Terry Collins heads to Jupiter with a Mets split squad. Dan Warthen heads to Viera with the other half. And Oliver Perez heads to the bullpen competition.
On to Thursday's news reports:
• I should have had my suspicions raised when I saw an MLB security official pass through the Mets' clubhouse Wednesday. Turns out, the Daily News reports MLB investigators and the NYPD visited Port St. Lucie to do further investigating into fired clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels, who is being scrutinized over memorabilia and alleged gambling ties, but who has yet to be charged with any crime. Reports the Daily News:
Samuels remains under grand jury investigation for gambling and "basically looting the Mets clubhouse over the years," one of the law-enforcement sources told the Daily News. Investigators in particular wanted to again talk to some of Samuels' pals, including closer Francisco Rodriguez and Mike Piazza, the police sources said. Neither K-Rod nor Piazza, who was traveling through Port St. Lucie with the Italian national team, are targets in the NYPD investigation, the sources said. "These were guys Samuels hung with and were in a position to know what he was up to," they said.
• Post columnist Joel Sherman says the Mets are treating Johan Santana prudently, trying to ensure a patient rehab means he is not compromised for 2012 and 2013, when he is owed a combined $54.5 million, assuming his 2014 option is not exercised. Sherman notes placing Ruben Tejada and Jenrry Mejia in Triple-A also is partly with an eye toward next season, and a vast departure from the rushing and win-now-even-if-compromises-the-future approach of Omar Minaya's tenure as GM. Writes Sherman regarding Santana:
If he returns in July, great. But every time I ask about Santana, I hear as much about 2012 and beyond as 2011. As pitching coach Dan Warthen said, “If we get 15 starts, we would be lucky. Twelve would be good. It is all a very tough call. I think we will see Johan this year. But the key is a really healthy Johan, especially for 2012.”
Of course, Carlos Beltran appears to be an exception to that prudent approach. The day after he was declared inactive for four or five days to let left knee tendinitis calm down, Collins noted Beltran was in the cage, declaring improvement. Perhaps it might have been better to actually let the symptoms calm -- although this isn't exactly as egregious as switch-hitting Jose Reyes batting from the right side against right-handers because his right oblique made it too uncomfortable to bat lefty.
• Dan Martin of the Post looks at Lucas Duda -- who played right field for the first time this spring Wednesday -- as well as Scott Hairston and the rest of the field of players who might need to fill in for Beltran. “Evidently, if Carlos needs time off, I realize it might be me who could fill in while he’s out,” Hairston tells Martin. “I’m not paying too much attention to that. I’ve had experience doing everything in the big leagues. I hope he comes back and is healthy since he’s a huge part of our lineup, but I’m prepared for whatever happens.” ... Sandy Alderson indicated earlier this week that he's not resigned to Beltran opening the season on the disabled list. Still, the GM said, a short-term absence might be best plugged with backup outfielders Hairston and Willie Harris. Duda and Fernando Martinez would be the prospects up for the role. But Duda is a natural first baseman who is now passable in left field, and who had not played right field in a professional game until Wednesday.
• Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reveals how Daniel Murphy has been trying to keep the nerve-prone Duda calm. Writes McCullough:
A horrific slump greeted his [major league] arrival. Duda collected one hit in his first 37 at-bats. The talent of opposing pitchers, like Atlanta’s Tim Hudson and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay, stunned him. He felt lost and unable to time anything. “I was getting beat,” Duda said. “I was late. I was ahead of balls.” During the slump, Duda received a text message from Daniel Murphy, who hit .313 as a late-season call-up in 2008. He offered empathy. He told Duda to relax. “When we get called up, we’re scared to death,” Murphy said. “Because A, it’s more people than we’d ever thought we’d play in front of. And B, we’re not entirely sure we belong here yet.”
• Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal looks further into what missing Beltran would mean.
• Raul Gonzalez, an outfielder on the 2002 and '03 Mets, has been selected to be Miguel Cabrera's companion, according to Foxsports.com. Gonzalez will be around Cabrera to serve as a support system and prevent further alcohol abuse.
