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With The Veterans Away, The Prospects Play Applesauce: Intrasquad Game Features Minor Leaguers, Team Takes Pictures, MLB Expands Playoffs

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That's Johan Santana inside the garbage can. Your guess is as good as mine as to why this exists.
That's Johan Santana inside the garbage can. Your guess is as good as mine as to why this exists.

Meet the Mets

The first game of the 2012 season took place on Friday afternoon, everybody! Okay, so it was only an intrasquad game and very few of the big leaguers played. Nevertheless, baseball-like activities occurred in Port St. Lucie inside the framework of a number of three out innings. That's progress! Toby Hyde took down some notes from the game, while Ted Berg has a video review up. Among the highlights: an impressive two run bomb to RF off the bat of Kirk Nieuwenhuis (off lefty Danny Herrera, no less) and a couple of scoreless innings from Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia. Toby also has some notes from minor league camp on Thursday, in case you'd like to catch up on those. The team will play another intrasquad game today and this one will actually feature most of the big league starters, including Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada up the middle.

Johan Santana threw live BP on Thursday without issue, yet another good sign in his rehab. Over at the times, Andrew Keh compares the aligned path of Santana and lefty pitching prospect Steve Matz. The 2009 2nd round pick has yet to throw a professional pitch, so it's nice to hear that all systems are go for him thus far.

The Mets suffered their first injury casualty of 2012, as lefty pitching prospect Robert Carson went down with a strained intercostal muscle in his left side. Carson was likely a long shot to make the opening day roster anyway and this injury seems to all but close that window.

At Rising Apple, Ben Berkon takes a look at the riveting battle for the team's left-handed bench outfielder role that's shaping up between Mike Baxter and Adam Loewen. This is just a hunch but I've got a good gut feeling about Loewen. But then again, maybe that's just gas.

In a piece at, R.A. Dickey talks about books, life and his future after baseball. Not only does Dickey have a book coming out later this month, but apparently he's also the subject of a documentary about knuckleballers.

Terry Collins says that Lucas Duda will not switch positions in the event that Ike Davis were to miss time during the season (knock on wood). Meanwhile, Josh Thole applauds MLB's new HGH testing.

Around the Majors

Well, it's been rumored for a while but it's finally official. Major League Baseball announced on Friday that it will expand the playoffs to 10 teams by adding an extra wild card in each league, effective this season. The reaction was mostly positive from Mets players and even prompted David Wright to wish this plan was in effect five years ago. Yeah, if only. Unfortunately, it looks like MLB didn't foresee a potential issue when they were creating the schedule for 2012.

Now that we know there will be extra wild cards this year, how do the changes to the playoff system affect the teams? Lewie Pollis of Beyond The Box Score took a look at the odds of a team making the playoffs under the old and new systems.

Tough breaks all around for a pair of now ex-Yankees. Mariners C Jesus Montero left the team's spring training game after getting hit in the jaw with a couple of foul tips. Meanwhile, A.J. Burnett is likely to miss 8-12 weeks after having surgery to repair the fractured orbital bone he suffered while practicing his bunting. If the Mets are "Snakebitten, Baby", then what exactly are the Pirates these past 20 years?

At Fangraphs, Jeff Zimmerman explores disabled list trends over the past ten years. Guess which lucky team ranks really highly on this list? It's just too bad that ranking high is a bad thing.

We know all about Fielding Independent Pitching around here, but how about Fielding Independent Offense? This is the second part of Bradley Woodrum's piece.

Can Shane Victorino get a five year contract from some team? He'll be 32 headed into 2013, so it seems kind of iffy, especially with comparable CFers Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton likely to hit the market as well.