MIAMI -- If Yoenis Cespedes still were considered a center fielder, Michael Conforto likely would have been in the starting lineup for the New York Mets on Saturday against Miami Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez.

However, Cespedes is now being restricted to left field to minimize the aggravation of his balky right quadriceps. And with manager Terry Collins hesitant to put the novice Conforto in center field at spacious Marlins Park, Collins instead opted to start Juan Lagares.

Conforto should be in center field for the first time in his professional career once the Mets return to Citi Field after the weekend. He continues to work out before games at the position.

"We really felt that this is going to be a low-scoring game," Collins said pregame Saturday, citing the Fernandez matchup against Jacob deGrom. "... Runs that you keep from scoring, Juan is right up there. To put him in this ballpark in center field, he'll save more runs.

"We just thought: One thing that can't happen is somebody who hasn't played center, to play it in this park and have something go over their head when they're not used to it and cost us the game -- cost runs, not necessarily the game -- was taking too big a chance."

MIAMI -- New York Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud is particularly excited about Mike Piazza's induction into the Hall of Fame on Sunday.

D’Arnaud grew up cheering for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Piazza made his major league debut with that club in 1992, when d’Arnaud was three years old.

“Pretty much out of the womb I was a Dodgers fan, because my dad was a Dodgers fan,” d’Arnaud said. “Being able to see him play and succeed, as far as being the ultimate underdog story -- to attain the ultimate goal that every player wants to get, which is to get to Cooperstown -- is such a huge honor. I was so fortunate to be able to watch him in L.A. for the beginning of his career.”

D’Arnaud was a shortstop when he was young. When he began catching, he patterned himself after Piazza.

“Even with blocking balls or throwing guys out, I just tried to imitate everything he did with his body,” d’Arnaud said. “Ultimately, for me, I felt like that paid off and got me where I am today.”

D’Arnaud has appreciated the interactions when Piazza has served as a guest instructor during spring training.

“He’s an incredible guy,” d’Arnaud said. “Any question that I had, or anyone in this organization had, he was all ears and had his insight on every little thing that we asked him. For me, specifically, [the advice] was just to keep things simple. There are so many things that go on in this game. Once you start overthinking, that’s the enemy. So you’ve just got to keep things simple and just go out there and have fun.”

Saturday's Mets-Marlins lineups

July, 23, 2016
Jul 23
3:51
PM ET

MIAMI -- Here are the lineups for Saturday's 7:10 p.m. ET game between the New York Mets and the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.

Mets

Jose Reyes, 3B

Curtis Granderson, RF

Yoenis Cespedes, LF

James Loney, 1B

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Neil Walker, 2B

Travis d'Arnaud, C

Juan Lagares, CF

Jacob deGrom, RHP

Marlins

J.T. Realmuto, C

Martin Prado, 3B

Christian Yelich, LF

Giancarlo Stanton, CF

Marcell Ozuna, RF

Derek Dietrich, 2B

Chris Johnson, 1B

Adeiny Hechavarria, SS

Jose Fernandez, RHP

video

Tommy Lasorda recalls having to persuade Dodgers' scouts to draft Mike Piazza, and then having to deal with the team not wanting to sign him.

Mike Piazza will go into the Hall of Fame wearing a New York Mets cap. Not only did he play more games with them than with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it also seems that most of Piazza's lasting images and memorable moments came from his Mets days. But who can forget the five games he played with the Florida Marlins?

Piazza obviously isn't a controversy-free Hall of Famer, given the PED allegations -- the primary reason he needed four ballots to get elected.

1. The post-9/11 home run

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Mets returned to the field at an emotional Shea Stadium on Sept. 21 in a game against the Atlanta Braves. With the Braves up 2-1 with a runner on in the bottom of the eighth, Piazza stepped in against Steve Karsay and walloped one to deep center field. It didn't heal the pain from 10 days before, but it gave New Yorkers a chance to celebrate and be joyful about something. Was it the greatest moment in Mets history? It didn't help win a World Series, like Mookie Wilson's grounder did, but it certainly cemented Piazza's legacy as one of the most beloved Mets.

2. Piazza vs. Clemens

Roger Clemens and Mike PiazzaAP Photo/Bill Kostroun)There seemed to be no love lost between Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza, who managed four home runs off of the pitcher.

