NEW YORK -- Mike Baxter's pinch-hitting routine begins in the fifth inning of games, when the spare outfielder moves from his seat on the dugout bench to an indoor cage near the clubhouse door.
Baxter begins stretching and takes a few hacks in the cage. All the while, he keeps a close eye on who is warming in the opposing bullpen, watching video on those pitchers if it is available. Once he has a decent idea of whom he might face, Baxter generates a game plan.
"If I'm not in the lineup, then my job that night is to come in and try to give a good at-bat," Baxter said. "Every one of us, whether you're starting or coming off the bench, the goal is to have good at-bats."
With due respect to Jordany Valdespin, who has carved his own local legend with a series of pinch-hit home runs over parts of two seasons in Flushing, it is Baxter who has been the team's best pinch-hitter during that span. The Queens native is 5-for-9 off the bench this season, with two doubles and two walk-off hits. Dating to last year, he is batting .485 with eight extra-base hits and 10 RBIs in 35 pinch-hit at-bats.
Not only is that batting average the best of anyone in baseball with even half that number of pinch-hit at-bats, it is more than twice the league average of .222.
"One of the things that make the real good pinch-hitters is they pay attention," manager Terry Collins said. "They keep themselves ready during the game. They watch the game, the flow of the game, and kind of get an idea of what the other team is doing to get people out."
Wright says he's fine despite sore left knee
NEW YORK -- Always eager to play through injuries, sometimes to a fault, David Wright was not about to let a sore left knee sideline him on Friday against the Pirates.
Wright fouled a ball off the inside of his left knee in his first at-bat, but remained in the game for seven more innings. The third baseman doubled and singled in subsequent at-bats, departing after hitting into a double play to end the eighth inning of a five-run game.
"When he made the last out, I just said, 'Go get some ice on it, we're coming back in 14 hours,'" manager Terry Collins said. "'Go get ready for tomorrow.'"
Despite the short turnaround between Friday night's loss and Saturday's matinee, Wright downplayed the notion that he may need time to nurse his knee on the bench. He, Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada are the only Mets to appear in all 32 of the team's games this season.
"I felt progressively better as the game went on," Wright said. "I think the more I moved around the better it felt. I'm sure it will swell up a little bit, but I'll be fine."
Mets aren't ruling out stint on DL for Familia
NEW YORK -- Mets reliever Jeurys Familia is dealing with a bout of right biceps tendinitis that could land him on the disabled list, potentially expediting Frank Francisco's return to the big leagues.
Familia first alerted the Mets to the problem following Wednesday's game against the White Sox, though manager Terry Collins harbored suspicions while watching Familia's fastball top out in the low-90s. In addition to calling Familia off-limits on Friday, Collins did not rule out a DL stint.
"When you start to get fatigued, that's the first place it sets in," Collins said of the biceps discomfort. "We'll just give him another day and see how he is tomorrow."
If Familia does land on the DL, it may prompt the Mets to bring Francisco back sooner than expected. Rehabbing from right elbow inflammation since the early days of Spring Training, the former closer seemed primed for a quick stop to the upper levels of the Minors this weekend.
Instead, the Mets could bring him straight from Class A St. Lucie to the big leagues.
Francisco has not allowed a run during his five-game rehab assignment, striking out six and walking one. Collins has already confirmed that when Francisco does return, Bobby Parnell will remain the team's closer.
Collins gives Murphy second break from lineup
NEW YORK -- Despite the presence of Pirates left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, the Mets returned to a more regular lineup on Friday, one day after stacking their card with right-handed hitters.
There was, however, one notable exception. Manager Terry Collins held slumping second baseman Daniel Murphy out of the starting lineup, allowing the skipper to slot hot-hitting Justin Turner into the lineup for a second consecutive day.
Murphy, who grounded out in a pinch-hitting role in the sixth inning of Friday's 7-3 loss, had rapidly fallen back to earth following his torrid start, batting .105 over his last five games and .148 over his last 13 entering Friday. His average, which sat at .357 on the morning of April 24, is down to .266.
"Murph's a perfectionist when it comes to hitting," Collins said. "The other night, he was in the cages long after the game was over trying to clean up some things. We know at the end of the day, he's going to be hitting .295 to .315. It was another day where we had a left-hander, we wanted to get Justin another game … so we just put [Turner] at second."
• Collins affirmed that "everything's good" with left-hander Jon Niese, who will start on Saturday despite some recent soreness in his lower back. Niese is winless in his last four starts.
• Mets third-base coach Tim Teufel was absent from the team on Friday to attend his daughter's college graduation. He expects to miss Saturday's game as well, with first-base coach Tom Goodwin filling in at third, and bench coach Bob Geren manning first.