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Heilman's Turn to Impress

Mike SteffanosWednesday, March 15, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 8 - Nationals 5
Although Brian Bannister is enjoying an extremely strong spring, Aaron Heilman is not conceding the race for the fifth starter slot. Heilman was the favorite going into camp, and he has done nothing to change that. He pitched 4 shutout innings this afternoon, allowing 3 hits, striking out 3 and walking none.

Juan Perez, one of the candidates for the lefty specialist, and prospect Henry Owens followed Heilman and did not fare as well. Both gave up sole home runs. Bartolome Fortunato contributed a scoreless frame to the cause, but Mitch Wylie got tattooed in the ninth for 3 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks.

The Mets produced most of their offense late in the game against lesser pitchers. Victor Diaz and catcher Sandy Martinez had home runs, while minor-leaguer Chris Basak had 2 hits and 3 RBIs. Lastings Milledge went 1-2 and scored a pair of runs.

The Mets will face the Braves tomorrow night at home in St. Lucie. This will be SNY's inaugural game, for those of you lucky enough to have SNY.

Game Recap and Box Score on Mets.com

Mets.com: Cliff's Okay
Marty Noble offers the following report on Cliff Floyd's medical condition:

Cliff Floyd is all right. That's not the proper medical phrasing, but it is the baseball bottom line. The preliminarily-diagnosed kidney problem that removed a degree of the smile from this camp last week has been offset by test results that are far more encouraging.

The problem evidently isn't a problem after all. That is the personal bottom line.

So the Floyd family exhaled Wednesday morning. Local nephrologist Dr. Zeidy Roche told the Mets left fielder, "I have good news," and explained that the results of tests administered last week were significantly different and that Floyd needn't fret about the health of his kidney.

Nice to have news coming out of camp that isn't all gloom and doom...

Mets.com: Speaking of Good News
If you still haven't reached your good news quota for the day as a Mets fan, check out Marty Noble's story on Pedro facing live batters for the first time this spring. He's still way behind schedule, but this was a positive step.

Gotham Baseball: The Pitching Situation
Mike McGann has an interesting look at the pitching situations yet to be resolved in camp. Of particular interest:

Write this down: either Heilman or Zambrano will end up in the bullpen, to start the season, and the smart money is on Zambrano headed to the pen. That leaves the battle for the fifth starter to Lima or Iriki.

I'd give that edge to Lima right now for a couple of reasons. He's looked pretty good; the four-run inning the other day came when he was tired after pitching three scoreless innings. Mets general manager Omar Minaya is hoping that he can catch lighting in a bottle with Lima -- a guy who pitches much better in the National League than the American League for some reason and seems to alternate good years with bad. Based on both those trends, Lima has a puncher's chance of putting up solid numbers in 2006...plus Minaya likes what he brings to the locker room.

According to McGann, the thinking with Brian Bannister is the Mets would like him to have more than the 6 AAA starts he accumulated last season, and Lima might get a shot as a starter, with Bannister in reserve in case he falls short. Interesting, but I want to see a lot more out of Lima than I have so far before I'm comfortable with him starting any games.

My personal thinking on Lima is that the best-case scenario might be for him to be a touch below average as a starter. If that's the case, and Bannister is already at that point, why waste those starts on Lima when you have a young, promising guy to whom you can give that same experience. It reminds me some of last season with Ishii over Jae Seo. I'm also somewhat skeptical that Victor Zambrano can come out of the pen throwing enough strikes as a reliever. This will be an interesting situation to watch.

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