By Ed Coleman
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If the Mets keep pitching this way, those lowered expectations might have to be raised. Jon Niese has been stellar all spring. On Tuesday night, Dillon Gee shut out the Washington Nationals over 5 2/3 innings. Wednesday, Johan Santana looked like his old self while allowing just one run to a loaded St. Louis lineup in 6 innings of work. And Thursday, R.A. Dickey took a no-hit bid into the 6th inning against the Houston Astros before finally giving up one. This might be contagious. And oh yes, Mike Pelfrey has a big start on Saturday against the Cardinals to try and turn his spring around.

Dickey ended up going 6 1/3 innings, allowing a run on the one hit while walking 3 and striking out 4. The knuckleballer felt he took a big step forward with this start.

Dickey’s performance followed Santana’s gem the day before, and said having the staff ace pitch the way he has is a huge lift for everyone.

After losing 9 games in a row before the off-day Monday, manager Terry Collins was elated to see the way his pitching staff has performed.

And Collins emphasized that Dickey is the kind of pitcher that makes a manager’s life a lot easier.

David Wright did not play against Houston but it was a key day for him nonetheless. Wright vacated the indoor batting cage and hit outside with his teammates on Thursday, and also took part in conditioning and infield drills as well – a good step forward and the next step he had to take.

Wright may finally play in games early next week. And how much do the Mets need their third baseman back on the field? Well, just listen to Collins.

The Mets downed the Astros 8-2 on Thursday. Ruben Tejada, with a leadoff homer, and Omar Quintanilla, with a bases loaded clearing double, paced the offensive attack. Closer Frank Francisco, whom Collins continues to assert is just getting in his work, gave up a run in the 9th on 4 frozen ropes – 2 of them hits and 2 of them outs. Also, lefty Chuck James was sent down to minor league camp, leaving Garrett Olson as the front-runner for Tim Byrdak’s spot. Byrdak is recuperating from knee surgery and may start the season on the Disabled List. He may also throw on the side on Friday.

Also Friday, the Mets will travel to Disney to face the Braves and speaking of Atlanta, word filtered down on Thursday about the retirement of one Chipper Jones at the end of this season. Wright, who has great admiration for the Braves’ 3B, always knew when Chipper and Atlanta were in town.

One reason that Wright loves Chipper is the fact that Jones never has been shy about speaking his mind.

Collins was asked whether he will miss seeing Chipper stride to the plate after this season.

And when Wright reflected on those great Atlanta teams and the run that they had, tremendous pitching was obviously their lifeblood, but the anchor of their lineup was always Chipper Jones.

On Friday, lefties Jon Niese and Mike Minor will face each other.

CU Soon

Eddie C.

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