Last game - Orioles 6, Mets 5: Baltimore put up four runs in the ninth inning against Bartolome Fortunato to steal a Grapefruit League victory, the Mets’ ninth loss against 11 wins.
Victor Zambrano made his first spring start for the Mets after pitching 2-2/3 innings in the World Baseball Classic, and he was sharp, allowing one earned run (a home run to Melvin Mora in the third inning) and six hits over five innings, walking none.
Former Met Kris Benson started for Baltimore and allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits over four innings. Carlos Beltran doubled twice in three at-bats and Endy Chavez contributed a two-run double in the sixth inning.
Show stealer: Day 1 of Rickey Henderson’s tutelage at camp went off without a hitch, as most of the Mets – even 47-year-old Julio Franco, who is four months older than the all-time stolen base leader – gathered around to absorb any knowledge Rickey was dispensing.
“You can never stop learning in this game,” Franco said.
Henderson’s presence during the final 11 days of camp will, the team hopes, largely help Jose Reyes become a better all-around leadoff hitter. Henderson said Reyes is already halfway there.
“He can steal as many as he wants to steal,” Henderson said.
But Henderson can help in other areas as well, with Carlos Beltran on the map as well as young players like Anderson Hernandez and Lastings Milledge.
Not to worry: Billy Wagner laughed and told reporters, tongue-in-cheek, that his swollen middle finger was “definitely not career threatening.”
But it’s enough to keep Wagner out of Spring Training action for a few days, perhaps as long as a week. The official diagnosis is tendon sheath stiffness, although Wagner is still thought to be on track for Opening Day.
Keeping up with the news: The Mets are keeping tabs on the situation developing with the Nationals’ Alfonso Soriano, even though the buzz is that the team is not seriously interested in acquiring him.
Soriano moved into dangerous waters this week when he refused to go to left field in an exhibition game, disobeying manager Frank Robinson’s orders.
He could face Major League Baseball’s disqualified list, which would strip him of his uniform and pay for the rest of 2006 – the length of his contract with Washington - or the Nationals could just wind up trading him to a team like the Mets.
The Mets have been linked to Soriano in the past, but insist they’re fine with Kaz Matsui and Anderson Hernandez as their second base candidates – even with Matsui scheduled to miss Opening Day with a right knee injury.
Meanwhile, Mets people like Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph sound rather defensive in their Soriano comments, as quoted by the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger.
In Newsday, Jon Heyman notes that the Mets would listen to a Soriano offer only if the Nationals practically gave him away.
On the back fields: Minor league exhibition games are underway, and Binghamton Mets manager Juan Samuel is pleased by what he’s seen from his squad, he told the Press & Sun-Bulletin.
So far, Corey Ragsdale, Jonathan Slack, Bobby Malek and Brett Harper have impressed the B-Mets skipper.
16-year-old phenom Jesus Montero, who impressed last week at Yankees camp, had a painful experience with the Mets. The Venezuelan top prospect was clobbered by Jamar Hill’s swing and writhed on the ground in pain, but concerns that he had suffered a broken arm turned out to be false.
Coming up: The Mets are under the lights at Tradition Field, with Aaron Heilman starting against the Dodgers’ Brett Tomko. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.