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Mets dealing with Pagan's mental lapses

Mets dealing with Pagan's lapses

PHILADELPHIA -- The lineup Jerry Manuel created for the Mets' first game of their four-game series against the Phillies on Friday night strongly resembled those he was forced to use before Carlos Beltran made his return Tuesday night -- no Beltran and not too much power.

Because of rain that threatened to delay the start of the game and saturated the Citizens Bank Park turf, Manuel opted not to play Beltran, so as not to subject his center fielder to slippery conditions. No surprise there. With Beltran reduced to spectator status, Manuel had Angel Pagan stationed in center field and assigned to the leadoff position. To some, Pagan's presence was something of a surprise; not that he was batting leadoff or playing center, but that he playing anywhere.

Some managers use the lineup card as a means of communication, and some players privately wondered whether Manuel would communicate some degree of displeasure to Pagan by omitting him from the lineup against the Phillies. Pagan had produced another flawed performance in the Mets' 13-4 loss to the Marlins on Thursday night. He was removed from the bases twice because of mindless baserunning. And those mistakes extended an already too long rap sheet that dates to Pagan's days with the Cubs.

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But Manuel isn't inclined to react that way. Indeed, before the game Friday, the Mets manager said, "I'd rather be shown up than have my player shown up. I'd rather deal with it in an appropriate way."

To Manuel, appropriate means privately. He gave no indication of it, but chances are he already addressed the two baserunning gaffes with Pagan -- explaining, teaching and not ranting. He acknowledged Pagan's repeated mistakes and said "the lapses have come at a bad time," as if there were a good time to lose track of the outs while on base. But he calmly discussed his way of handling persistent mental mistakes.

"I'm not inclined to ... if a player I know is giving me an effort and I know the effort in genuine," Manuel said, "I'm not inclined to take him out. ... But if [the player's poor play] is in the spirit of rebellion, then I have to address it."

The Mets had no problem with Pagan's attitude or work ethic. There is no rebelliousness in him. At the same time though, Pagan continues to make plays that frustrate the staff and fellow players. His inability to bunt Tuesday night was cited. The two baserunning misplays were conspicuous. And Pagan has made a number of ill-advised or poorly executed throws. The mistakes have drawn as much attention as his hitting.

Pagan began the game Friday with a .313 batting average and a .508 slugging percentage in 262 at-bats. His on-base average in 286 plate appearances was .355. A team that has had such problems with run production can ill afford to turn away from a player with hitting skills. But Pagan seemingly is undermining his chance to win playing time and/or a role for next season.

Manuel lifted a thick loose-leaf binder from his desk and said -- perhaps ominously -- "All this stuff goes into the book."

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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