Mets morning briefing 4.1.11

Opening Day for the Mets. Mike Pelfrey versus Josh Johnson.

Friday's news reports:

Andy Martino in the Daily News reports Pelfrey strained the rotator cuff and posterior capsule in his pitching shoulder, likely getting the save in the 20-inning game in St.Louis early in the season. He took pain-killing injections before every start for the remainder of the season, and doctors told him he could do no further damage. "They told me it wasn't going to get worse," Pelfrey tells Martino. "It was just a matter of managing the pain, and I wanted to be out there. That's the thing that I take the most pride in, that I'll take the ball. So I took the ball for [33] starts. There were times when it would get a little better in between, and then you'd go out and throw and it would come right back."

• The Times' George Vecsey catches up with Omar Minaya, who plans to be watching on TV when the Mets play the Marlins on Friday night. Writes Vecsey:

"I’m a glass-half-full guy,” Minaya said. “I’m attached to those guys. I may be wrong, but I think they’re capable of contending. On opening day they might have seven home-grown players in the starting lineup.” He mentioned Mike Pelfrey, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Angel Pagan and Lucas Duda, although Duda, it turns out, will be on the bench. He is a scout at heart, and thinks the Mets can compete with the Braves (“a good club, but there’s the Bobby Cox factor”) and the Marlins (“they are still a young club”) and the Phillies (he acknowledged their starters, but also their injuries).

Regarding Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, Minaya says: “Look, obviously, Luis Castillo and Ollie Perez didn’t work out. But I can’t tell you in retrospect I wouldn’t have done it.”

Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal looks at Sandy Alderson's reluctance to define a goal for the season. “I don’t try to define that,” Alderson said Thursday, as the Mets began a workout at Sun Life Stadium. “I can say winning the World Series, and anything less would be unsuccessful. But somewhere between where we were last year and winning the World Series.” Writes Costa:

Sometimes, you can learn about a team by the way it markets itself. Four years ago, when the Mets were coming off a playoff run in 2006, their expectations for the 2007 season were reflected by the slogan, "Mets fans, your season has come." Now, as the Mets try to reverse a plunge in ticket sales, their ads are a little more humble. They read, "We play hard for the die-hards." The 2011 Mets: Look, we'll try, okay?

Costa goes on to note that if Alderson and the Mets can demonstrate they're a competently run organization, that may go a long way toward defining success, because fans will believe there are better days to come, despite the owners' financial issues. Terry Collins again recalls an offseason event at Citi Field when a 7-year-old boy asked him how he can get the Mets to play hard. "I know his father put him up to it," Collins tells Costa. "No 7-year-old is going to say that. But obviously the perception is they're not playing hard, and perception in our game is reality."

• When the Mets buses rolled out of Port St. Lucie on Thursday at 11 a.m., Jason Bay was left behind with a left rib-cage strain. The belief is that Bay will be activated on April 9, when he is eligible to come off the DL. But those type of injuries can last a while because of the torque required on those muscles while swinging.

Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger gets to the root of why this may be Jose Reyes' final Opening Day as a Met. Writes McCullough:

Ignore the beauty of his play, the skills that awe his teammates, the buzz he creates in a stadium. Strip away his speed, the dreadlocks bouncing as he dives into second base, grinning as he brushes off red dirt. Strip away that arm, double-pumping after he scoops a grounder deep in the hole, his throw zooming flat on a low plane and picking up speed as it bursts into first baseman Ike Davis’ mitt. Ignore that high-beam smile and sparkling stud earrings, the rat-tat-tat patter, those Latin farmhands crowding his locker before games and lounging at his spring-training house after workouts to soak up his advice. Ignore the way he connects with teammates, bestowing the nickname “Quien” upon Taiwanese newcomer Chin-lung Hu, shouting to Davis almost every week: “ ‘I like Ike.’ That’s going to be my next tattoo.” Try to forget all that. Find the number that gives Alderson pause, the statistic that he considers the bedrock of the game. For his career, Reyes carries a .335 on-base percentage. And Alderson needs more.

McCullough's profile goes over Reyes' career, including recycling one of my favorite stories. When Reyes was a teenager with limited English skills playing Class A ball in Kingsport, Tenn., he would give the same order at restaurants daily. After a teammate ordered, Reyes would tell the waiter: "Same thing."

• Reyes tells the Post's Mark Hale he's not thinking about this potentially being his last opener as a Met. "No, right now I don't think that way," Reyes tells Hale. "Right now, I'm still here."

• McCullough talks with Francisco Rodriguez about his winter of reflection after a tumultuous, self-induced ugly ending to the 2010 season:

He had time to face his own reflection during this offseason, banished from his teammates, alone on his boat in the Caribbean Sea, searching for swordfish and tuna and red snapper -- and the reasons for “the errors that I committed in the past.” Arrested for assault, injured in the process and forced to surrender $3 million as a penalty, he vowed to change. “I just tried to refresh my mind,” he said, “and, obviously, not be vulnerable to the problems.”

