Notes: Padilla's magic to be missed

Notes: Padilla's magic to be missed

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Juan Padilla will be leaving the Mets to pitch for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic in a few days, a selection which he considers a great honor.

He will be missed, and not just because he was one of New York's top relievers down the stretch last year.

Padilla's absence creates a void, because the 29-year-old right-hander has become the Mets' unofficial team magician, an amateur card-trick enthusiast who can always be counted on for entertainment with an ace up his sleeve.

"The reactions are always good," Padilla said. "They're just joking, but people have yelled at me, grabbed my head, told me to go away. I get called a lot of things."

Padilla said he first began fooling with cards in college, picking up a basic trick off the television. Before long, he was a full-fledged fanatic, learning from magazines, books and the Internet, while frequenting various magic shops in Puerto Rico.

"A few other people who do card tricks even traded off a few with me," Padilla said. "Now, I probably know about five of them. And from those, you can make variations and create about 20 tricks."

Padilla's otherwise non-descript set of playing cards, purportedly from the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., have become a most valuable sideshow in the clubhouse.

During the team's downtime, Jose Lima can be an engaging public speaker, using equipment to relay stories like a prop comic, but those who do not speak Spanish are excluded from the conversation.

When Padilla shuffles up and deals, everyone can participate -- the cards eliminate language barriers, allowing even Japanese pitcher Yusaku Iriki to take part this week.

In Padilla's first trick, Iriki pulled the three of hearts from a deck, examined it and stuffed it back into the stack. A complex shuffle followed, and as Padilla scattered the cards across the floor, a few remained in his right hand.

"Hit it," Padilla said.

Iriki complied, spraying all but one to the floor. Padilla flipped his wrist, revealing the face of the last remaining card: the three of hearts.

Iriki beamed, standing up to shake Padilla's hand.

But he wasn't done yet.

"One more, one more," Padilla called, bringing Iriki back to pick another card, which happened to be the king of diamonds.

After a confusing shuffling pattern -- executed flawlessly, even though all eyes attempted to snag any detail of the upcoming trick -- one card somehow wound up underneath Iriki's right shoe.

Sure enough, the royal mug of that king appeared, his red diamond intact.

"Might as well give him my wallet right now," someone said.

Some have tried to follow, but Padilla doesn't appear to be interested in creating a successor. Padilla said he sometimes pretends to teach teammates a trick, but while instructing them, he instead confuses them with yet another illusion.

"They never get it," Padilla said. "You see what I want you to see."

Meet the Mets: The Mets are ready to see live competition, even if it's against themselves. They'll warm up for their exhibition schedule with the first of two intrasquad games at Tradition Field on Tuesday.

Eighteen pitchers are scheduled to throw between two squads of Mets, with coaches Manny Acta and Sandy Alomar assigned to serve as managers.

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"It's always nice to get the guys out there moving around," manager Willie Randolph said. "You sit back and watch guys throw on the side, but the only way you can get a good feel is to get into game action."

Among the most notable hurlers scheduled to see mound time Tuesday: Billy Wagner, potential fifth starter Aaron Heilman and prospects Brian Bannister, John Maine and Henry Owens.

He's on Trach: Randolph originally named Steve Trachsel as one of the pitchers available to throw on Tuesday, a misunderstanding which would have been quite the odd arrangement.

Trachsel threw a batting practice session on Monday, proclaiming himself ready to pitch in the Mets' exhibition opener Thursday against the Cardinals at Jupiter.

"I feel good," Trachsel said. "My curveball's the last thing to come around, but my fastball and [changeup] are where they should be. I'm pretty much ready for business."

Trachsel, 35, had back surgery March 19, 2005, to repair a herniated disc, but he returned in August to make six starts for the Mets. Trachsel said he has not had any issues, calling it "a normal Spring Training."

Petey pitching? Pedro Martinez missed Monday's workout to tend to personal business. He was given permission for this day off -- his second in four days -- before camp began.

Martinez is slated to be back on the mound Tuesday, following his successful venture into throwing off the slope last week. Randolph said it is possible Martinez could attempt to throw from the pitching rubber on Tuesday.

Fire away: It will not gather as much attention as Martinez's side session, but pitching prospect Matt Lindstrom is slated to also be back on the hill Tuesday.

Lindstrom, 26, has not thrown off a mound since being shut down in the Arizona Fall League in October. Though he was throwing in the mid-90's, touching 100 mph now and again, Lindstrom felt numbing pain in his pitching arm that made his control erratic.

A bone scan performed in New York revealed a stress fracture of his humerus, with Lindstrom instructed to wait three months before throwing again.

Healthy and pain-free, Lindstrom is ready to get back on track as one of the Mets' top relief prospects. He feels he has something to prove, although his numbers as a reliever for Double-A Binghamton (2-1, 3.12 ERA) were far better than his stats as a starter (0-4, 8.18 ERA).

"I can not wait," Lindstrom said. "I feel the best I ever have in my professional career."

Caught at short: Second baseman Anderson Hernandez had a chance to move back to his natural side of the bag on Monday, taking ground balls as a shortstop.

Once considered the Detroit Tigers' top defensive Minor League shortstop, the 23-year-old Hernandez was converted to a full-time second baseman last season.

"He'll probably end up one day playing second base for us, possibly," Randolph said. "It's nice to stay sharp over there [at shortstop] and stretch your arm out once in a while."

Hernandez, who had 18 at-bats with the Mets last September, said he thinks of himself as a second baseman now. In a pinch, however, he said he'd be ready to fill in behind Jose Reyes at short.

"You never know," Hernandez said. "I could handle shortstop. I've been there all my life. If I had to, I could."

Bryan Hoch is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.