This is a four-parter:

(A) In June 2000, Piazza hit a grand slam off the New York Yankees' Roger Clemens. Remember: This was in the early days of interleague play, when a Mets-Yankees series was a big deal.

(B) Clemens hit Piazza in the head in July 2000.

(C) In Game 2 of the World Series that fall, Clemens bizarrely threw the broken end of the bat head in Piazza's direction.

(D) June 15, 2002: Sweet revenge, as Piazza homered for the fourth time off Clemens. Piazza's career numbers against Clemens: 8-for-22 (.364) with four home runs.

3. Dodgers trade Piazza to Marlins

It was one of the most shocking trades in baseball history -- perhaps even more shocking than the Seattle Mariners' trading Ken Griffey Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds. Piazza loved Los Angeles. The fans loved Piazza. The Dodgers traded him.

Piazza was coming off back-to-back MVP runner-up finishes entering 1998, but he was a free agent at the end of the season. Negotiations got ugly. Then-Dodgers general manager Fred Claire said the team offered six years and $81 million. Piazza wanted seven years and $105 million, which would have made him MLB's first $100 million player.

"I don't dispute that Mike was unhappy," Claire told the New York Post's Joel Sherman. "But I had been through many negotiations. We were making every effort to get Mike signed. We were offering to make him the highest-paid player in the game."

News Corp., which had just been approved as the new owner of the Dodgers after it bought the club from the O'Malley family, interceded. The trade was done at the ownership level, above Claire and Marlins GM Dave Dombrowski. Piazza and Todd Zeile were sent to Florida for Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson and Jim Eisenreich, all of whom had helped the Marlins win the World Series the year before. It was a salary dump for the Marlins; a week later, they traded Piazza to the Mets for Preston Wilson and Ed Yarnall (Zeile was traded to the Rangers and later signed with the Mets as a free agent).

4. The best hitting catcher of all time

With a career line of .308/.377/.545 and 427 home runs (396 as a catcher, the most ever), it's not really up for debate. Among players who played at least half their games at catcher, here are the highest career OPS+ (minimum 3,000 plate appearances):

Piazza: 142

Buster Posey: 139

Gene Tenace: 136

Mickey Cochrane: 129

Joe Mauer: 127

Bill Dickey: 127

Roger Bresnahan: 127

Johnny Bench: 126

Ernie Lombardi: 126

Gabby Hartnett: 126

Yogi Berra: 125

5. The 1997 MVP race

Larry Walker won, and Piazza finished second. I've always thought Piazza should have won. These are the numbers:

Walker: .366/.452/.720, 49 HRs, 130 RBIs, 9.8 WAR

Piazza: .362/.431/.638, 40 HRs, 124 RBIs, 8.7 WAR

By WAR, the voters made the right choice. Also, Craig Biggio, who finished fourth in the voting, was at 9.4 WAR. In related news, the offensive numbers in the steroids era were insane.

Walker had other advantages: He stole 33 bases, scored 143 runs and won a Gold Glove. He hit .346 on the road that year. Voters had not yet grown immune to the crazy Coors Field numbers -- Dante Bichette finished second in the 1995 MVP voting, Ellis Burks third in 1996 and Andres Galarraga sixth and seventh in '96 and '97, and Vinny Castilla had 40 home runs in '96 and '97. In other words, as great as Walker's season was, many guys put up monster numbers at Coors Field in that era.

Meanwhile, Piazza had the greatest offensive year ever by a catcher, and maybe the greatest season period. His team won more games, though both missed the playoffs. (Piazza finished second to Ken Caminiti in 1996, when the Dodgers won a wild-card berth.)

Who knows, he might have hit .400 if he had played his home games at Coors Field. Piazza spent his best seasons at Dodger Stadium and Shea Stadium, two difficult places to hit. In his career, he hit .320 with a .960 OPS on the road, versus .294 with an .880 OPS at home. In 1997, he hit .368 on the road.

