Soler has a history of shoulder problems, and the Mets do not expect him to have a major impact on the team this season. There is little chance he will be in the rotation before 2005. "It's not likely that (Soler) would be the answer for us; he might be a surprise," GM Jim Duquette said. "Generally those type of signings are indicative of the long term. The Mets are still looking for a pitcher."
  • LHP Al Leiter picked up his 150th career win when he beat the Phillies on July 6. All but 33 of the wins have come since 1996. "I didn't give up and figured a way to pitch better," he said.

THE NUMBERS GAME: 16 - Number of RBI OF Richard Hidalgo had in his first 21 games with the Mets after being traded from Houston.

HE SAID WHAT? "I'll toss and turn all night. I might as well stay up." -- OF Cliff Floyd on popping with the bases loaded against the Marlins with the Mets down by two runs on July 10.


The Mets finally are fully healthy. Outside of fringe relievers Scott Strickland and Grant Roberts, there is not a major league player on the disabled list. "The key for us is staying healthy," manager Art Howe said. "If we have all of our players I think we can be pretty good."

PITCHING TRENDS: RHP Matt Ginter was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk after going 1-2 with a 4.80 ERA in 11 starts. He allowed 33 hits and nine walks over his last 21 innings. The Mets won't need a fifth starter until July 19 and will either promote from within or make a trade.

  • LHP Tom Glavine is fading after a fast start. The All-Star is 0-4 with a 5.18 ERA in his last four starts.
  • LHP John Franco allowed his 10th career walk-off homerun last week when Philadelphia's Bobby Abreu tagged him. On the plus side, Franco passed Dennis Eckersley in career appearances and is now in second place on the all-time list with 1,073 games.
  • RHP Dan Wheeler might be moving into a more prominent role in the bullpen. A long man all season, manager Art Howe used him as a setup man against Florida on Thursday (July 8). "Danny can get us big outs," Howe said.

LINEUP LOWDOWN: OF Cliff Floyd suggested to manager Art Howe that he bat fifth instead of fourth against left-handed pitchers. Howe agreed and now plans to use Richard Hidalgo as his cleanup hitter against southpaws. Mike Piazza will stay in the three hole.

  • C Jason Phillips went into the All-Star break hitting only .214. If he had any options, the Mets likely would send him down to Triple-A Norfolk.
  • SS Kazuo Matsui is starting to heat up. He had doubles in five of six games and at one point boosted his batting average over .270 for the first time since April.
  • OF Mike Cameron homered four times in three games the week before the break. Slumping all season, he seems primed for a big second half.

MEDICAL WATCH: 1B Mo Vaughn (left knee) will spend the season on the 60-day DL; RHP Scott Strickland (Tommy John surgery) is on the 60-day DL; RHP Grant Roberts (surgery for a labrum tear) is on the 60-day DL.

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