NEW YORK -- Emphasizing that they signed Miguel Batista for this very purpose, the Mets on Friday announced that Batista will take Chris Schwinden's place in the rotation. Batista will be available out of the bullpen throughout this weekend, before starting Tuesday's game in Philadelphia.
That could last for any number of starts, with manager Terry Collins indicating he would like for Batista to stay in that role at least until Chris Young is ready to join the team.
"One of the things that we brought Miguel Batista in for was not just to be a bullpen guy, but if we needed a spot starter at any time, he was the guy to do it," Collins said. "We saw last year how effective he can be in that role."
The Mets optioned the struggling Schwinden to Triple-A Buffalo prior to Friday's game, activating utility man Vinny Rottino to take his place on the roster. Rottino's stay in New York will be temporary; once Batista moves out of the bullpen, the Mets will replace him with another reliever -- most likely D.J. Carrasco, who has moved up to Buffalo in his rehab from a sprained right ankle.
In the interim, the Mets will not be shy in using Batista out of the bullpen this weekend, if necessary.
"I'm too old for limitations," the 41-year-old Batista said. "What are you going to save me for? Making the Hall of Fame at the age of 50?"
The Mets had quite a few alternative options for their rotation, including giving Schwinden another chance or replacing him with Jeremy Hefner. But one option they did not consider was calling up Matt Harvey from Buffalo, where the top prospect has held his own at the top tier of the Minors.
Such a move certainly would have offered more upside than using Batista, who has posted a 6.92 ERA over one start and nine relief appearances this season. But the Mets have been adamant about keeping Harvey in the Minors until he is absolutely ready to join the big leagues for good.
"There's a fine line that you walk about certain players being ready," Collins said of Harvey in particular. "It's good for him, even the couple starts he's down there where he's gotten roughed up a little bit, to learn how to get out of it, learn how to deal with it, learn how to move past it. Because it's a bad feeling for the manager when you're up here, when one of your players already has doubt to whether he can play at this level."
Strawberry praises Wright, hopes he stays put
NEW YORK -- Former Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry was on hand prior to Friday's game, honoring David Wright for breaking his franchise RBI record. Wright passed Strawberry's mark of 733 RBIs late last month, moving into sole possession of the franchise lead.
"It's just good to see a player of his caliber play the way he's played over the years here," Strawberry said. "For him to break my RBI record, it just makes you think about how good you have to be, and how long you have to play and how healthy you have to be."
Since his retirement, Strawberry has been outspoken about his decision to leave the Mets as a free agent after the 1990 season, calling it one of the greatest regrets of his baseball career. Though he has not spoken with Wright about that in specific terms, he does hope the third baseman will remain in New York after his current contract expires.
"When you play in New York, there's no greater place to play," Strawberry said. "I hated the fact that I ever left. It probably would be a tough decision for him to go somewhere else to play, when you've been in one uniform for such a long period. ... So hopefully, David will stay around."
Mariano's injury won't change Mets' routine
NEW YORK -- A group of Mets pitchers stood in the outfield at Citi Field on Friday afternoon, shagging fly balls as they usually do. That will not change in the wake of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera's season-ending knee injury, which Mets manager Terry Collins called a "freaky" aberration.
"It is an everyday routine, but certainly freaky things happen and that's certainly a very, very sad time," Collins said. "This game is about the stars. It will always be about the players. And when you lose a guy of his caliber, the entire industry is hurt -- not just him. I just hope that he comes back from it and when he decides that he's done, that he goes out the way he wants to."
One of Rivera's teammates for five seasons with the Yankees, Darryl Strawberry, recalled seeing the closer bang into outfield walls "many a time" while shagging flies during batting practice.
"But he was younger then," Strawberry said. "So when you get a little older, you've got to be a little cautious about things.
"You look at the injury, and you just think, 'Wow, why would it have to happen like this?'" "When you get older, your body's not the same anymore. Anything can happen. You're not as strong as you used to be. It's an unfortunate injury for him, and you just have to see where it takes him and hope he gets healthy."
Strawberry was not surprised that Rivera vowed to return from his injury.
"He probably wants to come out, because he doesn't want it to end like this," Strawberry said. "Any player that's played as long as Mo has, and played the game as well as he has and pitched as well as he has, he doesn't want to probably end his career on a sour note. He didn't come in on a sour note, so I don't think he wants to go out on a sour note."
Shagging fly balls, Collins noted, has long been a pregame tradition for pitchers. Many use it as an alternative to running or throwing programs, keeping their bodies in shape over the long summer.
"He was doing something that he's done his whole career," said Mets reliever Tim Byrdak, who underwent a more minor knee operation earlier this spring. "And out of nowhere, to see something like that happen, it just stinks."
Rivera's countryman, Ruben Tejada, said that many in Panama were devastated by news of the closer's injury.
"In Panama, he's a hero," Tejada said. "He's like Rod Carew, he's a big guy there. Being from Panama, we all feel bad.
Mets players used Beastie Boys songs as their walk-up music Friday night, in honor of late band member and Mets fan Adam "MCA" Yauch. David Wright requested "Brass Monkey," a song he has used as his at-bat music in the past.
Lucas Duda and Mike Nickeas were both "much better" Friday, according to manager Terry Collins, after battling flu-like symptoms for most of this week. Duda was back in the starting lineup, batting cleanup and playing right field. He had made just one pinch-hit appearance over three games in Houston, and was a late scratch from Wednesday's starting lineup.
The Mets hosted their third annual Celiac Disease Awareness Night on Friday to benefit Raising Our Celiac Kids (R.O.C.K.) Long Island. Gluten-free concessions were available in specified areas at Citi Field, where SNY field reporter Kevin Burkhardt hosted a pregame party with current players.