Here are the best seasons by a catcher:

Piazza, 1997: 8.7 WAR

Gary Carter, 1982: 8.6

Johnny Bench, 1972: 8.6

Joe Mauer, 2009: 7.8

Bench, 1974: 7.8

6. The swing

I always felt that Piazza was swinging a sledgehammer. While Griffey's swing was the classic, fluid left-hander's swing with the picture-perfect uppercut, Piazza ripped the bat through the zone and got the barrel on the ball, even with a little hitch at the beginning of his swing. It was the follow-through that was pure Piazza, with the bat often slamming against the back of his broad shoulders like it was so heavy he couldn't contain it.

7. A better defensive catcher than given credit for

My colleague Mark Simon has more details. Although Piazza didn't have a strong throwing arm, he wasn't as awful as people said. He had a 23 percent caught stealing rate for his career, compared to a league average of 31 percent, though runners were aggressive against him. Simon suggests Piazza was a good pitch-framer, and indeed, he caught a lot of good rotations with the Dodgers and Mets. Baseball-Reference gives Piazza a career mark of 61 runs below average for his fielding, but if you include hidden factors such as working with a staff, maybe Piazza wasn't as bad as the numbers suggest.

8. The blonde hair

We'll pretend this never happened.

9. From 62nd-round pick to Hall of Famer

Jerry Crasnick has more on how Piazza defied the odds.

10. The 'stache.

Before there were beards, there was Mike Piazza's mustache.video

Mike Piazza, Hall of 'Framer'

July, 23, 2016
Jul 23
7:45
AM ET

Mike PiazzaGetty ImagesMike Piazza, who will be called to Cooperstown on Sunday, wasn't just a home run hitter. He was one of the great pitch-framing catchers of his time.

You probably know about Mike Piazza's biggest home runs: the two for the Los Angeles Dodgers that knocked the San Francisco Giants out of the division title race on the final day in 1993; the three-run homer to cap a New York Mets rally from seven runs down against the Atlanta Braves in June 2000; and, of course, the home run for New York City, which beat the Braves on Sept. 21, 2001, the first game in New York after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But what was the soon-to-be Hall of Fame catcher's best moment behind the plate?

The answer to the question is "strike three called!" -- a moment that illustrates Piazza's excellence in another area, pitch framing.

Piazza's pitch-framing masterpiece came in Game 2 of the 2000 NLDS between the Mets and Giants. The Giants had taken Game 1 at home and rallied from 4-1 down to tie Game 2 on Armando Benitez. The Mets took a one-run lead into the bottom of the 10th, but the Giants threatened. They had the tying run on first with two outs and the winning run at the plate in the form of Barry Bonds, who squared off against Mets reliever John Franco.

John Franco, Mike Piazza
John G. Mabanglo/AFP/Getty ImagesJohn Franco famously struck out Barry Bonds to end Game 2 of the 2000 NLDS, but the Mets reliever knew who deserved the credit.

Franco fell behind 3-1, then threw a fastball a little bit off the outside corner at the knees. Piazza caught it cleanly, moved it up a little bit and got a strike call as Bonds' head recoiled and the home crowd moaned.

On 3-2, Franco came inside and Bonds took a big cut, fouling it back. So Franco went with a changeup on his next effort, and the pitch was clearly inside. Bonds was ready to toss his bat and walk to first, only to be stunned when umpire Gary Cederstrom called it a game-ending third strike. Piazza had caught the pitch and brought it over, making it look, from the umpire's view, as if it had nipped the inside corner.

Bonds mumbled something at Cederstrom as the Mets came out of the dugout and ran to Franco. But Franco knew who was most responsible for the strikeout. He gave Piazza a fist-bump before punching him with his left hand, square in the chest protector.

"It was a ball," then-Mets manager Bobby Valentine said in a conversation 16 years later. "There was no doubt about it. There was a little sleight of hand there. [Piazza] moved it quickly. That was what he was capable of doing. He took pride in it."

When people think of Piazza the catcher, they tend to rate him poorly because he had a weak throwing arm. But recent re-evaluations of catcher defense based on publicly available data have shown that he excelled at pitch framing, getting his pitchers extra strikes on close calls.

Piazza ranked among the top seven catchers in Baseball Prospectus' framing runs metric -- a stat based on comparing called-strike rates against expected rates -- in each of his first five seasons, and eight times in his first 10 seasons. He led the league in the stat in 1996 with the Dodgers and ranked third in 2001 with the Mets. He has the 13th-most framing runs among the more than 1,100 catchers who have played in the majors since 1988.

