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Manuel shuffles lineup Saturday

Manuel shuffles lineup Saturday

NEW YORK -- A flip here, a swap there, and Mets manager Jerry Manuel stepped back to admire his handiwork.

"That's the lineup," Manuel said. "That's the one that's going to get it done."

The changes were both simple in their scope and direct in their intentions. Manuel moved Carlos Delgado, his most dangerous home run threat, from fourth to third on Saturday afternoon, dropping David Wright down to the cleanup spot. Then he boosted Carlos Beltran up to second in the order, moving Daniel Murphy to fifth, and alternating lefties and righties down the remainder of the card.

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Only Jose Reyes remained in his customary spot, batting leadoff, which allowed Manuel to put his four most established hitters in the lineup's top four spots.

"Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Wright -- those are guys that have got to get it done," Manuel said. "And you've got to give them as many opportunities as you can to get it done. It's about putting them front and center as much as you can."

It's mainly about scoring runs, actually, which the Mets have struggled to do consistently in recent games. Despite averaging a respectable 4.7 runs per game over the past week, the Mets have been unable to create additional offense after scoring early -- a chronic problem throughout the latter half of this season.

So Manuel is using his personnel in altogether new positions. Delgado hasn't hit third in the lineup since the waning days of 2006, when the Mets already had the National League East title clinched. Wright hasn't hit fourth since August of last year, in the middle of one of the most torrid stretches of his life. And Murphy has never hit fifth in his brief career, though he did spend time there last season with Class A St. Lucie.

"I just like to hit," Murphy said. "As often as possible."

The presence of Ramon Castro, batting eighth, gives the lineup a bit more pop. Regular catcher Brian Schneider, nursing upper back pain, could have played, but Manuel said he was more interested in teaming Castro and Johan Santana, who "work well together."

And that's all secondary to the top of the lineup, which now includes as much thump as the Mets could possibly have mustered -- at a time when they need it most.

"If you're a good hitter, you can hit anywhere," Manuel said. "When they call your name, play your little hip-hop music, you've got to be ready to hit."

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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