Mets sign Maine, avoiding arbitration
Right-hander agrees to one-year, $2.6 million contract
NEW YORK -- When he managed the Mets in the '90s, Dallas Green annually railed about the appearance of hunting magazines in the clubhouse. To him, they indicated that his players had conceded the season and were looking forward to an autumn in the woods rather than an October in the playoffs.
Contrast comes now that Spring Training has a prominent place on the horizon. In the Fredericksburg, Va., home of John Maine, half-packed suitcases and boxes have appeared, and piles of warm-weather clothing have formed almost on their own. Suitcases, boxes and piles are the antithesis of the magazines, indications of a man's mind-set. Maine has given up in the winter. He is more that ready to flee the chill and embrace Florida's more temperate climate. Moreover, he responds to "How are you, John?" with "Bored to death. I want this time to be over."
The Mets' newest millionaire needs his baseball fix. Maine will serve as the host to a small Super Bowl gathering on Sunday.
"Otherwise, I'd have boxes all over the place by now," he said on Friday.
And then Maine will resume packing and begin his personal countdown. Mets pitchers and catchers have been invited to begin training camp on Feb. 15. He intends to be into his second week by then.
Told of the benefits of train travel by catcher Brian Schneider, Maine, his luggage, vehicle and probably some of his recently increased expendable income, will be on the Auto Train on Thursday -- Virginia to Orlando, Fla., in 17 hours.
Maine's sense of tedium was interrupted on Thursday night, when his agent informed him that he had avoided a salary-arbitration showdown with his employer. The Mets and their 27-year-old right-handed pitcher had settled on a $2.6 million salary for 2009. Maine had proposed $3 million and the club $2.2 million. The settlement matched the midpoint and delighted the pitcher.
"I understand the business part of it -- club wants to pay less, agent wants more," Maine said. "I didn't want the headache. I just said, 'Take care of it.'"
The Mets renewed Maine's contract at $450,000 last year, so, as he said on Thursday, "I was going to get a big raise either way. ... It's a lot of money, and I appreciate my situation, getting paid this much to pitch, especially at a time when a lot of people are struggling. No complaints from me -- win or lose ... or settle. Now I just get ready for Spring Training."
In past Februarys, the drive from home to Port St. Lucie, Fla., has required 15 hours and more concentration than will be asked of Maine next week. He'll save rubber and himself, and be ready to dedicate the conserved energy in preparation for his fourth season with the Mets.
Maine said he is "absolutely able to do everything," a measure of his recovery from September surgery to repair in his right shoulder.
"No limitations," he said. "I've already thrown off a mound five or six times."
Two days after the Mets' season ended so disappointingly, an arthroscopic procedure performed by Mets physician Dr. David Altchek removed a lesion that had caused Maine's 2008 season to end on Aug. 23.
Maine made 25 starts, some compromised and abbreviated because of the pain in his right shoulder, and he pitched merely 140 innings, 51 fewer than he threw in 2007.
His 10-8 record and 4.18 ERA last season and his work in '07 put his two-year figures at 25-18 with a 4.02 ERA in 57 starts. Because his shoulder problem isn't chronic and because he is young, the Mets have few doubts about Maine. He, Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey are considered rotation certainties. The club still is hoping to fill a vacancy in the rotation, and will have Tim Redding, Freddy Garcia, Jonathon Niese competing for the fifth spot.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.