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Off Day Meanderings

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Off day yesterday, which the Mets probably needed badly considering the way they have been playing. You try not to get too wrapped up in the results of spring training games, but the Mets have collectively been stupendously inept in almost every area of play. They have the worst record of any National League team this spring at 6-14, and have lost many of those contests in embarrassing fashion.

It hasn't been all bad, though. Mike Pelfrey has been lights out, as has John Maine and the most recent incarnation of Oliver Perez. Jose Reyes is already in midseason form, and some of the best production so far has come out of two guys battling for one of the last bench spots, Ben Johnson and David Newhan.

John Delcos thinks the Mets should send Orlando Hernandez to the disabled list, although in that same article he reveals that Paul Lo Duca should bat second in the lineup because his value is in -- are you ready for this? -- "advancing runners". That's his value. Lo Duca's usefulness to this team is his ability to move a runner from one base to another, though usually not from some base to home plate since that would often require hitting the ball for extra bases, something that apparently isn't covered under the "advancing runners" umbrella that Lo Duca carries around with him.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that moving David Wright up to the two-hole makes some sense, and it would appear that Willie Randolph is at least considering that possibility. Some might say that Wright's power is wasted in that spot, but someone else might argue that Lo Duca's lack of on-base skills makes him ill-suited to bat anywhere that might afford him more plate appearances than other vastly superior hitters, of which the Mets have many.

Over at Mets.com, Marty Noble has his latest mailbag column, so I thought a fun feature that wouldn't actually require that I come up with my own ideas for new content would be to answer some of those questions myself. Click the link above to read Noble's own responses.

Will manager Willie Randolph have David Wright bat second instead of Paul Lo Duca? Jose Reyes, Wright, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Moises Alou is a pretty powerful first five. I'm curious as to your opinion of Wright batting second and just how seriously you believe Randolph is considering the change.

Talked about this a bit above, but I think Willie will seriously consider anything that he thinks might give the Mets a better chance to win ballgames. Certainly, giving more at-bats to Wright and fewer to Lo Duca would be one of those things. The fact that Lo Duca doesn't strike out a lot and plays the game the right way must make this a very difficult decision indeed.

With Ben Johnson and David Newhan swinging hot bats this spring, and all the talk of the two young outfielders the Mets have waiting in the wings, what role do the Mets envision for Lastings Milledge? Is there even going to be a roster spot for him? Might they try shopping him around if the pitching staff doesn't hold up early in the season?

They might dangle him out there to see what kind of talent he might bring back in return, but the modicum of success that Newhan and Johnson have experienced so far against career minor leaguers, veteran retreads and out-of-shape regulars is no indication that the Mets can no longer use the services of still-great-prospect Lastings Milledge. If they don't feel they have a spot to play Milledge every day with the big club -- and considering that Moises Alou and Shawn Green are firmly entrenched in the starting corner outfield spots, that's likely to be the case -- the best short-term solution will be to send Milo to New Orleans to get his work in, knowing he will be ready for a recall as soon as the situation warrants it.

Personally, I love Milledge, and I think the Mets would be foolish to trade him for anything less than fair market value. If Billy Beane calls tomorrow and offers Dan Haren, you listen. If he offers Joe Blanton, you mumble something about a bad connection and hang up the phone just as fast as your assistant can do so.

Since the second-base position is pretty unstable for the future, would it be possible for the Mets to convert Fernando Martinez to second from the outfield? The Mets already have Carlos Gomez, Milledge and Beltran for the future. Anderson Hernandez still hasn't proven himself. Wouldn't this make sense?

Reader, defensive spectrum. Defensive spectrum, reader. Now that you're acquainted, understand this: you can't just take players who have grown accustomed to one position and move them to another and expect it to work out like it might in your head. A projected corner outfielder like Fernando Martinez would probably have a lot of trouble making the switch to a considerably more difficult defensive position like second base, and there's really no reason to attempt such a foolish thing in the first place. Martinez may one day be a terrific gloveman in the outfield, but for now, as an eighteen-year-old, the last thing you want him worrying about is his defense, let alone trying to learn an entirely new position. This kid is going to earn his meal card with his bat and, while he is probably a good enough athlete to be a solid defensive outfielder, he needs to spend as much time as possible working on things like strike zone judgment, plate discipline, pitch recognition, etc.

With Sosa being less than impressive so far this Spring Training, and with Pelfrey making a strong push toward earning a spot in the rotation, why don't the Mets consider keeping Park for long relief and spot starting, should Pelfrey take the No. 5 spot in the rotation? Sosa has a tendency to giving up the long ball, which in later innings is not a good trait, while Park tends toward more ground-ball outs. Is there something in Park's makeup that would not make him effective in that role?

Just his ego. Park considers himself a starting pitcher, and veteran starting pitchers don't typically accept the implicit demotion that is a relegation to the bullpen without a song and a dance. Hey, Aaron Heilman is only barely a veteran and he runs his mouth in the papers every week about how he should be starting. Park would be fine as a spot-starter and long relief specialist. It's not anything about his pitching profile that would prevent him from succeeeding in that role, it would just be his own stubbornness.

With Aaron Heilman's elbow tendinitis, Guillermo Mota on the shelf for 50 games and Duaner Sanchez likely not to be on the roster for Opening Day, what is the Mets' bullpen shaping up to look like, aside from Scott Schoeneweis and Billy Wagner? More specifically, with the brilliant spring Joe Smith has shown, what are the chances he would be on the Opening Day roster or an early callup?

Well, Heilman will be there, as will Pedro Feliciano. Smith has a prett good shot at making the team considering the slow recovery of Duaner Sanchez and the suspension of Guillermo Mota.

Good times. I'll be back in the later AM with some links and a few other random thoughts.