Piazza perked up when the subject was brought up during his Hall of Fame conference call last week.

"I really enjoyed becoming a student of catching," he said. "I love to watch others. A couple that come to mind were Damon Berryhill. I used to love the way he caught the ball. And Charlie O'Brien, who caught for the Mets, Braves and Blue Jays. I love the way he used to catch the ball, almost like an egg.

"I came up with a veteran staff [with the Dodgers] -- Orel Hershiser, Ramon Martinez, Bob Ojeda. And so I knew if I was not catching the ball well, they would let me know about it. I knew I had to be solid back there and that I really had to become a good framer."

Former Dodgers batterymate Ismael Valdez can vouch for Piazza's work. He pitched 12 years in the majors but had his best seasons from 1994 to 1997, when he threw to Piazza. His strikeout-to-walk rate was 3.1-to-1 when Piazza caught him, 1.9-to-1 when others did.

"He was athletic, a strong guy, and a workaholic," Valdez said. "He said, 'If you want me to move outside, inside, whatever, I will do whatever it takes for you to have success.' And he did."

Valentine believes Piazza's success as a pitch framer (and pitch blocker, another area in which he excelled) was the product of two things. The first was physical strength.

"His hands were really strong," Valentine said. "We had a couple of guys whose pitches tended to take the glove out of the strike zone -- Al Leiter with his slider/cutter and Armando Benitez with his forkball. Mike was able to not only keep his glove in the zone, but he could bring the ball back. [With Benitez] he was able to keep the ball up when it was breaking down at 92 to 93 miles per hour."

The second was an incredible eye.

"You have to be able to see the pitch early, as a great hitter does, so that you can anticipate where the pitch is going to be and bring it back," Valentine said. "It's the art of pitch recognition. A hitter sees the ball and tries to put the barrel of the bat where he perceives the ball to be. A catcher has to see the pitch early so he can get to the place he needs to be to make the pitch framed. I think it's the same skill."

Piazza has taken the lessons he learned and paid them forward. He said when he talks to young aspiring catchers, he'll tell them to catch with care, that the ball is coming in very fast and that their job is simple: "Let the ball close the glove."

Closure for Piazza's career comes on Sunday with a Hall of Fame induction speech in Cooperstown. Those on hand likely will cheer the mentions of his home run-hitting accolades. But his other skills should be recognized, too.

"I always thought [his pitch framing] was an amazing feat that went unnoticed," Valentine said. "It should be known. It should be part of his legacy."

MIAMI -- The New York Mets face a stern challenge Saturday as Jose Fernandez (11-4, 2.53 ERA) opposes Jacob deGrom (6-4, 2.38) at 7:10 p.m. ET.

Fernandez is 25-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 36 career starts at Marlins Park. His lone career loss at the stadium came in his season debut April 6 against the Detroit Tigers, when he allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Fernandez also is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in six career starts against the Mets. That includes tossing seven scoreless innings and recording 14 strikeouts against them on June 5.

DeGrom is on a roll as well, though. He is coming off his first career complete game -- a one-hit shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies. He is 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in his last four starts.

Terry Collins indicated he is unlikely to use Michael Conforto in center field this weekend because of the spacious outfield at Marlins Park. Instead, Conforto’s debut at that position likely will wait until the ensuing Mets homestand.

SATURDAY’S NEWS REPORTS:

