Notes: Gotay going great as starter
Second baseman thriving in new role as everyday player
NEW YORK -- It's been a tough summer for Jose Valentin. The Mets' second baseman has been persistently plagued by a gimpy right knee, an injury that won't fully be healed without offseason surgery. So when Valentin went down again this week with a bruised right hand, there were few smiles in the Mets clubhouse.
Until the offense improved.
Ruben Gotay, trying to shake the knock that he's not cut out to be an everyday player, has caught fire playing every day in lieu of Valentin. Six hits in 13 at-bats since the All-Star break have boosted Gotay's average to .353 and made it awfully hard for manager Willie Randolph to play anyone else.
"The way we've been struggling offensively the last six weeks, that's an easy one," Randolph said. "We're going to obviously put guys out there to help you win ballgames."
Gotay was doing that even before the break, and he's now racked up 13 hits -- almost half of his season total -- in his last 30 at-bats. In doing so, he's bullied his way consistently into the lineup, ahead of primary backup Damion Easley, who has been limited to pinch-hitting duties.
That outburst could have implications beyond this season. With Valentin set to hit free agency this offseason, the Mets could elect to stick with Gotay full time. He's only 24 years old, but has been surrounded by an air of skepticism after Kansas City was willing to part with him for nothing more than Minor League infielder Jeff Keppinger last winter.
Gotay's certainly proving the Royals wrong. Expected to be just a temporary fix when Valentin first hit the disabled list in April, his hot hitting kept him on the roster then, and it could do even more for him now, though the Mets are approaching that prospect with cautious optimism.
"He's an intriguing player, but a lot of the young guys we have on our team, they're just babies," Randolph said. "They have a little success, that's always nice. But if you start off waxing superlatives on them, it's too early."
Line drive in the box score: Shawn Green's night on Saturday wasn't as good as it looked in print -- two hits, a run scored and an RBI -- but it also wasn't as shaky as it looked in person.
Green drove in the tying run of a 2-1 win in the sixth with a bloop RBI single into shallow right field. He then dunked a soft double down the left-field line in the eighth, later scoring the winning run.
"Those are actually good signs when you break your bat and get hits," Green said. "It means you're not pulling off the ball. I've had a couple of those in the last few days, so hopefully, that will get me going in the right direction."
Willie aching: Randolph's recovery from right shoulder surgery over the All-Star break hasn't been as easy as he had hoped.
The Mets manager said he's in almost constant pain -- especially when lying down -- and hasn't been able to sleep much since the procedure. Randolph, who has been sporting a sling on his right arm, sent pitching coach Rick Peterson to the mound to make a mid-inning pitching change on Friday.
"It's been a tough week, man," Randolph said. "I've had a couple knee operations -- three, as a matter of fact -- but this shoulder pain is nothing I expected at all. It's not very pleasant."
Popular guys: Saturday night's game bumped the Mets over two million in attendance for the 10th straight year. The Mets reached the milestone in their 45th game, four fewer than they needed last season.
A Zephyr again: Mike Pelfrey's second stint of the season with the Mets was decidedly better than his first, but it ended in the similar fashion.
The Mets optioned Pelfrey to Triple-A New Orleans after Sunday's game, clearing the space on the roster needed to activate starter Jorge Sosa from the disabled list. Pelfrey had become the newest member of the Mets bullpen, but will now return to starting full-time in the Minors after just one relief appearance in the Majors.
"I kind of knew they'd make a move, and I kind of figured it was going to be me," Pelfrey said. "It kind of stung the very first time, but after a while, you get used to it."
Down on the farm: Brian Lawrence tossed seven innings of one-run ball in leading Triple-A New Orleans over Albuquerque, 8-2, on Saturday. Second baseman Anderson Hernandez had three hits and scored three runs. ... Right-hander Kevin Mulvey, the team's second-round selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, struck out 11 in eight scoreless innings of Double-A Binghamton's 1-0 win at Connecticut. Mulvey now has a 3.18 ERA in 18 starts with Binghamton.
Coming up: The Mets head to San Diego on Monday for the first of seven games in Southern California. Sosa will come off the disabled list to start the 10:05 p.m. ET opener opposite veteran lefty David Wells. The Mets play three against the Padres before heading north to Los Angeles for four more in their last western swing of the season.
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.