05/30/09 1:13 PM ET
Mets give Wright a rest against Marlins
Sheffield, Castillo join third baseman on bench Saturday
By Tim Britton / MLB.com
Manager Jerry Manuel said his third baseman just needed a day to rest after starting the team's first 47 games this season.
"I thought, 'We're playing well, the other guys are swinging well, so I could afford to give him a day,'" Manuel said.
Manuel had initially planned to rest Wright next week in Pittsburgh before deciding to give him a break with Florida ace Josh Johnson on the mound.
"This guy's very tough," Manuel said of Johnson. "Today's a good day to show [Wright] some love."
Wright struggled throughout April with strikeouts, fanning 27 times in 21 games. That pace had slowed in May until recently, when he endured his first game with four strikeouts Wednesday before fanning twice with runners on in the late innings Friday night.
For the season, Wright has been punched out 52 times in 47 games -- putting him on pace for just under 180 strikeouts. He has never struck out more than 118 times in a year.
After a sizzling stretch on the West Coast, Wright has come down to earth with just four hits in his past 24 at-bats. He has struggled more at Citi Field this season, hitting just .272 with 33 of those 52 strikeouts coming in the Mets' new ballpark.
"I believe he'll eventually turn that around," Manuel said. "Some hitters go to the plate and see a lot of hits out there. Some come up other places and feel they can't get a hit."
Manuel also wanted to give playing time Saturday to both Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis, both of whom have been splitting duties at first base with the injury to Carlos Delgado. Tatis got the nod at third in place of Wright.
Wright is one of three Mets regulars who didn't get the start against Johnson, with Gary Sheffield and Luis Castillo joining him on the bench.
"I knew it was coming to a point where I had to give them a day off at some point," Manuel said. "Dave, Sheff and Castillo have played a lot, extra-inning game [last night], and Johnson has been tough on us so I figured I'd throw something different at him."
Sheffield and Castillo have been vital components of the Mets' recent hot streak -- six wins in their past seven games, including a 4-0 mark on the current homestand.
Sheffield had at least one hit and one run scored in each of those seven games, starting them all in left field. He hit three home runs in that span and has eight RBIs on the homestand.
The 40-year-old is apparently nursing a tender right hamstring, but that didn't prevent him from getting a key stolen base in the 11th inning Friday night.
Manuel said he plans to rest Sheffield twice a week going forward.
"Day games after night games for him would be almost like a catcher," Manuel said. "He's played extremely well and done a lot of good things. We need to keep that going."
The oft-maligned Castillo, meanwhile, has been a menace hitting in the two-hole since his double-play cohort, Jose Reyes, injured his calf. Castillo had a streak of reaching base in nine consecutive plate appearances snapped Friday and has raised his average back up to .295 after a slump.
Wilson Valdez received his first start as a member of the Mets at second base.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.