Inside Pitch: Tough arms ahead

Inside Pitch: Tough arms ahead

It's not going to get any easier for the Mets this weekend.<P> After games against John Smoltz, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens in the last few days, the Mets will face Florida's Josh Beckett, Al Leiter and A.J. Burnett.<P>

The marquee game will be Saturday when Leiter, the former Met, will face Pedro Martinez. Leiter is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA with the Marlins. He had spent seven seasons with the Mets, going 95-67. Leiter wanted to return to New York, but new general manager Omar Minaya made him a low-ball contract offer and Leiter jumped to Florida for a one-year deal worth $7 million.

Martinez is 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA and is coming off a two-hitter against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. He has been dominant in his first two starts with the Mets, allowing five hits in 15 innings with three walks and 21 strikeouts.

The Mets will give Aaron Heilman another shot on Friday. The right-hander allowed eight runs and five hits against the Braves on Saturday. He is replacing the injured Kris Benson in the rotation.

Tom Glavine will start for the Mets on Sunday. The Mets were 4-15 against the Marlins last season.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • Because he spent 10 seasons on the coaching staff of the Yankees, it is natural to assume that rookie Mets manager Willie Randolph would pattern himself after Joe Torre.

    In some ways, particularly in how he handles himself and treats people, that is true. But Randolph said on the first day of spring training that once the game started, the late Billy Martin would provide him with the most inspiration.

    "Billy was a big influence on me. I loved the way he played the game, the way he loved to attack the opponent, the way he loved to take advantage of every opportunity," Randolph said. "As a manager, he played the game the way I think it should be played."

    The $105 million Mets played like one of Martin's scrappy teams Monday in their 8-4 victory over the Houston Astros in the Shea Stadium opener.

    The Mets stole three bases and twice went from first to third on singles. No. 6 hitter Doug Mientkiewicz, the first baseman, laid down a sacrifice bunt. A two-out bunt single by Kaz Matsui scored another run.

    In the eighth inning, the tying run scored when Victor Diaz dashed home on a ball hit back to the pitcher.

    "I can't remember the last time we played a game like that," left fielder Cliff Floyd said. "We had them thinking about what we were going to do next. We controlled the tempo. It was a fun kind of game for us."

  • RHP Kris Benson (strained pectoral muscle) was cleared to start throwing and is hopeful of returning before the end of the month.

    He has targeted the April 29 game at Washington. Benson said he doesn't feel the strain any more but won't know for sure if it has healed until he plays long toss in the next day or two. He compared it to pulling a hamstring.

    Once he is cleared, Benson said he would need two bullpen sessions and a rehab start before returning to the majors.

    "Hopefully since I've only missed a week or 10 days of throwing, it won't set me back any further," he said. "But the longer I have to wait the longer it's going to take for me to get back."

  • RHP Pedro Martinez has few friends among fans of the Yankees, but the sellout crowd at Shea Stadium cheered him wildly when the team was introduced before Monday's home opener. Martinez tipped his cap twice and waved to the crowd. "I had a fun time," he said.

  • It has been a bad news/good news/bad news spring for Mike Cameron.

    The Mets right fielder initially was expected to miss at least a month of the regular season after undergoing cartilage surgery on his left wrist in December.

    But Cameron reported to spring training early and was swinging a bat within a week. He eventually played in six games and hit .333. It was thought then that he would be in the lineup for Opening Day.

    But with only three days left in spring training, Cameron developed tendinitis in his left wrist, perhaps the result of his extra work, and he hasn't played since. After sitting out the first three games of the season, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 1.

    "Maybe it's the best thing because if I can't swing right, I'm not much help to the team," said Cameron, who will report to the team complex in Florida for rehab work. "Hopefully the rest will help me."

    The Mets promoted Victor Diaz, who will platoon with left-handed hitting Eric Valent in right until Cameron returns.

    "I know he's had trouble with that wrist going back to last season," manager Willie Randolph said. "There's no sense in Cammy coming back until he's 100 percent."

    Cameron is making the switch from center field to right field this season in the wake of the Mets signing Carlos Beltran.

    "I need to be healthy to play right in Shea Stadium," Cameron said. "Lots of room out there."

    BY THE NUMBERS: 19 -- Number of home runs Aaron Heilman has allowed in 93 1/3 major league innings with the Mets.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "You feel it a little more because it's your team. Obviously, as a manager I'm responsible for what this team does." -- Manager Willie Randolph on the season-opening losing streak.

    ROSTER REPORT

       ROTATION:
       1. Pedro Martinez
       2. Tom Glavine
       3. Kris Benson
       4. Victor Zambrano
       5. Kaz Ishii
     
       BULLPEN:
       RHP Braden Looper (closer)
       RHP Mike DeJean
       LHP Felix Heredia
       LHP Dae-Sung Koo
       RHP Roberto Hernandez
       RHP Manny Aybar
       LHP Mike Matthews 
     
       LINEUP:
       1. SS Jose Reyes
       2. 2B Kazuo Matsui
       3. CF Carlos Beltran
       4. C Mike Piazza
       5. LF Cliff Floyd
       6. 1B Doug Mientkiewicz
       7. 3B David Wright
       8. RF Eric Valent/Victor Diaz
     
       RESERVES:
       C Ramon Castro
       INF Miguel Cairo
       INF Chris Woodward
       INF/OF Marlon Anderson

    MEDICAL WATCH:

    April 8: RF Mike Cameron was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 1, because of tendinitis in his left wrist.

    RHP Steve Trachsel underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back on March 19 and will miss at least three months.

    RHP Tyler Yates, who showed promise as a reliever, was lost for the season when he had shoulder surgery in February.

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