Notes: Piazza remains productive

Notes: Piazza remains productive

SAN DIEGO -- The Baseball Writers' Association of America, the electorate for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, doesn't include a candidate on its HOF ballot until five years after the player's retirement, as a way of affording the voters time to gain perspective on the candidate's career.

No one, Mike Piazza included, knows about Piazza and his retirement. It wouldn't come as a shock if the Mets catcher ended his career at the end of this season. And no one should be stunned if he didn't.

In Piazza's case, additional perspective will probably do nothing but enhance his Hall of Fame candidacy. Some Sunday five summers after his retirement, Piazza will be in that lovely burg in rural New York, accepting congratulations.

Just in case Piazza hasn't done enough to this point, there are these uncelebrated numbers that underscore his unofficial distinction as "the best hitting catcher of all-time."

The "old, dying mule," as he likes to call himself in these days of decline, "still can kick." Even this season, his run production is comparable to that of any catcher in the big leagues. Piazza, however, continues to be self-deprecating. He -- along with anyone around the game -- knows he isn't the hitter he once was. But consider this:

Through Monday, Piazza has 52 RBIs as a catcher (and three others as a DH or pinch-hitter). Only Victor Martinez of the Indians has a comparable RBI total as a catcher -- also 52. And Martinez had 61 more plate appearances than Piazza.

Piazza has increased his production dramatically in the last month-plus. He had averaged 11.8 RBIs per 100 plate appearances through July 5, but since the following day, he has averaged 27.3 per 100.

Piazza's rate of production has increased as his playing time has decreased. In his case, less is more. Including three games in early June when his bruised wrist was an issue, Piazza was excluded from the lineup 15 times through the end of June. The number was nine in July alone, though some of the "rests" were attributable to his sore back. And he didn't start two games in the first week of August.

Mets manager Willie Randolph said he expects to rest Piazza here on Thursday -- "unless he goes 4-for-4 each game and feels good." And Piazza may not start on Saturday in Los Angeles, either. But Randolph makes a point of saying the contribution of Ramon Castro has no influence on his decision about Piazza playing.

Please be seated: Doug Mientkiewicz wishes he could accommodate. But his severely bruised back won't allow it. The first baseman can't run, and now, he can't play, either -- even if his back cooperates. The Mets placed Mientkiewicz on the disabled list on Tuesday.

The decision was made retroactive to Thursday, the day after his rolling block on Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks denied a double play and led to Mientkiewicz's second DL stint of the season. Weeks inadvertently kicked Mientkiewicz on the right side of his back at his waist.

Since then, Mientkiewicz has developed swelling and severe bruising and fluid in the area of impact and down his leg. He said he still has numbness in the areas, but that he has been assured the problem isn't structural.

"If this was a playoff game," Mientkiewicz said, "I couldn't play."

He described the pain as "having a big bag of boiling-hot water on my back," adding that "the doctor said it's a very big bruise," and, "I can't put a belt on."

Mientkiewicz said the flight to San Diego from New York on Sunday night was the "most uncomfortable, miserable five hours of my life." But that misery won't compare to what he will endure if he must return to Port St. Lucie, where he spent time during his last DL stint.

"If they send me there, I'm not coming back," he said. "See you in Spring Training [next season]."

Matsui back -- sort of: With Mientkiewicz down, the Mets added Kaz Matsui to the 25-man roster, but the Mets' Opening Day second baseman is not guaranteed a spot in the lineup every day.

"If he gets in and plays well, that will dictate his playing time," Randolph said of Matsui. The job currently belongs to Miguel Cairo, who has surged lately at the plate.

Matsui singled and scored a run in his return to action in the sixth inning of Tuesday's game.

Even when Randolph acknowledged on Tuesday that he still was considering giving Jose Reyes a day off -- the shortstop has started every game since May 4 and has been in the starting lineup in all but two games -- Randolph made it clear he would use Chris Woodward over Matsui to play shortstop.

Not that Matsui can't play. He gave it a "thumbs up" when asked how he felt, saying through his interpreter, "I'll use the opportunity given me. I'll do what I can do when the opportunities are given me. ... Personal statistics are not much of a concern to me."

Matsui said he chooses to look forward.

"What happened in the last year and a half can't be changed. I accept it. I concern myself with what will happen," he said.

Randolph did indicate that Matsui may play in Thursday's game, and given his preference to grant Jose Reyes some rest, the manager would be more likely to start Matsui at second base than shortstop.

Mets history -- Aug. 10: Tug McGraw struck out nine in four relief innings to preserve a 6-4 Mets victory against the Padres on this date in 1971. ... Four years later, reliever Ken Sanders was forced to leave the game without throwing a pitch after a routine throw back from catcher John Stearns glanced off his glove and struck him above the right eye as he warmed up at Shea Stadium. The game didn't get much better; the Mets lost, 2-1, to the Dodgers. ... On this date in 1980, Mark Bomback allowed six hits in 8 2/3 innings in a 4-1 victory in St. Louis. ... On Aug. 10, 1992, Vince Coleman established a still-standing club record with five walks in one game, which lasted 16 innings. Dwight Gooden recorded a hit as a pinch-hitter in the Mets' 4-2 loss to the Pirates. ... On this date five years later, John Olerud hit two home runs in the Mets' 11-8 loss to the Astros.

On deck: Kris Benson has made two poor starts -- pitching to an 0-1 record and 9.58 ERA -- since his eight shutout innings against the Dodgers at Shea on July 24, his lone victory in his last eight starts. Before beating the Dodgers for his seventh victory, Benson allowed one run in seven innings against the Padres, also at Shea. As he will be on Wednesday night, Benson (7-4, 3.72 ERA) was matched against Brian Lawrence (6-11, 4.43 ERA) in that July 19 start. Each allowed a solo home run -- Cliff Floyd and Khalil Greene went deep -- in that game, a 3-1 Mets victory decided by Chris Woodward's walk-off home run in the 11th inning.

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