PHOTO: AP (Schneider talking with Johan Santana early in camp)
I wrote about Brian Schneider in today’s paper. I don’t agree the missed time won’t hurt him.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. _ Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow.
Each passing day is one less opportunity for Brian Schneider to work with his new staff and three or four fewer at-bats.
A tight right hamstring has limited him to five at-bats in three games, but he and the Mets are spinning this into a story where Schneider wonâ€™t be too far behind with the season a little less than two weeks away.
“Iâ€™ve seen guys have their best years after playing in only three or four games in spring training,â€™â€™ manager Willie Randolph said. “Heâ€™s gotten a lot of work in the bullpen. I think heâ€™ll be all right.â€™â€™
Schneiderâ€™s hamstring prevents him from running full speed and he wonâ€™t play until he passes that test.
“They want to make sure I can run the bases,â€™â€™ Schneider said. “I havenâ€™t run the bases, yet.â€™â€™
Schneider caught John Maine and Johan Santana in games, and has caught everybody else but Pedro Martinez in bullpen sessions or simulated games.
Schneider wasnâ€™t in the line-up for last nightâ€™s game against Cleveland and is tired of saying “hopefully, soon,â€™â€™ about when heâ€™ll play.
Last night he changed that to “the next day or two.â€™â€™
The Mets have four long bus trips the final week of the season, two to Fort Lauderdale, and one each to Winter Haven and Orlando, and he could stay back for a minor league game and get up to six at-bats (he would lead off each inning).
However, what that wonâ€™t do is give him face time with his pitchers.
Ideally, Schneider said he gets a good read on a pitcher if he catches him twice. Thereâ€™s a lot to learn, from how the pitches break to what he likes to throw in different situations.
Both Maine and Santana said they enjoyed working with Schneider and liked how he called a game.
“Games are very important,â€™â€™ Schneider said. “I talk to the pitchers. Iâ€™m getting my work in. I can still miss time and be all right.â€™â€™
When the Mets opted not to re-sign Paul Lo Duca, their thinking was to go after a cerebral and defensive-oriented catcher. Schneider is quick to say heâ€™d rather go 0-for-4 and catch a shutout, than to get four hits and have the pitcher raked.
The Mets like that thinking.
“Even though heâ€™s not playing in the games, heâ€™s still talking to the pitchers,â€™â€™ Randolph said. “I donâ€™t think this is going to be an issue. Heâ€™s a sharp guy and has a feel for what pitchers want to do.â€™â€™
When the Yorvit Torrealba signing fell through when the Colorado catcher flunked his physical, and with Lo Duca wanting at least three years and the Mets not willing to go more than two, general manager Omar Minaya knew who he wanted and made the deal with Washington for Schneider and Ryan Church for Lastings Milledge.
Minaya knew all about Schneider when both were with the Montreal Expos.
“Heâ€™s a very good defensive catcher and works with pitchers well,â€™â€™ Minaya said. “Heâ€™ll improve our defense, and that will improve our pitching.â€™â€™
That is, when he plays.