- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATLANTA -- New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon did not come to Turner Field to fire manger Jerry Manuel or his staff.
Wilpon did want to know what exactly is going on with a team that arrived for a two-game series against the Atlanta Braves on a five-game losing streak despite a roughly $130 million payroll.
Wilpon met for 90 minutes with GM Omar Minaya, assistant GM John Ricco and Manuel in the manager's office of the visitors' clubhouse before Monday's series opener, which the Mets won 3-2. For a portion of the meeting, pitching coach Dan Warthen, bullpen coach Randy Niemann and trainer Ray Ramirez were in the room.
Additional meetings were planned for after the game and Tuesday. Minaya, who had been with the team in Miami during a four-game weekend sweep by the Florida Marlins, changed his original itinerary to attend.
"I didn't come here to fire anybody guys. I'm sorry. That's not what we're doing here," Wilpon said while draped over a dugout railing and speaking with the media. "I came to talk baseball with them and hear what they want to do and how they want to get this moving in the right direction."
Said Manuel: "We have such meetings on a regular basis. They wanted to find out, or to see, what we can do to make it better. Period. It's baseball."
The visibility of the meeting -- in a room off the clubhouse, as opposed to in a suite at the team hotel or via conference call -- created a spectacle as media and players had a peripheral view. When Manuel left the meeting at one point to summon Warthen, he was lightheartedly asked if he was still employed.
"I've got a uniform on, don't I?" Manuel lightheartedly replied.
That was a not-too-subtle reference to the firing of predecessor Willie Randolph two seasons ago. The Mets fired Randolph at 3 a.m. ET in Costa Mesa, Calif., after returning to the team hotel because, Minaya said at the time, he didn't want to fire a manager in uniform.
Of course, a circus atmosphere similar to Monday's spectacle happened in Colorado a month before Randolph was ousted. Then, Minaya showed up for a May 23-25 series at Coors Field in Denver, and Randolph joked that the GM had brought along a "machete."
Manuel also said that he was not concerned about his status.
"We have shown that we can play," Manuel said. "We have to get back to that."
With Monday's win, the Mets are 5-11 in May following a 14-9 record in April. They began the two-game series against the Braves with big questions in their rotation.
Jonathon Niese may not be headed to the disabled list, even though the rookie left-hander will miss Friday's start against the Yankees.
Niese was examined Monday in New York, and the team announced he has a "mild" right hamstring strain. Left-hander Hisanori Takahashi instead will face the Yankees, according to team sources.
Because the Mets have a day off next Monday, after the weekend series against the Yankees, the Mets don't necessarily need to put Niese on the DL. However, that would mean playing with a significantly short bullpen.
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is en route to Atlanta from Triple-A Buffalo to take Wednesday's start in place of Oliver Perez, according to team sources. If Niese is not placed on the DL by then, the Mets would have to send out a bullpen arm such as Manny Acosta. And the bullpen already is short with Takahashi needing to be held back for Friday and Perez not expected to be used in high-pressure relief roles. Perez was removed from the rotation after allowing four homers in 3 1/3 innings against the Marlins on Friday.
Dickey, 35, is 4-2 with a 2.23 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Buffalo. He has two complete games and has averaged nearly 7 2/3 innings a start.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg