Mets morning briefing 3.8.11

Tuesday marks the final start of Oliver Perez's Mets career, as the southpaw opens the untelevised road split-squad game in Kissimmee against the Houston Astros. Chris Capuano gets SNY's Port St. Lucie-based game against the Washington Nationals. Terry Collins insists Perez will not be released after this appearance -- that there definitely will be an intermediate step of Perez auditioning for a left-handed specialist role. For what it's worth, Sandy Alderson and Collins will be making the trip with Perez. So will ESPNNewYork.com.

Tuesday's news reports:

• The Times reveals another financial heavy hitter, who is a leading part of a group of potential buyers that includes Anthony Scaramucci, the managing partner of asset-management company SkyBridge. It's James F. McCann, the founder of Westbury, L.I.-based 1-800-Flowers.com. That company has sponsored the Mets' Kiss Cam between innings. A company spokesman told the newspaper: “The only thing I can tell you is he’s a very close friend of Fred and Jeff Wilpon’s and knows them very well. ... [McCann] has a strong affinity for the Mets.”

@Josh_Thole talks with Newsday about signing up for Twitter. He notes he is following 56 people (including @AdamRubinESPN). "I started doing the whole 'what was I doing all day' thing but I stopped that," Thole tells David Lennon about the content of his tweets. "I'm sure people liked it, but it was kind of too much for me. ... I have no idea what I'm doing. As somebody explained it to me, it's like sending a text message to 5,000 people. If I say something wrong, or say something that shouldn't have come out, it could be a problem. I'm just going to keep it simple right now." David Wright says he is considering creating an account this season.

• The Post's Dan Martin talks to on-the-outs Perez and Luis Castillo about the pressure they are facing. Neither is expected on the major league club.

"I don't worry if people don't think I can do it," Perez tells Martin. "The Mets have given me a chance to start games. All I can do is pitch my best. When I'm on the mound, I don't think about it being maybe my last start or anything else."

Says Castillo: "My job is to make the team. It's hard to do when you don't play much. I know there's a lot of pressure on me for me to stay here, and I want to. I feel healthy. I know I can help this team, and I think they're being fair. I just want one more chance."

Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus looks like the frontrunner for second base, with Daniel Murphy also on the team. The simplest way for Nick Evans to get on the team, though, is for Murphy to win the second-base job outright and Emaus returned to Toronto, even if that's not the likely scenario. That way, Evans could sneak onto a five-man bench with Chin-lung Hu, Mike Nickeas (until Ronny Paulino's remaining eight-game suspension is served), Scott Hairston and Willie Harris. Evans is out of options and is more likely than not to get claimed off waivers.

Andy Martino of the Daily News notes that Collins, as well as Alderson, are going to Kissimmee to watch Perez because they promised him a fair shot and it would be going against their word otherwise. "When you have a conversation with a player, and you give him a program that you're going to put down, you stand by that program," Collins said. "Credibility is at stake here. I don't think it's fair to him not having me there. If I was trying to make a team and make a rotation and the manager wasn't there, I would question that."

• Collins picked uniform No. 10 as a tribute to Jim Leyland. Leyland named Collins to the Mets skipper's first major league coaching gig, with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992 as bullpen coach. So the two men naturally chatted for 20 minutes Monday behind the batting cage when Leyland's Tigers visited Port St. Lucie. "His dealings with the players were so honest," Collins tells The Wall Street Journal's Brian Costa about Leyland. "I watched him communicate on a daily basis, and I probably didn't live up to that the way he did. But he gave me my chance when nobody else would." Collins has repeatedly cited Leyland since being hired. Most recently, Collins said Sunday that he might place Hairston in the clean-up spot on days Carlos Beltran sits during the regular season because that's what Leyland would do -- or did while managing the Pirates. Collins noted when No. 3 hitter Andy Van Slyke sat, Leyland put John Cangelosi from the bench into that spot, so the rest of the hitters could remain in their customary slots.

