Notes: Piazza, Mets reconnect
Catcher tries to dowplay first meeting with former team
SAN DIEGO -- The changes are conspicuous -- facial hair, a smaller body, a smaller batting average. He's No. 33 on your scorecard. The only 31 in his new identity is concealed in his batting average -- .231. And not that well concealed. He's catching still and batting cleanup again, which tells you more about the Padres than it does about him.
The large "P" on his cap stands for Padres, not Piazza. And that identity will fade. In the case of Mike Piazza, San Diego is little more than a suburb of Cooperstown. What he does here in his time with the Padres won't open the door to the Hall of Fame any farther.
When the door does swing open, and a plaque with Piazza's likeness is affixed to the wall, his identity will revert. His cap will have two interlocking letters on it, the abbreviation for the big city in which he made his greatest baseball mark.
"I'd like it to be New York," Piazza said.
With neither apology to nor mention of Los Angeles, he provided a simple answer to a simple question. It's not his call, he acknowledged that. But it is his preference.
"I had my bite of the apple," he said. And lest he be misunderstood, he said, "Not the Big Apple."
It would have worked either way.
New York "will always be a part of me," Piazza said.
Piazza spoke Thursday before he was to play against the Mets for the first time since Aug. 21, 1997. The Mets had come calling, ready to play their first California series, ready to confront their past. Piazza hadn't been counting the days, but he was aware, just as he is aware that the other half of the home-and-home happens Aug. 8-10.
He said all the right things. He almost always did.
"I wish them well when they're not playing us," Piazza said. "I never had a negative sentiment."
Piazza admitted to an anxiousness and nervousness, signs that he still cares."I've tried to downplay this," he said.
He hadn't succeeded.
Piazza Park: One frivolous question asked of Piazza Thursday: "Have you thought about the name rights for the Mets' new stadium?"
His laughing response: "Let me get the checkbook out."
A whole lot better: The Mets were whole again Thursday night -- well, as whole as they can be with Anderson Hernandez assigned to the disabled list. When they engaged the Padres, Cliff Floyd and Carlos Beltran were back in the lineup after missing two and four games respectively. Neither felt 100 percent better; indeed, Beltran said his right leg felt heavy after taking two rounds of batting practice. He seemed inclined not to play. But he was in the lineup, here in the park where he and Mike Cameron collided last August.
Beltran was removed from Thursday's game before the bottom of the fifth inning because of discomfort in his right hamstring.
The date in Mets history -- April 21: This was the '62 Mets. They had lost their first seven games and been outhit in each. But on this date at Forbes Field, Casey's boys amassed 13 hits, four more than the Pirates. And Pittsburgh committed four errors. The final score was Pirates 8, Mets 4. ... A year later came unprecedented success. The Mets swept the Braves in a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds, winning the first game, 8-5, on a grand slam in the eighth inning by Jim Hickman, and the second game, 9-2, with Hickman hitting a two-run home run in the eighth. They swept four doubleheaders in the first 170 games, three of them against the Braves. The two wins in 1963 completed a sweep of a four-game series. Until that sweep, the Mets hadn't won four straight games -- regardless of opponent.
On this date in 1972, Tom Seaver pitched a nine-strikeout, one-walk, four-hit (all singles) shutout to beat the Cubs at Shea Stadium. The catchers (Randy Hundley and Jerry Grote) and first basemen (Joe Pepitone and Ed Kranepool) accounted for 39 of the 51 putouts.
Three switch-hitters -- Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray and Todd Hundley -- hit home runs in a 10-0 victory against the Giants at Shea in 1993.
Sound familiar? An unearned run enabled the Expos to beat Tom Glavine, 2-1, on this date in 2004. The Mets' loss to the Braves on Wednesday was the fifth 2-1 loss Glavine has suffered in three-plus seasons with the Mets. He has lost 1-0 once. Glavine has won 1-0 or 2-1 twice.
The making of the '86 Mets: A building block game happened on this date. With the Pirates leading, 4-2, after 7 1/2 innings and Howard Johnson available to pinch-hit, Mets manager Davey Johnson allowed Ray Knight to bat against right-handed reliever Cecilio Guante. Knight hit a two-run homer -- he later said it "changes everything" -- and the Mets won, 6-5, in the ninth on Gary Carter's two-run single. The victory was the fourth in a streak of 11 that put the Mets five games ahead of the second-place Expos.
Coming up: Rookie Brian Bannister will get to pitch in his type of climate -- warmer. The ball won't feel so slick to him Friday night when he faces the Padres. Bannister will start opposite Woody Williams, with the first pitch scheduled for 10:05 p.m. ET.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.