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Slider, not deal, a Maine concern

Contract not a Maine concern

JUPITER, Fla. -- John Maine had reason to be upset on Tuesday afternoon, when a flat slider prevented him from pitching as effectively as he would have liked. He also had reason to be upset on Tuesday morning, when salary talks officially stalled and the Mets renewed Maine's contract for the upcoming season.

The slider he can fix. The contract, he can't -- at least not yet -- though his attitude toward that situation was the same.

"I'm not really worried about it," Maine said. "It's still good money. I'll be able to pay off my cell phone bill."

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And then some. Exercising a right that clubs reserve with all unsigned players who have between zero and three years of Major League service time, the Mets renewed Maine's contract after the two sides couldn't agree to terms on a new one-year deal.

The process is a reality of baseball economics. When teams avoid signing their youngest players to multiyear deals -- and in most situations, there's no reason for a fiscally-responsible team to even explore that route -- they then attempt to agree with those players on a series of one-year deals. Usually, the numbers are low. Players don't generally earn their first significant raise until they hit three years of service time and become eligible for arbitration.

In Maine's case, he and the Mets simply couldn't agree to a deal. That's not necessarily a sign of unhappiness, as it was with MVP candidate Prince Fielder and the Brewers last week. For perspective, recent years have seen the Mets also renew the contracts of top young players David Wright and Aaron Heilman. Maine's contract was the only one renewed this season -- the Mets agreed to terms with their 12 other eligible players, including Ruben Gotay, Joe Smith, Steven Register and Angel Pagan.

Because Maine didn't agree to a deal, the Mets reserved a right to renew his contract at any price they pleased, provided they paid at least the Major League minimum and they didn't cut his salary by more than 20 percent. Maine made $391,000 last year.

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The Mets did not announce terms of his new deal.

If the situation bothered Maine, he didn't show it during his second Grapefruit League start against the Marlins. Throwing 48 pitches over three innings -- and then another 12 in the bullpen -- Maine allowed his lone run on Jose Castillo's solo homer in the first. Maine said he felt more in command than he did during his first spring outing, though the prospect of harnessing his slider continues to vex him.

"I think I'm just a hair off, still," Maine said. "My slider wasn't all that great. I couldn't put guys away, and that's when they got the hits off me. I didn't have a put-away pitch, but that will come in a couple more starts."

Anthony DiComo 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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