With six days until Opening Day, the Mets send Dillon Gee to the mound today in Jupiter against the St. Louis Cardinals. Friday also is deadline day for select players around baseball with major league experience who are on minor league contracts. Teams can either tell the players today they have made the major league roster, give them a $100,000 retention bonus to remain with the organization in the minors, or make them free agents. Miguel Batista is the lone player who falls into that category with the Mets. He is expected to receive Option No. 1 -- being awarded a spot in the Mets' bullpen. Batista actually is listed as Saturday's Grapefruit League starter, while Johan Santana instead throws a simulated game in the southpaw's final tuneup for Opening Day against the Atlanta Braves.
Friday's news reports:
• The Mets trimmed their camp size by six players Thursday, sending left-hander Garrett Olson, catchers Rob Johnson and Lucas May, infielder Jordany Valdespin and outfielders Adam Loewen and Matt den Dekker to minor league camp -- den Dekker, actually, for the second time.
The moves cemented Mike Nickeas as Josh Thole's partner behind the plate, and also anointed Mike Baxter the backup lefty-hitting outfielder, barring a late acquisition from outside the organization.
With Olson poised to work in Triple-A Buffalo's rotation, left-handers Daniel Herrera and Josh Edgin remain in camp. But all signs point to Edgin opening the season in Buffalo's bullpen, a nice leap from Class A St. Lucie. Herrera would claim a short-term roster spot assuming Tim Byrdak does, in fact, start the season on the disabled list. Byrdak plans to pitch in a minor league game Saturday, his first time against batters since March 13 surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee. Even if Byrdak landed on the DL, he would only be required to miss the season's first four games (six days, including Wednesday), because of DL backdating rules.
Vinny Rottino also remains in camp, but he only makes the major league team if center fielder Andres Torres is not ready for the season. Team officials are optimistic Torres will now be available on Opening Day. Collins said Torres should hit in a minor league game Friday and may play in a Grapefruit League game Saturday. Pedro Beato and D.J. Carrasco presumably will open the season on the DL, which should secure Batista's spot. Right-hander Chris Schwinden also is in camp, but he is projected to join Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Jeremy Hefner and Olson in the Bisons' rotation.
• David Wright belted a grand slam against ex-teammate Livan Hernandez on a full-count curveball and Mike Pelfrey limited Houston to one run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings as the Mets beat the Astros, 9-1, Thursday night at Digital Domain Park. Read more in the Record and Newsday.
• Andy Martino in the Daily News writes the Mets considered releasing Pelfrey in recent days, but quoted a team official saying it was “just what you do in meetings, throwing [stuff] against the wall, and we throw a lot of [stuff] against the wall.” The Mets would have been required to pay Pelfrey 24.6 percent of the $5.6875 million he is owed this year -- 45 days' pay, or $1.4 million. In that scenario, Martino writes, Schwinden could have stepped into the rotation and the money could have been redirected toward the bench. (Commentary: It's sad that money needs to be redirected, and the Mets can't just spend at the level required to put together a competitive bench.) The coaching staff was vehemently against releasing Pelfrey anyway, according to the newspaper.
• The Mets added organizational depth, signing utility infielder Josh Rodriguez to a minor league deal.
• Newsday announced Mets beat writer David Lennon has been promoted to baseball columnist, succeeding Ken Davidoff, who will head to the Post. Lennon covered the Mets since 2002.
• Just because Bobby Parnell flopped in the closer role late last year and the Mets acquired Frank Francisco as closer and Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez to serve as the primary setup men, that doesn't mean Parnell is excluded from late-inning opportunities, Lennon writes in Newsday. "Don't assume anything," pitching coach Dan Warthen said. Still, Terry Collins tells Mike Puma in the Post that Parnell is ticketed for the sixth or seventh inning to start the season, which was the offseason intention. Early roles tend to morph during the season as the result of success and failure, so Parnell quickly could ascend to more integral roles sooner than later with regular-season success regardless of the initial designations.
Parnell has tossed 8 1/3 scoreless Grapefruit League innings. Those other relievers have not been as sharp, although Rauch contributed a scoreless relief inning Thursday.
Parnell thinks a curveball he picked up last season from then-teammate Jason Isringhausen is preventing hitters from sitting on a fastball he's been throwing in the mid-90s mph. The slider he previously relied upon as his secondary pitch did not have as much speed differential with the fastball, so batters could "hunt" the fastball."Throwing in those situations, it wasn't really the pressure of the game but the pressure I put on myself that really was devastating to me," Parnell told Lennon about last year's closing flop. "I'm harder on myself than anybody. I expect a lot out of myself and I didn't perform the way I wanted to. ... But this spring has shown me that sometimes if you just take a step back and relax, look at yourself in a new light, get a new pitch, sometimes it's better to work smarter and not harder." Puma also cites spring-training conversations with Sandy Koufax as helping Parnell.
• Jason Bay walked twice Thursday night while going 1-for-2. He is now hitting .229 in 35 spring-training at-bats. He has eight walks, for a .386 on-base percentage, along with 10 strikeouts. He tells Andrew Keh in the Times: "I honestly don’t know what my average is, but I know I don’t have a home run, I know I don’t have an RBI. I know all that. I’m not standing here telling you results don’t matter. But we’ve got a timetable to try to figure things out. That’s what this time is for, and I feel like now I have a pretty good grasp going forward.”
• SNY play-by-play man Gary Cohen forecasts the 2012 season in the Post.
• Another noted expert in MLB finances placed the Mets' value at about $1.5 billion in light of the Dodgers' impending sale for $2 billion. Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist told the Daily News: "It suggests to me that the value of the Mets will increase somewhat as a result, but not to the level of the Dodgers." In valuing the Mets at $500 million less than the Dodgers' sale price, Zimbalist cited the same factor as SportsCorp president Marc Ganis noted to ESPNNewYork.com: The Dodgers will have open bidding for local TV rights soon, whereas the Mets are locked into SNY.
TRIVIA: Which New York City high school did Beato attend?
Thursday's answer: CC Sabathia is the only pitcher since 2004 to have more strikeouts than Santana. Sabathia has 1,556 during that span, to Santana's 1,479.