Notes: Oliver's changing role

Notes: Oliver's changing role

NEW YORK -- Even before the injury to setup man Duaner Sanchez forced Willie Randolph to redo the bullpen, the manager spoke of using Darren Oliver in late-game situations, mostly as a means of preparing him for postseason duty, but also with a sense of testing the veteran left-hander who has prospered in long relief this season.

The plan backfired on Friday night, when Oliver entered the game in the seventh inning with the score tied at 3-3 and surrendered a home run to his first batter -- a left-handed batter -- David Dellucci. The Phillies scored in the ninth as well, when Ryan Howard, also a left-handed hitter, hit his 37th home run, against southpaw Pedro Feliciano.

The assignment Friday marked the second time this season Oliver has been asked to pitch later than the sixth inning with the score tied or with a margin of one run either way. In each instance he allowed a run.

A rundown of Oliver's seven "seventh or later" appearances follows:

April 7: In the Mets' fourth game, Oliver makes his first appearance and starts the ninth with the Mets leading, 9-3, against the Marlins in Miami. Three up, three down.

May 18: Oliver is summoned to start the eighth inning in St. Louis with the Mets trailing, 6-3. Three up, three down.

June 3: With the Mets trailing the Giants, 5-4, at Shea, Oliver starts and completes the ninth and allows a run on a single by Barry Bonds.

June 6: Oliver starts the eighth in Los Angeles vs. the Dodgers with the Mets trailing by three runs. He allows two hits and a walk but no runs and completes the inning.

June 20: Oliver works the ninth against the Reds at Shea with the Mets leading, 9-2. He faces four batters, allowing a hit.

June 21: With the Mets trailing the Reds by four at home, Oliver is assigned the seventh inning. Again, he faces four batters and allows one hit.

Aug. 4: With the Mets and Phillies tied at 3, Oliver is given the seventh inning. His first batter, David Dellucci, a left-handed hitter, provides the decisive run in what becomes a 5-3 Phillies victory.

Catching up: With Randolph wanting to rest Paul Lo Duca and Ramon Castro assigned to the disabled list, the Mets' catcher on Saturday was Mike DiFelice. Tom Glavine -- Saturday's starter -- considers the veteran backstop an excellent receiver.

Only Lo Duca (78) and Castro (30) had started games before Saturday. Eli Marrero had caught three innings.

This seems like as a good a time as any to examine the catchers' work. The Mets' ERA with Lo Duca catching was 4.10 in 695 1/3 innings through Friday; with Castro, it was was 4.15 in 286 1/3 innings. With Marrero, no runs scored in the three frames.

This date in Mets history -- Aug. 6: In 1975, the Mets dismissed Yogi Berra as manager and appointed Roy McMillan as his interim replacement. The Mets had a winning record (56-53) and just had won eight of 13 games when Berra, the manager since replacing the late Gil Hodges in spring training 1972, was fired.

In 1986, the Mets released George Foster one day after he made accusations of the club having made personnel decisions based on race. Lee Mazzilli replaced Foster on the roster, four years to the day after he was traded by the Rangers to the Yankees.

Two years later, the Mets beat the Pirates, 5-3, in Pittsburgh with the assistance of three balks in one inning by reliever Jim Gott. The victory was the fifth of six the Mets produced in a seven-game sequence against the Pirates in 10 days. The Pirates fell to third place, seven games behind the Mets, before Rick Reed pitched eight shutout innings in a 1-0 Pirates victory Aug. 8.

On this date last year, Jae Seo (7 1/3 innings), Dae Sung Koo, Roberto Hernandez and Braden Looper combined for a four-hitter in a 2-0 victory against the Cubs at Shea. Seo produced a 4-0 record and 1.78 ERA in five starts in August.

Coming up: John Maine will make a start on nine days' rest in the series finale against the Phillies at 8:05 p.m. ET. Maine (1-3) hasn't allowed a run in his last 17 innings (two starts and one inning of relief). Rookie right-hander Scott Mathieson (1-2) starts for the Phillies and faces the Mets for the first time.

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