Having Josh Thole out of the starting lineup on Thursday isn't unexpected. After all, the rookie catcher caught all 14 innings the previous night, felt ill while doing so, and went 0-for-7.
And starting Rod Barajas on the day he returns from the DL isn't outrageous, either.
But Jerry Manuel added that the organization is not committed to starting Thole the bulk of the games the remainder of the season. Particularly if Barajas can match his April/May performance of 11 homers -- and that's a big if -- the veteran catcher and not Thole will log the bulk of the duty, according to Manuel.
“The case is to win games and put what you think is the best team out there," Manuel said. "If he does go on one of those binges, you can get he will be playing the majority of the time.”
More generally about the tug-of-war between veteran usage and prospects, Manuel was asked if the fact that Fernando Martinez is now in the minors and Luis Castillo has chipped away at Ruben Tejada's playing time signals their promotions in Philadelphia on Aug. 7 failed to achieve the objective.
"They were coming as complementary players, not necessarily as core pieces," Manuel said. "And they're good players. But what has happened is that we haven't hit enough to kind of let them evolve. It's difficult to continue to run them out there when you're not scoring runs and you're not doing the things. There's still somewhat of a thought that because they are young players to get them involved to a degree -- but not to the degree it hinders you from winning games."
So the organizational point of view is that the Mets are legitimately in a postseason race?
"That's my view," Manuel said. "And I make the lineup out. I think if you can bring youth along while you're in this type of situation, I think it's better for them. I like to infuse the youth hopefully in a winning situation rather than just saying, 'Hey, that's our youth movement.' That's a tough order to win, or to try to develop, or to try to put the foundation in place for what you hope to be is a championship team for a long time."
Specifically regarding Martinez, Manuel added: "He'll be back. I'm sure he'll be back. We talked about some things with him as far as his mechanics, his fundamentals in hitting. He's a guy that the approach that he had is one that doesn't really recognize offspeed pitches. If you don't recognize offspeed pitches, then you have to guess with that. And he's done a good job to survive with what he's doing in guessing what is what. What we're trying to do is take him to a level where he can recognize the offspeed pitch and use that quick bat that he has and that power that he has and put a good swing on it."
Offering more detail on Martinez's flawed swing, Manuel said: "It's like a one-piece swing. Boom, here I go. Boom, here I go."