NEW YORK -- Shaun Marcum has been sidelined for nearly a month with nerve inflammation in his neck, but he's ready for his own personal Opening Day. Marcum, who signed with the Mets this winter, will be activated from the disabled list in time to make his season debut on Saturday.
Marcum, a sinkerballer, will start against the Phillies on Saturday, and he said Friday afternoon that he's healthy and raring to go. The right-hander said he will likely be held to 90 pitches in his season debut, adding that he's unsure what will be the toughest obstacle to overcome Saturday.
"It's tough to say," said Marcum. "The main thing for me is I have to keep the ball down and locate my pitches. If I don't do that, whether I'm at 100 percent or 50 percent, it doesn't really matter. I just have to go out there and locate, try to get ahead of hitters and have them put the ball in play early."
Marcum may not have pitched for the Mets before, but he will have a built-in security blanket in catcher John Buck. Buck, who entered Friday the National League leader in RBIs (22), caught Marcum with the Blue Jays during the 2010 campaign, so they'll both know what to expect from each other.
"I've played with John before. Many times. And I've faced the Phillies many times, too," said Marcum of his first assignment. "We played them in 2010 when John and I were with Toronto in Interleague. Having him back there -- and that comfort level -- will be a nice advantage for me."
Marcum, 31, has a 57-36 record with a 3.76 career ERA, and he's been even better in his brief exposure to the National League. Marcum went 20-11 with a 3.60 ERA in 54 starts for the Brewers, and manager Terry Collins liked what he saw in Spring Training.
"We know what kind of pitcher he is," Collins said. "Obviously, it's all about the health issues. He says he's feeling great. We know he's going to sink it, he's going to change up, he's going to work the corners. He's going to work fast. He's one of those guys -- even though we're going to watch him pretty close pitch-count wise -- he's going to get us to the fifth or sixth inning easy."
The Mets will likely demote a reliever to make room for Marcum, but Collins wasn't ready to make that announcement before Friday's game. Marcum, who has never logged more than eight losses in a season, said that he missed competing with his teammates over the last few weeks.
"I'm sure I'll have a little bit of adrenaline. A lot more than I had in extended spring games," he said. "At the same time, you've got to know how to control it and use it to your advantage. Know when to back off, know when to add on a little bit. ... I'm definitely excited to get out there."
Mets move Wright to cleanup for first time this season
NEW YORK -- Call him Captain Cleanup.
Manager Terry Collins hasn't been shy about experimenting with his lineup this season, but until Friday, he'd always kept David Wright as his No. 3 hitter. That tactic changed when Collins decided that the Mets would be best served by Wright hitting with more runners on base.
Wright had hit third in each of his 20 prior games this season, and he went into Friday night with a .300 batting average, a .438 on-base percentage and a .514 slugging mark. Now he'll hit fourth to maximize his production, and Collins said it was a joint decision with general manager Sandy Alderson.
"Sandy came in yesterday, and we talked a little bit about the lineup and how to reshape it," said Collins in the hours before his team's game against the Phillies. "And he brought up a great point. The numbers that David put up in the [World Baseball Classic] were unbelievable. The RBIs."
Wright hit fifth for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, and he did damage in the form of a .438 average and 10 RBIs in four games before an injury ended his tourney prematurely. Those numbers got Collins and Alderson thinking that they may get even more production out of Wright.
So the Mets took Daniel Murphy -- who's batting .351 from the No. 2 slot -- and dropped him one spot. Collins chose right fielder Mike Baxter to be the leadoff guy in Friday's lineup, and shortstop Ruben Tejada fit in as the No. 2 hitter. Two power hitters -- Lucas Duda and John Buck -- will help protect Wright, and the former cleanup hitter, Ike Davis, was dropped all the way to No. 7.
Nothing is permanent, said Collins, but it's an alignment that may have some sticking power.
"We took the one guy that's got a .400 on-base -- Mike Baxter -- and said, 'If we get him on, we've got a guy at No. 2 that can handle the bat and hit behind runners. Hit in the holes and bunt and do the little things.' " said Collins. "Dan Murphy's hitting .350. There's going to be some guys on ahead of David. I just thought that might give us a little more of an opportunity to score some more runs early."
Collins said that he believes that Davis is getting better swings of late and that the Mets have confidence in him despite his .174 batting average through the season's first 19 games. Davis can move back up when he heats back up, but first Collins wants him to get comfortable.
"I know nobody likes to use it around here, but you've got to have some patience," he said. "I looked at [Dodgers All-Star] Matt Kemp's numbers the other day; they weren't very good for Matt Kemp, [but] I'm still scared to death of him. You can be sure that the Philadelphia Phillies, when Ike Davis gets in the batter's box, they're worried. They know he can hit and he's going to get out of it."
Turner not walking, but finding way to get on base
NEW YORK -- Justin Turner knows he's hitting well, but he doesn't know every column of his statistics. Turner, a reserve infielder for the Mets, was amused and surprised to find out Friday that his batting average (.323) is higher than his on-base percentage (.313), a truly rare phenomenon.
Turner hasn't walked yet this season, and he's had one sacrifice fly that accounts for the rare disparity between his average and his OBP. The 28-year-old said he feels comfortable at the plate, and he said he hasn't walked largely because he's been getting pitches to hit.
"I think there's two ways you walk," he said. "You foul off pitches you should hit or the guy is nowhere near the zone. Sometimes, guys like Barry Bonds walk because pitchers are trying to be too fine with them because if they make a mistake, the guy can hit it out of the park. I'm not a guy who hits a lot of balls out of the park, so I feel like pitchers are a little more aggressive in the zone with me."
Turner hasn't been the type of player to walk a lot, but he's drawn 53 walks in 244 games at the big league level. The reserve infielder has struck out 94 times, but he said that he's noticed that the difference between good hitters and great hitters is how they react when ahead in the count.
"They're able to shrink their zone down," he said. "We talk all the time about when you're in a hitter's count and how you should shrink the zone to a hittable area. But sometimes you get in those counts and you get a little more excited, so it happens the other way: Your zone expands a little bit."
Umpire O'Nora leaves game with flu-like symptoms
NEW YORK -- The Mets and Phillies had a rare delay due to an umpire illness on Friday night. Home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora made it through the night's first six batters before leaving the game due to flu-like symptoms in the bottom of the first inning.
O'Nora sprinted off the field with two outs and a runner on second base in the bottom of the first, and the two teams endured a delay of 14 minutes before the game resumed without O'Nora. Adrian Johnson, who had been working first base, moved behind the plate to spell O'Nora.
"Brian O'Nora got very ill," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "It came on very fast. He came to the dugout because he was going to be sick to his stomach and certainly was. He couldn't go back out."
Crew chief Fieldin Culbreth, who started out working second base, moved to Johnson's vacated position at first base and the game continued without incident. The Mets' cleanup hitter, David Wright, was at the plate when the delay occurred and wound up flying out to right field.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.