Notes: Cairo sits as Matsui returns

Notes: Cairo sits as Matsui returns

MIAMI -- "You can observe a lot by watching" is the wisdom (and intended wit) of Yogi Berra. So Willie Randolph watches and observes. And perhaps he waits, too. The Mets manager reinserted Kaz Matsui in the lineup on Sunday -- at second base, and in second place in the batting order -- at the cost of sitting Miguel Cairo.

Of course, Randolph doesn't look at it that way. Cairo is what he is, the manager says. The understudy, the reserve, the utilityman.

Cairo had started seven successive games for the Mets, the last six at second while Matsui was dealing with his neck strain. And Cairo had played well -- 12 hits, at least one in each game, and six runs scored. His defense was fine as well.

Randolph no longer uses the suggestive phrasing -- "Kaz is my second baseman for now" -- he used in April, when Shea Stadium regularly called for Cairo.

Cairo is a talented player who, Randolph acknowledges, could start for another team. And he is a valuable bench player, able to satisfy any number of late-inning needs, something Matsui cannot do.

A long time ago, another manager, Joe Torre, played Elliott Maddox regularly at third base rather than Joel Youngblood, even though Youngblood might have provided slightly more as a regular. Maddox couldn't come off the bench as well, Torre said. So, in effect, Youngblood was punished for being versatile and/or more valuable.

Randolph didn't put it in such terms on Sunday, when he discussed reinserting Matsui and sitting Cairo. But he did note how Cairo understood the selflessness necessary for a team to succeed.

Beltran runs: Carlos Beltran tested his seemingly healed right quad by running in the outfield before the game. The plan remains for him to resume playing on Tuesday if his leg responds well. He has had one pinch-hitting appearance since he injured his leg on May 21.

Catching up: When Kaz Ishii beat the Marlins on Saturday, he became the first Mets pitcher to beat Florida starter Dontrelle Willis. Not only had Willis won each of his first five decisions against the Mets, the Mets had lost both of his no-decisions.

Now, the level of dominance Willis has achieved is one thing, but his having his way with the Mets fell quite short of the way Sandy Koufax once owned the Mets. Those Mets were barely out of their franchise infancy when Koufax was the best pitcher on the planet, and it showed.

Koufax won his first 13 decisions against Casey Stengel's Amazin's. Not until a rookie named Frank Edwin McGraw Jr. asserted himself at Shea Stadium on Aug. 26, 1965, did the Mets finally overcome the future Hall of Famer. Koufax hardly was battered. He allowed three runs, two earned, in seven innings. The starter who outpitched him, who went by the nickname "Tug," pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed eight hits, two runs, one walk and five strikeouts.

Mets history: May 30 -- Joe Frazier, the pecan farmer from Oklahoma, is dismissed as manager and replaced by the Brooklyn-born son of a policeman. Joe Torre, who had turned down a chance to be traded to the Yankees the previous summer because he knew a managerial appointing might be in the offing, takes over and guides the team through a bleak five-year period in which they finished last or next to last each season. Torre was a player-manager at first. Sixteen days into his tenure, the Mets trade Tom Seaver.

In 1988, Kevin Elster belts a game-winning solo home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Mets to a 5-4 victory over Los Angeles. The Mets beat the Dodgers 10 times in 11 regular-season games that season, then lost to them in seven games in the National League Championship Series.

On deck: Monday is an off day for the Mets -- remember Memorial Day doubleheaders? -- which they need after playing 10 straight days in high-profile games against the Yankees, Braves and Marlins. Their next game, on Tuesday night at Shea Stadium, is against the Diamondbacks, with Kris Benson facing off against Brad Halsey.

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.