Piazza off disabled list
For much of this season, he didn't know whether he'd be at catcher or first base until he got to the ballpark and glanced at the lineup card.
"Hopefully, they figure it out," he said Monday, when he was activated from the disabled list. "If they want to keep doing what we're doing, fine. If they want to half and half, it is what it is."
Piazza, sidelined since Aug. 6 because of fluid on his left knee, has started 41 games at catcher this year and 49 at first. He was at first base against the Marlins, going 1-for-4 with a third-inning homer off Dontrelle Willis that tied the score at 1. Piazza, who tied Carlton Fisk for 56th place on the career list at 376, also struck out twice.
Mets general manager Jim Duquette planned to talk with Piazza and manager Art Howe before the game. Duquette wants to watch Piazza at both positions during the final 5½ weeks of the season before making a call, but promised a decision heading into the offseason.
"I think there's no question that it would be our intention to get some final resolution to it," Duquette said. "It's really the only way we can plan for next year."
Howe, not wanting to give his opinion publicly, listened to Duquette and said: "I agree wholeheartedly."
Piazza, who turns 36 on Saturday, isn't sure which position he'd prefer to play. He had wanted to catch long enough to become the career leader in home runs at the position, which he did May 5 when he hit his 352nd on May 5 to overtake Carlton Fisk.
His throwing isn't good -- he's gotten just seven of 37 base stealers -- and his foot and glove work at first base needs lots of work, which he readily admits.
"I still like to catch," he said. "But on the same note, I also like the challenge of learning another position. I've enjoyed playing first at times, no question."
Both Piazza and the team want to get rid of the uncertainty.
"It's up to them, I really do believe," he said. "I think it's important for them, for the organization, to figure it out what they want to do and just communicate with me. From the start, I don't know why there was a sort of a belief that I didn't want to be a good team player. That was misunderstood."
The Mets lost 13 of 21 games while Piazza was sidelined, sinking to 60-69, 15½ games behind NL East-leading Atlanta going into Monday night.
Piazza, counted on as the center of the Mets' offense, was batting .276 before the injury with 17 homers and 44 RBIss. Playing with the injured knee, he hit just .143 (7-for-49) after the All-Star break with one homer and four RBIss, dropping his average from .297.
"When you're not 100 percent, you do start doing things you're not accustomed to doing," he said. "I've always been sort of reliant on being strong and having that strength, and being able to wait back to the last second to recognize a pitch. When you lose that a little bit, you start anticipating. I've never hit like that in my career, so there's no way I was going to be successful at it."
He found it easier to recover from the injury at the Mets' spring-training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., than at Shea Stadium.
"The more I was down there, I realized the training facilities here are a little antiquated," he said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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