Mets evade discipline from MLB
Office 'satisfied' with club's answer about Wednesday's game
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Mets will not be disciplined by the league office for what appeared to be defiance of the edict that all teams must have at least four regulars in the starting lineups of exhibition games. Pat Courtney, a spokesman for the Commissioner's Office, said as much on Thursday afternoon, after a published report suggested a fine and reprimand might be forthcoming after the Mets brought a skeleton team to Lakeland, Fla., on Wednesday for their first Spring Training game against the Tigers.
Courtney said the Commissioner's Office was "completely satisfied" with the Mets' explanation for bringing a team that included one player who is likely to play regularly -- Ryan Church -- as well as their reserve catcher, Ramon Castro, and their primary pinch-hitter, Marlon Anderson. But Courtney also noted that the office intends to "closely monitor" all teams in that regard and the policy "will be vigorously enforced."
Roy Krasik, senior director of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, had contacted the Mets, though not general manager Omar Minaya personally, on Thursday. According to Courtney, the Tigers hadn't complained. The Mets had notified the Tigers on Tuesday and, Minaya said, "They were perfectly understanding of the situation."
The Mets' explanation to MLB, according to Minaya, involved the unavailability of three regulars -- Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Luis Castillo. Each was deemed to be recovering from offseason surgery or late-season injury and unready to play.
Delgado, however, started against the University of Michigan on Tuesday and started the Mets' game against the Cardinals on Thursday, as did fellow regulars Jose Reyes, David Wright, Moises Alou, Brian Schneider and Church.
When asked why the Mets couldn't have sent any three from among Reyes, Wright, Alou and Schneider to satisfy the four-man rule, Minaya noted that all had played against Michigan.
"I'm not going to have them play three days in a row," Minaya said.
Minaya also noted that having higher-profile players available for home exhibition games -- the Mets play in Port St. Lucie on Friday and Saturday -- is a consideration.
Minaya didn't mention the effect of games televised, but that generally is a factor weighed in the decision of which players play when. The Friday and Saturday games are to be televised.
The Mets intend to discuss the situation and to determine whether starting four regulars each game can be accomplished regularly, given their circumstances.
Their projected starting lineup works against them in some ways. They are likely to have eight regulars, so they have only eight players who can satisfy the rule. A regular is defined by the league office as a player who played regularly last season or who has a "reasonable" chance to play regularly in 2008.
The MLB office usually won't quibble if a player such as Castro or Endy Chavez is included as a regular, but even Chavez wasn't available to play on Tuesday.
The four-man rule is an issue with several clubs almost every spring, usually early in the exhibition-game schedule and more often in Florida than in Arizona, because teams in Florida often travel long distances -- not the case in Arizona -- and are not inclined to have veteran players make the longer trips.
All 30 clubs were reminded of the four-man rule this week in two memos from MLB.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.