Notes: Padilla takes big step

Notes: Padilla making his case for bullpen role

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- For the second straight day, Duaner Sanchez showed up early. For the first time in a long time, Juan Padilla showed up late. In neither case could the Mets ask for more.

Sanchez spent time in camp rehabbing his surgically-repaired shoulder and repairing relationships with teammates who were no more pleased about his lateness than his manager was. And Padilla pitched an inning, putting his surgically-reconstructed right elbow to use in a game for the first time. Each was happy with how his day went.

Padilla, still hopeful of winning a position as a late man in the Mets' still-unstructured bullpen, faced five batters in the sixth inning, struck out two, walked one and allowed one hit. The results hardly mattered to him. The action grabbed him.

"Happy, excited, pleased, pumped," he said. "The adrenaline was flushing through me."

So much so that he reverted to his normal warmup routine -- pitches off the mound in the bullpen. He had played long toss before his four batting practice sessions.

"I wanted to make it as normal as possible," he said. "And it all worked."

His catcher, Ramon Castro, was more analytical.

"All his pitches seemed sharper than when I caught him [in 2005]," Castro said. "I told him. I think all he needs in to get his confidence back."

With Sanchez not expected to return before Opening Day and Guillermo Mota suspended for the first 50 games, Padilla's chances for immediate big-league duty are improved. The Mets are likely to carry seven relievers. Billy Wagner, Scott Schoenweis, Pedro Feliciano and Aaron Heilman are the definites. Ambiorix Burgos and Jorge Sosa are likelies, even though Sosa keeps hitting bats -- home run bats. He allowed another, to Timo Perez, on Sunday in a split-squad game against the Tigers in Lakeland. That's three in eight innings for the pitcher who allowed 30 in 118 innings last season. Sosa probably will fill the long-relief role.

Then there are Padilla, non-roster rookie Joe Smith and Jon Adkins. Willie Randolph likes Padilla's courage, everyone likes Smith's stuff and Adkins has no options remaining. But Adkins hasn't been effective thus far in exhibition games.

No blown saves here: Spring Training statistics are quite unofficial. And if winning and losing pitchers are not listed in the box score -- and they're not -- blown saves are not. Just the same, rookie Smith was stung by the imaginary blown save next his name in the box from the Mets' 11-inning, 5-5 tie with the Marlins. He was summoned to pitch in the eighth with runners on first and second and two out and the Mets leading 5-4.

A ground ball by Alejandro de Aza could have ended the inning, but it was misplayed by Luis Nieves. A run scored. Smith focused on the run. General manager Omar Minaya focused on the ground ball, saying, "He did his job."

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No one was too distressed by the Mets' three errors Sunday. Three of the Marlins' five runs were unearned. Two scored during their three-run third inning against Tom Glavine. The Mets' starter made his first four-inning appearance and was pleased with how his arm responded.

David Wright -- to left-center -- and Carlos Beltran -- to right, batting left-handed -- hit well-struck home runs against one-time Mets prospect Yusmeiro Petit.

Upon further review: Sometimes Rickey Henderson's lips are quicker than his first step used to be, and they speak a determination before his mind has weighed all the elements.

So it was Sunday, when the Mets' most accomplished Spring Training instructor began his 10-day tenure. Early in the day, Henderson said Jose Reyes could "challenge my record" and didn't identify which one he had in mind -- 130 stolen bases in a season or 1,406 career steals.

He tried to make an argument for each. He was unable to. By the time Henderson jogged through the parking lot following his shift, he had reconsidered.

"You have to give a player a vision," he said. "I told Rey [he refers to Reyes that way], he could get me. But no. That's not going to be. My record is there, and if he wants to break it, I'll help him try. I told him that's why I'm here. But no, it's going to be hard for anyone to break that."

Reyes has led the National League in steals each of the last two seasons, with 64 and 60. In doing so, he has fallen two short of the single-season record Henderson established in 1982. And his 64 two years ago fell short of Henderson's single-season totals in eight other years.

Moreover, Reyes turns 24 in June. He has stolen 156 bases in his career and could get to 200 by his birthday June 11. Henderson's 24th birthday came on Christmas 1982. He had stolen 319 bases by then.

Even unaware of that breakdown, Reyes wasn't issuing any challenge. Two years ago, he said he would shoot for 80. He knows better now. Whatever the reason -- be it improved defense against the steal, the preferences of the manager, whatever -- he knows.

"One hundred thirty," Reyes said. "How did he do that? That's so many."

Reyes is still a student in the Rickey School, so are Beltran and Lastings Milledge, and the club wants Henderson to work with Carlos Gomez, the fleet 21-year-old center fielder who may be swifte than Reyes. Gomez runs with his arm raised and well out from his sides -- with his elbows almost as high as his shoulders. Henderson hasn't seen Gomez's technique, but he has been asked to reduce Gomez's wasted movements.

That change may be more readily achieved than persuading Beltran to revise his thinking about running. Beltran said three weeks ago he hopes to steal more often this season, and Randolph said he was quite open to that. But Beltran also said, "I'd rather steal 20 to 25 and not get thrown out than steal 45 and get thrown out 20 times."

To which Henderson says: Why?

"He told me that, too," Henderson said. "I said, 'Why do you care about that?'"

But Beltran does to the degree that his career rate of success (87.6 percent) is the highest percentage in Major League history among players with at least 200 steals. He was thrown out just three times in 21 attempts last season.

"He said he wants to get to 40," Henderson said. "I told him, 'You go for 40, 45 and don't care.' He'll get there, and he won't get thrown out much -- you know, 10-15 times. That's OK if you help your team score a run the times you do make it."

Look who's back: Carlos Delgado returned to the lineup, having missed five days because of a stiff neck. He had a single in three at-bats. ... Mike Pelfrey returned to camp after a one-day absence caused by a head cold and sore throat.

Coach Howard Johnson returned, too, having missed the game Saturday because of the wedding of his 22-year-old daughter Shannon. Pelfrey got over his reason for absence more readily than HoJo.

"Very tough for me," Johnson said. "Just before I walked her down the aisle, we were there on the runner, and all those people were turned looking at us -- mostly at her. Wow! And it didn't get any easier when I gave her away or when he said, 'Drew [Middleton], you may kiss the bride.'

"I knew she still was my daughter, but things are different. We had watched 'Father of the Bride' a couple of days before the wedding. That didn't make it any easier."

Look who's missing: Paul Lo Duca's uncomfortable spring continues. He had missed time because of suspected food poisoning early in camp and later because of tenderness in his left wrist, which he took a cortisone shot for. Lo Duca didn't play Saturday because of severely upset stomach. And he didn't play Sunday either as he tried to regain his strength. He has 13 at-bats thus far, 15 fewer than team leader Shawn Green. ... Julio Franco said the condition of his left wrist was vastly improved -- he, too, had a cortisone injection -- and that he'll try to take batting practice Monday.

Active, at least semantically: Henderson is 48 -- the same age as Franco -- and hasn't played competitive baseball since 2004. But he isn't retired.

"I don't know what that means," he said. "They won't let me play."

Coming up: Chan Ho Park makes his second exhibition game start, and the Mets make their second trip in three days to Viera on Monday to play the Nationals. Billy Wagner and Aaron Heilman are to back him up. Shawn Hill is to throw the first pitch for the Nationals at 1:05 p.m. ET.

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