K-Rod tossed 10 2/3 scoreless innings in the Grapefruit League. “I’ve seen a lot of closers pitch in spring training,” Collins tells McCullough. “And I don’t think any of them have walked out there every single time with as electrifying stuff as he’s had.”

• Here's the Star-Ledger's season-preview piece outlining strengths and weaknesses of the Mets, and the Opening Day roster.

• Pelfrey gets the Opening Day start, which is a stark contrast to the faith shown by Jerry Manuel a year ago. Pelfrey was in line to pitch against the Marlins the first series, but Manuel adjusted the rotation late in spring training to have Pelfrey avoid facing Florida because of his career struggles against the club. Pelfrey is 1-6 with a 5.32 ERA in his career against the Marlins, but tells the Post's Mike Puma: "That was earlier in my career. Two of my last [four] starts against them were really good. The bad one was in San Juan, and it was miserable. I didn't want to be there and I don't think anybody else did either." Sure enough, Pelfrey did limit the Marlins to two runs (one earned) in seven innings on Sept. 21 in Miami.

• Post columnist Joel Sherman says for a day you can ignore the woes and allow yourself to dream the possibilities with the Mets:

Ike Davis graduates from 19 to 30 homers, which definitely is within his reach since every fence is within his power. Brad Emaus is no long-term answer at second, but in the short term he is not a disaster on defense while providing a .350-plus on-base percentage on offense with a touch of extra-base heft. The carrot of free agency motivates Jose Reyes to 2006-08 performance, which makes him one of the most entertaining players in the sport and a run-scoring force. David Wright hits 30 homers, drives in 100 and does not again morph into the spokesman for the inexplicable late in another heartrending season. Bay distances himself from the shackles of post-concussion syndrome, a ribcage injury and the mind-warping impact of the far fences at Citi Field to join Davis and Wright in the first-ever Mets three-man class of 30-homer hitters. Angel Pagan makes an All-Star team. Carlos Beltran plays 120 games, enough to remind that there still are skills in his crumbling body.

• The Post's Kevin Kernan chats with David Wright. “We’re not playing fantasy baseball in here,” Wright tells Kernan. “Some teams look better than others, but at the end of the day you have to play the game. ... We go out there and we take care of the Marlins on Opening Day. We can kind of pat ourselves on the back and then worry about Game 2. We don’t have to compare position-for-position against other teams for 162 games. We go position-for-position against the Marlins for Game 1 and then get ready for Game 2. You only have to be better than the team you are playing that night. You play together. You play winning baseball. We have guys in here who are willing to do the dirty work to get the job done.”

• The Daily News finds an expert to tout the Mets still being extremely valuable to potential buyers. Writes the newspaper:

"I personally know seven billionaires who love the Mets and would love to own the Mets," said Andrew W. Kline, founder and managing director of Park Lane, a sports-investment bank based in Los Angeles that has advised on a number of professional sports acquisitions, including the San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Lightning and Miami Heat. Kline said the Mets' recent operating losses -- reported by the New York Times to be in the neighborhood of $50 million a year -- and the $1 billion Bernie Madoff lawsuit hanging over the franchise might not have a profound impact on the value of the team or the selling price for a stake in it. "If we were talking about someone buying, say, a chemical manufacturing firm that had a similar set of factors -- a possible Madoff liability and operating losses -- it might impact the valuation and the potential buyer would have more leverage," said Kline, who is advising a client who is exploring the possibility of getting in on the Mets bidding. "But it's different with sports franchises."

• The Daily News catches up with the potential ownership group that includes "Entourage" executive producer Doug Ellin, who would use the show's star power to drum up support for the Mets."I'm a giant sports fan and to be involved in a professional sports franchise would be a dream come true," actor Kevin Connolly, who plays Eric (E) Murphy on the show, tells the newspaper. "Growing up on Long Island, I was a giant Mets fan, so that makes it even more of a dream come true."

• Daily News media critic Bob Raissman explores how the SNY broadcast team of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez will handle the Bernard Madoff-related issues during the season. Writes Raissman:

Cohen outlined the Madoff situation early in the first spring training broadcast on SNY. The situation was also discussed during subsequent spring training telecasts. "We have no muzzles on us," Cohen tells Raissman. "All three of us feel free to express opinions on what we feel strongly about. The problem here is you're talking about a subject we don't have any expertise in. We know a lot about baseball. Keith knows a lot about movies. I know a lot about cartoons. This [Mets' finances] is not an area where any of us have a degree [in finance] or great expertise. So I don't know if the time is going to come where we are going to be comfortable expressing opinions as opposed to talking about the facts."

BIRTHDAYS: Rusty Staub turns 67. ... Daniel Murphy turns 26. ... '62-64 Met Rod Kanehl was born on this day in 1934, and passed away on Dec. 14, 2004. ... First baseman Willie Montanez was born in 1948. Montanez came to the Mets as part of a four-team trade during the 1977-78 offseason that also involved Tom Grieve, Bert Blyleven, Al Oliver and Jon Matlack.