David Lennon says Mets manager Jerry Manuel needs to fix...

David Lennon says Mets manager Jerry Manuel needs to fix his team's problems quickly or risk losing his job. (Apr. 8, 2010) Credit: David Pokress

DENVER - Now that Jerry Manuel has taken "full responsibility" after Sunday's clunker by the Mets, not to mention an alarming 2-4 opening homestand, what is he going to do to fix it?

Manuel had four hours on the team's chartered flight to get a head start, as well as an off day in Denver before the Mets begin a six-game road trip Tuesday night against the Rockies. It had better not take him too long to come up with some answers, either.

Manuel and Omar Minaya were put on notice at the end of last season by COO Jeff Wilpon. So far, it's not working out too well.

With Minaya away on a scouting mission, assistant GM John Ricco is the ranking executive for this trip. But unlike past visits to the Mile High City, the Mets aren't on high alert just yet.

Losing two of three to the Marlins is understandable, even at home. Losing two of three to the Nationals, a perpetually rebuilding club, is not. After Sunday's halfhearted effort against 35-year-old Mets castoff Livan Hernandez, Manuel put the blame on himself because his team "appeared to be unprepared."

But with six difficult games looming against the Rockies and Cardinals, Manuel has to use that upsetting performance as a vehicle for change in the lineup, and perhaps in the rotation, too. The Mets will look at moving Jose Reyes to the third spot in the lineup and also might decide to skip Oliver Perez in the rotation.

Under normal circumstances, it would seem foolish to panic after only six games. But given the shaky job security of the people involved and the concern over sluggish ticket sales in the second season at Citi Field, these are not normal circumstances.

Manuel is keenly aware of what's at stake, and he plans to take a closer look at his sputtering offense. The Mets are batting .189 (10-for-53) with runners in scoring position.

"You're going to make outs in this game. It's just that I think the approach has to be correct," Manuel said. "We have to have the right mind-set going forward with that, and I haven't seen us be able to get to that point yet."

It's not Manuel's fault that Reyes missed the first four games because of a hyperactive thyroid. But he made the decision to bat Mike Jacobs fourth in two games - the logic was to split righthanded hitters David Wright and Jason Bay - rather than the superior hitter in Bay.

Manuel soon corrected that mistake. After sitting Jacobs on Thursday against Marlins lefthander Nate Robertson, he was dropped below Bay when he returned to the lineup Friday night. It's a start, but Manuel has more work to do.

As much as the Mets would like Reyes to get comfortable again in the leadoff role, they have not abandoned the idea of hitting him in the No. 3 spot. Over the weekend, one of the club's decision-makers talked about how the Mets would be a better offensive team with Reyes batting third, especially in the absence of Carlos Beltran.

Manuel also is likely to start Angel Pagan in centerfield now that Gary Matthews Jr. is hitless (0-for-10) since Opening Day. Throughout spring training, the assumption was that Pagan would be the starter until Beltran returns, and he didn't play himself out of the job.

Plus, if the Mets choose to take the plunge with Reyes in the No. 3 spot, Pagan would make a decent leadoff hitter. Either way, he should be bunched atop the order with Reyes, especially with the gap opportunities at Coors Field.

It might be time to move up Jeff Francoeur to take advantage of his quick start. Francoeur, who batted sixth Sunday, has hit safely in all six games and is batting .476 (10-for-21) with three doubles, two home runs and a .538 on-base percentage.

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