The Mets head north on I-95 to Viera to face the Washington Nationals on Saturday, with R.A. Dickey on the mound.
Saturday's news reports:
• Judge Jed S. Rakoff set the parameters for the March 19 civil trial against Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon, his family, businesses and charities. A nine-person jury will decide how much, if anything, to award trustee Irving Picard of the $303 million he seeks in principal the Wilpons invested with Bernard Madoff in the two years before the swindler's arrest. Picard must convince jurors the Wilpons were "willfully blind" to the fraud and acted in "bad faith" in order to collect that amount. The trustee already has been awarded as a matter of law as much as $83 million by Rakoff pre-trial -- the profits in the two years before Madoff's arrest. After a quick jury selection on Day 1, the trial is expected to last 10 days. Court is scheduled to be in session during business hours Monday through Thursday. Read more in the Times, Newsday and Daily News.
• Matt Harvey tossed a pair of perfect innings and Matt den Dekker delivered a tiebreaking two-run triple in the eighth as the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves, 5-3, Friday at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Read more in the Record.
• Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger notes that Harvey's control wasn't precise, but he got the job done. Writes McCullough:
The count ran full to the Atlanta Braves' Jason Heyward. Catcher Josh Thole called for a four-seamer inside to tie up Heyward’s hands. "I didn’t really mean to go up that high with Heyward," Harvey said, as his team wrapped up a 5-3 victory. "I was trying to go in. But ..." But Heyward still waved at the pitch, which popped on the stadium gun at 95 mph as it buzzed the upper region of the strike zone. And therein lies the rub: Harvey's stuff appears capable of getting out major-league hitters. In his first inning, he retired veteran slugger Chipper Jones on grounder , recorded a flyout from former Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske, then whiffed Heyward.
• A reunion between Chris Young and the Mets is expected to materialize, Andy Martino reports in the Daily News. Young -- reportedly also considering the San Diego Padres -- supposedly is feeling strong. However, he underwent last May the same surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule that Johan Santana did the previous September. So there is no assurance of a 2012 contribution. Young made only four starts for the Mets last season before the shoulder woes ended his season. He received a base salary of $1.1 million despite the limited workload.
• Lucas Duda was pulled from Friday's trip to Disney, but Terry Collins said he expected the right fielder on the bus for Viera to face the Nats today. Similarly, Andres Torres, who was dealing with a tight right glute, is expected on the trip. Read more in the Post.
• A day after now-sidearm-throwing southpaw C.J. Nitkowski auditioned for the Mets, a team official said the organization had "not ruled out" signing him. But, the official added, Nitkowski almost assuredly would go directly to minor league camp if he were signed.
• Santana returns to the mound Sunday, but he apparently will not face former teammate Jose Reyes.
• The Mets' Triple-A Buffalo affiliate will play at Fenway Park against Pawtucket on Aug. 18 as part of a minor league doubleheader.
• Neil Best in Newsday notes the April 18-29 Tribeca film festival not only includes the documentary "Knuckleball!" featuring R.A. Dickey, but also "Benji, about the ill-fated Chicago prep basketball star of the early 80s, Ben Wilson, and Broke, about the many sports figures who have gone astray financially."
• Jason Bay is trying to revert to his old Pittsburgh-era swing. So far he is 0-for-5 with three walks and two strikeouts in Grapefruit League play. "It's tough when you're trying to work on things and people are trying to get you out," Bay told David Lennon in Newsday. "It's not batting practice. I think for right now, it's just about getting used to game speed -- getting used to seeing 95 and getting your timing down. Trusting what you do in the cage and not trying to think too much out there."
Writes columnist Joel Sherman in the Post about Bay:
Let’s give Jason Bay this benefit of the doubt because -- if nothing else -- the Mets certainly believe his failure as a Met is about caring too much, not too little. It is about the left fielder falling into a hole instantly in 2010 and losing confidence while gaining advice. It is about a destructive cycle of wanting to please so much that too many voices got beyond the velvet rope in his brain, too much counsel was heeded to tinker here and readjust there. His ears became a meeting place for the well intentioned to feed a series of recommendations that worked as harmoniously with one another as oil and water. Executives around the Mets couldn’t remember an accomplished player who turned every at-bat into a mandate on the positioning of his hands, the angling of a foot.
