Mets morning briefing 3.31.12

Miguel Batista, who was officially informed Friday he had made the major league roster in the bullpen at 41 years old, starts this afternoon's Grapefruit League game in Jupiter against the Miami Marlins.

Johan Santana instead throws a glorified batting practice session back in Port St. Lucie in his final tuneup as he aims for Thursday's Opening Day. Santana has been cautious about declaring himself ready for the opener. He told ESPNNewYork.com on Friday about the importance of today's activity: "After that we'll see how it feels and all that and they will make a decision what we are going to do." Optioning Chris Schwinden on Friday to the minors indicates confidence in Santana's health.

Tim Byrdak is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game as well today -- his first time facing batters since March 13 surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee.

Saturday's news reports:

Andres Torres did not feel sharp -- "awkward," was Terry Collins' word -- while getting five at-bats and not playing the field in a minor league game. As a result, Torres will stay on the minor league side rather than play in a Grapefruit League game. Torres' availability for Opening Day impacts whether Vinny Rottino makes the 25-man roster. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Record, Daily News and Newsday.

Andy Martino in the Daily News writes that Santana is no lock for Opening Day. Writes Martino:

In the aftermath of his final Grapefruit League outing on Monday, Santana told teammates that he was still very much unsure if he would pitch the opener on Thursday, according to a Mets player. While there was no indication that he has suffered a setback in recovering from September 2010 surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder, Santana had trouble getting loose in that last start, and had also begun to experience soreness in his back and legs.

• Although talk of Mike Pelfrey getting released never reached any serious internal level -- it was merely floated -- Collins felt compelled to tell Pelfrey he better up his spring performances. "My first reaction wasn't panic, like 'Oh my God, I want to know what's going on, what do they think is wrong with me?' " Pelfrey told David Lennon in Newsday. "I was OK. I felt fine. But I also thought I better get it going a little quicker. I better get after this. It was my understanding that I didn't have to compete for a job, that this was the time to work on stuff, my cutter, my circle changeup. Then when Terry talked to me, I was like, I better get some people out." Pelfrey quoted Collins as saying, "This front office isn't like the one you've had in years past. This kind of stuff isn't good. They want answers."

Of course, releasing Pelfrey could never be serious because the Mets don't really have any viable major league alternatives until Matt Harvey or Jeurys Familia are deemed ready or Chris Young demonstrates his shoulder's health. In reality, when the proper time to make a decision with Pelfrey was in December. And the Mets decided to tender Pelfrey a contract then. Cutting Pelfrey at this point in spring training would have required a lump sum $1.4 million payment -- roughly one-quarter of his salary.

• Collins said Batista will be more than a long reliever/spot starter, and that he will get regular bullpen duty in shorter spurts. Read more in the Post.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger takes a look at the Mets' catching tandem of Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. Writes McCullough:

Team officials reasoned the available [free-agent] options all were flawed. To save some cash, and receive relatively the same production, the team could just give the job to Nickeas. The two catchers hope to turn a perceived weakness into a strength. Asked about the team’s catching situation, one rival talent evaluator fluttered his hand in the air. “Shaky,” said the scout, who requested anonymity rather than comment publicly on another team’s players. Nickeas, 28, is well-liked by the pitching staff and handles the position well enough. But he carried a .671 on-base plus slugging percentage through eight minor-league seasons and hit just .189 in a brief big-league stint in 2011. Thole resembles Nickeas’ inverse. Team officials are content with his offense, but understand he requires more seasoning as a receiver and game-caller.

Dillon Gee allowed four runs and 10 hits in six innings and the Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-3, Friday in Jupiter. Read more in the Post.

• Harvey allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings and Lucas May had the lone RBI as Triple-A Buffalo lost to Memphis, 2-1, Friday. Read the full minor league recap here.

Carlos Beltran praised his former manager Collins on Friday, Mike Kerwick writes in the Record. "He's good, man," Beltran said. "He communicates. I know he has in the past had a few situations with some teams, some players, but that's not even in him anymore. ... Last year I sent him a few texts during the year, just thanking him for the way he managed my whole situation with my knee. The way that he set up a program for me to start playing games. I think he communicated well with me and the players, so it was a good experience for me."

Jason Isringhausen made the Opening Day roster roster of the Los Angeles Angels.

R.A. Dickey said his memoir properly toed the line, not revealing anything about internal clubhouse events that would cause a stir. "I worked hard for it not to be that way," Dickey told Brian Costa in the Journal. "I didn't want it to be 'Ball Four.' I wanted to give people a glimpse behind the curtain, but I wasn't going to reveal the intimacies of the clubhouse."

Mike Baxter, who beat out Adam Loewen for the lefty-hitting backup outfielder bat barring a late outside pickup by the Mets, has tailored his swing to be conducive for hitting off the bench. “I’m making sure I have that short swing, so when I get in I can capitalize on fastballs early in the count or whenever I get my pitch,” Baxter told Andrew Keh in the Times.

TRIVIA: Name the starting pitcher for the Mets in Game No. 161 in 2007 and 2008.

Friday's answer: Pedro Beato graduated from Brooklyn's Xaverian High School.