ST. LOUIS -- Terry Collins normally takes five minutes to fill out his lineup card. How long did he take before Tuesday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals?
Wright "It took me an hour and 15 today," Collins said. "The names are all the same. I finally said, 'This still looks the best of all that I've written. I'm going to go with it.'"
Collins said his machinations included potentially hitting David Wright in the cleanup spot, with Eric Young Jr. leading off and Daniel Murphy in the No. 3 hole. The manager noted Wright essentially is in the cleanup spot anyway starting the second turn through the order with the pitcher batting eighth.
Another motivation for leaving the lineup stable, even as it struggles to produce? Avoiding panic.
"Even though everybody knows you're trying to get it going, it still looks like you're panicking, because, 'Hey, this isn't working, let's try something else,'" Collins said. "At this level, that can start some real confusion. I've seen it in other places. Obviously in this situation, you've got to be careful. You've got to be really careful. Because there's enough heat on these guys to get it going, period, let alone show up and every day not know where they might be hitting and where they might be playing and if they're playing. Part of the thing is to rest their minds more than anything."
As for considering dropping the 3-for-his-last-43 Wright from a critical spot in the lineup, that's not happening.
"I don't think moving David out of where he's hitting now is going to make that big a difference," Collins said. "He's still a threat. He's still the guy in our lineup that everybody points to, to be careful of. What we've got to get him to do is understand he's got to be a little more selective at the plate, because they're going to pitch around him right now."
Collins said Wright has been a gamer despite his plummeting average. In San Francisco, when Wright was pleading not to be given an off-day, Collins quoted the captain as saying in a private meeting: "Screw my numbers. They absolutely need me."
What a relief: The Mets will try to get Daisuke Matsuzaka an inning in relief Tuesday, even though the bullpen is at full strength. Matsuzaka left Sunday's start after one inning with extreme stomach discomfort. He will start on his normal turn Friday at Miami.
d'Arnaud Eyewitness: Collins said he has dispatched a person who typically watches major league games to monitor Travis d'Arnaud's Triple-A performance to gauge the rookie catcher's readiness for a return. Collins said that's because Pacific Coast League numbers have to be discounted. So he would rather have someone typically around big league games determine if d'Arnaud has made the adjustments conducive to success at the major league level.
D'Arnaud is eligible to return to the majors on Wednesday, but likely will spend a few additional days in the minors, potentially through the weekend, before a promotion. He is hitting .394 (13-for-33) with five homers and 10 RBIs so far with Vegas.
"No disrespect to the league, to the ballparks, to the players that are there," Collins said. "We have seen that at this level there's a fairly good jump. All you want to hear is about the consistency. Not that he went down and had at-bats against a club whose pitching isn't that good maybe."
Not a dud: Lucas Duda is hitting .152 (5-for-33) with no homers versus left-handed pitching this season. And Collins would pinch-hit for him against a southpaw under the right circumstances. Still, the manager is not writing off Duda's ability to have success against lefties.
"The issue is I've seen him do it," Collins said. "When people say he can't hit lefties, there's part of me that doubts that. Don't believe necessarily that's a fact, because I saw him do it. I mean, he wore out [Marlins reliever] Mike Dunn two years ago. Mike Dunn is the same guy today. It's just [Duda's] approach is different today than it was a few years ago. That's what we're trying to get him to understand."
No offense: Collins suggested the increased use of his changeup, which allowed Niese to excel against the Milwaukee Brewers in his last start, again will be the key to the southpaw's success against the Cardinals, who similarly excel against left-handed pitching.
As for Niese being so demonstrably upset on the mound when Collins removed him from the last game, the manager insisted he was not upset in the least.
"His competitiveness, I love that stuff," Collins said. "He's genuinely pissed when I take him out of a game, and I love it. I love it. I've had guys in the past, boy, they get in that seventh inning and they're at 95 pitches and they're looking in the dugout. This guy looks in the dugout like, 'You better not come out here.' And I love that stuff. I told Jon, 'That s--- doesn't bother me,' because I know how you are."
Eighth wonder: Suffice it to say, the Mets' streak of batting the pitcher eighth will end at two games. Bartolo Colon, hitless since 2005, won't bat eighth Wednesday.
"Don't go to a riverboat tonight," Collins said about betting on the pitcher-in-the-eighth-streak continuing.