06/25/08 8:45 PM ET
Manuel implements new warmup
Mets manager trying to improve team unity, fundamentals
By Jon Blau / MLB.com
Every player was summoned outside for drills at 4 p.m. ET sharp. Pitchers left their long-toss sessions to mingle with position players, as they raced off the mound and covered first base. All the while, the clubhouse television was rarely on and the lockers were oddly empty.
Manager Jerry Manuel sought to shake up the foundation of a team that steadily underwhelmed him. From now on, he said, the pitchers and position players will all stretch at the same time. It's mainly a measure to enhance team unity, but Manuel also hopes some work on the fundamentals will lay the groundwork for better baseball.
Along the way, some of the team's pillars will actually be leftover ones from the Willie Randolph regime, as Manuel said the former Mets manager had planned on making some of the changes himself.
"We are going to put in some different, say, pickoff moves, those kinds of things," Manuel said. "These are things we all had planned before, before Willie left and everything. ... We've been on four West Coast trips, and we are just starting to get our feet under it."
Most of the focus seemed to be on the offense, which produced 12 hits, but only two runs, in the first two games of the Seattle series -- with eight of those knocks coming in Tuesday's 11-0 loss. Manuel mentioned the Mets' hitting as the first domino to fall, because he said he's of the belief that putting a ball in play breathes life into the running game, which then picks up defensive play in the field.
And some of it, Manuel says, can be very mechanical. For example, he's trying to implement signals for players that will tell them which counts will have them swinging at specific pitches in particular areas of the plate, shying away from becoming solely freewheelers in the box.
"What we have to do is program it," Manuel said. "We have talked about it, but we haven't programmed it."
For about 90 minutes on Wednesday, every Met spent the pregame warmup period outside. Everybody took batting practice, while infielders were sporadically drilled with ground balls. Luis Castillo was still a topic of conversation for Manuel, who admires his second baseman's willingness to play despite soreness along his left side (hip and quadriceps).
With 76 games complete in this season, Manuel can only do so much to fulfill his promise for change. The bats were still silent before Wednesday's game, the pitching had been erratic, and the lineup has limited room for shuffling. He referred to Wednesday as time for "housecleaning."
"We are just trying to get some fundamentals out the way, trying to set a foundation for how we are going to do things going forth," Manuel said. "This is really the only day we have a chance to do that."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.