Reasons to watch Mets? Let us count them

Carlos Beltran's anticipated return to the diamond is Carlos Beltran's anticipated return to the diamond is one of several reasons to pay attention to the Mets over the home stretch. Photo Credit: Doug Benc, Getty Images

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Tim Redding starts for the Mets Tuesday nightagainst the Marlins. Yuck. On the surface, that would seem like can't-watch TV. The Redding part certainly is; if he has a future with the Mets, then the Mets don't have much of a future.

But there are a few reasons to tune in to this game and the 24 others the Mets have left before their offseason begins Oct. 5. Let's run them down:

A new hope: It doesn't look as if the Mets will be big spenders this offseason, so pay close attention to the development of Daniel Murphy, Josh Thole and Bobby Parnell.

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If Murphy can find his power stroke, the Mets can be reasonably sure they won't need to get a first baseman this winter. That could allow Omar Minaya to concentrate his limited assets on a big bat for leftfield.

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As for Thole and Parnell, both or neither might be big parts of the 2010 Mets. It's too early to tell. But isn't it more fun to get to know bona fide prospects, which both are, than to spend your valuable time worrying about Nelson Figueroa and Brian Schneider?

Return of the Jedi: Carlos Beltran could be in centerfield tonight, John Maine could pitch Sunday and David Wright could play every day without his Great Gazoo helmet. If this trio can be healthy and productive, the Mets' outlook for next year improves significantly.

Pay close attention to Maine. You have to greet with skepticism the notion that two weeks of total rest suddenly cleared up shoulder problems that have been plaguing him for a year, as Maine said Sunday. Neither Maine nor the Mets will say what specifically is wrong with his shoulder. Are we even sure they know?

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The phantom menace: Which Mike Pelfrey will the Mets see the rest of the way? The mentally anguished one who falls apart when things go wrong? Or the bravado-infused tough guy who dominated the Cubs on Sunday?

With a weak free-agent pitching class, the Mets desperately need Pelfrey to be a strong No. 2 starter. You may have doubts about Pelfrey, but it's more important that he overcomes his own doubts about himself.

Instead of watching video and charting pitches, it could be more helpful for Pelfrey to spend his off hours with a self-help guru. Or in this case, a Pelf-help guru.

That's pretty much it. The Mets are about 2010 now. Five months to pitchers and catchers.

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