Mets make coaching-staff changes

Updated: October 5, 2009, 5:26 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- After a miserable season full of baserunning blunders and fielding miscues, the New York Mets made several changes to their coaching staff Monday.

Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon also announced the club will alter its training practices for treating and preventing injuries, and the team's payroll for 2010 should be similar to this year.

First base coach Luis Alicea was fired and third base coach Razor Shines will have a different role next season. Bench coach Sandy Alomar also lost his job but will be offered another position in the organization, while son Sandy Alomar Jr. is likely headed for a promotion after serving as catching instructor this year.

New York's first season at Citi Field was a mess, filled with injuries, mistakes and lackluster play. An April favorite for a deep postseason run, the Mets swept a three-game series from the Houston Astros last weekend to finish 70-92 -- their worst record since going 66-95 under Art Howe in 2003.

While general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel will return next season, Wilpon made it clear that ownership expects a turnaround.

"We demand better and we expect better," Wilpon said. "And to me, he and Omar deserve a chance to come back and right the ship. It's a one-year thing."

The Mets hit .270 this season, tying the playoff-bound Los Angeles Dodgers for the best average in the NL, and batted .276 with runners in scoring position, second in the league behind the Atlanta Braves. But they finished with only 671 runs, good for 12th in the National League.

Injuries robbed them of stars Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran for long stretches, but Manuel and the front office decided to change the base coaches.

"The traffic that we had on the bases probably to a lot of degree was not properly managed as well as we would've liked to have seen," Manuel said. "That was probably the biggest issue with us was one of the issue of baserunning. We didn't seem to have that perform at the level that we thought we need to to be a championship club."

Alomar's dismissal was particularly painful for Manuel, who said they were such close friends that they used to ride to the ballpark together. Alomar, who turns 66 this month, could be back with the club next season depending on his personal situation and whether he can find a big league job with another club.

"Defensively, I thought we struggled and I think that we needed to get to another level," Manuel said, citing the club's 134 double plays -- tied for 12th in the NL. "We have to do everything we can to be better defensively."

Manuel, signed through next season with a club option for 2011, said Shines could be considered for the other coaching openings and Alomar Jr. could be in the mix at first.

Hitting coach Howard Johnson, pitching coach Dan Warthen and bullpen coach Randy Niemann will be back in the same roles next season. New York pitchers were plagued by control problems but Manuel said he thinks Warthen is the right person to help young starters John Maine, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez return to form.

A relatively healthy season would go a long way to helping the pitching staff and the rest of the team rebound next year.

New York used the disabled list 22 times in 2009 for 19 players, including eight former All-Stars. Mets players spent more than 1,480 days on the disabled list, more than any other major league team, according to STATS LLC.

The club announced Monday that Reyes will have surgery to clean up scar tissue around a tendon behind his right knee but will not need an operation to repair his torn right hamstring.

The date for the surgery hasn't been set, but the team said Reyes is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for spring training.

New York's medical staff will remain in place for 2010 but "we are changing our medical protocols to better treat and prevent injuries," Wilpon said, declining to get into specifics. The son of owner Fred Wilpon also said he plans to take a more active role in how the club releases information about ailing players.

Injuries to Reyes, Beltran and Delgado became a season-long soap opera as they appeared to be close to playing again, only to remain sidelined. Beltran was the only one of the three who returned to the lineup.

Wilpon said part of the communication problems occurred when players were hurt on the road.

"We relied on [home] team doctors to diagnose," he said. "When Jose had a hamstring tendon that was partially torn to begin with, the doctor in, I forget where it was, L.A., said it was his calf. Now the radiating pain was through his calf. It wasn't really what happened."

New York's rough season was part of a tough stretch for the Wilpon family, whose members and companies lost millions in convicted swindler Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. The owner's losses don't appear to have affected the team's finances yet, with Jeff Wilpon saying Monday the 2010 payroll will be "what Omar needs."

That puts the pressure squarely back on Minaya, who said he will do anything to help the team rebound next year. He didn't rule out adding former major league GMs Kevin Towers and J.P. Ricciardi to the front office.

"I'm going to look at any way we can improve ourselves," Minaya said. "There will be some personnel out there. Like every year, I look around and see how can we get better?"


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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