MIAMI -- Left-handed specialist Tim Byrdak entered Sunday's play with 20 appearances in the Mets' first 33 games, two more than any other pitcher in baseball. He had pitched in six straight games and was on pace for 98 appearances, which would shatter Pedro Feliciano's franchise record of 92 and rank second in Major League history.
Manager Terry Collins attributed Byrdak's frequency of use to his improved ability to prepare for outings, though even Collins acknowledged that "there's probably a limit."
Still, it is tempting for the manager to use his only left-handed reliever on a daily basis. Outside of the grand slam he served up to Todd Helton in Colorado last month, Byrdak has been nearly untouchable, posting a 3.48 ERA and holding left-handed batters to a .143 average.
"He's got nerves of steel," Collins said. "He's done it long enough now that he knows what his role is. There are times when we'll call down and he's already gotten himself ready to face who we think he's going to have to face before the game starts. He knows there's somebody in that lineup who he's going to get out. He prepares himself very, very well."
Turner's clutch hit comes with pink bat
MIAMI -- Justin Turner had only one opportunity to use his pink bat on Mother's Day. He more than took advantage of it.
Turner hit a pinch-hit, two-run double to give the Mets a lead in the ninth inning Sunday, nearly winning the game with his pink lumber. That the Mets ultimately fell, 8-4, to the Marlins did not diminish Turner's contribution.
The pinch-hitter's seven-pitch at-bat came less than three weeks after he worked a 13-pitch, game-tying walk against Marlins closer Heath Bell at Citi Field. This time, Turner blasted Bell's seventh pitch to right field for a two-run double.
"It wasn't too long ago, so it was still pretty fresh in my mind," Turner said of his previous meeting with Bell. "I feel pretty comfortable in the box up there against him."
Turner was one of several Mets players who used pink bats Sunday as part of baseball's Mother's Day "Going to Bat" against breast cancer program. David Wright and Kirk Nieuwenhuis also swung pink lumber for the Mets, with other players wearing pink wristbands and starting pitcher Jon Niese sporting pink cleats on the mound.
The game-used bats are now available on MLB.com, with proceeds going to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Davis, Niese latest Mets players stricken with flu
MIAMI -- Mets first baseman Ike Davis was a late scratch from Sunday's game with flu-like symptoms, which he attributed to a possible case of food poisoning. Jordany Valdespin replaced Davis in the lineup, playing second base, with regular second baseman Daniel Murphy shifting over to first. It marked Murphy's first appearance of the season at first base.
Starting pitcher Jon Niese also battled flu-like symptoms on the mound, and third-base coach Tim Teufel skipped Sunday's game with the flu. Bench coach Bob Geren filled in for Teufel in the coaching box.
Davis, Niese and Teufel became the latest victims of a bug that has claimed several Mets players in recent weeks. Outfielder Lucas Duda missed three games and lost 10 pounds earlier this month with the flu, catcher Mike Nickeas was so sick one day that he could not report to the ballpark, and pitcher Chris Schwinden also battled through illness while he was with the team.
Davis was finally starting to heat up at the plate, hitting two home runs in two games before an 0-for-5 performance Saturday. He is hitting .174 overall with five homers and 13 RBIs in 33 games, after making an unsuccessful pinch-hit appearance Sunday.
Niese, meanwhile labored through six innings, sweating through his jersey despite Marlins Park's climate-controlled atmosphere.
"I wasn't vomiting at all, but just kind of a runny nose, sore throat, body aches," Niese said. "I broke out in fever the last couple nights. You just fight through it."
Collins praises Wright's approach at the plate
MIAMI -- The Mets were up five runs when David Wright came to the plate in the ninth inning Saturday, in a game that was already nearly 3 1/2 hours long. It did not matter. Wright concentrated and squared up a pitch from Marlins reliever Steve Cishek, punching it into right field for an RBI single.
"The one thing I really like about him is each at-bat means something," manager Terry Collins said. "It seems like there's a purpose to every time he goes to home plate, so therefore, he's really got to focus on the at-bat itself. I think he's done a remarkable job. When you're playing every day, it's human nature to give up an at-bat every once in a while, due to the score of a game or whatever it might be. And he does not do that."
The results have been staggering. Wright entered Sunday's play leading the Majors with a .402 average, the second-highest mark of any Mets player in history through May 12 of a season. And he has done it in large part thanks to his willingness to drive balls to the opposite field.
"It's what he did this winter," Collins said. "I think it's the fact that he changed his swing a little bit. He's getting base hits to right field, so when he gets deep into the count, he's not afraid to take a single, go the other way with something, and I think that's really made a difference in him.
"He got to be a star by going to right-center field, which he's doing again."
Dickey in line for next start despite HBP
MIAMI -- R.A. Dickey reported no ill effects the day after being hit by a pitch in the right arm Saturday, and he is in line to make his next start Thursday against the Reds.
"I talked to him at length yesterday afternoon after the game," manager Terry Collins said Sunday. "He said it was fine. He iced it and things were good."
Showing off a bright red imprint of the baseball's stitching on the inside of his right wrist, Dickey was unconcerned about the injury after Saturday's game. Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco struck him during the knuckleballer's at-bat in the fifth, but Dickey remained in the game to pitch two more innings. He ultimately left after experiencing some tightness.
Dickey is off to a 5-1 start with a 3.65 ERA in seven starts.
The Mets plan to reexamine outfielder Jason Bay this week at Citi Field. Bay has been limited to riding a stationary bike since landing on the disabled list April 24 with a fractured left rib.
Shortstop Ruben Tejada is receiving treatment for his strained right quad in Port St. Lucie, Fla., but has not begun baseball activities. Tejada is not eligible to come off the DL until May 22.
Collins has begun mapping out days off for Wright, Daniel Murphy and his other regulars during the team's current stretch of 20 games in 20 days. Collins plans to give all his starting players at least one day of rest during this stretch, with the first of those likely coming this week at Citi Field.