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10/03/09 2:40 PM EST

Manuel gives Wright a rest vs. Astros

Mets manager alludes to worries about slugger getting hit

NEW YORK -- Fatigue ought not be a factor for David Wright Sunday afternoon when the Mets -- and, presumably, Wright -- play the final game of their 2009 season. Wright wasn't included in the lineup Jerry Manuel used Saturday in the second of three games against the Astros. The reason: Manuel wanted to "keep him fresh."

Make of that what you will, but one afternoon after Wright produced three hits, he was sitting when the Mets faced relative unknown Yorman Bazardo, staying fresh with the end of the season a day away.

"Keep him fresh" was one of three reasons Manuel mentioned -- or seemed to mention -- in his explanation. He acknowledged he wanted Wright to end his trying season on a positive note. The manager said nothing of the handedness of the Astros' starting pitchers for Saturday and Sunday. But Bazardo and Wilton Lopez, the starter Sunday, are right-handed. So what difference would it make? The three hits Wright produced in four at-bats Friday night came in his three swings against left-hander Wandy Rodriguez. Moreover, Wright leads the league in batting against left-handed pitching -- .416. But, again, so what if the last two opposing starters of the season are right-handed?

Wright's overall average might have been a factor on Manuel's decision, though it specifically went unmentioned by Manuel. The manager may have wanted to protect Wright's .300 season. A month long decline -- Wright was batting .327 on Sept. 3, two days after his return from the disabled list -- had his average at .304 on Wednesday. But Wright was batting .308 after his three hits Friday. Even two hitless games wouldn't have denied him a .300 average unless he had 11 at-bats.

And yet Wright was on the bench.

"I wanted to give him a little break," Manuel said. "I like what he's been doing. Seems like he's been driving the ball the way he used to."

Then, finally, Manuel got to the issue. Speaking of Wright, he mentioned "the phobias he's had" and noted he didn't know whether Bazardo was "a control guy."

By mentioning the phobias, Manuel seemed to be expressing concern that Wright might be in jeopardy against Bazardo, that, seven weeks after Wright had been beaned by Matt Cain of the Giants, being hit still was an issue.

It was merely 10 days earlier that Manuel had questioned the wisdom of Wright publicly acknowledging his residual problems with high-and-tight pitches. And Manuel had made mention of it again.

"Just being careful for a guy coming off a beaning such as he had," Manuel said. "It's a different experience for him, a different test. You try to protect that going forward. I'd feel better if he gets through it without a setback."

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.