  • Jose Reyes played a role in each of the Mets’ opening three runs and James Loney provided a cushion with a two-run homer in the ninth as the Mets beat the Marlins, 5-3, in Friday’s series opener. Jeurys Familia allowed a ninth-inning run but nonetheless converted his 50th straight regular-season save. That is the fourth-longest streak in MLB history, trailing only Eric Gagne’s record 84 straight (2002-04) as well as 54 straight by Tom Gordon (1998-99) and 51 straight by Jose Valverde (2010-11). The Mets moved within five games of the first-place Washington Nationals in the division. Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Newsday, Record and at NJ.com and MLB.com.
  • Zack Wheeler threw a 30-pitch bullpen session for Mets staff Friday at Marlins Park. Wheeler indicated he is close to throwing batting practice for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2015. Once he throws BP, he is about 10 days from beginning a rehab assignment. Read more in the Record and at NJ.com and MLB.com.
  • Mike Piazza discusses his post-baseball life with Kevin Kernan in the Post, including his purchase of an Italian soccer club. “I started looking into the process a few years ago,’’ Piazza tells Kernan. “Obviously, with Italy and my ancestral heritage there, there was a team called Parma that actually won a European Cup. It went bankrupt and I went over there with some investors to see if they could save the team. But the team was so far in bankruptcy that it could not be rescued. I looked into a couple of other deals and started with Reggiana about a year ago. I partnered up and now we are off to the races, trying to move up. It’s a very interesting business model. I don’t know for sure, but I may be the first former athlete to have a majority share in a team. I’m basically the team president.”
  • Anthony McCarron in the Daily News talks with executives and other personnel involved in getting Piazza from the Dodgers to the Marlins and then to the Mets.
  • Evan Grossman in the Daily News chats with radio host Eddie Trunk about Piazza’s frequent appearances on Trunk’s heavy-metal show.
  • Jared Diamond in the Journal catches up with former Mets officials about their failed bid to land Ichiro Suzuki when he originally was posted out of Japan. “We were all idiots, there’s no doubt,” then-GM Steve Phillips tells Diamond. “Even Seattle should have been way more than $13 million considering what he became. Once we saw him play, instead of buyer’s remorse, I said we should have doubled our offer.”
  • Scouts from the Reds, Twins, A’s, Padres, Royals, Brewers, Rockies and Rays have watched Double-A Binghamton in the past week, Marc Carig writes in Newsday. Carig also writes in Newsday that the Mets don’t plan to be sellers.
  • Jayce Boyd produced a two-run homer, but Portland beat Binghamton, 9-3. John Mora delivered a go-ahead two-run homer in St. Lucie’s 6-2 win at Lakeland. Andrew Church remained unbeaten with Columbia as the Fireflies defeated Hagerstown, 4-1. Read the full minor-league recap here.
  • Mark Herrmann in Newsday reports from Cooperstown, where Piazza is due to be inducted Sunday.
  • From the bloggers … Faith and Fear retraces the steps of fandom. … Mets Report applauds Reyes’ contribution Friday.

BIRTHDAYS: No one to play for the Mets was born on this date, but Daniel Radcliffe and Woody Harrelson celebrate birthdays on July 23.

TWEET OF THE DAY:

YOU’RE UP: When do you believe Wheeler will return?

AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeJeurys Famila has gotten this sort of congratulations a lot lately.

It wasn’t easy, but that has been Jeurys Familia's way during his streak of 50 straight regular-season save chances converted.

Familia is the fourth pitcher to convert 50 in a row since the save rule was enacted in 1969. He joins Eric Gagne (84 from 2002 to 2004), Tom Gordon (54 from 1998 to 1999) and Jose Valverde (2010 to 2011). He passed John Axford (49 straight from 2011 to 2012) for fourth with his save Friday in the New York Mets win over the Marlins.

Familia’s WHIP during the streak is 1.05, the highest of any of the five pitchers who converted the most consecutive saves.

Familia has a major-league leading 34 saves this season but has done so with a 2.58 ERA and 1.26 WHIP -- not quite as good as his 1.85 ERA and 1.00 WHIP last season. One culprit has been an increase in walks. He has 18 in 45 1/3 innings this season, one fewer than he had in 78 innings in 2015.

Key pitch: Sinking fastball

Although Familia’s fastball velocity has dropped 1 mph from last season to 96 mph, the pitch is still a nasty one. It has a vertical drop of 15.4 feet per second as it crosses the plate, sixth-highest among the nearly 500 pitchers who have thrown 100 fastballs/sinkers this season. Opponents are hitting .210 against Familia’s fastball this season.

An asterisk

Familia had some blown saves within the span of the streak, but they came in the postseason.

He had three blown save chances in the World Series, the most notable of which came in Game 1, when he allowed a game-tying homer to Alex Gordon in the ninth inning. He also had a blown save in relief of Matt Harvey in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series, when Lucas Duda’s throw home was wide, and the tying run scored.

