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Mets ready for end of Spring Training

Mets ready for end of Spring Training

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The calls to bring an immediate, if premature, end to Spring Training persist in the Mets' camp.

Tedium is in first place with a 2 1/2-game lead over boredom in the standings of the Port St. Lonesome League. Before the Mets hear the first official "Play ball" on March 31 a few hours south of where they have been headquartered for 5 1/2 weeks, they are likely to hear -- and speak -- "Get me out of here" far more often.

That sentiment slipped from Pedro Martinez's lips Friday afternoon, less than two days after John Maine pleaded for his freedom. And the two hardly are alone. The need for escape had surfaced about 10 days earlier.

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"Any time you get within three weeks to go," Damion Easley said, "some guys get anxious to leave. I'm sure it happens in every camp, especially with the veterans."

Port St. Lucie takes the brunt of the sarcasm and whining. But before the city's chamber of commerce asks the Mets to lay off, it should realize the comments are fueled more by baseball than by any feelings about this sprawling burg.

"All it means," manager Willie Randolph said last week, "is that guys are ready, or close to ready, or starting to think they're ready. And that's a good thing."

Martinez made his Spring Training remark comment after he had pitched five quite serviceable innings Friday against the Nationals in what became the Mets' 16th victory in 23 games, by an 8-2 margin.

"I want Spring Training to be over just so I know I made [it without injury]," he said.

As usually is the case with Martinez, even this late in camp, his pitching line -- five innings, five hits, two runs, no walks and four strikeouts -- wasn't a measure of progress made. Instead, he was pleased with his stamina. Martinez threw 71 pitches and was certain he had another inning or two in him. He stayed ahead of the hitters and kept his pitches down. Those were all pregame objectives.

And he came through his exhibition game start without a second thought about his arm, or any other body part. That is a pregame, postgame, in-game, 24-7 obsession.

"Everything isn't correct yet," Martinez said. But he has one more start before the season's second game, which is all but certain to be his '08 debut.

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David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran sent signals of readiness as well. Wright had two singles and his first home run of the exhibition season; Reyes hit two doubles, one a bloop, and Beltran had two hits, one a scorched double.

Beltran, a late starter this spring because of his repaired and still sore knees, will benefit from additional at-bats, as will Luis Castillo, Carlos Delgado and Ryan Church.

Wright's sensible "see as many pitches as possible" approach seems to be paying dividends already. He says Spring Training is a necessity and uses it as such.

"Better than a necessary evil," he said last week, "because I like to play and this gets you ready for the season, when I really like to play."

Marlon Anderson doesn't appear to need exhibition games. What they used to say about Rusty Staub applies to him as well. "He could get up on Christmas morning and hit line drives."

The Mets' primary pinch-hitter entered the game as a defensive replacement and produced a single and a double, his fifth and sixth hits in his 21st and 22nd at-bats.

Anderson, in his 12th big league camp, knows about the tedium of March. But he has seen little boredom this year, he says.

"For a long time, we weren't healthy enough to be bored," he said. "It took longer for guys to reach the point they usually reach pretty early."

But the routine of March has numbed the minds of a number of other players.

"How much golf and leisure time can you take?" Maine said, smiling the day after his "free Johnny" cry.

Maine had grown weary of Port St. Lucie, which is touched with sameness, too. Strip mall, strip mall, Walgreens. Strip mall, strip mall, CVS. Strip mall, strip mall, 7-11. Strip mall, strip mall, gas station. The television in his condo here remains tuned to TBS -- sitcom central. His crossword-puzzle work usually is reserved for clubhouse hours.

"The first days are OK because you see everyone and it's fresh," Maine said. "But now ... I know they say we're here so the starting pitchers can build up their arms. But is there a way we could compress everything in three weeks?"

"Oh," Billy Wagner said, smiling. "John Maine is bored. Hey, we're all down here so he and the others [starters] can get their arm strength. I got mine the second week. How do they think I feel?"

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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