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04/28/10 2:05 PM ET

Discussion of rules opens players' minds

Club went over intricacies of infield fly rules, interference

NEW YORK -- Most teams preach fundamentals and defense in Spring Training, and the Mets are no exception. Only this year, they added a twist: discussing the rules of the game.

Four balls to a walk, three strikes and you're out -- those are the easy ones. But not every player is particularly well-versed on the intricacies of infield fly rules, interference calls and the like. This spring, the Mets aimed to change that.

"We had never done that before, at least as long as I've been here," manager Jerry Manuel said. "I think those types of things open up the minds of the players as to really how the game should be played, rather than thinking they know how the game is to be played."

Manuel wants first-place Mets to remain solid

NEW YORK -- It wasn't until Jerry Manuel arrived at Citi Field on Wednesday that he realized his Mets were alone in first place. Watching scores flash by on a clubhouse television, Manuel noticed that the Phillies had lost their third consecutive game.

The Mets, of course, won their fifth and sixth straight games on Tuesday, vaulting them into sole possession of first place for the first time since May 29, 2009.

"It gives the Mets fans hope this time of the year," Manuel said. "I think when we struggled coming out of the gate, people began to reflect back on things that happened last year. But to play the way we have at home, it's encouraging obviously for the team, but also for the fans."

That does not mean Manuel will put much stock in the fact that his team, at this early juncture of the season, is a half game better than the Phillies. But it's certainly better than second, third or fourth.

"Because of the things that are surrounding our club, coming off a tough year like we did, we wanted to get out to a good start," Manuel said. "We didn't quite come out of the gate like we would like to, but I thought we played good baseball and had a chance to win a lot of games. To come back on our longest homestand and play the way we have, I think that's encouraging."

The Mets will travel to Philadelphia this weekend for three games against the Phillies -- meaning they will either pad their slim lead or fall right back down the standings.

Their manager, for one, believes this hot streak can continue.

"In the course of 162 games, everybody's going to go through a period that's going to be somewhat of a struggle," Manuel said. "The thing we hope to do is to remain solid."

Perez has full support from club

NEW YORK -- Clear in his support of Oliver Perez following Tuesday's win over the Dodgers, Mets manager Jerry Manuel continues to stand by the struggling lefty -- for now.

"I think we've got to continue to give guys the opportunity and see what happens," Manuel said, a day after Perez walked four and allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings. "I think there will come a time where, one way or the other, everybody will know whether this is dependable or not. But I don't think that is the case now."

Perez, for his part, stood by Manuel's decision to remove him in the fourth inning of Tuesday's game, saying afterward: "Jerry made the right decision to take me out, because I wasn't able to throw strikes."

Yet those control issues won't prevent Perez from making another start. Instead, Manuel will do nothing more than keep a close eye on Perez's bullpen session, ensuring that everything goes smoothly.

"But that's about it," Manuel said.

Bernazard makes first comments since dismissal

NEW YORK -- In his first public comments since being dismissed as the Mets' vice president of player development, Tony Bernazard said the situation that led to his divorce from the team was "blown out of proportion."

The Mets dismissed Bernazard last July following reports that he removed his shirt in a Minor League clubhouse and challenged players to a fight.

"I didn't challenge any players [to a fight]," Bernazard told FOXSports.com. "I challenged players to do better."

Bernazard told the website he removed his shirt in the clubhouse because he was hot after going on a 55-mile bike ride.

Asked, then, why he was fired, Bernazard told FOXSports.com: "That's a good question."

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