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Notes: Humber turns it down a notch

Notes: Humber turns it down a notch

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The mantra of every young player is "try not to do too much." They all speak it in some manner, and a few of them even accomplish it. Philip Humber hadn't been among the few. He had been hyper Humber, in the words of manager Willie Randolph, each time he faced game conditions, trying to win a place in the rotation and win seven games with each pitch.

A "get real" conversation with Tom Glavine changed some of that. The veteran and the rookie pitcher chatted in the outfield Sunday in Port St. Lucie, and Humber implemented some of the lesson into his work on Tuesday, when he pitched the sixth and seventh innings of the Mets' 6-5 victory against the Indians.

The results were modest -- he allowed a run and three hits in two innings. But that constituted statistical improvement for a pitcher who began the day with a 24.00 ERA. And Humber's more realistic approach was noticeably improved. He was trying to get outs rather than a job.

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Glavine -- and everyone else -- had seen Humber "really pressing and trying to impress the coaches." Those were Humber's words as he paraphrased Glavine. "You're trying to make the team out of Spring Training. And honestly, what are your chances of making the team out of the spring?"

"I said, 'Well, I don't know,'" Humber said.

' "Well, they're pretty long odds," Glavine said. "But you're a young guy, and I'll bet a paycheck you're going to help us win this year."

And with that piece of reality coming from "a guy who pays attention," Humber changed his outlook.

"It cleared my mind," he said.

Fessin' up to fun: Despite on-field gyrations and celebrations, players often deny the sense of satisfaction derived from quality performance when they discuss it after games. And fans recognize the relative unimportance teams put on results in exhibition game. That said, Shawn Green hit his first home run of the spring in he second inning Tuesday and admittedly enjoyed ever aspect of it.

That it came against a quality left-hander -- C.C. Sabathia -- added to his sense of accomplishment.

Spring Training is all about the process; Green acknowledged that, and said that "everyday I feel a little better.

"But it's nice when you get some results as well," he said. "It's nice to circle the bases. You want to feel all the good things you're supposed to feel.

"If you're a base stealer, you want to steal a base. You want to sense that you can do it."

Green, his batting stance adjusted and his swing corrected, is convinced he will have a productive season. But he isn't sure what that term translates to in terms of home runs while playing at age 34, batting seventh and playing home games in a "fair" ball park, which Shea is.

"Is it 30 home runs or 40? I don't know," he said.

The Mets wouldn't say no to either.

Some stiff at second: Jose Valentin was scratched from the lineup Tuesday because of a stiff neck, which developed as he sat -- and slept -- awkwardly during the two-hour bus ride from Port St. Lucie to Winter Haven.

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The 37-year-old second baseman took one round of batting practice before returning to the clubhouse with assistant trainer Mike Herbst for treatment. Valentin, who had ice and electric stimulation on his neck throughout the game, said he expects to miss only a few days. But that's what Carlos Delgado had hoped last week when his neck stiffened. He missed five games.

Trainers room II: First-base coach Howard Johnson was walking more freely Tuesday after limping through two days of bursitis pain and swelling in his right knee. He may have danced too much as his daughter's wedding on Saturday.

Already assimilated: His locker was "over on the other side," according to the veterans in the Mets' clubhouse, and was over where Mike Pelfrey, Humber and Lastings Milledge lockered last year. Then again, it was closest to the break in the lockers, an aisle of sorts, which made Joe Smith the most likely -- in terms of geography, at least -- to make the move to the better neighborhood.

And when he arrived at the Mets' camp on Tuesday morning, the move had been made. Indicative of nothing other than a vacancy caused by Alay Soler's release, Smith was shifted. He wasn't sure about the change. And he wasn't sure he should even whisper about its possible significance. It's not advisable even to sound presumptuous with Opening Day 2 1/2 weeks away and merely 32 2/3 innings in his professional baseball resume.

Eventually, Smith acknowledged the move had no negative elements and went about his business.

Smith has been doing just that since the first day of camp. It may turn out to be that the nearly 23-year-old rookie pitcher's next locker is in New Orleans -- or New York. Either way, he will fit.

Few rookies seem as comfortable in their first spring as Smith appears to be. He has the normal, "Holy smoke, that's Tom Glavine" reaction, but he stifles it, for the most part. He has assimilated into the clubhouse as well as anyone in recent years, David Wright included.

Omar Minaya hasn't said Smith will be on the Opening Day roster, and the general manager's appreciation of Jorge Sosa's potential may deny Smith a place on the roster. But Minaya created a term the other day while speaking of Smith.

"He has that 'Major League-ness' you like to see," Minaya said. "He knows he belongs."

Some of Smith's outward matter-of-fact-ness was chipped away Sunday, when he spied a familiar face he hadn't expected to see in the Mets' dugout. "Is that who I think it is?" he asked another player when he saw Rickey Henderson. "Some guys get me," Smith had said a few hours earlier, "But I just don't say anything."

But later, after he saw Henderson, all he could say was, "I couldn't say anything."

Furthermore: Jose Reyes hit his team-leading third home run in the second inning, when the Mets scored four times against Sabathia. Endy Chavez had three hits and two RBIs.

Designated slither: With nary a diamondback rattlesnake around, another species of snake made its way into the press box Tuesday. And without a proper credential. It was quite a surprise for Paul Hoynes, the veteran writer from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Coming up: John Maine and Pelfrey are to pitch for the Mets -- Maine as the starter -- on Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. Kenny Rogers starts for the Tigers. A strong performance by Pelfrey, coming after the not-so-solid performances of Chan Ho Park, could make him the primary candidate for the No. 5 position in the rotation.

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

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