Notes: Matsui loses grip on job

Notes: Matsui loses grip on job

MIAMI -- Mets manager Willie Randolph told Kazuo Matsui on Sunday that, until further notice, Matsui has lost his grip on the club's second base job. Randolph still views Matsui as the best bet to regain the job, but the manager clearly wants more production at the position.

Jose Valentin started at second in Sunday's series finale with the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium. Chris Woodward figures to get some starts there, and Matsui, whose average is down to .215, will be mixed with those two.

"I will go with what I feel and see," Randolph said. "I'm not going to say it's a strict platoon. I'm going to find a way to match up guys that I think is best for the team. When I look at the lineup and who's pitching, I'm going to make a decision daily on what I want to do."

Randolph said he was brought to this decision because of his long-held conviction that players who produce should be rewarded and those who don't suffer the consequences.

"I've told Kaz that he needs to relax and just let the game come to him," the manager said.

Randolph emphasized that he doesn't particularly view Valentin or Woodward as potential regulars, just as players quite capable of contributing when the matchup is favorable.

"You don't want to fall into that," Randolph said of making either a regular. "Listen, if they played well, they'd play. But they're not really everyday guys. Woody can play, but you still have to spell him. Same with Val. As far as Kaz, I'm going to have to get him going again a little bit."

Randolph said the Mets have not yet considered promoting either Anderson Hernandez, who began the season as the second base starter, or Jeff Keppinger from the Minors, because they feel they have players here now who can get the job done.

"We might revisit that idea later on," he said.

Matsui said Randolph told him that when he gets hot again, he will regain the starting job.

"All I've got to do right now is just concentrate on a streak again," he said through an interpreter. "I've got to get my swing back."

Of his slump, he said, "If there's one thing I can point to it would be that I'm jumping at the ball."

Randolph also benched right fielder Xavier Nady, whose average has dipped to .270. Endy Chavez started in his spot.

"X is still trying to find his everyday rhythm," Randolph said.

Said Nady: "I'll probably look at some videos. It's not necessarily mechanics. I think it's just timing and pitch selection more than anything. I've got to swing at strikes rather than helping pitchers."

Trachsel fine: Steve Trachsel said the small bone that popped out in his upper back on Tuesday was put back in place the same night and he has had no trouble with it. Thus, Trachsel said he is ready to pitch on Monday against the Diamondbacks.

The right-hander said he could have pitched on Sunday, but that it was better to get Orlando Hernandez involved quickly. Plus, the Mets didn't want Hernandez facing his former team right away, which is what would have happened had his debut been put back to Monday.

"This works out fine," Trachsel said. "I haven't really changed any of my routine."

Bell returns to old style: Heath Bell considers 2005 a wasted season. The Mets reliever is back to pitching his way and he'll accept whatever consequences come from that decision.

The Mets tinkered with Bell's pitching mechanics after the 2004 season -- lengthening his stride in an effort to make his delivery smoother. As Bell says bluntly, "It didn't work." His earned run average ballooned from 3.36 in '04 to 5.65 last season.

"I've always pitched with a short stride," he said. "That's what feels comfortable for me."

Bell, who came into pro baseball as an undrafted free agent, said the experiment likely never would have happened had he been more of a touted prospect.

"If I was a first rounder, they probably would have said, 'That's just the way he pitches. Leave him alone.' But because I was an undrafted guy, it was easy to begin experimenting with me."

In Bell's mind, the change in mechanics went so poorly that it almost cost him a chance to continue as a Major Leaguer. And it emboldened him to go back to the way he knows how to pitch.

"I've decided to learn from other people but also listen to myself," he said. "I'm willing to accept whatever happens now that I feel comfortable on the mound again."

Bell said he usually throws in the 90-95 mph range, but can reach back and hit 96-97 if the occasion warrants. In the Minors, playing for Norfolk in a closing role, he said he would "put everything on the table for one inning."

Now, with the Mets, he is more likely to be used in middle relief, where he could go three innings or more at a clip.

Bell was promoted to the Mets on May 24, after an earlier five-day stint with the club. He's only pitched 4 2/3 innings and he believes his 5.79 ERA will come down markedly over time.

"I'm not saying I pace myself," he said of his new role. "But you learn to turn it up a notch when you have to."

Coming up: Trachsel will open a six-game homestand for the Mets against the Diamondbacks in the 7:10 p.m. ET game at Shea Stadium. He'll face fellow right-hander Claudio Vargas.

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