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Minors report: Hurlers focus on hitting

Minors report: Hurlers focus on hitting

Hot topic: It came up in the course of a normal, "how can we improve" conversation, and to a degree, because John Maine was not particularly efficient with a bat in his hands when he came from the American League last year. No matter the impetus, the Mets are emphasizing the pitchers' offense.

"We've always worked at it, but I think we're stressing it a little more throughout the organization," said coach Randy Neimann.

"You can help yourself, you can help your team. Look how it helps [Tom] Glavine."

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Glavine isn't an outstanding hitter -- not in the class of Mike Hampton or Dontrelle Willis -- but he is quite effective with bunting and putting the ball in play. That's what the Mets are looking for -- the ability to handle the bats and execute in situations.

The Mets have Jorge Sosa, who hit three home runs last year, and Billy Wagner is an adept bunter, though his skills rarely are put to use. They want all pitchers, at all levels to increase the emphasis on self-help.

On the move: Lino Urdaneta pitched the ninth inning, struck out two and earned the save Friday when the Mets defeated the Cardinals. Right-handed and a rookie -- though he is 27 -- Urdaneta impresses everyone with the velocity he has retained despite undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in September 2005.

Names in the game: Neimann, a reliever with the 1986 World Series champion Mets, is in his 20th year as a member of the Mets' coaching staff. He serves as rehabilitation pitching coordinator, which means he monitors the activities and progress of Pedro Martinez and Duaner Sanchez. He was to have filled that role the last two years, but the death of Rick Mahler in 2005 and the departure of Dan Warthan last year had Neimann handling pitching coach and rehab responsibilities.

They're No. 1: Lastings Milledge, selected in the first round in 2003, always has turned heads with his quick bat and powerful arm. This spring, teammates and staff members are impressed by how open, engaging and conversational Milledge is. As general manager Omar Minaya reminds everybody, "He's still only 21."

Class of '06: Right-handed pitcher Kevin Mulvey, the first player the Mets selected in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, has produced mixed results thus far. Mulvey, 21, was impressive in his appearance in the intrasquad game, but he allowed four runs in two innings against the Cardinals on Friday.

What they're saying: "You can tell he knows he's good. That's good. Other teams can read that. That's a plus for him." -- Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca, on rookie sidearm pitcher Joe Smith

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

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