• Adam Loewen discusses with Mike Puma in the Post making the switch from pitching to the outfield after suffering a second stress fracture in his left elbow. "Three years ago I made the switch, and it was actually an exciting time for me because I had a new life," the 6-foot-6 Loewen told Puma. "As much as it was heartbreaking not being able to pitch anymore, it was exciting to have that second chance and progress enough to think I could make it back to the big leagues."
Loewen and Mike Baxter currently are vying for a lefty-hitting backup outfield job, although the Mets very well also could pick someone else up near the end of spring training. At present, Loewen may have a leg up on Baxter in part because Loewen can play center field, whereas Baxter does not. Both play first base. Backing up in center field should not have been a requisite, but righty-hitting Scott Hairston (oblique) is starting to appear likely to open the season on the disabled list, leaving a void as a fill-in for Andres Torres.
• Brian Costa in the Journal looks at the Puerto Rican Torres' offseason spent partly in the Dominican Republic, where he worked with Yankee Robinson Cano and his father. Cano met Torres on the MLB All-Star Tour of Taiwan in November and invited him to work out with them. They worked on refraining from lunging at balls. With the San Francisco Giants last season, Carlos Beltran also offered Torres advice, telling him he was too close to the plate and using too heavy a bat. Now, hitting coach Dave Hudgens has advice for Torres as well. Torres, who is slated to be the Mets' leadoff hitter, had his on-base percentage plummet 31 points, to .312, last season. Writes Costa:
Hudgens saw two things that concerned him. The first was an inability to stay on top of the ball, which made him prone to weak pop-ups. The second issue was lapses in plate discipline. Torres swung at a career-high 31% of pitches outside the strike zone last season. The Mets want him to be more selective and work the count better, and they told him as much during an early spring meeting with Hudgens, manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson. They'll find out soon enough whether he can heed all the advice. "I know people look at me like, 'I saw you last year, and you didn't have it,'" Torres said. "But I feel really good right now."
• Mike Kerwick in the Record checks in on the acclimation progress of new double-play tandem Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy. Writes Kerwick:
Their color choices were strikingly different, separate hues for separate personalities. Tejada leans on Spanish; Murphy speaks English. Tejada spent his life studying to be a middle infielder; Murphy is taking his first serious stab at it. But the chemistry between these two middle infielders -- Tejada at shortstop, Murphy at second -- will help define the Mets’ defense this season. "It's almost a courtship kind of thing," joked Mets third base coach Tim Teufel. "They're getting to know each other, their likes and dislikes."
• Ken Belson in the Times notes today is the 50th anniversary of the franchise's first spring-training game. And Belson writes about the radio recording that captures it:
But what is somewhat intriguing is the identity of the first announcer to greet listeners of the game’s radio broadcast. It wasn’t Ralph Kiner or Bob Murphy or Lindsey Nelson, all of whom were on hand for the start of what would be their long collaboration chronicling the team’s fortunes. Instead, the first voice coming out of the radio belonged to none other than Howard Cosell, still emerging at that point as a larger-than-life personality in American sports.
• Andrew Keh in the Times notes that Pedro Beato cuts his teammates' hair, even though a professional barber also visits the Mets periodically. Writes Keh:
On Friday morning, a New York Times reporter in need of a haircut became Beato’s latest customer. It was 6:45, the sun was just coming up, and Beato set up shop near the Mets’ dugout, his clubhouse stool transformed into a barber’s chair. "Tell me what you want on the sides," Beato said as he went through his accessory bag, looking for the proper comb attachment for his electric clippers. "You look like you need a four." Like any experienced barber, he mixed stern commands -- "Keep your head down for a second" -- with just the right amount of small talk. The customer’s interests were paramount, but he was quick to offer his own insight.
(Hopefully this won't be "Barber of Sheaville, Part II." Google Rey Sanchez and "haircut during game" if you don't understand the reference.)
TRIVIA: Eight players have produced a three-homer game in franchise history. Can you name at least one Met from each decade who accomplished the feat?
(Friday's answer: Roy Halladay is the lone active major league pitcher who has at least 125 decisions and also a better winning percentage than Santana. Halladay has a .671 winning percentage (188-92), to Santana's .658 (133-69). Justin Verlander (.652), Tim Hudson (.651) and CC Sabathia (.647) round out the top five.)