Mets morning briefing 4.5.11

The Mets open a three-game series on Tuesday night in Philadelphia. Read the series preview here.

On to the day's news reports:

• Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Brookover says the Mets and Phillies aren't the rivals they're portrayed to be. Writes Brookover:

In the 49 years since the Mets filled the New York void left by the California emigration of the Giants and Dodgers in 1962, they have had a heated competition with the Phillies for the National League East title exactly two times: 2007 and 2008. The Mets did rival the 1964 Phillies with their monumental collapse in 2007 when they allowed a seven-game lead to slip away with 17 to play, triggering the Phillies' current run of four straight division titles and nightly home sellouts. A year later, the teams staged another entertaining race to the wire with the Phillies erasing a 3 1/2-game deficit on Sept. 10 on their way to their second World Series title in franchise history. Since then, the Phillies have had more of a rivalry with the Yankees than the Mets.

• The Mets are having a tough time selling out Friday's home opener against the Washington Nationals, according to the Bergen Record. Write authors Jeff Roberts and Dave Sheingold:

The e-mail landed Monday morning in the inboxes of Mets' fans throughout North Jersey and beyond. The "Mets Ticket Guide" advertised seats that still are available for Friday afternoon's home opener at Citi Field against the Washington Nationals. And if the first home game -- normally a sellout -- isn't enough of a draw, the team is giving away a Mr. Met bobblehead to the first 25,000 fans who arrive. But that still doesn't appear to be enough. The franchise has resorted to using e-mail blasts as it struggles to sell seats, with several still available on its website and thousands more available on the secondary ticket market -- including websites such as stubhub.com and seatgeek.com.

The Times recently reported the Mets have sold only the equivalent of about 10,000 season tickets this year when partial plans are included as fractions.

Pedro Feliciano accepts that he was not abused by the Mets while setting franchise records for appearances three straight seasons (86, 88 and 92). Still, the left-hander may be a little too stung by pitching coach Dan Warthen's comments. "I feel a little hurt by that," Feliciano said, as quoted by Newsday. "They said they didn't sign me because [they knew] I'm going to blow up this year. That hurts. But I will come out from this injury and I will be telling him there is still a lot of Feliciano to go."

Warthen didn't precisely say the Mets knew Feliciano would break down. The pitching coach did say Feliciano's usage, which increases risk of injury, prompted the Mets not to go to beyond one year on Feliciano, while the Yankees offered two years, $8 million with an option.

The direct quote: "That was part of the reason we decided to not re-sign him -- because we knew we had used him 270-some times in the last three years." (Read Warthen's entire comments here.)

Remember, the Mets did offer Feliciano arbitration (which netted them a draft pick as compensation). If Feliciano had accepted arbitration, he would have been back with the Mets, with a salary of potentially $4 million or more.

Read more in the Daily News, Times and Newsday.

Jose Reyes tells the Record's Steve Popper the Phillies are, yes, the team to beat. Says Reyes: "They are the team to beat. But we still can compete with any team. We've got a very good team, too. Last year we played very good baseball against the Phillies. If you see our record I think we won the series [actually the two teams tied with nine wins each]. We still can play with them." ... The Star-Ledger also looks at the trip to Philly.

Daniel Murphy should get Thursday's start at second base against Roy Halladay, Newsday's David Lennon reports. Lennon can foresee a platoon developing. The Mets, like every team, face more right-handers than left-handers, and it's unlikely the lefty-hitting Murphy will get the majority of the starts early on. Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus started two of the first three games, and Terry Collins indicated Murphy may not even get a third of the early starts. But if Murphy competently handles second base, like he did Sunday, he will begin chipping away there and Collins could find him other opportunities to get in the lineup.

