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Mets morning briefing 3.17.11

The majority of Mets remained in Fort Myers on an overnight trip. After losing to the Twins across the state from Port St. Lucie on Wednesday, next up is Thursday's St. Patrick Day's game at the Red Sox. Jon Niese starts for the Mets.

ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand again brings you today's coverage.

On to Thursday's news stories:

Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger reviews Sandy Alderson's Wednesday's comments. Alderson said it's possible to backdate a DL stint for Carlos Beltran into spring training, where Beltran has to sit out potentially as few as five days of the regular season. (That requires Beltran NOT appearing in Grapefruit League games, though. You can backdate a 15-day DL stint up to 10 days into spring training, but only as far back as the player's last appearance in a Grapefruit League game.)

As for second base, Alderson said there's a "possibility" the competition could be thinned at least slightly by the end of the week. (Cuts in the past have come Thursday p.m. or Friday a.m., since Friday is payday for the week's meal money.) "One would like to see some separation," Alderson said about the second-base candidates. "Maybe we'll see that in the next few days."

• The Bergen Record's Steve Popper takes a particular look at the Beltran issue, writing:

When spring training began a month ago, Sandy Alderson arrived with a checklist of questions to be answered. And as he summed up the state of the Mets on Wednesday, those same questions seemed to still be nagging at the general manager. Carlos Beltran? Still in limbo with lingering knee troubles. Johan Santana? Not shut down, but nowhere near returning -- or offering assurance he will return at all this year. And Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo? Still the center of a Mets’ universe with far bigger problems. Alderson rejoined the team after spending a couple of days in the Dominican Republic. And as he took a seat behind home plate to watch the team, the biggest question might be the player who was back in Port St. Lucie picking up a bat for the first time in 10 days.

Alderson tells Popper about Beltran: “I think it’s clear now it was unrealistic for anyone to expect that he would be able to play center field on a routine basis all season. And you know, at this point, we’ll just have to see where he is at the beginning of the season. But as it stands right now, as I’ve said before, this looks like something that will have to be managed over time.”

Read more in the Post.

• Alderson apparently is caught off-guard by the media and fan focus on Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. "It's a little odd," Alderson tells Andy Martino of the Daily News. "I think it does distract one from taking a look at the team as a whole and having a more balanced view of the team as a whole. It's easy to focus in on a couple of negatives and kind of ride that into the ground."

• Newsday's David Lennon looks at the charitable side of Francisco Rodriguez. Writes Lennon:

Raised by his grandparents in a two-bedroom apartment shared by eight others, K-Rod couldn't scrape up the $3 tuition for the baseball academy -- or the bus fare for the 90-minute ride back home to the Caracas suburb of Macarao. Thanks to Graciano Ravelo, the founder of the 35-year-old academy, he didn't have to. Ravelo picked up the youngster's expenses, and for the past six years Rodriguez has returned the favor in financing the academy, which is named after his mentor. K-Rod donates everything -- shoes, gloves, helmets, bats, uniforms -- so the field that nurtured his dreams can do the same for future generations. "Hopefully, by me helping one of those kids, you never know what's going to happen, where they're going to be 10 years from now," Rodriguez said. "They might sign as a professional ballplayer."

• Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff takes a look at Opening Day starter Mike Pelfrey, who allowed three runs and nine hits in five innings against the Twins on Wednesday. "He clearly knows how to pitch," Alderson tells Davidoff. "With his typical velocity and the ability to locate his pitches, that's about all you need to do to be successful." ... It will be difficult for Pelfrey to duplicate the 9-1 record he raced to last season, if only because his first two opposing pitchers likely will be Florida's Josh Johnson on April 1 and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay in Game 6 of the season.

Mark Viera in The Times looks at Pelfrey's velocity. I wouldn't be too alarmed with any readings right now. This is typically the dead-arm period of spring training, when pitchers' arms briefly get tired because they've been throwing for a month. And there will be considerably more adrenaline once the lights go on for the regular season.

Read more about Pelfrey in the Star-Ledger and Record, where it is noted Pelfrey concentrated on throwing his bread-and-butter two-seam sinker rather than try to mix up pitches.

• ESPN's Bobby Valentine tells Newsday's Neil Best he plans to set up a relief fund to help victims of the Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear issues. Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in that country from 2004 through '09. He tells Best: "The stadium I played in is built on a landfill. The land now seems to be compromised. The entire stadium might sink into the bay."

BIRTHDAY: Former Mets catcher Vance Wilson, who was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Anderson Hernandez on Jan. 5, 2005, turns 38.