Notes: Sudden twist has Oliver at Shea
Veteran lefty makes unexpected return to the big leagues
NEW YORK -- He called it "retirement mode," and he had settled into it. Clearly visible on the personal horizon of Darren Oliver was horizontal living. He was most readily reached last summer by dialing 1-800-hammock, not that any club came calling, offering him work.
His name was called Monday afternoon, though, as the 2006 Mets were taking their places on the first-base line for Opening Day introductions. His number now -- "for the time being" should be the qualifier, perhaps -- is 27. The affiliation: Mets. The job description: left-handed reliever, even left-handed specialist. The reaction: Really?
Who would have thunk it? Oliver, gone from the big leagues last season, his 35th birthday already a speck in the rear-view mirror. And he never had been all that tough on left-handed hitters. Yet, there he was on the Mets' Opening Day roster.
Even when the Mets made their final cuts Friday afternoon, Oliver was an unlikely inclusion. Indeed, he had been among the cuts, the 26th or 27th man on a 25-man roster, and he didn't even know it. He had left camp to fly to California to be with his mother, who was undergoing surgery.
Later that day, the Mets told Pedro Feliciano that he had made the team as the left-handed specialist. Oliver -- if he accepted the assignment -- would be a Norfolk Tide.
But the injury to Victor Zambrano the same day forced the Mets to revise their thinking, and eventually, the club decided that Zambrano's left hamstring strain could create a need for more pitching.
"You never know," general manager Omar Minaya said. "If that need came up, we thought Darren could give us more innings than Pedro."
Hence the change. Oliver said Monday that he was unaware of the reasoning.
"I was too busy to think about it," he said. "But I was there till the last day, and I think I pitched well enough to make the team."
Order and disorder: Jose Reyes, batting leadoff and playing shortstop, and Carlos Beltran, batting third and playing center field, were the only position players with the same assignments for Opening Day 2006 and 2005. ... A catcher batting second on Opening Day has happened three times in Mets history -- Paul Lo Duca on Monday, Todd Hundley in 1994 and Choo Choo Coleman in 1963. ...
The catcher had batted cleanup in each of the preceding seven Opening Day lineups -- all of them featuring Mike Piazza. The only instances in franchise history in which Mets players retained the same defensive and batting order assignments for at least six consecutive Opening Day games involved Keith Hernandez, batting third and playing first base (1984-1989), Rey Ordonez, playing shortstop and batting eighth (1996-2002), and of course, Tom Seaver, pitching and batting ninth (1968-1977).
Another run: Just like Jimmy Rollins, Tom Glavine has a streak that has likewise carried over from last season. With two hits Monday, Glavine has three straight two-hit games. He has six hits in his most recent nine at-bats.
TV agreement: SportsNet New York and DIRECTV announced a long-term agreement to provide the new regional sports network featuring the Mets to DIRECTV customers. The new network becomes available Wednesday to DIRECTV customers.
DIRECTV offers SNY as part of its SPORTS Pack, which is available a la carte throughout the United States to DIRECTV customers. The network will debut on channel 625. The agreement also allows DIRECTV to deliver to its high-definition (HD) customers an HD version of select home Mets games produced by SNY.
Mets history, April 3: The Mets played Opening Day games twice previously on this date. They defeated the Cardinals, 8-4, at Shea in 1989 with Dwight Gooden pitching. Howard Johnson hit a home run against "cousin" Todd Worrell. ... The team opened in Atlanta in 2001, intent on making a statement against the opponent it had missed in its march to the World Series the previous October. The Mets defeated the Braves, 6-4, in 10 innings, on the second of a pair of two-run home runs by Robin Ventura. The first came in the eighth against John Rocker, the second against Kerry Ligtenberg.
Mets history, April 4: The 1988 Mets established a club record for home runs in one game by hitting six on Opening Day. Two of them came from Darryl Strawberry in a 10-6 victory in Montreal that raised questions about the effects of the air conditioning in Olympic Stadium. Strawberry's second home run came in the seventh inning against left-hander Randy St. Claire and struck the ring atop the ballpark. The only other player to hit a ball off the ring also was a Met. Dave Kingman did it in the second inning on June 2, 1977, against Dan Warthen, now the Dodgers' pitching coach. Despite the protests of rookie manager Joe Torre, the ball was ruled a double.
Coming up: After Opening Day, the Mets have another opening -- the big-league debut of Brian Bannister. In less than eight weeks, he has gone from being the possible starter in Norfolk's first game to starting the Mets' second game, in between Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez. Including Bannister, the combined Major League victory total of the pitchers starting the Mets' first three games is 472.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.