Mets morning briefing 4.1.12

Four days before Opening Day, the Mets play host to a skeleton Detroit Tigers squad this afternoon in Port St. Lucie.

Sunday's news reports:

• After experiencing aches with his body in the first couple of days after last Monday's start against the St. Louis Cardinals, Johan Santana's body felt well enough Saturday that he could have pitched in a game yesterday after all. Instead, Santana threw an intensive bullpen session and professed himself to feel fine. Terry Collins will not make it official until today, after Mets staff meets to officially set the rotation. But the expectation, barring Santana arriving today feeling unforeseen discomfort, is that the southpaw will take the ball opposite Atlanta's Tommy Hanson on Thursday at Citi Field. "If there's any discomfort at all, he's not pitching," Collins said. "We'll pick another day." That day probably would be Game 5, but it's not expected to come to that. Read more in the Times, Post, Record, Star-Ledger, Daily News and Newsday.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger profiles Lucas Duda. Writes McCullough:

Lucas Duda squinted into the morning glare. The sun was blinding, but he still stared straight ahead. He leaned back into a blue dugout wall and snorted. “Dude,” he said last week, “I’m the most uninteresting person in the world.”

Frank Francisco allowed two runs in two innings and Manny Acosta surrendered three runs, including a walk-off RBI single to Clint Sammons, as the Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-5, on Saturday in Jupiter. On Francisco's spring-training rut, pitching coach Dan Warthen told Mike Puma in the Post: "We’re still waiting for his velocity to come up. Every report we have is that when the bell rings a light turns on for him, but I just need to see a little more arm strength.” Read more in Newsday.

Tim Byrdak issued a walk and surrendered a two-run homer in an inning in his first minor league game since undergoing March 13 surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee. Andres Torres, also playing on the minor league side, felt improvement in his sharpness in his second game, but will remain in games with farmhands, according to Collins, so that any DL stint can be backdated into spring training if required. Any Met who opens the season on the DL will be required to miss as few as four games if they are kept out of Grapefruit League games.

• Houston Astros owner Jim Crane toured the Mets' spring-training facility Saturday and is considering having his recently purchased team share the Port St. Lucie complex with the Mets. The Astros appear likely to relocate somewhere in the area in four years or so, when their lease in Kissimmee expires. The Mets, Cardinals and Marlins, isolated on this coast, desperately need another team -- especially with the next-closest team, the Nationals, expected to soon bolt from Viera for Fort Myers, across the state. Read more at TCPalm.com and in the Daily News.

Josh Satin, Valentino Pascucci, Allan Dykstra and Raul Reyes homered as the Mets' top two farm teams played their final exhibition games Saturday. Read the minor league recaps here.

Derrick Goold in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gives you in extreme intricacy the final confrontation of the 2006 NLCS, and that infamous pitch from Adam Wainwright to now-teammate Carlos Beltran.

Mark Herrmann in Newsday reminds us that today is the 27th anniversary of the Sidd Finch hoax at Mets camp. Writes Herrmann:

To this day, the Mets are the only club that ever had a gangly, English-born, French horn-playing, Sanskrit-quoting, Tibetan monastery-educated pitcher who threw 168 miles an hour. This day, in fact, is an occasion to celebrate him. Happy birthday, Sidd Finch. Hayden Sidd (two "d's" in honor of Siddhartha) Finch was born 27 years ago Sunday, in the imagination of author George Plimpton , through the lens of Lane Stewart and on the pages of Sports Illustrated. "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch," a 14-page story on the Mets ' secret phenom, is the greatest April Fools' Day hoax in sports history. It seemed so real that, according to Mets vice president for public relations Jay Horwitz -- who was quoted in the original story and helped set it up -- the sports editor of a New York newspaper called him in a rage. "He said, 'How could you leak the story to Sports Illustrated ? We cover you guys on a daily basis! It's not fair! It's not right!' " Horwitz recalled the other day.

• Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post says the Mets picked a bad time to lose Jose Reyes. As the steroid error fades, he asserts, more teams instead have speedy players, and the emphasis continues to shift toward swiping bases. The success rate has now climbed to a mathematically acceptable level for the sabermetric crowd because of the sleeker players, he suggests. Writes Sherman:

Actually, the game slowly has been getting faster in recent years. There were 4,540 steals attempted last season, the most since 1990. There were 1,600 successful steals by AL teams, the most since 2001. There were 1,679 successful steals by NL teams, the most since 1997. Last year represented the third straight year AL clubs averaged at least 108 successful steals. By comparison, between 2002-06, that average fluctuated between 87 and 91. NL clubs averaged 105 steals last season, the first time over the century mark since 2000.

Mike Kerwick in the Record reviews the memoir of knuckeballer R.A. Dickey.

Tyler Kepner wonders in an NL East preview in the Times whether the Philadelphia Phillies' five-year run as division champs -- the longest active streak in the majors -- is about to end, as they age and deal with injuries while other teams are on the rise.

• Kerwick notes the Mets will have a young team. He writes in the Record:

The average age of the team's projected opening day lineup -- not counting starting pitcher Johan Santana -- is 27. The average age of the infield is 25. "There's a pretty young team out there," [Ike] Davis said last week. "It's going to be fun to watch just 'cause it's new. A lot of us haven't really been out there together too long. And the good thing about being young is there's room for improvements. You never know who's going to get that much better or who will stay the same. I think it's going to be a fun season to watch, especially for Mets fans."

TRIVIA: Who led the Mets in RBIs last season?

Sunday's answer: John Maine and Santana had gems in consecutive years in Game No. 161s for the Mets, in 2007 and 2008.