Mets morning briefing 3.7.11

Carlos Beltran will try to DH for a second straight day, Jason Isringhausen attempts the first of back-to-back games on the mound to test his durability, and Luis Hernandez plans to play in a game for the first time since breaking his foot and homering on the next pitch off Tim Hudson in September as the Mets face the Detroit Tigers in Port St. Lucie on Monday.

On to the day's news reports:

Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal suggests the Mets should consider redefining the role of closer and use Francisco Rodriguez in the most critical spot in a game in relief, even if that occurs in the sixth inning. That would prevent K-Rod from finishing 55 games, the threshold at which a $17.5 million salary for 2012 would kick in. If he falls short of that number, the Mets would be responsible for a $3.5 million buyout in addition to his $11.5 million salary this year and Rodriguez would be a free agent next offseason. Costa reasons:

Sabermetricians have long argued that by making closers ninth-inning specialists, teams fail to maximize their potential value. The key word is leverage, which measures the relative importance of each situation on a game's outcome. Closers normally enter the game in higher-leverage situations than other pitchers, but not always. According to FanGraphs.com, 19 pitchers -- including two setup men -- were used, on average, in higher-leverage situations than K-Rod was last year.

For the record, Terry Collins has indicated K-Rod may be used for four- or five-out saves, but there's no intention of using him before the eighth inning.

• Costa also looks at Chris Capuano, who had a 3.86 GPA at Duke and received a recruiting letter from Morgan Stanley even after turning pro in baseball. "There's a difference between intelligence and academic achievement," GM Sandy Alderson tells Costa. "But the academic achievement does suggest a certain level of perseverance and attention to detail. I think it's a tremendous asset for him."

• Beltran went 1-for-3 while DHing Sunday. If he arrives at the complex feeling OK today, he should be back in that role Monday. Third base coach Chip Hale said he did not hesitate to send Beltran home from second base on Daniel Murphy's single to right field because: “When I see he’s got a good chance to score, I’m going to send him. He’s physically ready to play. For me, as a third-base coach, if he gets that good jump, he’s telling me ‘I can score.’ And he did.” Read recaps in the Star-Ledger, Newsday, Post, Daily News, Record and Times.

• Columnist Joel Sherman suggests the Mets were unwise in sending Beltran on that play. Collins admitted being uncomfortable with waving Beltran home, telling the Post: "That is my fault -- I probably should have been adamant" about being cautious. Sherman writes about Beltran:

He has had three knee surgeries since October 2007; two on his particularly troublesome right knee. He has played in just 144 games the past two seasons, and hardly looked like his prime self when doing so. He does not turn 34 until next month, but his knees play older. Even Beltran admits there are crankier days than others, and he concedes it is “almost impossible” to believe he could move and feel like he did even just a few years ago.

My take: Yes, Beltran is being treated ultra-conservatively this spring. But he's not coming off surgery or anything. His last procedure was on Jan. 13, 2010. It's just that the more pounding his right knee takes, the worse it is going to be later in the year. So I'm really not sure there was much in the way of risk sending him on what turned out to be an uncontested play at the plate.

• Beltran is going to need to be strategically rested in April and May. That likely means Scott Hairston in the cleanup spot for the Mets on certain days, and Willie Harris in right field and Jason Bay in the No. 4 hole on other days. Read more at ESPNNewYork.com.

Dan Martin of the Post suggests Bay, who had two hits Sunday, cleared a hurdle in his return from a concussion by not being sheepish going back toward the wall on Juan Carlos Linares' fly ball to left field. “I didn’t think about it, which is a good thing,” said Bay, who suffered a whiplash-induced concussion at Dodger Stadium last July. “I approached it and even ran into it, if you want to get technical. I guess you can check that off the list, at least one time.” ... Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger talks with Bay about trying to hit the ball up the middle.

• USA Today's Paul White previews the Mets' season. The first two people mentioned: David Wright and Bernie Madoff. "The uncertainty of it makes it a very popular subject," Wright tells White about the $1 billion lawsuit against Mets owners. "But you control what you can control. Besides, except for Chris Young and Chris Capuano, there's nobody in here who even understands the language they're speaking."

BIRTHDAYS: Mets left-handed reliever Taylor Tankersley turns 28. ... Jeff Kent turns 43.