Mets News and Notes:
Tim Byrdak clashed with Josh Thole and then pitching coach Dan Warthen after surrendering a homer to Adam LaRoche in the homestand finale. The incident helped prompt a postgame team meeting and tongue-lashing from Terry Collins. Getting the sign from the bench, Thole called for a fastball to LaRoche. Byrdak twice shook off Thole wanting a breaking ball, but the catcher continued to call for a fastball. Byrdak eventually threw a fastball over the heart of the plate -- not where Thole set up on the outside corner. LaRoche deposited the pitch into the right-field stands for a two-run homer in the seventh inning to provide the Nats with a four-run lead. In the dugout afterward, Byrdak first had an exchange with Thole, then with Warthen, the latter of which prompted David Wright to intercede. "I don't think anything can get any worse than this right now," Thole told reporters before the Mets departed for Arizona. "I can't wait to get out of here."
The Mets continued to shuffle the roster on the margins. A day after officially demoting Pedro Beato and Lucas Duda, Mike Nickeas was dispatched to Triple-A Buffalo. Fellow righty-hitting catcher Rob Johnson will replace Nickeas. Harvey this week named Johnson as being invaluable in terms of guidance in Buffalo. Johnson undoubtedly will catch Harvey's major league debut considering the Mets are facing Arizona rookie left-hander Wade Miley in the series opener at Chase Field.
Frank Francisco failed to complete an inning with Double-A Binghamton in the closer's first minor league rehab game since straining his left oblique and landing on the disabled DL June 23. Francisco surrendered three hits, including two doubles, and walked one among the six New Britain batters he faced. Francisco's rehab tour twice had been delayed -- by a cranky oblique when he was due to pitch for Class A St. Lucie, then by knee discomfort earlier this week that required a cortisone shot. Mets officials had said Francisco might need as few as two rehab appearances before being activated in Arizona, but that was before Francisco's struggles with the B-Mets on Wednesday. Alderson indicated Francisco was accompanying the B-Mets back to Binghamton, where they open a four-game series against Portland tonight.
Mike Baxter went 1-for-3 and walked twice while logging a full game in right field in Buffalo's 5-4 loss at Louisville. Baxter is now 5-for-11 in three games with the Bisons, after also playing three games with Class A St. Lucie. Baxter's two previous rehab games in the outfield in the minors had come in left field. But Duda since has been demoted, so the exposure to right field makes sense. Baxter actually has appeared in 392 minor league games in right field in his career -- far more than any other position.
Collins has indicated Baxter is likely to return for the series opener at San Francisco on Monday.
Post columnist Joel Sherman tweets that Scott Hairston and Byrdak will be available in trades if the deals improve the Mets in 2013. That is consistent with what Alderson stated Monday at Citi Field -- that he wants to try to keep this year's team competitive, so players in the final years of contracts would be available only if the move helped the major league team in the short term, not for rebuilding.
Zack Wheeler, who had allowed a career-high eight runs in his previous start, surrendered six runs (five earned) on 10 hits and two hit batters in four innings in Binghamton's 11-2 loss at New Britain.
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