Mets morning briefing 3.22.12

R.A. Dickey is scheduled to start for the Mets this afternoon against the Astros, followed by Fernando Cabrera, Jon Rauch, Chris Schwinden and Frank Francisco. Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers as well as Rhiner Cruz, the hard-throwing Rule 5 pick from the Mets, are due to pitch for Houston. Cruz, 25, has a 19.29 ERA in four Grapefruit League appearances in Astros camp and may be returned to the Mets before Opening Day, although he is coming off a scoreless inning against the Miami Marlins.

Thursdays, by the day, typically are cut days from major league camp. And Ike Davis celebrates his 25th birthday.

Thursday's news reports:

Johan Santana took a scoreless effort into the sixth inning Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals and continued to suggest he will be ready to take the ball Opening Day at Citi Field, on April 5 against the Atlanta Braves. A scout said Santana was sitting at 88 mph with his fastball. Still, that proved enough. David Freese twice struck out on pitches -- one a slider, the other a changeup -- that prompted him to lose his bat into foul territory down the third-base line. "He's not throwing 95, but he's a guy who knows how to pitch," Freese told Anthony Rieber in Newsday. "When he makes pitches, he's going to be effective and he's going to win games for sure." Watch video of Santana discussing his 69-pitch outing here. Read more in the Star-Ledger, Daily News, Post and Times.

• Forbes valued the Mets at $719 million, a 4 percent decline from the previous year. Mets officials annually dispute the accuracy of the rankings.

• Top prospect Zack Wheeler suffered a sprained left ankle climbing stairs Sunday, a team official said. Wheeler minimized the injury, but he will miss a minor league start. Read more in Newsday.

• Convicted swindler Bernard Madoff expressed disappointment to author Diane Henriques that one-time close friend Fred Wilpon settled the lawsuit brought against the Mets owner by trustee Irving Picard.

Jordany Valdespin had a ninth-inning homer to tie the game, but left-hander Garrett Olson allowed a runner inherited on third from Miguel Batista to score the following half-inning and the Mets lost to the Cardinals, 2-1.

Richard Sandomir and Ken Belson in the Times report that the 12 minority shares totaling $240 million that were infused into the Mets came from a handful of sources. The newspaper reported that in addition to a $25 million repayment to Major League Baseball and $40 million repayment to satisfy a bridge loan from Bank of America, $75 million of the infusion was used to pay down other bank debt that had totaled about $400 million. Write Sandomir and Belson:

Ultimately, the Mets’ owners bought three of those shares -- the first two, Wilpon said recently, and a third more recently -- and Time Warner Cable and Comcast, who are partners in SNY, bought two shares each to help the team steady its finances. In exchange, they extended certain elements of their network deals. Another share was bought by Robert W. Pittman and Kenneth B. Lerer, two media moguls. A ninth share was purchased by the hedge-fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen, who is in the midst of trying to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. If he succeeds, he will have to sell his stake in the Mets. The identities of the remaining three new shareholders are not publicly known.

• Will this week's financial resolutions prompt the Mets to spend freely next offseason and beyond? Sandy Alderson was not making any such prediction when he spoke Tuesday. The GM merely said it would more so allow for the possibility to pursue a desired free agent. David Wright told Mark Cannizzaro in the Post: “What we have is what we’ve got, and that’s what we need not be worried about, not what could happen. Time will tell as far as that goes. There’s no sense in worrying about who’s not here and what could have been or what might happen. These are the guys we have and we need to make this work.’’

Mike Puma in the Post reports Mike Pelfrey has dealt with a high-ankle sprain for much of camp. Pitching coach Dan Warthen suggested to Puma that the ankle was a significant reason why Pelfrey pitched out of the stretch exclusively in his first Grapefruit League start -- and why his velocity was hovering around 87 mph until the right-hander aired it out and gave up eight runs in his most recent start, against the Houston Astros. “The ankle sprain is why he was out of the stretch all this time and the velocity was what it was,” Warthen said. “This was the best he felt, over against Houston.” Said Pelfrey: "It's not bad."

TRIVIA: Which player currently in Mets major league camp represented Italy in the most-recent World Baseball Classic?

Wednesday's answer: Adam Loewen is the earliest-selected draft pick in Mets camp. He was taken fourth overall, as a pitcher by the Baltimore Orioles, in 2002 out of Fraser Valley Christian High School in British Columbia.