• Reports are starting to surface that the Mets' payroll is $118,847,309, based on a USA Today database that is being promoted, such as this one in Newsday. Even Sandy Alderson brought up over the weekend that's incorrect. The calculation only uses current players, so you won't find Oliver Perez's $12 million and Luis Castillo's $6 million counted. It also omits players in the minors such as Ryota Igarashi, who happens to be making $1.75 million this year. When you consider the bases salaries of Chris Young ($1.1 million) and Chris Capuano ($1.5 million) are a fraction of the $4.5 million they each can earn based on games started and innings, the Mets' payroll is more likely to settle in around $145 million -- unless Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran or another high-cost player is traded at the deadline.

If you wish to reward USA Today despite those factors, here's the link to the Mets' salaries.

• The Mets will face Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay in Philly, but miss Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. Newsday notes the Mets got a preview of what may be in store on Opening Day by facing Marlins ace Josh Johnson, who held them hitless through six innings. The day after Johnson's gem, hitting coach Dave Hudgens showed Collins the video of the right-hander's dominance. "We saw the film the next day, and in the first six innings, [Johnson] made like zero mistakes," Collins said, as quoted by Newsday. "He finally got a ball over the plate to Willie [Harris]. We know how tough it is. But you've got to stay within your game plan and stick with it. Even the best of the best once in a while give up some hits."

Andy Martino of the Daily News says Collins is a better communicator than predecessor Jerry Manuel. Writes Martino:

Those wounded last year by Jerry Manuel's lapses in communication have appreciated Collins' clarity. Manuel had a habit of surprising players by first criticizing them to reporters. One incident came last April in Denver, after John Maine surrendered eight runs in a game against the Rockies. Before speaking with Maine, Manuel told reporters that the righty's rotation spot was in jeopardy. Maine has long since left in a huff, but others remain from last year's mess. "It got so weird in here by August," said one player. "It's so much better now."

David Waldstein in the Times exposes Stanley, the mobile tool chest the Mets roll out to the bullpen every game. There are practical items such as binoculars and whimsical, such as a Magic 8 Ball. Writes Waldstein:

The purpose of the [Magic 8 Ball] game depends on the user and his belief in the supernatural. It could serve as a mere diversion, or a portent, as [bullpen coach Jon] Debus demonstrated recently by grabbing it out of the chest and asking it a question. “Debo, am I going to pitch tonight?” he asked it, pretending to be one of the Mets’ seven relief pitchers. Debus shook the ball and read the response as it popped into the small window: “It is decidedly so.” He looked at it again and asked, “Am I going to get fired for this interview?” The ball’s response: “My sources say no.”

Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal looks at how Chris Young makes his mid-80s mph fastball look so much faster. The short answer: One, Young does a great job of hiding the ball from the batter by shielding it with his left elbow, like Washington's Tyler Clippard does as well. And then there's Young's 6-foot-10 frame, which means he has a longer stride and is releasing the ball closer to the plate. Costa notes one study says an 84 .1 mph fastball from Young seems to the batter like 92.1 mph. Writes Costa:

There is only one active pitcher in baseball as tall as Young, a former Princeton basketball star. Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Jon Rauch is also listed at 6-foot-10. And while height and wingspan are not inherent advantages for a pitcher, they are for Young, perhaps more so than for anyone else. "When you're standing there on deck and you see the ball coming out of his hand, there's nothing special to it," said Florida Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison. "But when you get in the box, it gets on you quick. Even though he's throwing 85, you have to treat it like 90, 92." ... The length of most pitchers' stride -- the distance between the rubber and where they plant their front foot -- is about 80 percent of their height. That alone would give Young a longer stride than other pitchers. But he also lunges forward to a greater degree than most. Warthen estimated Young's stride to be about eight feet, about 115 percent of his height.

Dan Martin of the Post speaks to Young's college coach, Princeton's Scott Bradley, about the right-hander making his Mets debut. “It’s a big start for him, but he’s so even-keeled, it’s not going to affect him,” said Bradley, a former Yankees catcher, who worked with Young in the offseason. “He finished strong last year and was pleased with spring training, so there’s no reason not to be optimistic.”

• Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick's World Series ring has been stolen from his Seattle-area home, the Seattle Times reportde.

BIRTHDAYS: Lastings Milledge turns 26.