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Mets arrive burdened with problems


Mets arrive burdened with problems
NEW YORK - The month of April came and went, which had to put the Mets in a celebratory mood because they never really got going.

Among many Baseball cognoscenti, the Mets were a preseason choice to lift the crown from the Phillies after they fortified a bullpen that squandered too many games last season, convincing them they had cleared the path for the Phils to win the World Series instead of the Phils bulldozing it on merit.

Yet, the Mets make their first visit to Citizens Bank Park tonight for the first of a three-game series burdened by problems and gripped by the frustration of a 9-12 record and how they got there. Strictly on merit.

"It's not time to panic or be overly concerned," righthander Mike Pelfrey said after the Mets put many of their warts on display in a 4-3 loss to Florida on Wednesday at brand new Citi Field. "If we continue to work hard, get this thing figured out, I think we'll get on a roll and get back into it. The talent is there. We have everything it takes."

Certainly, there's a long way to go this season. But in Queens, where the hearts of Mets fans have been broken by late-season collapses the last two years, it's never too early to panic, and their anxiety level will surely rise if the Phillies push them lower in the NL East this weekend.

Asked if it's reasonable to expect the Mets to solve their problems against the defending World Series champs, third baseman David Wright said, "Why not? We've got a nice little rivalry brewing with them."

Why not? Here's why.

The Mets' hitters have been futile at crunch time. They are 0-10 when trailing after seven innings. Much of that is on Wright, who has driven in 497 runs since his rookie season of 2004. Wright is in a dreadful slump. He is 7 for 31 (.226) with runners in scoring position and has one homer and eight RBIs.

In Wednesday's loss to Florida, he stranded five runners, twice striking out looking. Perhaps the most popular Met, Wright was booed after he watched a called third strike whiz past him with two on in the ninth. Afterward, he admitted he is not comfortable at the plate.

"It's been a tough go for him," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "But I'm very confident he's going to get out of it and hit .300 and do his thing, get over 100 RBIs and those types of things. I do believe there will come a time when he will be as hot as he is cold at this period with runners in scoring position. We'll be patient and wait for that time."

The starting rotation has been a one-man show with the brilliant lefthander Johan Santana, who is 3-1 with a 1.10 ERA. Unfortunately for the Mets, he pitched Wednesday and won't go against the Phillies .

The biggest mystery has been Oliver Perez, scheduled to pitch tomorrow. He is 1-2 with a 9.31 ERA and has pitched into the fifth inning once in his four starts. An effective Perez behind Santana could give the Mets an edge against the Phils' lefthanded-heavy lineup, but there's been speculation Perez could go to the minors if he doesn't find a groove.

Another problem has been defense in left field. A promising hitter, David Murphy is a converted leftfielder whose misplays have become common. And Gary Sheffield can be an adventure when he's out there.

Meantime, Manuel's acumen came into question when he pinch-hit rookie catcher Omir Santos for Ramon Castro with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth Wednesday against the Marlins. Castro had two hits and an RBI. Santos, who had 35 career at bats, was in the bullpen warming up reliever Bobby Parnell when he got the call to pinch-hit. Afterward, Manuel explained he wanted Santos to face hard-throwing righthander Matt Lindstrom because he has a more compact stroke. Santos popped out to short.

It looked as if the Mets got it right when they obtained Francisco Rodriguez, J.J. Putz, and Sean Green for the bullpen. Until this week, when Green and Putz blew late-inning leads. On Wednesday, Putz had a one-run lead to protect in the eighth. He walked the first two batters then served up a two-run single to Cody Ross, rendering Rodriguez moot.

"It hasn't been a good month for a lot of people," Putz said.

It was a good month for Rodriguez, who has four saves and 12 strikeouts in 82/3 innings.

Now it's May, and the Mets are hoping to begin the healing process during their intense rivalry against the Phillies .

"We have a pretty good rivalry going," said Pelfrey, who will start tonight. "They're going to be into it. We're going to be into it. It should be a pretty good time."

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 1, 2009

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