Mailbag: Cameron in center field?

Mailbag: Cameron in center field?

I went to all three Mets games against the Yankees and watched most of the Mets games after that. It looks like Mike Cameron is a better center fielder than Carlos Beltran. Shouldn't Willie Randolph play his best defensive outfielder in center? -- Rick Meyer, Fort Lee, N.J.

Only if it benefits the team. Cameron may be a better center fielder than Beltran, although after his subpar defensive season in 2004, it wasn't clear. He has played well during Beltran's absence, and he does play shallower. But Cameron also has a better arm and should be in right field.

Do the Mets plan to keep only one left-handed reliever? -- S. Fogel, Pittsburgh, Pa.

They probably will promote a second left-handed reliever or send down Dae-Sung Koo and replace him with another lefty. The candidates are Royce Ring and Mike Matthews, each of whom has been on the Major League roster this season, and Steve Colyer, the pitcher they acquired from the Tigers late in Spring Training for Matt Ginter. Coyler has the best arm, Matthews has the most experience and Ring may have the most potential of the three. Colyer is a relative unknown to pitching coach Rick Peterson, and control has been an issue.

It always seemed like the Mets didn't get along with each in other years. Is that still the case now that they've changed the team so much? -- Marie O'Neill, Atlanta, Ga.

Not at all. The Mets may not order a table for 25 when they dine. But they are a far cry from the old Red Sox teams -- 25 players, 25 cabs, according to Frank Duffy, the Sox's former shortstop.

They seem to fit together, and it seems they try to fit together. With John Franco gone, there is no recognized leader in the clubhouse. But different players have assumed different roles. And there are several players -- notably Doug Mientkiewicz, David Wright and Carlos Beltran -- who seem to touch everyone with, respectively, their perseverance, respect for the game and professionalism.

Ramon Castro provides humor and Mike Cameron provides energy. And the youth of Wright, Jose Reyes and Victor Diaz is good for the veterans.

Cameron and Cliff Floyd treat Wright like their little brother. Wright always makes a point of involving the three Asian players. There is universal respect for Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez. Marlon Anderson is quiet and effective. And the bench players -- Anderson, Miguel Cairo and Chris Woodward are treated like regulars.

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Are the Mets going to try to sign Mike Piazza for next season? -- J.Ortiz, Bethesda, Md.

They haven't said, but it isn't likely. And Piazza says he hasn't yet begun to weigh the pros and cons of retirement.

How long before Miguel Cairo plays second base every day? -- A. Danto, Bridgewater, N.J.

It could happen. If it does, it probably will come after Kaz Matsui has played for a few more weeks. He just came back from a strained neck, and Willie Randolph still feels he is learning about the Japanese second baseman.

One thing appears to work against Cairo -- his versatility and ability to produce off the bench. Matsui doesn't have that. So if he were to be replaced by Cairo in the regular lineup, the bench would be diminished. Matsui would have almost no role.

What uniform numbers did Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry wear as a rookies? -- Greg Michaels, Newton, Mass.

Gooden wore No. 64 in Spring Training and No. 16 when he made his big league debut in 1984. Strawberry, a rookie in 1983, wore 18 throughout his time with the Mets.

Who will be the Mets' DH when they play in Oakland and Seattle? -- Ashley Forgett, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Probably Mike Piazza. But if he is, Ramon Castro or Mike DiFelice -- whoever the understudy catcher is then -- will have to start. That would leave Willie Randolph with no catcher in reserve. He would lose his DH if he started Piazza as the DH and then moved him behind the plate.

What is the Mets' record for triples? -- Trevor Patrick, Stoors, Conn.

Lance Johnson had 21 triples in 1996. The career record for a Met is 62, by Mookie Wilson.

Why is Aaron Heilman not used more? He seemed to be coming around as a starter. Now you never see him. -- Damon Mari, Roanoke, Va.

It's not clear. But Willie Randolph still is learning about him and isn't sure what role best fits Heilman or whether Heilman should be limited to one role. He says Heilman can do everything, but he isn't going to use him in short relief.

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