MIAMI -- Curiosity overcoming them, several Mets strolled out to the field earlier than normal on Friday, wanting to experience firsthand everything they had heard about the new Marlins Ballpark.
"Neon" was the first thing that sprang to pitcher R.A. Dickey's mind.
"It's colorful," Dickey said. "But if you strip away all the paint, all the basepaths are the same. The distance to home plate is the same. It's a stadium."
The stadium features an electric-green outfield fence, a mechanical sculpture in center field that spouts water after a Marlins player homers and an aquarium behind home plate that is visible from the field.
But aside from the obvious cosmetic quirks, the Mets were mostly interested to see how the park plays. In large part because of a 20-foot center-field wall that stands 418 feet from home plate, the stadium has already garnered a reputation as an extreme pitcher's park.
"I've read about it and heard about it enough," said manager Terry Collins, who spoke to several big league managers about Marlins Ballpark before arriving for the first time. "They said it's big. It plays big. We're used to it."
Cedeno returns, takes residence at shortstop
MIAMI -- The Mets' everyday shortstop returned to the lineup on Friday. No, not Ruben Tejada -- he remains sidelined with a strained right quad. But the Mets did activate Ronny Cedeno from the disabled list prior to Friday's game, with plans to start him regularly at short until Tejada is ready to return.
Cedeno, who had been on the DL since April 21 with a strained left intercostal muscle, had just 12 at-bats in 10 games prior to the injury, primarily backing up Tejada at shortstop and subbing defensively for Daniel Murphy at second base. Now the Mets are asking him to start almost every game at short, which he was accustomed to doing the past two years in Pittsburgh.
"If it's going to be every day," Cedeno said, "I'm going to do the best I can."
To make room for Cedeno, the Mets optioned utility man Vinny Rottino to Triple-A Buffalo, sparing Jordany Valdespin another demotion. Though manager Terry Collins had been adamant in the past about keeping Valdespin off the big league roster if he would not be logging significant at-bats, his desire for another left-handed bat off the bench took precedence.
"We've had some issues before where we've ended up having nothing but right-handed hitters left," Collins said.
Keeping Valdespin also allows Collins to use Justin Turner at first and third base in a pinch rather than having to save him as a middle-infield sub. And the Mets can stomach the move knowing it is temporary; Tejada is eligible to return from the DL on May 22 and should be ready to do so around that time.
Mets begin grueling, 20-game stretch
MIAMI -- Friday began the longest stretch of the season without an off-day for the Mets, 20 consecutive games, prompting manager Terry Collins to begin considering strategically timed days off for his key players. Barring rainouts and makeup games, the Mets have just one other 20-game stretch without an off-day all season, spanning late July to early August.
"That's grueling, 20 in a row," Collins said.
Though the regular starting nine -- or what's left of it, with so many regulars injured -- was intact on Friday, Collins plans to give most of his players a break between now and May 31, the team's next scheduled off-day. That includes third baseman David Wright, second baseman Daniel Murphy and anyone else who is used to playing every day.
"In the next 20 days," Collins said, "we've got to pick and choose our spots."
Catcher Rob Johnson flew to Austin, Texas, on Thursday in an attempt to witness the birth of his daughter, London Grace, but he arrived four hours too late. He met up with the Mets in time for Friday's game in Miami.
Right-hander Chris Young threw five scoreless innings on Thursday in his first start for Class A St. Lucie. Young, who is 12 months removed from surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his right shoulder, is aiming to join the Mets by the end of May.