WASHINGTON -- The Mets stressed accountability from Day One in spring training and practiced it with the releases of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. Three weeks into the regular season, that trend has continued with a handful of early transactions meant to improve the Mets, and yet bring the indirect benefit of emphasizing performance above all.
General manager Sandy Alderson denied yesterday that any of his moves were done to send a message to an underperforming club that was 5-13 before the start of this current six-game winning streak. But if that's how some were perceived, so be it.
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Perhaps the most surprising was Sunday's demotion of D.J. Carrasco, who signed a two-year, $2.4-million contract in December. That's significant by Alderson's frugal approach during the offseason, and sending Carrasco to Buffalo got the attention of the clubhouse -- even if the front office claims it was an opportunity to keep Dillon Gee and get Carrasco more work.
"We brought in 12 new people over the winter -- all of whom had some real upside but no real certainty about it," Alderson said. "Even in that situation, you give people a chance to do what they can do, but you can't wait forever."
Players took notice when Alderson dumped Blaine Boyer and Brad Emaus after a relatively quick audition. Once Gee was promoted, and subsequently pitched well twice in spot duty, that was enough to send shivers through the rest of the rotation.
Nobody said anything to Jon Niese before Sunday's start against the Diamondbacks, but with a 5.87 ERA, he had a sense it might be a good time to step it up a bit. Niese thought Collins could try to find a spot in the rotation for Gee -- and maybe add a second lefthander to the bullpen as well. Niese reportedly was in jeopardy before that start, but Collins denied that the pressure was only on him.
"Everybody was pitching for their job," Collins said.
When told that Niese wasn't surprised that his spot may have been in trouble, Collins was pleased to hear it.
"That's a great attitude to have," Collins said. "You can't take things for granted . . . But the one thing I don't want to start here is a sense of panic."
That's the flip side of the argument. Collins doesn't want young players looking over their shoulder.
When Alderson read that Chris Capuano was being considered for the bullpen -- something that Collins had floated publicly -- he wondered if he needed to reassure him otherwise. "I don't know if he reads the paper," Alderson said. "But what we do is we explore everything . . . We try to identify everything so that everything is on the table."
That proactive approach has contributed to the Mets' recent turnaround. Daniel Murphy, with an increase in playing time, has provided an offensive spark. Jason Isringhausen, the newly installed eighth-inning guy, has been a stabilizing influence late in games.
Overall, the Mets have tightened up their act -- with Alderson and Collins exerting their own influence.