Leyland tells Costa that he had a kinship with Collins because both never reached the majors as players. "When you're a former big-league player, you have to lose the players' respect," Leyland said. "But when you're a minor-league guy and never a player, you have to get the players' respect. That's the difference."

Leyland even prepped Collins for a managerial interview with the Houston Astros. Collins was hired.

David Waldstein in the Times also chronicles the relationship between Leyland and Collins, and notes the two will get a chance to reunite when the Mets face the Tigers in interleague play in June. “It will be a lot more fun in Detroit when it’s a real game,” Collins tells Waldstein. “I remember the first time I managed against him when I was in Houston, trying to match wits with a guy who I think is one of the best, if not the best, managers in the game. That was pretty fun.”

• Post columnist Joel Sherman says it's vital for Angel Pagan to become one of the NL's top center fielders, but it's not a given. He writes:

I asked two personnel men what they thought, and the AL one said he liked but didn't love Pagan, while an NL counterpart graded Pagan higher. AL personnel man: "We see Pagan as a capable everyday player on a contender, not an above-average one. We like his ability to hit for average and run. However, we're a little mixed on his defense; scouts would call him a strong-average center fielder, whereas stat guys would call him above to well above average." ... NL personnel man: "I think he is a legitimate front-line player. He is a well-rounded guy who can impact the game with his bat, glove and legs."

• Daily News columnist John Harper was impressed with Bobby Parnell's ability Monday to mix in sliders with his sizzling fastball. Harper notes that Bobby Ojeda on the game telecast said: "There are a lot of guys who throw 95 [mph] who are driving UPS trucks." Because batters have to commit so early to Parnell's fastball, which was clocked 102 mph last August in Houston, the slider would make Parnell a viable successor to Francisco Rodriguez as Mets closer. "When my velocity started going up, I kind of lost the feel for my slider as I threw harder," Parnell tells Harper. "But I worked on it this winter and I've had a good feel for it here in spring training. It's there for me right now."

Arthur Stapleton of the Record takes a closer look at Jason Isringhausen, who will attempt to demonstate his durability on Tuesday by pitching the second of back-to-back days. “I know how old I am when David Wright says he used to come to [Triple-A affiliate] Norfolk to watch me pitch when he was a little kid,” Isringhausen tells Stapleton. “I’m glad I am the old man because it means I’ve been in the big leagues awhile.” Based on the efffectiveness of his curveball and the fact he already was sporting an 89-90 mph fastball Monday, if Isringhausen can get through the next three-plus weeks healthy in his first spring-training camp in three years, he likely will find himself breaking camp with the Mets.

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger talks to hitting coach Dave Hudgens about trying to raise Jose Reyes' on-base percentage, which was .321 last season. Writes McCullough:

Tempering Reyes’ eagerness and elevating his on-base percentage provides both short-term benefits for the Mets and long-term benefits for Reyes. The team reaps the benefits of Reyes on the base paths. And Reyes can rebuild his case as an elite player on the open market. In 2010, Reyes experienced his most erratic season at the plate. Offspeed offerings tempted and tormented him. Reyes swung at a career-high 32.1 percent of the pitches outside the strike zone. His walk rate shrunk to 5.1, his lowest since an overeager rookie season in 2005.

On-base percentage is perhaps the key value of the new front office.

• If you like Securities and Exchange Commission coverage in sports, check out the Daily News.

• Ex-Met Darryl Hamilton was fired by MLB from his role overseeing on-field operations, while VP of umpiring Mike Port and VP of administration Ed Burns also were let go as Joe Torre assumed his job as executive VP of operations.

• The Mets will hold auditions for national anthem singer Monday, March 14, at 11 a.m. at Citi Field. The first 100 to show up are guaranteed an audition, which can include any song other than the national anthem. A cappella, please.

BIRTHDAY: Willard Hunter, who originally was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers, and who pitched in a combined 68 games for the Mets in 1962 and '64, was born on this date in 1934.