Opening Day is just one game on the schedule, with 161 to follow. But it's all we have to evaluate the Mets at this point, and after six weeks of glorified practice in Florida, what better time to draw some conclusions before the season resumes Wednesday night against the Marlins at Citi Field. So how big was Monday's victory? "It's one game. It's one win," Jason Bay said. "But it's better than losing." Well, put Jason. Here's what else we learned from Opening Day:
Admit it. The 6.75 ERA in spring training was unsettling as was the 87-mph fastball. When it counted, however, Johan Santana's velocity was consistently at 90-91 Monday and his changeup was in midseason form. Santana said he didn't use his slider much because the Marlins had only one lefthanded hitter, Chris Coghlan, in their lineup and he really didn't need it. The Mets were confident that Santana would be fine after season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow, but there was no way to be certain until he took the mound for real on Opening Day. Jerry Manuel even pushed him for 103 pitches - a little high for six innings - and that was further proof that the Mets' ace is 100 percent.
2. Citi Field now looks like the Mets’ home ballpark.
It took a full year to do it, but the Wilpons listened to the fans and made a number of significant upgrades in time for Opening Day. The team's decision to put the original Apple in front of the Rotunda entrance was genius. Not only does it give Citi some Shea flavor, it's a perfect meeting spot for arriving fans. One problem, however. Without a fence or Plexiglas barrier, the apple is vulnerable to vandals - i.e. visiting Phillies fans. The Hall of Fame also opened to rave reviews, many of the stadium's gates are adorned with tributes to former players and the plaques dedicated to great moments in the team's history were a nice touch embedded into the fans' brick walk.
3. Mike Jacobs may be an awkward fit for this team.
Mike Jacobs was welcomed back like a prodigal son by Monday's sellout crowd, but his first few weeks with the Mets could be uncomfortable. Manuel batted him fourth to split up the righthanded tandem of David Wright and Jason Bay, even though it doesn't make sense from a statistical standpoint. Bay has an .884 OPS and .370 on-base percentage against righthanders;e Jacobs has a .828 OPS and .324 OBP. Can Jacobs get better pitches with Bay hitting behind him? Sure. But Jacobs still went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Monday. Also, Jacobs looked OK at first base and Manuel still replaced him with Fernando Tatis in the eighth inning. Tatis then made no effort to come off the base to grab David Wright's errant throw, letting it sail past for an 'E' on Wright.
4. Jerry Manuel wasn’t lying about the 8th inning.
In the final days of spring training, Manuel said that he didn't have a clue about who to pitch in the late innings to set up Francisco Rodriguez. With a five-run lead, the manager got lucky when he rolled the dice with Fernando Nieve, who pitched two scoreless innings as the bridge to K-Rod. But Manuel had both Nieve and Hisanori Takahashi warming at one point, and using the lefthanded Takahashi would have been interesting with Florida's predominantly righthanded lineup.
Later, Sean Green was up as well, but Manuel never had to push Takahashi, Ryota Igarashi or the 20-year-old Jenrry Mejia into a pressure-packed situation on the very first day. Nieve may have won the eighth-inning job Monday by default.
5. Injuries still a sore subject.
The Citi Field crowd wasn't ready to forgive and forget when it booed the team's trainers during the pregame introductions.
"We got a kick out of it," Jeff Francoeur said. "But they didn't have much to boo about after that."
The Mets remain obsessed with last year's injury epidemic as well, bringing more "Prevention and Recovery" signs from Florida and posting them in the Citi clubhouse. Maybe things are looking up, however. No one was hurt Monday.