ST. LOUIS - As annoyed as Jeff Francoeur was after Friday night's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals, it didn't help his mood when he got back to the hotel later that night and watched an ESPN crew suggest that he, along with Johan Santana, Jose Reyes and John Maine, were angry with Jerry Manuel about events of this past week.

When Francoeur arrived Saturday at Busch Stadium, he told a spokesman that he wanted to talk with reporters about this perceived revolt against Manuel. He used the opportunity to defend his manager.

"We're behind Jerry 110 percent," Francoeur said. "Are you always going to agree with everything a manager does? No, nobody does. But at the same time, he's our manager, and he's a guy that has fought for us, stuck up for us through a tough offseason, and we're here for him at this point to stick behind him because he's the guy we want to lead us out there."

Francoeur was singled out for his public questioning of Manuel's plan to use Reyes in the No. 3 hole, something that he later talked about with the manager in a lighter sense.

Reyes was portrayed as unhappy because of his reluctance to make the switch from the leadoff spot, but his only stipulation is to be comfortable at the major-league level first.

When asked about having to make two starts with an extra day's rest to begin the season, Santana did say Friday that the "more I'm out there, the better I feel." But the two-time Cy Young Award winner added that he understood why Manuel wanted to keep the rest of the rotation on schedule early.

As for Maine, his 40-minute closed-door meeting with Manuel was more about assuring the manager that he is healthy and committed to improving. Maine also denied that there is any rift with Manuel regarding his recent performance or shaky status in the rotation leading into today's start against the Cardinals.

"I don't need to defend myself nor do the players need to defend me," Manuel said. "Truth is truth. Whatever truth is, that's what you live by. If we're playing hard and we get a chance to win every day, that's what you hope for. I'm not a guy looking to be a player's manager or anything like that. I'm just looking to do the best job I can."

Francoeur called it "ludicrous" for outsiders to suggest that any of the Mets has an issue with Manuel and discounted the events of the past week as taken out of context.

"It's 10 games into the season," Francoeur said, "and for people to be second-guessing everything he does, every play . . . I got no problem if people want to wonder why he did this. But all of a sudden, when you drop that four guys are totally unhappy, that's the farthest from the truth.

"We're going to stick behind Jerry 110 percent. That's the whole feeling in here. If you ask every single guy in here, they'll tell you the same thing."

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