• Luis Castillo will get plenty of upcoming at-bats to prove he should be the second baseman. Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus is the preferred front-office choice but is off to an extremely slow start at the plate as well as in the field that could ultimately put his selection in jeopardy. Murphy will be on the roster in some capacity. "I'm getting more at-bats now, so I'm happy," Castillo tells Martin. "If I keep doing what I'm doing, I think everything will work out."
Regardless, Daily News columnist John Harper notes no one has quite distinguished himself in the second-base competition, with Murphy probably playing the best, although he has yet to get a double-play chance at the position in a Grapefruit League game. Harper says one front-office person was at such a loss about who was leading, they suggested maybe Harris, who has manned the position in 208 major league games. Apparently, Luis Hernandez might force himself into the race as well. Harper also suggests Collins was upset with Castillo's energy level earlier in camp. Writes Harper:
Castillo, the incumbent of sorts, has annoyed Terry Collins by moping around in apparent protest of being forced to compete for the job, to the point where the manager called him into his office a couple of days ago to tell him he better start working harder if he wanted any shot at all. Castillo didn't even take pregame ground balls one day last week when he was in the lineup as the DH, as Collins has had to juggle playing time to get looks at all four second-base candidates. And that didn't sit well with the new manager, who is not going to tolerate the laissez-faire attitude that permeated the clubhouse in recent years.
• David Lennon in Newsday looks at Perez moving to the bullpen. He cites awful relief statistics in Perez's career, although in fairness that was skewed by last season, when he was barely used in the second half and got lit up during sporadic appearances. Writes Lennon:
If history is any indication, the prognosis is not very good. Perez has made 11 relief appearances during his career and posted an 8.36 ERA in that role. Opposing hitters have batted .339 against Perez, who has allowed 19 hits and 14 walks in 14 innings in relief. The only glimmer of hope is the fact that Perez has held left-handed hitters to a .226 average, with a 2.98 walk-to-strikeout ratio. But asking him to duplicate that success out of the bullpen, in high-pressure situations, seems like a tall order.
• David Waldstein of The New York Times notes that prospect Reese Havens surely would be in camp now, and perhaps winning the second-base competition, if persistent injuries hadn't slowed his career. Havens had offseason surgery to remove an inch of a rib, which should address oblique trouble that tormented him in 2010. Havens was taken 22nd overall in the 2008 draft, when the Mets had three picks in the top 33 and took Ike Davis 18th overall. “All I know is that he plays 10 games a year, and hits 10 home runs,” Davis tells Waldstein about Havens, who is a gifted hitter.
• The New York Times looks at inconsistent statements from the Mets, who say they're trying to sell 20 to 25 percent of the team because of the uncertainty of the pending $1 billion lawsuit. Yet, the Times notes, the Mets were quietly seeking investors months before the suit was filed in December. Write authors Richard Sandomir and Ken Belson:
In an interview this week, David Cohen, the chief counsel for the Mets, maintained that the size of the lawsuit was what really motivated the hunt for a partner, not any financial pressures. And while the Mets’ owners were looking for buyers in the days before Picard filed his suit on Dec. 7, going public with their search prompted more potential bidders to step forward. “The decision to seek minority investors was not related to any intermittent fluctuations in revenue,” Cohen said. “You operate a baseball team, you expect the ticket sales to go up and down based on team performance.” Announcing that the team was seeking investors was “deemed a more effective way to reach a broader number of interested investors.” But when asked what the owners would do with the money they might make from a sale, Cohen said it would be put into running the team, not pay the owners dividends or be set aside for a possible settlement. “The purpose is to make a positive contribution to the team’s resources,” Cohen said.
BIRTHDAYS: John Cangelosi, who played for 62 games for the '94 Mets, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1963. ... Ken MacKenzie, a Mets reliever in 1962 and '63, was born in 1934. ... Right-hander Wayne Twitchell, who made 33 appearances (two starts) for the '79 Mets, was born in 1948.