Also, on May 27 this season, Familia entered a game against the Dodgers with a 5-1 lead, which meant it was not a save chance. He allowed four runs, including a game-tying, three-run double to Chase Utley with two outs. He “earned” the win when Curtis Granderson hit a walk-off home run in leading off the home ninth.

Flashback

Familia’s most recent blown save was on July 30, 2015. The Mets led the Padres 7-1, but the Padres scored four runs in the seventh inning and three runs in the ninth inning. They scored all three runs after a rain delay with two outs, as Justin Upton hit a go-ahead home run.

The next day, the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes and began their run to the World Series.

His best save

Familia’s best save was not part of the streak. It came in Game 5 of the 2015 NLDS against the Dodgers. He preserved a one-run lead on the road by getting the final six outs in relief of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard and sent the Mets to the NLCS.

His best regular-season save was the 49th in this streak (July 19, 2016), when he preserved a one-run lead in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and nobody out against the Cubs. Kris Bryant grounded into a double play to end the game.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the save marked the first time in Mets history that the team won a game after leading by one run in the bottom of the ninth inning or later and the opponent had the bases loaded with nobody out.

RENO at LAS VEGAS: Box

PORTLAND 9, BINGHAMTON 3: Portland opened a 5-0 lead with a four-run third against Mickey Jannis. Jayce Boyd helped the B-Mets claw back by belting a two-run homer in the fifth. It was the outfielder’s first long ball since May 2015. Amed Rosario cut the deficit to 5-3 with an RBI single in the sixth, but that was as close as the B-Mets would get. In his first appearance since returning from Las Vegas, Rainy Lara inherited the bases loaded from Jannis in the fourth and neutralized the rally. The righty returned for two additional scoreless innings before pitching into hard luck in the seventh. Portland put the first two aboard on infield singles. Nate Freiman ended Lara’s night with an RBI groundout. Ryan Court greeted reliever Luis Mateo with an RBI single and Cole Sturgeon capped the four-run frame by producing a two-run double. Jannis (3-9) allowed five runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings. It marked his shortest outing of the season. Box

ST. LUCIE 6, LAKELAND 2: Lakeland’s Zac Shepherd produced a two-run homer in the fifth to briefly put the Flying Tigers up, 2-1. John Mora answered for the Mets with a two-run homer a half-inning later to put the Mets back in front. Kevin Taylor added two-out RBI singles in the seventh and ninth innings to help the Mets pull away. St. Lucie starter Chris Flexen allowed two runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. Alex Palsha, Kelly Secrest and Robby Coles held Lakeland scoreless for the final 3 1/3 innings. Kevin Kaczmarski went 3 for 4, drew a walk and scored two runs. Taylor collected three RBIs. Mora added a double to go with his homer. Tomas Nido went 2 for 4. Patrick Biondi made a diving catch in center to end the fifth. Had he missed, the Flying Tigers would have scored two runs and taken a three-run lead. Box

COLUMBIA 4, HAGERSTOWN 1: Andrew Church improved to 4-0 by limiting the Suns to one run in seven innings. Craig Missigman followed with two no-hit relief innings to notch his second save. Milton Ramos had a tying RBI double and scored the go-ahead run in the third on Enmanuel Zabala's bunt single. Tyler Moore's two-out, two-run triple in the eighth opened a three-run lead. Box

PULASKI 8, KINGSPORT 0: Jeremy Wolf's two-out single in the fourth was the first of Kingsport's three hits. K-Mets starter Max Wotell (2-1) allowed five runs on six hits and four walks in three innings. Box

ABERDEEN 11, BROOKLYN 2: Dillon Becker and Taylor Henry allowed four runs apiece in relief as Aberdeen overcame a 2-0 deficit with 11 runs over the final four innings. Box

Compiled with team reports

video

Looking for some insurance in the ninth inning, James Loney crushes a home run to the upper deck in right field for a two-run shot.

MIAMI -- Jose Reyes isn’t washed up yet. At least he gave that distinct impression on Friday.

Playing at Marlins Park for the first time since he was traded away in a fire sale after the 2012 season, Reyes scored twice and drove in another run as the New York Mets beat the Miami Marlins 5-3.

