Mets pitcher Ryota Igarashi during throws in the bullpen. (Feb....

Mets pitcher Ryota Igarashi during throws in the bullpen. (Feb. 17, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Remember Ryota Igarashi? Removed from the 40-man roster during the offseason and barely mentioned in the scramble for bullpen jobs, Igarashi made a strong opening statement Friday with two scoreless innings, including two strikeouts, in the Mets' intrasquad game.

Igarashi may be buried on the depth chart, but he still will earn $1.75 million this season, the second and final year of his $3-million contract. The Mets would like to get some kind of return on that investment, and if Igarashi can get his velocity back, along with an effective splitter, maybe he can squeeze his way into a relief role.

"I thought he showed you that he's got good enough stuff, and if he throws it over the plate and gets ahead in the count, he can get easy outs," manager Terry Collins said. "I told him the first day in this camp, what got him to the United States, what got him to this team, he needs to continue to do. He cannot try to become an American [pitcher]. He's got to throw the way he threw in Japan, and that is a lot."

Collins has experience with Japanese players, having managed there for a little more than one season with the Orix Buffaloes. What he means is that Igarashi needs the extra work to stay sharp, and the pitcher echoed that sentiment after his performance.

"I'm no longer thinking about my injuries," said Igarashi, who was never the same after a right hamstring strain last season. "Last year was last year. I talked to Terry Collins. He knows Japanese pitchers like to throw a lot, so he's being very flexible."

Homer-happy Hairston

Scott Hairston went deep twice as the Mets had four homers in the intrasquad game, with Willie Harris and Dusty Ryan hitting the other two. Hairston was signed as a fourth outfielder, as well as a deep threat off the bench, and he certainly looked the part Friday.

"Not bad," he said. "It was a good way to start. I hope I can fulfill that role, but I'm not thinking too much about roles yet."

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