Notes: Minaya wants to protect bullpen

Notes: Minaya wants to protect bullpen

NEW YORK -- Omar Minaya won't be moved to trade for a starting pitcher by Steve Trachsel's rough outing on Monday night or how often Tom Glavine has not reached the seventh inning or how sporadic rookies John Maine and Mike Pelfrey can be or Pedro Martinez's hip or Orlando Hernandez's occasional first-inning troubles.

But the workload -- read: burden -- of the bullpen may nudge the Mets' general manager closer to making a deal for a starting pitcher either before or after the trading deadline. It isn't merely that the Mets want to improve their rotation for the postseason -- they must prevent bullpen overload.

And so Minaya looks -- toward the South where Dontrelle Willis works, to the West where Barry Zito makes his money. Either would be a "difference maker" in Mets terminology; Willis more than Zito.

Willis would fit, both now and later. The Mets can see a rotation of Willis, Martinez, Glavine, Pelfrey, and Maine or Brian Bannister next year and beyond. And Philip Humber isn't forgotten. Zito isn't as good a fit, but neither would come inexpensively.

Livan Hernandez would be a bandage, an innings guy necessary for the last two months and the postseason, but not next year. He isn't a difference-maker in the Mets' eyes. And then there is Gil Meche, the Mariners' right-handed starter, a pitcher the Mets have discussed -- internally and with the Mariners -- but haven't yet pursued. No exchange of players has been suggested. But the Mariners are looking for relievers, according to a general manager with another club.

The Mets are willing to deal, but they have few excesses and none in the big-league bullpen.

"The feeling I get is that they'd be willing to pay for a starter but not with guys in their bullpen now," the general manager said.

There is a degree of intrigue with Meche, a soon-to-turn-28 strikeout pitcher with a 9-4 record for a team that has a losing record and a 3.83 ERA in a league that has a 4.55 ERA. And the Mariners, through Monday, were 11 1/2 games from the American League Wild Card lead though only three games from first place in the AL West.

It's a thought.

The general manager said that he is aware of the Mets' interest in Pirates starter Kip Wells, too, but the Mets see Wells as decidedly less appealing than Meche.

"He's in a group of 20 that comes after our wish list," a person familiar with Minaya's preferences said.

Wells, who didn't pitch until June 20 this year, was a serviceable big-league pitcher until June of last year. Since then, he has a 3-19 record -- 0-5 in six starts this season -- and 6.91 ERA in 26 starts.

From the minds of Elias: Greg Maddux threw 88 pitches in six-plus innings on Monday night, 27 in four plate appearances by Jose Reyes. ... Trachsel has pitched 110 1/3 innings this season. The Mets have committed one error in those innings -- Trachsel's errant pickoff throw against the Blue Jays on June 25. Every Major League pitcher who has pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA race has had more errors committed behind him.

In the 'throws' of success: The greatest ongoing improvement in the one-plus seasons that Willie Randolph has been managing is evident in the outfield. The Mets' throwing and relays have become precise and productive. It began last season with Cliff Floyd, and it has continued this season with Xavier Nady and the amazing Endy Chavez.

The Mets lead the big leagues in assists with 28, and Chavez, though he has played fewer innings than Floyd, Nady and Carlos Beltran, leads the team with eight. Beltran is second, with seven, followed by Nady (five), Lastings Milledge (three), Floyd (three) and Jose Valentin (two). The assists -- some have been relays -- have produced 14 outs at second base, eight at third, four at home and two at first.

This date in Mets history -- July 26: The Mets scored 17 runs in a doubleheader and were swept by the Braves at Shea Stadium in 1964. They knocked out Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn in the second inning of the first game but fell victim to eight hits -- one home run each -- and seven RBIs by Hank Aaron, Joe Torre and Rico Carty, and lost, 11-7. The same three combined for seven hits and 10 RBIs in the second game, a 15-10 Braves victory.

Two years later, the Mets beat the Astros, 5-4, in Houston, the second victory of their three-game sweep in the Dome. They had lost seven of their first nine indoor games before the sweep and swept two home doubleheaders from the Astros the previous week. The Mets won 11 of 18 games against the Astros that season and, for the only time in their first nine years, won the season series against their 1962 expansion brothers.

Bud Harrelson equaled his career high in hits with four, and Cleon Jones established a career high in RBIs with five in the Mets' 11-7 victory against the Giants in Candlestick Park in 1967. Eventual Rookie of the Year Tom Seaver gained his fourth straight victory, putting his record at 10-6. The team's record was 39-55. ... Six years later, the last-place but eventual champion Mets lost, 13-1, in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cardinals at Shea. Bob Gibson hit a grand slam, drove in five runs and pitched a complete game. When they lost the second game, 2-1, on Torre's home run off Harry Parker in the eighth inning, they fell 11 games under .500 and nine games behind the first-place Cardinals.

The '86 Mets were swept in a doubleheader in Atlanta on this date, losing 4-3 and 8-5 to the Braves, who'd begun the day eight games under .500. The Mets played nine doubleheaders en route to their 108 victories. Their record in those games was 12-6. They were swept once.

Coming up: The audition continues in the Wednesday nooner. John Maine makes his first start since his four-hit shutout of the impatient and nondiscriminating Astros on Friday night. Randolph says that the rookie will be part of the six-man rotation that follows.

Mark Prior, winless in four decisions this season, starts for the Cubs.

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