Notes: Smith has eventful drive in

Notes: Smith has eventful drive in

NEW YORK -- Joe Smith pitched for the Brooklyn Cyclones last season, so New York isn't new to him. Driving in the city is a new and wonderful experience for him, though. And it may turn out to one that doesn't last too long for the Mets rookie reliever.

Smith made his maiden voyage to Shea Stadium on Monday morning, following John Maine in his truck from Long Island City. At one point, Maine turned right, and Smith was about to, but a woman turning right on to the street he was on was tentative to complete her turn. So she did what any New Yorker would do. She leaned on the horn.

"It's 8:20 in the morning, and an old lady is blowing her horn at me," he said smiling and understanding just how far New York is from his Ohio.

Smith didn't have his truck with him last year. "But I had it shipped up [from Spring Training]," he said. "I might have it shipped back."

Scooter Delgado: Carlos Delgado wasn't pleased with his swing, and his memory of Cole Hamels, the Phillies starting pitcher, was that, "He was tough." So when Delgado led of the bottom of the first inning and saw the usual overshift in place Monday, he -- drum roll -- he bunted.

Honest. The Mets cleanup hitter bunted.

"I think it's the first time in my career I got it down," Delgado said. "I tried it once last year but fouled it off. But I saw all the open space. I'd been considering it. But I'd been considering it for 13 years."

Heilman unavailable: The Mets began their opening home game Monday with a pitching staff of merely 11. Aaron Heilman was, in his own words, "unavailable" and "emergency-use only."

Heilman had thrown 41 pitches in the Mets' Sunday afternoon game in Atlanta, far more than he usually throws. He was summoned in the seventh inning when the Mets needed one out, and he pitched the eighth when the Braves scored the tying and decisive runs in their 3-2 victory.

"Forty-five pretty much says I'm not in there today," he said.

But it was "only" 41.

"Five. One," Heilman said. "It's pretty inconsequential if the first number's four."

Just a suggestion: Long before Jose Reyes was the Mets' No. 7, Ed Kranepool was a fan favorite and a Mets No. 7. He was known as "Ed-die, Ed-die" in the stands, but in the clubhouse he was "Krane."

So with all the construction of Citi Field under way beyond the outfield wall of Shea and the huge cranes so conspicuous, someone ought to hang a No. 7 off one of the cranes. And when the Yankees play at Shea in May, hang a No. 2 on another.

Unwanted memory: Ron Darling was the winning pitcher in the Mets' first victory under then-manager Davey Johnson in 1984. Darling helped shut out the Reds in Cincinnati, but he didn't fare quite so well when he made his first home start at Shea in the Mets' home opener. Darling allowed six runs -- four on a grand slam by Gary Carter -- in four innings against the Expos.

When Darling left the field after the top of the fourth inning, a fan in the upper deck threw a grapefruit at him, prompting this from him, "I'm glad we don't play our Spring Training games in the Cactus League."

'Baby, You're the greatest': Darling recently received his Emmy for color commentary. "Getting the award was cool," he said. "It was great to be up there with [fellow nominees] Jim Kaat and John Davidson. But what made it even better was to be up there with Trixie." Jane Kean, Mrs. Ed Norton, was on the dais and introduced the winner.

Welcome back: The Mets "Welcome Home" dinner, staged at the Hilton New York on Monday night, is an annual event that has produced one piece of unforgettable history -- or at least a piece of spoken history that ought not be forgotten.

Todd Kalas, now working Devil Rays pregame and postgame shows, was working Mets games in 1993, the season veteran pitcher Frank Tanana began with Mets.

Tanana, who turned 40 in the summer of '93, no longer intimidated hitters with the fastball that had made him such a force with the Angels earlier in his career. In fact, he was almost exclusively an offspeed pitcher by 1993. So Kalas introduced him at the dinner as "The man who threw 90 in the '70s and now throws 70 in the '90s."

Role reversal: Keith Hernandez threw out the ceremonial first pitch Monday, with former teammate Howard Johnson serving as his catcher. Concerned he might bounce his throw, Hernandez appeared to overcompensate. His pitch was to Johnson's right and quite high. It used to be that Hernandez saved Johnson's potential throwing errors.

Sounds of silence: Moises Alou has requested that no music is played before his at-bats. Silence is golden.

Locker updates: With Steve Trachsel gone, Heilman has inherited the locker with the greatest distinction in the Mets' home clubhouse -- the one assigned to Tom Seaver from 1967 until his trade in June 1977 and again in 1983 when Seaver returned.

Pat Zachry and Darling were assigned that locker between Seaver's two tours of duty. Since 1983, Darling, David Cone, John Franco, Trachsel and now Heilman have been assiged there. Aside from Franco, all were starters. Heilman may not get no closer to starting than living from the locker.

Alou has been assigned the RBIs locker, the one that belonged to Gary Carter and, most recently, Cliff Floyd. There can't be many RBIs left in it. "I'll look around for some," Alou said.

Before Floyd, Armando Benitez lived from that locker, which suggests Alou's offense may pick up in the ninth inning.

On April 10 in Mets history: Jon Matlack pitched 26 shutouts in 199 starts with the Mets, including one against the Expos on this date in 1976. Matlack averaged 3.92 shutouts per 30 starts in his Mets career, more per 30 starts than Seaver (3.34), Dwight Gooden (2.28) or Jerry Koosman (2.25). ... Steve and Ken Henderson hit two-run home runs against Paul Reuschel in the eighth inning in the Mets' 6-0 victory against the Cubs at Shea Stadium in 1978. Craig Swan, who would lead the league in ERA that year, pitched his only shutout of the season. ... Swan was the winning pitcher and Rick Reuschel the loser in the Mets' 5-2 Opening Day victory against the Cubs on this date in 1980.

Two years ago on April 10, the Mets won for the first time under Willie Randolph with Pedro Martinez pitching a two-hitter against the Braves in Atlanta. The 6-1 victory, achieved despite 15 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings by Braves starter John Smoltz, followed five straight losses and initiated a six-game winning streak.

Adverb-ly challenged: Hernandez acknowledges he never quite grasped the concept of adverbs as a student. But more recently, his wife Kai, talked him through it. Now he acknowledges her help. "I'm the Rick Peterson of adverbs," he says.

Coming up: After an off-day Tuesday, the Mets and Phillies resume their series Wednesday night at 7:10 p.m. ET. Oliver Perez makes his second start of the season for the Mets. Adam Eaton is the Phillies starter.

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