Mets cruise over Florida

February 26, 2009 7:25:00 PM PST
This new-look lineup for the New York Mets is off to an excellent start. Dropped from the leadoff spot to No. 3 in the order, Jose Reyes hit a grand slam, a solo homer and drove in six runs as the Mets routed the Florida Marlins 9-0 on Thursday.

"I didn't do anything different," Reyes said. "I just put my best swing on the ball and tried to go from there and tried to hit it hard.

"What can I say? I got some really good hits today, so let's see what happens in the next couple games. I have to enjoy this one because I felt very good today at the plate."

New York also scored nine runs in its spring training opener, beating Baltimore 9-3 on Wednesday. New leadoff man Luis Castillo was a star in that one, with four RBIs and two hits.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel is tweaking his batting order this spring to see if he wants to keep the changes for the regular season. The idea is to benefit Castillo, coming off an ineffective season, and give Reyes a chance to knock in more runs.

"We really think Jose is ready to really take it to the next level," Manuel said.

Carlos Beltran also homered for the Mets and drove in three runs.

Castillo opened the bottom of the first inning with a single, stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Oliver Perez, who batted second. Reyes drove in Castillo with a groundout.

Reyes' grand slam off Rick Vandenhurk gave New York a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning. His second homer, off ex-Met Willie Collazo, was a shot over the left-field wall in a three-run sixth.

The pitching staff protected the lead. Six pitchers combined to allow just three hits, starting with two scoreless innings from Perez.

The left-hander is scheduled to pitch in the World Baseball Classic next month, so the game marked his only start for the Mets before he leaves to join Team Mexico. Perez struck out three and walked one in two hitless innings and said he's ready for the WBC.

"I'm happy about the first outing," Perez said. "This year I feel better than any year because I was practicing a lot in Mexico. I was getting ready in December and when I got here, and right now I feel good."

Perez, like Reyes, found himself in an unfamiliar spot in the lineup. Manuel wanted to make sure his pitchers had a chance to bat, and Perez dropped down a successful sacrifice.

Marlins starter Chris Volstad didn't have as smooth an outing as Perez did, but ended it on a positive note after working out of a jam in the second inning when Jeremy Reed flied out with the bases loaded.

Volstad allowed one run and four hits with one strikeout and a walk in two innings.

"I was just a little inconsistent, but that goes with being the first start, I guess," Volstad said. "It's something to work on.

I threw a couple good curveballs, a couple good changeups. I just need to find that consistency and stay in the strike zone more often."

Notes: Mets ace Johan Santana was scratched from Friday morning's "B" game start against Italy because of tenderness in his pitching elbow. Manuel said the decision was precautionary because Santana has a history of feeling elbow soreness this time of year.

Santana remains on track to make his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday. ... Marlins utility man Alfredo Amezaga was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day. Amezaga tweaked his knee during an at-bat in Tuesday's intrasquad game at Roger Dean Stadium. ... Mets RHP Tim Redding (sore shoulder), a contender for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, had been scheduled to throw a bullpen session Thursday, but pitching coach Dan Warthen revised that plan. Redding will continue to long toss before stepping on a mound again in a few days. He is still listed as the March 8 starter.