The Mets (51-44) pulled within a half-game of the Marlins (52-44) for the second wild-card spot.

The Mets are giving ample playing time to Reyes to determine what he has left at age 33. The early returns as the Mets arrived at Marlins Park were not resoundingly positive. Installed as the leadoff hitter upon joining the team on July 5, Reyes entered the series opener in Miami hitting a modest .213 with a .269 on-base percentage in 12 games.

The hope has been that Reyes’ speed atop the order will help manufacture runs on a team that has relied on homers to generate the majority of its offense.

Sure enough, Reyes had a game-opening double against left-hander Adam Conley on Friday. He then stole third and scored on Yoenis Cespedes’ sacrifice fly. The Mets took a 2-0 lead in the fourth when Travis d’Arnaud scored on Reyes’ two-out single. And a half-inning after Christian Yelich's two-run homer against Logan Verrett in the sixth tied the score, the Mets retook the lead when Reyes had a leadoff single and ultimately scored on another sacrifice fly by Cespedes.

Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsJose Reyes, who went 3-for-5, watches his RBI single in the fourth inning.

“He’s like a can of Red Bull bottled up into a human being,” Verrett said about Reyes. “That’s something that we were lacking. He brings that energy to the field every single day. He had a huge game for us today at the plate. He brings the same exact energy if he’s 0-for-4 at the plate, which is what you need.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “I hope he has a lot more of them like that, and that’s what we envisioned. He’s still got good bat speed. His hands are still quick. It’s a matter of accumulating some at-bats.”

James Loney hit a two-run homer in the ninth to provide a 5-2 cushion. Jeurys Familia allowed a run in the bottom of the inning but converted his 50th straight regular-season save.

Reyes finished 3-for-5.

“Hopefully I can continue to be like that,” Reyes said. “When you have a game like that, you need to be a little bit consistent and remind yourself what you did in that game when you were successful.”

Cespedes had sat out Wednesday’s series finale at Wrigley Field so that his cranky right quadriceps could get a two-day break.

Meanwhile, although the Mets are looking at the trade market for starting pitchers, they appear content to focus on relief help and leave Verrett in the rotation until Zack Wheeler is ready to pitch in the majors for the first time since the 2014 season.

Visiting his teammates as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, Wheeler threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Friday at Marlins Park. He may throw batting practice as soon as next week back in Port St. Lucie. Once he does that for the first time, Wheeler is roughly 10 days from beginning a rehab assignment that may last as long as a month. So late August or early September might be the best-case scenario for Wheeler’s return.

Verrett’s recent showings since entering the rotation for Matt Harvey have lessened the urgency of Wheeler’s return. After limiting the Philadelphia Phillies to two runs in six innings last weekend, Verrett took a scoreless effort into the sixth against the Marlins. He departed after 5 1/3 innings with the score tied at 2.

Harvey underwent season-ending surgery on Monday in St. Louis that involved removing a rib to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

The Mets actually had the option of skipping Verrett and using a four-man rotation this turn because the team had a day off Thursday. However, with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard both having at least modest health concerns, Collins did not seriously entertain skipping Verrett.

The Mets had expressed hope that a regular starter’s routine would get Verrett back to resembling the pitcher who stepped in for Jacob deGrom in April and logged 12 scoreless innings in two starts. The early second-half returns with stable work have been relatively positive.

“Last week was a good step forward, and this one was an even bigger step,” Verrett said.

It certainly was important to win the series opener, especially given the daunting assignment the Mets face on Saturday as Jose Fernandez opposes deGrom. Fernandez is 25-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 36 career starts at Marlins Park.

Of course, deGrom has rebounded since a tumultuous April that included a lat issue and a health scare with his newborn son. DeGrom is 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in his last four starts. He tossed a one-hit shutout in Philadelphia in his first start of the second half.

“If you’re going to have, right now, a guy on our staff to match up [with Fernandez], it’d be Jacob deGrom,” Collins said. “He’s pitched his last two starts as good as anybody. If you’re a baseball fan, if you love the game, tomorrow night is a game you’d want to come and see.”video

Zack Wheeler close to facing batters

July, 22, 2016
Jul 22
6:05
PM ET

MIAMI -- Rehabbing New York Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler is close to facing batters, although he does not yet have a precise date.

