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Kaz Gets to Visit His Happy Place for One Magical Night

Mike SteffanosFriday, April 21, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

As reported by your tired but happy correspondent last evening, Kaz Matsui's return to the Mets last night was a rousing success. I've never been a Matsui basher, and figured he might be the best all-around choice for the second base job this season before he got hurt. Still, when that happened, I chalked it up to the dark cloud that has been following him around since his arrival in 2004, and figured I'd probably never see him again.

As amazing as it was to see him accomplish what he did at the plate and in the field, what was really kind of cool was to see how much fun he was having. Julio Franco seems to have adopted Kaz as some sort of little brother, giving Kaz a big hug after Matsui's inside-the-park homer, and receiving a grateful massage after Franco's historic eighth inning home run baled out Kaz' failure to move a runner to third.

Things haven't broken Matsui's way very often in New York. The part of me that's always been a sucker for the underdog would love to see him turn everything around this year and improbably fulfill the promise that led the Mets to pay him $8 million a year. The skeptic in me says that we've seen this before from Kaz -- that amazing moment that makes it look like things are going his way, only to have that dark cloud find him again and bring forth that chorus of boos from the seats. You know what, though -- if nothing else, it was just kind of cool to see that big smile on his face last night, as he basked in the glow of the gratitude of his teammates and the type of performance that has mostly eluded him for his stay in New York.

New York Post: Beltran getting MRI today
Mark Hale reports that Carlos Beltran, who left last nigth's game when his hamstring tightened on him, will undergo an MRI today to determine the seriousness of the injury.

With the left-handed, light-hitting Endy Chavez as the only other CF on the roster, there is a lot of speculation that Lastings Milledge, who is off to a hot start in AAA Norfolk, would get a call up if Beltran had to go on the DL. I know some won't be in favor of this move, preferring to let Milledge develop in Norfolk for a while and recall Victor Diaz. Diaz isn't going to play center, and neither is Xavier Nady, who has played the position -- extremely poorly. Any Mets fans who witnessed his misadventures in Shea's CF when the Padres were in New York last year doesn't want to see him there in 2006.

Woodward played a few games in CF last season, so he's a possibility to platoon with Chavez, I guess. Still, if the point is to have a farm system that can provide emergency help to the big club, it would seem to be a natural to see what Milledge, a natural CF who did not look overmatched in major-league camp this spring, might provide. All this is moot, of course, until we see what happens with Beltran.

Newsday: Julio Franco
David Lennon quotes Julio Franco on what he felt was the true significance of his history making home run:

It means a lot because we won the ballgame. We went ahead on the scoreboard. That's all that matters. If I hit a home run and we lose, it's still a record. But that's not what we're here for.

Franco promises this won't be the last home run he hits, and says he wants to hit one when he's in his 50s.

Newsday: Pedro Martinez
Lennon also offers up a great feature on how the Mets' ace is dealing with trying to pitch effectively with his problem toe. Lennon quotes Martinez on the ongoing struggle:

I try not to think about it, but the foot reminds me that I'm hurt. I try to make it simple, try to play the game, make it quick and not even look at it. If I'm in the heat of the game, I can just put it away. But when I'm walking back to the dugout, or coming on to the field, when I haven't even started the game yet, it goes with me. My mind's not occupied then.

Lennon also reports that Cuban Alay Soler, who dropped a huge bomb in the spring after coming in with a lot of fanfare, is making progress at Class A St. Lucie.

Inside Pitch Online (Subscription): Fast Track
In the lastest edition of Inside Pitch's Mets Minor League Notebook, Patrick Teale offers the following on top prospect Mike Pelfrey:

Rumor has it that RHP Mike Pelfrey will be promoted to AA-Binghamton very soon, possibly as soon as the early part of next week. Still ailing from a swollen ankle, Pelfrey will head north once the swelling subsides and the speculation is that Binghamton could be his final minor league stop before joining the Mets later this season.

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