Bay soon to swing, other pregame tidbits

Jason Bay

Left Field
New York Mets


Jason Bay spoke with Terry Collins by phone and told the manager he plans to start swinging a bat later this week. Bay is eligible to be activated from the disabled list Saturday, but that's too soon for his return. Collins said the cold weather in the Northeast would be taken into account since Bay is trying to return from a left rib-cage strain.

"He's doing great. He's progressing," Collins said.

Ike Davis had fun with Pedro Feliciano's comment that the southpaw would revel in striking him out in the Subway Series and point at the Mets.

"That's his job to come in and strike me out, but I'm going to try to make him not strike me out," Davis said with a chuckle. "... Feliciano's a pretty funny guy. ... I mean, I did strike out how many times last year? It's not that tough a feat. But I'll try not to let him strike me out."

Jason Isringhausen reached out to Collins on Monday to inform the skipper that tales of his back woes are overstated. Isringhausen planned to continue pitching uninterrupted in Port St. Lucie. He stopped after one inning Sunday because of back stiffness, GM Sandy Alderson had said.

"He said he's fine," Collins said. "He said there's much ado about nothing."

Carlos Beltran likely won't start Thursday, allowing Willie Harris to play left field and Lucas Duda to play right field. As for Wednesday, Collins spoke with Alderson, and their plan is to take advantage of Harris' hot start and start him in left field, with Beltran in right. Going into the season, the intention was to maximize Duda's usage if he's on the major league squad.

"I thought about it and thought about it," Collins said. "Actually, Sandy and I have talked about it. It's pretty hard to take [Harris] out of the lineup right now. No disrespect to Lucas, but when someone is as hot as Willie is, it's pretty hard to put him on the bench."

Duda, by the way, was voted by media as the top Mets performer in spring training among first-time players in a big-league camp.

Chris Young

Starting Pitcher
New York Mets


Chris Young is intelligent, having graduated from Princeton. But how is this for studiousness? In addition to the reports prepared by Mets personnel on the Phillies, Young typed up his own batter-by-batter summary of how to approach hitters and presented it to catcher Mike Nickeas.

"I've never seen it," said bench coach Ken Oberkfell, a veteran of 16 major league seasons as a player. "That is pretty cool."

Chris Capuano, who makes his first Mets start on Saturday at Citi Field, will be available one last day in the bullpen tonight, Collins said. Dan Warthen said the Mets are skipping Capuano's turn until the eighth game of the season so that R.A. Dickey gets Friday's home opener as an honor.

"That's it," Warthen said regarding the reasoning.

• With Feliciano now a Yankee, left-hander Tim Byrdak draws the primary responsibility for handling Phillies lefty hitters Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez. Having one southpaw in the bullpen is slightly more manageable than in past years against Philadelphia because Chase Utley is on the DL, and Howard and Ibanez hit back-to-back.

Howard is 1-for-8 with a walk and four strikeouts in his career against Byrdak. Ibanez is 1-for-6 with a homer, one walk and one strikeout.

"It's a situation when you sign over here, we knew who was in the division, and we knew who we were facing on a daily basis and everything," Byrdak said. "My job is to go out and get outs. It doesn't really matter who is out there -- if it's Utley, Howard, Ibanez. I learned that a long time ago from Britt Burns, my pitching coach [with Detroit in Triple-A in 2007]. He told me, 'You know what Birdie? The biggest thing I could ever teach you is it's got nothing to do with the name on the back of the jersey.' Once I kind of understood that, it made my job easier, so to speak, in the sense that it is about the execution of the pitch."

Said Collins: "I just looked at all the numbers, and Ryan Howard's hitting lefties pretty good at the moment. That lefty-lefty stuff, we'll do what we have to do. But one thing we know Tim can do, if we keep his outings short, we know he can give us back-to-back days. So we'll always have somebody there."

As far as right-handers who can retire lefty hitters, Collins pointed to D.J. Carrasco's changeup, Blaine Boyer's sinker and Taylor Buchholz's curveball as weapons.

Collins likely would use Byrdak in the sixth or seventh inning, since Bobby Parnell will handle the eighth no matter who is batting with a lead.

Manny Acosta apparently won't be traded. He was designated for assignment a week ago, meaning the seven-day window to pursue a deal, after which the Mets must put the reliever on waivers, has expired.

• Nickeas gets his first start this season, as the Mets face their first left-handed starter of 2011 in Cole Hamels. Collins explained: "I wanted to get Mike in, get him some at-bats. You never know when you're going to need him. So I thought this was a good challenge for him. He actually caught Chris very, very well in spring training. So I thought it was a good matchup for him."

Scott Hairston gets his first start, with the Mets facing a left-hander. He is .500 with a homer in six career plate appearances against Hamels.

"This is why we got him," Collins said. "If Cliff [Lee] was pitching, he'd face him too. We brought him in to face left-handed pitching."

• On Hamels being the fourth starter for the Phillies, Collins said: "If you're going to play at this level, you should want to go out there on a nightly basis and play against the best there is. These guys probably have the best rotation in baseball right now. So it's a huge challenge for us. But as our team talked throughout spring training, we're up for it. We're up for the challenges."