Wheeler suggested it is largely his call when he advances from throwing off a mound to tossing batting practice. Once he throws his first BP session, he would be about 10 days from beginning a minor league rehab assignment that could last as long as a month.

Wheeler threw 30 pitches off a mound for Mets staff on Friday at Marlins Park after driving down from Port St. Lucie.

“It’s sort of on me, just because it is me doing the rehab,” Wheeler said about his next step. “Hopefully facing batters will come somewhat soon, and then I can just go from there.”

Zack WheelerMike Stobe/Getty ImagesComplications from Tommy John surgery have delayed Zack Wheeler's return to the majors.

Wheeler underwent Tommy John surgery on March 24, 2015, at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, New York.

The Mets scripted a 15-month rehab process and originally planned to have Wheeler return to the majors near July 1. However, Wheeler required surgery in April to remove an undissolved stitch from his original procedure. He then backed off throwing last month because of nerve irritation that required a cortisone injection in New York.

Wheeler has thrown a handful of bullpen sessions since returning from last month’s setback. He incorporated curveballs and changeups in addition to fastballs during Friday’s session in Miami.

Wheeler said he has to balance the Mets’ immediate rotation needs with what is prudent for his long-term health.

Logan Verrett makes a third start in place of Matt Harvey in Friday’s series opener against the Miami Marlins. The Mets are looking at external starting-pitching options, but it is more likely they'll acquire a reliever and have Verrett plug the rotation void until Wheeler is ready.

“I know they’re struggling up here, but I’m trying to help out the team and I’m trying to look out for myself at the same time, so I can help the team more years down the road instead of just this year,” Wheeler said. “... There are so many ups and downs. I’m just going and seeing how my body recovers.”

Wheeler noted his original surgery was more complicated than most Tommy John procedures that strictly involve replacing the torn ulnar collateral ligament. Doctors additionally had to address a partially torn tendon attached to a bony deposit in the elbow.

“Some guys go fast. Some guys go slow,” Wheeler said. “I had a couple of different things done with my elbow than, say, somebody else did that’s back already before I am. It’s frustrating seeing those guys get out and go at 12 months and I’m still sort of sticking around way behind them. It’s frustrating. But, at the same time, I guess it’s for a reason. You’ve just got to keep your head down and see what kind of character you have.”

Friday's Mets-Marlins lineups

July, 22, 2016
Jul 22
3:52
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MIAMI -- Here are the lineups for Friday's 7:10 p.m. ET series opener between the New York Mets and Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.

Mets

Jose Reyes, 3B

Curtis Granderson, RF

Yoenis Cespedes, LF

Wilmer Flores, 1B

Neil Walker, 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Travis d'Arnaud, C

Juan Lagares, CF

Logan Verrett, RHP

Marlins

J.T. Realmuto, C

Miguel Rojas, 3B

Christian Yelich, LF

Giancarlo Stanton, RF

Marcell Ozuna, CF

Derek Dietrich, 2B

Chris Johnson, 1B

Adeiny Hechavarria, SS

Adam Conley, LHP

MLB Rumor Central: Mets looking for bullpen help

July, 22, 2016
Jul 22
3:45
PM ET

Jeremy JeffressBenny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsBrewers closer Jeremy Jeffress is just one of a handful of arms the Mets are targeting to shore up their bullpen ahead of the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

The New York Mets are in the market for some relief, and that means adding to the bullpen for the stretch run, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports.

According to Puma, the Mets don't think a starter with value is attainable at a reasonable cost, and the team is focusing on improving the bullpen. The Mets believe that a relief arm is much easier to get at the deadline and will be monitoring options such as the Angels' Joe Smith, the Braves' Chris Withrow and even Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress.

Former Met and current Diamondback Tyler Clippard is also available, but because of his 2017 contract, a reunion remains unlikely, Puma writes.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Noah Syndergaard
WINS ERA SO IP
9 2.43 136 111
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Cespedes .297
HRY. Cespedes 21
RBIY. Cespedes 54
RY. Cespedes 48
OPSY. Cespedes .938
ERAJ. deGrom 2.38
SON. Syndergaard 136